6 of the Best: Affordable air rifle pellets

A tin of QRS 9.5 pellets with one pellet balanced on top

All the pellets cost less than £13.00, but none was cheap – this QRS 9.5 is stunning - Credit: Archant

Jamie Chandlers reviews and lists 6 of the more affordable pellets that are available to airgunners wishing to save a few quid as the cost of pellets soars

Everywhere we look, the constant reminder that we are now living in a more expensive world than we were six months ago. One of the biggest price hikes I’ve felt is the cost of petrol. At 20mpg on a good day, my car drinks liquid dinosaurs like a caffeine addict at a Starbucks free-tasting event.

I was up at my local range, Targets and Tins, having just this discussion with owners, Zoe and Andy, the other day. They officially opened Targets and Tins about a week before lockdown, managed to recover from that and subsequent covid restrictions, and now face the threat of a world with less disposable income. Amazingly, they take it all in their stride and carry on cheerily. 

A point I hadn’t thought of, but of which Andy and Zoe were all too aware, is the surge in price of some of the most popular brands of pellet. Some airgunners are facing price hikes of up to 30% for their favourite, most popular lead, due to one or all of the above reasons. 

So, instead of just moaning and stumping up more cash, Andy, Zoe and a group of their growing, vibrant range community decided to do something about it, and looked at alternative pellet offerings that have avoided a massive price hike – so far.

I can’t say the pellets are particularly new; in fact, some have been around since near the dawn of time, and none of the pellets here are ‘cheap’... Less expensive maybe, but in no way do they look or feel like a compromise, and at the time of writing, they are all retailing at £12.99  or less, for a tin in .177. 

The test was simple; find the pellets at £12.99 or under that grouped best, through five different airgun barrels. As with all experiments that I am anywhere near, I know there are probably more holes in this than a swiss cheese, and yes, I know that individual barrels of exactly the same brand and model air rifle can prefer different pellets, but it certainly gives me – and anyone out there feeling the squeeze – plausible, more pocket-friendly alternatives.

A group of people at an air rifle range

A vibrant community at the range, as illustrated by the very vibrant jacket! - Credit: Archant

The testing team and terms
Our intrepid testers were Zoe, Andy, Alistair, Chris, Pete and Rob, using a selection of some of the arguably, most well thought of rifles in terms of accuracy; a Weihrauch HW100, an HW110, an Air Arms S510, the FX Impact Mk 2 and an AGT Uragan Compact.

So, after rigorous testing and marching through many brands from the Targets and Tins store cupboard by our intrepid testers, a short list of six top pellets was chosen; Bisley Magnum, Bisley Long Range, QYS 9.5, QYS 8.4, Crosman Premier and Crosman Domed. 
After a solid morning of testing, the six finalists were then pitted side by side against each other to determine a winner to be crowned ‘Top Pocket Pleaser Pellet’, by grouping the best, under 2cms in the most barrels. 

Pellets 1 and 2
Qiang Yuan Sports (QYS) 9.5 and QYS 8.5

First up were the QYS 9.5. Qiang Yuan Sports are still seen by many as a relative newcomer that has found a real following among tin chasers and hunters alike, for their quality offerings. Surprisingly, QYS have been producing match grade pellets since 1994 and has proved itself with no less than seven Olympic gold medals between 2008 and 2016, which speaks volumes about the quality of its product.  
The results were extremely encouraging. The QYS 9.5 pellets grouped 5-shot ragged groups in all the rifles, and the QYS 8.5 followed suit with another impressive all-round display of accuracy through the five test rifles.

Pellets 3 and 4
Bisley Magnums and Bisley Long Range Gold

The third and fourth pellets on test were from the good old Bisley stable of offerings. Firstly, Bisley Magnums, or as referred to by generations of unwavering supporters, ‘Bis Mags’. I can attest to my love of these hefty quarry stoppers in .22, but in .177, on test, they again proved that there’s a reason why so many hunters have loved Bis Mags for so long. 
Again, through all the test rifles, Bisley Magnums printed under a 2cm group. Some groups were admittedly tighter than others, but I would certainly be happy hunting or competing with them through any of the test rifles. Second from Bisley were Bisley Long Range Gold, that I am less familiar with and like the Bis Mags, they successfully proved that whilst the cost maybe akin to fried chicken, the results were worthy of a Michelin star with another, five-barrelled grouping success story.

Pellets 5 and 6
Crosman Premier and Crosman High Quality Domed

Finally, from the country that brought us the super-size-plus possibly, the most innovative, big-bore airgun scene, and probably the fastest growing airgun market anywhere in the world, came our fifth and sixth budget-beating, all-rounder contenders; Crosman Premiers and Crosman High Quality Domed. I’ve known the Crosman brand for aeons. In fact, my first air rifle was a Crosman pump-up something or other. Crosman’s pellets are certainly not new either, and I’ve had great success with them in the past, but how did they fare in our test rifles?  
As with our four other contenders, they were accurate across the board in the test rifles, to the point of almost boring, and there were tighter groups in some and less in others, but no barrel with either the lighter High Quality Domed, or chunkier Premier, produced a group of over 2cm at 30 yards. 

In conclusion – and here’s the slightly disappointing bit – there was no clear winner. I would happily use all of these pellets in any of the five test rifles. These weren’t my results, but these pellets were independently tested by a group of knowledgeable airgunners.

Maybe you’re looking to save a few pennies on a single tin of pellets; or you’ve just bought a new rifle and wondering where to start with pellet testing; or you’re looking to try something that you can bulk buy in now and future-proof your ammo supply from a sharp price increase –  any of these pellets are a great place to start.

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I used to chuckle at people who would spend the price of a used car on an air rifle combo and then moan about one brand of pellets being a couple of pounds more than another. In today’s market, where the difference could be £7.00+ a tin for no real gain, perhaps it’s me who deserves the mirth!