Most air gunners know that shooting in cold weather has its challenges. The air is thinner, so the pellet loses velocity faster. But what exactly happens to an air gun in cold weather? Here’s a breakdown of how different types of air guns are affected by the cold.
CO2-powered air guns use small cartridges of pressurized CO2 to propel the pellet. These cartridges are sensitive to temperature changes, and can actually freeze in colder weather. When this happens, the gas inside the cartridge expands and can rupture the cartridge. So, if you’re using a CO2-powered gun in cold weather, be sure to keep extra cartridges on hand in case your gun freezes up. It’s also a good idea to keep your cartridges in an insulated pouch close to your body to keep them warm.
Guns with steel springs are commonly used for hunting and target shooting because they’re very powerful. But that power comes at a price—namely, these guns are very sensitive to changes in temperature. Cold weather can cause the metal spring inside the gun to contract, which decreases the power of the shot. So, if you plan on using a steel spring gun in cold weather, be sure to sight it in at the range first so you know how much compensation you need to make for the reduced power.
Gas springs are similar to steel springs, but they’re made from a high-strength alloy that is less affected by temperature changes. However, gas springs can still lose some power in colder weather. They also tend to be louder than steel springs, so if you’re hunting in cold weather, be aware that your gas spring gun may give away your position if you take a shot.
Precharged guns (PCP guns) and other pneumatics
Precharged pneumatic (PCP) guns are powered by compressed air or nitrogen instead of a spring or gas cylinder. This makes them much more resistant to changes in temperature since compressed gases don’t expand or contract as metal springs do. PCP guns also have fewer moving parts than other types of air guns, so they tend to be more reliable overall. If you plan on doing any shooting in cold weather, a PCP gun is your best bet.
For more on the best PCP air rifle on the market, see this post