Monday, 13 July 2009

Sub-12 ft/lbs or FAC? What power for hunting?

I guess playing round with a shotgun has made me come to appreciate the worth of the airgun as an effective tool for pest control - not that I ever doubted it. If you've read my previous post, you'll see that I've been dabbling (for the first time) with a 12-bore. Ironically, it was the thought that I could get bigger bags and impress the farmers that made me want to take up this different shooting sport - though there's zero chance that I'll be giving up on the airguns.

Now, in my 15 years as editor of Air Gunner, I had countless conversations with readers who were keen on going to FAC-power in the belief that it would increase their range and improve their bags. Personally, I tried it and couldn't see the benefits - sub-12 ft/lbs was plenty enough for me to hunt successfully. But I wonder how many airgunners aren't happy with the 12 ft/lbs limit they've got?

Which leads me nicely to something my good friend Ian Barnett (pictured below) communicated to me via email recently. Long-time airgun hunter, Ian began his publishing career with me at Air Gunner, where he's still a highly respected member of the writing team. (He's got a book he hopes to publish soon - a collection of anecdotal hunting trips which touch not just on the shooting, but also the whole country angle, like tracks, trails, sounds, animal behaviour etc. As the editor who launched his shooting journalism career, I'm hoping I get one of the first, signed copies. It'll be a best-seller, I've no doubt, for Ian's one of the most knowledgable countrymen I've ever had the privilege of learning from.)

Anyway, a while back, Ian decided to give FAC-rated airgun hunting a go, and invested in a high-power Weihrauch HW100 Sporter (a sub-12 'KT' version of which he already had). With Ian's permission, I re-print here the basis of his aforementioned email:

"Nige, I've shelved the FAC gun after a year of experimenting. This won't come as a surprise to you. Looking back, I've shot an average of twice as much quarry per outing with the sub-12 compared with the FAC rifle. I'm fed up with random accuracy and low air economy. I'm back on the sub-12 HW100K, confining range to 40 yards max. The Daystate Rangemaster pellets are proving excellent within these parameters and the first-time kill ratio has improved.
I'm not intending to sell the FAC gun and will retain it for the odd longer-distance "special" request, though I doubt it will leave the cabinet much."

So there you go. The personal verdict from one of the best-known airgun hunters in the country. FAC isn't the be-all and end-all when it comes to airgun hunting. Remember that, next time you might begin to doubt the effectiveness of your sub-12 ft/lb air rifle.

(I know I will.)


  1. Hello Nigel, whilst your reputation precedes you I find it a bit odd that, you a Daystate man (iam also) would allow such a review on your blog, My intention with this comment is merely to say, "the right tool for the right job" how can you expect a good review about shot counts and accuracy with a rifle that doesn't have a bottle or a top class regulator like the AirWolf? with an AirWolf CDT you would get over 100 shots at 30ftlbs and over 60 at 40ftlbs and as for accuracy second to none!
    So are FAC not as good or up to the job as a sub 12ftlbs rifle? instead of generalising do the job properly, I say.
    The Caretaker (matt in Worcester)
    nice site by the way ;)

  2. Hi Matt. I like to keep my Blog impartial! The FAC debate is raging almost as vehemently as the calibre controversy. These were Ian's views. Have you read what Mat Manning said on FAC vs sub-12 in Airgun Shooter magazine?

  3. Both veiws are correct, in that..
    The HW100 is a great pcp in non fac. The fac version isnt known for being a good prospect (poor shot count and not as accurate).
    A quality fac airgun, with a large buddy bottle (Rapid / Daystate) will obviously afford you the luxury of a longer reach...
    Probably best if Ian trades in his old hw100 for a Mk1 Rapid :)

  4. Hi.
    I got cheap HW 100, limited by the UK version 12ft/lbs.

    I need advice as remakes HW 100 12ft/lbs to FAC? (cal. .22)
    I replaced the hammer (antitamper removed) for FAC. Washers (())(())(())(()) I FAC the pressure regulator to 120 bar, I can not go more than about 23J
    I do not know what else to change?

  5. If you need more than 12 ft lb for sighted targets maybe go for .22 rimfire? Springers over 12 lb ft usually shoot like pogo sticks (I've 'turbo-charged' a few so I speak from experience). I wouldn't have thought that the increment from say 12 ft lb to 18/20 ft lbs was enough to take you up a class in type of game (e.g. rabbit to fox). So I wonder what the point is of an FAC air rifle in the UK.

    Though I have to say, I don't know about FAC PCP's. They seem to shoot straight, the power is above what an FAC springer can produce, and they don't have the same recoil/pogo-stick problems.

  6. Geoff from N.Ireland
    As I am from N.Ireland I need a fac license for any kind of air rifle whether it be 12 to 40ftlb.
    I have owned a hw90 which was 12ftlb modified to 18ft 5 shots touching at 30mts,
    Airarms tx200 19ftlb 5 shot touching again at 30mts wish I never got rid of it,
    Currently own a non regulated 40ftlb air ranger I'll get a 1" group at 50mts, its zerod at 50mts this let's it shot from 40 to 60mts which is only 1/2" of difference in drop, and I will get 40/50 perfect shots from 1 fill,
    And a hw100 ks 32ftlb regulated getting 35 shots at 30mts before it starts to drop sõ probly 25 good shots out to the 50mtr zero.

    If I lived in mainland UK I would be more than happy with a sub 12footer,IF I was using it for light hunting and targets shooting. A pcp air rifle pushing 30ftlb is defiantly not less nor more accurate than a 12ftlb pcp if anyone thinks this to be true go check out edgun on YouTube, if anyone can get groups like this guy from a 12footer u are a god.(ps this guy knows how's to review a rifle correctly)

    It all comes down to personal preference/usage light hunting Target plinking 12ftlb
    Heavy hunting long range Targets fac 30ftlb
    One is not better than the other as the guy above said the right tool the the right job/amount of bang per buck etc
    A lot of guys tells me I should have just got a .22 rimy but I tell them then I can't shot birds on tops of trees they say shotgun I say to much noise.
    And the argument go on and on and on

  7. Spot on! Right tool for the right application. Far more available shots with air than rimfire so unless the vermin agree to sit in the middle of a field with adequate backstop for your LR/HMR/WMR then you need a different tool. If you have a permission that is too small/not rated for rimfire but too open to stalk rabbits into 12ftlb range, then FAC is your only option...

  8. When it comes down to it, it does not matter how much power you have. If excess power starts to throw pellets all over the place! Edgun in the USA has proven this in his superb slow motion videos. He states that a .22 pellet over 900 fps tends to become unstable. So to review the benefits of FAC weapons. Yes they can have their place out there but make sure that accuracy that allows you to place the shot for maximum effect comes first. I have shot sub 12 ft lbs in .177 for the last 20 years after initially using a 12 ft lbs .22. You can't beat hitting the target in the right place and for me a sub 12 ft lbs .177 does it all.

  9. Well I have used shotguns and rifles since I was a child. Recently I bought an FX2000 .22 FAC after owning the same rifle in non FAC for a decade and similar .177 non FAC PCPs for 2 decades.

    A sub 12ft/lb will carry around 6/7ft/lbs of energy at 40 yards. An FAC airgun operating around 30ft/lbs and a muzzle velocity of 900ft/s will carry around 12ft/lbs at 100 yards.

    I find the FX2000 to have a pretty flat trajectory to around 55yards and little hold over required at 60. It's accurate, quiet and I get around 60 full power shots per fill. It's safer and quieter than my rim fire. The general public have no idea I'm hunting with it. And it only cost me £275 in mint condition.

    I soon sold my 12ft/lbs airguns as they offered no advantage over my FAC. The differance in hunting ability, I personally found there to be no comparison.

    Most people who give opinions about FAC airguns have never owned one.

    I would never go back to sub 12ft/lbs, as I would never go back to a car without power steering. They are just easier to use and far more effective hunting tools.

  10. Oh and I forgot to add FAC airguns are affected less by wind as well as have a flatter trajectory.

  11. I have been shooting since I was about eleven years old, forty years plus... I have used all kinds of air rifles, Rim .22's up to .270 and a number of shoot guns. The thing I found, .22 rim's are very good, in the right place... but there has to be a safe back stop, shoot down from a hid or have a wood cover. With air rifles, use them my in barn, lived on a farm. Open hedge or close housing area. The pellets do not bounce. Ricochet. and in that kind of close shooting environment the Air rifle is perfect. treecare

  12. The reason people say 12 ftlbs is all you need is because they are stuck with it,I bet if that silly limit was abolished how many of them are going to say oh no I am happy with sub 12 when they could have unlimited power, non of them I bet.

  13. That's why your sub 12 boys always go for 177 as they have higher velocity. The reason people always say oh you don't need anymore power than 11ftlbs is because they have no access to, can't aquire or never used an FAC rifle. If the 12ftlbs limit was abolished how many people are going to say oh no its OK I am happy with 11ftlbs NONE! I've a 31ftlbs Huntsman classic . 22 and it's amazing and would never go back to a sub 12!