Pellet shapes and performance: Part 3
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
My Beeman R8 Tyrolean is an accurate pellet rifle that I enjoy shooting.
This report covers:
- Beeman R8
- First test — Air Arms Falcons
- Test two — RWS Superpoints
- Test three — big one
- What have we learned?
Today is the day we see how the three pellet shapes perform at 50 yards. This is the day we have all been waiting for. I was out at the range a couple times since the last test of these three pellets, but the wind was always a problem. Last week I had a perfect day and was able to get a lot of testing done. Tomorrow you will see another report that was also done on this day.
But today we look at the performance of the three pellet shapes — dome, pointed and wadcutter. Conventional wisdom says the dome should do the best, followed by the pointed pellet. The wadcutter will be dead last, if the wisdom holds.
I’m shooting my Beeman R8 Tyrolean for this test. You have seen several times in the past what a wonderfully accurate rifle it is to 25 yards, but this will be its first test at 50 yards. I am as curious as you about what will happen.
I shot with the rifle rested directly on the sandbag, which we have learned over many years of testing is the most accurate way to shoot it. There was no wind on the morning I conducted this test, and I shot on the 50-yard range at my club, where there are 10-foot-high berms on both sides of the range. Any wind that might exist gets cancelled by these berms. I pulled no shots, out of the 30 that were fired, so this was a perfect test.
First test — Air Arms Falcons
First up were Air Arms Falcon pellets. At 25 yards they had grouped into one-half-inch, which is okay, but 8 of them were in a much tighter 0.286-inch group that I said was typical for that pellet in this rifle.
The first shot at 50 yards landed about 5-1/2-inches below the aim point. The shots were also slightly to the right of the aim point. In fact, one pellet landed about 1/4-inch off the paper, in what turned out to be a very horizontal group of 10. The group measures 2.733-inches between centers, and that is only an estimate, because of the shot that landed off the paper. After that result I wondered whether the other two pellets would even hit the paper!
I must note that some of the Falcon pellets hit in such a way that they tore the paper to the right of the main hole. That indicates a pellet that’s not flying straight — a pellet that has destabilized in flight.
Ten Falcon domed pellets made this 2.733-inch group at 50 yards. One pellet landed about a quarter-inch off the paper so the group size is just an estimate. Notice that several holes are torn on the right side, indicating a pellet that isn’t flying point-on.
Test two — RWS Superpoints
Now it was time to try the RWS Superpoints that have surprised us in this test series, thus far. In the test at 25 yards they outshot the domed Falcons, giving a 10-shot group that measured 0.464-inches between centers. At 50 yards 10 Superpoints went into 3.515-inches. That was better than I expected, given the group made by the Falcons.
Test three — big one
Now it is time to look at how well wadcutter pellets do at 50 yards. Up to this point they have done well, grouping 0.472-inches at 25 yards and besting the domed pellets. I was anticipating a group that looked more like a shotgun pattern at 50 yards. But that didn’t happen.
Ten Vogle wadcutter pellets went into a group that measures 2.368-inches at 50 yards! Yes, it was the smallest group of the test — close to half an inch smaller than the domes that were supposed to be the most accurate pellets at this distance. This was a result I never expected.
Ten Vogle target wadcutters made this 2.368-inch group at 50 yards. It is the smallest group of the test.
This is just one group, but because it is 10 shots, it is far more illustrative of the true accuracy of the pellet that was tested. Not as illustrative as two 5-shot groups, but more like five 5-shot groups. Ten shots eliminates nearly all of the randomness of the test.
Note that some of the holes are torn on the right in this group, too. So if I am right, these pellets has destabilized, as well.
What have we learned?
I never could have predicted an outcome like this. I have tested this phenomenon so many times that I was sure I knew how the test would go. Well, I was wrong this time. And that is why we test.
We have also learned that groups do not always grow in a linear way as the distance increases. If that was true, the Falcons would have grouped in about one inch at 50 yards instead of 2.733-inches. I think the difference in the ewxpectation and what happened can be attributed to pellet stability, but that is just a guess.
Does this mean that wadcutters are the most accurate pellets for long-distance shooting? I don’t think it does. All it shows is that, out of the three pellets I tested in this one air rifle, the wadcutter proved to be the best — this time. To know anything more than that would require a lot more testing of other rifles and pellets.
The bottom line today is we have learned something very important. Don’t always rely on “common knowledge.”