Recently I heard from a reader who was responding to my attempt to test the claims made for the Predator Polymag pellet. You can read that blog and the comments that follow here: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2011/08/shooting-household-objects-%E2%80%93-a-test-of-the-predator-polymag-pellet.html
In a nice note, Mark, who says he is a professional shooter with over 20 years’ experience, made a number of comments, among them: “Simply if hunting small game you don’t want to punch a little hole through you want a pellet that goes in expands uses all its kinetic energy in the animal and that gives much better quicker kills. I’ve tested these poly pellets along others in .22 and have seen the results they do penetrate and unleash more kinetic energy than most …”
He also said, in effect, that he didn’t think my tests on inanimate objects really proved anything and that if I did some testing on actual rabbit heads I might be surprised at the results. Now, I take Mark’s point: maybe my tests on inanimate objects really don’t prove anything. And, if Mark or anyone is getting really good results with Predator Polymag pellets in the field, that’s all that really matters. If the Polymags deliver the accuracy and lethality you need, the defense calls no further witnesses. Read the original blog carefully and you’ll see that at no point did I say that the Predator Polymag pellets were bad pellets. Instead, I simply couldn’t prove – in my tests – the claims of “incomparable penetration and expansion.”
As to the suggestion that I test on actual rabbit heads, in theory it is a good one, but the practical problems seem daunting: I don’t have a supply of rabbit head available for testing and – even more importantly – I lack the dissection skills to make sense of the results. Nevertheless, Mark had planted the seed of an idea: maybe I should give the Polymag Predator pellets another test to see if I had got it wrong the first time.
So I decided to do some more testing, again on inanimate objects. For outright penetration – the ability to crack a skull – I decided to use a metal pie plate my wife gracious donated to the cause. For penetration in somewhat softer material, I selected a piece of 5/8-inch-thick hard wood. And for penetration and expansion, a thick paperback book that I had purchased at a used bookstore and didn’t care to finish.
The pie plate was thick, enameled, and looked to be pretty tough. To get calibrated as to its ability to withstand penetration, I set it up at 13 yards and launched a 7.9 grain Crosman Premier at it from my high-power .177 caliber Walther LGV. With a clang, the pellet punched through the plate, so I decided to step down in power and brought out my 6-foot-pound FWB 150. Typically, it launches pellets in the mid-600 feet per second range.
The first shot with the FWB150, with a Crosman 7.9 grain premier, dented but failed to punch through the plate. The same thing happened with the Predator Polymag and an RWS Superpoint Extra. An RWS Hypermax alloy pellet, however, punched through the plate with authority.
On the thin wood, the 7.9 Premier, the Polymag, and the Hypermax, when shot from the FWB 150, all lodged themselves near the surface of the wood. When I tried the same pellets launched from the LGV, measuring with a toothpick down the pellet holes, the Crosman Premier apparently penetrated the deepest.
Special note here: shot from the high powered .177 LGV, the Hypermax pellet went supersonic with a loud CRACK! I once kinked the mainspring in a nice German break barrel air rifle while shooting ultralight pellets that went supersonic and caused the rifle to diesel. So unless your air rifle manufacture specifically makes claims for high velocity with alloy pellets (1,200 fps and above), I would avoid shooting ultralight alloy pellets in high power spring-piston airguns.
The one place I can really recommend shooting lightweight alloy pellets is in low-power airguns (such as the Weihrauch HW 30 rifle or RWS LP8 pistol) for pest control at short range where you might want lots of penetration and then have the shot “die” very quickly. And – this should go without saying – only if the pellet delivers the accuracy you need.
Shooting the paperback book with the FWB, the Crosman Premier penetrated to page 131. The Hypermax drilled its way to page 173. I found the red plastic tip of the Predator Polymag at page 198 and the body of the pellet at page 179. The RWS Superpoint penetrated to page 206. All of the pellets caused deformation in the paper pages well beyond where the pellet was found, and none of them – including the Polymag – exhibited any significant deformation or expansion of the pellet body itself.
Just for fun, I also tried shooting the book with a 7-foot-pound .22 caliber pumper rifle that Tim Smith put together for me. Launching a Gamo Hunter round-nose pellet, it penetrated to page 98 in the book.
I sacrificed another thick paperback book to the angry gods of airgun testing, Predator Polymag head-to-head against the RWS hollowpoint. Shooting them through the FWB 150 at 13 yards, I found that the body of the Polymag out-penetrated the RWS hollowpoint by some 34 pages, and the red point of the Polymag penetrated another 12 pages beyond that. There was little deformation to the body of the Polymag while the nose of the RWS pellet had flattened so that it looked like a wadcutter.
Shooting with the high power LGV, both pellets penetrated more than twice as far. The Polymag penetrated 16 pages deeper with the red point three pages beyond that. Both pellets were approximately equally mangled and flattened by their passage through the book. Why the pellets were more flattened by this book than by the first book, I can’t say.
So where does that leave us? First of all, there are clearly more variables to the business of testing pellet penetration and expansion than I have a good handle on. The Predator Polymag may not deliver “incomparable” performance in all cases, but it fares pretty well. So if you are using the Predator Polymag, and if it delivers the accuracy and hunting performance you need, by all means keep using it . . . and, if you like, share with me some of your experiences in the comments section of this blog.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott