Grey Squirrel Hunting with the Air Arms Pro Sport and TX200
Thursday, 21 January 2021 | Air Arms
Alpha Militaria’s Rich Saunders and Kevin Barnwell use ProSport and TX200 springers to control grey squirrels.
In an age when pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifles are increasingly sophisticated, it’s easy to forget that high quality spring powered rifles can be just as accurate, especially in sub-12 ft. lbs. format, and offer the added satisfaction of rewarding good technique.
‘Springers’ have been around for more than a hundred years and little has changed; the fundamental mechanics of a mainspring powering a piston to propel a pellet from the breach still applies. However, there are spring guns….and then there are spring guns.
Alpha Militaria’s Richard Saunders and his pest control partner, Kevin Barnwell, shoot on more than 1,000 acres of woods and farmland in the south of England and much of the time they use PCP rifles although, like many other shooters, they were brought up on springers. Faced with the task of having to clear some grey squirrels from woodland where the pests had been stripping bark from hardwood trees, the pair went back to their roots with and used a pair of Air Arms underlever spring rifles for the job – a TX200 mkIII for Richard and a ProSport for Kevin.
Thanks to their design and superb engineering, both rifles not only offer superb accuracy but are quiet, consistent and hit plenty hard enough to deal with airgun quarry humanely. However, like all spring powered rifles, success demands proper technique, so the pair spent plenty of time familiarising themselves with the rifles’ features and performance. For example, all rifles demand respect, but springers need particular attention when cocking; an underlever flying up and trapping fingers doesn’t bear thinking about.
Some rifles rely on the safety catch mechanism to prevent such injuries, and far too many rifles simply trust to luck. However, both the ProSport and TX200 are engineered with safety firmly in mind. Sweeping back the ProSport’s underlever automatically engages the safety catch – the first line of defence. However, even if you were to knock the safety catch off, or in the unlikely event it was to malfunction, and pull the trigger a second fail safe, known as an anti-bear trap, will stop the underlever flying forward and keep your fingers intact. Without the safety engaged, the underlever will not snap home and the rifle will not shoot.
Engineered with similar safety features, the underlever on the TX200 mkIII, as well as the Hunter Carbine (HC), will not relocate until a pivot switch on the right of the action underneath the loading port is held in.
Several hours on the range zeroing the .177 ProSport and TX200mkIII with Air Arms Diabolo Field 4.52 pellets, and Richard and Kevin felt confident enough to take on the grey squirrels.
Stalking the pests in woods during the day is not the most effective means of control, but the venue is relatively new to the pair who decided to get their bearings by simply walking about slowly and quietly, stopping every few yards to try and spot any movement.
Kevin was the first to spot a squirrel on the floor. Using the cover of an ivy-clad tree to make his approach, he closed in to around 20 metres. However, the bushy-tail must have heard him and scurried up a tree in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, as Kevin poked the muzzle of his ProSport through the ivy, he could see the squirrel frozen still on the side of the tree straining to locate what it had heard.
Though the squirrel was spooked, Kevin used the cover of an ivy-clad tree to place a pellet with his Air Arms ProSport
A few seconds later, the muted thud from the ProSport’s shrouded and moderated barrel resulted in a clean and humane kill. The squirrel gripped on to the tree with its hind legs for an instant before falling to the ground.
The pair continued to make their way around different parts of the woods but when they met back up again, both reported that although they had seen plenty of squirrels, they hadn’t been able to add to Kevin’s single success.
Static tactics in which you rely on quarry coming to you are often more successful than roving, as long you pick the right spot to sit and wait. Richard had seen several squirrels in a stand of oak trees so while Kevin continued to wander the woods, he set up a simple camo net hide and sat down behind it, TX200mkIII cocked and loaded across his knees.
Static tactics such as shooting from a basic hide like this camo net often work best, as Richard found, enabling him to put his Air Arms TX200 mkIII to good use.
Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait long as a squirrel, probably one he’d spooked earlier, appeared on a bare branch just a few metres off the ground no more than 25 metres away. Richard hadn’t noticed it arrive and suspected it had been there for some time.
As slowly as he could, he raised the TX200 to his shoulder and eased the safety catch off. Taking up the pressure on the first of the trigger’s two stages, he satisfied himself the squirrel wasn’t going to move and made a minute adjustment to place the crosshair behind its eye. The rifle thumped gently into Richard’s shoulder as the squirrel was knocked off its perch. He watched through the scope as the pest thrashed around on the ground, nervous system shutting down, for a few seconds to make sure it was dead.
By now time was getting on and with the last of the winter sunlight struggling to make its way through the bare trees, the duo met up, compared stories and called it a day.