Choosing the right pellet assures meeting the airgun goals you have in mind.  When I was a kid there were but two choices in airgun projectiles: BBs and basic flat-nosed pellets. Today a vast variety of options can make pellet choice seemingly overwhelming and even confusing. A few general rules serve you well, based entirely on intended use and expectations.

The obvious starting point is caliber. Many GAMO airguns come in .177 and .22 calibers, customers often given a choice of caliber within a single model, other models offered in one or the other. The two aren’t even remotely interchangeable, so check packaging carefully before purchasing pellets. A quick note on caliber choice: Generally, .17 is the most popular all-round caliber for plinking and target practice, and the lightest game such as smaller birds like starlings or pigeons, or gofers and squirrels at less than 25 yards. A .22-caliber is generally best for hunting small game up to and including rabbits and raccoons, though 22s can deliver top-notch accuracy and there’s no reason why they can’t serve as target/practice rifles.

If planning to do nothing more than casual plinking and target practice, shooting cans and punching holes in paper, the best pellet choice normally hinges on affordability. There’s no reason to invest in premium pellets for nonchalant shooting. And because you’re not targeting small game; lighter, faster alloy pellets are welcomed. Any time I purchase a new air gun I invest in a budget assortment, like GAMO’s Precision Combo Pack (including Hunter, Magnum, Master Point and Match pellets in .17 caliber; TS-22, Hunter, Magnum and Master Point in .22-caliber) to learn which the gun prefers and shoots the tightest groups with.

Others demand more from their shooting, looking for ultimate accuracy while shooting official targets or at longer ranges. Terminal impact isn’t critical but pin-point accuracy is, opening options to alloy designs engineered for tight groups. GAMO’s Match Lead Free is one such example, providing maximum velocity, clean target punches and excellent accuracy. This also opens options for pointed pellets, which often provide better long-range ballistic coefficients and flatter trajectory. The TS-10 and TS-22 (.17 and .22 caliber), Magnum and Master Point are great examples in this class. Though, like reloading center-fire rifle ammunition, you might find your air rifle relinquishes top accuracy from a very specific pellet, no matter design, so it pays to audition many different types to discover that magic accuracy pill.


Where pellet selection becomes more critical is when hunting small game. You want terminal performance suited to the target, conditions and ranges most encountered. The smallest targets, small birds like starlings, ring-necked doves or pigeons aren’t as demanding as larger mammals, as they’re inherently fragile and succumb to shock easily. Tree squirrels, for instance, are fairly tough, but since they’re normally shot from tree branches they rarely become lost to brush or burrows. Then there are ground squirrels, gophers and such that aren’t any bigger or tougher than tree squirrels, but without maximum impact are apt to retreat down burrows if not anchored convincingly. Finally, you have the largest air-gun fodder, such as common cottontail rabbits, crows, possums or raccoons nosing around the trash or hen coop.

What you want is a balance of maximum shock and tissue damage on impact combined with ample penetration to perforate vitals on heart-lung-area shots or hard skulls on head shots. You want an expanding pellet with maximum mass—say 7-plus grains in .17, better yet, 14-plus grains in .22-cal. A couple of my favorites include GAMO’s 7.8-/15.43-grain/.17/.22-caliber Red Fire and 9.6-/16.2-grain/.17-/.22-caliber Rocket. These are tipped hollow-points, the former with red polymer tip, the later with steel “BB,” both tips increasing accuracy but also initiating pellet expansion. The 14.4-grain Bullet PBA is soft copper that hits hard in .22-caliber; the 7.8-grain Tomahawk including sharp point within a hollow-point for maximum .17-cal smack down. These pellets cost a bit more, but are a small price to pay to assure clean, fast kills on game.

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John Augustine
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