Why is .177 the only caliber for field target?

by B.B. Pelletier

This question was asked by CF-X guy, but I hear it all the time from new airgunners. Let’s take a look at why the sport of field target is suited only to .177 caliber.

You CAN shoot other calibers!
Field target is governed by the American Airgun Field Target Association (AAFTA). You can read the rules on their website. There are no caliber restrictions, so .22 caliber is okay to use. I used to shoot next to a lady who used a Falcon ultra-lightweight rifle in .22 caliber, and she did very well. Beat me several times as I recall. However, just because you can use a .22, doesn’t mean it can win. In fact, on most days, it can’t.

Understanding a field target
A field target is a sillhouette of an animal (usually) with one or more kill zones, which are holes through the steel target. Behind each hole there is a trigger called a paddle. The paddle has to be hit for the target to fall. If the target face is hit, it pushes the target back and the trigger (paddle) holds it firmly in place. Unlike the sport of airgun silhouette, hitting the field target in any place except the kill zone does not get you a point. The target must fall to get a point.


This Gamo field target has a large kill zone typical of the easier targets on a course.


These airgun silhouettes can be hit anywhere for a score, as long as they are knocked off their stands. They are not field targets.

The subtle difference in field target
Unlike other shooting sports, where a hit close to the bull counts for something, in field target it often counts for NOTHING! Here’s why. If the pellet happens to hit the side of the kill zone hole as it tries to pass through, it pushes the whole target back against the trigger – locking it in position even harder. At that moment, if a piece of the now-shattered pellet happens to hit the paddle, it may not have enough energy left to overcome the locked-up trigger of the target. This is called a split (meaning the pellet has split on the side of the kill zone) and it is the bane of every field target shooter.

Tough targets
The kill zone hole can be as small as one-quarter-inch in diameter. That is so close to the diameter of a pellet that it matters whether you shoot a small pellet or a large one. Remember, the trick is to get through the hole without touching the side. Just touching it doesn’t matter, but if enough of your pellet touches that it transfers enough energy to the target to lock the paddle, the target won’t fall and you will lose a point! A .177 pellet has a greater chance of getting through a small hole without touching the side than a larger pellet. Field target is a game of percentages, as well as a game of marksmanship.


A dime is 0.705″ in diameter. The 3/8″ hole is a lot smaller. Try to shoot through the hole without touching the side. That’s field target!

Believe me, a 1/4″ kill zone is hard to hit. Even a 3/8″ hole is hard. When a target with a small kill zone is positioned at 17 yards (a TERRIBLE distance for a gun that’s zeroed for 20 to 35 yards – can anyone tell me why?), it represents a challenge that takes a master marksman to overcome. I have seen SWAT team snipers fall apart on targets like these!

That is the reason .177 is the only caliber for field target. Every year, new shooters come out with their .20s and their .22s and, if they shoot the entire season, they become experts in why the .177 is the way to go.

24 Responses to “Why is .177 the only caliber for field target?”

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB,

    Now I understand!!!!!!!!

    But does this mean that in another tipe of competition that caliber size doesnt matter,can a .22 cal be as accurate as a .177?
    or will the .177 will always have an advantage in accuracy?
    Thanks

    CF-X guy

  • Anonymous Says:

    Imay be wrong butif the rifle is zeroed further out than the target will it be harder to hit such a small area because of parallax?

    Robert1250

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    CF-X guy,

    Both .22 aqnd .177 are equal in the accuracy potential department. Beeman used to claim .177 was superior, but I think that’s been laid to rest.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Robert1250,

    Good guess, and close but no cigar. I’ll let some other folks guess before I tell.

    The answer is in my past postings on scopes.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB,

    Ok thanks and sorryfor so many questions

    I will buy the weihrauch hw97k in .22 cal.

    CF-X guy

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB,

    Is the r9 equal to the hw77 in accuracy?

    Eric

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Eric,.

    The R9 can shoot as accurately as the HW 77, but it requires a lot more technique. The 77 is very forgiving, while the R9 is hold-sensitive.

    B.B.

  • kd5byb Says:

    Hi B.B.,

    What rifle in the R9/HW77 class would you say is the easiest to shoot accurately? (IE: least technique required for a beginner?)

    thanks,
    ben

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    ben,

    The TX 200, followed by the HW 77 and then the HW97.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB,

    Also I would like to know what technic is needed to shoot the hw97k accurately.I ask because my cf-x likes a hard grip but I ant to know about the technic for the hw97k.

    CF-X guy

  • Bill Beach Says:

    It will be difficult to hit a 17 yard target when zeroed for 20 to 35 because the flight of the pellet will either be above or below the aim point depending on the height of the scope above the bore axis and the trajectory of the pellet.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Bill,

    Bingo! That’s it.

    There are two techniques for dealing with this problem, and it is a BIG problem if the kill zones are very small. Between 10 and 20 yards, the pellet is climbing up to meet the aim point, so we can either hold the aim point over the kill zone by the appropriate amount for the distance to the target, or we can adjust the elevation reticle in the scope.

    I will do a posting or two on these two techniques in a little bit.

    Thanks for playing along!

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB,

    I know im not supposed to but I want to ask,

    What other US stores carry the hw97k? I will buy from pyramid but want to compare.

    CF-X guy

  • sav300 Says:

    BB,
    have you done some tests or know about crosmans domed pellets? Also will the PCPs ever reach the $200 range or remain in the upper $300 and higher range? Hey have you done a report on a PCP compared to a springer? If not that might be a good one.
    sav300

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    CF-X guy,

    I gave you the link to everything the other day.

    http://www.airguninfo.com/

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    sav300,

    Use the search feature on the blog home page to see all the pellets I have reviewed. I have do0ne Premiers, the Crosman model for all their domed pellets, a bunch of times.

    As for $200 PCPs, I don’t know. To build them that cheap, they will have to cost about $25 in materials. The Chinese can do it, but both their barrels and their seals are garbage. Just the barrel of a quality PCP costs more than that when you buy 500 at a time!

    B.B.

  • Jed Says:

    Since crosman likes cheap prices they won’t dare make a pcp gun yet.Though don’t understand why the barrels are so expensive.

  • 60 year old kid Says:

    I am new to air soft, but am haveing a ball. Big question. Is there sucha thing as “Red Gas” Some dealers say red is really green in wolfs clothing while others say Red GAs is for real and if your gas gun isent set up to takeit, it can destroy your gun Then theres the gas specially for the Japanese guns. What gives??? Then there is the TM made propane adaptor with special oil for lube.

  • sav300 Says:

    BB,
    Do you know how to make a PCP? I have all the pieces I need, but I am not sure how to connect this and that. I have everything down to the trigger and stock. I just need a lay out of one and I’m sure I could make it. Although I’m not sure about making the action. That is my main focus for making one and also I don’t have enough parts to mess up. If you have any info let me know.
    sav300

  • sav300 Says:

    BB,
    I forgot to ask, do you know of a way to change a blued barrel and action into a silver one? I have a gun that I am giong t customize and would like it to be silver insted of blue.I prefer it to be a do it yourself deal insted of sending it off to get it done.
    Thanks,
    sav300

  • Anonymous Says:

    Well is there really that much room for error when compinsating for distance? Hope to learn more about this hold over/under.

    Robert1250

  • Anonymous Says:

    Oh yeah from two post down it’s sad about the number game at wally world I wonder if this trend will pass to other companies. I hope not and I also hope more people get into this sport/hobby in the future see you around guys

    Robert1250

  • Joe in MD Says:

    The other advantage of .177 pellets for FT is related ballistics. Since there is a power limit of 20fpe for FT at most courses, this means that a .177 pellet can go 900fps or even a bit faster and stay under the limit. For a .22, the speed will be quite a bit less because the pellets are heavier.

    Thus, the ballistics will be such that the .22 will be far more affected by wind and the hold-over or clicking will be far greater.

    Best,

    Joe

  • Joe in MD Says:

    BTW, anyone wanting to try out FT can go to any club sponsoring matches. My club DIFTA has matches once-per-month and the next one is May 20.

    Novice shooters are welcome at all clubs and, given enough notice, we can arrange for a loaner gun if necessary.

    Joe McDaniel
    DIFTA Match Director

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