Our Top Air Rifle Pellet Brands in 2021:

  1. Air Arms Pellets
  2. JSB Pellets
  3. H&N Pellets

Richard Saunders: An Experts View

All of our reviews are based upon Richard Saunders opinions. Richard has been shooting air rifles for nearly forty years. Today he hunts and carries out pest control on more than a thousand acres spread across different locations in the south of England. He is a regular contributor to Airgun Shooter magazine, writing mainly hunting features and product reviews, as well The Airgun Show on YouTube.

Introduction

Any topic that starts with ‘the best’, from a written article to a conversation in the pub, is an invitation for debate and discussion. When it comes to airgun pellets, you need to throw in the fact that a pellet that is deadly accurate in one rifle could be hopeless in another. That’s another way of saying that there simply is no all-conquering ‘best’ air rifle pellet. The nearest I can offer by way of general rule is that more expensive brands are better than cheaper ones; so having no doubt paid many hundreds of pounds for an air rifle, don’t skimp on what you put through it.

The simple fact is that each gun is different. Take two rifles of the same model and they will vary slightly in power output and set up. As a consequence, even minute variances can result in one liking a particular pellet and the other hating it. Pellets vary in weight, design and material make-up so assuming there’s nothing wrong with your rifle/scope and your ability to shoot, there will be a pellet out there for you.

Other than that, all I can offer to do is pass on what I have experienced and observed as a result of 40 odd years shooting, reviewing and testing air rifles. If you came across this because you are perhaps new to the sport and want to know which pellets you should buy, assuming your technique is sound, my advice is to buy several different brands in different weights and try them out in your rifle to see which ones give you the tightest five or ten shot groups. 

Do this at a modest range at first – say 20 yards – and once you have discarded the worst performing pellets, keep shooting with the better ones until one emerges as the producing consistently the tightest group. Then you can start pushing the distance out. And once you have found the pellet, some brands offer slightly different head sizes; a standard .22 pellet is 5.5mm and some are available in 5.51, 5.52 and 5.53mm. The same is true with .177, or 4.5mm pellets. If the brand you have identified as the best offers these variations it’s worth trying them to see if you can eek out a little more performance. 

Finally, before we get into discussing the merits of individual pellet brands, we should cover the fact that pellets come in different shapes and designs. In my experience, nothing beats traditional round head diabolo pellets for consistency and accuracy. As a kid I used pointed pellets for no reason other than the fact they were pointy, but the reality is that it only takes the slightest bit of damage to the point to upset the pellet’s balance and therefore accuracy. Flat head, or wadcutter, pellets are designed primarily for target shooting. In my experience they are ok over short range but their intrinsic lack of aerodynamics soon takes over. Beyond those ‘standard’ designs there’s a seemingly endless number of pellets that have odd shapes and enticingly evocative names. In my experience they’re all rubbish, but I’m sure someone will say they work great in their rifle.

Finally, finally, pellets that are predominantly made from lead continue to account for the vast majority of the market. You don’t have to be a genius to see that at some point in the future the weight of the environmental argument will prevail. You can buy lead-free pellets now, most of them made from tin. As a result they are very light and very expensive. I tested a whole range of them in .22 and .177 for a feature in Airgun Shooter magazine and have to say that I didn’t hold out much hope for any of them. Shame on me though because some of them performed just as accurately and consistently as their lead counterparts. And as manufacturers start to develop barrels optimised for lead free pellets in the future it seems reasonable to expect performance to improve further. That said, it seems to me that the lack of weight and therefore stability over longer ranges will be the biggest hurdle to overcome.



1. Air Arms Pellets

air arms diabolo field

Diabolo Field

These traditional shaped dome-head pellets are available in .22 and .177 calibres with head size variations of .51 and .52, weighing 8.4 grains and 16 grains respectively. There’s also a 25.4 grain .25 pellet.I test an awful lot of air rifles and have yet to find one that doesn’t shoot these pellets well. As a result, I use them exclusively in all my .177 and .22 rifles. It is fair to say that occasionally I find a different brand will perform slightly better in a test rifle, but AA Diabolo Field are always right up there in terms of accuracy, power output and consistency.

 

Diabolo Express

Only available in .177 / 4.5mm calibre and lighter than the Diabolo Field pellets at 7.87 grains, the Express variant is another dome head pellet. It can work particularly well in rifles that have a slightly lower power output.

 

Diabolo Field Heavy

As the name suggests, these pellets, which are only available in .22 calibre, are a little heavier at 18 grains. Although some 12 ft. lbs. rifles prefer heavier pellets, even if they do fly a little slower, most people use them in FAC-rated rifles as the extra bulk gives them a little more stability at higher speeds, helping them deliver more accuracy at range.

 

Diabolo Hunter

Air Arms’ pointed pellet is labelled as ‘Hunter’ for no other reason, that I can fathom, than the fact it is pointed. Available only in .22 / 5.5mm and weighing 16 grains, I have no doubt it works fine in some rifles, but the pointed shape doesn’t offer any significant advantage over the dome head designs in terms of penetration or shock value. The potential for the point to be damaged and therefore offset means the likelihood of a flier is increased. Unless they perform miracles in your rifle, I’d suggest opting for one of the other round head designs.

 

Diabolo Match

As you’d guess from the name, the Diabolo Match is designed primarily for paper target shooting as the flat head design is more likely to punch a clean hole and therefore make scoring easier. Generally speaking, I’ve found flathead pellets to be accurate at short distances but succumb to the inherent flaws in aerodynamic design at longer ranges. Some people like to use them for short range pest control – rats and feral pigeons for example – in enclosed environments as the design makes over-penetration, and therefore damage to equipment, less likely. Available only in .177 / 4.49, 4.5 and 4.51mm 8.02 grains.




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2. JSB Pellets

jsb hades

Czech company Schulz Diabolo is a prolific producer of airgun pellets. It markets its own range under the JSB brand. I confess to not having used every one, but here’s the low down on those I have.

 

Exact .177

A traditional dome head design, the JSB Exact .177 is available in 4.5, 4.51, 4.52 and 4.53mm variants, all of which have a stated weight of 8.44 grains – the same as the very similar Air Arms Diabolo Field pellets. The Exact is quite rightly regarded as one of the best pellets available. In fact, the company says that at the 2011 Field Target World Championships 90 percent of shooters used them. That may be a few years ago now, but JSB Exacts are just as popular today. Like all JSB pellets, Schulz Diabolo claims the Exact is tested to achieve a minimum 12mm five shot group at 45 metres. The Exact is also available in .20, .25, .30 and .35 calibres.

 

Exact Jumbo .22

The .22 variant of the Exact carries the ‘Jumbo’ honorific and is a 15.89 grain dome head pellet. Like its smaller sibling, it has a well-deserved reputation as a superb quality, high performing pellet and is available in head size ranging from 5.50 to 5.53mm. In addition to the standard Exact Jumbo there are a number of more specialist versions. These include lighter variants – the Jumbo Exact RS (13.43 grain) and Jumbo Express (14.35 grain). To cater for high powered rifles, there are also several heavier pellets. These include the Exact Jumbo Heavy (18.13 grain), Exact Jumbo Monster (25.39 grain) of which there are two designs, and the Exact Jumbo Beast (33.96 grain).

 

Hades

Available in .177 and .22 as well as .25, the Hades pellet combines many of the benefits of traditional dome head designs with a semi hollow point nose. A series of slits or grooves in the nose encourage the Hades to expand upon impact and transfer more energy to the target. Though clearly designed for hunting, the Hades also delivers good accuracy. The .177 pellet is heavier than most others at 10.34 grains whilst the .22 pellet weighs a more standard 15.89 grains. Sizes are limited to 4.5 and 5.5mm.

 

Diabolo Straton

Along with the polymer tipped Predator Polymag, which I’ve never used, the Straton is JSB’s pointed pellet. Available in .177 (4.5mm / 8.26 grain), there are also two .22 versions – the Straton Jumbo (5.5mm / 15.89 grain) and Straton Jumbo Monster (5.5mm / 25.39 grain). Like the rest of the JSB range, the pellets are well made, but in my experience they offer no advantage when it comes to hunting compared to a domed pellet.

 

Diabolo Ultra Shock

Like the Hades, the Ultra Shock is designed to expand upon impact, thereby imparting more energy. However, unlike the hybrid dome/hollow point of the Hades, the Ulta Shock is a more traditional hollow point. Intended for high powered rifles in order to benefit from the design, the Ultra Shock weighs 10.34 grains in .177 and 25.39 in .22. I have found them to be excellent for close range rat shooting.




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3. H&N Pellets

H&N Baracuda Hunter

Haendler & Natermann Sport GmbH, better know ad H&N, has been making airgun pellets since the 1950 and along with Schulz Diabolo (JSB) offers a huge range for both sporting and competition shooters.Once again, I can’t say I have used them all.

 

Baracuda Hunter Extreme

In addition to having a great name, the Baracuda Hunter Extreme is an excellent hunting pellet. Similar to JSB’s Hades, it combines a grooved hollow point with a more traditional dome head design. The result is that it delivers good energy transfer. The .177 / 4.50mm pellet weighs a relatively heavy 9.57 grains. The .22 / 5.5mm weighs 18.52 grains and is fine in 12 ft. lbs. Rifles but performs even better with higher outputs. A .25 option is also available.

 

Baracuda FT

As the name suggests, the Baracuda FT is pitched as a pellet for field target and hunter field target use and is only available in .177 with 4.50 and 4.51mm options, both weighing a relatively heavy 9.57 grains. It is a superbly well-made pellet, but there’s nothing specific about the design relevant to competition use. The design is best described as ‘blunt pointed’; though it’s a long way off being a pointed pellet, it’s not quite a traditional dome head either.

 

Baracuda Match

Sharing a similar profile to the Baracuda FT, H&N pitches the Match as a long distance pellet. The .177 weighs 10.65 grains and is available in 4.50, 4.51 and 4.52mm. The .22 weighs 21.14 and also has head size ranging from 5.50 to 5.52mm. 

 

Baracuda Light

This is where I get a little confused and suspect the H&N marketing department has taken over. The Baracuda Light is only available in .177 and weighs 9.57 grains, just like the Baracuda FT, and even shares the same profile. The only difference from what I can make out is that the Light is available in 4.5, 4.51 and 4,52mm whereas the FT comes in either 4.50 or 4.51mm.

 

Hornet

The Hornet is an eye catching hunting pellet, featuring a pointed brass insert to a lead body. It is available in .177, .22 and .25 calibres with weights 9.57, 16.2 and 24.38 grains respectively. The brass point gives the Hornet an advantage over most other pointed pellets, in theory at least, because it is less susceptible to damage and therefore loss of accuracy. No doubt penetration is increased too, though that is not always a good thing for hunting where maximum impact is preferable. The Red Scorpion is similar in design but is available only in .177 and with a red plastic pointed insert instead of a brass one. Weight is 8.49 grains.

 

Barracuda Hunter

The name tells you all you need to know about the purpose of this pellet which is available in .177, .22 and .25 weighing 10.49, 18.21 and 27.46 grains respectively. Like all H&N pellets, the Hunter is extremely well made and the hollow point is consistent, enabling good accuracy and excellent energy transference to prey. 

 

Crow Magnum 

The Crow Magnum has possibly the coolest name of any pellet on the market and is another variation on the hollow point theme. Whereas the Hunter is closer to a dome head design, the Crow Magnum is more like a cross between a flat head and hollow point. The result is a pellet that has superb energy transfer but is less suited to longer ranges. Available in .177, .22 and .25 with weights of 8.8, 18.21 and 26.24 grains respectively.

 

Silver Point

OK, so now I’m thinking that everyone had a week off and the H&N marketing team were left in charge. The Silver Point is a pointed pellet that has a couple of grooves around the body. Sorry did I say ‘grooves’? I meant ‘blood grooves’. I really don’t know what the point of ‘blood grooves’ is, but the pellet is well made and as accurate as any other pointed pellet. Available in .177, .22 and .25 weighing 11.57, 17.13 and 24.38 grains.

 

Spitzkugel

Spitzkugel sounds a lot more evocative than the English translation to ‘pointed ball’ which pretty much explains things. This is a traditional, no frills pointed pellet and is available in .177 (8.64 grains) and .22 (16.05 grains). The quality is once again excellent, but like all pointed pellets, damage to the nose will affect accuracy.

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