FAC air rifles: Slugs vs Pellets

Wildman Slugs in .22/27gr and .30/53gr calibre/weights

Wildman Slugs in .22/27gr and .30/53gr calibre/weights - Credit: Chris Parkin

Chris Parkin looks at the merits of using slugs with FAC air rifles versus conventional pellets; which is better, the slug or the good old pellet!?

I have been drawn to FAC air rifles recently as their ever evolving performance is always interesting, especially when compared with the more conventional firearms I generally test. For pest control they are without doubt an utterly superb tool, but perhaps a gun capable of more power than the projectile itself can handle? With larger calibres and air bottles, more regulators and sheer power, the weakest link is the projectile itself.

Conventional airgun pellets stabilise like shuttlecocks, with a head-first, skirt-second concept to draw straight with much slower spin rates than conventional rimfire or centrefire bullets. Slugs are more familiar to the firearm user, with their profile more akin to the short, fat projectiles of years gone by. Certainly not VLD (very low drag), yet eminently stable once spun and less finnicky than extreme length bullets requiring increased rotational speed. 

I have used the UK hand-swaged Wildman slugs for three months now, and as well as loving the technical benefits I find they are not as expensive as expected, given their performance and accuracy benefits.

First, in a non-FAC airgun I’d think very cautiously about slugs as they are unlikely to work well at best, and at worst may not even leave your barrel as they are comparatively incompressible compared with the soft heads and skirts on pellets.

An air rifle in the background, a box of Wildman Slugs and a chronograph in the foreground

Tuning is key to performance - Credit: Chris Parkin

Where they do benefit is in resistance to deformation, meaning that in the rifled barrel their consistency and smoother shape enables repeatable accuracy and improved ballistic performance. Gone are the days when a 30m shot with an airgun was long range. Now 100m (and more) is far from ridiculous when factors allow.

I have done most of my work using the .22 calibre/27gr slugs, but have also used the .30s for initial experimentation. I ran both in an FX Impact M3 and found that although they shot as well or better than pellets straight away, tuning notably improved performance, with muzzle velocity being a key factor, balancing the slug with the barrel’s twist rate and consequent rotational speed.

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Liam at Wildman was a mine of information, and airgun tuners will know the depths to which you can experiment in pursuit of precision. The hollow point .22s are 27.1gr average weight, consistent to 0.05gr. Diameter and length were 0.218"/5.5mm and 0.352"/8.9mm. The larger .30s showed 0.294"/7.4mm diameter and 0.379"/9.5mm length.

Damage and defects were undetectable, and the cardboard tubes remain quiet in your pocket when hunting, unlike metal tins. FAC airguns have few limits to their power aspirations, but in practice I found accuracy realistic nodes at projectile speeds of 800-950fps. This equates to power of 38-54ft-lb for the .22/27gr and 75-106ft-lb for the .30/53gr.

I ran the .22s at 850fps/43ft-lb and shot out as far as 150m, where a 50mm group for five shots was very pleasing. At closer 25m ranges, this contracted and my best groups were sub-0.5 MOA. Hunting so far has been rabbits and rats, with slugs in the former showing controlled expansion for clean kills out to 75m. Closer rats were just as dead, but showed some pass-throughs. I will be reporting more soon, as accuracy and ballistic performance is notably more consistent and I want to keep experimenting.

Suggested Retail Prices
22 calibre 27gr
£9.99 per hundred
30 calibre 53gr £tbc 

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