Modern air pistols or rifles have come a very long way since the days of the old break-barrel spring guns that are most peoples first experience with shooting.

With a spring gun (whether break-barrel, side-lever or under-lever) the problem is that, when the trigger is released, the spring moving forward rapidly to compress the air behind the pellet causes vibration. Worse still, when the spring reaches the end of it's run, it comes to a sudden stop causing a definite jar to the gun. This is known as recoil even though this often pulls the gun forward, rather than pushing it back. Although many methods were tried to reduce this, it could not be completely eliminated. It is easy to appreciate that even a very small movement in the gun would cause you to miss a bullseye that you may have hit if this recoil could be removed.

An effective method to remove the recoil is to operate a lever before taking aim to compress a volume of air which is held within the gun in a compression chamber; this is then released by the trigger opening a valve. As the only moving parts during the release of the shot are the trigger, valve and the pellet moving up the barrel these guns are classed as recoilless and are very accurate. The drawback with this method of operation is the (sometimes considerable) physical strength required to operate the lever to provide sufficient pressure. Over a sixty shot match the shooter would often become very tired with a detrimental effect, indeed some of these guns required such strength that they are virtually impossible for a junior or a slightly built adult to load.

To overcome this problem CO2 guns became fashionable. The general name for this type of gun is "precharged". These work by having a cylinder attached to the gun which is filled with liquid carbon dioxide. At room temperature this evaporates and expands creating pressure which is siphoned off to drive the pellet. Although these guns removed the effort involved in loading, they had a major drawback in that there was a constant expense involved in buying the "sparklets" type bulbs. If you were filling a cylinder from a large bottle, the cylinder had to first removed from the gun and stored in a freezer for a period of time. After filling the cylinder had to be accurately weighed to ensure that it was full. There was also no way of knowing whilst shooting how much pressure you had left, the result of this being shots suddenly dropping into the 8 ring (or worse).

Over the last few years CO2 guns have virtually been replaced by guns using compressed air. These are simply recharged from a divers aqualung, an electric compressor or (for those feeling energetic) a stirrup pump. The cylinder is pressurised to 200 or 300 bar (3000 to 4500 p.s.i.). When attached to the gun (usually under the barrel) this is normally good for about 200 shots before a recharge is necessary. The cylinders are also normally fitted with a pressure gauge, so that you can check what pressure you have before starting to shoot.

Although expensive at 600 to 800 for a "top of the range" pistol, they are fitted with a good match trigger, sculpted adjustable handgrips and match quality sights which enable the best shooters to get scores of over 590 out of 600.

Photographs of Modern Air Pistols and Rifles