Air Gunner - - Contents -

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

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