Gary Wain investigates: the importance of picking the perfect pellets
15:50 04 January 2017
Is it worth taking the time to pick the right brand of pellets for your rifle, or does it not make much difference? Pellet-obsessed Gary is on the case
Recently, I’ve been more than a little obsessed with pellets. I’ve looked at how damage affects flight then, after a bout of guilt brought on by maiming innocent members of the pellet community, I considered how pampering them can improve performance.
Damaged pellets don’t have as much effect as you might think. Pellet preparation also has a negligible, but nonetheless measurable, impact on consistent accuracy. So what can we do to improve our chances of reliably hitting what we’re aiming for?
Perhaps the single most important factor in the accuracy of the gun is your choice of pellets. We’ve all heard people talk about how their gun is ‘pellet picky’. Time, plus trial and error, will often reveal that a rifle prefers a specific type of pellet within an identified brand, or even a specific size within that type.
This time, I’ll be guiding you through the process of pellet selection and looking at what difference it makes.
While trying to keep an open mind, we’re looking at one of a few sets of possible results. Scenario one: we find the guns actually aren’t that picky and all brands of pellet shoot equally well. Scenario two: we find the choice of pellet brand, type and size makes a massive difference and that rifles perform measurably better with just one pellet. Scenario three: a sort of middle ground. So which will we get? Only one way to find out. Time to get testing.
I used four rifles – my new Daystate Pulsar in .177, an Air Arms S510 Ultimate Sporter in .177, an Air Arms S510 Ultimate Sporter in .22, and my wife’s BSA Ultra Se in .22. I was particularly keen to see whether or not my new state-of-the-art Daystate would be picky about its pellets, and see whether the two Air Arms rifles preferred the same type of pellet.
As always, I’ve tried to remove as many external influences as possible. For the pellets, I used a few sample testing packs from Trev Horner, over at South Yorkshire Shooting Centre, combined with a few tins that shooters seem to amass over the years. The reason for using pellet sample packs is simply one of economics. Buying full tins of pellets only to find your gun doesn’t get on with them is quite an expensive way to get a result. Pellet selection packs offer the chance to test a brand without having to fork out for a full tin.
As you most likely know, there are many types of packs available from many distributers, and some even allow you to build your own. If you do go this route, I’d recommend you pick a pack that allows for a minimum of 20 pellets. I’d also recommend opting for domed pellets because although hollow points and spire-point pellets have their uses out in the field, they simply aren’t accurate enough at longer ranges.
So, on a nice, still summer’s day, I headed out armed to the teeth with four air rifles and more than 40 brands of pellets. I decided to push the accuracy envelope as far as I could, so rather than testing at 25 or 45 metres, I went all the way out to 55. Tiny differences between the pellets would become amplified with increased range.
To mitigate as many variables as possible, I refilled the rifles with air after every 20 shots to rule out declining air pressure as an effect on accuracy.
Before we get to the results, I want to make it clear that just because a certain rifle does not perform well with a certain brand of pellets, it does not mean those pellets aren’t any good. It simply means they are not suited to that rifle.
So, let’s look at .177 first, starting with the Air Arms S510 Ultimate Sporter. As might be expected, it was more accurate with Air Arms’ own pellets, but performed better with the Diabolo Field in 4.52 than 4.51. The stand-out pellet, though, was the Diabolo Express, which yielded a significantly better group size than the Field. What was surprising was just how badly the S510 shot with all other brands of domed pellets, with only the Falcon in 4.52 garnering anything close to what could be called a decent group.
The Pulsar, on the other hand, seemed to get on quite well with most brands, giving good groups in all but a few cases. It was actually quite hard to pick a winner, with identically tight groups achieved when combined with Air Arms Diabolo Field in 4.51, H&N FT Trophy in 4.52, Daystate Kaiser in 4.52 and Webley Accupel in 4.52. The rest of the pellets gave reasonably tight groups, certainly better than the S510.
Moving to .22, it was the turn of the Air Arms S510 Ultimate Sporter once more. Where the .177 version appears very picky, the .22 seems a little bit more forgiving. I was able to achieve satisfactory groups from a range of pellets, including Diabolo Field in 5.51, (not so the 5.52) Sovereign Rangemaster in 5.5, Falcon in 5.52 and JSB Jumbo in 5.52.
Last, but not least, it was time for my wife to test her .22 BSA Ultra Se. Beforehand, she insisted that her gun shoots brilliantly with Sovereign Rangemaster in 5.5 and nothing else. ‘What does she know,’ I thought. ‘She’s never put anything else through it.’ But she was right. Although the other pellet groups weren’t atrocious, the Ultra Se shot very accurately with the Sovereigns.
It appears that some air rifles are certainly more pellet-picky than others. Even if you appear to have a rifle that gets along well with most brands, it’s worth taking the time to find the right one. Finding the preferred pellet has the biggest impact on consistent accuracy.
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