Are .177s more accurate than .22s?

by B.B. Pelletier

Reader Sumo inspired today’s post.

Robert Beeman pushed .177 caliber over .22 when he owned the Beeman comany, and a lot of shooters got the idea that .177s were more accurate. Then, Beeman came out with .20 caliber and dropped the .22 models of many of the guns he carried.

His reasoning was that .22 pellets are more expensive, which they are. He also said that he got better groups with .177s, which he may have, but we have to consider what he was doing in the 1970s and ’80s. Beeman was pushing 10-meter guns such as the FWB 300 and the HW55. At 10 meters, those rifles are incredibly accurate, and no one can say differently. But, they’re not the only airguns on the market.

After Beeman left the business, field target became popular in the U.S. and the distances at which shooters shot stretched from 10 meters out to 55 yards. The .177 caliber dominates field target, as well as 10-meter, so it’s natural to think that .177s are the most accurate guns of all. That isn’t necessarily the case.

Also, when Beeman owned the company, he never saw the fabulous pellets that JSB sells. If he had, I feel he would have tried very hard to put the Beeman name on them, because their domed pellets are certainly the world’s most accurate long-range pellets.

Which leads to me to my opinion on the .177/.22 controversy. As long as the quality of the ammunition is the same, I feel there is no difference between the two calibers. Here is my reasoning. At long range, the smallest centerfire caliber is not the most accurate. Back in black powder days, .32 to .34 caliber was the most accurate, and today it ranges between 6.5mm and .30 caliber. The distance has great bearing on the measure of accuracy, of course.

What I think has held .22 caliber back has been the quality of pellets available in that caliber. When I shoot a Talon SS, I always shoot a .22 with JSB Exacts and get 50-yard groups that a .177 would be hard-pressed to better.

So,why do both 10-meter and field target stick with .177? Well, 10-meter stays because the rules of the sport mandate the caliber. All the scoring apparatus is based on a .177 pellet. Field target sticks with .177 because it is the smallest pellet, and shooters don’t want to touch the sides of the kill zone, if possible. Statistically, .177 is the best choice.

As far as I can tell, there is no real accuracy difference between these two calibers. Now, if only someone would make a .25 caliber pellet that was as accurate as the other three calibers!

32 Responses to “Are .177s more accurate than .22s?”

  • pestbgone Says:

    B.B.,
    Thanks for the thorough and enlightening analysis. As range increases and velocity slows and the rate of drop accelerates, have you observed that heavier and/or fatter pellets are more accurate on windy days? Like maybe having a fair weather pellet and a bad weather pellet?
    Thanks again,
    Pestbgone

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Pestbgone,

    Fatter/heavier pellets are generally more accurate on windy days and at long ranges.

    B.B.

  • MajorKonig Says:

    Caliber has no direct effect on accuracy.

    How accurate a pellet is at a given range depends design, on how good its BC is. You want it to retain a high %age of vel. for it to be flat shooting. You also want some weight to buck wind. If the design is good, any caliber will be just as accurate.

    The common misconception of 177 being the most accurate is because it is the cal of choice (rules) in most target shooting / field target competitions.
    However, 177 is used as :
    1. the smaller holes they punch make it easier to differentiate between players shooting ALMOST equally good and
    2. 177 being the smallest, does least damage to the target.
    3. Cost considerations

    The choice of 177 has nothing to do with any ‘inherent accuracy in this caliber’.

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB,

    thank you so much.

    =sumo

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB,

    placed my order. I will have an airwolf at my front door in two weeks. Its .22 caliber and i will get a Nikko 10-50/60 scope on it. I got a chrony to check the .2 fps spread claim.

    -sumo

  • Anonymous Says:

    sumo

    thats insane! you must be planning on doing some serios field target with that bad boy! 10-50×60 is a huge scope. how much did all this cost? i wish i could afford something that awsome.

    Nate in Mass

  • Anonymous Says:

    Nate,

    I do not plan on doing any FT with this new gun (its 22 cal). Just some long range pest control. This gun is $2200 and the scope is $700. There are guns that are JUST falling short of this gun for half the price.

    BB,

    It would seem likely for me to think the following because i just got my gun in 22 cal but there may be some logic behind it.

    Could 22 be more accurate at long range because its heavy and wind and other elements of the sort would not be able to push it off course as easy. It would have more power to push through the air. The speed of this gun can push pellets faster than the spead of sound in both calibers so the speed would be set to 950 in either one of the two calibers.

  • Anonymous Says:

    what do you think of the RWS 460 magnum in .22 caliber?

  • Anonymous Says:

    RWS 460 .22 caliber guy,

    RWS is a wonderful brand name. I had a model 54 and broke it. NOT THE GUNS FAULT!!! The guns are accurate and the 460 should have plenty of hunting power. BB has done reports on some of their guns.

    I think you should get one. I am glad you want one in 22 cal. It would probibly shoot way to fast in 177 with an pellet. in 22 it could be tamed by beeman kodiaks (21g). Eun Jins (29g) are probibly NOT needed but you could try them. I would also try JSB Exact heavys (16g). JSBs are not veary heavy but its such a good pellet you should give them a chance.

    -sumo

  • Anonymous Says:

    Hi BB, do you know if anyone has figured the ballistic coefficient for any of the various pellets? I’m thinking of taking my S16 to the sandpit with the chrono and plotting out some trajectory/energy charts.

    thanks, Kevin

  • Anonymous Says:

    kevin,

    im thinking of getting a s-16…how is it? is the trigger pull too much? how accurate is it?

    Dave

  • Anonymous Says:

    Seems to me the larger caliber should better forgive dimensional tolerances of manufacture and thus result in superior center of mass to center of geometry ratio and produce better accuracy.

    BB?

  • Anonymous Says:

    Are the grooves in the barrel turn the pellet enought to fix that? There is the diablo effect?

    If the tolerances are off by a given amount being the same in 177 and 22 cal (not %) it would be a higher % of damige to the pellet (assuming the pellet is the problem).

    Your on to somthing.

    -sumo

  • MajorKonig Says:

    quote
    Seems to me the larger caliber should better forgive dimensional tolerances of manufacture and thus result in superior center of mass to center of geometry ratio and produce better accuracy.
    unquote

    Tolerances are always specified in percentage. So caliber does not matter.

    But I did understand what you are trying to convey. For ex. lets say the rear half of a pellet is 0.01 gr heavier than it should be, for two defective pellets, one a .17 and the other a .22 In that case, yes, the .22 will be better off.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Sumo??

    I always believe that the larger caliber shooting heavier pellets will be more accurate at long range. But I haven’t proven that. In this case, long range would be 100 yards or more, and I just haven’t done that much shooting at that distance.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    I haven’t tested the 460 yet, so I’m not going to say anything. However, in a rifle with that much power, .22 makes the most sense.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Kevin,

    Yes. Frank Brychta of FSI has published a book of ballistic coefficients.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    I don’t know. When the US Army tested calibers for accuracy after the Civil War, they discovered that .25 was much more accurate than the .58 they’d been using. That would seem to disagree with your theory. On the other hand, 32-34 caliber was always more accurate than .25 cal in black powder cartridge gns.

    Dr. F. W. Mann wrote a book about this in 1914, and he never figured it out, either. So, I guess thtere are still some mysteries.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Sounds like we are all in agreement on the tolerances of the two calibers.

    Long range shooting with real guns is done with 50 caliber 800g monster guns. Thats for those 1 mile shots. That about 1800 yards. Once all that gets moving theres no stoping it. 177 is like a 22-250 and 22 is like a 50 bmg. Please dont say “no the quakenbush is the 50 bmg”. Ok maybee the 22 is like a 300 winchester mag. For those who dont know the 300 is the long range gun of choice for many long range vermin shooting.

    For the 300 win mag, 50 bmg, 22-250. The 300 and the 50 are not best for longer shots because of tolerances.

    So why are they choosing the larger calibers over the 22-250? Because they are heavier bullets that wont be affected by wind as much.

    I still think tolerances are better in 22 cal but i am slightly conflicted about it because its not the case with fire-arms.

    Is there anything besides tolerances and how heavy the pellets are that could make 22 more accurate at long range?

    -sumo

  • Anonymous Says:

    For Dave, it seems very accurate to me.. mine loves the Beeman Crow Magnum HP’s and has accounted for over 100 squirrels in the yard. Trigger seems OK and I’ve not felt like fiddling with it. With the bipod and Leapers 4-16 x56 it’s really a wicked looking item!

    Kevin

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Sumo,

    I still think it is the quality of manufacture that determines accuracy in a pellet.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB,

    I agree with that but no pellet is perfect. With that said wouldent the problems in the pellet have less of an affect on 22. NOT % damige to the pellet but if a cut or dent was on the pellet is would be preportionaly less damige IN %.

    I am thinking about somthing that doesent make much of a differance but may help th 22 just a bit.

    I will never argue with you because you are the pro. You must assume everything i say is a question (i think).

    -sumo

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Sumo,

    Here is what I do know for certain that may shed some light on this for you. I shoot a .45/70 rifle that uses a lead bullet weighing 412 grains. I sort these bullets into lots that weigh within one grain of one another and do quite well with them.

    If I were shooting pellets with a one-grain variation, they’d be all over the place, but in a 412 grain bullet, it doesn’t make that much difference. That’s sort of what you have been saying.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    kevin,

    wow, thats awesome…you have it in .22 im assuming…i think ill order one…ive been wanting it for a while, but since its so much, ive been questioning it, because other than the sound, the condor seems a lot better. hmm…still not sure, because there is the cap that you can put on the condor like the talon ss…does anyone know how well it works on the condor??

    Dave

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB,

    Yes that is one of the things i was saying.

  • Anonymous Says:

    For Dave: If it’s any help I was of the same mind.. what did it for me was the repeater action, also with the shrouded barrel (ala Talon SS) it’s seems fairly quiet to me. FWIW I live in a pretty dense neighborhood, and none of the neighbors seem to notice the sound.
    Kevin

  • Nitr0_Fish Says:

    The .17 HRM is a neat little gun – but a little weird. It shoots really flat – but then drops very quickly. It’s hard for one’s mind to grasp this. If you want a long range accurate High Power center fire – the .243 is way easier. The drop just makes more sense to your eye & brain.
    I don’t know if any of that applies to the .17 pellet vs. the .22 pellet – but figured I’d throw it in.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Dave,

    The Talon SS end cap will not fit on a Condor with a 24″ barrel. You need an aftermarket tube to extend the frame to put the cap on, if you stick with the barrel that comes with the rifle. And that is the only barrel that gives you Condor power.

    D&B Sales sells the frame extension, as it is called. So does Bill Leavell.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    bb,

    have you used a condor with the setup that you just described? i want to know how noisy it would be…i know not a quite as the s-16, but hopefully down to like a 2-3 rating out of 5.

    Dave

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Dave,

    Yes, I have tried it. I would rate it as a 4.5 on the loudness scale. It takes off a little of the edge of the Condor crack, but it’s still pretty loud.

    B.B>

  • Anonymous Says:

    I must disagree with Konig that tolerances will be in percentages.

    This is a competitive industry. The best target pellet will sell better. Manufacturers will use the best dies that are economically feasible, which means they will be ground to tolerances of 1/10 thousandth or so. Loosening the .177 tolerance (whatever it may be) to manufacture .22 to hold the same percentage would be silly. Tolerance will be held to absolute measure.

    My original post appears to remain unanswered.

  • Anonymous Says:

    ” must disagree with Konig that tolerances will be in percentages.

    This is a competitive industry. The best target pellet will sell better. Manufacturers will use the best dies that are economically feasible, which means they will be ground to tolerances of 1/10 thousandth or so. Loosening the .177 tolerance (whatever it may be) to manufacture .22 to hold the same percentage would be silly. Tolerance will be held to absolute measure.

    My original post appears to remain unanswered.”

    I agree. Thats what i was saying in my post above.

    -sumo

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