Air Gun Tuning Basics

Mike reworking a QB valve for better flow and volume.

What’s an “Air Gun Tune”?

For those new to air guns, tuning may seem like an arcane subject that ranks right up there with healing magnets and the psychic friends network. Your air gun looks pretty simple, and there doesn’t seem to be much to “tune” in the first place besides a scope or trigger you can adjust yourself right? For those familiar with air guns and the methods and madness behind tuning however, a good tune can mean the whole difference between a rifle you’ll want to pass down to your kids, or a rifle you’ll want to pass down into the nearby creek.

For those new to air guns we hope to maybe give a little head start into the world of air gun tuning, and perhaps provide some knowledge that will help you manage your soon to be full blown air gun addiction; ahem, pardon us, enthusiasm.



"So just what is an air gun tune?” you might ask. Well, the answer is both simple and complex. The simplest answer is that an air gun tune is a procedure performed on an air gun whereby the gun is disassembled and every one of the guns’ important working parts are carefully cleaned, inspected, repaired, modified or upgraded if necessary or desired, then lubricated and reassembled. The goal of a tune usually depends upon the desired results, but the most basic tunes are intended to smooth out the operation of the gun, improve accuracy, improve operational life, and quiet down any spring or action noise as much as possible.

For most air guns a basic tune is sufficient and a great way to ensure a trouble free and enjoyable shooter that will give years of dependable and fun service. It’s a fact of life that very few air guns are going to be operating to their full potential right out of the box, and a good tune can help to bring out the best in a new rifle. It is also a fact of air gunning that sometimes brand new air guns have damaged seals or left over machining debris inside them that can severely affect performance, and even seriously damage the internal components outright the moment the gun is first fired.

Mass produced air guns simply by their sheer numbers are going to have a few “lemons” get through with the good ones, and an air gun tune is an excellent way to catch these potential problems before they ever get a chance to really gum things up.

What is done during a tune?

So the next question you may have would then be, “so just what are they doing to the guts of my shiny new air gun”?  Well, the answer is, “it depends”. What each gun needs depends a lot on the model and manufacturer. Some air guns only need a little smoothing and polishing of the internal parts, then a good lube job and they are set to go. Others may need a new seal, or the spring will need to be squared/polished, or a few parts added, removed, or replaced.

A good air gun tuner will be familiar with many models and will know all the common issues and design quirks that can benefit from some attention. Rest assured though, if you have a professional tuner like the one here at Flying Dragon Air Rifles go through your rifle before it ever arrives on your doorstep, you’ll be several steps ahead of the game, and your rifle will show its appreciation through many years of top notch performance. Shameless self promotion yes, but with someone like Mike Melick handling your tuning, it’s something we can say with honesty and confidence as well.

Can a tune make my pellet gun more powerful? How about making it super accurate?

Getting a little deeper into tuning, you might start wondering if tuning your rifle could make it shoot at blazing speeds and accurate enough to shoot dimes at 300 yards. Well, no, no it can’t. These are spring powered air guns here folks, not Marine M40A1’s. However, depending upon the type of air gun you have, it is often possible to gain a little more power with a good tune, and almost always possible to improve accuracy. Even CO2 and bulk fill air guns like the QB78 and AR2078 can benefit greatly from some extra attention and tuning modifications.

Spring air guns produce their power by using a large spring to slam a piston forward inside the receiver. The forward action of this piston compresses air, which then forces the pellet out of the barrel. The whole process lasts only a fraction of a second, but it can be extremely violent, and always causes recoil as the piston and spring tries to move the whole gun as well as compress air. All this movement and recoil makes it harder to keep a steady line on your target, and affects the pellet as it travels down the barrel. A good tune helps to reduce all this movement, thus giving the pellet a more stable ride down the barrel, and hopefully a straighter flight onto the target.

Sometimes power can be increased as well. Sometimes tuners can squeeze a little more power out of a gun by installing a few shims to increase preload on the spring, or perhaps by installing a slightly heavier spring altogether. Rather than go into all the ridiculously complex physics of the matter, let it suffice to say that every air gun is limited in just how much power it can produce. At some point it won’t matter how much stronger your spring is, you will simply not get any more power. Also important to note, is that when you increase power you will increase the pressure and stresses inside the gun, which can increase recoil and increase the violence of the shooting cycle, which can then in turn affect the accuracy of your gun.

Again, a good tuner will know the performance limits of many models and will be able to guide you according to your needs and wants towards a tune that will not only get the best performance out of your rifle, but make it fill your needs properly as well. A good tune is a balancing act between power and accuracy whereby the tuner finds that sweet spot in the rifles’ behavior where it not only shoots with authority, but with consistent and precise accuracy as well. To do this a tuner has to balance spring strength, piston weight, compression tube sizes, rifle caliber, and a whole host of other factors to produce a rifle with internal parts that are well matched and balanced to each other. Too much power and you can easily end up with a powerful but violent, unpleasant, difficult to cock rifle that breaks a lot and has less accuracy than a slingshot.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is this; Although a high power air gun is extremely enticing, the fun will wear off very quickly if you can’t hit anything you aim it at. Look to put accuracy ahead of power whenever you seek to have a rifle tuned, and you will have saved yourself a lot of headache.

So how much does tuning cost?

At this point you probably want to know just what it costs to have someone handle all this tuning brouhaha for you. One more time, again it depends. A variety of factors affect how much is involved with a tune. A basic inspection, cleanup and lube is generally the cheapest, and here at Flying Dragon usually averages about $40.00. More complex rifles take longer to tune, adding or modifying parts adds time parts/materials and labor, and full on performance tunes complete with reworked triggers, crowned barrels, machining and modifications, will of course run upwards of $100.00 or more.

As we mentioned earlier, it is important to balance a rifle so it meets your needs, so the level of tuning required will vary greatly. As a result, it is best to discuss with your tuner what your expectations are, and allow him to make a recommendation regarding the level of tuning you may need.

We will end here with this: There is no better way to realize the best performance an air rifle has to offer, or better match a rifle to your needs and expectations, than to have a professionally performed tune applied to it. There are a lot of tuners out there, and we strongly encourage you to do your homework before handing your rifle over to any of them. Make sure whoever you choose clearly understands your expectations, and look for tuners with a wealth of experience and satisfied customers behind them.

We hope this little tuning primer has been informative and helpful, and look forward to working with you to help make your air gunning experience as trouble free and enjoyable as possible.

Flying Dragon Air Rifles performs a basic inspection and chronograph test on every rifle were sell.


May 2012

~Flying Dragon Air Rifles~

Web Home of Professional Air Gun Tuner Mike Melick