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.
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