What Is A PCP Air Rifle? Here’s What You Need To Know

image source: Unsplash

There are always going to be better introductory firearms for those looking to improve their marksmanship. What is a PCP Air Rifle? Well, it’s the answer for those gun enthusiasts that may be new to practicing as well as those that prefer a piece that’s a little bit easier to operate. The supreme user-friendliness of this gun make it an attractive option for many different expertise levels.

Even though their widespread usage has only occurred recently, historically the technology for these rifles dates back to the mid-1500s. The Austrians had their design standards down to a science. Their armies would frequently utilize this technology, and it was surprisingly advanced for the time. These rifles were some of the only ‘repeater’ firearms and could crank out 24 shots per minute. And since they had caliber specs at .24, this gave them a huge advantage over Napoleon’s French armies.

What Is a PCP Air Rifle?

PCP in this instance stands for “pre-charged pneumatic.” This means that the firing system involves a sequential dance involving air pressure and a controlled release of that pressure. In most cases the air is compressed at 3000 psi (or pounds per square inch). An air reservoir is what provides the air that propels the projectile. This can be filled either using hand pumps, small scuba tanks, or carbon fiber tanks.

Once the pressure is right, the firearm is ready for discharge. You pull the trigger, and then compressed air enters the barrel from the firing valve. This compressed air, having no other means of escape, shoves the projectile down the shaft of the barrel and out toward the target.

The release of this compressed air, having directed the projectile at its given target, slightly depletes the pressure in the reservoir, forcing the user to either re-pump or realize how much pressure they have left in a given tank.

Modern Resurgence

What is a PCP air rifle in the context of the modern firearm landscape? This variant was largely discontinued after World War I. This was because the technology driving what we think of as typical firearms was more powerful. The PCP revival occurred around 1980, when their use became more attractive to hunters and newer gun enthusiasts.

Benefits of Using A PCP Air Rifle

image source: Unsplash

There are a lot of reasons this rifle can be a good option if you’re not concerned with handling a high powered firearm. It’s great for a casual user to pick up at a range, and its output can be manipulated simply and effectively. What is a PCP Air Rifle and how can you take advantage of its benefits?

Small Recoil

With this particular model, you can get away with not having a very forcefully recoil at all. This is because of how the air pressure functions and how that energy is directed within the workings of the firearm. So if you are constantly annoyed by the recoil of more traditional firearms, this can be a great option for you to work on your aim/accuracy.

It’s also an exceptionally quiet kind of rifle, which makes it ideal for beginners or if you’re in an area that has any kind of noise restrictions. Though it may be ideally tailored toward newer users, more experienced marksmen can get their own advantages through mastering the use of this gun, as well.

High Accuracy

When it comes to answering the question “what is a PCP Air Rifle,” another answer could be that it’s the most accurate air rifle there is. This is a lofty statement, but it’s also true.

With a more traditional spring piston gun, there will always be a learning curve when it comes to aim. But with a PCP, there’s no such learning curve and even the occasional dabbler in riflery can pick up this piece and fire it with high degree of accuracy.

Adjustable Performance: The Air Regulator

Most PCP rifles come with just a standard preset that cannot be adjusted. But if you’re lucky enough to encounter one with an air regulator, you’ll have much more control over the rifle’s precision and handling. Most of the time when you fire, the projectile starts with a low velocity, increases, and then decreases again at the tail end of its range. But with this handy little addition, you’ll have help managing the pressure in the firing valve.

Some Disadvantages of the PCP Air Rifle

image source: Unsplash

The benefits we just mentioned do have their downsides. There are simply some tasks that the PCP will not be able to accomplish. This mostly relates to the limitations of the kinds of caliber you can use and the power threshold; which will just never compare to a more traditional gun. So while knowing how to answer the question “what is a PCP air Rifle and what are its benefits?” can be a good thing, it’s also good to consider where this piece falls short.

High Cost and Upkeep

Starting out with one of these firearms can cost a pretty penny. It’s a good idea to have your vision for its use firmly mapped out before you buy. Remember that you’re purchasing many different components, including pumps, tanks, and other hardware meant to keep the gun functioning optimally.

When you factor everything in (including filling equipment), the cost can be anywhere between several hundred dollars to over a thousand. However, once you’ve made your initial purchase, you won’t have to procure additional filling equipment with the next PCP model you buy. So the cost does progressively go down.

Cumbersome Built-In Supports

There’s also no way around the fact that it does take more disparate hardware to operate this firearm effectively. Yes, this can be mitigated somewhat if you have a ‘hand-pump’ model, but this also takes time in between shots or series of shots to get the pressure back to where you need it to be. Also, air filling stations are not always the easiest places to come by. So it’s good to know where the nearest ones are to eliminate being caught without air when you need it.

Also if you travel a lot, taking PCP rifles with you is much more difficult than a conventional gun because of the components involved. With a more traditional gun, airport authorities can inspect your luggage and determine that a firearm in your checked bag is not loaded and move on.

But with a PCP rifle, there is no way of easily checking for this. There’s also no way to look inside the air reservoir, which could lead to a quick confiscation of something that was already so expensive to acquire in the first place. In fact, airport personnel themselves may be less familiar with what they’re looking at, so that the question ‘what is a PCP air rifle’ could lead to the answer: ‘not yours anymore.’

Other Operational Considerations

image source: Unsplash

It’s always good to practice with an expert. This, in addition to answering all of your questions about what is a PCP air rifle, will also help you learn more quickly than you could on your own. Just for some background, here are a few more operational aspects to consider when using a PCP for the first time:

Scanning the Tank

Just like gas in a car, you’ll have different levels of power and performance based on how full your air pressure tank is. Paintball enthusiasts may be slightly more familiar with this concept, but in the case of a PCP air rifle there’s also a gauge built in. This gauge will tell you where you’re at in terms of air pressure. Most gauges operate on a three color system similar to a traffic light. These green, yellow, and red hues signal similar things, as well.

Green means that it’s still ok to keep operating the firearm at will, and there will be no sacrifice in performance. Yellow means that you’re starting to run low and that your level of pressure may or may not be adequate to hit the targets you desire. Finally, red means that there is not enough pressure at all and that it’s time to either switch out the tank or resume the pumping action required until the tank goes back to full capacity.

Considering Your Target

There are also humane considerations at play when using this rifle. This is especially the case when it comes to hunting game. Yes it is possible to make kills with air rifle pellets. However, it requires that much more accuracy, if this is your goal.

Unless you are an expert marksman, in most cases it is more likely that the animal you’re targeting is a pest that needs to be killed quickly and painlessly. This just means that you must take extra care and know your limitations. It is our belief that this firearm is a much better fit for this goal than other firearms; though that decision is ultimately up to you.

​​​​​​Conclusion

We hope this introduction has helped you answer the question: ‘what is a PCP air rifle,’ and how you’d go about using one once you pick one up. As always, make sure you’re practicing proper gun safety in any and all circumstances. So be safe; and happy shooting!