How We Test For The Most Accurate Air Rifle Pellet

In this post, we look at how Hard Air Magazine finds the most accurate air rifle pellet for each airgun we test.

Accuracy Is A Systems Outcome

Firstly it’s important to understand that accurate air rifle shooting is actually the result of a complete shooting system.

Of course, that system includes the pellet! Different weights and shapes of pellet will shoot differently. Furthermore, if a tin of “the same” pellets actually vary considerably in in size, shape and weight, it’s very likely that they will land in a different place on the target.

But accuracy also is dependent on multiple other factors.

These include the air rifle itself. How inherently accurate is the gun’s barrel? How consistent is the FPS it gives pellets each time it is shot?

Then there’s the sights or scope. How precise, consistent and stable is the riflescope you are using? How good is the optical quality? Does it have a suitable reticle for your shooting (not too thick or thin)?

How We Test For The Most Accurate Air Rifle Pellet

Then there are two larger – and often less controllable – variables.

The shooting environment is one. In particular the wind between you and the target. Is the wind consistent? Where’s it blowing from? How strong is it?

Finally we have what can often be the largest variable of all. The shooter!

The best way to overcome these variables is to make each accuracy test as consistent as possible. In HAM testing, we aim to minimize as many variables as possible. This enables us to find the most accurate air rifle pellet.

Multiple Tests

To date, HAM has published 79 comprehensive, comparable air rifle test reviews for .177 and .22 caliber air rifles. Obviously that’s a HUGE amount of testing! What makes this a vital resource is that each review includes accuracy tests with the same seven types of pellets.

Every HAM review includes 7 test targets (one for each pellet type). Each test target received 10 shots. This means that this HAM advice is based on the results of shooting 553 test targets – a total of 5,530 shots. And they have all been published online for you to see!

Here’s a list of the standard HAM test pellets. The logic for each choice is explained below.

.177 Caliber.22 Caliber
Gamo Raptor Platinum 4.7 GrainGamo Raptor Platinum 9.7 Grain
H&N Field Target Trophy Green 5.56 GrainH&N Field Target Trophy Green 10.03 Grain
RWS Hobby 7.0 GrainRWS Hobby 11.9 Grain
Crosman Premier HP 7.9 GrainCrosman Premier HP 14.3 Grain
JSB Exact Diabalo 8.44 GrainJSB Jumbo Exact 14.35 Grain
H&N Field Target Trophy 8.64 GrainH&N Field Target Trophy 14.66 Grain
H&N Baracuda Match 10.65 GrainH&N Baracuda Match 21.14 Grain

This is an unequalled amount of consistent airgun pellet accuracy test data. It means that we can compare the test targets from every one of these reviews and draw some definite conclusions about the most accurate air rifle pellet in a wide range of air rifles.

Note that HAM has – of course – tested larger caliber airguns. However this review concentrates on .177 and .22 calibers as we have the most data on these. More data leads to more accurate conclusions.

Below. From left to right we see two lead wadcutter pellets, then a pointed dome and a conventional domed pellet.

How We Test For The Most Accurate Air Rifle Pellet

Indoor Test Ranges

By undertaking all these tests in indoor basement ranges, environmental differences have been minimized. There’s no wind and the temperature and humidity is reasonably consistent, too.

The downside of this is that it has limited testing to 10 Yards range – this being the minimum available to all the HAM testers. The upside is the removal of environmental variables, together with minimizing the effect of the individual shooter.

Accuracy differences are clearly discernable at 10 Yards, as can be seen from any Hard Air Magazine test review. Sure, they would be more apparent at longer range, but it’s very likely that a pellet that’s inaccurate at 10 Yards will also be inaccurate at 50 Yards or more.

The other reason for testing at 10 Yards range is to allow us to test ANY type of air rifle. This means that we can use the same range and target to test a Crosman 760 and a Daystate Regal – for example. This consistency means that our conclusions can be applied generally across all the pellet-shooting air rifles we’ve tested.

With no longer indoor test ranges available, testing would have to move outdoors.

How We Test For The Most Accurate Air Rifle Pellet

Yes, we also test air rifles at 25 Yards range, but these 25 Yard tests are conducted outdoor and so subject to the elements. Here, geography comes into play.

Being based in Up-State New York, we have been known to have cold winters with lots of snow!

So if we just used outdoor test ranges as standard, there would be three or four months a year unavailable for testing due to bad weather conditions. That would severely limit the number of airgun test reviews that could be managed in a year.

Ten Shot Groups

Most airgun testing you see is done with 5-shot groups. HAM testing uses 10-shot groups. Ten-shot groups are inevitably larger than ones produced by five shots.

However, the larger number shots per target increases the statistical confidence of the results. This makes it easier for us to identify the most accurate air rifle pellet for any specific gun.

Capable Shooters

HAM test reviews are conducted by a small number of capable, experienced shooters. Most are Field Target specialists. All really know how to shoot!

Again, capable shooters firing from rests remove most of the variability inherent in different people shooting. This means that the test targets record the effects of pellet and air rifle, rather than individual shooting brilliance.

Below, Doug Rogers is the main HAM specialist PCP tester.

How We Test For The Most Accurate Air Rifle Pellet

Choice Of Pellets

When we started HAM air rifle test reviews, we chose a set number of pellets to use each time. To keep things to manageable proportions, it was decided to use seven types of pellets for each test.

These pellets were chosen to represent the general types of pellets that most shooters would consider. So we chose samples from the following groups:
– Lightweight lead-free pellets
– Light lead wadcutters
– Mid-weight lead domed pellets
– Mid weight hollow point lead pellets
– Heavy domed lead pellets

It can possibly be regretted that no pointed pellet was included, like these JSB Stratons.

However the HAM Team strongly believed that pointed pellets were generally less accurate than domed pellets. In fact this is due to the manufacturing difficulty of ensuring that the point is located in EXACTLY the same position for every pellet.

During other testing, we’ve seen no evidence to make us change our position about the accuracy of pointed pellets.

For consistency, we decided to use – where possible – the same type of pellet in both .177 and .22 calibers. The pellets chosen also had to be reasonably well-known and readily-available for purchase, both online and in physical stores.

Logic For Each Pellet Choice

Working upwards by weight, here are the reasons for choosing each type of pellet used in HAM air rifle testing…

Gamo Platinum Pellets

Due to the overwhelming interest in maximum Muzzle Velocity, we needed to find the lightest lead-free pellets available. All other things being equal, lighter pellets shoot faster…

These were the lightest we could find when developing the HAM test protocol. They are also available in both .177 and .22 calibers. Furthermore, Gamo pellets are widely available in physical stores, so are a common choice for many “non specialist” airgunners.

H&N Field Target Trophy Green Pellets

As a second, slightly heavier lead-free pellet, these were a logical choice. Again available in both calibers, these domed pellets have a blunter profile than the fairly pointed Gamos.

RWS Hobby Pellets

In order to test maximum Muzzle Velocity with lead pellets, we needed the lightest available. That led logically to selecting the Hobbys. Available in both calibers, these pellets also included a flat-fronted, wadcutter pellet into the mix. Again, they’re widely available at retail.

Crosman Premier Hollow Point Pellets

Also available in both .177 and .22 calibers. Premier Hollow Points are available everywhere and are a common choice for impulse purchasers in physical stores. They also happen to have a great reputation as an “all round” pellet that works well in many types of airgun.

The hollow point configuration added another configuration to the mix. Also the lead of these pellets is demonstrably much harder than that of many other types.

JSB Exact and Jumbo Pellets

Obviously we had to include JSB pellets due to their reputation for accuracy and quality! So these mid-weight domed lead pellets were a natural for the mix. The 8.44 Grain and 14.35 Grain weights were chosen to be the most similar to each other in general characteristics.

H&N Field Target Trophy

The other classic mid-weight domed lead pellet is the Field Target Trophy. Available in both calibers, it was chosen as a “control” to the JSBs to see if significant differences would emerge between two similar types of pellets of similar weights.

H&N Baracuda Match

In order to test maximum Muzzle Energy claims, we needed to choose a heavy pellet. The Baracudas fitted the bill as being among the heaviest for their weight and available in both calibers. They also have a long, semi-pointed profile, differentiating them from the lighter domed pellets.

How We Test For The Most Accurate Air Rifle Pellet

Moving Forward.

So that’s the background to the “How” and “Why” of HAM testing to find the most accurate air rifle pellet. Having reviewed the methodology like this, we will be able to better appreciate the results that we’ll find in the next posts in this series.

Check out the other posts in this series:

Part One.

Part Three.

Part Four.

Part Five.