The effect of wind on any pellet can be significant, and the presence of a strong breeze is a good indication that you should dial the range in and save the long shots for another day. My experience has been that at longer distances the .177 will get blown off target, and is much more difficult to manage than a .22. I have postulated that because the smaller caliber sheds velocity more quickly, the longer time of flight amplifies the effect of wind on a very light projectile. Whether I’ve got this right or not, what I have further observed is that there is a major difference between the horizontal point of impact obtained with a .177 and .22 at 60 yards in even a light wind. The difference between the .22 and .25, while present, is not as pronounced. I think the .25 will let you stay out a little bit longer as winds pick up, and maybe the windage drift is slightly less, but I am not as sure as I once was that there is a practical impact. If the wind starts to shift the POI, especially in variable winds, it’s time to move it in closer regardless of caliber.
The terminal performance is what sways me in this discussion, the .22 is good but the .25 is better when you’re shooting in the uber 40 fpe realm. For instance, I have my Benjamin Marauder .22 and .25 both set up to generate about 42 fpe, and both like the JSB Exact pellets in their respective calibers. I have taken literally hundreds of ground squirrels, tree squirrels, jackrabbits, and prairie dogs with both of these rifles. Both will do the job with a perfectly placed shot, most of the time. I will use chest shots as well as head-shots, and think a well placed chest shot is a very effective and efficient. But even with the perfect shot the animal may run a few feet before dropping. When hunting the wide open spaces this is fine, however when hunting in heavy brush, swamps, or taking shots high in the forest canopy it could result in a lost animal. I do not believe that a chest shot leads to undue suffering, and in fact the conventional wisdom for big game hunting is that these are the only ethical shots. In my opinion it comes down to the ability to cleanly kill and retrieve the quarry.
The .25 hits much harder than the .22 even at the same power outputs, which is why I especially like the larger caliber for body shots. The larger caliber drops every kind of game I hunt (birds and mammals) more immediately, with more authority, and it also gives the latitude to still be effective if the shot is not perfect. Understand that I am not advocating sloppy shooting, but every one of us that hunts long enough, will have those less-than-perfect shots happen. Consider that I often go out after prairie dogs or Eurasian doves, where I might have hundreds of shots in a day. I am a decent shot, serious about hunting, and believe it is important to kill cleanly. I try to make the right shot selection, pass on low percentage shots, but still appreciate that the .25 caliber gives me a greater margin of error if I fluff a shot.
Why does extra power and improved terminal performance matter? Well besides the reasons already stated, the larger caliber lets me reach out a bit further which is relevant for some of my hunting/varminting applications. Also the .25 allows me to shoot larger game, which is probably more of an issue for North American hunters; raccoons, woodchucks, turkey, 11 lb jackrabbits are all on the airgun hunters license (depending on the state).
My personal caliber choice? Looking over this article it seems like a love letter to the .25, so my answer may surprise you; either one can be the right choice. First, if we are talking legal limit guns I probably would not consider a .25 caliber, unless perhaps looking for a close range ratting gun. If I was going to keep my range inside of 45 yards and take rabbit sized game, I’d be happy with either but would probably tend towards the .22. A little less expensive, a little more available (guns and ammo) and a bit flatter shooting at medium range. However in situations where I might start for squirrel and have an opportunistic shot at a woodchuck along the way, or use the same gun to hunt rabbit one day and call raccoon the next, the .25 caliber fits the bill. Of course as I often explain to my wife, this is my justification for “needing” multiple guns.
So there you have my “opinion” on the question of what serves better in the hunting fields, the venerable .22 or the up and coming .25. It really comes down to the application; type of game, distances shot, the power output of the gun, and at the end of the day, what the individual shooter wants in his kit. Any time I think that there is a clear answer to the .22/.25 debate, I have an experience with one or the other that has me rethinking my position. I have come to understand that for me anyways, the solution is to have both!
Since writing this I’ve had a slight shift in my position, and while I still believe the essence of this article is correct, have found myself gravitating more to the .30 caliber. For many airgun hunters, I think the .25 is undoubtedly the superior caliber between the two discussed in the article, so long as the rifle is adequately powered (at least 40 fpe). In most cases you really can’t have too much gun in my opinion, which is not to say you need to have more power or a larger gun to be effective. But I do think the larger caliber is more effective and efficient at anchoring game. This is one of the reasons I’ve started to gravitate to the .30 as more guns in this caliber have become available. The reason this caliber works better for me is the variety of game I hunt. I might use the same gun on a rabbit hunt in Texas, but use it to take a predator or small hog if the opportunity presents….. and for these applications I like the bigger pellet and increased power. Again, I must state that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the .22 as a small game caliber in general, and in my many years of experience have probably taken more small game with the .22 than any other caliber. But for my current situation the .25 or .30 works best for me.