This is a very hot topic, especially if you spend any time in the various airgun groups out there. Just a few years ago, airgun slugs were only for the niche airgun enthusiasts. Now, they have become mainstream, and more and more shooters expect to be able to shoot them. First, let’s talk about why airgunners want to shoot slugs, and then we’ll talk about what airgun ammo manufacturers are doing to leverage the slug momentum. Let’s get started!
Why Shoot Pellets?
Pellet guns are made for pellets, right? Well, yes. But let’s look at how that all happened. When airguns first started, they did not generate the velocities we easily get today, so shooters needed something to shoot that would be inherently stable. Sure, rifling helps, but when you have most of the weight forward and a “skirt” that acts like fletching on an arrow, your projectile will stay pointing forward. If you tried to shoot slugs in these old airguns, they would probably get stuck in the bore or tumble to the target.
Why Shoot Slugs?
Today we have more powerful airguns, CNC machined barrels, and other advancements. And not just with high-end airguns, but entry-level airguns like the Umarex Origin all benefit from these enhancements. Enter the airgun enthusiast that wants “more.” More range, accuracy at range, and lethality and energy at the point of impact. Airgun slugs bring the hope of “more” to airgunners.
Here are some key features that make slugs “better,” at least ballistically, than pellets. They are solid and generally heavier, delivering more energy on target. They don’t have a skirt, so their ballistic coefficient (drag) is more like a bullet providing a much “flatter” trajectory for long-range shooting.
A pellet is more like a badminton shuttle cock which goes fast right at first but then slows down very fast, a slug slips through the air with much less resistance and retains its velocity well past pellets. If you shot a pellet at 1000 FPS and then shot a slug of equal weight at the same velocity, the pellet is going to hit the ground way before the slug.
Why Don’t We All Shoot Slugs?
As mentioned above, until recently, slugs were only for airgun enthusiasts. Boutique manufacturers like Mr. Hollowpoint hand-made small batches of specialty ammo which folks gobbled up. And, unless you had a special barrel, they may not shoot well. Most airgun barrels are “choked” right at the muzzle. This is where the diameter is reduced just enough to compress the pellet and stabilize it on the way out. Slugs generally don’t respond well to a choked barrel, so, if you wanted to shoot slugs, you’d probably be hunting a replacement barrel which often had to be custom-made, i.e., expensive and risky as it may not work.
Can Regular Airguns Shoot Slugs?
So now we get to the question at hand, and the short answer is YES. So what’s changed? A couple of years ago (say 2020), mainstream airgun pellet makers realized they needed to address the slug issue. But building slugs where people had to buy special barrels would not work. H&N was one of the first big pellet makers to attack the slug problem. They did so with unique designs, sizes, and weights that allowed airgunners to dial in and find the right slug for their barrel, choked or not.
Take a look at the H&N Slug HP Hollowpoint Sampler. It’s available in various calibers and various sizes in each caliber. In addition, each sampler has samples of each weight option for that caliber and size. These affordable packs make all the difference.
Not to be left out, JSB released their JSB Knockout slugs which are now available in .177, .22, .25, and .30. Most recently, and to address this very issue, they released MKII versions of their slugs which introduce a tiny flare on the back of the slug. While this sort of goes back to the “skirt” concept, it’s not nearly as pronounced and does not cause the dramatic hit to the ballistic coefficient that a full skirt does on a pellet. This new hybrid design opens the doors for even more “regular” airguns to get on the slug train.
Airgunners that wanted to reach past 100 yards with small-bore pellet guns only had one option: to brute force their way past poor pellet ballistics. But now, with slugs extending range and power for small-bore airguns, we don’t know what’s next. Shooters are getting accurate results and hundreds of yards. The sky really is the limit here. We are excited to see where things go, and we are happy to be part of the process of helping shooters match guns and ammo to maximize their airgunning addiction. If you have questions about what would work best for you, just give us a call, and we’ll be happy to help.