Before You Shoot: How to Prep to Become a Good Air Pistol and Rifle Shooter

Learning how to become a good air pistol or rifle shooter is all about safety and planning. However, before you enjoy your first shooting session with your new air rifle or air pistol, there are a few things you need to do.

Table of Contents

  1. Find a Safe Place to Shoot
  2. Find a Good Backstop for Your Target
  3. Give Your Neighbors a Heads-Up
  4. Sight Your Air Gun
  5. Final Notes

1. Find a Safe Place to Shoot

The first step we’ll walk you through in how to prep for becoming a good air pistol or rifle shooter is to identify a safe place to shoot. It could be in your basement, your side yard, or your backyard, but it needs to be a place where, if your pellets or BBs miss their target, no people, animals, or property will be damaged. This is particularly important for first-time shooters who may be more prone to missing while learning how to shoot better with an air rifle or pistol.

2. Find a Good Backstop for Your Target

The second step to learning how to become a good air rifle or pistol shooter is to find a good, safe backstop on which you can mount your target. It could be a bale of hay, a commercial pellet trap, or a backstop that you make yourself such as a cardboard box filled with old phone books. If you make your own backstop, test it under safe conditions to make sure that it will stop the projectile as intended. Just because you think that a particular material will stop a pellet doesn’t mean that it will. A friend was amazed (and chagrined) when he found that his air rifle would easily blow through a sheet of plywood.

3. Give Your Neighbors a Heads-Up

Of course, it’s not just about personal safety or proper setup when you’re learning how to prep your space to become a good air pistol and rifle shooter. If you have neighbors — particularly if they may be concerned when they see you shooting an air gun — take the time to talk to them. Explain that you will be shooting an air rifle (or pistol), that it doesn’t make much noise, that you are shooting at a safe backstop, and that you will not take aim at or shoot anything on their property. A little bit of pre-shooting conversation with your neighbors can prevent a whole lot of misunderstanding and explanation later.

Remember, too, that a little bit of consideration can go a long way to maintaining good neighbor relations and discovering how to become a good air pistol shooter. If you know, for example, that the guy next door works the night shift and sleeps in the mornings, you might want to schedule your shooting so you don’t disrupt his sleep.

4. Sight Your Air Gun

Finally, whether you have an air gun with iron sights or a scope, one of the most important steps for shooting better with an air rifle or pistol is learning how to sight your air gun. “Sighting” your air gun is simply the process of making sure that, at a given distance (ten yards, for example), the sights are pointed at the same spot where the pellet or BB will hit.

The easiest way is to start at a distance of 10 feet (That’s right, 10 feet, not 10 yards. A tip of the hat to Tom Gaylord, former Editor of the Airgun Letter for this suggestion on how to become a good air pistol or rifle sighter and shooter.) Shoot one shot with the sights centered on the bull’s eye.

Look at where the shot hit. Ideally, the point of impact should be no more than 3 inches below the bull’s eye and centered from side to side. If the shot is too high or too low, or to the right or to the left, consult your airgun or scope manual and adjust the sights accordingly.

Take another shot from ten feet and see if your adjustments are getting you closer to where you want to be as you learn how to become a good air pistol shooter. Make small changes at first until you get a sense of how changes in the sight settings affect the point of impact. The windage adjustment changes where pellets strike from side to side, and the elevation knob or screw adjusts the height. Continue making shots and changes until your pellets or BBs are striking the target 1-3 inches below the bull’s eye and centered side to side.

Next, move back to ten yards, and shoot again. Your shot should hit the target a little higher and should remain generally centered left to right. All that remains is to fine-tune the windage and adjust the elevation so your shots hit the center of the bull’s eye.

That’s it – your air pistol or rifle is now sighted in for ten yards. If you shoot from a distance other than 10 yards, you’ll notice that your pellets or BBs will strike higher or lower, depending upon the range, which will make a difference as you learn how to shoot better with an air rifle or pistol.

Final Notes

A couple more notes on how to become a good air pistol shooter or air rifle sharpshooter: if you back up to 10 yards, and find your shots are going wild, return to 10 feet, check to make sure the fasteners holding your scope or sights haven’t become loose, and try again. If you are shooting a multi-stroke pneumatic air rifle or pistol, be sure to use the same number of pumping strokes each time.

At Crosman, we’re proud of our history of designing and providing air guns since 1923. We’re dedicated to one thing: the simple joy of shooting, and making sure our customers can experience it for themselves. If you have any questions about our products, company, or mission, check out our FAQ or reach out to us. We’re happy to help!

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