Wondering if your air rifle could perform better? Maybe you need to change your pellets, says Mike Morton
- Round head pellets are for general use and cut through the air more efficiently than the other shapes of pellets.
- Pointed pellets are designed for hunting.
- Hollow point pellets are best used at close quarters and spread on impact
- Wadcutters pellets have flat heads and are only good at close ranges.
- Nowadays there are also lead-free airgun pellets – scroll down to find out more.
Calibres and weights
The .22 calibre used to be considered the best option for hunting but nowadays the smaller .177 calibre is more popular in sub-12ft/lbs air rifles.
Pellets come in different weights. Low-powered airguns should use lighter pellets and high-powered air rifles should use heavier pellets.
Best airgun pellets
I’d recommend you try some of these.
Best for HFT and field shooting
+ High accuracy
+ Can also be used for hunting
These roundhead diablos perform well. The range is also available in wadcutter and pointed pellets. Rifle Premium Series rounds are marketed as being suitable for HFT or Field Target, but with accuracy like this you can happily add hunting to that list.
+ Improved drive in the barrel
+ Good for field target shooting and hunting up to 25 yards
This pellet has been around for a long time. If you’re a shooter who’s not afraid to try something completely different you could be in for a super time with Super Fields.
Best for hunting
+ Aerodynamic shape
+ Excellent accuracy
These pellets are super-heavyweight, with a pattern carved into the domehead that helps them to spread on impact. Domeheads don’t all need to be smooth to display ballistic capability.
Best for spending a little extra
+ High penetration power
+ For PCP airguns
+ Ideal for field target shooting and hunting airguns
These pellets are favourites of field target and HFT shooters. They may have an unconventional head design but shoot them through the right barrel and they are superb.
Best for short and mid-range hunting
+ Rifle Airgun pellets used by Olympians
+ Suitable for any airgun activity
Best for accuracy
+ Superb quality
+ Deeper penetration
If you want a hunting pellet that offers deeper penetration as well as accuracy, then you might find yourself rather pleasantly surprised by the QYS Pointed.
Overall score 92%
+ Highly rated by users
+ Suitable for all kinds of airgunning
“Very good and accurate” says users in the product reviews.
What about lead-free airgun pellets?
Many of the best airgun pellet manufacturers, such as JSB, H&N, RWS and Gamo, produce lead-free options. They will perform differently in different barrels, so you will need to try a few to see which suits your gun best. (You’ll find our guide to discovering which will be the perfect airgun pellets for your rifle here; it’s worth a read because air rifles are fussy about pellets.)
Lead-free airgun pellets to buy and try
4.RWS HyperDome Tin .177 4.5mm Non Lead Air Rifle Gun Pellets 200 Airgun Target Pest Control 231 81 62 £14.95
I have yet to find non-toxic airgun pellets that group quite as well as traditional lead ammo, and they seem to be particularly affected by the wind which can have a serious impact on accuracy. This can make shot placement unpredictable at longer ranges.
The pellets I have tested have been impeccably made. The problem is mostly to do with their weight — .177 lead-free pellets tend to weigh around six grains, whereas the lead equivalent would be between eight and nine.
Non-toxic airgun pellets also feel hard by comparison, which makes them quite rough through magazines and I would imagine it compromises their ability to hug the rifling of the barrel.
Though lead-free airgun pellets tend to fall short of lead in terms of performance, they have come a long way over the past decade and I expect them to advance further as demand increases.