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Gary’s bending to the task of testing deformed pellets at long range
In a previous experiment, I’d tried to show that at 20 and 35 yards, the effects of various pellet deformations were largely negligible, to some extent indistinguishable and, in fact, perhaps even better in the case of the double-lipped pellet. But how about 55 yards?
Would the damage still make little difference? Or would the pellets even land in the same county, never mind on the targets? Would the variance between .177 and .22 become more pronounced?
I was lucky enough to get my mitts on a very nice example of the Daystate Pulsar in .177. Before I could get down to testing how inaccurate things could be, I had to find a brand of pellets the Pulsar liked to eat. Fortunately, I had waiting for me one of South Yorkshire Shooting Club’s pellet-testing selection packs in .177. A long afternoon in the garden convinced me I had the correct pellet, and so following a quick trip to my local gun shop to stock up, I headed to North Cotes Butts shooting club to get stuck into the testing.
If you’ve been to North Cotes Butts, you’ll already know it’s one of the friendliest clubs around. If you’re a regular, you might know there’s something of a mystery about exactly how long the gallery range actually is, with estimates varying from 55 metres to 45 yards. In the interests of science and in order to determine an exact physiological measurement, I established it was precisely ‘long enough’.
So with Pulsars and pliers in my paws, I set about testing the effects of pellet deformation at the increased distance of 55-ish yards. With the pliers I maimed innocent members of the pellet community – I like one of the Kray twins reincarnated because the atrocities I visited upon those pure, innocent pellets beggars belief.
In order to maintain continuity, I damaged the pellets in exactly the same way as before. There were sets of five having either one or both sides of the skirt lipped inwards, heads marked severely with a sharp blade, or their skirt entirely crushed, so they were both deformed and significantly smaller than the diameter of the head, and therefore the calibre of the rifle.
Having satisfied myself that the Pulsars could shoot a pellet-on-pellet group at the testing distance, I put my control rounds downrange. Annoyingly, the group produced for the control wasn’t as tight as I would have liked, perhaps due to a little wind or other shooters on the slightly wobbly bench, but this is real-world testing. I pressed on with firing the deformed pellets in sequential groups of five, starting with the .177, then moving to the .22
The shots were fired in following pattern: Centre target, control. Top left, single lip. Top right, double lip. Bottom right, crushed. Bottom left, scarred head.
The control saw a group of some 18mm, with the effects of the single-lipping widening this to 24mm, whilst dropping the POI slightly. Double-lipping the pellets caused a further drop in the POI and widened the group still further out to 30mm. Crushing the skirts didn’t seem to effect the POI massively, the group size was only 1mm smaller than that of the double-lipping. Finally, the scarring of the pellet heads saw the group increase to its maximum in this calibre with a maximum dimension of 35mm.
The control shots garnered a group of 28mm, which was disappointing as a benchmark, but would serve its purpose. Single-lipping the skirt dropped the POI to the 4 ring of the target, but the group size remained the same at 28mm. Double-lipping the skirt had a pronounced effect causing the POI to drop to the extent that some pellets landed outside of the scoring rings, and caused a movement of the group to the right. Surprisingly, though, the group size was largely unchanged at 29mm. Crushing the pellet skirts had a significant effect on the POI, and the first couple of pellets dropped off the bottom of the card, so I re-tested moving my point of aim to the top of the 4 ring. This brought the shots on to the card (just), but demonstrated a real-world drop in the POI of some 45-55mm. Amazingly, the group size remained reasonably consistent with the control at just 30mm. The last test of the session was to fire the scarred head pellets, done with the POI back on centre of target, and again, we saw a drop in the group and yet again the actual size remained unwavering at a smidge over 29mm.
What does it mean?
Looking at .177 first, we can see any deformation of the pellet has an effect on the grouping size, the largest changes seen in the crushing of the skirts and in the scarring of the heads, with group sizes of 30 and 35mm respectively, which is almost double that of the initial 18mm control group.
Although there was some drop in the POI, it was not significant and was surprisingly not present on the crushed skirt test as we might have expected it to be, especially when you consider there was a small degree of pellet drop on the double-lipped pellet group.
Turning to the .22 testing groups, I observed that, as expected, the control group was slightly larger than the .177 group at 28mm. What I didn’t really expect was that pellet deformation would produce significantly different results to the .177.
Basically, deforming the .22 pellets had a noteworthy effect on the POI of the .22 pellet, causing a maximum drop of some 55mm. At the same time, it has to be noted the group size remained fairly constant, hovering within a few mm of the control group size.
Well, it appears the .177 pellet’s accuracy is more affected by damage, and to some degree has a less predictable variance than with the .22. We can say the vertical drop in POI with a .22 pellet is more pronounced than the .177. Perhaps being a heavier round, the .22 requires a better seal between the barrel and the skirt so the most can be made of the air propelling it down the barrel.
If you’re a hunter and want to make sure of a kill shot, then by all means come to your own conclusions, but I’d say at distances up to 35mm the effect of even quite severe damage to a pellet will have very little effect on the accuracy of the shot.
At 55-ish yards, the effects are more pronounced and may well cause you to miss, or worse still, wound your quarry, At greater distances, it’s best to make sure those pellets are as mint as they can possibly be.
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