This is a very hot topic! Each shooter and their airgun will have a favourite brand or type of pellet, and even that can vary depending on the type of shooting done and the power output of the airgun. You will even find that two airguns that are exactly the same, prefer different pellets. It’s a muchly unknown science.
Either way, the initial journey to find the best pellet for you, is going to take a lot of time, various different pellets and lots of paper targets! To start, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- What airgun am I using?
- What is its power output?
- What will I be shooting?
- What distance will I be shooting?
Knowing the answer to these questions, you can easily narrow a wide range of over 100 different pellets, down to a smaller more manageable handful. To cover a few of the most common scenarios:
I am using an air rifle at 11.5ftlbs to control rats at a consistent close range
For this scenario, you need a pellet that is going to transfer a lot of energy into a small target at close range. Pellets typical of achieving this include the H&N Baracuda Hunter Extreme and the JSB Hades. But you might also like to try a variety of different hollow point and tip configurations to find which maintains and transfers the most energy into the target, whilst still being accurate. To help with this, you may also need some ballistic gel or clay to see the pellet channel and the damage it can cause on entry. Andy’s Airgun Review made a very interesting video on how to make your own ballistic gel jelly at home, you can watch that by clicking here.
I am using an air rifle at 11.5ftlbs to shoot pigeons around barns or buildings
This type of shooting is going to involve a larger variety of distances, whilst still transferring enough energy into the quarry for a clean shot. For this, you might want to look at a medium-weight domed or hollow point pellet. Some good examples would be the new H&N Baracuda 18 or the JSB Exact. Again, with each pellet you need to ensure the energy is maintained and transferred into the target, whilst being accurate over distances varying from 10 yards up to 20-30 yards. So don’t forget, a useful paper target system such as the Gr8fun Pellet Drop Targets allow you to map the arc of each pellet at different distances. Set out at multiple ranges, you can easily calculate how much hold over or under you will need for that particular pellet at that specific range.
I am using a high-power FAC air rifle to control rabbits over a large field
Here you are targeting a tough quarry out to even longer ranges, that you want to stop clean where it stands so that it doesn’t retreat back underground potentially injured. You have a high-powered FAC rifle to do the job, now you need a pellet that is very happy over longer ranges. If your rifle suits it, you might want to test the H&N Slug HP or the JSB KnockOut Slugs. These pellets require high power to work to their best, but when they do they are superbly accurate with a very flat trajectory over longer ranges. Their shape also means they maintain their energy really well, with the hollow-point tip providing the expansion and final stopping power. If your airgun just simply doesn’t like the slug shape, you would want to look at a heavy pellet with an accurate shape. Some examples would be the Bisley Magnum, H&N Baracuda Match or JSB Exact Heavy.
I am using a low-powered rifle or pistol for fun target shooting
In this scenario, you are going to be getting through a lot of pellets in a short space of time, so the price is going to be a factor. Also, particularly in some of the pistol rotary magazines, pellet length might be an issue. You are likely to be shooting at close range within 10 yards, so a lightweight pellet with little penetration to any backstop will do the trick. So you would want an economical pellet with a conventional shape that will not jam the airgun or its mechanism. Some ideal options might be the H&N Excite Hobby II flathead or the David Nickerson Magnum Dome. Another thing to consider here, especially if you have pets that also use the garden and could possibly ingest a wayward pellet, are the lead-free options such as the H&N “Green” range including Field Target Trophy Green.
If you aren’t sure or do a very large variety of shooting and you’re looking for a good all-rounder pellet, a standard dome diablo shape is good for most. These are the most popular type of pellet still used today and include the JSB Exact and the H&N Field Target Trophy pellets. Another option you have is with pellet tester packs. Both H&N and JSB offer a test pack that includes a number of different pellets in one pack which allows you to test a variety of 5 or 6 options from one pack, as opposed to buying complete tins of each.
You have your gun and a selection of pellets to try, so your next job is the fun part of getting out there to test, test, and test again! Grab your paper targets, your gun rest, your tape measure/range finder, and your fun spinning targets and get shooting! And if anybody asks, you are conducting some very scientific experiments (and having great fun at the same time too).