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Air rifle pellets or slugs?

What's the difference?

airgun pellets in different shapes

Pellets come in all shapes and sizes, but not all of them will be right for your airgun

Q: Can you explain the difference between air rifle pellets and airgun slugs? Both of these were stocked by hardware and sports shops 60 years ago.

A) At the beginning of the 20th century most, if not all, ammunition for air-powered firearms was in the form of cup-shaped lead slugs. These were made by a number of manufacturers in various sizes.

  •  No. 1 bore (.177in)
  • No. 2 bore (.22in)
  • No. 3 bore (.25in).

Airgun slugs were marketed for use in smoothbore airguns, and air rifle pellets were introduced for rifled airguns. They were not fully interchangeable, but pellets dominated the market despite being twice as expensive as slugs.

The cheaper slugs were the most popular pellet until serious target shooting with air rifles became popular in the early 1900s. When air rifles became more sophisticated, better precision-made pellets took over the market.

The cheaper form of the waisted pellet has replaced the old slug and they seem to work fairly well in smoothbore barrels.