The differences between .177 & .22 – and which jobs they do best

By B.B. Pelletier

There are two other smallbore pellet calibers, but in terms of sales and recognition, .177 and .22 are the major ones. For three-quarters of a century, .22 was the sales leader in America, while .177 lead in Europe nearly all that time. In the 1970s, when many British and European models started being imported to this country in large numbers, the preference for .177 came along with them and now the U.S. is in line with the rest of the airgun world. But newcomers often ask, “What are the significant differences between these two calibers, and why should I care?”

In any airgun, .22 is always more powerful
This is true irrespective of the type of powerplant, length of barrel or anything else. Twenty-two delivers about 20% more punch in any given airgun. The technical specifications for the Air Arms Pro Sport illustrate that. Instead of giving velocities for the guns, Pyramyd gives the muzzle energy, allowing you to clearly see the difference in power.

The same difference holds true for all other models of air rifles and pistols. When the velocity is given, the .22 is always slower, but we should not fail to appreciate that it shoots a pellet weighing twice as much. That’s where the extra power comes from.

Accuracy is the same for both calibers – sometimes!
This fact is not as clear as the power issue. You see, sometimes a manufacturer will use a barrel of different quality for one caliber. For example, sometimes a 12-groove barrel will be used for a .177 while a six-groove barrel is used for the .22-caliber barrel in the same gun. There is no inherent accuracy advantage for any particular number of grooves – just the fact that the barrels are made differently allows for the possibility that one will be more accurate than the other.

.177 is the caliber for 10-meter target guns – period!
Only .177 is the caliber accepted by all international 10-meter shooting organizations. That means all target guns are made in that caliber and no other. The extra care given to the construction of target guns ensures that .177 target airguns are the most accurate. There are no .22-caliber equivalents.

.22 caliber dominates the hunting scene
While is is possible to hunt with a .177, .22 caliber is by far the favorite. Sometimes, a .177 pellet will pass through the game animal without doing enough severe damage to stop the animal. Hunters who have had their quarry run away after a solid hit often switch to .22 immediately thereafter.

Even a .22 pellet is no guarantee of a humane kill. The pellet still has to hit a vital spot, and even then there may be some running or thrashing after the hit – but hunters notice a decided advantage when they use .22 caliber.

.177 pellets are cheaper
There is a big advantage to the smaller caliber here. Not only are there more pellets to choose from in .177, they also come more to a box and cost a significant amount less. Look at Crosman Premiers in .177 compared to Premiers in .22 for a comparison. If you look at the pellet count per box, you’ll see that you get exactly twice as many .177s as .22s for the same price. That’s a dramatic example, for sure, because the usual price difference is more like 30%, or so. If you plan on doing a lot of target shooting and general plinking, .177 is your best bet.

I hope this short discussion helps some people make the choice between calibers. In the end, of course, either caliber can satisfy most shooting needs.

13 thoughts on “The differences between .177 & .22 – and which jobs they do best


  1. I may of bought my rws 350 in the wrong cal-don’t have the cash for another one-can I buy a 22 cal barrell for my .177 350 ?



  2. Thank you very much. I have a daisy. It can’t even kill a bird from 10 yards. I was about to buy a .177 because i saw it was 200 fps more but i want something that will kill the birds not just make them jump a little. I have a horrible crow problem. This has helped me a lot.


  3. thanks a lot for the real life hit me in the face response , i have been going back and forth with this in my head , i recently bought a walther force 1000 from big 5 on sale it reg. lists at over $200 + so i figured it a good deal , my intention with the gun was to kill blue jays near my house that always squak too much and bother my cats , and dogs etc. , plus its fun to shoot an air rifle always ,. and we recently started buying and shooting airsoft in the house , so it was easy guess that this would come next , i got the thing dialed in ( thats not easy on this model ) after 20 to 40 shots , i got to where i could hit the small letters on the bottom of a tecate box ( like made in mexico and shoot just the o ) after a few hrs. of practice and sighting the scope , yet once you take it off the level chair and or table etc. the gun is sooo heavy ,and the recoil soo much that you will almost never hit the bird , but take it back to being rested on the chair etc. you are still in sight for the most part , yet even if rested on a chair with a cushion , you will be all over the place till you get a feel for compensating the recoil from th4e spring , and as for the blue jays , hit them and they fly away surgically wounded , it goes clean through , and with not enough punch to stop em ( so i started thinking ) also i got tired of dealing with break barrel , and how can a barrel that is constantly bent down with a lot of force against it going to always be the same and true ? im over it , and since pcp is more money than i was looking to currently spend while still only vaguely into it , and love to spend money on plenty of other toys etc. ,, i have done my research and now think rws 850 is the choice for me ,, but hope i am not dissappointed etc.. ,, so now that i have been looking at them , i have called and talked to some of the biggest freaks on these guns in the buss. and guys who make the upgrade tanks etc.,, and i bothered them all looking ( begging ) for info , and i was told that i should go with the fps. and the accuracy of the .177 , and that only go for headshots etc.. , and that my blue jays will still fly away from guy
    ‘s who shoot with 22cal powder etc.. ,, so i was still on the wire with what to get ( i would love a talon or a 1250 dominator etc . ) but not into all that money in one toy ( yet ) so i am now thinking i will still go with the hammerli 850 , but in .22 cal , and just accept the loss of fps , and do the make pba ( the gold ) in .22 , maybe i can make up some fps , .lol. ,, even if not after reading this article i think it made up my mind that i am better off with a 500 fps ( roughly on a bad day ) rifle in .22 , rather than a .177 that just cuts through like butter at 800 + fps .. i never did chrono the force 1000 but did see it cut through a lot of different targets like buitter , would be curious and love some feedback on that if anyone has , my personal emails is rarebreed29@sbcglobal.net ( jason )

    so conclusion is ,,, i returned my force 1000 and got a t4 standard to play with , and am looking to now order a nightstalker for the fun of it ( only $99. ) and see if at close ranges i get my birds . lol maybe if not cutting through like butter it may knock down better , and i am ordering a .22 cal rws 850 next month when i can afford another over $200 toy , but now i need to pay off my boat motor i just rebuilt and cammed etc . thanks for reading , and please send me any and all helpfull info ….


  4. Jason,

    Your rifle is not heavy. It’s right where it has to be for accuracy. Also, you need to learn the artillery hold to get accuracy when hand-holding a spring rifle.

    The Force 1000 is a Chinese air rifle and actually a very good one. Learn to shoot it and you will be amazed at the accuracy.

    That said, the 850 AirMagnum is very light and has none of the spring gun’s handling characteristics. It will be much easier to shoot accurately. Just remember that CO2 depends on temperature, so don’t try to shoot the rifle below 50 degrees F.

    Raptor pellets are made in .22 and should be just as inaccurate as they are in .177.

    B.B.


  5. cheers chaps at first i couldnt decide on a caliber but i now feel like .22 is the way to go for what im doing with it







  6. Tom,

    The .177 will shoot faster than .22 in any given airgun, but the .22 will usually produce more energy. It is a more efficient caliber.

    To answer your question I would have to know the distance at which you can hold one inch or better for 10 consecutive shots with a spring rifle. I am guessing 35 yards, which is about average. At that range, the .22 will be the most effective.

    B.B.


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