I have several guns in .25 caliber, with both PCP and springers represented. I’ve used these guns to take squirrels, rabbits, prairie dogs, groundhogs, pigeons, crows, turkey, Guinea fowl, quail, pheasant, springhare, mongoose, hyrax, raccoons, ringtail cats, bobcat, fox, coyote…… by this time it’s safe to say I’ve shot a lot of game with guns in this caliber, and I feel comfortable making some strong statements about the .25, which might also be controversial. The first of these is that up until recently I’ve come to consider it the best all-around caliber. The reason I say “up until recently” will be explained later. Up until recently, the .25 has been 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, and if that’s the application why bother with a larger caliber? A .177 works just fine.
While this caliber is gaining popularity in the high powered precharged pneumatic airgun world, there are still fewer springers up to the task, though this has been changing as well. 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. Examples of spring piston guns being produced in .25 are the Webly Patriot, the Beeman RX2, the Hatsan 125 Sniper, the Weihrauch HW90, and the Benjamin NP Trail, which are all fairly hefty guns.
So why did I say I believe this is the best all-around caliber? Because it hits with authority and creates an excellent wound channel making it a very effective caliber for taking almost all airgun appropriate game. And that broad statement is the crux of the matter, a .25 is not too much for a squirrel or a rabbit, killing quickly without ripping your quarry up. On the other hand it is perfect for bigger stuff like turkey or raccoon, and if a coyote comes up, while not the perfect option, it is still a valid one for these larger animals.
So why did I say my opinion might be shifting? Because I think that a compelling argument can be made for the new .303 airgun caliber, and for all the same reasons I like the .25. I made a strong statement a few months back that the .303 is the new .25, and believe there is some merit to this view. It is getting to the boundary of being a viable small game option, however it is usable and does perform even better than the .25 on bigger game. However, it is only available in limited guns and there is only one manufacturer of pellets though I think both of these situations will change in future.
There is no doubt that these springers are all a handful and takes some muscle to cock (40-50 lb cocking effort is typical), but the end result is a fully self contained powerplant that can generate close to 20-30 fpe! To put this in context, most magnum springers in .177 or .22 are doing very well if they put out 18 fpe. If a springer can propel a 24 grain Field Trophy pellet at approximately 750 fps, it is getting close to 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 my-oh-my, 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 raccoon sized game out to forty yards, which I would not recommend a .22 (and definitely not a .177) be used for. As a matter of fact this is the springer/pellet combo I’ll opt for 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.
Where the caliber really comes into its own is when shot from a PCP gun, and this has become an almost ubiquitous offering, with manufacturers such as Daystate, FX, Crosman, AirForce, Sam Yang, BSA, and several others offer most of their poplar models in this caliber. Larger calibers are more efficient in PCP guns, and the .25 caliber in a high power PCP can easily generate energy over 50 fpe using standard Diabolo pellets. The guns in my collection in .25 include an FX Verminator Extreme, Benjamin Marauder, Airforce Talon-P and Condor, an Evenix Windy City, Rainstorm, and Max, and a couple of custom rifles including a Quckenbush. All of these guns provide good accuracy, and really excellent in some of them.
It used to be that finding a supply of .25 pellets was difficult, and the selection limited. But these days 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, Eu Jin, Crosman and Webley 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. The reason for this is that the PCP working off of a high pressure charge can get a couple hundred feet per second higher velocity with a given pellet than can be achieved with the springer.
In summary, if you need to get a hard hitting airgun for hunting larger quarry the .25 is 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 spring piston guns are heavier, harder to cock, have a bit more recoil, availability is more limited and there are not as many models of gun to choose from. However, with the advent of the online airgun shop availability of guns and pellets is not really an issue. Now don’t misunderstand what I am saying here, the .177 is a respectable performer on small game, and the .22 is also a great all around caliber. But when all is said and done, if I’m going to acquire a new gun these days, it’s going to be a .25 caliber if the gun I want is the appropriate platform for it. If you’re looking for a new gun you might want to consider a quarter bore!