Achieving the greatest accuracy from an air rifle requires some changes in one’s typical shooting habits. Instead of holding the rifle with a firm grip, you have to use the loosest grip possible and allow it to recoil freely.
When fired, the air rifle’s spring-loaded piston produces a lot of vibration, and the slow moving pellet remains in the barrel much longer than a rimfire or centerfire bullet. By holding the rifle loosely, you allow it to vibrate in a natural way, and the pellet will consistently hit the same point.
To obtain the best accuracy possible, Bach recommends using what is known as the “artillery hold.” In field artillery, the gun carriage simply holds the tube, and the tube is allowed to recoil freely. When using the artillery hold, the shooter is simply acting as the air rifle’s carriage.
Bach explains, “It is counter to what we were all trained when kids, but if the gun is hard mounted instead of being allowed to recoil in both directions the accuracy will suffer. The artillery hold is a key to success when shooting an air gun.”
Basically, the artillery hold is just a loose hold. Instead of gripping the forestock, simply lay it in your open palm at the point where the rifle is balanced. Grip the buttstock as lightly as possible and lay your thumb along the top of the stock instead of around it. The buttstock should rest against your cheek and shoulder as gently as possible.
Squeeze the trigger and follow through. Do not move until the pellet hits the target. Similar to archery, the follow through is important because it takes a relatively long time for the pellet to leave the barrel.
When shooting off a rest, some people advise placing the forestock on an open palm while others prefer to put it on the rest itself. Bach explains, “I prefer to use my hand, palm up, but as long as it is a smooth or slick surface the air gun’s forearm can move.”
“No matter what, you will want to keep the trigger hand loose and keep the air gun off your shoulder so it can move. The movement is more important than how it is achieved.”