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Pellets – Your airgun’s 4 basic food groups (Updated)

There are many different types of airgun pellets available in each caliber.  Almost every pellet can be classified into one of four “food groups.” These are: wadcutter, hollowpoint, pointed, and domed. In the past, most pellets fell neatly into these groups, but as the capabilities of airguns increased, so has the creativity of pellet makers.

It seems that power has been the main driving force with airgunners, but don’t we all want accuracy above all else? Airgun construction is critical. But perhaps more critical is the composition and manufacturing consistency of your airgun ammo.  If you want the best results, you often have to be willing to pay for the best ammo to get them.  Premium ammo, 95 times out of 100, is going to deliver better results than “less premium” ammo.  

Some of today’s hyper precision actually require a specific head size to the 100ths of a millimeter.  Your premium ammo like the H&N Field Target Trophy pellets have this printed right on the can. (.22 ammo is technically 5.5mm.  Ultra-precision ammo will come as 5.51, 5.52, 5.53, and so on!)   JSB also creates specific ammo built to a particular head size just to make sure that you get the absolute best ammo for your airgun’s performance.  Learn your gun. Learn what it likes.  But also, never be afraid to experiment and try new things.

Now let’s get started.

Wadcutter Pellets
A wadcutter pellet is distinguished by its perfectly flat head. Typically used for precision target shooting as they leave a perfectly round hole in the target making it very easy to score on a shot card. They can also be effective on game at very close range. However, because of their poor ballistic coefficient, their accuracy and energy drops very quickly. Virtually every pellet manufacturer makes wadcutter pellets for both match grade and also for generic plinking.  Some are very affordable and perfect for casual shooting or plinking.

Hollowpoint Pellets
Hollowpoint pellets are designed for hunting applications and have some sort of cavity in the head (top of the pellet).  This is designed to expand and prevent passthrough when shooting at game.  As the pellet makes contact with its intended target, the hollow head of the pellet expands, causing the diameter of the pellet to increase, thus transferring more energy into your target and making a larger wound channel.  It’s important to note that in order for the head of the pellet to expand, it needs to have sufficient velocity on impact to cause the expansion.  Higher powered airguns achieve this easily.   You can test your airgun’s ability to propel hollow point pellets to a usable velocity by shooting into a ballistic medium. Don’t use clay or some other dense material as it will not yield accurate results.

Pointed Pellets
Pointed pellets are a class of pellet that has a sharp point for its head.  These pellets promise enhanced penetration over accuracy or expansion. In my tests I have found pointed pellets to be the least accurate of all the pellet groups. However, there are always those exceptions where they proved to be the best in a particular airgun. The RWS super points are a good example of a pointed pellet that can surprise you. Since you never really know what’s going to be the best pellet in your airgun it’s always good to have a variety, and these should be a part of that inventory.

Domed Pellets
Domed pellets have a round top which makes sense given their designation.  They are also the most versatile.  They can offer decent penetration, deformation, and even some minimal expansion on small game, provided the metal is soft enough and the impact velocity high enough.  Moving beyond hunting applications, domed pellets like the JSB Jumbo or JSB Jumbo Heavy pellets are often some of the most accurate pellets, hands down.  Their alloy is a bit “softer” than other brands which allows them to really engage the rifling for increased stability.  They are also meticulously sorted for defects at the factory which ensures the highest level of consistency practical.  

Domed pellets are really airgunners “go-to” pellets for most shooting applications.  Where the other pellet types all have their utility, quality domed pellets rule the market for their usefulness in nearly all airgun shooting applications and disciplines.

Hybrid Pellets
While Wadcutters, Hollow Points, Pointed, and Domed pellets are your four basic types of pellets, there are some other options on the market.  Let’s call them hybrid types.  You have pointed pellets combined with a deep hollow point with pellets like the Gamo RedFire, JSB Polymags, H&N Hornets, etc.  There are also some pellets that have been combined with hard metal tips, both BBs and sharp points, to achieve crazy penetration on harder objects, and the market just keeps growing.  

Want to know more about all the options and what may work on your airgun specifically?  Be sure to reach out to us here at Airgun Depot. We are here to help you hit your target!

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There are many different types of airgun pellets available in each caliber.  Almost every pellet can be classified into one of four “food groups.” These are: wadcutter, hollowpoint, pointed, and domed. In the past, most pellets fell neatly into these groups, but as the capabilities of airguns increased, so has the creativity of pellet makers. […]