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Air Gun Pellet Series Part III

Air Gun Pellet Series Part III

‘Plinking’ is a term simply derived from the noise of a pellet striking a target – traditionally a tin can. That informality is the key and it can be genuinely therapeutic to sometimes just shoot for the hell of it, so to speak. Doing so for fun and pure enjoyment, with no constraints or great expectations, is the aim here. If, like me, you’re a competitive animal, then this sort of ‘pressure off’ time once in a while, makes for a refreshing change.

My schedule of Hunter Field Target (HFT) national competitions and (very occasionally these days) Field Target (FT) shoots, is of course extremely enjoyable, having been part of my life from an early age. But to some, the structured format, and indeed the competitive element itself, can be very off-putting.

For these people, their branch of airgun shooting can be happily confined to informal plinking, where the demands are somewhat less, and the equipment can be simplified to a greater or lesser degree. After all, there has always been an all inclusive nature to airgunning, and being able to just enjoy the sport on a level that suits the individual, is undoubtedly part of the attraction.

So what makes an ideal plinking pellet? Well in short, just about any can be used here but a few rules still apply, if you want to maximize the enjoyment.

Top Class Lead

Obviously, if a cheap ‘starter’ gun is being used, it’s fairly pointless splashing out on top class lead. Yet with the market awash with different brands, many reasonably accurate, relatively low cost options exist. RWS Hobby flat heads for around £3 a tin of 500, and Bisley Practise for around the £4 mark, represent good value. If most of the action will take place over paper targets, then flat headed pellets, or wadcutters as they are known, may be preferable. This design punches a clean, crisp hole in the target and can aid scoring. Milbro Match, and Crosman Premier Match are also among the options.

If shooting at informal targets, the larger calibre pellets can create a more dramatic effect, as its greater punch connects. Old favourites such as Milbro Caledonian, Lane’s Bulldogs and Eley Wasp have served their time, and still offer good value. Personally, I wouldn’t be too fussed regarding pointed designs, twin rings etc, as the conventional domed pellets will normally return better accuracy, and certainly over a greater distance. If cost is the governing factor though, and pure undemanding fun is on the cards, then really anything goes.

A trip to the local gunshop will reveal an amazing array of ammunition brands and types, which can be all rather bewildering. One way around this problem can be the ‘Pellpax’ service provided by Oasis, based in Cromer, Norfolk. These are multi packs offering around 20 different brands, individually wrapped with ten pellets of each, to allow the shooter to carry out trials. Obviously the tests will hardly be exhaustive, but it can narrow the search down considerably, and give a great indication as to a shortlist of candidates for a particular rifle.

Plinking can be great fun, but just remember to use a solid impenetrable backstop, so that safety is assured. Layers of old carpet hanging over an old door will usually make a good backstop – or a cardboard box full of old telephone books or the like, with a solid piece of wood or metal at the back.

Proper Preparation

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My first pointer towards preparation doesn’t actually concern the pellet directly, but the business of barrel cleaning, which can play a significant part in accuracy.

Airguns that I have owned over the years have varied enormously in this department, with some requiring a regular clean, while others still group perfectly after many rounds. A large element of luck is involved here as to whether the particular barrel fitted has shallow rifling that has minimal connection with the projectile. Or if it’s deeper cut and sharper, which just may happen to strip more lead, or foul up faster over a given period.

Spring piston air rifles tend to throw a small amount of oil forward as part of the shot cycle, thus acting as a self-lubricating device - which in turn, should require minimal cleaning of the barrel. Pre-charged pneumatics (PCPs) are a different animal entirely, and since they derive their power from externally sourced dry air, no natural lubrication of the bore will take place. This is where a cleaning regime may need to be adopted, either as a matter of course, or more likely, if and when the groups open up and accuracy begins to deteriorate.

Cleaning Regime

Many cleaning kits are sold, but the humble pull-through has to be the best bet for the airgun. I personally would never use rods or phosphor bronze brushes of any kind; favouring a far more gentle regime. The relatively mild steel used to form the majority of airgun barrels, simply doesn’t require the rigorous approach of live ammo counterparts, so a small cloth ‘patch’ pulled through the bore should comfortably suffice.

Several simple pull through kits are available on the market, but my mainstay is a home-made effort, formed from a doubled up length of conger fishing trace (plastic coated wire). This loop is fed down the barrel from the muzzle, and once it appears from the open breech, a small cloth patch (Bisley, Napier or Parker Hale .22-types are ideal) is pushed through the end loop, onto which a few drops of barrel cleaning solution are sparingly applied. The patch is then pulled through the bore and depending upon the level of dirt seen as it emerges, the process is repeated 2-3 times. I use Parker Hale 303 barrel cleaner, but again many options exist.

Weights & Measures

Pellet sizing is where the real enthusiast can have hours of fun. OK; the process can be laborious, but the satisfaction gained from adding consistency to the equation, and seeing those group sizes close up, is hard to match.

I have two pellet sizing devices, one from Airmasters 88, the other from TR Robb. They both work on a similar principle, with a finely machined steel body, incorporating a tapering central channel, into which the pellet is placed. A separate seating rod is then used to push it in to a certain depth, thus sizing its head to a pre-set dimension. The device is adjustable to set the diameter; clever stuff, and well worth a try if results are hard to come by.

Weighing pellets is something that the serious competitor may wish to consider too, in order to try to eradicate problems on longer targets, where inconsistent weights can result in a miss. By meticulously weighing a batch of pellets, any extreme highs and lows can be discarded from the line-up. Here the firearms reloading industry can help as they offer both electric and balance beam types that will weigh down to 1/10th of a grain, which is very accurate; given there are 7000-grains in a pound. Lee Precision offers a very cost effective unit for around £30.

Power Check

Finally, with all these variables creeping into the equation, the rifles power could well be affected and fluctuate from its intended setting. Just cleaning the barrel can shift the zero, and velocity, so keeping a check on energy levels is of paramount importance. With this regular monitoring in mind, a chronograph would seem to me to be a vital piece of equipment these days; especially given the way the prices have tumbled in recent years. I’ve listed my favourites, but many others exist out their.

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  • Air Gun Pellet Series Part III - image {image:count}

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  • Air Gun Pellet Series Part III - image {image:count}

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  • Air Gun Pellet Series Part III - image {image:count}

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  • Air Gun Pellet Series Part III - image {image:count}

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  • Air Gun Pellet Series Part III - image {image:count}

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  • Air Gun Pellet Series Part III - image {image:count}

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  • Air Gun Pellet Series Part III - image {image:count}

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  • Air Gun Pellet Series Part III - image {image:count}

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  • Air Gun Pellet Series Part III - image {image:count}

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    23 Oct 2018 at 11:08 AM
  • Cheers bud im well versed in range finding using the mildot formula its been years since i last shot mostly woodies for meati was training my yellow lab pup the fundamentals but sadly work came first been reading upto date reviews on pellet choice etc and some homework on a few that stand out got freebee with the thunder bolt .22 10s the corvids are a challenge but its mixed wood and field so plenty woodies if the corvids are treble wide that day ill be sure to keep you all updated thanks guys ill give it all carefull consideration

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    21 Sep 2012 at 07:22 PM
  • The Air Arms Field pellets seem to work in all the guns I use and are well worth trying first. I'd also recommend H&N Field Target Trophies, Crosman Premiers and RWS Superdomes.

    Get plenty of practice at all the ranges you'll be shooting at and make sure you know the range when shooting live quarry. Laser rangefinders have come down in price over recent years and Hawke and MTC do quality rangefinders at good money.

    Good luck and let us know how you get on. You could always pop over to the Gun Mart Forum and see what they think over there.

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    Troll Hunter
    21 Sep 2012 at 07:03 PM
  • Hi guys i have been invited onto a permission having very recently taken up air gunnning i have use of a gamo socom .22 12ft/lb for corvids and greys can you recommend a good pellet for ranges of 20 to 35 meters i have read way to much info on pellets that ive got completely lost in translation
    cheers guys

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    21 Sep 2012 at 03:54 PM
  • I recently purchased a pack of .177 (5gr) Thunderbolt pellets.
    On inspection I found over 30 of them had damage to the pellet skirt.
    The damage ranged from slight nicks to almost 180 degrees of tear.
    From these results I can only guess that the alloy used to manufacturer these pellets is too weak to survive the pellet forming process and that the manufacturer has extremely poor quality control (if any).
    I will not be putting any of these pellets through my guns and would strongly advise anyone who buys them to check them thoroughly before use.

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    George Menzies
    01 Jun 2011 at 11:15 AM
  • H and N pellets are the best and worth every penny. THUNDERBOLTS / LOGAN PENETRATOR are the best more money but worth it ive never had any problems with mishapen pellets from any of these brands and the accuracy is spot on. If you are seriouse about hunting that is and you get maximum penetration from all. But only if you got a decent rifle is it worth spending more. the best hunting pellets i have ever yoused for hunting is the DYNAMICK AIR BULLETS IN 22 CAL. YOU CAN BUY THESE AT RONNY SUNSHINES on EBAY. OR IF YOU WANT A RIFLE OR ANYTHING ELSE THE AIRGUN CENTER in raleigh in essex tel 01268 780 730

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    03 Mar 2011 at 03:06 PM
  • i also have a bsa ultra single shot and out of trying dozens of different brands of pellets i also foud bisley LRG's the best for distance and accuracy

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    andy rowell
    02 May 2010 at 08:24 PM
  • Started to use Falcon Accuracy Plus .22 for my HW97k ,at first they were recommened by an air rifle Specialist ,then it was concrete when i was offered to try some at the local rifle club . What can i say very impressed and super grouping this is a quality pellet and are very accurate ,,now the local rifle shop sells them like there going out of fashion. something must be right . some of the guys using the .177 say are a bit light over long distance , .22' s no bad feed back ...chrono was 11.6 11.5 11.3 with the original hull cartridge spring .i'm happy
    cheers kenny

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    kenny lister
    13 Feb 2010 at 07:24 PM
  • In my BSA Ultra multi shot .177 I have found the most accurate pellets to be Bisley Long Range Gold.

    For my fathers Air Arms S410 .22 he found that Bisley Super Fields are the most accurate. (better groups than the Air Arms pellets from his gun).

    Would highly recommend at least trying the Bisley pellets as they are well manufactured and not expensive.

    The Super Field pellets also feature a small hollow point style indent which doesn't affect accuracy.

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    27 Jan 2010 at 04:01 PM
  • Regarding rixda's comments on Pellpax pellet selection packs; you don't have to rezero your scope for each pellet when just checking for consistency and accuracy. Just use a large sheet of paper (old oddments of wallpaper are great for this. Mark a dot about the size of a £1 coin at well spaced intervals (at least 18" apart). Put a number alongside each dot. Then shoot a group of five or ten pellets (of the same brand) at the first dot. Write the number of the dot on a piece of paper and the pellet brand. Then shoot a group of another brand of pellets at the next dot, record the number and brand, and so on.

    At the end of your test you will see which pellets made the best group. It doesn't matter if they don't hit the dot that you were aiming at, because once you find the best one, you zero your scope with that pellet brand only.

    Regarding barrel cleaning - don't do it with a coat hanger wire and tissue, you could seriously damage your accuracy potential! Follow Mark's advice and use a proper pull-through (easy enough to make out of plastic coated fishing trace wire and a wooden dowel - or buy one ready made) with clean cloth cleaning patches and always pull-through from the breech.

    Re: Domes v. Wadcutters (flatheads) - Both are equally accurate at close range, but wadcutters punch cleaner holes in paper targets (hence the name) which is why 10m shooters use them for more precise scoring. Flatheads tend to be lighter too, which might also help in the low power rifles that 10m competitors use.

    Domeheads stay more accurate at medium and long distance because of their more aerodynamic shape. At extreme long distance (for an air rifle) weight may also be a factor as heavy pellets seem to give better accuracy.

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    Pat Farey
    27 Jan 2010 at 03:20 PM
  • keep away from the pellpax deal at nearly £20 a pop and by the time you try to get a group with them you will be out of ammo threw trying to zero your scope as every different pellet will need a scope re zero to suite.

    Try and buy the best you can or buy cheap tins made by quality makers and pick out the pellets that look good for proper shooting and the rest for targets or a close zero.

    Scales,plenty of scales on Ebay for under £10 that will do the job.

    Pull threw,A coat hanger with some tissue and 3in 1 oil is good enough for the barrel and will help prevent rust 'I like marks home made Idea and I will explore it as I can see what his saying and it could scratch the Rifling.

    Chronograph,Every where is trying to mug people off on the prices but jsramsbottom,true to the long History of low prices still have the combro for £40 delivered,I've seen these sold for more second hand on the forums.

    Sorry to butt in you review Mark,as always I appreciate you guys honesty unlike other magazines.

    One thing I've never understood is,flat hea/wadcutters,used for the most serious 10metre shooting but domed are better.I agree domed are better at longer ranges but why don't 10m shooters used domes?I know about the clean hole they leave but if Domed are more accurate,surely they would choose domed?Cant get my head aroung that but I do know there good at close range (very much like the hollo points) and certainly give more knock down power in my favoured 177 cal.

    The prices of pellets are getting silly now,5000 air arms are £90 odd quid and less then a year ago they were £40-40 ish and what I can understand is,is why?If other manufacturers can make them for under £5 quid for 500 that surely means that lead is not the issue?and the price of it?So again manufacturers are taking advantage of us?
    Las couple of tins of AA 4.52s I have bought have not even been as well made as they use to be and I have had to throw half the tin a side for zeroing and keep the other half for serious shooting which I find is awfull considering the price of a tin (nearly £10 quid a tin) and there is no real difference between 177 and 22 prices like there use to be which was understand able as 22 weigh nearly double 177s.I put this down to Manufacturers greed and what they don't seem to realise is,we won't keep getting mugged off and there will be other cheaper and better Alternatives..It angers me that they have to be so gready as this seems to be the case or other manufacturers simply could not make packs of 500 for under £5 quid.

    Your best bet is to buy cheap pellets and see which you get tight groups on 1st,if none are any good,use them for plinking and practice,then move on to a bit more expensiver pellets,I for 1 will be returniong to cheaper pellets and either re sizing them or picking out the good ones as I have seen the quality of the expensive pellets of late and I have to treat them the same.


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    27 Jan 2010 at 02:15 AM