UK airgun distribution giant, Armex, has launched the Airstream brand of pellet – designated 45 in .177 and 55 in .22, the latter being available in medium weight and a slightly longer, 21-grain heavyweight.
My brief this month is to test the 15-grain 55s in a sub-12ft/lb rifle, though – apparently they’re selling like hot cakes!
You may well think you’ve seen these pellets before and, to an extent, you’d be right.
They have a resemblance to the Pax Defiant, but are a little heavier and don’t have the ‘petal’ splits in the skirt.
Airstreams are different from traditional diabolos in that they lack a waist. The design of a waisted diabolo is akin to a shuttlecock, where its flared tail serves to correct any deviation from the flightpath.
The Airstream does offer a slight skirt to the airflow, but it serves more as a bearing surface to keep the pellet concentric and sealed in the barrel.
To keep it accurate in flight, the Airstream instead draws heavily on gyroscopic forces. It’s a system which works for bullets and has the added payback of increased energy retention at the target – a very desirable quality in a hunting scenario.
Examination of the pellets showed them to be very finely made and of consistent weight, with any imperfections bordering on microscopic. I happen to be familiar with the machinery these pellets are made on, and it’s modern state-of-the-art stuff.
Any microscopic variation is picked up by the machine and an equally microscopic compensation is made in cutting the slug blank.
The pellets all come from a single spark-eroded die, too, with the net result that each pellet is pretty much a clone of its siblings.
As a final detail, the pellets are sealed in a plastic bag prior to being placed in the protective box, the bag preventing oxidation during storage.
I zeroed at 35 yards, the maximum I’d consider for hunting with a sub-12ft/lb air rifle.
I allowed the barrel time to bed in with the new ammo and decided to use my Daystate’s magazine rather than its single shot tray; there are arguments for and against each type of loading, but most PCP hunters use a magazine in the real world.
Test groups at 35 yards returned really good results.
You can see from my typical 10-shot group opposite that eight are in a really tight cluster, well inside a tiny 5p piece. Tell me that’s not impressive!
And the two that leaked out of the group were still contained within a 2p-sized circle.
For hunting, these are superior field rounds inside my self-imposed 35-yard maximum range – but for the curious plinker (or .22 HFT shooter who needs match-type accuracy at 45 yards), I spent some time printing groups on the 50-yard cards.
While I got good clusters at this extreme range, a noticeable number also wandered out of the main group. The drop was also rather marked, but that’s .22 for you!
By the time I got round to the 25-yard targets, the wind had picked up and was affecting the lateral point of impact. The Airstream 55s would probably score tighter still in perfect conditions if the 35-yard results are anything to go by.
The chrono readings told an interesting story and one I’d expected to see.
Starting from 587fps, the velocity retained by the 35-yard point was a healthy 494fps. A loss of less than 100fps by 35 yards is the sign of a very efficient pellet.
In power terms, from its 11.47ft/lb start point, the Airstream was still delivering over 8.1ft/lb at a 35-yard target. For me, that puts it in the premier league as far as energy efficiency is concerned.
The Airstream loses a little stability beyond 35 yards because as it slows down, the gyroscopic stabilisation begins to wane.
It’s by no means a ‘bad’ or atypical result, just a vagary of the design. Those with an FAC-rated air rifle may well see an extension of performance as the extra velocity should keep it stable for further – my tip would be to sample both the 15- and 21-grain versions.
Let’s not lose sight of what the specification is. This ammo has one role: it’s an out-and-out hunting pellet.
Let’s face it, it’s a bit expensive to plink with and target shooting is predominantly a .177 activity.
The Airstream’s design is a good compromise between long-range accuracy and efficiency, with the bias toward hunting distances.
At these ranges, it’s both very accurate and hard-hitting. It’s the thinking man’s combination if you like, one for the responsible hunter to consider.
In fact, I’d place the Airstream 55 in my own top five choice of ‘best pellets for hunting’.