What Pellet Should I Use?
Pellets come in many different sizes and shapes. And with the many designs available today, it can be a bit daunting figuring out what pellet is best suited to your needs. In this article we will discuss which pellet one should use for each particular kind of shooting.
Airgun pellets have many variables….but most are of the diabolo design. Diabolo is a term used to designate a pellet with a pinched waist, and most, if not all, have a hollow skirt that produces drag on the pellet just like the skirt on a badminton birdie, or shuttlecock. This drag is what keeps the pellet from turning end over end, aiding in accuracy. And if you take a look at the many different kinds of diabolo pellets, you’ll find many variations in the skirt…..thick or thin, long or short, and with varying hardness to the lead which affects how well the skirt flares upon firing to engage the rifling and seal the air behind it as it travels down the barrel.
You can divide the different kinds of shooters into 3 basic groups: 1) Target shooters, 2) plinking/fun shooters, and 3) hunters. Each group has specific needs that will determine what kind of pellet they should use.
Most of the major pellet manufacturers offer a pellet design for the above three groups. Crosman, Daisy, RWS, Beeman, Gamo…..all are vying for a place in the market. With the many offerings out there, you are sure to find a pellet that will fit your needs for your intended shooting pastime. Use AirgunDepot’s product finder to aid you in your search for the pellet you need.
Most target shooting in formal competition is done at the distance of 10 meters. The airguns used for such shooting are very precise, phenomenally accurate, and extremely smooth shooting. They shoot wadcutter pellets that cut a precise hole in the card stock that the target is made out of, which enables officials to score more accurately to determine the better shooter.
Wadcutter pellets have a flat head, pinched waist, and are designed to be shot at lower velocities. The need for extreme accuracy is aided by a slower moving pellet, since projectiles that approach the speed of sound (around 1100 fps) tend to be adversely affected by the sonic wave they produce at that velocity. Keeping the wadcutter moving at a more sedate 500-600 fps, or even slower, results in the extreme accuracy needed for formal competition. Wadcutters have an added advantage for the pest control shooter in that they deliver impressive knockdown power at shorter ranges due to the wide surface on the pellet head.
Plinking for Fun
If you aren’t shooting for extreme accuracy, and simply want to bounce a plastic bottle or tin can around, your choice of pellet opens up quite a bit. Pretty much any kind of pellet you have will work for close-range fun shooting, but if you want to stretch out the distance, using a round-nosed diabolo pellet will help you reach out a little further. Wadcutters are the least aerodynamic pellet available, shedding velocity very quickly. At 10 meters that is of little concern, but for fun plinking at longer ranges, a good quality round-nosed pellet is hard to beat.
If you want to really enjoy the reaction of a child when just plinking, let them shoot at a reactive target. There are manufactured targets such as Daisy’s Shatterblast targets that give a very satisfying burst when hit, which will delight a child enormously. Another idea is to use cheap, unopened soda cans. Shake them up, and when hit, they will spew the contents in a geyser of foam. Popping balloons is also a favorite pastime of many fun shooters.
When hunting, there are some issues that seem to always pop up among airgunners. Many desire the gun that shoots the fastest, while others swear by one pellet or another in terms of taking the game of their choice. So let’s look at some of the pellets one might use for hunting purposes.
Accuracy is king when hunting with an airgun. Placing that pellet on target at a lower velocity will always be more lethal than missing the target at a higher velocity. Remember the saying from the firearm world? “A hit with a .22 is better than a miss with a .44!”
Generally, a heavier pellet is desirable for most hunting. In .177, this translates into 10 grain pellets or higher. For a .22 pellet, figure about 18 grains or more for a good heavyweight pellet. The weight of a heavier pellet allows hunters to use the higher-velocity guns on the market, yet still keep the pellet below the speed of sound for optimum accuracy. This results in the most foot-pounds of energy (fpe) being delivered on target. You can take a Gamo 1250 in .177 and shoot a very light pellet of 6 grains or so out of it, and you will have some awesome velocity. You will doubtless break the sound barrier, have a supersonic crack that will make the gun sound like a firearm, and deliver a pellet somewhere downrange…..but I doubt you will be pleased with the accuracy. When that light pellet breaks the sounds barrier, the sonic wave plays havoc with its flight path. If you take that same Gamo 1250 and shoot a much heavier pellet out of it, the resulting reduction in velocity will translate into superior accuracy, which is what allows the hunter to hit his target in the desired kill zone.
I have hunted with a variety of pellet types in different airguns that range in power from about 600 fps to some real barn burners pushing pellets over 1100 fps. And experience has shown me that when I am pushing a pellet at top speeds, I get better accuracy with heavy, round-nosed pellets such as the Beeman Kodiak, or the ultra-heavy Korean Eu Jin pellets, regardless of the caliber. If I lower the velocity down into a more sedate range of 750-900 fps, many of the mid-weight pellets such as RWS Superdomes and Crosman Premiers provide excellent results.
For a look at the wide selection of pellet weights available, check out this link which will give you the approximate weight from a vast number of pellet manufacturers, several of which are carried by AirgunDepot:
Hollow-point pellets are available in each popular caliber and provide another option for the airgun hunter. But in order to take advantage of the hollow-point’s design, you need to use them in the higher-powered airguns that are pushing the pellet along at a really good pace. Without the higher velocity, the expansion of the hollow-point is negligible, and you aren’t really gaining any advantage over a domed pellet in terms of knock-down power. At low power, the hollow-point pellet hits much like the wadcutter. That isn’t necessarily bad since the flat impact surface translates excellent force to the game you are shooting. And if a particular brand of hollow-point pellet shoots best in your airgun, by all means use that one!
Let me include a brief comment on round balls shot from airguns. If your airgun can shoot them accurately without damaging the working mechanism of your gun, you will find that roundballs penetrate better than the diabolo pellet. This is an advantage under certain hunting conditions, but keep in mind that the roundball leaves the smallest wound channel in living flesh. A test performed by noted airgun writer Tom Gaylord confirmed this information, and if you want to duplicate his results on your own, try shooting a pointed pellet, a round-nosed pellet, and a roundball into a bar of Neutrogena soap at point blank range. You will be able to visibly see the results of what I’ve just described.
So what pellet should you use? Keep in mind the target you are shooting, the power of your airgun, and the type of penetration desired, and you can begin to zero in on the type pellet you will want to use. For additional information on hunting with an airgun, check out the blog entry titled “Small Game Hunting with Airguns”.