by B.B. Pelletier

If you want to know how different types of pellets penetrate, here is a neat experiment you can do with very little equipment.

The test medium
I use Neutrogena glycerin facial bars for this test. You find them in the cosmetics section of the store. Use the biggest bars you can buy and orient them the long way when shooting more powerful guns. Also, back the bars with a safe pellet trap in case of a shoot-through. Naturally, you must wear safety glasses when performing this test!

Today, I’ll shoot five different types of projectiles from the same rifle—a wadcutter, hollowpoint, domed, pointed and a round lead ball. I’ll use a .22 caliber Diana model 27 spring-piston rifle for every shot. Because the rifle stays the same, we will be able to compare pellet penetration at the same relative energy level. I’ll also shoot a JSB predator, which is a specialty hollowpoint. That’ll give us the relationship between a regular hollowpoint and the new Predator round.


From the left RWS Hobby, RWS Super-H-Point, Crosman Premier, RWS Superpoint, .22 lead ball, JSB Predator.

The results are clear
Because the facial bars are transparent, we will be able to see how deeply each pellet penetrates and what sort of wound channel it leaves. That’s useful for hunters. This experiment clears up many things shooters often wonder about. You can’t just look at a pellet and know how it will perform. You have to shoot it several different ways and look at the results.

Sometimes, the largest wound channel isn’t the best pellet
If a pellet performs very well in penetration but is not accurate in the gun you shoot, it isn’t a very good pellet to choose. On the other hand, a very accurate pellet can be forgiven its lack of expansion because you know it will always hit its intended target. What you’re looking for, of course, is a pellet that does all things well in the gun you intend using.

I used a lower-powered rifle to limit the depth of penetration. That does affect the performance of the pellets, because at higher velocities some specialty pellets such as hollowpoints may perform dramatically better. On the other hand, I am shooting with the muzzle almost touching the bar, which could duplicate the downrange performance of a more powerful rifle, because pellets lose velocity rapidly. It depends on how far you want to shoot.


Hobby on the left, Super-H-Point in center, Crosman Premier on the right.


Superpoint on the left, Lead ball in center, JSB Predator on the right.

How to read the test results
In the first photo, you can see that the Premier out-penetrated both the wadcutter and the hollowpoint. I expected this. In the second photo, the pointed pellet out-penetrated the round ball. I didn’t expect that. The JSB Predator has just started to expand, but it’s difficult to see in this photo. Still, it isn’t the explosive expansion you might have expected from the advertising copy.

In this test, the Crosman Premier looks like the leader, followed closely by the Superpoint. The round ball was loose in the bore, which could explain why it didn’t go deepest of all (read more about round balls versus pellets in the article Pellets versus round balls).

This little experiment can tell you a lot about the pellets you shoot. Try it some time.