Are your hollowpoint hunting pellets mushrooming on impact?
By B.B. Pelletier
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Rimfire hunters often select hollowpoint bullets because they mushroom at relatively low velocities and deliver more "punch" to the target by transferring more energy on impact. Some airgunners believe that hollowpoint pellets should also be their choice for hunting. However, that may not be the best pellet for the job. Will the hollowpoint pellets you select ACTUALLY mushroom when shot from YOUR pellet rifle? Will they perform at the range at which the game is encountered rather than at the rifle's muzzle?
You'll have to test your hollowpoint pellets to determine if they are up to the job of knocking down a target at the distances you hunt. Here's a quick and easy way to do that.
A 3-step test to make sure your pellet is ideal for hunting
To see how a particular pellet performs on game, shoot it into a bar of soap or a block of modeling clay at the distance you intend shooting your quarry. If your quarry is particularly tough, such as a squirrel or crow, use two blocks of clay/soap bars with a board the thickness of a popsicle stick sandwiched in between. While this isn't an exact match for flesh and bone, it'll give you a pretty good idea about your pellet's performance.
Hollowpoint pellets such as an RWS Super-H-Point will expand at normal air rifle velocities, but they don't actually mushroom in the classic sense. When shot from a magnum precharged rifle (like the Sumatra 2500), they will actually mushroom. The Sumatra's 6-shot cylinder is also great for feeding hollowpoints.
If you use a repeater, test to ensure the hollowpoint will feed reliably through the mechanism. Hollowpoints can only be shot from repeating guns having cylinders or from single-shots such as the Condor. Guns with linear magazines such as the Career 707 will not feed these pellets reliably.
Hollowpoint pellets perform differently from one gun to another. If a certain hollowpoint groups inside an inch at 25 yards, then that is the MAXIMUM range for that pellet in your rifle when used to hunt an animal with a kill zone that size. That or less is about the size of most of your targets when hunting airgun game. Some larger game animals (raccoons, woodchucks, etc.) may have a zone measuring 1.5", but that's about the maximum.
Only by testing each pellet in the rifle in which it will be used can you be sure of the actual accuracy. Unlike round-nose pellets, hollowpoint pellets do not have a reputation for long-range accuracy, so testing should be an important part of your selection process.