Posts Tagged ‘pellets’


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

Anybody who has been observing the airgun scene for a little while will have noticed that an increasing number of companies are coming out with non-lead pellets. A while back, I did some shooting with some of Dynamic’s non-lead pellets, and I found that they were pretty good.

Check out this and this for additional information I think that one of the reasons these pellets work so well is that they are pretty close in weight to traditional lead pellets.

I have experimented with the very light (5.4 grain) Gamo .177 PBA pellets, and I found that they did fine at close range (no more than 15-20 yards — in fact I used a PBA pellet to terminate a squirrel at 7 yards with a P1 pistol), but accuracy went to blazes at longer ranges.

So when a package arrived from Airguns of Arizona the other day with some new pellets from H&N, including some very light non-lead pellets, I figured the non-lead pellets would be good for strictly short-range work. As it turns out, I was wrong.

The package contained a tin each of H&N Sport Barracuda Hunter (10.34 gr.) pellets, H&N Sport Field Target Trophy Green (5.56 gr.) pellets, and H&N Sport Barracuda Green (6.48 gr.) pellets. “Green,” in case you haven’t figured it out, is apparently a code word for non-lead pellets.

I started thinking about testing these pellets, and pretty quick I realized I had a problem. Of the .177 guns in house, I had a magnum springer (RWS54), magnum PCP (Marauder), a low-power springer (tuned R7) and a recoilless springer match rifle (FWB150). I eliminated the magnum guns because I didn’t want the ultra-light pellets to go supersonic and have trans-sonic turbulence screw up accuracy. I eliminated the R7 because accuracy in recoiling springers depends a lot on shooter technique, and I wanted to eliminate that variable.

So that left me with the FWB150, an air rifle with trustworthy accuracy that I have successfully shot in field target competition. Twice I have knocked down one-inch targets at 50 yards with that rifle.

Bear in mind, though, this one hard-and-fast rule about airgun accuracy: you let the gun choose the ammo. It doesn’t matter what your buddy shoots, or what the guys on the forum say, or even what the national field target champion shoots, you run tests with different kinds of ammo in your gun and then shoot the one that delivers the best accuracy.

Now, back to our story. I started by shooting the pellets through my Oehler chronograph. I checked the velocity on Daystate 8.44 gr. pellets and found they were zipping through the screens at 653 fps average, about 7.99 foot-pounds of energy that the muzzle. The H&N Sport Barracuda Hunter Pellets averaged 550 fps, for 6.94 foot-pounds.  The H&N Sport Field Target Trophy Green pellets blew through the traps at 804 fps average with less than 4 fps variation from high to low, working out to 7.98 fp. Finally, the H&N Sport Barracuda Green registered 695 average, 6.95 fpe. Just for fun, I also shot some Gamo Raptor PBA (5.4 gr.), they clocked 762 average, 6.96 fp.

I started shooting the various pellets in 5-shot groups at 20 yards and took edge-to-edge measurements on the groups. The Gamo PBA and Barracuda Hunter both delivered ¾” groups. The Daystate produced a half-inch group, as did the Field Target Trophy Green pellets. The Barracuda Green pellets printed a 5/8 inch group.  The overall winner was a pellet I had not chronographed, JSB Exact Express pellets, which delivered a 3/8 inch group. The bottom line is that all of these pellets would be suitable for defending the bird feeder at 20 yards.

After that I took the winning non-lead pellet, the H&N Sport Field Target Trophy Green, and the winning lead pellet, the JSB Exact Express shot them at 35 yards. The FT Trophy Green produced a group that measured 7/8 inch edge to edge, and the JSB produced a ¾ inch group. While I have shot better groups at that range with pre-charged rifles, that’s still respectable accuracy, and I was amazed that the very light non-lead pellets did so well at that range.

Yes, I thought, but what kind of penetration are those pellets delivering at that range? Maybe those super-light pellets had bled off all their energy by the time they got to out there. To find the answer, I set up two metal soup cans at 35 yards and shot them. The JSB Exact Express pellets plowed through both sides of the can, tearing ragged holes in the metal. The FT Green pellet also penetrated both sides of the can, punching neat holes on entry and exit. Color me soooo surprised.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

For years, I have heard things like “spring-pistons don’t like heavy pellets” and “CO2, pre-charged pneumatics and pump guns are more efficient with heavy pellets.” I guess I just accepted these truths as an article of faith and never really thought much more about them.

But recently I have been testing several .25 caliber – quarterbore – air rifles, and the tale that the chronograph tells is interesting. Put simply, when it comes to power generation – that is, foot-pounds measured at the muzzle – springers tend to like light pellets and pneumatics prefer heavier pellets. Of course, it isn’t always a straight linear function, because there are other variables, such as how tightly the pellet fits in the bore.

It all started when I was chronographing a trio of break barrel .25 cal. springers. I was using Gamo Pro Magnum 21.91 gr. pellets to chronograph them, because I had a plentiful supply of those pellets. One of the rifles was slinging the Gamo pellets at 565 fps average, which works out to 15.53 foot-pounds average. I mentioned this to the importer, and he suggested trying JSB Kings (25.4 gr.). Somewhat counter to the “law” about springers, the heavier pellet did better in terms of power but slightly worse in velocity: the JSB Kings averaged 555 fps for 17.37 foot-pounds at the muzzle. But the real surprise came with the lightest pellet. 19 gr. Milbro Rhino pellets rocketed through the traps at 667 fps for a sparkling 18.7 foot-pounds. In this case, the law about springers proved right: the lightest pellet did generate the most power in this .25 cal. spring-piston powerplant.

Okay, I thought, but what about the pneumatic airguns, do they obey the “rules” or not? It was raining when I thought about answering this question, and I usually need to do my chronographing outdoors, so I turned to the respected varminter Cliff Tharpe. Cliff, whose online handle is VarmintAir, is producer of the Airgun Hunting the California Ground Squirrel DVD. He has deep experience in hunting and clobbering vermin with air rifles.

Cliff has a factory stock .25 Benjamin Marauder that he routinely uses to pop prairie dogs at 50-100 yards. He sent me some data on his experience chronographing different weight pellets through the Marauder, with the following note: “These were all shot at the factory settings, whatever those may be.  All velocities were taken with the start screen 12 inches from the muzzle.  I use a CED M2 Chronograph set up indoors, with the infrared screens.  Two mags, for sixteen shots with each pellet.  All pellets were weight sorted.  This is with a 3000 psi fill. “

And here’s the data:

  • JSB .25 Quarter Bore, 25.4 grain – avg. vel. – 881 fps – fpe 43.8
  • Benjamin .25 dome head, 27.8 grain – avg. vel. – 845 fps – fpe 44
  • Beeman Kodiak .25, 30.8 grain – avg. vel. – 821 fps – fpe 46.1

Here we have a straight linear relationship – the heavier the pellet, the lower the velocity, and the greater the power that is generated.

Now, having said all that, what’s the most important thing?

Accuracy, of course. A firearms expert once said, “A hit with a .22 beats a clean miss with a .45.” And he was right. If you can’t reliably hit what you’re aiming at, it doesn’t matter how much power you are generating. The first thing you need is sufficient accuracy to hit your intended target at the range at which you plan to shoot. If you are planning to hunt, once you have the accuracy, then you need sufficient power to humanely take whatever game you are after.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Recently, a new gun store opened up not too far from where I live. Naturally, I had to go check it out, and when I arrived, I found a well-lit, well-organized place of business with lots, and lots, and lots of firearms.

I asked one of the fellows behind the counter whether they did anything with airguns, and he pointed me to a rack near the doors. There I discovered three less expensive Gamo air rifles and a Gamo Hunter Extreme in .22, emblazoned, of course, with the obligatory boast of how wicked fast it is with PBA ammo and with lead pellets.

I asked the clerk, “Did you know the Hunter Extreme is available in .25 caliber?”

Immediately he said, “How fast is it?”

I patiently explained that it wasn’t nearly as fast as the claims made on the receiver of the .22 Hunter Extreme, but that it shoots heavier pellets and makes a larger wound channel. I added, if you shot a raccoon that’s been molesting your garbage cans with the .25, chances are it wouldn’t get up again.

The whole encounter got me to thinking about how poorly we airgunners and the general public at large have been served by the marketing departments of some of the larger airgun manufacturers. In particular, I am irritated by the velocity race that has been taking place in advertising and on the sides of product cartons: 1,000 feet per second! 1,250 fps! 1,500! 1,650! When I see these claims, I want to grab a really large permanent marker, scratch out the velocity number, and write: REALLY STUPID!

Yeah, I know; I’m being an old retro-crank. But there are several things that really get up my nose with these velocity claims.

First, the claims are rarely true. Manufacturers often exaggerate how fast their guns shoot. Sometimes, they achieve their superfast results with ultra-light pellets that no one would want to use for any practical application. I know; I’ve tried some of these ultra-light pellets, and the accuracy quickly deteriorated as the range increased.

Second, even if an air rifle would routinely launch pellets at, say, 1,500 fps, would you really want it to? The answer I get from external ballistics experts is a resounding “NO!” Here’s why: in talking to long-range firearms varminters – the kind of shooters who can nail a prairie dog at 600 yards – I get the following argument. As a projectile approaches the sound barrier, it encounters a region in which there is a lot of buffeting and turbulence (check out the movie The Right Stuff for more about this) that throws off accuracy.  When a projectile is launched faster than the speed of sound, if it slows below the sound barrier, it will encounter the same region of turbulence and buffeting that screws up accuracy. That is why most firearms varminters take care to launch their bullets well above the speed of sound, and they make sure that it continues to go at supersonic velocity until it reaches the target.

I have never heard of or seen any air gun powerplant that was capable of launching a pellet at supersonic speed (about 1,100 fps at sea level) and keeping it above the speed of sound for any appreciable distance. As a result, the best plan is to keep your pellets out of the region of trans-sonic turbulence. This is why most of the best field target shooters set up their air rifles to shoot in the low 900 fps range; it helps to keep the pellet as stable and as accurate as possible.

Third, the velocity race is just plain irrelevant. Imagine if you went to a car dealership and plastered on the windshield of every car were claims about speed: 120 mph! 143 mph! 160 mph! You would think the car dealer had gone insane.

In point of fact, pleasure to be had from an airgun has almost nothing to do with velocity. For example, airguns can be shot in many, many locations where discharging a firearm is absolutely forbidden. Many airguns are astonishingly accurate. They cost just pennies a shot, are a pleasure to own and are great fun to shoot. Further, even modestly powered airguns can do a worthy job of controlling pests in the garden.

Tell that to a firearms shooter next time he (or she) asks how fast your airgun is.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

A while back, I mentioned the good luck I had trying Dynamic SN-1 non-lead pellets in my Beeman R7 air rifle and RWS P5 pistol. A while later, I had the opportunity to chronograph the SN-1 pellets shot out of the P5 pistol, and I found that they were averaging 532 fps and varying no more than 2 fps from shot to shot! When you realize that the P5 is a spring-piston pistol, all of a sudden the light bulb comes on that this is truly astounding consistency.

Emboldened by this success, I decided to try the Dynamic SN-1 and TM-1 pellets in my recoilless RWS 54 .177 rifle. I set up the range in my yard at 39 yards (the farthest distance I can safely shoot at home). Shooting from a rest, I banged off a few shots with Crosman Premier Heavies (CPH, nominally 10.5 grain), the pellet that had produced the best accuracy with this rifle in the past. Then I shot the TM-1 pellets (9.5 grain) and the SN-1 pellets (7.95 grain).

Measuring the groups, I found the three different pellets produced very similar results. The groups from the CPH and TM-1 pellets measured 25/32”, while the group from the SN-1 pellets measured 26/32”. When I chronographed the three pellets from the same rifle a few days later, I got the following results. CPH: high 813 fps, low 798, average 804. SN-1: high 989, low982, average, 986. TM-1: high 835, low 825, average 832.

Okay, I thought, how will Dynamic pellets work in another of my favorite guns, a Steroid Sheridan Blue Streak? I shot groups at 13 and 25 yards with both JSB .20 pellets (the pellet that the Steroid ‘Dan “likes”) and Dynamic SPC-5 and got very similar accuracy results at both distances. When I got to the chronograph, I forgot to bring the JSB .20 caliber pellets (shame on me), but here are the results I got. At eight pumps, the Steroid Sheridan was sending Benjamin .20 cylindrical pellets (14.3 grain) downrange at 672 fps average (high 677, low 669). It was launching .20 Crosman premiers (14.3 grain) at 673 fps average (677 high, low 671). And it was blasting the SPC-5 pellets (12 grain) through the traps at 721 fps average (high 724, low 717).

I got excellent accuracy from the Dynamic pellets in my R7 rifle, P5 pistol, RWS 54 rifle and Sheridan Blue Streak, but not every airgun shoots them well. I got just awful accuracy shooting SN-1 pellets in my FWB 150 match rifle, and, oddly, the same thing happened with my modern vintage Sheridan Silver Streak.

From my small experiment, I conclude that some air rifles and pistols will shoot the Dynamic non-lead pellets very well, producing good velocity and higher penetration than lead pellets. While they are more expensive than conventional lead pellets, compared to match grade rimfire ammunition, the Dynamic pellets are a downright bargain and worth experimenting with.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

— Jock Elliott

The Beeman R7 is a classic air rifle well loved by many airgunners.

When I first began to get interested in adult precision airguns nearly 10 years ago, I remember reading a quote from an airgunner who said, in effect, “Of all the airguns I own, the Beeman R7 would be the last one I would sell.”

At the time, I didn’t really “get” what he was saying, but now that I’ve owned an R7 for a few years, I understand what he meant completely. The R7 is a true classic, an air rifle that just about all airgunners love.

Here’s why — the R7 is a relatively small and light air rifle that generates around 6 fp of energy (the same energy level usually found in Olympic match air rifles). The R7 measures a hair over 40 inches from end to end and weighs 6.1 pounds. The upshot is that there is roughly one pound of weight per foot-pound of energy, and that makes the R7 extremely easy to shoot well.

(An aside: there are two versions of the R7, one in .177 cal., the other in .20 cal. I have experience only with the .177 version. A casual survey of some of my shooting friends indicates you can’t believe the 700 fps velocity figure that Beeman puts out for the .177 version; most untuned R7s shoot in the high 500s, say, 560-590 fps, with “normal” weight pellets.)

To get the R7 ready for shooting, you crank the barrel down until it latches (it takes less than 20 pounds of cocking effort), stuff a pellet into the breech, return the barrel to its original position, click off the safety, and you’re good to go. The R7 is equipped with Weihrauch’s famous two-stage Rekord trigger which is very crisp and nicely adjustable.

My experience – and that of many R7 shooters I’ve spoken to – is that the R7 is remarkably UN-finicky about how you shoot it. You can hold it loosely or hold it tight; shoot it off a rest or from a sitting position. Whatever you do, it seems, the R7 shoots well. One shooter I met said, “Why do I pull my R7 tight into my shoulder like a powder-burning rifle? Because I can!”

And there is a whole lot you can do with an R7, like shoot field target or defend the birdfeeder. My brother-in-law won the Hunter Class at a Field Target match while shooting an R7. He beat me, and I was shooting another R7, and so was the fellow who took fourth place. We’ve spent many happy hours doing high-accuracy plinking with our R7s.

Recently Greg at Airguns of Arizona asked me to try some Dynamic SN-1 non-toxic “air bullets.” “I think you’ll like them,” he said. “We’ve had very good luck with them.”

Frankly, I had my doubts. I had tried some ultra-light non-lead pellets previously and while they were very fast (nearly 100 fps faster than CPLs in my R7), the accuracy was dreadful at anything beyond close range.

Nevertheless, the SN-1 pellets arrived, and I brought them with me the next time I visited my brother-in-law to do some shooting with our R7s. I shot for a while with Crosman Premier Lights (CPLs) and then gave the SN-1 pellets a try. The SN-1s weigh (nominally) 7.95 grains, which is roughly the same as the CPLs. I was shocked to find that, at 50 feet, not only did the SN-1 pellets group very well, they were hitting the same point of impact as the CPLs!

Emboldened by this experiment, I tried the SN-1 pellets in an RWS P5 spring-piston pistol. This time, I did get a point of impact change, but the SN-1s grouped very well, better in fact than the pellet the P5 previously “liked.” Casual experimentation with metal cans indicates that the SN-1 pellets deliver much better penetration than conventional lead pellets.

The bottom line is that I was very pleasantly surprised by the Dynamic SN-1 non-lead pellets and plan further experimentation with them.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott