Wind Free - Why Bother?

There are many reasons to use an indoor range, but the most obvious one is that you can remove one of the biggest environmental variables – Wind.

But does it really matter?

Could you achieve the same thing in a sheltered area outdoors or just wait for a day when there’s very little wind?

To be honest, that’s the approach I used to take before I opened Doncaster Airgun Range. I was lucky enough to have around 50 yards to shoot behind my house, and it was reasonably well sheltered from the worst of the wind being right next to a fence line. All I had to do was wait for a day when it wasn’t blowing a gale.

The trouble is, low wind days that fall in line with a busy lifestyle are few and far between, so I could literally be waiting for weeks to check my zero and even then, I could never be certain my garden range was totally wind free.

Next time the weather is on the TV, make a mental note of how many times they predict zero wind, I can’t honestly say I’ve ever seen it. The best you can hope for is a windspeed in the low single figures, but it’s never zero wind.

So how much does it matter?

The answer is unsurprisingly – quite a lot! Typical airgun pellets are not very aerodynamic, some of them are much worse than others and it’s the aerodynamic properties coupled with how fast the pellet is travelling that has the greatest effect on how much wind a pellet will take. Sometimes we have a tendency to overcomplicate things, the very simple truth is – the less time a pellet spends in the wind the less effect the wind will have on it.

Something that is true of all calibres and weights of airgun pellets is that at UK legal energy levels the wind has a substantial effect.

It’ll be easier to demonstrate with an example. Shooting a .22 with Air Arms Fields pellets at 35 yards at 11.5 foot pounds will give the following side wind drift figures :

.22 Wind Drift @ 35 yards

Wind Speed Drift
1 mph 6mm
2 mph 12mm (half an inch)
3 mph 18mm (diameter of a 5p)
4 mph 24mm (diameter of a 10p)
5 mph 30mm (bit bigger than a £2 coin)

To give you an idea of what those wind speeds feel like – a slow walking pace is around 3 mph so if you’re walking slowly in a 3 mph wind it might feel like there’s not a breath of wind in the air, but at 35 yards you’ll still miss by more than half an inch.

Now to put this all into context, consider you’ve spent over £1,500 on a brand new all singing all dancing state of the art air rifle and scope. Imagine how disappointed you’d be if the best you could manage was a 1 inch group or worse at 35 yards in your back garden, you’d be pretty gutted and that’s how a lot of people feel before they realise that the ‘zero’ wind day they chose to test their gun on wasn’t as ‘zero’ wind as they thought it was.

It only takes a 4 mph wind (barely even a breath of air) to turn a ‘pellet-on-pellet’ single hole group into a 1 inch group, and that’s no reflection on how good or bad a shot you are, it could be purely down to the tiniest breath of wind you weren’t even aware was there.

In case you’re wondering, an Air Arms Field Diablo .177 pellet at 35 yards will drift about 2mm more than the .22 Air Arms Field pellet, so in that case the .22 is very slightly better in the wind. If you were to compare the same .177 Air Arms Field pellet to a .22 Crossman Premier for example, the .22 will drift 3mm more than the .177 at 35 yards.

22's aren't necessarily better or worse than 177's in the wind.

Wind drift doesn’t depend on pellet weight or calibre

It’s mainly dictated by pellet shape and design, with dome headed pellets almost always being the best in terms of wind drift and downrange energy. But that’s an oversimplification and a whole other article :)