HALF PRICE SALE Subscribe to our Airgun titles today CLICK HERE

Choosing airgun pellets

16:47 28 October 2011

Airgun pellets

Airgun pellets

Steve Miles gives you some tips on choosing the right pellet for the job...

Theres one big snag about airguns - no two are the same. Even top of the range rifles, from the same production run, can favour one type of pellet, while others wont shoot accurately with them at all. This means choosing a pellet thats going to give you the most accurate, reliable performance from your air rifle or pistol, which takes time and patience. Youve got to sit down with as wide a selection of pellets as you can rustle up and shoot them off at targets. There are no short cuts, trial and error is the only way to give you some clear idea of what your airgun prefers and what will let you get the best out of it.

This all seems pretty expensive and time consuming, doesnt it? But its not quite so bad as it sounds. For a start, you must have some idea of what you really want to do with your airgun. Say its a .177 plinking pistol and your back garden is on the small side, then youre not going to want spit-accurate 10 metre Match grade Olympic-level ammo. You can get it, of course, in fact some types, like H&N Finale Match, are even hand picked, selected and graded but pellets like these cost the earth, and you dont need them, anyway.

Basically, any pellet of the correct calibre, in any shape, will do the job for you. But if you are aiming to become a bit of a marksman , flat-headed pellets can give you the best results. These are just the job for plinking at tin cans and because they cut a neat hole which is why they are also known as wadcutter pellets they are even better for paper targets. All the top makers produce at least one flat-head, so it wont be difficult to find one of these target style pellets to suit you, your pistol, and your pocket.

Champions pellets

To a large extent, Field Target shooters dont have to agonise over pellet choice - their rifles do that job for them. The longer barrels of the pre-charged pneumatic rifles FT shooters prefer always seem to perform best with heavy .177 pellets. As a result, for ages, Bisley Magnum or H&N Barracuda took all the top trophies. Then it was Crosman Premiers and Bisley Long Range Gold that swept the board and now Air Arms and JSBs are at the top of the pile, with the new Defiants waiting in the wings. All different pellets, its true, though all are .177 round-heads, and all are longer and/or heavier than average.

FT shooting is no piece of cake, but at least choosing the right pellet can be. On the other hand, is it perhaps hunting that turns you on? Well, if thats the case the choices open to you are wider than ever, but theres a but, and its a BIG one. When you are aiming to hunt, you are also aiming to take the life of a living creature whether it be a rat, a rabbit, a grey squirrel or a wood pigeon and that sort of decision carries a lot of responsibility. It means that finding the perfect pellet to suit your particular air rifle holds far more significance than any back yard plinker, or even knock-down target shooter, has to worry about.

You are going to need pellets that can, together with your own level of accuracy, guarantee one inch groups, or better, at your hunting range and that means five or more shots inside a circle the same size as a 2p piece. What that range may actually be is down to your ability as a marksman and how good your fieldcraft may be every bit as much as your pellets performance downrange.

As any keen and competent hunter will tell you, theres a huge difference between calmly plotting precision groups on sheets of paper in the back garden and keeping that muzzle rock steady, with flies buzzing around your head, nettles tickling your ankles and the chance of the rabbit in your sights vanishing in the blink of an eye.

Size Matters

The best shape for hunting pellets causes as much argument as the best calibre - so lets get size sorted first. Some will insist that .177 with its flat trajectory and high penetration is the hunters only sensible choice and, if that calibre is what gives them the best, consistent and accurate results, theyll be right, of course. But the plain fact is that far more hunting airgunners opt for the heavier knockdown impact of the .22 and will defend their preferred choice against all critics. At least, theres no doubt that overall, these two calibres form the most popular and effective hunting pellet choices so their users are equally right, too. Then again a smaller, but equally dedicated band of airgunners are utterly convinced that .20 pellets provide the perfect compromise - a trajectory close to .177 and an impact like a .22. And of course theres still the .25 brigade, who, to be fair, will be mostly FAC level shooters but they will still swear by the total effectiveness of their mega-slugs.

So whats the right answer? Is there an ideal hunting calibre? Is .177 better than .20 .22 or .25? There is an answer, and its that the ideal hunting calibre is the one that gives you the best results, the one that gives you the confidence to squeeze the trigger in the sure and certain knowledge that the shot will impact exactly where you want it to that is the ideal hunting calibre - and only you can be the final judge of what size it must be.

Getting to the Point

Then again, shape can cause a bit of a barney too. Many believe that pointed pellets must, by their very nature, be the hunters logical choice. The downside is that the actual point can become more easily damaged than round or flat shapes and a damaged head almost always means an inaccurate flight path, which will result in a miss, or even worse, a wound.

Again, only trial and error at targets, not live quarry will set your mind at rest, and fill it with the sort of total confidence an airgun hunter has to have.

Many hunters opt for the logical compromise, the classic round head. All the pellet manufacturers make them and all airgunners have used them at one time or another in fact scores of them will have never used anything else. So, if numbers were used to decide matters, hunters would all use round head .22 pellets.

There is one more aspect of pellet choice and thats the eco-friendly one, part of the green issue. Although the vast majority of airgun pellets are made from lead, there are one or two brands available made from more environmentally friendly metals, like tin and zinc, the best known of them being from Prometheus Pellets. Are they better than lead? As per usual, when it comes to picking pellets, it all depends on how they suit your airgun so the choice is still down to you!

1 comment

  • Hello Everbody I am a 72 year old airgunner, founder member of BASA , I live in Southport in the NW. I have only had a computer 5 months , still a bit green , I think your website is fantastic , nice to see old big mitts doing his stuff Kind Regards David Halliwell.

    Add your comment |


    Monday, May 14, 2012

More from Expert Advice

Thursday, July 14, 2016
It's great to see each of the different meats as you slice through

Jane Price makes a dish that the whole family will love

Read more
Thursday, July 14, 2016
The glow you see is the ultraviolet light emitter that kills germs and bacteria

The editor reviews some new thinking in boot dryers

Read more
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
This is surely one of the best spring piston hunting guns ever made

Hot on the heels of the TX winning the world HFT championships, the editor takes another look

Read more
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
This is a spicy and delicious complement to wood pigeon meat

Jane Price spices things up with this North African recipe

Read more
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
This tiny spirit level in the Daystate Pulsar helps us avoid cant

Q: One of the topics that most frequently crops up in readers’ letters is scope cant; what it is, and what its effects are. Can you please write a simple layman’s explanation? The Editor.

Read more
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
A large reflector allows this torch to focus to a pencil beam

The editor is blown away by the latest offering from Fenix

Read more
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Please note the interchangable saw blades - a great idea

The editor referees round two of ‘the toughest multi-tool’ fight

Read more
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Some manufacturers use slightly heavier piston weights to get the .177 up to power, which will slightly increase the recoil

Q: I’ve read recently that with identical guns, the .177 recoils more than the .22 version. It’s not a subject I’ve given much thought to, but I recently bought an early ‘90s HW35 .22, putting out a little over 11 ft. lbs. I also have a nearly new HW35 .177 which does 11.4 ft. lbs. The latter has far harsher recoil. Why is this? Bru

Read more
Monday, April 4, 2016
The editor reviews a substantial PCP pump from Hatsan

The editor reviews a substantial PCP pump from Hatsan

Read more
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Despite its modest size it cuts logs like this in seconds

The editor tries a neat solution to hide making

Read more

Subscribe today

Air Gunner Application Link
Airgun World Application Link

Follow Our Titles

Airgun World
Air Gunner

Newsletter Sign Up

Most Read

Latest news