Air rifles are available in a number of propulsion methods. The most basic is the spring-piston, which is still effective today. It utilizes a spring that is compressed, usually via breakbarrel or lever action, and released upon trigger pull. The released spring exerts force onto a piston which compresses air behind the projectile and consequently causes it to eject from the barrel.
Other forms of air rifle power include the single-stroke and multi-pump pneumatics. With these methods, air is pumped into a chamber within the rifle, typically with an underbarrel pump lever, once for the single-stroke and multiple times for the multi-pump. The air is compressed and released upon the trigger pull, forcing air behind the projectile.
CO2 is a convenient, while costly, propulsion method. Compressed CO2, in the form of cartridges or filled into a tank, provide a ready supply of power.
Pre-charged pneumatic or PCP air rifles require air to be filled or "pre-charged" into an air reservoir in the rifle. This is usually done with a hand pump or scuba tank. PCP air rifles tend to be very costly, but are known to be more accurate. They are also able to generate an significant amount of power. PCP air rifles are the choice for serious competition or hunting.
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