by B.B. Pelletier

There are a lot of ways to approach this topic. I’ll try one I haven’t done before. I’m talking about the four common smallbore calibers – .177, .20, .22 and .25.

What is .177 caliber good for?
For starters, .177 caliber is the official caliber for world-cup and Olympic target competition. No other caliber is legal. I also explained why .177 is the only competitive caliber for field target, though any caliber can be used. Seventeen-caliber pellets are the least expensive, so if you plan to do a lot of general shooting and plinking, this is the caliber to get. Some airguns don’t give you a choice. The Umarex action pistols (Walther, Beretta,
Colt, Desert Eagle and S&W, for example, come only in .177. Crosman’s 1077 rifle, a 12-shot repeater, is also a .177 exclusive.

Is a BB the same as a .177?
No. Even though some manufacturers label their BB guns as .177 caliber (or 4.5mm), that is incorrect. A steel BB is 0.171″ to 0.173″ in diameter, so it is smaller than a .177 pellet. There are some guns designed to shoot both BBs and .177 pellets, but they are not very accurate with either one because of the compromise. Usually, the lead pellets are more accurate in these guns.

What is .20 caliber good for?
Twenty caliber, or five milimeter, as it is also known, is considered a compromise caliber between .177 and .22. It is really closer to .22 in performance, but the smaller size of the .20 offers no other advantage. In some airguns, because the .20 caliber pellets are lighter, they go faster; but .177 pellets go even faster in the same guns, so this is not an advantage. The Crosman Premier pellet, which weighs the same in either .20 or .22, is more efficient in .20 caliber by a small but measurable amount because it is longer and narrower than the same pellet in .22. Crosman pulled the plug on this pellet some time back. Rhough it is supposed to be in production again, they are very difficult to find.

What is .22 caliber good for?
Twenty-two is the best hunting caliber. Not only are the pellets heavier, they are also fatter, and that combination gives them better knockdown power. Powerful rifles like the Condor and the new AR6 give great performance in the field. The Condor also has a power adjustment wheel, so it can be instantly changed into a quiet plinking rifle.

What is .25 caliber good for?
Twenty-five caliber has never enjoyed the success of .22, though it sells because some shooters want the biggest they can get. The big .22s have the same power as the big .25s, plus the .25 caliber pellets are more expensive, so you really have to want this caliber to get it.

That’s my look at picking a caliber. Let me hear your thoughts.