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Choosing the "Right" Pellet


How does a person go about choosing the proper pellet for their air rifle?
There are so many factors that can affect air rifle performance that making the proper pellet choice can seem to be a daunting task. Individual characteristics of the airgun and pellet combine to play a major part in determining how well a particular pellet will group in a specific gun. A spring airgun's rifling and choke, spring and spring guide attributes (where relevant) may have a positive or negative affect on the performance of a given pellet. Additionally, pellets are sold in different shapes, weights, lengths, diameters and alloys. Combining all those factors can make choosing the proper pellet quite confusing.

What attributes make a pellet a good choice?
The type of shooting task at hand will largely determine the attributes required for an ideal pellet. For general reference, we break shooting tasks into four main categories:
* General Shooting (plinking)
* Pest Control
* Hunting
* Target Shooting (field target, 10 meter or any other target event)

Each shooting type will have a set of criteria for choosing pellets that fit their specific shooting requirements. But one pellet attribute is essential regardless of your shooting type.The ability to group well with your gun in a consistent, repeatable manner.

This single attribute is the most important to satisfy immediately. A shooter cannot achieve the maximum potential of his air rifle with a pellet that does not group well. Testing for grouping is accomplished by purchasing a pellet sampler (See Straight Shooters Ultimate Pellet Sampler) that features a small number of all pellets in a specific caliber. It doesn't take more than a few shots to determine whether your gun performs well with a given pellet. If your gun can't shoot a tight group with five or ten shots, then it won't likely perform any better by shooting 100 pellets. The first thing to do is to open the Sampler and try all the pellets. Once a shooter has determined which pellet(s) group consistently with his specific air rifle, then further refinement can be achieved by looking for other attributes such as:
* Pellet shape - different shapes are designed to perform different shooting tasks.
* Pellet weight - important for trajectory purposes and velocity results.
* Pellet alloy - pellet hardness/softness assists hunters/pest control shooters to achieve their results humanely
* Pellet energy - remaining energy at the target (Kinetic Energy) is vital to hunters looking for knock-down power.

It is important to remember that attributes important for one shooting type may not be important at all for another shooting type. Knockdown power, for example, is important to a hunter or pest control shooter, but of little importance when shooting paper targets. However, if the shooting emphasis is field target competition rather than paper target shooting, a certain amount of knockdown power is required to trip the metal targets.

At this point, let's assume that the shooter has tested all the pellet types in the pellet sampler and has determined the subset of pellets that group best with his air rifle. Now it's time to look at the other pellet attributes and the next step is to choose a pellet type from that subset based on your particular shooting need. The following paragraphs explain the four basic pellet shapes and their basic functions.

Pellet Shape
* Domed/Round Pellets
-are great all-around, general use pellets. The round head is very aerodynamic and is good for shooting at longer distances (over 25 yards). Oddly enough, round-headed pellets have the highest ballistic coefficients of all the pellet shapes, making them a great choice for pest control and hunting. Pellets with high ballistic coefficients generally have more knockdown power at the target.

* Wadcutter Pellets-are wonderful target pellets. Their flat heads make nice, clean holes in paper targets which is essential for easy scoring. They can also be used for pest control but it is good to remember that they are not designed to be long-range pellets and any breeze or wind pushing against the pellet's flat head can easily make groups open up at longer distances. Generally they are at their best at shorter distances of 20 yards or less.

* HollowPoint Pellets-very good hunting pellets that really expand on impact. They are popular with pest control and hunting shooters. But remember that they have the same weakness as Wadcutters because the big hollow mouth on the pellet catches the wind and may open groups at longer distances.

* Pointed Pellets-are pellets that seem to work best in light to medium powered airguns. They have good penetration capabilities for hunting and pest control. But they don't generally work as well with magnum or supermagnum air rifles as the domed/round headed pellets. We would recommend in general that pointed pellets be best used with a lighter or medium powered air rifle.

Pellet Weight
The weight of the pellet is important because it can affect trajectory, impact power, velocity and aerodynamic stability. Heavier pellets tend to be more stable in breezy conditions and also retain their energy better over distance. And they hit much harder at the target, as one would expect. But that doesn't mean a person should rush out and purchase the heaviest pellet in any caliber. It is important to match the weight of the pellet to your gun's design capabilities and power level.

Spring powered airguns, for example, are known to work much more efficiently with medium weight pellets. Using the heaviest pellets in a caliber with a light or medium powered spring airgun can actually shorten spring life on some light or medium powered air rifles. Gas piston and high power airguns on the other hand, are not affected adversely by using the heavier pellets. Precharged Pneumatics (PCP's) actually work more efficiently with the heavier pellets. As a general rule of thumb, light and medium powered spring air rifles operate best with pellets that fall in the middle of the weight range of any caliber. The high powered spring, gas ram and PCP air rifles can use the heavier pellets without damage.