What Are Different Types of Air Gun Pellets | A Guide for Shooting Enthusiasts

When it comes to air guns, one crucial element that often gets overlooked is the humble pellet. These tiny projectiles are the key to achieving accuracy and precision in your shooting endeavors. With a wide array of options available, understanding the different types of air gun pellets can make all the difference in hitting your target. In my guide, we’ll embark on a journey to explore and decode the various types of air gun pellets. I am also going to shed light on their unique characteristics, applications, and advantages. So, grab your air gun, and let’s dive in!

What Are Firearm Pellets?

Pellets are typically cylindrical or spherical and are designed to be fired from specific types of guns. Pellets can be made from various materials, but the most common material is lead. However, alternative materials like steel, copper, or alloy are also used, depending on the intended use and regulations. And you know the choice of material affects the pellet’s weight, hardness, and other performance characteristics.

The purpose of pellets varies depending on the type of gun and the shooting activity. In air guns, pellets are used as the primary ammunition. They are typically loaded into a magazine or chamber and propelled by compressed air or gas. Air gun pellets are available in different caliber sizes such as .177 (4.5mm), .20 (5mm), .22 (5.5mm), and .25 (6.35mm) to match the specifications of different air gun models.

In serious firearms, pellets are less common and are generally used in specialized applications. For example, certain shotgun shells may contain multiple small lead or steel pellets, commonly known as “shot” which are used for hunting birds or other small game. Shotgun pellets come in different sizes, referred to as shot sizes, ranging from small birdshot (#9) to larger buckshot (#4 to 000).

8 Basic Types of Air Gun Pellets Based on Design

Diabolo Pellets

Diabolo pellets are the most common and popular ammunition for air guns and air rifles. They are named after their distinctive hourglass shape, resembling a diabolo toy. It’s also known as a “waisted” or “wasp-waist” design because it has a narrow waist compared to its head and skirt. Diabolo pellets are typically made of lead, although alternative materials like copper or alloy are also used. The design of Diabolo pellets features a larger head, a narrower waist, and a hollow skirt at the base. Now, you might wonder, what makes this design so special? Well, the diabolo pellet’s unique shape offers two main qualities that shooters value- stability and accuracy. The hollow base allows the pellet to engage with the rifling in the barrel. It improves stability and accuracy during flight.

The great thing about Diabolo pellets is that they come in all popular calibers, so you can find them in .177, .22, and even .20 and .25 sizes. This ensures that shooters using different air guns can benefit from the stability and accuracy provided by this pellet design.

So, whether you’re a target shooter looking for precise shots or a hunter seeking accuracy in the field, diabolo pellets offer a reliable choice with their effective design and availability in various calibers.

Round Nose Pellets

Round nose pellets design features a rounded head that promotes aerodynamic flight. This design helps maintain stability in mid-air. These pellets offer good impact and penetration due to their shape. Thus making them ideal for target practice, plinking, and small-game hunting. Round nose pellets also provide a balance between accuracy and impact. Therefore, they have become a versatile choice for various shooting scenarios.

Hollow Point Pellets

When it comes to hunting small game or pest control, hollow point pellets take the stage. These pellets are designed with a hollowed-out tip which allows for controlled expansion upon impact. The expansion creates a larger wound channel, resulting in efficient energy transfer and increased stopping power. Hollow point pellets are known for their excellent terminal ballistics. So they are highly effective for dispatching small games swiftly and humanely.

Pointed Pellets

As the name suggests, the Pointed pellets feature a pointed tip. This design provides increased penetration and better aerodynamics. So they get higher velocities in flatter trajectories. They also help to improve accuracy over longer distances. That’s why they are an excellent choice for those seeking precise and consistent performance. Moreover, Pointed pellets are often favored by shooters engaged in field target shooting or long-range precision shooting.

Wadcutter Pellets

Wadcutter pellets deviate from the traditional pellet shape with a flathead design. These pellets are primarily used for target shooting and competition purposes. The flat head creates a clean, round hole in the target, making it easier to score and evaluate accuracy. Wadcutter pellets have a lower velocity compared to other types, but they excel in delivering consistent performance and tight shot groups at shorter distances.

Polymer-Tipped Pellets

Polymer-tipped pellets combine the best of both worlds by incorporating a polymer tip on top of a traditional pellet design. Because the polymer tip enhances the aerodynamics and ballistic coefficient which help shooters to maintain the pellet’s shape during flight. And this leads to better consistency and impact performance. These pellets are often used in medium-range shooting for their excellent terminal ballistics.

Solid/Airgun Slugs

Solid or airgun slugs are single-projectile ammunition designed for specific air guns or air rifles. Unlike Diabolo pellets, slugs have a solid construction throughout, without a hollow base. They are usually heavier than pellets and have a more streamlined shape. 

Solid slugs are designed to provide higher energy transfer, better penetration, and improved long-range performance compared to traditional pellets. Slugs are available in various calibers. So it allows shooters to select the appropriate size for their air guns.

Hybrid Pellets

Hybrid pellets are a relatively newer development in the world of air gun ammunition.

They are designed to combine features of both pellets and slugs. They have an aiming to offer the advantages of each design. Hybrid pellets typically have a solid front portion, similar to a slug for improved ballistic coefficient and aerodynamics.

The rear portion of the pellet is hollow, allowing it to engage with the rifling in the barrel like a Diabolo pellet. The combination of the solid and hollow sections in hybrid pellets aims to enhance accuracy, energy retention, and overall performance downrange. Hybrid pellets are available in various calibers and are used in air guns or air rifles capable of effectively shooting this specific type of ammunition.

5 Air Gun Pellets Types According to Caliber Size

Pellets for air guns come in various calibers. And they come with their characteristics and applications. Here’s an overview of common pellet calibers and their uses.

.177 (4.5mm) Caliber Pellets

.177 caliber pellets are the most common and widely used in air guns. These small, lightweight pellets offer high velocities and flat trajectories. They are suitable for target shooting, plinking, and pest control. You’ll find a variety of pellet types including round nose, hollow point, pointed, wadcutter, and polymer-tipped pellets within the .177 caliber range.

  • It is the most popular and widely used pellet caliber.
  • It offers high velocity, flat trajectory, and excellent accuracy.
  • .177 caliber pellets are commonly used for target shooting, plinking, and pest control.
  • They are also suitable for shooting small pests such as rats, mice, and sparrows.
  • .177 caliber pellets may be more susceptible to wind drift at longer distances for their lighter weight.

.20 (5mm) Caliber Pellets

The .20 caliber pellet is less common compared to .177 and .22 calibers but still, it has its niche. It falls between .177 and .22 calibers in terms of size and weight. They are smaller and lighter than .22 caliber pellets but larger and heavier than .177 caliber pellets. So they provide a balance between velocity, accuracy, and impact energy. Shooters who prefer .20 caliber pellets may value their intermediate size and performance characteristics for specific shooting scenarios. Similar to other calibers, the specific pellet types available in the round nose, hollow point, pointed, wadcutter, and polymer-tipped designs.

  • They are known for their flat trajectory, good accuracy, and moderate penetration.
  • They provide a balance between the advantages of .177 and .22 calibers. Thus they offer decent energy transfer and accuracy.
  • .20 caliber pellets are suitable for target shooting, pest control, and small game hunting.
  • Due to their size and weight, .20 caliber pellets offer improved energy transfer and penetration compared to .177 caliber pellets.

.22 (5.5mm) Caliber Pellets

Moving up in caliber size, .22 caliber pellets offer increased kinetic energy and greater impact for hunting purposes. These pellets are heavier than their .177 counterparts but they provide better penetration and stopping power. .22 caliber pellets are available in the round nose, a hollow point pointed, and other designs.

  • .22 caliber pellets are larger and heavier than .177 caliber pellets.
  • They offer increased energy, better impact, and higher stopping power.
  • They are effective for taking down rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and other small to medium-sized game.
  • .22 caliber pellets tend to have a slightly slower velocity but provide better energy transfer upon impact.

.25 (6.35mm) Caliber Pellets

These pellets are an excellent choice for shooters seeking even more power and stopping authority. For their larger size and weight, these pellets offer superior energy transfer. They are suitable for hunting larger game or pest control in challenging scenarios. The expanded selection of .25 caliber pellets includes a round nose, hollow point, and pointed designs.

  • .25 caliber pellets are larger and heavier than .22 caliber pellets.
  • They offer increased energy and stopping power compared to smaller calibers.
  • They are effective for taking down larger pests such as possums, woodchucks, and feral cats.
  • .25 caliber pellets are also ideal for hunting larger small game and pests.
  • These caliber pellets may have a shorter effective range compared to smaller calibers due to their larger size and weight.

.30 (7.62mm) Caliber Pellets

At the top end of the air gun pellet spectrum, we find the mighty .30 caliber pellets. These heavy-hitting projectiles are designed for maximum impact and penetration. .30 caliber pellets excel in dispatching game animals swiftly and effectively with their significant weight and large size. Their terminal ballistics and high stopping power make them popular among serious hunters. They are also a great option for those seeking exceptional performance in their air gun arsenal.

    • The .30 caliber pellet is a larger and heavier pellet primarily used for specialized applications.
    • It is typically used in high-powered air rifles designed for long-range shooting or hunting larger game.
    • They are capable of taking down larger pests and game such as raccoons, foxes, and even deer in some cases.
    • .30 caliber pellets offer excellent stopping power and deeper penetration for their increased size and weight.
    • Though .30 caliber pellets may have a slower velocity due to their larger size, deliver substantial energy nonetheless.

Are Air Guns and Shotgun Pellets (Ammo) the Same?

No, air gun pellets and shotgun pellets are not the same. They differ in terms of design, purpose, and the type of firearms they are used with.

Airgun Pellets

  • Air gun pellets are specifically designed for use in air guns or air rifles.
  • They are typically made of lead, although alternative materials like copper or alloy may be used.
  • Air gun pellets come in various shapes, such as round nose, hollow point, pointed, wadcutter, and polymer-tipped, each designed for different shooting applications.
  • These pellets are generally used for target shooting, plinking, and hunting small game.
  • Air gun pellets are available in different calibers, including .177, .20, .22, .25, .30 caliber sizes, and others.

Shotgun Pellets

  • Shotgun pellets, also known as shots, are small spherical projectiles used in shotguns.
  • They are usually made of lead, although non-toxic options like steel, bismuth, or tungsten may be used for certain applications.
  • Shotgun pellets come in various sizes, denoted by numbers such as 4, 7.5, or 00 (double-ought).
  • The size and number of pellets in a shotgun load determine its spread and pattern when fired.
  • Shotgun pellets are used for hunting birds, small game, and in some cases, for self-defense or home defense.

There is also a significant difference in shot selection, ammo types & sizes between them. I’ve included here some of the basic facts below.

Air Gun Shot Types

There are a few types of air gun shots available that are designed to mimic the effect of traditional shotgun shots. These air gun shots are usually referred to as “shotshells” or “shot cartridges.”

BB Shot:

BB shot refers to small steel or copper spherical projectiles typically measuring 0.177 inches (4.5mm) in diameter. These shots are used in air guns that are specifically designed to shoot BBs. They are commonly used for plinking and target shooting. They offer a low-cost and easily accessible option.

Airgun Shotshells:

Airgun shotshells are specialized cartridges designed for air guns that provide a shotgun-like effect. These shotshells contain multiple small lead or alloy pellets or BBs, housed in a plastic or metal casing. The pellets or BBs are released simultaneously upon firing, creating a spread similar to a shotgun pattern. Airgun shotshells are primarily used for close-range pest control or small-game hunting.

Shotgun Shot Types

Shotguns use a variety of shot types. They are designed for specific purposes and shooting scenarios. Here are some commonly used shotgun shot types are given below.

Birdshot:

Birdshot is primarily used for hunting birds such as ducks, pheasants, or quails. It consists of numerous small lead or steel pellets packed in a shell. The pellets are typically small in size. They are ranging from #9 to #4, allowing for a dense shot pattern at shorter distances. Birdshot is effective for shooting flying targets or small game at close to moderate ranges.

Buckshot:

Buckshot is used for hunting larger game, self-defense, or law enforcement purposes. It typically contains larger lead or steel pellets, ranging from #4 to 000 (triple-aught) in size. Buckshot offers greater stopping power and penetration compared to birdshot. It is effective for hunting deer, and feral hogs where a shooter needs a wider shot pattern and increased terminal performance.

Slug:

Slugs are single, solid projectiles fired from shotguns. Slugs are designed for longer-range accuracy and increased penetration but consist of multiple pellets. They are most commonly used for hunting big game such as deer or boar where precise shot placement is required. Slugs are available in various designs including foster slugs and sabot slugs.

Shotguns can also be loaded with specialty ammunition for specific purposes. For example,

  • Less-lethal rounds such as rubber or bean bag rounds are used for crowd control or animal deterrent.
  • Breaching rounds are used for activities like breaching doors in tactical operations.

What Are the Perfect Pellet Types and Calibers for Different Games, Shoots, or Pest Controlling?

Small Game

  • Rabbits: .177 or .22 caliber with Round Noses Hollow Point Pellets are well fit for this job. Because these calibers offer sufficient velocity and energy for humane kills on rabbits, while the rounded shape promotes accuracy and good penetration.
  • Squirrels: For hunting them down, .177 or .22 caliber Round Nose Pellets and Hollow Point Pellets are good to go. Reason: These pellets provide the necessary energy and expansion for effective kills on squirrels. They also ensure a humane dispatch.

Medium Game

  • Pigeons:  You can choose between .177 or .22 caliber Round Nose Pellets, Pointed Pellets, and Hollow Point Pellets. They all offer the desired combination of accuracy, impact, and expansion to effectively hunt pigeons.
  • Raccoons: .22 or .25 caliber Hollow Point Pellets and Polymer-Tipped Pellets are the perfect selection for this type of game. They deliver the necessary energy and expansion to take down raccoons, also ensuring a humane approach.

Larger Game

  • Foxes: Any shooter can select .25 or .30 caliber Hollow Point Pellets and Polymer-Tipped Pellets to hunt them down with the proper firearm. These calibers and pellet types have the required power, penetration, and terminal ballistics to effectively hunt foxes.
  • Groundhogs: .25 or .30 caliber Hollow Point Pellets and Polymer-Tipped Pellets are perfect for this job. Reason: They have enough energy and expansion to dispatch groundhogs efficiently.
  • Coyotes: To hunt them down, .30 caliber Hollow Point Pellets and Polymer-Tipped Pellets or larger calibers may be required. Because Coyotes are quite larger animals that need heavier cartridges.

Pest Control Purposes

  • Rats: For effective rat control purposes, .177 or .22 caliber Round Nose Pellets and Hollow Point Pellets are very suitable with the appropriate firearm selection.
  • Mice: Similar to rats, .177 or .22 caliber Round Nose Pellets and Hollow Point Pellets are suitable choices for effective pest control.
  • Sparrows: .177 or .22 caliber Round Nose Pellets and Pointed Pellets are efficient selections for successful sparrow control because of their accuracy and energy.

Final Verdict

Now you must realize that there are a variety of pellet types available within each caliber size for specific shooting requirements such as target shooting, pest control, or hunting. Whether you’re an avid Hunter, Target Shooter, or Plinker, the right pellet selection can significantly impact your shooting experience. Understanding the different types of air gun pellets is essential for any shooting enthusiast. So, next time you load your air gun, consider the type of pellet you’re using. If you are a novice, take time to explore and experiment with different pellet (caliber size) types and enjoy the journey of mastering your marksmanship abilities. Happy shooting!

  • EndNote: Safety is of utmost importance when using air guns. Always follow proper safety guidelines, adhere to local laws and regulations, and ensure a suitable shooting environment.