POWER TO PERFORM?
Can we make better use of our FAC gun’s power? – the editor asks
Hollow points or round heads for highpower accuracy? The editor debates the question
Many of our readers have gone down the high- power ( FAC) route with their hunting airguns, and I count myself in that number. When I bought my first 30 ft.lbs., .22 calibre, precharged pneumatic, I set about finding the most accurate pellet for it and settled with the 16 grain Air Arms Diablo Field that I’ve used ever since. Not only was it the most accurate, but it also has one of the highest ballistic coefficients available, so it retains its velocity very well in flight. This means the flattest trajectory, the least wind deflection, and the highest striking energy. However, I’ve always wondered if we could improve terminal performance by using a hollow- point pellet. At 12 ft.lbs. they seldom work any better than a wadcutter because there isn’t enough energy on contact with our quarry to deform the lead and cause the pellet to expand. With close to three times the energy on offer, I wondered if we could see proper expansion in field conditions.
UP TO THE JOB
As we all know, only accurate shots kill cleanly, so my first job was to dig into my collection and see what .22 hollow- point pellets I could find to test for accuracy. I had seven different types with some weird and wonderful designs in the mix. Experience tells me that simple pellets work best, but hey, you have to try them all or you’d never know! In past testing I’ve seen that at 12 ft.lbs., accuracy is seldom as good as a round head and falls off radically beyond 25 yards. Further, hollow points have some of the lowest ballistic coefficients you’ll find, so a flat trajectory isn’t all that likely.
Job one was to clean the barrel
and then shoot several three- shot groups at 30 yards with each type, to eliminate any shockers. This usually points toward a few likely candidates, after which I’ll clean the barrel again and shoot more groups and do more cleaning, until a winner becomes clear. For me to consider a pellet to be suitable for hunting, it needs to place three shots in a group I could cover with a pound coin (1”) at the distance at which I want to hunt. With my high- power rifle, that would be at a maximum of 50 yards, which is a stern test of any airgun/pellet combination in realworld conditions, but the Air Arms Field Diablo is up to the job.
When trying some of the highly unusual designs like the Polymag Predator and H& N Hornet you need to be aware that they can be too long to be used in a magazine. If you prefer a single- shot tray it’s not an issue, but the standard length Predator won’t fit into my Daystate magazines, nor will the Hornet. Polymag has understood this issue and now offers a shortened version for just that reason.
I have a theory that you cannot fire airgun pellets much faster then 900fps and still get good accuracy, so the weight of the pellets would be a factor. The RWS Super- H- Point at 14.2 grains looked like they would be too fast, and the chronograph backed that up showing an average of 932fps. The BSA Interceptor at 15.43 grains looked marginal as well, but at just 907fps I felt the velocity would be okay. The rest of the pellets were between 16 and 19 grains which looked ideal.
For the test, I used the Daystate’s single-shot tray to eliminate any magazine-type complications. I was delighted to see that a good number of the pellets could deliver the required accuracy required at 30 yards and I’d have complete confidence using them at that distance. I felt that they were responding to the extra power, which made me wonder if that’s what they’d been designed for from the start.
KING OF THE HILL
However, when the target card was moved to 50 yards, everything changed. I systematically tried each of the pellets in turn and none could match my go-to pellet, the Air Arms Diablo Field for pure accuracy, and I’d never take a shot when I wasn’t completely confident. It seemed that the extra distance was just too much for their unusual profiles, and groups from 1½ to 2½” showed that I’d taken these pellets too far for them to deliver the necessary performance.
I’m always left with mixed feelings after a test like this. I love the optimism of hoping to discover something new, and deflated to have arrived at the same answer yet again. The boring truth is that I’ve never been able to beat the performance of a well- made round head when it comes to delivering consistent accuracy. Sure, the hollow points would do a better job on contact with our quarry, but only accurate shots kill cleanly, so unless something changes, round heads remain the king of the hill for hunters like me.
“I’ve always wondered if we could improve terminal performance by using a hollow-point pellet”
BELOW: To get meaningful results I needed a steady shooting position
BELOW: Could any of the hollow- points match the round head for accuracy at 50 yards?
ABOVE: There are some novel designs around but they proved no more accurate then conventional hollowpoints