What’s the Best Airgun Caliber – .22 or .25?
It’s a common question. What’s the best airgun caliber for me? In this post, we’ll examine some of the differences between .22 cal and .25 caliber PCP air rifles to help you make your own decision.
This area of the market is red hot right now. Sales of .177 caliber PCPs are very slow in the USA and .30 caliber is definitely too large for most of us. So many new airgunners are wondering how to choose between .22 and .25 caliber.
To help answer the question, we can compare the HAM test results from our comprehensive reviews of the Umarex Gauntlet. Very unusually, HAM has reviewed the Gauntlet in both calibers. This gives us some hard data to work from. Here’s the .22 cal. review. This is for the .25 cal.
Also, the Gauntlet is a pretty simple design, with a relatively small number of differences between the two calibers. That helps make it easier, too.
But this analysis of the best airgun caliber does not only apply to the Gauntlet. It applies to pretty-well any PCP that’s available in both .22 and .25 calibers.
Best Airgun Caliber – Cost
Most PCP air rifles cost the same to buy in either caliber. So that’s a wash. However, .25 caliber ammo is rather more expensive.
If we compare these charts of the prices for regular lead pellets in .22 and .25 calibers, we’ll see that the Median price per pellet in .22 caliber is 4.0 cents. In .25 cal it’s 5.3 cents.
So ammo cost is about one third higher for the larger caliber. That makes sense as more lead is required for the larger caliber and the pellets are heavier on average. More lead = more cost.
If you plan to shoot a lot, ammo cost could be a big difference.
Best Airgun Caliber – Variety
Many PCP air rifle designs are available in both these calibers. But not all.
Particularly in the lower price range, there are some PCPs that are only available in .22 caliber. The Benjamin Fortitude and Maximus spring to mind, as do the Beeman Chief/Commander series and the Diana Stormrider (photo below).
So if you’re looking to spend somewhere around $300 or less on a new PCP, there will be more models available in .22 caliber. Above that price level, the majority PCPs are available in both calibers.
But there’s a very big difference in ammo availability. As we saw with our pellet price charts above, there’s something like 120 different lead pellet choices in .22 caliber – and there’s more being introduced all the time! In .25 cal. it’s around 40.
So there’s more choice in PCP air rifles and 3X the pellet choice in favor of .22 caliber. Currently there’s many more slugs available in .22 caliber than .25. But successful slug shooting will require a VERY powerful .22 caliber PCP!
Best Airgun Caliber – Shots Per Fill
In many cases, ,22 caliber magazines hold rather more shots than they do in .25 cal. In the case of the Gauntlet, the magazines hold 10 shots in .22 cal, compared to 8 shots in .25.
More High Pressure Air is required to propel a larger, heavier .25 caliber pellet than is the case in .22 cal. So it’s not surprising to find that the number of shots per fill available from the HPA tank is much larger in .22 cal.
In the case of the Gauntlet – and likely most other PCPs – the regulator pressure is set higher for use in .25 caliber (1,900 PSI) than for .22 cal (1,100 PSI).
The HPA tank size is the same for Gauntlets in both calibers. So it’s again not surprising to find that HAM testing showed the .22 caliber Gauntlet to deliver about 70 consistent shots, compared to 30 in .25 cal.
Here we have a benefit of 20% more shots per fill of the magazine and well over 2X the number of shots per fill of HPA. Particularly if you’re hand pumping, that could be a big advantage for the smaller caliber.
Best Airgun Caliber – Power
Here’s where .25 caliber generally comes to the fore…
The .22 caliber Gauntlet delivered a maximum Muzzle Energy of 22.2 Ft/Lbs on test. That compares to 45.81 Ft/Lbs achieved by the .25 caliber version.
So if you need knock-down power for hunting, it’s no contest! The larger caliber will give you something like 2 x the impact of the same gun in .22 caliber.
Best Airgun Caliber – Noise
As both .22 and .25 caliber air rifles are most likely to produce Muzzle Velocities lower than the Speed of Sound (approx. 1,100 FPS) with lead pellets, both will be roughly equal in “backyard friendliness”.
Generally, .25 cal could be slightly louder as more High Pressure Air is being used for each shot. But the difference will not be significant with most shrouded airguns.
However, if you have a powerful .22 caliber PCP and are firing light weight (alloy) pellets, it’s possible that Muzzle Velocities in excess of 1,100 FPS could be produced. In that case the result will be LOUD as the pellet will produce a sonic boom when fired. The answer is easy: shoot heavier ammo!
Best Airgun Caliber – Accuracy
In overall HAM testing, we find no significant difference in accuracy between the two calibers.
Sure, a group of .25 caliber pellets on a target looks a whole lead bigger than a .22 caliber group with the same Center-To-Center measurement, but that’s due to the larger diameter of the pellets themselves.
If you keep Muzzle Velocity in the “Sweet Spot” between around 800 and 950 FPS, either caliber will give similar accuracy. Providing you use quality ammo, of course!
Best Airgun Caliber – Conclusions
Of course there are more ways that you could compare the two different calibers, but this comparison covers the questions many people have.
As we see, .22 caliber is best if you want the largest choice of PCP air rifles and pellets. It offers lower overall shooting cost and you’ll get more shots per fill of pellets and air.
.25 caliber is best if you plan to hunt.
Accuracy and noise levels will generally be similar in either caliber.
So the choice is down to you and the type of shooting you do…