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FPS or FPE what’s the difference?

What's the best measure when picking a new airgun?

First of all, please forgive me if over the course of time, I tend to repeat myself here and there. When writing over 100 articles per year for this blog, it’s bound to happen! Also, there are going to be topics that simply warrant repetition, and this, in my opinion, is certainly one of them.

1650 FPS – Best airgun ever?

I have to admit that early on I certainly bought the hype. I was just getting into airguns and I saw the “monster” Gamo Hunter Extreme putting down wild boar with a .177 PBA pellet shooting 1600+ FPS. (Now that I’m a more educated airgunner, I would in no way ever advocate such a shot or the promotion of a product with that kind of shot.) It must be the best airgun ever. Then I actually got one. Hum.. This may not be the best airgun ever. I actually have the Hunter Extreme in all 3 calibers here in my shop, .177, .22, and .25. None of them come close to the “up to” velocities even with the lightest pellets. For giggles I pulled out my .177 and fired RWS Hobbies and the PBA Platinum ammo across my chronograph this morning. I’m still waiting for my ears to stop ringing as they both blew way past supersonic. The RWS Hobbies shot over 1190 FPS and the PBA Platinum pellets shot aroung 1400 FPS. But is that’s really the best “measure” of an airgun?

My Gamo Hunter Extreme .177

My Gamo Hunter Extreme .177

If not FPS then what?

The truth of the matter, is that FPS is easily manipulated. Would I have been as impressed if I saw the .177 Hunter Extreme advertised as shooting 950 FPS? Probably not. In fact if I saw the Hunter Extreme with “shoots .177 pellets up to 950 FPS” next to a competitor’s “shoot up to 1200 FPS” airgun, I’d certainly be swayed to the 1200 FPS product. What’s not told is what ammo was used to achieve the numbers. My .177 Hunter Extreme shoots the 10.31 grain Baracuda Hunter pellets around 950 FPS. This is a much more effective pellet than the 4.7 grain PBA Platinum which is essentially like shooting lint out of the gun.

Gamo Hunter Extreme Velocity Claimes on the Barrel.

Gamo Hunter Extreme Velocity Claimes on the Barrel.

Let’s look at FPE then.

FPE is foot pounds of energy. It is calculated when you take the velocity and weight of the pellet into consideration. (click here for a handy calculator!). It is a much better measure of the effectiveness of an airgun, but still not at all conclusive. (Man my ears are STILL ringing.. should have used ear plugs!) When you do the math, taking the extremes of our two sample pellets, you’ll find that they both product just over 20 FPE. So that’s really not going to help us here. What we need is a 3rd point to bring the whole thing in to focus.

FPE WITH accuracy is the measure

You can have velocity. You can have energy. But, if you don’t have accuracy at your required range, you’ve still got nothing. This is the hardest nut to crack. The reason is this, the biggest variable here is not pellet weight, velocity, or scope mount inclination, but the shooter themselves.

When I first got my Hunter Extreme from Gamo years ago, I put it through every test I could imagine. My conclusion was that I didn’t like the rifle. Not at all. I used every pellet I could get my hands on. I used every possible method of hold while bench shooting. I even tried engineering my own “airgun” rifle rest system. Nothing worked to tame this beast and get decent accuracy.

I thought all hope was lost until…

Since I couldn’t get any accuracy shooting from a bench at my place in South Carolina, I decided to take this “piece of junk” to our Texas ranch and leave it there as a conversation piece. At least it would be good for that. While there I decided to go on a quick hunting trek and figured I’d give the Hunter Extreme one last shot to do something right.

I have to admit that what happened that day still brings a smile to my face. While the Gamo Hunter Extreme couldn’t seem to hit the broad side of a barn when shooting from a bench, from the shoulder, it was simply amazing. I had never even considered giving it a try just shooting free hand. I’m not sure that I could ever shoot any sort of decent “groups” free handed, but I could obviously hit the kill zone on game with relative ease. I dropped a huge jack (along with several other varmints) that day from about 40 yards out. One shot, shot him dead as a doornail.

So what did we learn from all this?

First thing that I’ve learned is that my ears are STILL ringing and I should have used ear plugs this morning to get those chrony numbers. But besides that, I’ve learned that you can’t really trust any “numbers” as the definitive measure of whether or not an airgun’s “good” or “bad.” It’s all going to come down to the intended purpose and the shooter. There are some guidelines that can help (take a look at the 5 part series of “Which airgun is Better or Best“), but in the end you may have to actually pull the trigger to know for sure.

Have questions or comments? Please share them with us here. We love to hear from our readers!

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