For many years, the only spring piston Airguns I ever shot were .177’s, though slowly the .22 caliber started taking up more room on my gun rack. And I stuck there for several years, until one day about 18 years ago I got the opportunity to buy an R1 in .25. This was a big gun, a monster to carry and a monster to cock, but it was very powerful. After months of using this gun and seeing how effective it was on raccoons, jackrabbits, and a single coyote (not pretty but it worked) I was convinced it was a viable caliber for a springer. However this gun was only moderately accurate with a variety of pellets I tried, so I categorized it as a short range hammer when a lot of power was needed. I shot a few other .25 caliber guns over the years, and while I liked them was never greatly impressed by their accuracy. There were not a lot of guns to choose from, or a lot of different pellets. But eventually this started to change, and with the introduction of .25 caliber pcp’s in particular, the availability of a wider range of pellets came to market.
Then a few years ago I came across a Webley Patriot that I had the chance to buy at a great price. What made this big, powerful spring piston airgun especially interesting was the fact that it was chambered for the .25 caliber pellet. The most common calibers for spring piston airguns today are still the .177 and .22. These two calibers give the airgun hunter a choice; either a flat shooting high velocity projectile, or a harder hitting one with a more arced trajectory. In my opinion, neither of these is optimal for taking larger animals at longer ranges. The .25 is the largest of the standard production calibers and has been around since the early 1900s. However, most of the earlier guns chambered for this caliber were under powered and their performance limited the .25s utility to close range plinking. But with more guns being built that generated higher power levels, and more pellets available which allowed the shooter to find the optimal one for any given gun. So you can find an accurate gun in the caliber generating a high enough velocity so that the trajectory no longer looks like a brick being tossed downrange underhand, the .25 springer started to come into its own!
As mentioned this caliber has gained popularity in the high powered precharged pneumatic airgun world, there are still not as many springers available, however many of the higher power models have the option for a .25 caliber. For a springer to effectively propel a 24 grain pellet at high enough velocities to be useful for hunting, the gun requires a large compression tube and a very strong spring. The best known and most successful of the guns that have been produced in .25 are the Theoben Eliminator, BSA Supersport, and the Patriot, which are all fairly hefty guns. Gamo had a very big and powerful gun, the Hunter Extreme, in .25 but decided to pull that caliber and only offer it in .177. For the life of me I don’t understand this, a gun this big and heavy shooting a .177 seems made for the major caliber, and I would never hump a gun this big around if it only spat out a light weight .177 pellet.
The Patriot is a handful of gun and does take some muscle to cock (48 lb cocking effort), but the end result is a fully self-contained powerplant that can generate close to 30 fpe! To put this in context, most magnum springers in .177 or .22 are doing very well if they put out 18 fpe. This gun propels a 24 grain Field Trophy pellet at over 800 fps, which is just about the velocity one expects out of the typical .22 caliber magnum springer. Therefore the trajectory obtained is pretty close to that of a standard .22, but, what a difference in terminal performance! A jackrabbit hit at fifty yards will be knocked clean of its feet. A .25 pellet moving at this velocity is more than adequate for a chest shot on raccoon sized game out to forty yards, which I would not recommend a .22 (and definitely not a .177). As a matter of fact this is my preferred springer/pellet combo when shooting raccoons or woodchucks. Because the larger .25 pellets have a better ballistic coefficient they will retain more energy at greater distances resulting in superior knockdown power, and if the hunter needs to reach out a bit further they can still get a clean kill. While there is no doubt that a perfectly placed pellet, even a .177, can kill a medium sized animal the .25 is much more forgiving and allows some latitude in shot placement. Besides hitting harder, the .25 obviously opens a larger wound channel than the small calibers.
There are a number of .25 caliber pellets available from the online airgun stores, though you’re not likely to find them at your local gun shop. Pellets manufactured by JSB, H&N, Beeman, and many others, can be found in a variety of styles; round nose, hollow point, wadcutters, and field points. The lighter of these pellets, such as the Beeman Laser, weigh in at about 17 grains, and heavier ones such as the Eu Jins go up to almost 35 grains. While I will usually shoot heavier pellets out of my .25 PCPs, when using a spring piston gun I’ll opt for a lighter pellet (Note: if they hold accuracy). The reason for this is that the PCP working off of a high pressure charge can usually get a higher velocity with a given pellet than can be achieved with the springer.
In summary, if you want to stick with a springer and need to get a hard hitting airgun for hunting larger quarry the .25 may be a good option, so long as you use a gun engineered to handle it. Remember that unlike firearms, with airguns it is the gun and not the ammunition that provides the power. On the upside, when coupled with the right gun the .25 pellet will provide more power, it will retain velocity better, and it will open a larger wound channel. On the downside; the guns are heavier, harder to cock, have a bit more recoil, availability has been more limited) and there haven’t been as many models of gun to choose from, both of these factors are changing. With the advent of the online airgun shop availability of guns and pellets is not really an issue. But when all is said and done, if I’m going to use a springer to shoot raccoons at 50 yards, it’s going to be a .25 caliber gun I reach for!
Other news; We’re getting ready for our trip to South Africa in September, with Kip, David and I are getting our paperwork for the SAP and customs offices so we can get our guns into the country. My buddies and PH’s Rob Dell and Andrew Myers of Hounslow Safaris are getting everything lined up……. it’s going to happen soon!!
Next week I’ll get back on the squirrel posts and wrap it up.