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

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 vs .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?”

pellet calibers

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 it 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.

This report was written in 2005. How pertinent is it in 2022, 17 years later? Well, .177 caliber is still the most popular caliber. And .22 caliber still does hit with more energy than .177 in any given airgun. But there have been advances in pellet design that make the .177 a better pellet for hunting. These are different designs of hollowpoint Hollow point pellet shapethat expand in game better. The airguns have also shifted in the past 17 years so far more shooters are shooting precharged pneumatics (PCP) that are more powerful (faster)and that helps the .177 do a better job farther from the muzzle.

The .22 caliber pellets have also advanced and PCPs have pushed them up close to the .22 long rifle power. They still use diabolo Diabolo shaped pelletpellets that don’t carry as far, but in both calibers there are now slug pellets Slug shape(no wasp waist and hollow tail) that take advantage of the more powerful PCP technology.

In short, the hobby of airguns is advancing in both the guns and ammunition.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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 ….

  3. 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.


  4. 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.


  5. I have an odd question.

    As far as I can tell, the power plant in any particular gun model, offered in both .177 and .22, is the same. So, the only real difference is the weight of the pellets (avg .177 vs avg .22). It seems to me that, all a person would need to do to get the power of a .22 cal in a .177 cal is increase the mass of the pellet being fired. For instance, if .22 is firing 14gr pellets, then use a 14gr pellet in the .177, and you should get the same fpe (approximately of course).

    Granted, I am new to air rifles, but it seems to me, if the power plants are the same, the .177 cal rifles will actually generate a higher PSI in the barrel, than the .22 cal model would, due to the smaller diameter barrel If I am understanding the internals correctly, it is effectively a piston being rammed forward, which compresses the air into the barrel, thereby accelerating the pellet forward. If you compress the same volume of air into a smaller space, the PSI is unavoidably higher. In theory, you should be able to get a higher fpe in a .177 cal than is possible in a .22 cal, based on the assumption that the power plants are the same and the weight of the pellets are the same.

    So, taking all this information into account, why are .22 cal versions of the the same .177 cal rifle considered more powerful?

    • Anthony,

      Welcome to the blog.

      Increasing the weight of a pellet doesn’t work for a couple reasons. It increases friction without increasing the sectional area, so the heavier pellet gets the same push. Also, the heavier pellet will not stabilize as well, so it will be inaccurate.

      Caliber changing rally is beneficial for the larger caliber, only.


    • Or to add some numbers to the prior response…

      A .177 presents 0.024 square inches (as a flat surface), the .22 has 0.038 square inches.

      Scaling up — if the peak pressure were 1000PSI, the .177 is being pushed with 24 pounds, while the .22 is pushed with 38 pounds.

      Your heavy weight .177 is going to be nearly twice as long as the original (7gr to 14gr). That’s going to change the dynamics for stability (rifling rate will be wrong for the length/diameter), unless you make it a real dumbbell with a lot of mass at the front and a long thin shaft before getting to the hollow tail cone the drag stability will be off… but a long thin shaft will be a weakness as it may flex or bend under the impulse of the air. And, unless you really make it very long, the bearing surfaces (the parts that press against the rifling) will be longer, causing more friction.

    • Because of the bigger diameter of the .22 pellet it will create a bigger wound and have more knock down power.. more surface area on the pellet the more knock down power.. even if both pellets weighed in the same the .22 will still have more surface area for knock down power.. and the .177 will still penetrate more with a smaller wound.

  6. I have Diana Airgun model 45 cal .177 I want to change his barrel and fix .22 cal would it perform as default airguns do.
    is there any difference between .177 and .22 airgun except barrel?

    • Altaf,

      Welcome to the blog.

      The parts are all the same except for the barrels. But the Diana 45 is a very complex airgun. I have done a 10-part report on it in which I completely disassemble the rifle. Look at it and see if you think it is too difficult.



  7. Honestly if you are just wanting a gun you can pop some birds or rats chipmunks squirrels anything like that you can get a 177 i have a gamo pellet rifle 177 shoots 1000 fps with lead pellets and i can destroy birds and rats and chipmunks squirrels i can almost drop every single time but sometimes i don’t even an extremely bad stomach shot will kill with a little bit of run from the squirrel so don’t underestimate the 177 now on the other hand if you want to kill raccoons opossums armadillos you can do it very easily with a 22 and still kill smaller things with it also

  8. I have Diana 350 Magnum Airgun cal .177., I want to change his barrel and fix .22 cal would it perform as default airguns do.
    is there any difference between .177 and .22 airgun except barrel?

  9. what is the difference between round pointed pellets and flat head ones because as long as I know the flat objects resist more in air than round shaped ones in general physique theory. I know the flat head has more punch power but how much it cost the effective range?plus a rounded head need more material in structure and usually they are heavier than flats. I prefer round pointed pellets because they seem more logical to me (and I don’t shoot animals to refill my personal pleasure, I shoot objects for fun)

    • Riot,

      Welcome to the blog.

      The report you just posted a comment to is over 10 years old. Come to our current blog site and post. You will be read by over 25,000 readers. It’s the same blog, just current. Look here:


      Your question addresses the difference between wadcutter pellets and domed pellets. Domes are more aerodynamic and are accurate to greater distances. Wadcutters are for target use because they cut round holes that are easier to score on target paper.

      Wadcutters start loosing accuracy beyond 25 yards. Domes are still accurate out to 100 yards.


  10. What if we make a copper pallet for .177, the size will not get effected and weight will increase will the knock down power increase…
    Plz let me know if someone knows about it

    • Josh,

      Welcome to the blog.

      Copper is lighter than lead, so a copper pellet would be much lighter. An 8-grain lead pellet might weigh 4.5-5 grains if made of pure copper.

      Second, copper is very expensive. A copper pellet would cost 2-3 times more than a lead pellet. Five hundred tin pellets now cost about 3 times as much as lead pellets. Copper would cost as much or more.


      • Thnx for the information B.B…
        Jst asking out of curiosity if we use any other matterial whose density is more than lead and make .177 pallet of it will it make damage than .22 pallet.
        I am asking this out of curiosity as in my country we are allowed to use only .177 calibre and only upto 20 joules, and I have a lot of interest in hunting but .177 calibre is not able to put down even birds and rabbits.

        • Josh,

          Look at the periodic table. Plutonium, Uranium and several others are heavier than lead. Not too much to work with.

          You need to work with precision accuracy. Being limited in power and size, that only leaves precision.


          • Josh
            If you have a rifle that can get 20 joules, that should be plenty sufficient for birds and rabbits. Converting that to fpe is 14.75 fpe. See if you can find any Facebook pages to air gun sites in the U.K. They are limited to 12 fpe and are Extremely successful at small game hunting – the preferred caliber on at least one site that I’ve seen. Two sites I’m familiar with start with “Nothing but Springers…” and “Break Barrel Air Rifle…”
            Larry from Algona

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