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How far will a pellet travel?

by B.B. Pelletier

Update on Tom/B.B.: Tom is improving quite nicely. His belly is as flat as a pancake. He’s still getting antibiotics and has been busy doing blogs for this week.

Today’s blog was written by B.B.

Since the 1970s, airgun retailers in the U.S. have stated the maximum distance pellet rifles and pistols will fire. No doubt, this was brought on by the need for safety specifications.

How far will a pellet travel?
The truth is…nobody knows. I have read references to pellets traveling a max of 400 to 500 yards. The newer references have the further distance. Dr. Robert Beeman wrote in his catalogs in the 1980s that “Most airguns have a maximum range of about 400 yards (366m) and are generally not capable of serious damage over 150 yards (137m).” Without question, 400-500 yards would be with the muzzle firing at an angle of 30 degrees to the horizon, which would give the greatest possible travel. Today’s guns show pretty much the same thing despite vastly improved pellets and power.

A true story
I’ve told this one before, but please allow me some redundancy. Back in the early 1990s, several forensic scientists argued how far black powder bullets from various cartridges could possibly travel. It was the Billy Dixon shot that killed an American Indian at seven-eighths of a mile that started this discussion. Dixon shot a 50/90 Sharpes with a 675-grain bullet and at a muzzle velocity of 1216 fps. The scientists believed it was, therefore, impossible for that bullet to reach out to seven-eighths of a mile. So, they conducted a test.

Using microwave missile-tracking radar, they were shocked to find that the 50/90 cartridge threw its bullet 3600 yards. And the 45/70 that everyone dismisses as obsolete was throwing its 405-grain lead bullets out beyond 2400 yards!

So, we really don’t know how far pellets travel, and that’s my assignment to you. Come up with a pragmatic and accurate way of testing the maximum range of a pellet rifle. Forget the microwave radar; you’re not gonna get it. I’m not interested in what you THINK; I only want to know what you can PROVE.

Give us a simple test we can really use to answer this question.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

72 thoughts on “How far will a pellet travel?”

  1. Well I think I’m back, been a little out of it last day or so, missed me right lol. Wrong timing Saturday wife’s birthday, Sunday mother’s day (no kids, other than 4 dogs and 10 cats).
    I thought I’d have some special quotes from a famous relative, but don’t you just hate it when they don’t make any.
    My great, great, etc., etc., grandfather on my mother’s side wrote the Canadian National Anthem, his name was Calixa LaVallee. My Mom maiden name is LaValley. It has taken many years and a lot of relatives combining family trees, but all records have been confirmed from what I’ve been told. There is even a suburb of Montreal named after him, about 2 hours from where my parents live. Supposedly there is also an old Canadian stamp with his portrait, I’ll have to check collectors for that I guess.

    Sorry for rambling haven’t been on in over a day (for me that’s a long time).


    I noticed that if you log in you cannot change the name line to read something such as: From XXX, XXX says, or anything else. But you have probably figured that out already.

    • rikib,

      The programmer is working on changing the code so it automatically says “from” in front of the name or “said” after your name. I spoke to him this evening, and it’s on his to-do list.


      • Edith
        As I had mentioned before it is not a problem that needs any immediate attention. I was only noting the fact that if you don’t login that is were I found that you could change it, from a while back. I did not realize that if you did login you could not change this. I was more noting an error in my work around from many days ago that I had just found. Like I have said anyone who has been using the blog by now should understand who is posting, I’m sure there are bigger problems to be addressed (like getting Tom well).


  2. We have tested this once in Holland. At the dykes of a large, still pond, we fired at different angles with a HW30 and looked for the spot where the pellet hit the water. The best angle was around 25°, and getting in the range of 400m, when we deducted the height over the waterlevel. (All such measurements should deduct your height over level ground).

  3. PJN,
    That’s the first thing I thought of, when I saw the question: shoot over large body of still water and look for splashes, I couldn’t figure out an easy way to get a good approximation of the distance. What did you do to find the range, or was the pond shaped so that you could measure along the shore?

  4. BB: Glad to see your getting better! On the subject of the test how far can pellets go? When we were kids , my brother and I would shoot across long fields on our parents place after the farmer who rented the land planted the corn. We would shoot pellet guns, and our bows & arrows. We found that the pellet guns we shot, which were Crosman Benjamin pumpers, and one Comenta break barrel in .22, would only go about 200 yards before hitting the ground. You could see the strike of the pellet in the dry dirt by the puff of dust it raised. So I know that a 10 ft/lb airgun has a max range of about 200 yards fired at a 30 degree angle. We knew the range ,because we knew how long the fields were. Take care ,Robert.

  5. It depends on a number of factors, mass, shape of projectile, velocity, angle, wind etc. Also, when do you consider the pellet “done”. When it lands? or when it hasn’t enough energy to penetrate skin?

    I did some calculations to work out when a pellet would no longer be dangerous to an (a) Adult, and then, (b) a Child. I have assumed an eye shot is practically impossible given a stray shot.

    Using the book “Firearms, the Law, and Forensic Ballistics” (ISBN:0748404325), Chapter 7, “Terminal/Wound Ballistics and Distance of Firing” you get data on a handful of common pellets and their threshold velocities for breaking the skin. Here are two:

    (a) Adult 18-90 years: Spire point, 8.6gn, 358fps +-39fps ~ 2.45ft/lbs +-0.5
    (b) Child 1-38 months: Spire point, 8.6gn, 272fps +-36fps ~ 1.41ft/lbs +-0.5

    Now you have the dangerous kinetic energy threshold for a spire point pellet you can push those numbers through a ballistics calculator. A free program that does this for you, including wind and elevation, is the GNU Ballistics calculator (GEBC): http://sourceforge.net/projects/balcomp/

    For example: A 177 Kodiak/Barracuda 10.6gn Pellet fired at 900 ft/s is dangerous out to the following distances. You need to angle the shot to accommodate the flight time before hitting your target. I calculated these for a 0 degree incline for a worst case number. An angled shot will have a shorter “ground distance” depending on the incline.

    (a) Adult 18-90 years: 210 yards +/- 20 yards. Flight 1.31s
    (b) Child 1-38 months: 280 yards +/- 50 yards. Flight 2.23s

    Assumes a steady 10mph crosswind (90 degrees) you have wind drift of 9 feet at 210 yards and 19 feet at 280 yards.


  6. PS. The book used 177 caliber pellets. 22 has a larger surface area and requires more energy to break the skin. The book discusses cross sectional energy which presumably can be inferred for a 22.

  7. What about using the same basic set-up that the Mythbusters used when they tested the myth about a bullet being dropped hitting the ground at the same time as a bullet fired from a gun if they’re at the same height. If memory serves, they simply took a long sheet of newsprint (several hundred yards worth), and fired the bullet inside a blimp hanger. Obviously we don’t have a blimp hanger, but a wide-open, flat area should work.

  8. Get a very large sheet of paper (like 30×30′) and see at what distance the bottom of the paper can just be hit. That’s the simplest way I can think…

  9. Easy way to figure distance: Fire a bb over a flat pond at angles around 30, having two observers inline with you at 50 feet apart from you on each side. Each one carries a compass, and shoots an azimuth to where they see the impact. Do a little angle math, and you have your distance.

      • Its even simpler: you only need one observer with a compass, since you can assure the path of the projectile is at an angle fairly close to 90 degrees from the line b/t shooter and observer. Have the observer stand as far away as possible and spot where the pellet hits (i.e. on the water), then take the angle to the projectile. The complement of that angle is the third angle of a right triangle. A little high school trig., and you’re done.

  10. F.C. Barnes and R.A Helson cites a forensic case where a male child was killed by a pellet (Sheridan’s bantam) fired from the Sheridan blue streak air rifle at the range of five feet. This article is reprinted in the “Cartridges of the World ” by Frank Barnes ,forth edition that I have. Death was caused by a wound to the heart due to penetration of the chest cavity of the child who was not wearing a shirt, which could have prevented death due to a lessening of penetration. They tested this combination and concluded that a pellet had to be traveling at about 370-400FPS to inflict damage enough to be lethal at close range. It was noted that this was speculative, as factors such as clothing and pellet wt and shape would contribute to lethality at what ever range the pellet struck the target.
    On distance again, I have also fired .310 dia RB from a TC Cherokee .32 cal muzzle loader at a muzzle velocity of around 800 FPS. This was to determine the maximuim range such a combination would launch the 50 gr RB to establish a baseline as to dangerous range when fired up into trees and the target (squirrel ) was missed, where no solid backstop existed. I found, that the ball would go about 450 yards at max, before hitting the ground when fired at a 30 degree angle, with the gun held at shoulder ht. I’m about six foot tall. The energy remaining at that range of the load which was between 15-20 grains of FFF black powder, was probably around 18 to 20ft/lbs.

  11. Get in a boat with the gun and use a range finder to measure the distance from shore. Keep backing up until you get a splash near shore. Range find and you have your distance.

    Tom, I took my Belgium Hyscore 801 to the show since you couldn’t bring yours. But, guess what the first gun I bought was? Another .177 Belgium Hyscore. This one did not have the pellet seater but was not drilled for the seater to be attached so it looks like it didn’t come with a pellet seater to begin with.

    David Enoch

  12. At first I thought about shooting over a very long bare field and posting observers to spot the dust kicking up, but ruled that out because at the steeper impact angle at a distance there may not be enough dust kicked up to see it reliably. Spotters would be needed.

    The idea of shooting over a calm lake seems good, as long as spotters are used.
    The spotters would need some kind of shielding for protection.

    I would start out with distances close to what chairgun says.


  13. Re: Dangerous distance. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I was hoping for this answer to come out sooner or later. I tried to ask this question of Herb and rikib a while back and and apparently didn’t know how to ask it without “comparing apples to oranges”. You have answered it.

  14. When I shot at the Calif. state championship match, at Angles sports park, they had a shotgun range above where we were shooting and shotgun pellets were raining down on us as we were shooting. We HAD to wear safety glasses and hats.

    The shotgun shooters were about 200 yards away up on a hill, and only the more powerful shells reached us, but it was a little unnerving while your getting ready to take a shot and you get hit by a pellet. One hit my bare hand and it was like a hailstone, no biggie.

    So, I wonder if a pellet shot a 30 degrees has enough foot lbs. to break skin when it falls to earth. I kind of doubt it.

    Wacky Wayne, MD.
    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  15. Match report for Ashland Air Rifle Range May 8th

    The weather could not have been better. Very light wind, partly cloudy, and 65 to 70 degrees. We started late, around 2:00pm, so the sun was in our eyes for the second half of the match.

    Only four of us shooting today. Ronnie Easton came up from the Sacramento area. Locals, Ed Markey and our newest, youngest shooter Justin, and the oldest shooter, me.

    Ed brought his HW50 .177 cal springer and Justin shot my AAS400. They shot in Hunter class, but only had time for about half the course, both were hitting about half their shots while they figured out the hold over.

    Ronnie was shooting his 12fpe EV2 & I shot with my 19fpe USFT#6. We shot one shot per target, and most lanes had 3 targets for a 48 shot course.

    We had a really close match. We started out on the standing lanes, where I had a 3/4″ @ 16yds, & 1-1/2″ at 19yds. I missed them both! Ronnie made them both! But then I cleaned the next four lanes and Ronnie missed two in those same lanes, so we were tied. We had problems with a couple targets, but we fixed them as we shot the course. It was really close, as we both were cleaning most of the lanes. Then we came to the 3/8″ KZs and we each missed one and made one. Tied again at 42/48 each.

    So, we stayed on that lane and shot the 3/8″ kill zones again. Ronnie made one and missed one. I got lucky and dropped them both this time. Ronnie really should be considered the winner, since he was shooting 12fpe and I was shooting 19.5fpe… two different classes.

    What a great day of shooting. Ronnie and I had a great time, and I feel the targets are getting closer to being ready for the big match at the end of the month.
    Here is a link to my website with the same story, but some pics too.


    Wacky Wayne,
    Match Director,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  16. BB and Edith:
    “A flat belly” Now I am starting to get jealous.I can’t seem to shift mine:)

    Sorry I can’t help with the distance shot experiment what with being short of distance where I live.lol
    I tell you though,I love being up range of a shot as much as shooting it myself.
    The relative quite crack of an airgun in the distance followed by the Zzzzzzzip as it goes by.marvelous.
    I did some target marking on a 400yard range once.Now that was fun.
    The simultanious crack/hit of a 303 and 7.62 was very sobering.
    The best was the subsonic 44s coming up the range though.
    I could sit all day long marking targets or where pellets drop.
    Count me in:)

  17. I’m baaaaack! Glad Tom’s flattened out.
    As for range measurement, consider an industrial handheld laser rangefinder. The Leica Distometer is a good one, and very accurate but not cheap. There are several models.

  18. Prove something? Oh oh, time for me to go quiet. G, beware of any machinery like ballistic calculators. Apparently, the army experiment that B.B. describes disproved calculations that seemed rock solid. Assumptions have a way of creeping into any extensive calculating apparatus. Mr. B. the equation for distance in a vacuum is not difficult: R = (V^2) (sin(2A)) / g . The hard part is calculating the effect of air resistance. I don’t know that there is a precise analytical way, just successively more accurate and complicated approximations. I’m most intrigued by the fact that modern airguns of greater power do not shoot any further than earlier lower-powered models. That doesn’t seem intuitive. My guess at an answer is that the drag-stabilized nature of airgun pellets means that air resistance imposes a limit on their speed and distance.

    Duskwight, yes the relative size and strength of our forebears is not a closed case by any means. Perhaps for romantic reasons I like to think of enormously strong and capable forebears like Conan the Barbarian. Some more evidence on this side of the case is as follows. There are some ancient sources claiming that the lower limit of height for recruits to the Roman army was 5’8″ which is not particularly small. Excavations from the site of the Battle of Tawton 1461, a largely forgotten battle from the War of the Roses which was the bloodiest single day in English history (28,000 dead), shows bodies that were not particularly undersized by our standards. A course on the history of medicine that I took in college indicated that the reduction in size for people, except for truly malnourished areas, coincided with the industrial revolution when people were jammed together. They were significantly larger before. Also, size does not necessarily correspond with capability. The Neanderthals I mentioned over the weekend averaged 5’6″ and it takes a fairly close study of their skeletons to realize that they weighed about 200 lbs.

    The weight of ancient weaponry and armor doesn’t tell much by itself. The landsknecht mercenaries of Germany in the Renaissance era did have great swords that were well over 6 feet in length. However, fighting, even in a controlled training environment is extremely tiring, and if you plan on fighting for your life all day as people did, you had better have a light weapon. Also, armor was not really designed to stop a direct impact with sheer weight. The infamous Ned Kelly of Australia tried to design armor that was so heavy it was bullet proof, but it immobilized him so that he was easily captured by the police. Armor is designed to be light and sloped so that a trained person can maneuver to deflect blows with it.

    I myself have wondered about the small size of clothing from earlier eras. However, artifacts from the Civil War about which we do have a lot of information shows again that size isn’t everything. Anyone wearing a full suit of cotton underwear beneath a wool uniform in Virginia heat and fighting for six hours and marching a total of 45 miles to and from the battlefield as the Union soldiers did at the First Battle of Bull Run is extremely tough. The 1861 Springfield musket was much heavier than the modern AR-15, and the soldiers routinely lugged it for 30 mile marches. The Wilderness campaign at the end of the war involved non-stop contact between the opposing armies for 6 weeks where they were fighting and marching all day and digging fortifications all night on food that today would be considered inedible–heavily salted pork and crackers at very irregular intervals.

    Anyway, there is room to dream about human capabilities. 🙂

    • Matt61:
      Can I concour what you said about the design of an airgun pellet having limiting factors?
      A Shuttlecock has similar shape to an average pellet.
      It doesnt matter how hard you hit it,the bloody thing only goes so far and so fast.

    • Matt61

      Some words considering greatswords.
      One must distinguish zweihaders from paradeschwert. First were made for doppelsoldners to cut through enemy pikes and protect important persons, sized no more than 170 cm, maximum reasonable length for a 180+ cm man to operate, reasonably light and sharp. Second were made for purely ceremonial purposes, to signify power and importance of an accompanied person (just an expansion of a protection function of zweihander) and could be well over 180 and even 250 cm in length, heavily decorated and just heavy.
      And armor weight – yes, I know, but you forget the other side 😉 If our ancestors were stronger than we are, they could pack relatively more punch into their hand-held weapons, and weapons would be bigger and heavier. So, even to deflect or soften the blow, the armor had to be thicker or more complex. And of course, if you CAN wear a heavier armor, I guess you will do your best to get more protection. Still, armor and weapons are as they are, which means no superiority over today’s man.
      BTW, almost no true Medieval _battle_ armor survived to these days, mostly thick tournament armor or later Rennaisance suits.

      So I guess even that Civil War data shows that our ancestors were no stronger than us, just a bit more used to heavy physical work and with better stamina 🙂 When I was a student, I used to make “easy money” working as a loader. Today it makes me sick to think that I used to haul more than a ton in 20 runs. But I did it myself 🙂



      • DaveUK, yes, you may concur. 🙂 That shuttlecock example is an excellent one as well as the projectile for what’s used in “soft” tennis.

        Duskwight, I’m not an expert in the field, but it seems that I have seen zweihander swords that were well over 6 feet and carried over the shoulder like a rifle. They looked heavy.

        Yes, one would think that relative strength would translate into heavier weapons and armor. On the other hand, for both tools there is always a trade-off between mass and mobility that still applies to modern weapons like tanks and ships. Sustained hand-to-hand combat is such a different world that I’m not certain about speculating about it from common sense. Regarding armor, I understand that squires training to be medieval knights would practice running in their armor and doing somersaults and cartwheels. The final test for the newly-created knight was leaping up into the saddle of his horse in full armor without the use of his hands. (Think Iron Man. :-)) There was one account I read of the judicial combats in Germany in the medieval era where a guy entered the ring and did a kind of flying splits with his legs in armor to freak out his opponent. They seemed to like their armor light.

        As for weapons, I’ll extrapolate from baseball. Apparently, the key ingredient for hitting a home run is bat speed. Hank Aaron was possessed of very strong forearms and wrists for whipping the bat around at the right time. At any rate, you do not see baseball bats getting heavier even if the players are pumping themselves up with illegal steroids. After a certain point, weight is going to interfere with the all-important kinetic energy just as we see in pellet design. Moreover, the incredible Russian martial artists I’ve studied (If you haven’t heard of Vladimir Vasiliev, former member of the Special Operations Unit SOU, and practitioner of Systema, I encourage you to Google him) have many ways of using body leverage to generate incredible power. It’s something I’ve seen elsewhere in the martial arts although not quite the way Vladimir does it. I suspect that after a certain point weight of armor and weapons would inhibit the very creative body mechanics necessary to generate power. Perhaps a loss of strength corresponds not just to muscle mass but also to technologies of the body that have disappeared since we have lost touch with the physical environment.

        • Matt61

          I’m not an expert in the field, however I’m afraid that Vladimir Vasiliev has nothing to do with Spetznaz (there’s info that he served as a conscript in 1977-1979 in 8th government liaison department), however he actively uses that brand, suspension points 😉 In late 90’s EVERYONE here developed their own unique, omnipowerful and ultimate fighting style, based on ancient Slavic lore and secret Spetznaz techniques 🙂 Lots of ads and cheap video manuals do not quite fit with an image of martial _artist_ 😉
          Again, I’m not an expert in the field, if you know Russian, you can find more facts on this “master”, but as far as I know he learned from Sergey Medennikov and Mikhail Ryabko, who in turn both learned from Alexey Kadochnikov, the inventor of that “leverage” style of offence and self-defence and still trains it to real SOU. It’s a dark matter and I don’t feel myself quite competent for further discussion.


  19. Here’s a comment I copied over from the Benjamin Trail Nitro article.

    I directed the author to here.

    “New comment on your post #331 “Benjamin Trail NP XL1100 – Part 3 ”
    I’ve been comparing rifles available at pyramid and found the two that i think I could make a choice from.
    I’m told a .22 is a great choice for accuracy and knock-down and has a wider range of grains.So with that said.This is what I’ve found.
    The Benj.Trail NP/XL 1100 or the Falcon Hunter. I want a nitro piston to avoid any spring troubles.(better to keep that subject short)I don’t like plastic stocks at all, so the Falcon Hunter isn’t my favorite, but all the reports and comments tell the story of a real accurate and hard hitting .22 hunting rifle.Not a plinker.
    The Trail np/xl 1100 has no open sights. (I cant/hate to shoot without)I imagine I could put on aftermarket sights,I havent checked ,but if it’s not available, my local gunsmith will hook me up.I’m just not into scopes.The trail np/xl does have a .22 model with a wood stock and quiet rating of 2-3 at apx. 900 fps.
    I want the quietest and strongest for the price.HA! Who Doesn’t?

    I still have my Sheridan Blue Streak from the 70’s and at 8 pumps it still knocks them down hard. Now I want to renew my prowess as a hunter and be able to pass it down to my kids at the same time.
    Bottom Line…If I could put a wood stock on the Falcon the choice would be easier.(can I?) Maybe there’s another gun I don’t know about or some info I missed.
    But I figure for the same price the same caliber, the same piston, how different could they be? The Benj. Trail is supposed to be the quietest though.So…..
    I could use some advice.
    Douglas M.”

    • I have the XL1100, and it is very quiet, but there might be some problems with attaching open sights. Namely, the barrel is shrouded with an aluminum tube and the muzzle cap screws on to keep it in place. I wouldn’t trust either one not to rotate. I guess you could remove the shroud and fabricate a front sight to affix to the barrel or muzzle cap, but then it wouldn’t be as quiet.

      I have no experience with the Walther Falcon Hunter, but I can tell you my XL did not shoot as accurately as I had hoped for out of the box. I’m still working on trying to squeeze more precision out of it (I know… not the ideal platform…), and after much, much tweaking, I can tell you that I’m pretty much left working on my technique. Not that the tweaks didn’t help, but I’m certainly not getting sub 1/2″ 10-shot groups at 20 yards yet, like I was hoping for.

      In case you’re wondering, here’s a short list of what I did to the gun: Cleaned factory oil out, deburred and polished all the powerplant essentials, installed JM piston and breech seals, lubed with moly, reworked the trigger assy and installed a GRT-III, fabricated aluminum receiver spacers/shims (receiver bolt was bottoming out with nylon shims and barrel was overly loose), machined the detent lock pin (lock-up was horribly inadequate), lapped/polished inleade, re-crowned barrel, polished transfer port, etc, etc, etc. Basically, I’ve given it the A-list treatment, and I’ve seen marginal-moderate improvement. At the end of the day, the lesson I’ve learned is that tuning a $300 gun manufactured under Chinese tolerances and QC will probably not get it to shoot like I was really hoping for. The other lesson I learned is not to buy a TX200 for your first springer if you want to learn proper hold discipline.

      Hope this helps.

      – Orin

    • Now that’s thinking. You could also replace the graphite pellet lubricant with ground up cat food, shoot a few pellets, then wait for dusk. Wherever you see a large group of coons, possums and skunks, you know a pellet has landed there.

  20. B.B.

    The method I’d use to determine max distance would be simple – shoot 5-6 times along the river in a calm day, and ask someone to go towards the splash by the riverside, then measure the distance. I guess air rifle, set @ 45 degrees to the horizon would make a longest shot and the way of measuring it would be quite precise, but one must notice that humid air is less dense than dry, so pellet speed will decrease a little less.
    Perhaps, for a dry air, a long flat and straight path covered with fine sand will do the trick, impact craters are quite easy to notice.


    • Duskwight,

      I too thought that a 45 degree elevation would yield the longest distance downrange. This is what I learned in my high school physics class, oh so many years ago. But Tom and many others have contradicted this and said that this basic rule of projectile trajectory is not true for diabolo pellets because of their light mass in relation to air resistance, their flight characteristics or whatever. The consensus seems instead to lie somewhere between 20 and 33 degrees, with 30 degrees mentioned most often I think. I am still not completely clear why this is so.


      • AlanL

        Didn’t know that, but that’s really interesting. Well, just like an old saying: “live for 100 years, learn for 100 years, and still die a fool” 🙂
        Guess it’s a good chance to test my way of max range estimation.


      • Alanl, it might be easier to understand if you think of it this way.

        The flight of the pellet can be broken down into 2 components (or vectors), horizontal and vertical. Which component, on average, is fastest? It’s the horizontal component, obviously. The vertical component is robbed of speed by gravity very quickly, and is even reduced to ‘0’ for a brief period of time. So the average speed of the pellet in the horizontal direction is greater.

        Air resistance robs a pellet of velocity in a non-linear fashion. The faster it goes the more it steals. Since the pellet is going faster in the horizontal direction… air resistance ‘steals’ more from this component. So you have to give the pellet more velocity in the horizontal direction if you’re gonna maximize range. The only way of doing that is to bring the barrel down closer to level.

  21. I feel that in reality you need to consider that most likely you are not shooting in pristine conditions. Are you considering ricochets if hunting and missing? Are you looking at max kill distance? What about caliber and weight? Are we really going to shoot at something in a wide open field and wonder if a pellet can reach it, then watch it bounce off?
    Best thing is, know what you are shooting at and what is around in case of a miss.


  22. I agree that ballistic calculations would be a good starting point, but here’s what I would do:

    1. Enlist the help of a friend to act as a spotter.
    2. Drive to my parents house (they have 20 acres and a big barn, whereas I live in the city) on a hopefully windless day with my spotter, my gun, lots of ammo, and a pair of two-way radios.
    3. Wallpaper the side of the barn with something like freezer paper, at least 8 feet wide and top to bottom (the barn is 26 feet high).
    4. Draw a large X on the paper at the same height as my gun would be firing from. This would be a guide for the spotter, not something I would be aiming at from 400+ yards away.
    5. Back away the estimated distance given by ChairGun using the Maximum Range function.
    6. Clamp my gun in a mobile vice at the angle suggested by ChairGun.
    7. Fire at varying distances until I could hit the barn (this would likely be determined by sound, as relayed by the spotter, since a pellet would probably not even dimple the wood at that distance).

    It is likely that my spotter could still not visually identify POI at this point, unless I was lucky enough to get on the paper, because the barn needs a paint job in a bad way. The following two steps would help me fine tune the optimum angle:

    7a. Adjust the gun up, one degree at a time, to find what angle caused me to fall short of the barn. My spotter would both listen for (lack of) impact and look for the dust cloud where the pellet hit the ground (to ensure the pellet fell short of the barn, as opposed to flying over it).
    7b. Adjust the gun down, one degree at a time, to find what angle caused me to (again) fall short of the barn.

    8. Pick a midway point between both angles and start trying to get the pellet on paper. If the pellet struck the paper, it should leave a mark, even if it didn’t penetrate.
    9. Once my spotter could identify POI, adjust the gun up and down, one angle at a time, trying for the maximum elevation. I would hope, at this point, that most everything would stay on the paper for easier identification.
    10. Once I found the optimum angle, fine tune the distance until I was hitting as close to my mark as possible. Because this would involve moving the vice, I might have to repeat a few steps to get the windage right each time I changed the distance.
    11. Tape off the distance (I don’t have a laser range finder).

    I could then safely assume that – for this test gun, this test pellet, and within these environmental conditions – I had established the maximum range (note: not maximum effective range). Of course variables such as slope, wind, elevation, temperature, etc. would significantly impact POI, but you pretty much have to rule out all the hypotheticals. Unless you’re telling me I’ll be shooting from the top of the Himalayas with gale-force tail winds. It just might be harder to get a friend to spot for me, if that’s the case.

    FYI – I looked at all the stored info I keep in ChairGun, and depending on the caliber and BC, the optimum angles ranged from 18 to 26 degrees. That’s without any customized environmental data plugged in. Interesting.

    – Orin

    • If my old man caught me shooting at his barn to determine max range, I would be in some trouble if I did any damage or not.

      I used to shoot at a neighbor’s barn that was a good 300 yds away with a Benji pump gun when I was a kid. I could hear the steel bbs hit the metal roof on a calm day.


      • I doubt my dad would care, as long as he knew there wouldn’t be any damage. Like I said, the barn is in dire need of a paint job. It’s 35 years old and is only used for storage of non-valuables these days.

        A while back, I was shooting at an old weathered wood horse trailer he had parked in one of the pastures from 100 yards, and the pellets were mostly bouncing off with only a few actually lodging in the wood. I was using RWS Superdome Hobby’s from my TX200. There was a pretty strong head wind that day, though.

        – Orin

        • AlanL,

          Not me – I think that question was directed toward TwoTalon. I was also wondering about the distance, but figured BB’s must have such a high BC that maybe it was possible. Seems like a long way though.

          – Orin

  23. What a ridiculously fun topic. Someone needs to post this thread to Mythbusters, they’ll have a blast. Especially if they move from 177/22 to .50 pellet guns 🙂 Or maybe Jamie will use his air cannon!

    Matt61… the ballistic calculator uses the ballistic coefficient (air drag) of the pellet. If you’ve never used software like it then you should give it a spin. It’s approach is little more refined then grade school Newtonian physics.

    I can’t wait to see what comes next 🙂

    • Well, I’ll also violate BB’s challenge and speculate rather than offer facts. I like Orin’s idea with side of the barn and freezer paper. duskwight has a good idea too. Shoot along the edge of a river.

      I do think that you’d need some kind of fixture to hold the gun at a certain angle. We’re really talking about trying to figure distance +/- 5 to 10%.

      I’m guessing that a pellet doesn’t “fly” with the same aerodynamic profile when it leaves the muzzle as when it hits the ground at maximum distance. At max distance I’d guess that the pellet is precessing a lot more. Since a pellet is drag stabilized, it would never “tumble.” The bottom line is that I seriously doubt that the BC is good for all velocities. It is a “fair” estimate for “lethal” distances, but not a max range.

      As I have said many times, I wouldn’t want to be shot at 50 feet with bird-shot from a shot gun. Anyone who has been dove hunting though has had shot fall around and on them. One down the collar is hot, but not dangerous.


  24. Regarding my comment yesterday on the PPK vs. popcan: My own PPK is the only example I have ever shot. So I can’t really say what everyone else’s can or can’t do.

    These things are smoothbores, shooting BBs. So manufacturing tolerances no doubt play a large part in accuracy. Maybe mine just shoots straighter than most. I have no way of knowing. Just giving an observation based on my own experience.

    I do think the main idea with an “action pistol” is not accuracy, but feel and fun.

    I was shooting the silver Daisy BBs.


  25. This is first time I’ve posted here, but have followed the blog a long time, so just wanted to start by saying it’s good to hear you’re doing better, Tom. Take care and keep up the stimulating topics/challenges… now as to today’s question… I’d say that before beginning actual shooting (according to any of the several methods already suggested) I’d feed the pellet or pellets to be tested into some ballistics software and make a provisional trajectory map. I might make trajectory maps for several different angles of elevation and see how well each map matched actual trajectory at fairly close range. If the maps were predicting well, then I’d use the map further out to try to speed up the process of getting shots far down range onto the big unrolled roll of butcher paper or papered side of the barn or body of water or whatever the “recording medium” of choice happened to be. It would be interesting to see the optimal angle of elevation. For artillery it seem’s I’ve read it’s nearer 30 degrees than 45 degrees, due to atmospheric drag, slight lift generated by the projectile, etc.

  26. So far the best idea is shooting from a boat on a calm lake while moving away from the shore line until the pellet ripple starts following the boat. I think this could also be easily replicated with a swimming pool if anyone has one that also has 400-500 yards of open space adjacent. You could start at 100 yards and fire into the pool (not a difficult task) then move back another 50 yards and shoot at the pool and keep moving back 50 yards or less at a time until the pellet starts falling short of the pool. AlanL, don’t you have a nice large pool?

  27. I entered my Bronco in the Airgunarena.com eMail bench rest comp. You’ll have to look there June 1 to see my score. What a sweet gun it is. I have not been able to duplicate its accuracy with any of my IZH-61s (I have four) or my 953. The RWS Hobbys are definitely the pellet for my Bronco. I’ve tried JSB Exact, R-10, H&N Match, Meisterkugeln, Crosman Premire 10.5gr. I have just ordered some Crosman Premier 7.9gr to see how they do. The aforementioned pellets are great for some of my other guns but not for the Bronco. It loves Hobbys.

    I’m converting my Talon SS from CO2 to air. The local shops that fill CO2 are no good and one even damaged my 12oz bottle valve. I’m anxious to see how it’ll do in the eMatches after I go full compressed air. The conversion stuff comes Wednesday.

  28. I’ve been reading the updates on Tom, & I’m very happy to hear he is doing better.
    Both he & you Edith are in my thoughts & prayers, & I wish him a full & speedy recovery.


    I believe in the power of prayer, & for all else out there who do as well,
    please take a moment & say a prayer for Tom. I know him personally, & he is a great guy with a huge heart, & if anyone deserves the support of as many as possible, he does.

    Get well soon Tom,

    Mike aka – The Big Bore Addict –

  29. Chuck/CJr,

    A question on converting Mr T to HPA–you said the converson stuff, is that a plural stuff or is it just the HPA tank? The reason I’m asking is, when I bought my Talon SS it came with a free CO2 adapter, but no other stuff for using CO2, and I was wondering about hammer weights, ie, are they the same for HPA and CO2?

    Mr B.

    • Nope. Your physics teacher was oversimplifying – and ignoring air resistance. It has to be closer to horizontal – how much closer depends on many factors.

    • Ahhh. You just helped me answer a question I had. In the article, it says “Imagine as well that the cannonballs do not encounter a significant amount of air resistance.” That made me suspect that air resistance has an inverse relationship with the firing angle to achieve max range. I’m sure Herb (and probably a few others) already know this, but hey, he’s a rocket scientist.

      To test my theory, I went back to Chairgun and looked at the “Angle for Max Range” on a variety of pellets. Sure enough, the the higher the pellet’s BC (the lower the air resistance), the higher the required angle. Obviously, as Vince said, other factors come into play as well. But it’s still good to know.

      – Orin

  30. I live on a lake and with my rangefinder, I determined that the other side of the lake is 440 yards away. If I point my airgun up at a 30 degree angle and shoot across the lake, I can see the pellet splash down near the opposide shore through my scope on a calm and glassy day. So I have observed a Kodiak .22 cal pellet travel between 420 and 430 yards.

  31. I have the Trail NP version not the XL. It produces around 20 FPE at the muzzle. It shoots 14.66 grain FTS pellets 780 FPS and 21.12 grain Kodiaks 650 FPS at the muzzle.

    Tell Tom I hope he is doing well.

  32. I wanted to try my more powerful steroid 392 and see how far the pellet goes but there isn’t a scope on it and my eyes are not good enough to see the pellet splash down without the aid of a scope.

  33. I got an interesting item in today’s Google news alert. The Department of Environmental Conservation for Binghamton, New York, has officially sanctioned the hunting of some quarry with airguns. While airguns have never been disallowed, the new law now brings airguns into the fold and requires anyone who hunts with airguns to get a hunting license and hunt only in season.

    I thought this would be a good thing…until I read that they’ll allow you to shoot game like ruffed grouse, foxes, raccoons and coyotes with a .177 pellet going as slow as 600 fps. While a perfect brain shot could take down these animals, most people aren’t shooting that good and the guns they’re using aren’t that accurate (because the 600 fps guns are often BB guns).

    Here’s the article.


  34. Edith,

    I just read that article. Bad news for the back yard shooters. It’s requirement that you cann’t discharge an air gun within 500′ of a building, just shut down my back yard range cause I live in the city with the neighboor’s houses too close to shoot legally. Also it includes the less powerful not really suited for hunting type guns.

    Maybe this should be discussed on today’s blog

    Mr B.

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