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Which is the best pellet for your gun? Neil Price gives his expert advice on how to find out
There are many different makes and types of pellets on the market, and to the novice, the choice can be mind- blowing. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for, so please don’t be tempted to buy the cheapest pellets that you can find. Invariably, cheaper ones will be made to a lower quality standard than those from well- known and respected manufacturers, and if you do use them, then accuracy will suffer. There are also many shapes and compositions of pellets, and the advertising blurb for them says are the best thing since sliced bread for accuracy, muzzle velocity, penetration and will even make you a cup of tea whilst you are waiting for quarry to appear in front of your muzzle. However, there have been innumerable accuracy tests, carried by experts in the field, that definitively prove the standard domed- head pellet is by far the best for general hunting, field target, hunter field target and targetpractice use.
You will have to carry out a lot of testing to find out which pellet suits your rifle the best. Also, don’t forget that the same make of pellet can come in different sizes; 4.50, 4.51, 4.52, 4.53 etc., and although the difference in diameter is very slight, it could alter the accuracy that your rifle will give you. Once they have found their ideal pellet, experienced shooters tend not to change them. If you do change pellet for any reason, then the whole exercise of pellet testing will have to be repeated. Different makes of pellets can have different weights, and this affects your muzzle velocity. The calculation for muzzle energy is: muzzle velocity multiplied by muzzle velocity, multiplied by the weight of the projectile in grains, all divided by 450240. So if we take a 7.9 grain pellet at 777 feet per second then the calculation is 777 x 777 x 7.9/450240 = 10.593 foot pounds muzzle energy, and a 8.44 grain pellet will be 777 x 777 x 8.44/450240 = 11.114 foot pounds. The divisor 450240 (the constant) is created by multiplying two times the acceleration of gravity (32.16 feet per second) by 7,000 – the number of grains in a pound.
There is another type of pellet that has a couple of less well- known uses, and trhat is the flat- nosed pellet. This was initially developed for ten- metre card shooting, because the flat- nosed ‘wadcutters’ produce a much cleaner hole in the target card than dome- head pellets, and so the scoring of these cards is much more accurate because it is much clearer when one of the scoring rings has been touched. These flat- nosed pellets have also been adopted by many of the six- and seven- yard bell target shooters because the quality is very consistent; they leave a centre ‘pip’ on the plate for scoring, and the same type of rifles are being
used in bell target as in the tenmetre Olympic disciplines.
Another use for these flat- nosed pellets is relatively close range, up to 25 yards, for indoor feral pigeon control, the same as hollow- nosed pellets. Being flat- nosed, they do not over- penetrate and consequently impart all of the pellet’s energy into the quarry, ensuring a quick and efficient kill. These pellets tend to push a column of air in front of them, whereas the dome- headed pellets cut a path through the air, and they fly true to about 25 yards range.
Pellet weight will also affect the trajectory of your pellet. The heavier the pellet, the slower it travels, therefore gravity – which is always a constant – will make it drop to the ground at exactly the same time, but the pellet will not have travelled so far, being slower. Gravity begins to affect the pellet the instant it leaves the muzzle. The rifling in the barrel imparts spin to the pellet, but no matter how fast the pellet is spinning, it is only stabilising the pellet in flight. The spinning gives the pellet no aerodynamic properties (lift) at all.
To give you an idea of how fast the pellet is spinning, let us take the example of a 1 in 12 barrel twist rate – the rifling makes one complete 360 degree revolution in 12 inches of length – and a pellet muzzle velocity of 770 feet per second. Therefore, the pellet is rotating at 770 revolutions per second at the muzzle, or to put it into automotive terms 46,200 revolutions per minute. You can compare this to a car engine doing around 2000 to 3000 revolutions per minute when cruising, or 6000 revolutions per minute when flat out in the lower gears. The best advice is to test as many high- quality pellets as you can, because that’s the only way you’ll find the one that best suits your rifle.
“Pellet weight will also affect the trajectory of your pellet. The heavier the pellet, the slower it travels”
LEFT: The wadcutter pellet leaves a small pip in the centre of the impact site
LEFT: The classic roundhead pellet is almost impossible to beat FAR LEFT: Wadcutters are available in the very highest quality for serious match shooting
ABOVE: Wadcutters punch neat holes that are easier to score
TOP LEFT: Roundheads leave ragged holes in paper targets
LEFT: The batch number and head size is printed on the back of high- quality pellets
FAR LEFT: The roundhead (left) is the most versatile design