What Is A PCP Air Rifle?

What Is A PCP Air Rifle Last updated: Oct 2022

Traditional air rifles fire pellets through air pressure that’s created by breaking the barrel and compressing the spring. Once the trigger is squeezed, the spring is released which pushes a piston forward and the subsequent air pressure propels the pellet out of the barrel. This type of air rifle is known as spring, springer or break barrel air rifle.

This is how most beginners assume all air rifles work, however, PCP air rifles work in a completely different way. And in this article we are going to explain exactly how PCP air rifles work and go over some of the most commonly asked questions on PCP’s. So let’s jump right in.

What Is A PCP Air Rifle?

BSA Scorpion

PCP air rifles use built in air tanks to store compressed air. This compressed air is then used as the propellant to fire slugs.

That’s the short answer, but to answer this question fully, we need to understand the way the PCP works to fire the pellet. So firstly PCPs use air as a propellent, just plain old breathable air, but air under pressure. This air is compressed to between 2700 to 3000 pounds per square inch (PSI).

To put this in perspective, the air pressure in an average lorry tyre is between 90 to 100 PSI. If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to witness a lorry tyre blow out – you’ll know just how powerful that is. The PSI in a PCP air rifle is 25 to 30 times greater than that.

The air is compressed by using a hand pump, a divers scuba tank or carbon fibre tank (like the ones used in paint guns). When the air guns tank is filled to the correct pressure, it is ready to fire.

When Were PCP Air Rifles First Made?

Contrary to popular belief, the first recorded use of a PCP air rifle was in the 1500s and it was their use by the Austrian army in 1809 that caused Napoleon’s first ever defeat on the battlefield. The French were using one shot muzzle loaders with damp powder, whilst the Austrians were using the Girandoni repeating air rifle, which was the first ever repeating PCP air rifle!

How Do PCPs Fire Pellets?

pcp air rifle target

Once the trigger is squeezed it opens a valve and a small amount of compressed air is released. This air pushes the pellet up through the barrel and out of the gun. Each shot uses up the compressed air, which gradually reduces pressure and the amount of air left in the tank. Once the air is at minimum, the gun needs to be refilled with air.

When the air pressure is on the lower end of the scale, the pellets will not travel as far or as fast. They will also not give you as accurate shots anymore. This is because it needs to be recharged to get back to optimum firing capability.

What Does PCP Stand For?

PCP is an abbreviation of “Pre-Charged Pneumatics”, which basically means that the gun is filled with air before it is fired. Many in the air gun industry will just call them “pre-charged” – it all means the same thing.

How Do You Fill A PCP Air Rifle?

There are 2 ways to fill PCP air rifles, either: with a hand pump, or with air tanks (like the ones used by divers). You have the choice between the 2, and it really is your choice as there are pros and cons for both methods.

The hand pump is exactly what you’d expect – you do the filling by hand. As the pressure builds up in the air gun it becomes harder to pump and to be honest – can be a lot of hard work.

Using a tank to fill your PCP air rifle is without doubt a much easier task, but there are a few points to consider. Firstly if you’re going out in the wilds to do some shooting, a divers air tank wants some carrying, and after a few times of filling, it will need to be refilled too.

The hand pump on the other hand can be carried easily, or tied up with some sort of strap and put over your shoulder.

How Long Does The Air Last In A PCP Air Rifle?

This depends on many factors, the make and model of gun, how much air it was charged with, the distance you are shooting at etc… But don’t get worried by all this because PCP air rifles have a gauge which shows you how much air is in reserve. Many of these gauges are colour coded, green is good yellow is acceptable and red means it’s time to recharge.

How Many Shots Does A PCP Air Rifle Have Per Fill?

This is dependent on the make and model, but a good average, PCPs have somewhere between 30 and 400 shots before recharging is necessary.

How Consistent Are Shots With A PCP Air Gun?

Usually if the PCP air gun is filled to high pressure, the velocity will be low, then increase and then taper off. This means you’ll need to take several shots to get the gun accurate and then you can learn to adjust the level of air fill for consistency of shot.

To combat this problem, many PCPs have regulators that manage the air pressure to the firing valve. This means the firing valve always receives the same amount of air pressure which gives you a more consistent shot rate.

Of course PCPs with regulators are slightly more expensive but it’s worth considering because of the power consistency for every shot fired.

How Accurate Are PCP Air Rifles?

pcp air rifle target

PCPs aren’t just the most accurate air guns, they are also the easiest to shoot accurately too. When you compare a PCP to a spring air rifle, you’ll notice that the springers take a lot more mastering, whereas with a PCP – it’s literally just point and shoot.

How Noisy Are PCP Air Rifles?

PCPs are incredibly quiet and have no recoil whatsoever. The PCP air rifle is without doubt the best choice for sportsmen who value quiet comfortable and accurate shooting, regardless of your experience.

Are There Any Disadvantages To PCP Air Rifles?

The price is greater for a PCP than it is for a break barrel air gun and if you are on a budget this could be classed as a disadvantage. Also there is the added expense of air tanks and refilling the air tanks etc. Plus due to the pressurised system, PCPs have seals that will eventually need replacing as they get older (which is covered by our lifetime guarantee if you buy your PCP air rifle through us at The Airgun Centre by the way!)

With that being said, it’s fair to say that the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. Remember, PCP air rifles are the most accurate, quietest, easiest air rifles to use. And because there’s an absence of recoil when shooting, they are also considered to be more comfortable to use.

And let’s not forget the very real fact that breaking the barrel after every shot can be a pain in more ways than one.

PCP air rifles need much less effort to load and use, and combined with the above mentioned reasons – they make great weapons for both novice and advanced shooters.

Are PCP Air Rifles Good For Hunting?

air arms s410k superlite hunter

Yes. PCP air rifles are a great choice for hunting as they are easy to shoot, quiet, have no recoil and most important they are extremely accurate.

Are PCP Air Rifles Worth Buying?

The short answer is yes, but it does depend on what you want an air gun for. If you are a competent shooter and you’re happy with your springer you may want to stay with what you’re using. For beginners, PCPs are a much easier option and many experienced shooters prefer them too due to their greater accuracy. The choice is yours, but don’t try a PCP unless you are prepared to buy one because “once shot, never forgot”.

PCP Air Rifles – Guaranteed For Life

PCPs have more operational parts that have the potential for wear and tear, which means there is a very realistic chance you’re going to need some maintenance work and part replacements throughout the years to come. This can become a costly side effect of owning a PCP air rifle, which is why we created our unique lifetime guarantee.

Every single PCP air rifle we sell on our website is 100% covered by our unique lifetime guarantee. This means that as long as you are the original owner of the rifle, we will service and repair it free of charge. This guarantee includes both parts and labour.

This is our way of ensuring your PCP stays firing in tip top condition for as long as you own it.

If you are interested in learning more about PCP air rifles, we at The Air Gun Centre are happy to share all the knowledge and experience we have attained over 40+ years of working in the air gun industry. We stock PCP air rifles from all the major air rifle manufacturers including BSA, Air Arms, Weihrauch, Daystate and more. If you would like to talk to a member of our team about PCP air rifles, give us a call today on 01268 780 730.

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