Air Rifle Guides
What are PCP Air Rifles?
PCP, or pre-charged pneumatic air rifles rely on a reservoir of compressed air to propel the pellet as opposed to spring powered air rifles that use a spring to compress air in a chamber. PCP rifles fall into two broad categories – those that store compressed air in a cylinder and those that use a bottle. To fill PCPs with air, an air source must be attached to the cylinder or bottle, either by inserting a probe or attaching directly. Air sources can either be a compressed air tank, manual pump or specialised compressor.
PCP air rifles have either bottle or cylinder air reservoirs
Why choose a PCP Air rifle
Unlike spring powered rifles, PCP rifles have little to no recoil which makes them easier to shoot accurately. In addition, many of them have a magazine system which allows multiple shots to be taken once the action is cocked. Spring rifles require the action to be cocked either by breaking the barrel or an underlever, inserting a pellet into the breech and then closing the barrel/lever again. As a result, PCPs are quicker to fire, which is helpful for hunters who may need quick follow up shots.
With little to no recoil, PCPs are easier to shoot more accurately than spring powered rifles and most have a multi-shot magazine
Main PCP air rifle brands
Popular brands include Daystate, Air Arms, Brocock, Weihrauch, FX and BSA, but there are many more.
History of PCP air rifles and first PCP air rifle
Most accept that the first PCP air rifle was the Girardoni which was used by the Austrian army from 1780 to well into the early 19th century. Known also as the Windbüchse, or ‘wind rifle’ contemporary reports claimed a lethal range of up to 150 yards. Advantages including a rate of fire quicker than that of gunpowder weapons, no smoke to give away the shooter’s position and lower recoil were eventually undone by problems with reliability. Technology of the day meant that reservoirs were made from hammered iron held together with rivets and sealed by brazing. Even the tiniest leak made the rifle inoperable. The Girardoni also needed to be hand pumped, requiring 1,500 strokes in return for around 30 shots. After it was removed from military service, a civilian version was manufactured.
How do PCP air rifles work
In very basic terms, compressed air is stored in a cylinder or bottle. When the trigger is pulled a sprung hammer strikes a valve which releases air to propel the pellet. Some air rifles are fitted with a regulator which receives a measured, or regulated, amount of air from the main reservoir and pressurizes it to a specific pressure. It uses this air to propel the pellet. Because they do not rely directly on the pressure in the main reservoir, which will fall as the amount of air depletes, regulated air rifles are more consistently accurate over more shots.
How to fill a PCP air rifle
PCP air rifles are filled either by attaching a pump and manually pumping air into the reservoir, by attaching compressed air from a dive bottle, or by using a specialised compressor. Depending on the model of rifle, the air supply is either attached directly to a valve on the rifle, or a probe is attached to the air supply hose and then inserted into a port on the rifle. The maximum fill pressure varies for each make or brand of rifle and varies from 190 bar to as high as 300 bar. It is vitally important that you check the maximum pressure for your rifle and that you do not exceed it as this is not only potentially dangerous, but likely to damage your rifle. To help, PCP rifles are fitted with a pressure gauge. However, the pressure gauge on the air supply is more likely to be accurate, so use that to determine when your rifle is filled to its maximum capacity.
PCP rifles are filled via a pump, specialist compressor or, more commonly, from a compressed air tank
Replacement parts for PCP air rifles
Most manufacturers offer replacement parts for their rifles, even those no longer in full production. In addition, many specialist air rifle retailers stock a comprehensive range.
Maintaining PCP air rifles vs other air rifles
PCP rifles are highly engineered. Servicing and repairing them is best left to professional gunsmiths. In countries where power levels are legally restricted, most air rifles are fitted with anti-tamper devices.
Best PCP air rifles in 2020
An internet search will throw up many different opinions on the ‘best’ PCP air rifles. In truth, much depends on the criteria you are applying and the market in which the survey or research was conducted or refers to. In addition, ‘best-selling’ does not always equate to ‘best performing’. If you are new to the sport the best advice is to stick to well-known big brands and research specialist airgun publications and the internet. Here at Alpha Militaria, we like rifles in the FX range, particularly the Impact mk2, as well as Daystate’s Red Wolf and Wolverine R. Air Arms rifles are consistently good across the range, and Weihrauch’s HW100 makes most people’s wanted list.
Best PCP air rifles for hunting in 2020
Ever a contentious subject, top hunting PCP rifles in our opinion include the Daystate Red Wolf, Wolverine R and Huntsman Regal, FX’s Impact and Crown, the Air Arms S510 and Weihrauch 100. But many will disagree and have their own point of view!
PCP air rifle FAQs
What are PCP air rifles?
Air rifles that use a reservoir of compressed air to propel the pellet rather than air compressed by a spring.
How does a PCP air rifle work?
When the trigger is pulled, a sprung hammer strikes a valve which releases a pre-measured amount of compressed air stored in a reservoir to propel the pellet down the barrel.
How to fill a PCP air rifle?
Either a hand pump, compressed air bottle or specialist compressor is attached to the rifle either directly or via a probe inserted into a fill port.
Are PCP air rifles the best?
PCP air rifles have little to no recoil which makes them easier to shoot accurately than spring powered air rifles. Most have a magazine system which makes them quicker to reload and shoot.
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