If accuracy is the key, then matching the right pellet to your rifle’s barrel is an essential task – and a job I was recently asked to do on behalf of a friend who couldn’t find the time necessary to confirm the right ammo brand for his .177 calibre Weihrauch HW100. He was pretty satisfied with RWS Superdome, but wanted me to try the uniquely-shaped Defiants, the 4.52 ‘HFT’ version which I’d been raving on about in my own Daystate.
I set myself up for a serious test session with not-so-serious rifle supports. As the HW100 is recoilless, I had the luxury of resting it (you can’t really do that with a springer) and placed rice bags under the stock, along with a dog cushion toy. This allowed me to make benchrest- like fine adjustments, and the granite worktops in my kitchen – the window of which I was shooting through onto my garden range – gave me the utmost stability.
As the Weihrauch isn’t mine, I spent a while working out where the sweet spot of its charge was. With the help of my Chrony chrono, I soon established that the ‘middle 50 per cent’ of the gauge’s green section, on the end of the HW’s cylinder, produced a nice 25-shot ‘window’ of consistent velocities before I needed to top up the rifle’s cylinder a little from the air bottle.
With both the Superdome and Defiant HFT, I zeroed the HW100 at 35 yards; for a .177, this generally gives a secondary zero at around 15 yards, with a 12 or 15mm peak in the trajectory above the sightline, around the 25-yard mark.
In between plenty of coffee and loo breaks – one of the downsides of having a firing point in the kitchen – I shot some cracking groups, although a stiff breeze on the test day did result in one or two fliers that I could quite easily ‘call’. The targets printed here are a representative sample of all the results which I shot over the course of a day to try and even out any discrepancies caused by the wind.
Because it’s a sky-screen type chrono, I was able to set up the Chrony downrange and simultaneously record residual velocities while testing for accuracy – although under the overcast conditions of a British winter, you have to shoot the pellets perilously close to the sensors to get a reading. As well as checking the muzzle velocity, for the purposes of the test I also took downrange velocity readings at 25, 35 and 50 yards to assess how well the pellets retained their momentum.
As you can see from the tabulated results in figures 1 and 2, and the graph in figure 3, there is a clear winner. Even though both pellets are roughly the same weight and started out at the muzzle with near-enough identical power, the Defiant retains its velocity far better downrange – an important conclusion given my pal uses his HW100 for hunting (although both pellets have more than enough stopping power to drop vermin cleanly).
Also of interest is the vertical spread shown in the graphs at the bottom– essentially how much deviation there is above and below the crosshair out to 50 yards (with the combo zeroed at 35 yards). The Defiant’s high/low spread of 65mm is 7mm ‘flatter’ than the Superdome’s – and although this isn’t much, every little helps in the field. Most shooters choose .177 calibre over .22 because its trajectory is flatter… so if you can get an even flatter-shooting .177 pellet, you may as well use it.
These figures are all well and good, but the real acid test is accuracy – because, without accuracy, any other results are pretty much meaningless. Don’t go by the position of the groups shown on the targets reproduced overleaf because the tests with one pellet were sometimes shot with the rifle zeroed with the other pellet. What’s important is the size of the group – and at 25 yards, there was nothing in it as both pellets returned fingernail-sized holes with six-shot clusters.
At 35 yards, the Defiant HFT turned in some good groups, but the wind didn’t play ball whenever I was testing the Superdome; hence they look a little wayward. Before you say that could be a sign that the RWS doesn’t handle wind well, I’m not so sure – at 50 yards, their groups were good enough to suggest I was just unlucky with the wind whenever I was testing them at 35 yards.
Indeed, the Superdome’s best five-shot group at 50 yards measured just 10mm… which was then spoiled by a gust of wind blowing the sixth shot out by another 13mm. The Defiant HFT’s best measured 18mm, with a number of overlapping shots – and I have to say that both pellets impressed me suitably enough at distance to call the downrange accuracy testing a dead-heat.
But it’s the Defiant’s energy retention that surprises me (in a pleasant way). Quite why it does this is probably down to a combination of the head shape and the less pronounced waist. The rules of aerodynamics become a little odd at small scales, hence the anecdote of the bumblebee being able to fly, when theory suggests it shouldn’t. In theory, the Defiant’s non-shuttlecock shape shouldn’t be as stable as the Superdome… but the results defy this logic.
After the tests, I told my mate that both these pellets are top performers, with enough accuracy sufficient for pest control out to the ranges he hunts over. They’d both be pretty good against targets of the knockdown variety, too, should he ever want to give Hunter Field Target a go.
However, I can see why I like the Defiant so much in my rifle. Its power retention and a slightly flatter trajectory make shooting over varying ranges just that little bit more forgiving and predictable – so when they match a barrel, accuracy-wise, that really is a good reason for using them.