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Airgun pellets Part I

It’s a well worn old adage, but one well worth repeating, that a rifle combination is only as good as the weakest link. This rule can obviously be applied to every component and accessory that makes up the whole – no more so than the ammunition you use. Yes, the good old airgun pellet is the final link to ultimate performance, and it’s a fascinating world in itself, and one which I plan to put under the spotlight in this new series.

Since my background is primarily Field Target (FT) and Hunter Field Target (HFT) shooting, this first instalment kicks off with competition pellets. Before going any further, it has to be said that .177 is the only calibre worth considering for serious FT or HFT use, due to its flatter trajectory compared with all the larger calibres.


My heyday in FT competition was the mid ‘80’s, and whilst I meticulously kept a scrap book of tournament results, and the rifles used to achieve them, one omission which would have made interesting reading (don’t get stuck with me in a lift!) is the pellet design used. You see, over time, new designs come and go, and whilst they may incorporate only subtle changes from what went before, if they offer any advantage at all, then the most competitive among us will eventually be left with no choice but to make the switch.

With regards to bringing home the silverware, it soon became clear to us obsessive FT aficionados that pointed pellets, twin rings, double driving bands… etc, could all be consigned to the dustbin, Since the laws of physics dictate our sport from start to finish, there’s no denying the basic truth, that there’s simply been nothing to top the traditional ‘waisted’ dome-headed pellet for sheer all round performance.

The specialized requirements of hunting such as down range velocity and level of shock imparted to the quarry are of course a different matter, and one which we’ll discuss in a future part of this series.

Accuracy, windage and trajectory

Where downing field targets in the heat of competition is concerned there are three over-riding considerations, namely; raw accuracy; the ability of the pellet to ride or ideally cheat the wind to a greater or lesser degree; and of course as flat a trajectory as possible.

So the design which seems to come closest to satisfying these criteria, remains, as stated, the dome head (or Diablo) shape, incorporating the traditional ‘waisted’ body, similar in profile to a shuttlecock.

One of the earliest pellets to attain top level status in the timeline of FT shooting was the H&N Silhouette which was a comparative heavyweight, at around 9-grains in .177. These were followed by Bisley Magnums and H&N’s Barracuda Match - both at well over 10-grains. Whilst all three of these were superbly accurate, and took more than their fair share of trophies, the market was crying out for something lighter, which would fly flatter, whilst retaining a modicum of stability - ultimately the Holy Grail to the FT fraternity.

Bull by the horns

Top German manufacturer, RWS, took the bull by the horns, and gave us the Superdome, which lived up to it’s name, and promptly became the top choice for a while. Haendler and Natermann (H&N) the other top flight German pellet producer came up with their own FT Trophy, and both these pellets are still produced to this day. Neither would be a bad choice necessarily either (especially for spring-powered air rifles), as both still offer great consistency and potentially, great accuracy. But times change and there are now many more brands from which to choose.

Defiant is a relatively new name on the scene, and is both extremely well made, and produced in good old blighty. Prometheus, the British company behind the operation, use a particularly specialized manufacturing process which results in highly consistent weights. Couple this with the fact that three head sizes are on offer, and these short bodied lightweights become an attractive proposition.

A distinctive parallel sided body sets the Defiant apart from it’s rivals, and with the manufacturers taking the unusual step of offering them in mixed sample trial packs too, testing can be carried out to see how they match with a particular barrel. At 7.5-grains, they manage to trim some trajectory from the long range targets too, and I for one plan some more in depth testing soon.

The top two

So what’s the best established pellet on the market for outdoor competition shooting? Well, as always, whether choosing a rifle or ammunition, look to see which brand is being used by the top exponents of the sport. Truth is the same names, just keep cropping up in the results!

At the top level, two manufacturers now dominate the scene, with pellets from the JSB stable (Josef Schulz Bohumin from Czechoslovakia), and Crosman (made in the USA), regularly slogging it out up and down the country.

Many manufacturers market their own branded pellets, which are made for them by JSB; with such companies as Daystate, Air Arms, and FX all getting in on the act. Daystate’s FT and Select labels, Air Arms’ with their Diablo Field, and FX pellets, as well as JSB’s own label ‘Exact’, are all remarkably similar when viewed alongside each other.

RWS fights back

Now RWS have thrown their hat in the ring with the relatively new Superfield, which comes in at an identical weight to the JSB, of 8.4-grains, but seems to have a fractionally shorter body. Certainly another contender, but Crosman Premiers still take some beating with their ultra compact, short bodied, lightweight 7.9-grain design. A slightly higher antimony content (similar to Defiant) makes them harder and them less prone to damage in transit – it also gives these pellets a shinier finish.

To get to the top table, the latest pellets have obviously got to cut the mustard in the accuracy stakes, and expect at least half inch, 5-shot groups when use in conjunction with a quality rifle at 50yds, in perfect conditions - if you do your part of course!

Matching pellet to rifle

Achieving ultimate accuracy is dependant upon many factors, however and it really is the case that the best rifle in the world just may not be compatible with a particular type of pellet. Barrels can be particularly sensitive, so if one brand isn’t grouping, try a selection and persevere.

With pneumatic airguns, barrel cleaning can be far more important, because, unlike spring/piston designs, no natural lubrication occurs. Again, it just depends upon the bore and there’s really no substitute for experimentation and doing your homework.

With many of the current pellet brands providing batch numbers and head sizes on the underside of the tin, the shooter can carry out further research as to which particular spec best suits their rifle. A 4.53mm head size will be fractionally tighter in the barrel than 4.51mm for example, and this might just be enough to get the best from the rifling, so experiment.

Finally, the golden rule still applies, that if you find a good brand of pellets that really suits a particular gun, try and purchase as many of the same batch number as possible to guarantee consistency. Confidence breeds success as they say.

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

Gun Mart Shooters Forum - Get Involved in the Discussion!
User Comments
  • Hi I have a HW100 in .177 and in .22 and looking for a pellet that will give me the hitting power to give a clean kill and punch in the field but still give me a good grouping at 30 yds using accu pell in .177 and in .22 Bisley Magnums

    At a loss have tried 10 different types and now have tins that just not used wasted

    Comment by: Chris Turnbull     Posted on: 09 Dec 2009 at 11:51 AM

  • Any decent airgun pellet should be OK for power at 30yds and the two pellets that you mention should be quite capable of tight groups and real stopping power at that range.

    If you had not mentioned the brands that you were using, I would have recommended that you try both of them, plus Daystate Selects (or any JSB made pellets), H&N Field Target Trophy, Crosman Premiers and Weihrauch FT.

    I've never had a problem with an HW100 being pellet fussy, although Neil Mackinnon has mentioned one that only liked Crosman Accupells - but that was because the barrel needed cleaning (something that should regularly be undertaken with all PCPs). After a good cleaning the HW100 shot well with lots of different pellets.

    So the first thing to do is give both barrels a thorough cleaning with a pull through and an aigun barrel cleaner/lubricator such as Napier POWER oil, then retest the pellets you have. If they don't group well, try the H&N FT Trophy or Daystate Select, If they also don't give good groups then you will have to look elsewhere for an answer - either the gun(s) or your technique. Get the guns chronoed at your local airgun club or gunshop. If they are consistent, then get an experienced shooter to take a look at the way the gun is shooting. Please let me know if any of this has helped.

    Comment by: Pat Farey     Posted on: 10 Dec 2009 at 01:28 AM

  • hi
    please send me specification of pellets(trjectory bullet drop etc)diablo pelet in speed of 1000 fps
    my gun is wihruach hw80

    Comment by: ali musavi     Posted on: 23 Mar 2010 at 07:44 PM

  • Hi i think ive tried just about every combination going over the years and agree with the above . I at present have a HW100 . r10 . and DAYSTATES and the 2 i allways now stick to are DAYSTATES (jsb) and H&N FTT which im sure are also tined as (weihrauch) and assume made by h&n to me they are identical . But stick with those and you wont be far adrift but have a play thats part of the fun but dont end up with 5 tons of redundent lead maybe one day collectable but at presernt a waste of money atb Gerry

    Comment by: Gerry     Posted on: 04 Oct 2010 at 01:44 AM

  • I have a feinwerkbau 300 that is a real tackdriver shooting RWS Meisterkugeln pellets.

    Comment by: Dave     Posted on: 08 May 2012 at 08:42 PM

  • hi just bought an hw100 carbine 1.77 for crimbo,problem usind airarm field pellets the grouping at 35/40 yards is dreadful any remidies put over 500 pellets through it

    Comment by: william park     Posted on: 13 Jan 2013 at 07:17 PM

  • Your rifle might just not like Air Arms pellets.

    Give H&N Field Target Trophies, Superdomes and Accupells a try. Some barrels need a few tins of pellets through them before they run in, a bit like a car engine needing a few miles on the clock before the engine has bedded in.

    Give it go and let us know how you get on.

    Comment by: Troll Hunter     Posted on: 13 Jan 2013 at 08:23 PM

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Airgun pellets Part I
Airgun pellets Part I
Airgun pellets Part I
Airgun pellets Part I
Airgun pellets Part I
Airgun pellets Part I
Airgun pellets Part I
Airgun pellets Part I
Airgun pellets Part I
Airgun pellets Part I
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