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Competition Pellet shapes and performance: Part 3

Pellet shapes and performance: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Beeman R8
My Beeman R8 Tyrolean is an accurate pellet rifle that I enjoy shooting.

Part 1
Part 2

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.

Beeman R8

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.

Beeman R8 Falcon group
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.

Beeman R8 Superpoint group
Ten RWS Superpoint pellets went into 3.515-inches at 50 yards. Don’t overlook that hole at the bottom of the target, next to the pellet.

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.

Beeman R8 Vogle group
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.”

author avatar
B.B. Pelletier
Tom Gaylord is known as The Godfather of Airguns™ and has been an airgunner for over a half-century, but it was the Beeman company in the 1970s that awoke a serious interest in airguns. Until then, all he knew were the inexpensive American airguns. Through the pages of the Beeman catalog, he learned about adult airguns for the first time. In 1994, Tom started The Airgun Letter with his wife, Edith. This monthly newsletter was designed to bring serious reports about airguns to the American public. The newsletter and Airgun Revue, a sister magazine about collectible airguns, was published from 1994 until 2002, when Tom started Airgun Illustrated -- the first American newsstand magazine about airguns. Tom worked for three years as technical director at AirForce Airguns, the makers of the Talon, Condor, and Escape precharged air rifles. Today, he writes about airguns and firearms for various publications and websites. He also makes videos, and you'll find short clips embedded in some of his artices on Pyramyd AIR's website. Tom is a consultant to Pyramyd AIR and writes under the name of B.B. Pelletier.

70 thoughts on “Pellet shapes and performance: Part 3”

  1. BB,

    These results really are surprising in that the wadcutters grouped as well as they did. Another thing that is surprising is that both the domed and wadcutter have become destabilized at that range, likely due to the low power of the air rifle, but the pointed has not. I know I am stepping out on that “common knowledge” branch, but I think that can be partially attributed to the lightness of the domed pellet causing it to shed energy quickly and the flat front of the wadcutter not being very aerodynamic. Worded differently, the pointed had more mass than the domed and better aerodynamics than the wadcutter. Perhaps the greater mass of the wadcutter helped it to group better than the domed?

    These results also illustrate why I do not have very many air rifles, but I have a large variety of pellets. You never know which one will work best in a particular air rifle.

    • RR,

      I looked back for some info. on fps and weights shot from this rifle.
      – AA domed, 8.4 grain, 668 fps avg.
      – RWS pointed, 7 grains, 721 fps avg.
      – Vogle wadcutter, ??? grain, ??? fps avg.

      So without all of the information,…. it is a little hard to hypothesize,…. or “step out onto a limb” if you will. 😉

    • RR
      I believe it is velocity and weight making the yaw or destabilization or what ever it is happening.

      What gets me is the tears were to the right. Never up or down or tore other ways.

      There was a discussion in the past about if the target might not pllaced square to the firing line.

      Anyway I new that flat nose pellets don’t stop flying after 30 yards. 😉

  2. B.B.

    Could it be that your beautiful R8 is only a 25 yard gun? Maybe using a PCP would have made more sense for this test.? Four and a half inches of drop is a lot! Would this test be much different if you had used a .22 instead of a .177 caliber pellet?


        • Yogi,

          These pellets are not tumbling. They are yawing around their axis of flight. Big difference. Like a top that’s spinning but tilting to one side and then precessing in the direction of the spin. Only from the consistency of the paper tear/tilt I don’t think these pellets are precessing — just yawing.


          • Thanks for the clarification.

            But still, how is a yawing pellet an accurate pellet? I assume the longer the distance the worse it gets. As pellets slow down, i.e. 800 fps at the muzzle and 600 fps at target, does their spin rate also slow down? The wobble in the spinning top gets worse as it slows down.

            Also, what causes yawing?



            • Yogi,

              The spin doesn’t slow as fast as the velocity. And you are right, a yawing pellet isn’t as accurate as it could be, which is why testing pellets with each airgun is so important. As is looking atr the holes they tear and analyzing them for things like yaw.


  3. B.B.,

    Nice testing. The 50 yard test are always the treat. While the test was fun and surprising at the same time,.. the thing that was most impressed upon me (or rather reminded me) was that you must pack up all the guns, ammo, etc., etc. and drive to the range to do 50 yard + testing. Then,…. you may get there only to find the conditions less than ideal.

    Many of us can step out our back door with everything only steps away and do 100 yard +. Soooooo,…. “Thank You” for taking that extra effort that some of us just take for granted.


  4. B.B.,

    Very interesting! Reminds me of the performance testing that my daughter did on rocket nose cone shapes for her science fair experiment. She tested four shapes, round, conical, flat and ogive. She knew from research that the ogive was the most efficient, but she also wondered if the flat would cause instability. It didn’t seem to. While the flat nose didn’t fly quite as high, it flew just as straight, which is analogous to what you appear to have proven here.
    Thanks for looking into this…


      • B.B. Pelletier,

        Considering the amount of testing you have done and the amount you still have to do I would vote for using the Tx200 in .177 because redoing it all over again with a larger caliber would make more work for you. You already have a screamer pellet the Crosman Premier heavy for the round nose (/blog/2013/12/tx200-mark-iii-part-11/). You just have to find a wadcutter and a pointed pellet that has a chance to shine at 50 yards.


      • B.B.,

        Good question. One that you could ask 10 people and get 10 different answers. I think the .177 is running out of steam at 50 yards and when that happens,… all kind’s of goofy things can start to occur. If staying with .177, I would go PCP. Smoother, more fps. In other words,… take the vibration and/or lack of any power out of the equation,… though the 668 and 721 fps as noted above is nothing to sneeze at.

        My vote would be a .22 PCP mainly for the retained energy but also the smoothness and fps. Better suited to 50 yards I think.


        • Chris U
          Why do you think .22 caliber is better at 50 yards then .177 caliber? What guns have you tryed at 50 yards in either caliber to compare with?

          I curious why you made that choice.

          • GF1,

            TX and LGU in .22. Best was about 1 1/4″ with both if you do not count some sub groups of 7-9 pellets. Clean holes. I did the TX at 70 and got 2 1/8″ with 10 shots. I have not tried any .177 at 50 yards as I do not have any .177 guns.

            I am just thinking pushing a .22 at a higher fps with a PCP and the higher retained energy at target = more projectile stability.

            I will say,…. you would be a good judge of what to try with all of the different guns you have had.

            • Chris U
              I just gave my vote below of what guns I would like to see tested with the 3 different shapes of pellets BB used for this test he reported today.

              Read below and tell me what you think.

              • GF1,

                Sounds good. Like I said,…. you can speak from direct experience on many things. No one can ever accuse you of not being willing to mix it up, experiment and play with all the possibilities. ( I still like .22 PCP) 😉

                • Chris U
                  Well I do have a .22 caliber Maximus that I know loves JSB 15.89’s.

                  Now as far as a pointed pellet or a wadcutter out of it at 50 yards I have not done that yet. Maybe it’s one of those guns that like all 3 shape pellets that BB tested today.

                  Well there’s one way to find out. That’s for sure. I will get a tin of some pointed and flat nose for it and see.

                  • GF1,

                    I know. I am real close to “pulling the trigger” on one for light off hand, woods walking and just plain having handy and ready to go. Not like I really need it though. It is a daily battle of talking myself in and out of it. From past experience,…. that never worked.

                    If you get on the ball,…. you can do the Maximus and B.B. can do whatever B.B. is going to do. I think you have a little “street cred” here after all. 😉

                    • Chris U
                      Well somebody gave you the lowdown on the Maximus they have and it wasn’t me this time. ;

                      And they was suppose to be doing likewise about a Marauder pistol they just got.

                      I believe either choice you make should make you happy. But remember you got to spill the beans when you get one or the other so we know your thoughts about it.

                      And hey wait a minute. You get that .22 caliber pcp you should order a tin of pointed and a tin of wadcutters. Then you can test all 3 shapes in . 22 in a spring gun and then a pcp. 😉

                      I’m interested in your results at 50 yards. 🙂

      • My vote is for your Talon SS in 22 Cal. We know from your testing it I s accurate and it has the power to reach out to 50 yds. Perhaps you can throw in a true hollow point ( not the CPHP which is a domed pellet with a sml dimple in the head ) like the H & N hollow point of the Crow Magnum.


          • B.B.,

            My vote is with the others who call for a powerful, accurate PCP shooting .22 pellets. To that I would add that the test should be at 50 yards and 100 yards. The heaviest of wadcutters are only 14 – 15 grains, but who knows? And how much more stable might a 20+ grain .22 pellet shot out of a PCP be at 50 yards than these lightweight .177 pellets were out of a springer? Would it be on target at 100?


            • Michael
              The springers and pcp’s that I have had throughout time in .177 caliber have gave good results at 50 yards.

              Wondering why you think. 22 caliber might be better?

              • Gunfun1,

                The weight limits on commercially available .177 might limit how well they are able to perform with a powerful PCP at over 50 yards. Except for wadcutters, which in .22 max out at roughly 14 – 15 grains, .22 pellets come in many brands and designs at much heavier weights that might do better at 100 yards.


                • Michael
                  There are some heavier .177 caliber pellets out there now days. But it would probably need to be a pcp to get it out at a 100 yards. Although a 54 air king in .177 might be a good gun to get out there with if we want to think springers.

                  As it goes test and see is the only real way to know.

          • My vote since it seems we are doing that would be.

            A Talon SS in .177 caliber at 50 yards.

            A Marauder in.177 at 50 yards.

            A 1720T of course in .177 cause that’s all it comes in and at 50 yards.

            And last but not least a TX Mrklll in .177 at 50 yards. And just adding this in. Not the carbine model. Ok ask why not the carbine. Cause I don’t like springers in carbines. Cocking effort basically is why.

            From what I have exsperianced with the guns I just listed I think they may just surprise some of the people wanting a .22 caliber gun. Oh and I’m not saying .22 isn’t a good choice for the test. I have and had some real good .22 caliber springers and pcp’s.

            And I think I’ll add one more to the list. But I’m afraid it won’t work cause there is no pointed or flat nose pellets for it. But I will say that at 50 yards it’s a peice of cake to get one hole groups with it. The .25 caliber Marauder. But it really needs a 100 yards to show what it’s got. Well with some dome pellets anyway. Darn I wish there was a flat nose pellet for my .25 Marauder so I could try them.

            Anyway there’s my vote for some guns to try.

    • Gordonsbuck,

      I had seen that before. I saved it this time. I find it fascinating of all the designs that have been tried over the years. It is quite the historical document as well with lots of info. provided on the “mouse over” as you pointed out. Quite the fitting link for today’s topic as well. Thank you.

  5. Of subject but air gun related.

    Has anybody noticed that the Varmint Hunter blog is no longer active. He had a bunch of good articles also that he reported about. There wasn’t any articles written for several months. But they were in place and the archives were all there. Now the website is there but no articles or archives.

    Hope nothing happened to him. It’s a shame that the site is not active anymore. Just makes it feel like a part of the air gun world faded away. Lot of good info lost.

  6. Hi BB, Happy New Year!
    Aren’t flat head pellets intended for target guns that shoot somewhere in the range 540-580 fps? I’m guessing that the R8 Tyrolean shoots ’em rather faster than that. If so, then could that explain the destabilized impacts? Must have angled over like a toy diablo sometimes does… Obviously, they were also destabilized consistently!

    • Chuck glider
      That’s the part that gets me. How did they all destabilize at impact the same.

      There’s a good one. Try that. See who can get the best destabilized group with the pellets hitting the same everytime. Then we need to see if we can do that on more than one group. Several groups at that.

      Hey at least we would have a bigger wound channel that way if we were hunting. Right? 🙂

      • Hi Gunfun1, I don’t think it’s that odd – it’s similar to what a pro golf or tennis player tries to do – hit a consistent draw or fade. Indeed, the veered off flat head looks like it was more stable than the randomly whizzing about pointed or domed pellets.

        • Chuckglider
          Sorry for getting your user name wrong in my first post. My phone trys to change my writing at times.

          But yep I know what you mean about testing and seeing if results repeat. Can’t even think of where to begin with all the things I tryed.

          Sorry I was basically making a joke about how it’s crazy to get two different types of pellet shapes destabilizing at the same time and the same way.

          I have mentioned several different times that I have had good luck with the flat nose wad cutters out past 30 yards. It seems there is a myth that they don’t shoot well at longer distances if you want to call 50 yards long.

          I myself really think a flat nose pellet might do well in a .25 caliber pcp. Heck look at what some of the big bore airguns have shot in the past. I think that they got nicknamed dumb bell pellets. And some were smooth bore air guns at that. And there is shot gun slugs that uses that shape now. Some even have a rifling twist designed into the slug.

          Hmm maybe that’s another test. Try all 3 shapes BB tested in this report in a smooth bore air gun at 50 yards. That could be a surprising test also.

  7. Hey guys, I have a quick question? I know it’s not time for me to clean or lube my rifle yet but I figured it will be best to learn some tips beforehand. Would I have to completely disassemble my terrus to lube the spring with moly? And would it be bad to use moly on the spring and silicone oil on the seal? Only reason I’m asking is because I’m kind of scared to disassemble it and mess something up. D:

    • Mando.177,

      First, did you figure out your safety question from the other day? Does it come back on after you cock the rifle?

      On the tear down/lube,…. all of that sounds fine. My advice is to learn all you can prior to tear down. Get an exploded view. Then check for YouTube videos. It is a new rifle,… so it may take time for videos to show up. Don’t rush it and be confident that you know all you can know first.

      You will most likely need a spring compressor given the power rating. You may get it apart by other means (which I would not recommend) but you will most surely need something close to a proper spring compressor for re-assembly. Tune-in-a-Tube is a spring lube option but you will only be able to apply it to the portion of the spring that you can see while the rifle is still assembled. You could remove the action from the stock to see if that would expose more spring.

      Just shoot it for now and enjoy it. Learn the holds it likes and try to better your 10 shot groups. Try different pellets,…. at least at 25 yards, 20 yards minimum. Save your paper targets and make notes on them. I make all of mine.

      Keep us posted. Chris

    • Mando.177,

      Tearing down into a relatively new air rifle is not mandatory in my opinion. It does become a rite of passage for some though. I would follow Chris USA’s advice and learn all you can prior to tearing it down. This blog is a rich resource that you have access to along with Youtube and other possible sources on the internet. Tune-in-a-Tube is a stopgap measure if your rifle needs lubrication and you are not ready yet to open your rifle up because you still lack tools or the knowledge.

      Have your read this series? /blog/2006/08/spring-gun-tuning-part-12-finish-reassembly-and-test-the-gun/ This is the last article but it links to the previous articles too. Here is one specific on lubrication:

      Enjoy your rifle and just shoot it for now while you gather resources. Learn it so you can say whether you really made a difference after you do the tear down and lubrication.


    • Mando,

      You never have to disassemble your Terrus. I use a product called Tune in a Tube that lets you lube the mainspring without complete disassembly — just take the action out of the stock.

      Yes, to moly the mainspring (no real reason to do so) the rifle does need to be disassembled.


  8. Well, that was unexpected!!. BB, what are going to do next? Will you shoot the tx200 with crossman pellets?
    If the wadcutters give a similar performance at the next test also, well I will test them in my r9 copy at 50 yards and take them hunting past 30 yards. The wadcutters serve as a very good hunting pellet inside of 25 yards but I have never even thought of hunting with them beyond that distance.

  9. I’m quite curious about what reasonable accuracy I might expect from my new TX200, 22 cal at 50 yards. I shot it today from the 50 yard line, but my accuracy ranged at larger (considerably) than my hand. There was about a 5 mph breeze and I was shooting Crosman Diablos that I think were between 14/15 gr (I forgot to check for sure ). I’m just seeking about how much range to expect from my TX200 as my shooting matures. Thanks, Orv

    • Orv,

      1″ at 50 should be do-able. I had one. I had good notes, but they went with the gun. They are hold sensitive, just less so than many other rifles. The Crosman’s may be an issue. I shot 15.89 JSB’s. Start at 25 and try to hold 1″ for starts.

      Keep us posted. Maybe do some net search’s to see what others have done at 50.

      Best wishes,….. Chris

    • Hoppy,

      Expect that rifle to put 10 in less than an inch at 50 yards. Try JSB Exact domes. They are a great pellet. Rest the rifle directly on a sandbag.

      I shoot 50 yards in 5 m.p.h. breezes all the time. It’s hard to get less here in Texas. That amount of wind should have little affect on the group at 50 yards.


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