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Ammo Pellet calibers — why .25?: Part 4

Pellet calibers — why .25?: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

diabolo pellet
The diabolo pellet exists in four smallbore calibers.

This report covers:

  • History
  • When I got into airgunning
  • Diana
  • Others abound
  • Springers, too
  • Is it possible?
  • Discussion
  • Summary

This is the final installment of this series. Today we look at the big quarter-inch bore — the .25 caliber pellet. This is the largest of the four smallbore airgun calibers, and for years there was nothing larger. The .25 has occupied a niche of its own.


The .25 caliber diabolo pellet came into being a few years after the .177 and .22 — around 1908, or so. Yes, there were smoothbore airguns in the late 1800s in both .22 and .25, with the Gem being one of the most notable. Many dart guns were also made in .25 caliber. But it was George Lincoln Jeffries’ “H. The LINCOLN” air rifle of 1905 that started smallbore airguns in a big way. In a few years BSA, who produced the Jeffries rifles, had taken over, and the BSA rifle that reader RidgeRunner talks about all the time is a direct descendant.

Lincoln Jeffries rifle
H. The LINCOLN underlever spring-piston air rifle was loaded through a rotating tap on top of the receiver.

These early air rifles were spring-piston, which gave the advantage to the lighter .177 caliber. The .25 caliber was introduced as early as 1906, but took several years to catch on. In the early years .25-caliber wasn’t much of a competitor and never caught on in the United States, where .22 caliber soon rose to the top. The .25 went too slow and produced an arched trajectory that was apparently too difficult to deal with. 

The Benjamin Air Rifle company and Crosman could both have taken advantage of their pneumatic powerplants that would have been better suited for the .25 caliber pellets than spring-pistons, but they never did.

When I got into airgunning

As an adult I got into airgunning around 1976 with the purchase of a Diana model 10 pistol. But it was the purchase of Volume 1 of Air Gun Digest, written by Robert Beeman, that started my interest in vintage airguns. Ironically, that happened not too long after I bought the pistol. I was serving in Erlangen, Germany, and in 1977 a copy of the book appeared one day in my Stars and Stripes bookstore on post. I nearly wore that book out (I still have it), reading about a world of airguns that I never knew existed.

In those heady days of the late 1970s the airgun velocity wars had just started. By 1980 I was back in the States and really delving into airguns seriously, but .25 caliber was nowhere to be seen. Dr. Beeman called the .25 caliber “near obsolete” in Airgun Digest and in 1976 when he wrote that, it was. However, it wasn’t quite dead — not yet.


In 1994 Diana started offering their model 48/52 sidelever rifle in .25 caliber. We airgunners all thought it would be a real powerhouse, but the truth was, it left us flat. The Diana 48 in .177 was a powerhouse, at over 1,100 f.p.s. and the .22 was powerful, as well, but the .25 left us wanting. Apparently there wasn’t enough swept volume in the sliding compression chamber to generate enough compressed air to send the big 6.35mm pellets out at more than around 635 f.p.s., give or take. The BSA Lightning XL breakbarrel did just as well and weighed several pounds less — a tribute to swept volume over the power of the mainspring.

What we didn’t perceive in the 1990s when all this was happening was that precharged pneumatic (PCP) airguns that were on the horizon were about to change everything. They were the “dark side” in 1995, but in 2021 they are mainstream. And pneumatics make all the difference in the world!

Today we have .25-caliber rifles shooting pellets capable of supersonic flight, which means they can also handle very heavy pellets. That is perhaps the biggest advantage they have over the .22 round. The AirForce Escape, for example, lists a velocity of 1,145 f.p.s. in .25 caliber. This is a rifle that’s so powerful that it isn’t even offered in .177, because why would you want one? Sure, you can fit a .177 barrel to an Escape but the valve won’t be optimized for it. The Escape is an all-out PCP for hunting. Plinking with it is like plinking with a .454 Casull Magnum. Sure it can be done, but that wasn’t the reason it was developed.

Others abound

And the Escape isn’t the only game in town. Don’t overlook the Condor. And Hatsan has the AirMax, the Flash, the Hydra, the Hercules Bully and so on. Crosman has numerous incarnations of the Benjamin Marauder and the Kratos. And the beat just goes on and on.

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Springers, too

There are also a few spring-piston rifles that at least claim to shoot .25-caliber pellets at or above 900 f.p.s. The springer has never been the powerplant of choice for the quarter-inch bore, but some of today’s spring rifles are capable of good power that, unfortunately comes at a price of hard cocking and violent shot cycles.

To get the power to push heavy .25-caliber pellets a spring-piston rifle needs a long stroke and a fairly wide piston. Unless the rifle is specifically built for that caliber as the Sig ASP20 is specifically built for .22 caliber, the shot cycle of an untuned rifle will be harsh.

Now I own a spring-piston rifle in .25 caliber that produces over 30 foot-pounds and is absolutely dead calm. So it can be done. But my Whiscombe is one of less than 500 rifles ever made by the late John Whiscombe and to buy one you’ll pay four figures.

Is it possible?

Could someone make a dedicated .25-caliber spring-piston air rifle that was smooth, and easy enough to cock? Of course. But it would take a concerted effort from a company willing to invest a large percentage of the time of several engineers over a period of perhaps 18 months. Are there enough potential sales of .25 caliber breakbarrels at the $400+ mark to justify an investment like that? Probably not. You see, it’s not just a matter of a more powerful mainspring. The Hatsan 135 QE Vortex cocks with 57 pounds of effort and still only delivers velocities of 750 f.p.s. in .25 caliber. Compared to the spring guns of yesteryear that’s magnum performance, but so many PCPs leave it behind that there is no comparison.


I count 19 different pellets for sale in .25 caliber. Only the .20 caliber offers less choice. The pellets that do exist come from premium manufacturers which means they should all be good, but it also means they won’t be cheap. Don’t envision shooting a .25 only to discover after buying the airgun that you don’t want to pay for the ammo!

The PCP is far better suited to .25 caliber. It has the power to make trajectory concerns a non-issue. Given that, the .25 caliber pellet is the number one smallbore pellet choice for small game hunting.

The market seems to be expanding cautiously for the .25 caliber airgun and pellet. PCPs now dominate .25 caliber with the greatest potential for advancement remaining in the spring-piston arena (because they have so far to go). Only the CO2 powerplant is not a big player as the rising tide lifts most boats.


The .25 caliber has finally arrived — about a century after its introduction. In the smallbore airgun world it is at the top of the heap. But you must understand that its performance comes at a cost.

74 thoughts on “Pellet calibers — why .25?: Part 4”

    • Siraniko,

      Darts in airguns have been produced in a wide range of calibers. The early airguns that shot darts were in .40 caliber. B.B. has written about this too Shocking as it may seem 😉


      • Kevin,

        Yup you are right he has written articles in 2010 and 2005 regarding darts. Although I must admit everytime darts are mentioned I usually associate it with .177 caliber. I had overlooked that there are also such things as tranquilizer darts. Darts seem to have fallen out of favor with the increased accuracy with the use of pellets and the advances in manufacturing making them cheap enough as a one time use item.


        • Siranko,

          You are correct. Modified airguns that shoot tranquilizer darts have been around for quite awhile. Most popular being in .50 caliber. They haven’t fallen out of favor since they are very useful tools for many, especially cattle ranchers.

          The early Palmer Cap-Chur .50 caliber dart guns were built on Crosman platforms. Their rifle was a Crosman 160 platform and their pistols were a Crosman 150 platform. Here’s a good read:


          Cap-Chur still makes tranquilizer darts and guns. Their newest stainless steel cartridge fired rifle is accurate up to 25 yards with a dart. See here:


          Pneu-Dart is a competitor of Cap-Chur and is using the Benjamin Sheridan pumper that B.B. recently reviewed as their platform for delivering a .50 caliber tranquilizer dart. It’s called the Pnue-Dart Model 178b. The tranquilizer darts have evolved as well since they now come with exploding tips to quickly facilitate the injection of the substance you’re using, i.e., tranquilizer, medications, etc. See here:


          • Kevin
            They had one on AOA a while back.

            Almost bought it. Was going to see if it would shoot the Wingshot shot shells.

            Something tells me I should of bought it and tried it.

  1. Seems many airgun fanatics are viewing the .25 as a small caliber these days. Don’t think these are the fringes since manufacturers are bringing new offerings to market that not only offer .25 caliber but ..30 caliber and more just trying to be relevant.

    • Kevin,

      I was tickled to see that FX was finally dabbling with the .357. Now that they are coming on board, we should start to see more pellet offerings in that caliber, though many just go to cast bullets when they get that big.

      Even with the .30 it seems cast is the way to go. You do need to pay attention to which .30 it is. Some air rifles are .30, some are .303 and some are .308.

  2. BB,

    A friend of mine contacted me yesterday and is preparing to buy his first PCP, an AV Avenger in .25. He and his son have dabbled in airgunning with break barrels some, but this is quite a jump. I asked him why .25? His response was it is larger than .177 and .22. He is an avid hunter and I think that is driving his caliber choice. After emailing back and forth, it seems he has been checking out the reviews of PCPs for some time, so he does not seem to be going into this blind.

    His main reason for contacting me is air. Where to get air? Where to get and what type of tank? Where do you get it filled?

    I gave him some good sources for tanks. Because of his caliber choice, I also recommended the biggest tanks available. I told him I would be more than happy to fill his tank for free anytime he needed it. I also pointed him to the new “portable” compressors. I need to spend some face time with him so I can determine what would be the best way for him to go.

    When you start thinking of caliber choice, you have to start thinking of powerplant. As you have pointed out, the sproinger is great for .177, not not so for the bigger stuff. I have hand pumped a Benjamin Rogue in .357. You are not going to want to do that. A .25 is going to use a lot of air also. When you go above .22, you are likely going to leave the hand pump in the closet. Think about it.

    • RR,

      That is quite a jump. It would depend the quarry. Having had .25’s,… pellet selection would be a concern. Going .22 might open it up to slug options as the fps should be higher. Is it choked? You know he will eventually ask about shooting slugs.

      Good luck on getting it all sorted for him. There is so many choices out there on guns and compressors these days. Good that he has already done (some) homework.

      One thing I would ask is what other guns he has looked at,… why he (maybe) eliminated those and why/how he ended up putting the Avenger into the final run.

      Also, since it is tunable,… he really should consider a chrono if he does not yet have one.


      • Chris,

        He has a ProChrono. I used to borrow it some. He used to be real serious into archery competition and is an avid hunter.

        I cannot argue with his choice of air rifle as I myself would like to have one. I would go with .22, but I think he is considering down range energy.

        He understands it being tunable. He probably would not have chosen it if it were not. Knowing him, he will likely get to know that air rifle well long before he hits the woods with it. There is a very good chance he will be spending the rest of winter, spring and summer getting ready for fall.

        • RR
          I bet you would be surprised how flat the modern. 25 caliber pcps shoot. And at a longer distance than .22 caliber with more retained energy.

          I’m thinking my .25 Condor SS shoots flatter than your .30 caliber RAW.

          I will take a .25 caliber pcp over a .22 caliber pcp any day.

          If you ever do a side by side you will know what I mean.

          My .25 Condor SS blows away the Talon SS with the .22 caliber barrel I got from you. Its got a flatter trajectory at a longer distance. The .22 runs out of steam if you know what I mean.

    • RR,

      A portable compressor is the way to go. And .25 because it is bigger is the number one reason it is chosen. But what everyone misses is the greater flexibility of the .22.

      Ask your friend why not .30. It is biugger than .25. 😉


      • BB,

        The Avenger is not offered in .30 as of yet. 😉 I think he wants to wade out slowly before he dives into the deep end. From what I am reading and hearing, the Avenger is an awesome PPPCP.

        My choice is .22 for long range plinking and small gaming. I need to get some face time with him and make sure he understands where he is going.

        I am starting to think the portable compressor is how you should start out in PCP. We will have to see how they hold up with extended use.

  3. BB,

    Another deep thought for everyone to ponder.

    Is the big bore market driving the air source market or is the air source market driving the big bore market? You cannot have one without the other.

    • RidgeRunner,

      Are we talking Chicken or the Egg here?

      As a longtime (35 year) high pressure Dark Side Arts Practitioner and 25+ year BIG BORE owner the chicken, aka Big Bore, came first. I used my SCUBA cylinders for double duty and owned two AXSOR pumps for a simple backup source of air IF the dive shops were ever closed permanently for some reason. I toyed with owning a dive compressor and air multiplyers (Boosters) but it never made economic sense.
      I think the recent deluge of small bore PCP especially the PPP are driving the portable compressor market.
      That’s my take from the long haul of PCP/Big Bore ownership.

      Also back in the early 1990s i bought an (8 shot in .25 caliber) 3,000psi, multi-caliber and multi fuel capable bottle PCP with Lothar-Walter barrels that would get 100FPS with 40gn PelletMan .25 cal bullets. It was a beast to shoot until i put a modified paintball regulator and a custom plenum on it. It could shoot the heavy .25 pellets of the day accurately and out to 100 with the pressure regulated under 1,000PSI. Most folks just complained about the pneumatic trigger because they were shooting it with CO2 usually way to much pressure or worse still with straight 3,000psi air or Nitrogen. Their ill informed (BIASED) reviews/posts on airgun forums almost killed the Dark side; they know who they are.

      End of Dark Sider RANT!


      • Shootski,

        I would wet myself for an operating Girandoni. I am well aware the big bores were here long before the teenee tiny little things they have now.

        I am referring to today’s market. A hand pump can fill a .177, but using a hand pump on a .457 is almost suicidal.

        This old geezer is going to bed now.

  4. B.B.

    When is the New Format coming? Everyday i expect it to be here and it never is???
    Pyramid web site has it now.

    Interesting series about pellets. One thing I read, not here, is that some pellets seal the chamber at their head while others seal at their skirt. Very interesting indeed!


  5. After ww2 there were several America pneumatic air guns like the Apache.
    But, iirc, the first spring piston was the BSA Magnum 635 in the late 70’s and the Cobra Strike, a rebadged Magnum 635. Yup, the 635 meant 6.35mm. All this was several years before Beeman offered the R1 in .25. Ushering in the modern age of the ‘quarter bore’.

  6. As Breeze says, the BSA Mercury Magnum 635 ushered in the more modern .25 cal. era. Later, BSA began to offer most of its high end springers in .25 cal as well- late model Airsporters, Superstars, Supersports etc. They had a following, especially for close range ratting, but they didn’t pull all that many people away from the smaller calibres.
    A friend of mine has a Diana 54 in .25. in addition to 2 others in .177. The .177’s are more versatile in the hunting environment but the .25 has devastating squirrel killing capabilities. Quite beyond anything I have seen with spring airguns. In conjunction with a mil-dot scope, good rangefinding and Bisley Superfield pellets, it is very reliable out to 30 yds.


  7. I think I can understand R.R. friend’s choice.
    For serious hunting head shots, plus a little practice/fun ones, the .25 Rex KT is in a back pack along with a Hill pump. Both of them partially disassembled with room for many pellets and the new, big Wolf silencer.
    50 to 75+ fpe do the job, or just make me smile.
    One more thing. As a backup to the Rex I keep my SPA/ARTEMIS PP700s, also in.25 cal, only with light H&N field target pellets.
    You can have joy in every caliber.

  8. B.B.,

    It was in 1976 that I purchased my Sheridan Blue Streak. Sometime in 1977 I purchased the El Gamo Expo. I did have a copy of Air Gun Digest. It appears to have been lost in the move from Tennessee to Texas (along with a few other books .. probably in the same box.. That book was equal to the Sears Christmas catalog (for adults).

    Thank you for telling us about items of historical and collecting interest.


  9. B.B.
    I often wondered why Benjamin or Crosman never producted a .25 cal pump rifle. Beeman used to brag about how much better the break barrel was the the American Pump. Well Benjamin could combated that with producing a .25 cal pump. And could brag of zero recoil compared to a springer. What could have been (still could be done if they wanted).


    • Doc,

      If you think about it, it’s already been done by Air Venturi. Their .25 cal Aspen is a multi pump gun. Just has a modern twist on the old multi-pump design.


      • Half,
        Ok I’ll give that to you, but to me it’s not a multi-pump rifle as we know it. I consider the Aspen as a PCP rifle with a built in/on board pump. But if that is the case, then would the late Benjamin ACP (Air Conserving Pumper) also be considered a PCP with on board pump? Hmmm. The lines get blurred on these.


        • Doc,

          I use my Aspen just like a multi-pump. I get it aired up to the point that it’s shooting at the velocity that I want for the pellet I’m shooting at the time and then I shoot, pump once or twice, shoot, pump a few times, rinse and repeat. I’ve considered it as just a multi-pump since I first saw it marketed as the Freedom. It differentiates itself from other multi-pumps only in the fact that it has a multistage pump instead of what is essentially a bicycle pump and it has a minimal reservoir to store the air in, instead of just using the capacity of the valve’s interior. I was never impressed with the number of shots or the extreme spread of those shots or with the effort reviewers needed to put out to get half a dozen decent shots (to use just arm power and not your whole body weight, the pump on this gun has tiny pistons which equate to low, low volume of output and lots of pumps) and, for those reasons, I felt that the reviewers were utilizing it in the wrong way by treating it as a PCP. I actually remember thinking, ” Damn, they finally gave us a multi-pump with way more power than all the attempts to modify the 392 could ever hope for and everybody want’s to characterize it as a PCP and it ain’t even a very good PCP.” I just didn’t get it, So when the Aspen came out and I knew I could get it from a reputable dealer, I bought one knowing exactly how I was going to use it… as a multi-pump … and it is unsurpassed in that role. The FX gun may be better, but I’ll never know.

          This is all just my opinion, of course, but I do feel strongly about it.

          Stay safe, Half

  10. Drew 451 nailed it when he mentioned the .25 cal effectiveness on squirrel. I have a BSA Supersport in .25 and a Crosman 140 converted to .25 and I can tell you there is a marked difference when hunting with them compared to the common .22 and .177 airguns, at the usual woods ranges encountered in the eastern US. The trajectory is not the issue you would suppose it would be. I use the Benji pellet in the Crosman and the H&N field target trophy in the BSA. Penetration with the Benji pellet is impressive even at only 675fps. in the converted Crosman 140(ten pumps). These traditional airguns avoid the need for the baggage the .25 cal PCP versions bring to the table for the common or casual user. You just need pellets and your gun.

    As a side note, It was this same effectiveness that had led me to abandon the more traditional .22RF in firearms ,in favor of the reloadable and more effective .25-20 cal small game rifles of the past. A chest shot grey squirrel hit with a .25 cal dia flat nosed projectile is always DRT, and not messed up for table fare.

  11. Doc Holiday , that Seneca Dragonfly MSP that Pyramyd Air did sell in .22 could have been a .25 . I just may figure out a way to convert mine . It also was a very effective (IMO) .22 MSP , in many ways much better and certainly more powerful than the current Crosman offerings.

    • Kevin , I hear you. Sheridan Blue Steaks going for $400- and up even with issues? But then again, look what ammo, tools for self -reliance living , canning jar lids…. I could go on .

      • Robert,

        Great to hear from you! You make some great points, as usual, but I’m having a hard time understanding why the prices of old airguns have gone through the roof. More people bored at home during quarantine and lock down wanting something to do?

        • Kevin,

          No Commercial Cartridges in any caliber at prices people want to pay. It is the same with reloading components: primers, cases, bullets, shot, and powder. Even the tools to reload are going way up in price!

          Pellets are not as bad but soon they will be in short supply as folks turn to anything that shoots. If you need bows, bolts, or arrows those will be next; and not because of the TV series and movies with bow girls!


          • Shootski,

            I understand the powder burner market. We’ve seen these supply shortages before when Obama was in office. He didn’t affect the vintage airgun market though. Maybe what’s different now is the China virus?

            • Kevin,

              Yogi is correct to a point in his post below.
              I get a different feeling on this run on 2nd Amendment tools from the Obama time. That time it was mostly Conservative buying pressure that caused shortages. My son says his moderate and liberal aquaintenses are asking for his advice on what to buy and if they have a shooter they want to get lessons on how to shoot. Many of them have money and bought up ammo in large quantities often totally the wrong choice. He gives lessons for ammo donations.
              If his and my experience is typical for many existing shooters then that is totally different in Kind and Quantities over the Obama run.

              What is your experience?


              • Shootski,

                You seem to know a bit more than the average bear. What do you think about Crypto coin? Yogi and I were having a bit of an exchange on the topic.

                I follow the markets. Musk buys 1.5 Billion and 2 days later Bitcoin machines make the LOCAL news on machines showing up all over Columbus, Ohio. Huh? Like,… the machines were just (already) sitting there,……. all ready to go?

                Save the links. Just looking for something off the top of your head. 😉

                (lid off the powder keg and match lit) 😉


                • Chris USA,

                  OKAY! Two days in a row… I’m apt to start charging you my Consultant Fee, if you need to ask how much, don’t even! And NO I don’t take Crypto Currency. Gold or Platinum unless you have some Plutonium or Hafnium laying around.

                  I studied Blockchain and you need to also if you want to speculate in Crypto Currency!

                  Make or grow yourself, barter, Women (i guess Men in some cases,) IOU, precious metal/jem stones, precious Metal Coins, paper currencies/stamps representing precious metals on deposit, bank notes, cheques, Treasury Promissory Notes, electronic funds transfers, and now Crypto Currencies. With only a few exceptions the value of most of these are based on trust. Many of them have a physical existence. Some of them exist only as Bits and Bites.

                  How much Trust do you have? How much do you know and believe in the return on your investment’s stability, accessibility, fungibility and survivability?

                  That’s what I think.


                  • Shootski,

                    It was Monday,… you had the weekend off! 😉

                    You do have an odd way of answering sometimes. I have an IRA and ROTH in mutual funds. Growth and income, moderate risk level.

                    I was more curious as to any insights that you might have on the topic of a (global currency) and also,… now that major banks, major investment firms, big companies and players like Musk are embracing the Bitcoin. ?

                    Then, the (local) news talking about bit coin machines showing up in what would seem to be,… an overnight fashion. It smacked of a “planned roll out”. ?

                    Even the traditional TV financial pundits seem a bit confused,… having to bring in the 20-30 year olds to explain it to them. It has only gained real traction in the (last couple of months). ? 20K one week, 50K the next, 40K the next and 100K in a few months? tends to get the pundits talking.

                    No, I have not seriously studied it, nor have the money to maybe waste on it.

                    Trust? I have less and less of it everyday. Maybe I will just pull it all and dig a hole in the yard! Conspiracy theories may have/have not been implied in the above statements. 😉 LOL!

                    Thanks,…… Chris

                    • Chris USA,

                      “I was more curious as to any insights that you might have on the topic of a (global currency) and also,… now that major banks, major investment firms, big companies and players like Musk are embracing the Bitcoin. ?”
                      I don’t believe in GLOBAL anything. Why? Because it is just another tool for enslavement. At least in a system of Nation State with some degree of Independence gives one a choice of where we want to do our penury at the hands of the controlling elites. The song MONEY Makes the World Go Round comes to mind as a lesson in why the system of Nation States depends on individule national currencies. As soon as there is a global currency we will have one World Government. Which of the other choices do you want to live under?
                      The stated concept on Crypto Currencies is that they are safe because of Blockchain accounting. The idea is that many “ledgers” keep the level of trust intact because cheating is readily exposed and easily controlled.
                      The reason young people embrace these sorts of Utopian systems is that they have little exposure to their Dystopian outcomes. You need to study the difference between Marxist Socialism and the all new Utopian Socialism; examples of which the “free zones” in Seattle or Minneapolis-StaintPaul have experienced.

                      Nothing is ever as it seems on the surface!

                      One final thought: What happens to your share of the Crypto Currency when a Solar Event, EMP, or other type of Mass Data casualty takes out all the Ledgers.


              • And we better get the newbies to join 2nd Amendment protection organizations like the NRA as well as start voting rationally in defense of the rignts and best interests of the sane majority…to me, the 1st and 2nd Amendments are the “mine canaries” of our Constitutional Rights; as they go, so will the other rights so much taken for granted these days.

  12. BB,

    With a CO2 gun like the Air Javelin producing 34 FPE with its stock arrows, do you think it would be possible to design a CO2 rifle using that valve setup to fire a 25 grain .25 cal pellet and get 34 FPE? By my calculations it would be on the order of 760 FPS or so. Would you really have to settle for much lower energy from the power source just because of the switch to lead pellets? Also, are you still planning to give us that 50 yard accuracy report on the Air Javelin when the weather improves?


  13. BB,
    Don’t overlook that a .25 caliber that launches pellets on the slow side may be appealing to those who live where laws place limits on the velocities for calibers over .177.

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