A conversation with a clubmate a couple of months ago sparked an in-depth thinking session, and ultimately this feature. The conversation came during my initial tests with Daystate’s latest Red Wolf Grand Prix target rifle, after my friend remarked that I’d been ‘messing about with it for an hour, and a shot had yet to be fired.’ What my friend didn’t know was, I’d already spent two hours pre-setting the Grand Prix’s incredible range of adjusters, before I’d left home. Another hour later, and I began to shoot, only to re-tweak most of my adjustments at least three times before really getting down to some serious accuracy testing.

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Remember – if you change from wearing a jacket to just a T-shirt, the fit of your rifle changes, too.

That’s how I am when setting up a rifle, especially one that carries the amount of adjustment options offered by the Grand Prix. Most importantly, even when a rifle offers little by way of adjustable features, I’m just as thorough, and possibly more so, in setting up the few features I’m able to adjust.

After a happy lifetime spent trying my best to extract every ounce of performance from air rifles of every kind, I’m more convinced than ever that anyone wishing to get the most from their hardware should do what I do when setting up their guns. Here’s one instance where OCD isn’t a ‘D’, at all – it’s the key to success.


The day after I’d spent so many hours micro-adjusting that Grand Prix, I went back down the club to do a bit of coaching for a friend of mine, and
the weather had turned cold, so I wore my hunting coat. I’d set up the rifle the day before wearing just a shirt and shooting vest, and the difference the coat made was significant enough for me
to re-tweak a few adjusters. Only after the Grand Prix and I were connecting perfectly, did I feel able to do the same with the downrange targets. Anything else would be to accept second-best, and it’s the avoidance of that acceptance that forms the required mindset.


If you accept anything but the best you can get, in any area of your shooting, you’re accepting lower performance. The degree of inferior performance can amount to anything from the barely noticeable, all the way to absolute disaster and a waste of your time, money and effort. As always, if you don’t mind that, and your results rank lower than putting in the effort required to maximise them, that’s perfectly fine. Just don’t complain, though, because you chose to under-perform.


The Air Arms rifles shown in this feature couldn’t be further apart, in terms of style, function, and general appeal, yet it took me about the same time to set up the S510 Tactical with its array of add- ons and adjustables, as it did to sort out that elegant ProSport. With the ProSport, I know that handling and recoil- management are the main ‘user’ factors that influence consistent accuracy, so I took my sweet time to get the scope position millimetre-perfect, which resulted in equally perfect head position, and that in turn allowed my shoulders, arms and torso to achieve optimum relaxation. The ProSport’s lack of an adjustable butt or butt pad, requires me to become the adjustable feature, only I need to perform that function without undue muscular stress or tension. Once that productive state has been achieved, I turn my attention to the rifle’s most adjustable feature, its trigger, and take all the time I need to get its let-off just right. I say again, the fewer adjustable features you have at your disposal, the more important it is to get what you do have absolutely spot-on.


As far as setting up your rifle goes, you’ll know when you have it right, when, with it uncocked and unloaded, you can close your eyes, mount the rifle, and be perfectly comfortable and aligned with the scope the instant you open your eyes. Try it.

Keep your eyes closed, settle into what feels like your ideal aiming stance, then open your eyes. If you need to move your head to get perfect alignment with the scope, you’re adjusting your stance to fit the rifle’s setup, when it should be the other way around. What you do next is up to you, but whatever action you take will define your true mindset. Then, either change that mindset – or accept the result of it.

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Ready for action at last, but confidence will be total because the setup work was done properly


The message of that last paragraph was that we should make our rifles suit us, not the other way round. A simple enough statement, but it goes further than the initial setup of the hardware. Compromise can be a ‘creeping’ thing, and it can take place without us even knowing it.

For instance, as our flexibility, clothing requirements, and body shape changes over time and through the seasons, if we don’t change the configuration of our equipment, then we are accommodating those changes by compromising our stance. There’s a simple remedy for this, and that’s to reset your setup at least once a year, preferably twice. Take off and refit your scope, re-tweak your butt and trigger adjusters, and re-do everything you’ve done in the past to get your gear in perfect harmony with your most efficient stance, hold and trigger release techniques. Reset the lot, and when you’ve done that, go over those downrange aim points again, and re- check your focal rangefinding marks, if that’s a feature upon which you rely.


Yes it’s a fair bit of work, but it’s a guaranteed win-win result, because even if you set all of your adjustable features back to where they were in the first place, you know they’re perfect, and that’s a major boost for any shooter’s confidence. More likely, the changes you make will bring you more control, and a better interaction with your rifle. Most importantly of all, you’ll be all set to be the best you can be – and that’s a massive win in itself.