Airguns

Best Airgun Pellet for Hunting

by: Randall Mitchell

Hunting with an airgun is one of the most enjoyable pastimes that I have run across in the last decade or so. I have been an avid hunter since I was old enough to keep both ends of the rifle off the ground, but in the last several years, airguns have grabbed my attention as the tool of choice for my hunting forays.

Whenever you hunt with a firearm or airgun, one of the more important items you will need is a suitable round of ammunition for the gun of your choice. In airguns, this translates into a pellet. A pellet is a projectile that looks very much like a badminton shuttlecock, or birdie, in that the vast majority of pellets these days have a “skirt” on them. The purpose of the skirt is to engage the rifling of the barrel, and give the air a platform to push as it is routed through the internals of the gun. In a spring-piston gun, the air is quickly compressed by a piston, while in a pneumatic or CO2 gun, the air or gas is released through a valve of one type or another.

RWS Supermag, RWS Superdome, RWS Super H-Point, and RWS Superpoint.

From top to bottom, RWS Supermag, RWS Superdome, RWS Super H-Point, and RWS Superpoint.

In the picture to the left, you can see four different pellets offered by Umarex USA. There are other pellets in addition to these (see ammo page), but for the use of this article, we’ll discuss the top 3. They are, from top to bottom, the RWS Supermag, the RWS Superdome, the RWS Super H-Point, and the RWS Superpoint. The Supermag is the wadcutter-style pellet on the top. The Superdome is the round-nosed pellet, while the Super H-Point is the hollow point pellet.

Now, of the pellets seen here, which one would you use for which hunting scenario? Well, the best answer, of course, is which pellet provides the greatest accuracy in your airgun! Without hitting the target, the type of projectile you use is academic at best. But there will be hunting situations that call on a particular kind of pellet, and I’ll describe a couple of scenarios for you to ponder.

For all-around use, it is hard to beat the domed pellet. It offers great accuracy, carries well at greater distances, and provide excellent energy retention when shooting live targets. I use domed pellets in the vast majority of my hunting scenarios….squirrel hunting, avian pest control, and targets of opportunity while I’m in the field. However, there are certain times when I switch to the Super H-Point.

If the target in question is a bit tougher than my normal air gun prey, let’s say a groundhog or possum, or maybe a nutria rat in the south, I may switch to a hollow point pellet such as the RWS Super H-Point in order to maximize the lethal damage upon impact. One thing I want readers to realize before using a hollow point is that you need to be pushing that pellet along at a pretty good clip before you realize any advantage over another style pellet. Hollow point pellets WILL expand, but they need velocity at the point of impact in order to do that. So use your more powerful airguns in order to gain the greatest amount of usefulness from the design of the hollow point pellet. If you don’t have the required velocity, then you are essentially shooting a wadcutter.

Wadcutter pellets, such as the RWS Supermag, are fantastic pellets for target shooting. They cut nice, round holes in the cardstock targets used in competition, making the scoring that much easier. But there are hunting scenarios that call for wadcutters, making them the best pellet for the job.

From time to time, I have the chance to eradicate avian pests such as English sparrows and European starlings from barns, store fronts, and other areas that don’t qualify for the term “hunting afield”. In situations like this, over-penetration is the enemy of the shooter. There isn’t a farmer alive that will appreciate your shooting holes in his barn roof because you used the wrong ammo in the wrong gun! So when I have delicate shooting opportunities that call for precise application of force to a light-bodied target, I use the RWS Supermag, or wadcutter. The broad frontal surface of this pellet helps in containing the over-penetration of the pellet in the body of a sparrow, starling, or rat. Coupled with a lower-powered airgun, you can select your shots with more confidence since you are less likely to shoot a hole in the roof. It takes some practice, but if you work at it, you will be able to do some amazing pest control without any collateral damage to property or merchandise in a store, barn, or other public venue.

The cleaned skull of a raccoon after being shot with an RWS Superdome (pellet still lodged in the skull)

The cleaned skull of a raccoon after being shot with an RWS Superdome (pellet still lodged in the skull)

It wasn’t long ago that I had a raccoon raiding my bird feeders. I finally caught up with him one evening, and used an RWS Superdome to end his raiding forays. On the right, you can see a picture of the cleaned raccoon skull, complete with the pellet still stuck in the bone structure of the head. The kill was clean, quick, and effective. The raccoon didn’t suffer needlessly, and I wasn’t left with a wounded, upset animal on my hands to deal with. Combining the right pellet with the right hunting or pest control situation makes your airgun shooting just that much more enjoyable. So pick the right pellet, and head out to the field!

Or, if you want to try a variety of different pellets at the same time to see which kind best suits your different scenarios, think about trying the RWS pellet sampler package (4 types), which contains the Superdome and Super-H Point mentioned in the above article, along with the RWS Meisterkugeln (match grade accuracy), RWS Hobby (balanced for all shooting situations), and RWS Superpoint (increased penetration). This would give you the opportunity to try a mix of pellets for shooting situations that might come up in the future.

Air Rifle Buying Guide

When it comes to air rifles and air rifle related products, you have to know what you are looking for when buying for yourself or someone else. Knowing which characteristics to focus on could be the key to happiness with your air rifle purchase for many years to come.

Now, more than ever, there are more models of air rifles to choose from. You should be well informed when it comes to the types of rifles that are offered and the type of product that you want to buy.

The first thing you must decide when shopping around for an air rifle and air rifle accessories is its intended use. There are many different classes of rifles, and they can be broken down further by their expected use. If it is to be used by a youth, then the single shot Ruger Explorer is an excellent option. If, however, it is going to be used for small game hunting, then something more substantial, like another higher velocity .177 or .22 air rifle might be more appropriate. After use, the next thing to consider when analyzing rifles is the propulsion type.

PROPULSION METHODS

The three main types of propulsion methods that are seen in today’s quality air rifle market today are CO2 powered, spring piston, and pre-charged pneumatic. The older, less reliable “pump up” pneumatic rifles that many people are familiar with from their youth can still be found, but are generally considered much less powerful than the other three methods.

CO2 Powered:

CO2 Rifles, such as the Hammerli 850 Air Magnum, require no cocking effort.

CO2 Rifles, such as the Hammerli 850 Air Magnum, require no cocking effort.

CO2 Rifles come in a wide variety of different shapes and sizes, but the one thing that they all share is that CO2 capsules or canisters power them. The most common type of CO2 on the market is the 12-gram cartridge, although other sizes are also on the market, such as 88-gram CO2 cartridges.

The main advantages of CO2 powered guns are that they are very quiet, very easy to use, they are available in a variety of different shapes/sizes, and there is no cocking effort, or force that has to be applied between shots.

One thing to note about CO2 powered air rifles is the difference in CO2 pressure tanks that can occur with changes in temperature. Also, quickly repeated shots can decrease the total amount of rounds that can be fired with the use of a single CO2 canister, so spacing shots (even by a second or two), instead of rapidly firing can increase the total amount of shots from a single canister.

When it comes to CO2 rifles, the Hammerli 850 AirMagnum provides a uniform, rapid rate of fire, while the Beretta Cx4 Storm provides a tactical look.

Spring Piston:

Break barrel spring piston air rifles, like the RWS Model 34, have high velocities and are very accurate.

Break barrel spring piston air rifles, like the RWS Model 34, have high velocities and are very accurate.

Spring piston air rifles are the most common air guns used by adults. They utilize a hefty spring and air piston to propel a pellet down range. For each shot the spring is retracted, and when fired, the spring pushes the piston forward, propelling a charge of air into the barrel of the gun. While the spring piston is the propulsion method, there are several types of cocking mechanisms, such as barrel-cocking, side-cocking and under-lever. The most common type is the break barrel gun. Extremely high velocities and accuracy are attainable with spring piston rifles, and their versatility makes them very popular amongst all shooting styles.

Spring piston guns are popular for both plinking and hunting. Some of the more popular spring piston guns include the low cost Ruger Blackhawk® and the high quality line of German made RWS air rifles which are available in both .177 and .22 caliber.

Pre-Charged Pneumatic:

Pre-charged pneumatics use a large air reservoir of extremely high pressure air, which results in many shots before a recharge is required. Often abbreviated “PCP” for short, recharging of the tank is done with either a high-pressure hand pump or a SCUBA tank with proper adapters. Pre-charged pneumatics are the most powerful types of airguns that are made, and are generally among the most accurate air rifles that are available to be purchased. As a consequence of being the most powerful, most accurate, and made from the highest quality parts and craftsmanship, pre-charged pneumatics are often among the more expensive air rifles to own.

Due to their many advantages, pre-charged pneumatics are among the most sought after guns for the most serious shooters. One example is the the Walther 1250 Dominator comes with an 8-shot rotary pellet magazine and is available with a scope and tripod for increased accuracy.

After intended use and propulsion methods are explored, you should then consider which caliber air rifle is best for the individual user.

Air Rifle Calibers:

Air rifle calibers vary, but the most popular calibers are .177 and .22. Also, .25 caliber air rifles are readily available via online retailers for serious small game hunters..

The .177 caliber is the same diameter as a steel BB and some guns chambered in .177 can fire either BBs or pellets. (Always read the gun’s owner’s manual and instructions carefully or consult an expert before attempting to change ammunition.) The .177 is an excellent target caliber and also serves well for shooters interested in cost effective plinking and some pest control of smaller game, such as mice or small birds. The .177 caliber also boasts high velocities, good penetration and a flat trajectory, which lends itself well to target shooting and competition.

The .22 caliber is a larger caliber and is more often used for small-game hunting due to its increased energy and “punch” upon impact. With the increased power comes a decrease in the total speed from the .177 caliber pellet. .22 rounds are slightly less accurate than their .177 counterparts and are used less often for target shooting or plinking, but more often in situations where more power is needed, such as hunting.

The least purchased of the “major” calibers of air rifles is the .25 caliber air rifle. For .25 caliber rifles, the energy is increased even more while the accuracy is decreased even more. For the dedicated small-game hunter, this is often considered the best caliber.

AIR RIFLE ACCESSORIES

Pellets

Air rifles used to only fire steel BBs, but have evolved to fire pellets. Pellets are safer (due to fewer ricochets), more accurate, and carry more energy than BBs.

There are four basic types of pellets, with many variations in between:

Wadcutter – The wadcutter pellet has a flat nose and is typically associated with target shooting due to its accurate nature and cleans hole-cutting properties in paper. It’s used exclusively in 10-meter competition. It is well-suited for lower-velocity airguns and for hunting at short ranges (out to 25 yards) due to transferring a lot of energy. Beyond 25 yards, a wadcutter’s accuracy starts falling off. The RWS Supermag pellet is an example of a typical high quality wadcutter.

Domed or Round Nosed – The domed or round nosed pellet has the best aerodynamics and is used in field target, small-game hunting, and general shooting. It is generally considered “all-around” pellet. The RWS Superdome pellet is an example of a high quality domed pellet.

Hollowpoint – A hollowpoint pellet is used almost exclusively for hunting. It allows the maximum transfer of energy to the game, and expands rapidly when it enters the game. If the hollowpoint is effective at expansion, the accuracy generally begins dropping off at distances beyond 25 yards. The RWS Super-H-Point pellet is an example of a hollowpoint pellet.

Pointed – Pointed pellets have a point on the tip, and offer superior penetration. Most people consider the look of a pointed pellet to be somewhat “streamlined”. A good example of a pointed pellet is the RWS Superpoint pellet.

In addition to these four “pure” types, there are a large range of those who mix features from the different pellets to achieve additional effects, or have the same shape but different weights or metal alloy compositions. When deciding which pellet to use, or to try a wider variety of different pellets, people often try a pellet sampler kit which contains several different types of pellets.

For more information on the different types of pellets, and the right one to choose in different situations, see our article, How to Choose an Airgun Pellet. For a comparison of 3 hunting pellets to determine which are best to hunt with, see the article Which Airgun Pellet to Hunt With.

Optics

In addition to choosing the type of air rifle you may wish to consider an air rifle accessory.

Airgun scopes, such as those by RWS and Walther, give the shooter the ability to more accurately acquire and hit a target at increased distances.

Airgun optics offer a way to achieve more accuracy with your air rifle. A good scope can provide magnification of the target you are shooting at. Most scopes have a beginning number and ending number; if it lists 4 x 32, the number four equates to how many times closer the object you are viewing becomes when viewed through the scope, and the number 32 equates to the size in mm of the front lens, also known as the objective lens. The bigger the objective lens is, the brighter the image when viewed through the lens. Many other issues such as scope parallax come in to play when dealing with scopes on air rifles. Other optics, such as reticle point sights offer ways to accurately aim at an acquired target with both eyes open.

Maintenance

Air gun maintenance accessories, such as gun oil, cleaning pellets, and a cleaning rod, are also important to the overall longevity of your airgun. There are recommended 100-shot and 1000-shot maintenance steps that you should undertake to improve the lifespan of your air rifle.

Conclusion

As with any purchase, it really depends on what you are looking for as to how you should approach your air rifle buying quest. The information above can be useful if you are wanting a brief overview on what options are available. If you have any questions about what you might need for a certain situation, feel free to contact Umarex USA’s excellent customer service and their knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you out with whatever you might need specifically.

Every 1000 Shots

The lubrication of any mechanical device is critical for long-term enjoyment. Lubrication of moving parts and seals ensures proper function and extends the life of the product—be it a vehicle engine, circulating fan, or a door hinge. Without proper lubrication, moving parts and seals will be subject to excessive wear and a shortened life. Your air rifle is no exception. Following are five points on an air rifle that should be lubricated at 1000 shot intervals (or after every two tins of 500 count RWS pellets). Remember, before doing any maintenance always make sure your airgun is unloaded and un-cocked.

Watch the Video: Every 1000 Shots – Proper Lubrication of Your Air Rifle.

The lubrication of any mechanical device is critical for long-term enjoyment. Lubrication of moving parts and seals ensures proper function and extends the life of the product—be it a vehicle engine, circulating fan, or a door hinge. Without proper lubrication, moving parts and seals will be subject to excessive wear and a shortened life. Your air rifle is no exception. Following are five points on an air rifle that should be lubricated at 1000 shot intervals (or after every two tins of 500 count RWS pellets). Remember, before doing any maintenance always make sure your airgun is unloaded and un-cocked.

View the RWS Shooter’s Kit.  It is helpful for maintaining your air rifles.

Piston Seal

The piston seal requires regular maintenance in order for your air rifle to achieve optimum performance. With proper lubrication the seal moves smoothly in the compression chamber, experiences less wear and therefore an extended life. If the pistol seal becomes worn, air is allowed to escape from the compression chamber, which will reduce pellet velocity. After every 1000 shots, apply two drops of RWS Chamber Lube down in the compression chamber port. You can use a 3-1/2 inch applicator needle that attaches directly to your RWS Chamber Lube bottle to ease this application. Regardless of brand, be sure to us a non-petroleum based lubricant. Regular types of petroleum-based oils will cause your gun to diesel. Dieseling is the explosion created by the igniting of petroleum-based oil in the compression chamber due to the extreme air temperature created when the air rifle is discharged.

Breech Seal

The breech seal is a rubberized O-ring located at the back of the barrel where the pellet is seated. If this seal dries out, air can escape which will diminish the velocity of your air rifle. Apply one drop of RWS Chamber Lube to the outer edge of the breech seal after every 1000 shots.

Main Spring

The main spring should be lubricated to maintain proper flex and free movement. Some air rifles require the stock be removed to access this area. We recommend applying 6 drops of RWS Spring Cylinder Oil to the main spring. Again, every 1000 shots is key.

Hinges and Pivot Points

Anything that moves is subject to sticking or squeaking if not lubricated. After every 1000 shots use RWS Spring Cylinder Oil to lube the hinges of triggers and pivot points on break barrel rifles. Just one drop is all it takes. Oil the hinges of cocking arms on under-lever and side-lever air rifles as well as the bolt on bolt-action models like the 850 Air Magnum. Don’t forget to occasionally lube the threads of the exchangeable barrel retainer or the hinge of the pawl on the Hämmerli X2 dual caliber air rifle.

The Barrel

Without cleaning and lubrication, your air rifle’s barrel can experience a build-up of debris or even worse, rust. Any obstruction in the barrel will result in diminished velocity and very poor accuracy. Apply this solution to a clean patch and pass through the barrel from the breech end if possible. Then, use a bore brush with nylon bristles to further loosen remaining deposits of lead and debris. Next, run clean patches and the cleaner/degreaser through the bore until they appear clean upon exiting the barrel. Do not allow the bore cleaner to make contact with any seals/o-rings. Finally, run a patch, lightly oiled with RWS Spring Cylinder Oil, through the barrel. Always push the patch from the breech end if possible. An RWS Flexible Cleaning Rod may help with this process.

One final note: Too much lubrication can be damaging to your air rifle. Apply only the recommended amount.

 

Paying attention to these five areas on your air rifle should provide you with many years of air rifle shooting. Should you have any questions, you may contact Umarex USA’s service department by phone or e-mail. Watch this YouTube video by Umarex USA on how to clean your air rifle’s barrel after every 1000 shots.  Visit Umarex USA’s YouTube channel for other airgun videos.

Every 100 Shots

To make sure your air rifle provides a long life of shooting, be sure to clean your air rifle and keep its metal parts lubricated to prevent rust and residue build-up.

After each shooting session run a lightly oiled cloth over all gun metal. The RWS Spring Cylinder Oil works great for this application.

At 100 shot intervals clean gun barrel with RWS Felt Cleaning Pellets. Insert two of the correct caliber felt pellets into the breech end of barrel. Push cleaning pellets through barrel and repeat process until felt pellets appear clean when exiting the muzzle.

Watch this YouTube video by Umarex USA on how to clean your air rifle’s barrel after every 100 shots.

Visit Umarex USA’s YouTube channel for other airgun videos.

How To Choose an Airgun Pellet

Every airgun is unique. Here’s a guide on choosing a pellet for your airgun.

There are several different airgun pellet styles available to use with your airgun and each rifle is unique in that every one has an “ideal pellet” for accuracy and/or speed. Your desired result will dictate what kind of airgun pellet you’ll want to use.

Choosing An Airgun PelletAirgun pellet weight is important because it can affect velocity, trajectory, terminal performance and flight stability. Heavier lead pellets tend to be more stable in breezy conditions and retain their energy better over longer distances. Heavy pellets also hit the target with more force. Heavier isn’t always better, it is important to match the weight of the pellet to your airgun’s unique characteristics and your desired result.

If you’re desired result is accuracy, a convenient and inexpensive way to find which pellet is uniquely perfect for your airgun is to try several different pellet shapes. One product made specifically for this is an RWS Pellet Sampler. It contains five different premium pellets that are made to the strictest quality standards. There’s a good chance you’ll find one of these pellets to provide a very high level of accuracy.

If velocity is what you’re after, a non-lead, very lightweight “hyper velocity” or “alloy” will likely provide your air gun’s maximum speed.

For specific shooting activities, some shapes may be better than others. Read further to help you determine which air gun pellet will be best for your shooting objectives.

For fun shooting or informal practice, an inexpensive, “7 grain basic pellet” will do. However, choose a quality pellet, like RWS Diabolos, that will leave minimal lead residue in your airgun’s barrel.

For accurate practice and general plinking, a lightweight 7 grain rifled sport pellet will provide you with an inexpensive and accurate pellet. One such pellet is the RWS Hobby which is very economical to shoot, but still leaves minimal amounts of lead in your air gun’s barrel.

Choosing An Airgun Pellet2For an airgun hunting pellet, choose one with excellent knock down power and accuracy. A heavier rifled English bulldog design provides such performance. English bulldog pellets, such as the RWS Superdome, are great general use pellets as well. They have very aerodynamic heads and are good for shooting at longer distances. The shape causes these pellets to have more knockdown power at the target than other pellet shapes. Hollow point pellets are also good hunting pellets because they really expand on impact. Hollowpoints, like the Super-H-Point by RWS are popular for pest control, however, the hollow mouth can catch wind and cause the pellet to create open groups at longer distances.

If you’re looking for a pellet with penetrating power, a pointed pellet is what you’re looking for. A quality pellet that has a uniform cone can also enhance performance and accuracy of medium powered air guns. They have good penetration capabilities for pest control, but may not work as well as a Superdome pellet in a high-powered air rifle.

For accuracy at longer distances, consider a heavyweight wadcutter style pellet that’s perfectly balanced for accuracy. A pellet of this type, like the RWS Supermag, is ideal for modern ultra high power air rifles.

Extreme accuracy can be achieved with a match grade pellet. These professional wadcutter pellets are perfect for competition and training as well as accuracy and sighting in. The flat head design makes clean holes in paper targets. These pellets, like the RWS Meisterkugeln, can also be used for pest control, but they are not specifically designed for longer distances. They generally perform best at about 20 yards.

Airgun competition shooters desire the highest match accuracy possible. For this, a pellet that is consistent in size and weight from pellet-to-pellet is extremely important. RWS’s R 10 Match Pellets are optoelectronically verified and have a spotless surface finish. To ensure consistency, many air gun competitors desire R10 Match Plus pellets, which are packed in holders that do not allow the pellets to touch each other, thereby ensuring every pellet is flawless.