Air Power: Pellet Shoot-Off!

Being the owner of an air rifle now, it seemed like time to check out ammunition. Thanks to my Patreon supporters six tins of pellets arrived today, and I wasted no time putting them to the test. Accuracy testing will happen, but to do that right will require a trip to the range.

Hatsan Airtac .22. Yes, I know the picture is sideways.

The test gun is, of course, the only air-rifle I currently possess- The Hatsan Airtac .22. You can read a review f the rifle here. I mostly like the gun, but was somewhat underwhelmed with it’s velocity with the Gamo Rocket pellets. Fair enough; time to try it with some others.

I logged on to Pyramid Air to see what was what. A dizzying array of different pellets of all weights and designs was what was what. The rifle’s packaging claims up to 1000 fps. and 21 ft./lbs. of energy. I suspect if this is at all accurate it is with a very light hybrid pellet like the H&N Excite Prometheus 9gr. pellet, but sadly these are out of stock. I’ll be notified when they become available and will grab some to test. In the meantime…

Testing was accomplished at approximately ten feet. Velocities were measured with a Caldwell Chronograph, and are the average of three shots each. Pellets are little, so they very sensitive to placement over the device. I kept firing until I had three results to establish the average velocity and extreme spread. Energy was calculated based on the average of those three shots. Temperature was 56 degrees Fahrenheit.

Shots were fired into Clear ballistics 10% Ordinance Gel. Penetration is based on the length of the wound-track, not the resting place of the pellet; projectiles sometimes bounce back in the wound track in this media.

None of the recovered pellets showed any expansion. The pellets are listed in order of weight, starting with-

Benjamin Discovery 14.3 gr.

632 fps. 13 ft./lbs ES: 10 fps. Price: $14.99/500 Per shot: $0.03

Average penetration was 4-5/16 Inches.

H&N Barracuda 15.89gr.

600 fps. 13 ft./lbs ES: 7 fps. Price: $7.99/200 Per shot: $0.04

Average penetration was 4-7/16″

Crossman Powershot 16.7gr

565 fps. 12 ft./lbs ES: 18 fps. Price: $13.59/100 Per shot: $0.14

Average penetration 4-1/4″

Note: These are the most expensive per shot, but they are lead-free. This could be an advantage in certain areas.

H&N Silver Point 17.13gr

555 fps. 12 ft./lbs ES: 11 fps. Price: $7.99/200 Per shot: $0.04

Average penetration 3-11/16″

H&N Barracuda Hunter 18.21gr

517 fps. 13 ft./lbs ES: 11 fps. Price: $9.99/200 Per shot: $0.05

Average penetration 3″

H&N Slug Hollow-Point 27gr

363 fps. 8 ft./lbs ES: 7 fps. Price: $15.99/200 Per shot: $0.08

Average penetration was 2-1/8″


It would seem from these results that speed is power; lighter pellets go faster (duh) and yielded the best penetration and most energy. The Extreme Spreads of four of the six pellets were very good, and the other two weren’t actually bad. It will be interesting to see how the ultra-light 9gr lead-free hybrid pellets perform in terms of penetration; at some point there is probably a point of diminishing returns where the light weight causes the pellet to shed energy quickly enough offer reduced penetration. We’ll see where the ultra-light pellets fall on the spectrum.

Money is also no determiner of performance either; the least expensive pellet was the second best performer, and that was by a narrow margin. The Crosman Powershot was far and away the most expensive and was the third best performer. Unless lead ammunition is prohibited where you are hunting I can’t see any reason to pay 3-4 times as much for them.

Based on power and penetration alone any of these pellets would do the job on small game or pests with good shot placement. This was of course a measure of power; accuracy is at least as important, and I’ll be testing that in a future article.

One other conclusion is perfectly clear; compared to even a .22 rimfire air-rifles are dirt cheap to shoot, and with the ability to humanely take game as large as rabbits even an inexpensive air rifle could be a valuable tool.

Stay safe and take care.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 10 November 2021

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