What is a break barrel air rifle?

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Beginner shooters are too often dissuaded from purchasing break barrel air rifles. Why? Well, allegedly, they begin to nemd out of shape over time as a result of the manner in which they are cocked. Fact or fiction? Let us find out the facts. 

What is a break barrel air rifle

First things first.

What is meant by a break barrel air rifle?

The very name “break barrel” was derived from the manner in which the guns are cocked. To cock the gun, you need to swing the barrel on a hinge downwards to access the breech – this is what is referred to as breaking the barrel. 

You then load the pellet and swing the barrel up into position. This compresses the powerful mainspring, which serves as the powerplant of the airgun. 

break barrel air rifle

Just in front of the spring, we have a piston whose sear locks into position. The spring now has stored elastic energy, waiting for the pull of the trigger.

The moment you pull the trigger, the sear disengages and allows the piston to be forcefully pushed forward. This piston movement additionally pressurizes the air in front of it. 

To cock the gun you need to swing the barrel on a hinge

The piston usually sits in the compression chamber, which is connected to the barrel through the air transfer port. In front of the air transfer port sits the pellet. As expected, the pellet is forcefully propelled forward down the barrel and out into the air.

How to make a break barrel air rifle more powerful

The power of the break barrel mostly comes from the kind of spring used in the gun. In this regard, you can make the airgun more powerful by replacing the spring with another one that can store greater elastic energy when compressed. Ideally, the spring should have thicker coils but be of similar external diameter to the current one. 

I would however point out here that you need quite some skill to disassemble the gun, replace the spring, and reassemble the airgun. If you are not a really good DIYer, you better leave it to professionals.

How to make a break barrel air rifle more powerful

Note that the more powerful the spring is the stiffer it will be. And so the resulting cocking effort will be greater than you are used to. 

Another method involves marginally reducing the size of the air transfer port. You can achieve this by inserting a plug and drilling a smaller hole in it. This makes the break barrel airgun more powerful by increasing the air pressure behind the pellet. If it sounds quite difficult for you, I wouldn’t advise you to mess around. Engage an experienced air rifle technician or simply purchase a more powerful break barrel air rifle. 

What is a good scope for a break barrel air rifle?

One outstanding characteristic of break barrel air rifles is the heavy recoil felt after firing the pellet. The laws of motion dictate that for every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction.

good scope for a break barrel air rifle

Once the spring is powerfully released from its resting position, the next thing for it is to jerk backward in an almost similar powerful motion. 

Therefore, the scope chosen for the air rifle must be able to withstand this heavy recoil without breaking.  

How to sight in a break barrel air rifle

The first thing to do with your new break barrel airgun is to align its sights with the flight path of the ammo. So get a good pair of shooting glasses, set up a reliable paper target with a sturdy backstop. 

Standing about 15 feet from the target, take three shots, and carefully note the points the pellets land on the paper. If the pellets land directly on the targeted points, you can try a few more times to see whether the accuracy is consistent.

How to sight in a break barrel air rifle

However, if the pellets land too low or too high, you need to adjust the scope or open sights bit by bit until you are able to hit the target. Try moving some feet away and test whether the air rifle is still accurate.


You definitely need more details on the advantages and disadvantages of different break barrel air rifles, and how to choose the best. Airgun Maniac reviews in great detail some of the best break barrel air rifles in the market. Check out the guide and make an informed choice.

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