Picking The Perfect Pellet

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Even a high-end rifle won’t shoot accurately if it’s being fed the wrong ammo, so Mike Morton offers some advice to find the perfect projectile.

Red Wolf in action: Some rifles are incredibly finicky when it comes to their choice of ammo, while others like the Daystate Red Wolf aren’t fussy at all

1. Try Different Types

If you buy a gun there’ll be plenty of people ready to offer you some advice, insisting their favourite pellets will work brilliantly in your new purchase. Alternatively, you may know someone with exactly the same rifle as you who swears that Pellet X is perfect in their gun and will therefore be perfect in yours.

But all guns are different, and two seemingly identical models may shoot best with two completely different types of pellet. The key is to experiment and find out which type of ammo is most accurate in your airgun.

2. Stick To The Classics

There are a raft of airgun ammo designs including pointed and hollow point pellets, as well as some very exotic types featuring an inset polymer tip or ball bearing.

But while some of these pellets may shoot very well, you’re better off sticking to a classic domehead diabolo design for your initial accuracy testing. Domeheads have the best ballistics in a legal-limit air rifle, and one such design is Rangemaster Sovereign, a high-end pellet made for Daystate by JSB in the Czech Republic. 

3. Cleaning

While many airgun shooters will say they never clean the barrel of their rifle, accuracy will definitely suffer if lead is allowed to build up too much, usually after shooting around 500 pellets or so.

The easiest way to clean a bore is with a pull-through, and the Napier Power Pull Through kit that’s available from Solware includes everything you need to carry out a deep clean of your barrel with no risk of damaging the rifling or crown.

It’s also important to clean the barrel of a brand new gun before you start shooting it, as the bore may have been oiled or given a waxy protective coating by the manufacturer that will hinder accuracy if it’s not fully cleaned out before you start squeezing the trigger.

Rangemaster Sovereign: It’s best to start your search for the perfect pellet by shooting ammunition with a known pedigree, such as Rangemaster Sovereign or JSB Exact

4. Leading

It may sound contradictory having just cleaned the barrel of your air rifle, but for your gun and pellet combination to start shooting at their optimum level of accuracy it’s necessary to add some lead to make up for what you’ve just removed.

The bore needs a thin coating of lead to reduce friction – the trick is keep on top of it and not let it build up too much. The way to re-lead a perfectly clean bore is simply to shoot some pellets. It can take as few as five or as many as 50, but you’ll know when you’ve got it right as you’ll see your groups really tighten up.

5. Head Size

Pellets are sold by brand, type and calibre, but can also be sold by head size. Taking the example of a .177 pellet, which is nominally 4.5mm in diameter, you may find pellets being offered in a variety of head sizes such as 4.49mm, 4.50mm, 4.51mm, 4.52mm or 4.53mm.

This does make it slightly harder to find the most accurate pellet as there are now more variables to take account of, but that difference of just one hundredth of a millimetre can make all the difference, so it’s best to try what’s available to find out for yourself.

6. Buy In Batches

Pellets are made using a number of different dies, and while the manufacturer’s aim is to make 100% identical pellets all the time, there may be tiny differences between different batches from different dies. Some tins have the number of the batch they came from printed on a label, usually on the bottom of the tin.

Target shooters in particular will find a specific pellet that shoots really well in their rifle, check the batch number and then buy as many additional tins as they can from the same batch to maintain consistency.

7. Keep It Simple

Some manufacturers don’t offer their pellets by batch number or head size as they are confident that their ammunition will shoot really well regardless.

Rangemaster Sovereign is a pellet like this, and is an excellent choice to use for initial accuracy testing if you’re not sure exactly which ammo works best for you. It may well turn out to be the case that your starting pellet delivers excellent results straight away, making it the only pellet you’ll ever need for that particular airgun.

Wilkins Pellet Pouch: The Wilkins Pellet Pouch is a great way to carry ammo in the field or at the range – but put it back in the tin if it’s not going to be used for a while

8. Pellet Prep

Once the ideal pellet has been found, some shooters like to go one step further and carry out some extra steps to try to ensure their ammunition is as consistent and accurate as possible.

That means washing them in soapy water, weighing them on a set of digital scales to ensure they are shooting pellets of exactly the same weight, then adding a lubricant such as Napier Power Pellet Lube. Any combination of these techniques may offer a big increase in accuracy – or it may have no effect at all. You can experiment for yourself to see if the gains downrange are worth the time you’ll need to invest to properly pamper your projectiles. 

9. Straight From The Tin

Manufacturing quality and consistency is on the rise, meaning the pellets on sale today are cleaner and more uniform in terms of size, shape and weight than ever before. Many target shooters of yesteryear would always carry out some form of pellet prep, but nowadays there may be no advantage and you’ll get excellent accuracy from your ammunition just by picking your pellets straight from the tin.

10. Stowage And Storage

Airgun ammunition depends on two things for it to be useful: it needs to be where you need it, when you need it, and it needs to be kept in perfect condition. It used to be the case that hunters would grab a handful of pellets and pop them in their jacket pocket, but that means they can pick up dirt or pocket lint, which could very well affect their performance.

A pellet pouch is a better idea for a hunting trip as it will keep the ammo clean and dry. Pellets should also be kept clean and dry when they are not being used, so it’s always better to store them indoors rather than in a damp shed over winter where they could start to oxidise.

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