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High Powered PCP Hunting Rifle: .22 vs .25 Part I

Posted by on July 19, 2019

This is excerpted from an article I wrote for the British magazine “Airgunner” a few years ago, discussing the .22 and .25 as hunting calibers. In more recent years I’ve written several articles for this and other magazines examining the .25 and .30 calibers in the same context, and at the end of part II, I’ll discuss my current views on all calibers. I got the release of the articles a bit out of order, the later discussion on calibers was posted on June 23rd, but I think this is still of interest in outline the foundation of my thoughts on the subject.

Fig_1: A look at five of the calibers I frequently hunt with, the .35, .30, .25, 22, .177. I’ll use the .177 in my springers, the .22 in just about any gun, but the others only in the higher FAC power range.

Having been a fan of the British hunting magazines for several years, I have seen the topic of .177 vs .22 covered many times. Most frequently the subject is discussed in the context of legal limit guns, which places boundaries around the efficacy and performance of the larger calibers. But in the absence of power restrictions, the balance shifts towards the larger calibers for the type of hunting I do. In this article I’d like to discuss my field experience using .22 and .25 caliber in higher powered guns.

Fig_2: A series of targets shot with my Benjamin Marauders in .22 and .25. On any given day one may outperform the other, but only slightly.

From an historical perspective, the .177 was, and probably still is, the most widely used airgun caliber. However, it is probably fair to say that over the years there has been a shift amongst hunters towards the .22. This is definitely the case in the US market, though the feedback I get would indicate this is a global trend (where legal). The .22 out of a high-powered gun is relatively flat shooting, hits hard, can be very accurate, retains energy better than the .177, and there is a huge selection of guns available with an equally extensive line of pellets on offer. Not a surprise then that hunters wanting the most effective high-power field rig have gravitated towards the .22.

The .25 caliber has also been around for many years, but as it is even less effective in legal limit guns than the double deuce, never really caught on in a major way. With the availability of PCP’s the caliber became more practical, but initially there was a limited selection of guns and pellets. As most of the PCP’s were being spec’d for legal limit rifles in the early days, they were still underpowered for the caliber. A .25 caliber pellet out of a sub 12 fpe power rifle has the 30 yard trajectory of a brick tossed underhand. But as more powerful rifles hit the market, the .25 started gaining traction. This in turn led to more guns being built and brought to market along with a much wider selection of pellets. Currently in the US, the .25 has a grown a strong following, because paired with the right shooting platform it can be very accurate, powerful, and it hits with authority creating a large wound channel.

Fig_3: This photo shows my Marauders in both calibers, on traveling hunts I’ll sometimes takes both actions and one stock for more efficient packing.

There are many excellent guns chambered in both .22 and .25, some are high dollar outfits while others are more modestly priced. On the less expensive end two models I’ve used extensively for hunting are the Hatsan AT-44 and Benjamin Marauder. Another rifle that I’ve hunted a great deal with is the Evanix Rainstorm. These three gun models helped shape my views on the .22/.25 issue, in that I have all three in both .22 and .25. This has enabled me to make some direct observations, not only on the bench, but also to assess effectiveness on game under field conditions.

Fig_4: I took the Marauder .22 as my small game gun on one of my South African hunts; and took hundreds of pigeons, but used the same gun for larger Guinea fowl and Egyptian geese as well.
Fig_5: My .25 Marauder (wearing a Chaska custom stock) has been responsible for many raccoon, woodchuck, and larger game, while at the same time being a great long range prairie dog gun. This big dawg dropped within 5 feet to a chest shot at 110 yards.

There are many other guns I use in either .22 or .25; the FX Verminator .25, the Daystate Huntsman Regal .22, the Daystate Wolverine .25, the FX Royale .25, the AirArms S510 FAC .22, The BSA R10 .22 and the Walther Rotek .22 to name a few. All are great hunting guns; I don’t believe the accuracy of one of these calibers is intrinsically better than the other, rather it’s all about getting the right gun/pellet pairing.

In lower powered guns the trajectory is a more pronounced arc in the larger caliber, which requires a bit more compensation. I shot several 50-yard groups with my three .22/.25 rifle sets and could not find a clear winner, though noting that the flatter shooting rigs are easier to coax the accuracy out of.  Sometimes the .22 group was a little tighter and sometimes the .25 carried the day, but they were never significantly different. On a practical note, when shooting in denser brush or heavier foliage, the flatter trajectory is much easier to thread through the twigs and branches.

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