H&N Baracuda Hunter Pellet

BLOG #10. Air Rifle Pellets and the Selection Process

All air rifle pellets are not equal, just like every air rifle is different, be it in accuracy, smoothness, velocity etc. That is basically the DNA of every rifle and every pellet.  If you can accept these statements then read on, if not, best to exit now. Those of you new to air rifles can start here.

I deal with air rifles every day of the week, including Saturdays and Sundays (I am actually writing this on a Sunday) and have been doing so for years as this is my full time job and only livelihood. With the majority of sales coming from this website and going East, I have taken it on myself to shoot every single air rifle prior to shipment as the customer is not here to test fire it. That is, I shoot it to insure it groups well enough but this testing does not include Chronographing the results or tuning. The one thing that stands out more than anything else is the difference that pellets make between one air rifle and another of the same brand and model.

H&N Baracuda Pellet line up

.25, .22, .20 and .177 Baracuda Pellets

In the event I get a poor group with a new rifle I then swap pellets and in most cases that fixes the problems, even if I have to try 3 or 4 different pellets and weights. So in this Blog I want to introduce you to what is required to get the best from your air rifle without the expense of buying a Chronograph, with the only outlay being an electronic weighing machine – China of course @ $25.00 or thereabouts. Make sure you get one with a sample weight for resetting the machine.

This is only an overview as I am writing a more detailed Pellet Tuning article that covers this in more depth.

Your Air Rifle.

This may sound dumb, but you need to have an air rifle that can at least hit an A4 sheet at 25 metres with enough power to punch through a card target. I have had quite a few instances where guys have rocked up with old and won out air rifles producing 5 – 7 Fpe with the results that their shots wander all over the map. Before you jump on the phone and call me saying that some indoor events are sub 7Fpe, I know that but they are not shooting with air rifles older than I am with just as many creaks and groans.

You need to have an air rifle that is consistent and that also applies to your shooting ability. It is difficult to tune an air rifle if either you or your gun are inconsistent. If you can punch out a group of let’s say, 30mm at 25 metres (or 50 metres), this is an example only, and you can do that every day of the week but cannot improve on it, then read on.

Providing your air rifle does not have a flaw of some kind, and if you follow this regime you should tighten up your group and if not, it should indicate a problem with your rifle.

Grouping with your favourite Air Rifle Pellets.

When selecting a pellet type and weight for an air rifle I do a Pellet Selection Test that is requested by the customer. Now this test is done by firing through a Chronograph, recording the Speeds, Energies, Standard Deviation, Extreme Spread and Foot Pound Energies (Fpe). This is only the start of tuning with pellets, but it does put you on track to shoot well.

Below are several sample targets from a Pellet Selection Test of 6 shots per target.

Target with JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy

JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy

Target with H&N Baracuda

H&N Baracuda

Target with H&H Baracuda Match

H&N Baracuda Match

Target with H&H Field Target Trophy

H&N Field Target Trophy

From this test we see that H&N Baracuda pellets are shooting the best in this air rifle but that is not as far as you can go. As I said earlier, all pellets are not equal and nor are their weights and shapes. So if the air rifle above was yours for example then you would take the H&N Baracuda pellets and shoot a good number of them yourself (as it was me that tested your gun in this case) until you can replicate or improve on my groups. If the air rifle is new, then expect it to improve with use up until 1500 – 2000 shots. Once you reach this point, you can now get involved in pellet selection.

Air Rifle Pellet selection.

When you have your targets and you know the groups you can shoot consistently, then buy yourself around 4 or 5 tins on the best pellets you have found for your gun so far, in the case of this example it is H&N Baracuda pellets. Do not think for a second that because H&N pellets are the better than JSB pellets in this air rifle that it applies across the board. This is NOT the case, JSB are exceptional pellets and equal the quality of H&N pellets every day of the week.

 H&N Baracuda Tin of Pellets

H&N Baracuda Pellets in .22 Calibre

H&N Baracuda Pellet Close up

Close up image of a H&N Baracuda .22 Calibre Pellet

On a well lit table and on a clean linen cloth (do NOT use blankets or materials with loose lint that can stick to your pellets) empty the pellets carefully onto the cloth. Then one by one weigh them and put them into different groups of weights. In this example we have H&N Baracuda Pellets in .22 calibre with a Tin weight of 21.14 grains per pellet.

Once you start weighing them you will find that they may well vary between 20.07 through to 21.22 grains for example. That being the case here, sort them into different piles of different weights. The next step is to physically check them for deformities of the skirts and discard any that are out of shape.

You will need at least 30 pellets to sample of each weight and then you rotate each weight of pellet through a set of targets. Between the lightest and the heaviest you will find that one particular weight delivers the best group and that is the weight you want with that pellet type, H&N Baracuda in this example.

So if you are into competition work you will know to sort out your pellets into the selected weight and visibly inspect them prior to the competition. This is the short story guys but it is a start to understanding pellet architecture and performance.

Pellet Test Summary.

What I have described here is only but a fraction of the mechanics involved in pellet selection if you want to take it to the top level. Then you do need a chronograph as well and you will need to consider pellet sizes as printed on the back of the tins. Those new to air rifle pellets and shooting will see that some .22 calibre pellets can be purchased varying from 5.49 through to 5.53 in diameter, with vastly differing results and speeds with the same pellet type.