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Airgun Pellet Penetration. Is Fastest Best for Hunting?

Many airgun hunters are interested in airgun pellet penetration. The more penetration the better for small game, in particular, in order to achieve a humane, one shot kill.

And there’s much information out there saying that lighter, faster pellets give better penetration. But is that true?

HAM decided to run a simple airgun pellet penetration test. We took three well-known and well-regarded H&N pellets and fired each one from the same .177 caliber air rifle into identical blocks of soap. The range was 10 yards for each shot. A ruler was placed on top of the soap blocks for calibration in the photographs.

We fired one alloy (lead free) pellet, the 5.56 Grain H&N Field Target Trophy Green Pellet. Of course, this achieved a higher muzzle velocity than the two heavier lead pellets. But it also had the lowest muzzle energy. The H&N Baracuda – the slowest pellet – achieved the highest muzzle energy due to its greater mass.

This table gives the results.

Pellet TypeMuzzle VelocityPellet WeightMuzzle EnergyPenetration in Soap
H&N Baracuda Match 792 fps10.65 Grains14.8 Ft/Lbs2-inches
H&N Field Target Trophy838 fps8.64 Grains12.0 Ft/Lbs1 9/16-inches
H&N Field Target Trophy Green938 fps5.56 Grains7.7 Ft/Lbs1 7/16-inches

As you can see, the SLOWEST pellet actually achieved the greatest penetration in HAM’s ballistic soap test. The fastest pellet gave the least penetration.

This is yet another reminder that headline high muzzle velocity is not the only, or best, criterion on which to base a buying decision for airgun hunting. Accuracy, plus airgun pellet penetration can be far more important than muzzle velocity to gain that humane, one shot kill.

The result for the heavy H&N Baracuda Match pellet is shown in the top photo.

Below we see the penetration obtained by the mid-weight H&N Field target Trophy pellet.

Airgun Pellet Penetration

And here’s the least airgun pellet penetration: obtained from the fastest pellet!

Airgun Pellet Penetration

But where to find these pellets? You can try these three major online dealers, they all carry large, and different stocks:

Airguns of Arizona
Airgun Depot
Pyramyd Air Airgun Pellets