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Airgun Ammo Special

Airgun Ammo Special

Flick through any brochure or magazine that covers our sport and there are a plethora of different pellets to choose from. A sight that must be incredibly bewildering for any newcomer. So, just what pellet is best, and which calibre should you choose? Well, to answer these questions, and a multitude of others, the best approach is to cover each airgun discipline in turn and discuss which ammo is appropriate for that particular branch of our sport.

Fun shooting

Informal shooting in the garden (‘plinking’) is simply about the fun factor. Many shooters just enjoy blatting away at all manner of targets, be that paper or tin cans and if you’re doing all this with a fairly inexpensive, unsophisticated rifle or pistol, then it really defeats the object to suddenly spend serious money on top-class pellets. So, just buy whatever you fancy and give them a go. It really is that simple. If you are happy with the results and they are as accurate as you need, who can tell you any different?

If you reach a point where you desire more, then look to the choices of the competition HFT/ FT sections here. That said, a cheap rifle/pistol may well be a limiting factor if you decide you need greater accuracy, so an upgrade all round may be on the cards.

Hunter Field Target (HFT) & Field Target (FT)

It may be a well-worn cliché, but it’s still true to say that a rifle combination is only as good as the weakest link. Even the best, most expensive kit stands for nothing if you persist in feeding it substandard, cheap pellets. For it’s a simple fact that accuracy derives from consistency - a consistent approach to our shooting, consistent power delivery/velocity from the rifle and finally, consistency where the ammo is concerned.

To be successful in the highly competitive disciplines of HFT and FT, we need quality, well-made ammo, and the most efficient design here is still the traditional, waisted, dome-headed pellet. I’ve competed in both disciplines over many years, with a satisfying level of competition wins - all achieved with dome headed pellets.

It is possible to buy special trays of pre-sorted and weighed pellets of some brands, but personally, I’m not too bothered about these, preferring to source a good batch of a normal tin size. Consider that the very best of this type of pellet in .177, will still only cost around £13 (guide price) for 500 and the sport is still fairly cheap to participate in, compared to many other shooting disciplines.

Shooting at targets out to 45 yards in HFT and a maximum of 55 yards in FT, places demands on the shooter, and ultra-consistent pellet weights are essential here. The .177 calibre is the easiest to shoot, given the flatter trajectory, although HFT in particular, has grades for shooters using the heavier .22.

There can be some personal preference with regards to the chosen weight of the pellet, although, in HFT, where shooters have to be more instinctive in range estimation, most shooters opt for lighter pellets. Normally, somewhere between 8 and 9-grains. By comparison, many FT shooters opt for ‘heavy’pellets (around 10.5-grains in .177) as they are allowed to rangefind the target using the scopes parallax system, so a flatter trajectory becomes less critical.


As for actual brands used, the standard JSB derivatives (Air Arms Diablo Field and JSB Exact at 8.44-grains in .177) are a good place to start. Quality-wise, the other options are RWS Superdome, H&N Field Target Trophy, RWS Superfield, Daystate Sovereign/Kaiser, Crosman Premier and Webley Accupells & Mosquitos. It’s fair to say that these brands dominate results, but some experimentation may be needed to assess barrel compatibility.

Fancy a lighter pellet? Then try JSB Express at 7.87-grains, JSB Exact RS Diabolo at 7.33-grains and the Daystate Rangemaster Sovereign. Many manufacturers now print head sizes on the base of the tin too, in a bid to allow the shooter to match an ideal pellet with a specific barrel. It’s always worth experimenting for optimum results. I’ve listed most of the key players and most are available in .22 calibre equivalents. (See Ammo Listings).

Bench rest

Bench Rest shooting competitions have become increasingly popular over the last decade, and the precision sought by the top exponents means all of the top pellets listed will be equally relevant here. Of course, with known target distances in this discipline, there are no worries regarding trajectory, so some of the ‘heavy’ versions of the JSB designs, for example, are worth playing with. Again, there may be occasional classes for different calibres, but the top exponents will almost certainly be using .177, since it’s comparatively faster and gets to the target quicker, making it on balance, slightly easier to shoot.

Hunting

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Opt to hunt with an airgun and the choice widens. That said, we all need to be respectful of our quarry, and that means being mindful that accuracy levels are being maintained throughout. A vast array of pellet designs exist, to appeal to hunters who wish to gain a ballistic advantage in the field and increase their ‘shot to kill’ ratio, where and when it matters. Pointed inner cores, steel tips, twin driving bands, boat tails - we’ve even had the classic sabo design, where an outer jacket is used to form the bore diameter, then drops away from an aerodynamic inner bullet. One highly innovative and imaginative design after another, yet do they really offer any great advantage? I fall firmly into the camp that says accuracy is the governing factor that trumps all. Hit a rabbit in the head and the chances are he will drop - irrespective of pellet design. So, if you’re after maximum accuracy and that perfect head shot, I would say forget the gimmicks and opt for the good old dome head.

That said, there are plenty of interesting pellets to try, for close range, more specialist hunting duties, offering added knock down power. Hollowpoints seem to have quite a following, but the Piledriver, originally designed by Hugh Earl and now made by H&N, is a super heavyweight (21-grains in .177!) and intended for FAC airguns.

.25 calibre can hit hard but is much slower at 12 ft/lbs. Close range rat shooting, where the target will emerge at a given distance, is a perfect scenario for pellets that pack more punch, and here, the trajectory can be irrelevant, opening the door to more radical designs.

Developments

One interesting and fairly recent development has been the rise in popularity of a solid airgun ‘slug’. These have emerged as a greater number of airguns can now be bought that generate FAC power levels. If you use a conventional hollow pellet, then the increased air blast will often just deform the pellet, reducing accuracy. Once at a certain power level, move to a solid projectile and the game can change. With manufacturers such as Daystate for example, producing airguns that can hit 100 ft/lbs energy and the Gunpower/ Airforce Texan punching out an incredible 700 ft/ lbs, these monsters of the airgun world have opened up a whole new sphere of sport. Admittedly, more popular in the USA given their lack of power restrictions, FAC airguns are gaining new ground and the rise of solid slug ammo is in direct response to this. FAC airguns favour larger calibres as the smaller .177 is simply too fragile to withstand that initial blast of high-pressure air. .22 calibre, .25 and .30 are all possible in this fascinating format.

To the future

On the negative side, as with so many aspects of our lives at the moment, environmental concerns are partly dictating the pace and with lead shot coming under fire so to speak, certain parties would like to see it banned altogether. I don’t personally see airgun pellets as a significant problem but with several manufacturers already producing non-lead products, it could be that further down the line we have to go down this route. It will be a sad day in my book since the soft malleability of lead makes it the perfect choice for airgun ammunition, which mates perfectly with the rifling, can be extremely accurate, yet be forgiving to the relatively mild steel of our airgun barrels. Time will tell.

Ammo listings

JSB Exact Premium .177, 8.44-grains, per 200
JSB Exact RS Diabolo .177, 7.33-grains, per 500
Air Arms Diabolo Field .177, 8.44-grains, per 500
Air Arms Diabolo Express .177, 7.87-grains, per 500
JSB Exact RS Diabolo .177, 7.33-grains, per 500
H&N Sniper Light .177, 7.5-grains, per 500
H&N Field Target Trophy .177, 8.64-grains, per 500
Bisley Long Range Gold .177, 7.56-grains, per 500
Contact: John Rothery Wholesale - www.bisley-uk.com

BSA Goldstar .177, 8.64-grains, per 500
Contact: BSA Guns - www.bsaguns.co.uk

Weihrauch F&T Special .177, 8.64-grains, per 500
Contact: Hull Cartridge - www.hullcartridge.co.uk

Kaiser .177, 8.64-grains, per 500
Rangemaster Sovereign, .177, 8.44-grains, per 500
Contact: Daystate - www.daystate.com

Webley Accupell .177, 7.9-grains, per 500
Webley Mosquito .177, 7.87-grains, per 500
Contact: Highland Outdoors - www.highlandoutdoors.co.uk

Crosman Premier .177, 7.9-grains, per 1250 box
Contact: Range Right - www.range-right.co.uk

RWS Superfield .177, 8.44-grains, per 500
RWS Superdome .177, 8.3-grains, per 500
Contact: RUAG Ammotec - www.ruag.co.uk

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4 Comments

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    Giff
    18 Mar 2022 at 08:05 AM
  • It is worth noting that no two guns are the same, one may shoot jsb pellets very well and another gun same make and model may only like gamo pellets.

    Don’t write off cheap pellets I have recently been surprised that my pcp will shoot bsa fury’s better than any air arms pellets. At 40meters I am getting 7 to 8mm groups of six shots with bsa fury’s and with air arms field at 40meters I am getting groups of 30mm for six shots.

    I also tried a number of pellets in a gamo pt85 tactical and at 15meters the best pellets were gamo pro hunter giving groups of 1 inch the air arms, jsb and crosman pellets all gave groups of a massive 3 to 4inchs.

    Pellet testing is a must for any shooter, and remember once a new gun beds in you may find that changing your pellet will bring the groups even tighter. Pellet test every three months to keep things accurate.

    Happy shooting.

    Default profile image
    Steve
    14 Mar 2022 at 06:49 PM


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