Are you new to airguns? Are you confused as to what may be the best choice for your needs? Here are some things you want to consider when working through the various options.
FPS is NOT what determines a rifle’s effectiveness…
These days, manufacturers “sell” their airguns based on how fast they can shoot. Faster is better right? This is a topic that I’ve hit on many times, but it’s a critical one that needs to be addressed over and over until manufacturers realize that it’s very misleading, especially to new airgunners. Currently there’s really no standard by which these guns are measured, so everything is fluid.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Back in the day, Gamo had their 1000 FPS airguns. They would shoot 7.0 grain lead pellets, about the lightest lead pellets on the market, up to about 1000 FPS fairly reliably. They then released their lighter weight alloy pellet, the gold plated PBA ammo, and their guns suddenly became 1200 FPS airguns. The gun did not change, just the ammo used changed in order to achieve the “up to” velocity claims. Crosman soon followed suit and their 1000 FPS guns suddenly became 1200 FPS guns as well, using their own super lightweight pellets. You’ll find this on just about any rifle you see in the big-box outlets. The graphics on the box will boast insane velocity and then state “up to” with “alloy” pellets somewhere in the fine print. Unfortunately there’s nothing about accuracy, range, or effective accuracy at a given range. This is very confusing to airgunners just starting out.Gamo Silent Cat .177 Air Rifle with 4×32 Scope – Box states up to 1200 with alloy pellets or 1000 FPS with light lead pellets typically (7.0 grain RWS Hobby pellets). My my Silent Cat shoots the 7.0 grain Hobby Pellets pellets at 989 FPS, which is fairly close to 1000 FPS.
Why supersonic velocity can kill airgun accuracy…
Pellets were designed to shoot and remain stable and accurate at subsonic velocities (less than 1100 FPS). Rifle bullets are designed to shoot supersonic. If you take a moment to look at the shape of a pellet vs the shape of a typical high powered rifle bullet, you’ll notice that the pellet has a skinny waist and then a flared skirt, much like the fins on an arrow, or a dart. The concept is that this creates drag and helps the pellet stay pointed in the right direction during flight. When pellets are fired supersonic, there’s a lot of turbulence during the transition back to subsonic which can destabilize the pellet and cause it to tumble, lose stability, and become very inaccurate. Now this is a general rule of thumb. There are those rare examples where airguns shooting supersonic have better accuracy, but they are very, very rare and not consistent even among the same airgun model.RWS Superdome pellets, notice the skinny waist and the flared skirt.
Helping understand the differences…
Here are some tips to help you understand the real power capability of airguns. Most airguns advertised at 1200 to 1250 FPS, will shoot lightweight lead pellets, i.e. 7.0 grain RWS Hobby pellets, between 950 and 1000 FPS. When you see airguns advertising 1300, 1400, and 1600+ FPS, they enter the super magnum airgun category. These have more powerful power plants that can often shoot the 7.0 grain lead pellets well above the sound barrier. Where they have their advantage, is that they can shoot much heavier pellets, i.e. the 10.6 grain Baracuda Match pellets, at high subsonic velocities. On paper these airguns should provide better, more consistent, accuracy at longer range.Hatsan Model 125 Sniper Camo Sniper Kit- .177 Cal with Scope, Bipod & Sling – this is an example of a super magnum airgun. Unlike other manufactures, Hatsan’s velocity numbers are tested with lead pellets. The result is a far truer representation of the potential power from the rifle’s power plant.
What other options are out there?
So far I’ve been referring to .177 caliber airguns. Some manufacturers offer the same model in .22 and even .25 that utilize the same power plant. Because the projectiles in each respective caliber are much heavier than the .177 options, you’ll see the FPS decrease greatly. A 1000 FPS power plant in .177 will shoot light lead .22 cal pellets, i.e. the 11.9 grain .22 caliber RWS Hobby pellets, at about 750 to 800 FPS. If you were to simply look at the FPS on the box, assuming that more is better, then that 750 to 800 would seem anemic compared to the 1000 FPS .177 variant of the same airgun. That assumption, depending on your intended use, would be completely incorrect. In all my years of testing, I’ve generally found the .22 version of the same gun to be more accurate and longer ranges than its .177 counterpart. I’m specifically talking about spring or gas ram airguns shooting out at 25 to 30 yards. PCP airguns are a completely different story and one I’ll be diving into as part of this series.
What about .25 cal?
I’m going to tackle this question as I jump into part 2 and I think I have an interesting analogy to help pull this together. Keep your eyes open and your web browser pointed to Airgun Depot’s Airgun University for part 2 in this series!