Posts Tagged ‘pellets’

Happy New Year to our loyal readers from all the crew at Airguns of Arizona. Thank you for making 2014 a great year! We are looking forward to 2015, and already have big plans and wheels in motion for making this another great year in airgunning. Stay tuned in for up-and-coming posts, and please continue to comment with questions and feedback. We want this blog to be a service to its readers, and we welcome any thoughts or suggestions to make it even better.

Now we can not leave you without a product review of some sorts, so here ya go!

We often focus all our attention on the big items like air rifles and pistols, and in doing so, we overlook the smallest (yet possibly the largest) component to the airgun hobby…the pellets!!!

JSB is one of the premier makers of pellets today, and they are working hard to satisfy every need the market creates. Their latest design was made to focus attention on the .177 precharged market, where high power has been penalized by a lack of quality pellets in a heavy weight. The US is full of power hungry customers, but we are spoiled with an open market mostly without caliber or power restriction, so .177 is not our go-to choice when power is craved. Elsewhere in the world, however, there are limitations on caliber. India restricts all airguns to .177 exclusively, and other countries as well, so JSB was quick to respond to the growing need for a heavy .177 pellet.

For those who stay in tune with JSB’s line of pellets, you are likely saying “What about the JSB Exact Heavy .177 at 10.34 grains?” or “How about those 13.43 grains JSB Exact Monster .177 pellets?” Isn’t that enough weight for these power crazy airgunners???


JSB Beast .177 16.2gr. Pellets

Pavel Kolebac, Owner/Designer/Pelletmaster Supreme of JSB, took it even further with the new JSB Exact BEAST in .177.

JSB Beast a bit long for some magazines!

JSB Beast a bit long for some magazines!

These “little” pellets weigh in at a massive 16.20 grains and will overwhelm most magazines at an impressive 0.31 inches in length.


JSB Beast Cylindrical Design

The shape is what many call “cylindrical”, and is great for long range ballistics. The head is rounded, and the skirt is shallow, making them bullet-like in looks and function. Use of the Beast pellets should be limited to high power Precharged Pnuematics only, and even then we recommend use in .177 rifles designed to shoot at 25+ ft/lbs of energy. These JSB Beast pellets are good news for shooters using magnum rifles like the AirForce Condor, Daystate Air Ranger Extreme, or some of the Korean models. Each tin comes with 250 of these little beasts, and great care was given in packing them nice and secure for safe delivery.


Until Next Time,

Get Out and Shoot!

pie plate massacree 001

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:

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


A typical field target attached to a tree in the woods.

A typical field target attached to a tree in the woods.

Targets that react when hit by an air rifle pellet are just plain more fun than those that don’t. That’s why I enjoy air rifle field target.

This is what it looks like before the shooter puts his eye to the scope.

This is what it looks like before the shooter puts his eye to the scope.

At first glance, it’s a pretty simple game. It involves shooting metallic silhouettes of birds and small game Each silhouette has a hole – or kill zone – in it, and behind the hole is a paddle. If you put a pellet cleanly through the hole and hit the paddle, the target falls down – with a gratifying clang – and you get a point. If the pellet hits the faceplate of the target or splits on the edge of the hole, the target does not fall down, and you don’t get a point.

As they say in the infomercials, but wait, there’s more: the distance to the target can vary from 10 to 55 yards, and the size of the kill zone, or hole in the target, can vary from 3/8 inch to 1 7/8 inch. Depending on the whim of the match director, you may face any size kill zone at any distance. Trust me: that one-inch kill zone that appears dead easy at 10 yards looks downright microscopic at 50 yards.

Hector Medina shooting a custom tuned RWS 54 springer.

Hector Medina shooting a custom tuned RWS 54 springer.

In addition, air rifles used in field target competition generally shoot at sub-sonic velocities,. As a result, you will need to compensate for the trajectory of the pellet at various ranges. On top of that, the wind will also tend to deflect your pellet as it moves from muzzle to target.

Mix all of these factors together, and you get a sport that requires (1) figuring out the distance to the target, (2) compensating for your gun’s trajectory at that distance, (3) doping the wind, and (4) executing the shot with enough precision to put the pellet cleanly through the hole. What makes it fun, beyond the clang and bang of the targets when they fall, is that field target is never the same twice. Each match is a little different, depending upon the layout of the course and the environmental conditions on any given day.

Hans Apelles of Team Crosman shooting a precharged pneumatic rifle of bullpup configuration.

Hans Apelles of Team Crosman shooting a precharged pneumatic rifle of bullpup configuration.

A typical match may consist of 2 or 3 targets per lane, two shots per target, and 10 shooting lanes, resulting in a 40-60 shot match. Most shots are taken from a sitting position, although some match directors will mix in some standing and kneeling shots as well. Most field target competitions take place outdoors, although some clubs host offhand-only matches in the winter in which shooters stand in a heated building and shoot at outside targets.

At present, there are dozens of field target clubs spread across the United States and more around the world. At most U.S. matches, you’ll find two classes: PCP and Piston. Some clubs also have classes for Junior shooters, Offhand shooters, WFTF (World Field Target Federation, limited to 12 foot-pounds) shooters, and Hunter Class, which limits scopes to 12X and allows the use of shooting sticks and seats. A typical entry fee for a match is $10 or less.

So what do you need to compete in field target? First, an air rifle. You can enter with almost any .177, .20 or .22 air rifle that generates less than 20 foot pounds at the muzzle, but to be competitive, you’ll want a rifle capable of shooting one-hole groups at 10 yards and holding a half-inch 5-shot group at 30-35 yards.

There are two basic classes of gun used in field target. PCP class guns are “pre-charged” pneumatic air rifles. They are powered by compressed air stored in a cylinder usually located below the barrel of the gun and charged using a SCUBA tank or a high-pressure hand pump. PCP field target guns can run from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending the level of sophistication.

Piston Class rifles rely on a spring or a gas ram that is cocked, usually by a lever under the barrel, to supply the energy to drive the pellet. When the trigger is pulled, the spring or ram is released, driving the piston forward and the pellet down the barrel. Because a lot of machinery is moving inside the gun before the pellet leaves the muzzle, piston air rifles are more difficult to shoot accurately. Highly accurate piston air rifles suitable for field target can be purchased for $500-600.

Second, you’ll need high quality optics. Many field target shooters favor very high power scopes – a minimum of 24X – because they use them to range-find on the targets. They use the adjustable objective to get the target clearly in focus, and then read the distance off the front bell or side wheel of the scope. In Hunter Class, however, shooters are limited to 12X optics.

Third, you’ll need some good ammunition. You’ll have to test to see with which pellet your gun groups the best. Group size can shrink dramatically simply by choosing the right pellet.

The final thing you will need is something to sit on, since the majority of field target shooting lanes are designed for the sitting position. I use a field target “bum bag,” but whatever gets your rump off the dirt and is comfortable ought to work just fine.

You’ll also need a place to shoot, the American Airgun Field Target Association website AAFTA has a list of field target clubs in the United States as well as a resource page of suppliers of field target air rifles, scopes, ammunition, etc.

Field target offers fun, great camaraderie, and the challenge of a high-accuracy sport at a reasonable price. I recommend it highly.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Two of my favorite minisniping air rifles. At top, a Beeman R7 (HW30). Bottom: an FWB150 in an FWB300 stock.

Two of my favorite minisniping air rifles. At top, a Beeman R7 (HW30). Bottom: an FWB150 in an FWB300 stock.

In 1984 Peter Capstick, big game hunter and African Correspondent for Guns & Ammo magazine, published an article that changed the lives of a lot of airgunning enthusiasts. Entitled simply “Minisniping,” it enthusiastically related, stretching over 10 pages in the October issue, how Capstick and his fellow big rifle shooters had been seduced by the delights of shooting at spent 9mm brass at 35 yards, from a rest, with Olympic style match air rifles.

They could have been out in the bush hunting big game. But no, Capstick and his chums found themselves answering the siren call of spending eight hours a week trying to knock over tiny targets barely twice the width of their bullets.

The game, as Capstick and his pals played it, is deceptively simple: get some used 9mm casings, stick them primer end down in some modeling clay on a rock, a brick or a piece of wood. Then back off 35 yards and try to knock the casings down with an low-power “match” air rifle. What’s so great about that?

Well, I’ve tried minisniping, and I’ve discovered its allure.

First, minisniping is accessible. You can do it virtually anywhere you have room and it’s legal – and that’s a lot more places than where discharging a firearm is legal.

Second, minisniping is inexpensive on a per-shot basis.  Once you’ve paid for the air rifle (we’ll get to that in a moment), a “sleeve” of 10 tins each containing 500 rounds of .177 match ammo—that’s 5,000 rounds—costs less than $120.  At those prices, it bothers me not one bit that I typically blow through 75-100 rounds per session.

In addition, the Olympic-grade match air rifles used for minisniping are incredibly accurate, capable of 0.04” c-t-c groups at ten meters.  At 20 meters, a 10-shot group from a bench looks identical to a single .22 caliber hole.

Capstick and his fellow minisnipers shot with match quality air rifles of their day:  the Feinwerkbau 300s, FWB Running Boar, and Anschutz LG match.  These were recoilless spring-powered rifles that are now only available used.  Spring powerplants have gone out of favor with today’s world class match shooters.  A few single-stroke pneumatics are still used, but most of the top guns prefer the precharged pneumatic rifles that run off compressed air and are filled either from a pump or a SCUBA tank.

On the neighbor-friendly side of things, today’s match quality air rifles are generally quiet. The precharged guns make a popping sound that is certainly nowhere near as loud as, say, a .22 rimfire.  And the spring-powered guns make a muted “thwock” sound comparable to whacking a tennis ball with a racket.

Regardless of powerplant, what all of these match level guns share, in addition to superb accuracy, is high reliability.  Once in a while, a gun will go off to have the seals replaced, but other than that, repairs are rare, and you never hear of a barrel wearing out.

What makes match air rifles challenging to shoot for minisniping is that, regardless of price, they generate only 5-6 foot pounds of energy.  Most launch 7.9 grain match pellets downrange at about 560-600 fps (measured at the muzzle).  At 35 yards, the velocity is well below 500 fps, and any bit of wind will push the pellet around with impunity.  Learning to read the wind is at the heart of minisniping.

Minisniping is a game that takes just a few minutes to learn and a lifetime to master—and that’s where the true seduction lies.  Capstick, by the way, calculated that shooting at a ¾” high casing at 35 yards was equivalent to targeting an enemy sniper’s torso at over 1,300 yards. Capstick strongly recommends the use of wind flags for doping the breezes, but I generally don’t use them. Of course, many of my would-be snipees go unscathed much of the time.

Finally, many of these guns are “pellet sensitive.”  When you’re trying for ultimate accuracy, part of the quest will be figuring out which pellets give you the tightest groups at 35 yards on a calm day.

So what do you really need to play the game of minisniping?

An air rifle.  Any of these FWB match rifles will do the job. But if you don’t want to spend that much, let me suggest the humble HW30S It’s spring-powered, so you don’t need all the ancillary gear associated with a PCP rifle. It’s wonderfully accurate and launches pellets around 600 fps. Unlike the match rifles that Capstick and his friends shot, the HW30S is not recoilless, but it is still very easy to learn to shoot well. The key thing is not to use a high-powered air rifle. The velocity needs to be in the 500-650 fps range. Otherwise, minisniping will simply be too easy.

A scope.  Spring-powered airguns require an airgun-rated scope that can withstand their unique whiplash recoil.  You can use virtually any firearm scope on top of the precharged guns.  Ask the good folks at for a recommendation for a scope to go with your rifle

35 yards of space…or longer or shorter as the mood and/or necessity strikes you.

Some high quality pellets.  Airguns of Arizona is a great source of match pellets of almost every conceivable diameter.

A backstop or pellet trap.  This bullet box works well.

Wind flags (if you like, it’s definitely harder without them).  Wind flags are available commercially, or you can make ersatz wind flags with some 3-foot dowels, cellophane tape, and a bit of toilet paper or commercial flagging tape.

What if you don’t have all that stuff? No problem.  If your success rate is continually zero at 35 yards, move closer.  If your hit rate is 100%, move back.  Shoot at cheese puffs, animal crackers, little green army men, .22 brass, match sticks, toothpicks or soda straws.  The point is the fun, the challenge, and the ability to test the limits of your sniping ability in your own back yard.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

If you want to provoke a “spirited discussion” among airgunners, just raise the question: “Which caliber is best?” Pretty quick you’ll find yourself surrounded by enthusiasts, each passionately pleading the case of their favorite.

Right off, I’m going to defuse all that by saying there is no “best” caliber; there is only the caliber that works best for your intended purpose at the time. Right now, the fourmain calibers in airguns are .177, .20, .22 and .25, with .30 being introduced to the consumer market in the past couple of years ago and growing in popularity. There are even larger calibers available, but these fall pretty much into the category of specialty items.

Having said that, here are some of the things you might want to think about regarding caliber.

Accuracy — Accuracy is everything as far as I’m concerned; it’s one of the main reasons I shoot airguns. As one airgunner put it: “If you miss, it doesn’t matter if you missed faster or with more power, you still missed!”

Now, here’s a trick question: what increases the odds of achieving high accuracy? Stumped? Here’s a hint – every airgun will have a particular pellet that it “likes” and will produce the best accuracy. As a result, having a wide spectrum of pellets from which to choose increases the odds of finding at least one pellet that will work well in your airgun.

So, if accuracy is your sole criterion, .177 would be the best caliber, because it offers the greatest variety of pellets.  Twenty-two caliber would be close behind with the next best selection of pellets from which to choose.

Another thing to remember when considering accuracy is the range at which you plan to shoot. If you are competing in 10-meter air rifle or air pistol, the behavior of the pellet beyond 10 meters isn’t really a concern. But if you are trying to knock down field targets at 55 yards or clobber varmints at 90 yards, accuracy at long range is a clearly a factor.

Weight and weight within caliber – The lightest pellets (between 4 and 5 grains) available are .177, but it is rare to find a .177 pellet heavier than about 16 grains. By contrast, .25 caliber pellets are available as heavy as 34.9 grains and usually not lighter than 17.7 grains. To understand why this makes a difference, see the next item.

Speed and trajectory – Shot from the same airgun powerplant, a light pellet will generally fly faster than a heavy pellet. But at any given velocity, a heavier pellet will carry more energy down range and will usually retain it longer than a light pellet that was launched at the same initial speed. Because of these considerations, for a really fast, flat trajectory out to, say, 50 yards or so, you might want to select .177. But beyond that, you might want to go for a bigger caliber with heavier pellets. I have noticed, for example, that airgunners who are engaged in high-accuracy long-range shooting at 100 yards usually select .25 caliber or even bigger.

Power and impact – Launched at equal velocities, a heavy pellet will typically deliver more foot-pounds of energy to the target than a light pellet. If you want hitting power and if velocity and accuracy are equal, chose the heaviest pellet and largest caliber.

Wound ballistics – Bigger pellets produce bigger holes, but smaller diameter pellets may penetrate deeper.

Availability – In local retail establishments, you’re likely to find .177 pellets are more readily available than any other caliber, with .22 coming in a close second. .20 pellets are rarely available in ordinary retail outlets, and I’ve never seen .25 caliber pellets available anywhere except for in an online airgun store. Airguns of Arizona tells me that the bulk of their pellet sales are split roughly equally between .177 and .22. They add that sales of .20 appear to be waning, while demand for .25 pellets and .30 pellets is rising.

As a rule of thumb, airgunners typically select .177 for target shooting and the larger calibers for hunting, but all have been used successfully for either activity. Personally, I shoot .177 most of the time, because I am primarily a target shooter, but I use .20 or .22 for pest control.

I spoke to Shane at, and he said that, at the time of this writing (January, 2014), among airgunners who shoot pre-charged pneumatic rifles, .25 caliber is rapidly gaining popularity. The reasons are pretty clear: in a PCP rifle, .25 caliber delivers nearly twice the power of .22 caliber while offering a much higher shot count per fill than, say, a .30 caliber precharged rifle. “Right now,” he said, “when we receive a shipment of pellets from JSB, the first caliber to go out of stock is .25.”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

— Jock Elliott

This should come as no surprise to anyone, but the folks who manufacture match air rifles and match air pistols, like Feinwerkbau are maniacs. That’s right – you heard me correctly – they are maniacs, totally obsessed with accuracy. The folks who engineer and build the air rifles and air pistols that are used in international and Olympic ten-meter competition can, and will, do just about anything to improve the accuracy, consistency, and reliability of their products.

Every year, when new products are announced, there are new tweaks and improvements to their products. And they don’t make these changes to their products just to “update the product line.” No, indeed; the reason they are constantly improving their match rifles and match pistols is because they are in constant communication with world-class shooters, and the engineers and designers listen very closely and take to heart what these shooters have to say.

The result: air rifles and air pistols that are as accurate at 10 meters as human engineering knows how to make them. Everything about these match airguns is incredibly consistent from shot to shot.

So what’s the limiting factor when it comes to shooting these airguns? (Besides the shooter?!!)

Give up? It’s the ammunition . . . that’s right, after you have paid, say, two-and-a-half kilobucks for the most accurate 10-meter air rifle you can buy, what you want is match ammunition that is super consistent in terms of size and weight.

And that’s where part of the good news about pellets comes in. If you have been paying attention, you already know that JSB makes match ammunition in three different weights. Further, by all reports, it is really good.

Good news about pellets 003-001 (Medium)

But now JSB has introduced a line of Premium Match Ammo that is subjected to another higher level of inspection – electronic inspection – for both size and weight. According to the folks at JSB, the new ammo is 99.99% perfect in terms of head size and weight and is available in three different weights.

Each pellet is individually scanned and weighed, and, if it meets the quality criteria, is packed individually in a block of foam to protect it from damage.  Competitive shooters can practice all week with the appropriate weight of ammo from the more reasonably priced tins, and then can shoot the Premium Match ammo in competition.

For those of you who are not competitive 10-meter or silhouette shooters, there is more good news about pellets. Loyal readers of this blog know that I am a strong advocate of shooting groups with different pellets to see which pellet delivers the highest accuracy in a particular air rifle or air pistol.

JSB now offers two domed pellets samplers

JSB now offers two domed pellets samplers

Unfortunately, this can be a bit of a pain because it involves buying several different tins of pellets to find the pellet that your airgun favors. The good folks at JSB have come to the rescue with Domed Exact Test Pellet Samplers. Available in .177 and .22, each sampler contains seven different samples of pellet weights and head sizes.

The back of each tin is keyed to the pellet numbers on the top of the container.

The back of each tin is keyed to the pellet numbers on the top of the container.

The .177 sampler contains:

Exact 8.44 gr. 4.50mm

Exact 8.44 gr. 4.51mm

Exact 8.44 gr. 4.52mm

Exact RS 7.33 gr. 4.52mm

Exact Monster 13.43 gr. 4.52mm

Exact Express 7.87 gr. 4.52mm

Exact Heavy 10.34 gr. 4.52mm

7 x 50 per tin

The .22 sampler contains:

Exact 15.89 gr. 5.51mm

Exact 15.89 gr. 5.52mm

Exact 15.89 gr. 5.53mm

Exact Monster 25.39 gr. 5.52mm

Exact Express 14.35 gr. 5.52mm

Exact Heavy 18.13 gr. 5.52mm

Exact RS 13.43 gr. 5.52mm

7 x 30 per tin


With these samplers, you can see which JSB domed pellet works best in your rifle and pistol at a very reasonable price. If you want to test RWS pellets, a sampler pack of them is also available.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

At a holiday gathering toward the end of 2012, I ran into one of my nephews who I hadn’t seen in a while. In the course of the usual catching-up small talk, I mentioned that I write a weekly blog about airguns.

“Really?” he said. “I just bought an airgun.”

He explained that it was his second air rifle, and he likes to hunt squirrels with them. They are both .177 caliber and both break barrel springers. The first one shoots slowly but is very accurate. He bought the second one – which advertises 1,200 feet per second – because he wanted “more knock-down power.”

The problem was, he said, that the more powerful one didn’t seem to be very accurate. Was there anything he could do to improve the accuracy?

He and I chatted for quite some time, and I suggested a number of things that might help.

The first thing was to make sure that the scope mounts and rings were tight. I explained about the weird whiplash recoil that springers generate and that if the scope was loose in the rings or the scope mounts were not securely fastened to the receiver, the recoil was going to make the scope move with every shot, and he wasn’t going to get accuracy that way.

Then he mentioned that he knew the gun was shooting fast, because he could hear the supersonic crack when it fired. Immediately I suggested that he get some heavier pellets to slow the gun down. When varminters use firearms to shoot prairie dogs at 600 yards, I said, they shoot so fast – sometimes in excess of 4,000 fps – that the shot stays supersonic the entire distance to the target. But, I explained, there aren’t any airgun powerplants that will do that. So when you launch a pellet at supersonic speed, it quickly loses velocity and drops through a transonic region where the pellet gets buffeted by turbulence, and the result is poor accuracy. “If you slow the gun down to around 900 fps at the muzzle,” I suggested, “you’ll probably get much better accuracy.”

I also suggested that needed to try a variety of pellets, shooting them for groups off a rest, to see which one delivers that best accuracy. He told me that he usually buys wadcutter pellets because they worked the best in his slower air rifle and they make a bigger wound channel.

“The Olympic shooters use wadcutters,” I said, “but they are shooting their match rifles at around 600 fps. I’m pretty sure those wadcutters will go nuts at the speed that your more powerful air rifle shoots. Your best bet is to stick with round-nose pellets for the greatest accuracy.”

Further I suggested that when he shoots groups, he should steady his rifle on a soft rest like an old cushion or perhaps a folded up jacket. Springers, because of the way they recoil, usually don’t produce best accuracy when rested on a hard surface, I told him.

Finally, I advised him to squeeeeeze the trigger when shooting groups. “If you jerk the trigger, you may well yank the shot to one side or the other. But if you squeeze slowly while maintaining the alignment of the crosshairs on the target, you’ll get better results.”

He thanked me for the suggestions and said he would give them a try. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

It’s that time of year again when one of the cable stations will run a 24-hour-marathon of A Christmas Story, that great movie based on the writings of Jean Shepherd, in which all that Ralph Parker, a nine-year-old boy, wants for Christmas is a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.

That film really resonates with me, on a couple of different levels. One is the way I received my first BB gun was just like in the movie. For months I had been lobbying my parents to receive a BB gun for Christmas. Finally, the day had arrived. I was sitting in the living room with my Dad and Mom. The opening of presents was over, and I was disappointed. I hadn’t gotten my BB gun. But, just like in the movie, my Dad said, “Wait a minute, there’s another present over there.” And he pulled a long, slim box from behind the couch. In it was my first Daisy.

Second, there is a line at the very end of the movie that strikes a chord with me: Next to me in the blackness lay my oiled steel beauty, the greatest Christmas gift I had ever received or would ever receive . . .”

In many ways, I think many of the experiences I have had with airguns have been an attempt to recreate the joy that I felt on receiving that first BB gun. In part, it was a rite of passage. My folks were saying to me, in essence: “You’re grown up enough that we trust you with the responsibility of a gun. Used improperly, it can hurt creatures and break things. Used rightly, it will produce joy and satisfaction. Welcome to the beginning of adulthood.”

In addition, receiving that BB gun was the beginning of many happy hours for me and my Dad shooting together.

So I would like to make a most proposal: if you would like to put a huge grin on someone’s face this Christmas, why not give them an air rifle combined with the gift of your time shooting with them?

HW30 Deluxe tricked out with optional peep sight.

If you roam around, you’ll see a lot of excellent air rifles, any one of which would make a suitable present. But if I had to choose just one that would be appropriate for a beginning shooter or a seasoned airgunner, it would be an HW30. The HW30 is light, easy to cock, fully self-contained, a delight to shoot, nicely accurate and capable of taking small game out to about 30 yards or so with proper shot placement. It’s an air rifle that is kind to newbie shooters, yet an old hand will happily shoot one all day.

The HW30 is good enough that both my brother-in-law and I have shot field target with the HW30 and done reasonably well. When a ham radio buddy, frustrated by the difficulty of shooting a higher power air rifle he had purchased, asked for a recommendation for controlling squirrels in his yard, I pointed him straight at the HW30. In a later conversation, he raved about what a great choice it was.

If you want more information, you can read my review of the HW30 De Luxe here:

Of course, with the HW30, you’ll want a pellet trap, a selection of pellets, some eye protection, and perhaps a scope or peep sight to go with it. Ask the good folks at, and they’ll fix you up with what you need.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The M4-177 with the stock collapsed.

Recently Crosman Corporation brought out a new air rifle – the Crosman M4-177 Pneumatic Air Rifle. As the “M4” in the name strongly implies, this new rifle looks like a tactical carbine, the same look that a lot of powder-burning varmint rifles have adopted in recent years.

The M4-177 is a .177 caliber multi-stroke pneumatic air rifle capable of launching both .177 pellets and .177 BBs. Almost all the visible parts of the M4-177 are molded of engineering polymer. Not surprisingly, it weighs just 3 lbs 9 oz and stretches just 30.3 inches from end to end with the stock collapsed, and 33.75 inches with the stock fully extended.

The M4-177 with the stock extended.

At the extreme aft end of the M4-177 is corrugated butt plate that has slots top and bottom for attaching a shoulder strap. A lever underneath the adjustable stock allows to be slid in and out to adjust the length of pull (LOP – from trigger blade to butt plate) to the shooter’s preference. The LOP can be as short as 9.75 inches or as long as 13 inches.

Forward of the butt stock is the black polymer receiver which has a black polymer pistol grip attached below it at roughly a 45 degree angle. On the left side of the receiver is a tab that can be rotated sideways to allow a generous supply of BBs to be poured into the M4-177 and a BB retainer button.

The hole into which up to 350 BBs can be poured.

Ahead of the pistol grip is the trigger guard which surrounds a black plastic trigger and which houses a push-button safety. Forward of that is a magazine housing. The faux magazine can be dropped out of the housing, and serves as a storage place for the 5-shot pellet clip and the tool for adjusting the front sight.

The faux magazine serves as a storage place for the pellet clip and the front sight adjustment tool.

Forward of the magazine is the forearm, which serves as a grip for holding the M4-177 while shooting and also as a pumping arm for charging the multi-stroke pneumatic action. Toward the front end of the forearm, on the underside, there is a short section of Picatinny rail which could be used for attaching accessories such as a laser or a flashlight.

The front sight attaches to the Picatinny rail near the muzzle.

Beyond the end of the forearm, you’ll find the barrel, which has a plastic molding on it that provide Picatinny rail sections top and bottom. The post type front sight clamps to the top section of Picatinny rail. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find another section of Picatinny rail on top of the receiver. The peep type rear sight (which has two different apertures and flips from one to another) clamps to this section of rail or a scope can be mounted. On the right side of the receiver, you’ll find the bolt for cocking the action and a slot for inserting the 5-shot pellet clip.

The right side of the receiver, showing the bolt (pulled to the rear) and the slot for inserting the pellet clip.

Adjusting the sights on the M4-177 is a bit unusual. For elevation adjustment, use the special tool stored in faux magazine to move the sight up or down as needed. For windage adjustment, you’ll need a screwdriver to move the rear sight left or right as required.

The rear sight attaches to the Picatinny rail on top of the receiver.

To load BBs into the M4-177, slide the BB loading port cover to one side, pour in up to 350 steel BBs, and slide the port cover back to its original position. Next, push the BB retainer button forward (toward the muzzle), point the barrel at the ground and twist and shake the air rifle to until the “visual magazine” on the left side of the receiver is filled. Push the BB retainer button back toward the butt stock to keep the BBs in the magazine. Insert the empty pellet clip into the breech slot so that the bolt will pass through one of the pellet chambers. Pump the M4-177 at least 3 times but not more than 10. Pull the bolt all the way back (two clicks) and push it forward again. The magnet on the end of the bolt will pick up a BB from the BB magazine and slide it into the barrel.

Squeeze the trigger. The first stage comes out at 3 lb. 13.4 oz. At about 4 lb. 14 oz., the shot goes down range. At ten pumps, the M4-177 launches steel BBs at around 650 fps. I found that’s enough to blow through both sides of a soup can at 13 yards.

Loading pellets requires inserting 5 pellets into the 5-shot clip (make sure the M4-177 is empty of BBs first). Pump the M4-177 up to ten times, pull the bolt back, slide the clip into the breech until it reaches the first detent, and slide the bolt forward again. Pull the trigger. At 10 pumps, the M4-177 launches Crosman Premier 7.9 gr pellets at about 625 fps and delivered a one-inch edge to edge 5 shot group at 13 yards from a sitting position under relatively lousy conditions. Good enough, I think, for terminating pests in the garden at short range.

In the end, I liked the M4-177. It’s fun to shoot and will definitely put a smile on someone’s face on Christmas morning. For an airgun that will probably sell for under a hundred bucks, that seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott


I did a head-to-head comparison between these two pellets and was surprised by the results.


Not long ago, Greg at Airguns of Arizona asked me if I would like to have a look at the Predator Polymag pellet.

For me, testing pellets always seems a problematic business. The reason is simple: in my view, the number one rule of pellet selection for airguns is: let the gun choose the ammunition. It doesn’t matter what your buddy’s gun shoots or what all the fellows are saying on the internet. What matters is what pellet delivers the greatest accuracy with your airgun at the range at which you intend to shoot. Everything else is secondary to accuracy, because if you can’t hit what you’re aiming at, all other considerations – such as power, penetration, expansion – are moot.

As a result, every airgunner who wants to get the most out of his or her airgun will have to test several different types of pellets, shooting groups with them at the same distances, to see which pellets produce the smallest groups. If it turns out that those tests reveal several pellets that produce very similar (and desirable) results, then you can start thinking about those other considerations such as power, penetration, expansion and so forth as you narrow down your pellet selection. So what’s the best pellet? The one that works best in your airgun. End of story.

Having said that, the Predator Polymag makes some specific claims that are testable. Right on the top of the tin, besides saying “Proven the best hunting pellet made!” and “Superior accuracy and take-down punch,” it also says “The hollow head design with sharp polymer tip offers match grade accuracy with incomparable penetration and expansion.”

Now, whether you get match grade accuracy is going to depend upon which airgun you use to launch the Predator Polymag, but “incomparable penetration and expansion???” I began to think about how I could test that those claims.

I remembered seeing a report on the internet how a fellow had shot bars of soap to test relative penetration, so I decided to do that. I bought some large bars of Ivory soap and shot them at point blank range with my FWB150: two shots with .177 Predator Polymag pellets and two shots with .177 JSB Exacts. Both pellets penetrated the full length of the bar of soap, producing entrance holes, through-tunnels, and exit holes that appeared to be identical. So far, there is no discernible difference in performance between the two pellets, both of which are made by JSB.

It occurred to me that perhaps the Predator Polymag wanted to hit a harder surface to promote expansion, so I then shot a soup can at 13 yards: one shot with each pellet with my FWB150. Both shot penetrated both side of the soup can, and again I could see no discernible difference between the performance of the two pellets.

Okay, I thought, maybe I’m not launching the Predator Polymag shooting fast enough (the FWB generally launches 8 gr. pellets around 640 fps) to really get the best performance out of them and maybe the Predator Polymag pellets need a difference medium to penetrate. So I grabbed a stack of paperback books, taped them together, and took one shot with each pellet at a distance of 13 yards, but this time I was using my Benjamin Marauder, which usually generates close to 20 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

I carefully examined the stack of books and found that only one pellet had penetrated sufficiently to “disrupt” the back cover of the first book, a 440-page paperback. That pellet was the JSB Exact. Paging backward through the book, I found the nose of the JSB Exact pellet poking through page 425. Continuing to page backward through the book, I found that the Polymag Predator disrupted page 385, and I found the pellet poking through page 219.

Both pellets were pretty well mangled when extracted from the book, but both appeared to be expanded about the same.

Taking care, I extracted each pellet from the pages of the book. I found the Predator Polymag had lost its polymer point even earlier in the book, but that there was no discernible difference in the expansion of the two pellets.

The bottom line: if the Predator Polymag shoots accurately in your airgun, by all means use it if it meets your needs (and on the internet, I have read many hunters raving about the performance of the pellet), but I was not able to prove – at least with the .177 version of this pellet – the manufacturer’s claims of “incomparable penetration and expansion.”

Til Next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott