For those who love shooting, airguns offer an excellent and rewarding avenue for those times when you just can’t get to the range to perforate paper or make a drive into the country to plink cans with powder-driven projectiles. Today’s quiet air guns, like GAMO’s Swarm Maxxim with Whisper Integrated Sound Suppression Technology, can be shot in the backyard without upsetting even your most anxious neighbors. This is valuable practice that follows you into the field during hunting seasons or to the range during organized competition.


While shooting in urban or suburban areas safety is, obviously, first priority. A stack of firewood makes a great backstop and is what I use when sighting in and practicing in my own backyard. Thick rubber flooring or stock-trailer mats, attached to a fence or hung by a vertical tree branch, also serve well. Always wear safety glasses, as pellets can come back to bite you.  Eyes are your only real vulnerability in such rare events.


Airguns create such valuable shooting practice because of the lack of significant recoil (break-action rifles kick slightly, but no more than the average rimfire firearm) and especially jarring report. I find more people flinch from the noise made by firearms than kick. This allows you to concentrate on the things that matter most to shooting accuracy; a steady hold, smooth trigger pull and thorough follow-through. Once engrained, these good habits allow better firearms shooting.


Learning to hold firearms steady is the foundation of good marksmanship. There are general guidelines, but it often comes down to comfort. For instance, I find I shoot best offhand if I cock my rifle-supporting elbow into my torso, resting the stock fore-end over an open palm. My feet are planted slightly outside my hips, right/rear foot 90 degrees to the target, left/front cocked about 45 degrees outward (right-hand shooter—reverse for left-hand) and shoulders/hips centered (don’t lean backwards or into the rifle, for instance). Better yet, sitting down and resting the rifle over a bent knee provides still more steadiness. As ranges lengthen (for air rifles that means more than 30-40 yards) placing the gun over shooting sticks, or leaning into a tree trunk or house/shed corner offer more reliable impacts. A firm, consistent cheek weld on the stock is also important, lending to shooting repeatability.


An even, smooth trigger pull is paramount to top-notch accuracy with any firearm. Ideally, you should be concentrating on aiming smartly, allowing the crosshairs or sights to create tiny cloverleaves or figure 8s over a chosen aiming point (you’ll never hold cross-hairs dead steady on a small point unless shooting off a solid bench), squeezing the trigger slowly. This aiming concentration should be so complete that when the rifle goes off it takes you by complete surprise. Of course muscle memory will eventually allow anticipating when the rifle is going to fire, but that is what you strive for. Take a couple slow, deep breathes before each shot, release half and hold your breath, concentrating on aiming finely, allowing cross-hairs to float instead of fighting them onto the “bull’s-eye,” squeezing the trigger with the middle of your index-finger pad, slowly and evenly until the gun fires.


What many shooters neglect is follow-through. The gun goes off and they immediately want to jerk the scope away and see where they hit. Resist this urge. Don’t quit concentrating on aiming until the pellet hits the target. In fact, if you concentrate fully on correctly following through you should see your pellet impact the target through the scope, something especially important when hunting small-game with your pellet gun.


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