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.177 and .22 Calibre Hunting Pellets

Hunting with an air rifle is an art and a worthy pursuit when done properly. With rumours currently doing the rounds that the rabbit population is back to full strength, there has never been a better time to get out into the countryside (having obtained the necessary permission of course!) and do our bit in the name of pest control.

Hunting is great sport as long as we show the proper respect for the quarry! Preparation and research are the names of the game, and no self respecting hunter go out without first having taken every step to familiarize themselves with their equipment, so maximising their success potential.

For ‘success’ read clean kills and with an air-rifle, running at the legal limit, the shot needs to be well placed to stand any chance of instantly despatching the quarry. Anyone who has shot squirrels and rats for example, will recount what tough little critters they are, and nothing short of accurate head shots should be contemplated.

Ballistics, energy and penetration

What equates to a clean kill is basically the coming together of several key factors, not the least of which is the pellet connecting with the animal’s head… The ballistics involved are fascinating, and a vital consideration. Obviously accuracy and trajectory play a fundamental part, but where hunting is concerned, energy retention and penetration of the projectile are of equal importance.

The age old question of .177 versus .22 will inevitably arise here, and there are pros and cons to support both sides. Take a look at the head-on view of a .177 pellet alongside its larger calibre stable mate, and the surface area partly illustrates just why the larger projectile imparts significantly more shock to the target on its arrival. With conventional .22 designs being on average, twice the weight of the comparable .177, they really do pack a relatively hefty punch on impact. Yet with the lighter .177, at sub 12ft/lbs, the significantly flatter trajectory means that hitting the target accurately in the first place, is somewhat easier.

Take the ever popular JSB brand (which can be labelled JSB, Daystate FT, Air Arms Diabolo Field, etc.) just for example. A .177 JSB zeroed at 35yds would drop around 1.25” at 45yds, whereas the .22 version would do around 3” at the same range. So already a significant disparity, and a huge opportunity for a badly placed shot if the range is incorrectly judged. In these days of laser range-finding equipment, technology can be on our side, but when the adrenalin rush takes hold, and against the elements, many hunting scenarios can still be extremely demanding. Bear in mind that realistic kill areas on live quarry can amount to around one inch in diameter or less, and there is little margin for error. The old adage that effective range is basically the range at which you can confidently and consistently place your pellets within such an area, still holds true, and practice and more practice is the order of the day,

Shape shifting

Virtually every airgun expert will tell you to use the traditional dome-headed waisted design of pellet, as it is has proved to be the most accurate shape for accuracy, but what other choices are there?

Pointed designs, such as H&N Pointed; H&N Coppa Point, and Beeman Silver Jet, are all consistently well made, with above average penetration. One drawback with this style, however, is that the point on the head can become deformed and pushed out of alignment, undermining the pellets gyration in the process. Unstable projectiles =  inaccuracies that we can ill afford against live quarry, so, as always, looking after the pellets with padded tins and pouches to prevent damage, makes sense. You also need to watch out for over penetration – you want to deliver as much of the pellets kinetic energy and mass to the target as possible.

Hollow points such as H&N and Crosman, should in theory at least impart more energy to the target, as the hollow is supposed to cause the pellet to deform and spread on impact. In my experience, accuracy can suffer down range, whilst deformation can be less than dramatic.

Flat headed ‘wadcutters’ can be very effective at relatively close quarters on rats for example, where shock value is paramount, and the long range limitations become irrelevant.

Heavy weight designs such as Bisley Magnum and Barracuda Match, whilst relatively conventional, are best suited to pneumatics, with their inherently slow build up of air in the barrel. These highly popular pellets can be extremely accurate in the right barrel, but the more pronounced trajectory will need to be mastered before any field trip.

Something different - Prometheus

One British-based manufacturer, Prometheus Pellets, has certainly kept busy, being responsible for some of the most radical designs on the market. With such brands as Logun Penetrator and Rangemaster in its line-up, this go-ahead company has certainly kept abreast of the competition.

The Penetrator has a long, parallel sided body and above average weight (9.5grains in .177), and has built up a reputation for - as its name suggests - supreme penetration. With superb tolerances in its manufacture, this impressive pellet can be very accurate in the right barrel too. The shiny appearance is the result of a higher than normal antimony content, which means the pellets are fractionally harder than normal, and less prone to distortion.

As for the Rangemasters, this relatively new design has been making quite a stir for several reasons - not least the price! At around £17.99 for 500, this must be one of the costliest rounds out there. Yet take a closer look at the spec, and it’s not so easy to dismiss them. Whilst similar in weight to JSB (8.5gr against 8.44gr in .177), the stubby design can really hold it’s own down range, recording greater consistency, tighter groups, greater energy retention, and less wind deflection than it’s rivals. The downside is that in my experience, the still air groups are, more often than not, slightly less impressive. As always, performance and expectations have to be viewed with compromise in mind. Playing to the strengths of the pellet, and matching this with the task in hand. (i.e. If most of the proposed hunting is to be close range work, then optimum accuracy has to be born in mind.) Where longer range shots in more exposed areas are on the cards, the Rangemaster can really shine.

Piledriver

One further radical design from the Prometheus stable is the Piledriver. I was lucky enough to visit their factory a while back, to witness some testing of this radical super-heavy hunting round - and there’s no doubting the sheer efficiency of the design.

The Piledriver weighs 21grains in .177 and a whopping 30 grains in .22, and whilst the smaller calibre can be shot at legal power limits, the .22 is strictly for FAC rifles. What’s termed a ‘boat-tail’ design, sees a domed head, and a long, straight-sided body covered in tiny ribs or ‘splines’, which connect with the rifling. The key selling point is energy retention, and the test results shot over 25yds were rather impressive.

At legal limit velocities, the .177 Piledriver lost just 2.4% of its initial velocity, against nearly 10% for the JSB brand. At FAC 30ft/lbs, the .22 Piledriver lost a mere 1.3%, which is fairly staggering. Equally intriguing was the demonstrated down-range consistency. At the muzzle, the Piledriver against JSB, registered 8fps and 9fps respectively. Yet at 25yds, consistency was 12fps for Piledriver, whilst the JSB had stretched to 25fps. Food for thought indeed, yet as always, there’s no substitute for conducting your own research as to how these and other pellets suit your particular rifle/barrel.

Are .177 best?

Having mainly shot .177 over the years, I have had somewhat mixed results when hunting. Recently I’ve had a string of rabbits that have still managed to move a short distance, even after a registered head shot, which has made me re-evaluate my approach, and consider further experiments with larger calibres and pellet designs. As a result, I seem to be moving towards sticking with .22 for hunting, and have certainly had far more clean kills with this calibre (Daystate FT incidentally) of late.

One thing is for sure - there is no shortage of options out there in today’s vibrant airgun market… just remember to do your homework!

All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates

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User Comments
  • I have also noticed alot of runners after clean head shots with aa 4.52/jsb/gaystate and it is annoying when they make it back to the burrow.
    I still favour the 177 over the 22 though as a allrounder as you can not compare the accuracy of the 22 to the 177 in all conditions,weather/lamping or what ever.
    Saying that,I do agree (I think it was you in one of the books or the magazines) you do need atleast 3 Rifle combos and that is what I do.
    177 springer with fixed 4x scope for every thing,lamping,day time shooting,every thing.
    I have 22 pre charged with variable scope for close range work or sniping at fixed distances.
    And then I have the same pre charged (BSA super10) in 177 with variable hi mag scope (6.5-20x50 px adjustable) for long range work.

    I undeniabley favour the 177 as I like to shoot a minimum of 50 yard but I can't agree more that,even at these distances,a head shot dont equal a instant kill and I have had many runners,fallen into the warren,in to bush's during lamping but hey,I guess thats just the way in goes some times,It is a bit disapointing when you see the pellet clearly come out the other side of its head and hear the whack.

    Hey guys,keep the site updated and keep the videos coming,this makes for one of the best online gun review sites and I think you should put a bit more effort in,I know its free but hey,I still buy the mags for when I'm on the loo LOL.
    ATB and have a happy new year,fingers crossed the manufacturers bring us some new designs this year,sick of seeing the same action in a different stock or different style.

    Comment by: ricky     Posted on: 30 Dec 2009 at 04:25 PM

  • Just thought I would add.
    The prices are getting silly with pellets, Air arms are around £10 a tin which has doubled in price over the last year.
    I highly recommend people to test other pellets as there is deffinitly pellets that are just as accurate out there.
    Ive found 22 wasps love BSA barrels,the prices are going up on them too by the way.
    I think this may be another reason Mark the reporter was looking in to pellets as it is clearly robbery.
    I'm not going to give away what I'm now using in 177 as every one may start buying them and this is when the manufacturer decides to up the prices.
    Look for well established names,if the tin aint sealed,open it and take a look at the pellets,arguably domed are the way to go for accuracy but RWS Hollow point for close range work are stunning for the money.

    Mark,put a budget pellet,compared to expensive pellet review in the mags on here and I think people may be changing pellet brands very quickly and popular manufacturers will soon drop there prices.

    How can one companys charge £10 for 500 177 pellets and the next company charge £3.50 for 500?
    Its obviously not down to price of led or the cheaper company wouldnt be able to produce the pellets?
    Food for thought,just because some pellets are cheaper,don't mean there crapper.
    What your Barrel likes is another thing I guess,as I say all Bsa barrels in 22 (I have had) LOVE wasps (not the 5.6!! the get stuck).
    ATB and happy new year.

    Comment by: ricky     Posted on: 30 Dec 2009 at 04:36 PM

  • The price of lead does obviously go some way to explaining rising prices, but also the current £ exchange rate doesn't help as many of these pellets are imported.

    Comment by: Pat Farey     Posted on: 02 Jan 2010 at 10:46 AM

  • think i will stick with 22 head shot = clean kill no runners

    Comment by: kev     Posted on: 11 Mar 2010 at 12:40 AM

  • Pats explanation goes some way as to why pellets are going through the roof,price wise!
    If some of the gun companys cared to invest in british pellet manufacturers,instead of foreign companys.
    They would be able to call themselves British arms companys instead of sourceing elsewhere.
    And guarantee,these gun companys wont be making 100% on these pellets,it'll be more than that,and will include shipping.
    Greed is the driving force!
    I would be using bsa elite in my Ultra .22 but cant source them.
    Tried RWS superfield good weight shocking skirt finish.
    Having to use superdome for the time being,BSA Elite Twin pack off a certain website will be the only way i can get these pellets reasonably.
    Their Interceptors are 1 shot 1 kill,every time i use them,brilliant!!!!

    Comment by: steven price     Posted on: 05 Feb 2011 at 11:15 PM

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.177 and .22 Calibre Hunting Pellets
.177 and .22 Calibre Hunting Pellets
.177 and .22 Calibre Hunting Pellets
.177 and .22 Calibre Hunting Pellets
.177 and .22 Calibre Hunting Pellets
.177 and .22 Calibre Hunting Pellets
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