The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Budget airgun pellets – how to stock up for less money

Are you feeling the pellet pinch? If so, Jonathan Young offers some pointers for accumulating some airgun ammo at bargain basement prices

Whether you want some ammo for a modern PCP or a vintage springer, there are several ways to save money when it comes to purchasing pellets

Pellets are arguably the most essential component in airgun shooting. After all, regardless of the airgun being used, it’s the pellet that strikes the target. Until fairly recently they never cost that much, but, like most things, prices are going up. The talk of lead possibly being phased out does not help either, but right now, thankfully, it’s game on as usual and there are a few ways to pick up pellets for less than you might think. 

One method of beating the pellet pinch is to grab any opportunities whenever they appear. On one of my trips to a gun shop to buy an air rifle, some of my favourite pellets were spied on the counter, so a cash deal was struck there and then for the whole lot, along with the rifle, after a mild-mannered haggle. Struggling out the door back to the car carrying over 7kg of pellets with a heavy air rifle was probably not the best idea, but today there are still one or two tins of those same pellets still waiting to be used sitting in my cabinet. Buying them there and then saved time, effort and brain power.

It can, however, pay to ring around a few local gun shops within travelling distance to ask whether your favourite pellet is stocked or if there are any special offers on anything. It’s amazing what a three-for-two deal on pellet tins can do to boost your ammo inventory and keep money in your pocket.

Buying pre-owned supplies is another route to restocking. One source is stock that’s being sold at auction when a gun shop closes down. Assessing the current retail price or average price of whatever is being auctioned helps. When you decide your maximum bid, remember you must allow for the addition of the hammer fee plus VAT.

Some serious shooters like to test pellets to find the perfect match for their airgun, then buy plenty of tins of the same batch code

Adding all the expected costs beforehand will give you a better idea of what a particular lot is really worth to you, especially if a bidding frenzy starts with someone else who wants the same bundles. But if the bidding is low, you can end up with plenty of new lead for far less than new prices.

Some shooters, especially those who buy in quantity, may decide to sell their remaining tins of pellets, often for far less than they cost over the counter.

If an airgunner decides for whatever reason to change their main airgun or change calibre, then this can mean they need to clear the decks. They may have plenty of tins of the same calibre, make, weight and even batch number, all of which are unwanted.


Making a batch

Buying one type in quantity works well; the idea is that after testing the pellet in the airgun they are to be used in, if they are compatible and match the barrel, then as many similar tins from the same batch as possible can be sought.

It’s not the be all and end all though, as many tins have no batch code, and if you have more than one airgun to rely on it’s far simpler to buy all that’s going and worry later about which airgun they will work best with.

The online airgun forums are useful here for placing a wanted advert for some pellets or keeping an eye out in the sales areas for when somebody has decided to release their unused tins. Most of these may have never been opened, but do not ignore open tins. Some tins may have been opened only to try out a handful of pellets from each, either to test them in a specific airgun or to test the power of that gun over the chrono.

Eley Wasps are highly prized by shooters of vintage airguns, especially those with a head size of 5.6mm

Ebay, likewise, is very useful for similar bundles of tins that somebody has decided to let go of. Long searches can be rewarded by a pile of good, usable pellets at reduced cost, even with the price of delivery taken into account.

Searching online and elsewhere is also a good way today to specifically locate discontinued favourites. For example, the long-gone Webley Mosquito in .25 calibre and the old, reliable Milbro Rhino .25 that has only recently been discontinued.

These two very different pellets were both lightweight, and today fewer 6.35 pellets are being made in lighter weights. These would be worth seeking out for use with spring air rifles as most recent .25 releases have been much heavier and destined for use with pre-charged airguns.

Even much older pellets that have since disappeared from gun shop shelves can be found. Some pellets from tins that were opened in airgun prehistory can be bought and brought back to life. Eley Wasps, for example, in the old 5.6mm head size are sought out by collectors for use in their vintage springers, even though more modern pellets can prove just as effective. These collectors have even been known to buy open tins, pour the remaining contents into a jar for later use, and then sell the empty tin to other collectors.


Old and vintage options

Acquiring many small bundles of old and vintage tins revealed that many were semi-full. Some tins showed their contents had oxidised with the usual whitened lead inside. While some people will never shoot pellets like these, I prefer to never throw any of these away, but instead keep them and use them.

Even really furry white pellets like this can be washed, dried and then lubricated, which can allow even these to remain useful. Run through some older airguns after re-springing them or after fitting a new seal, 50 to 100 or so will help bed things in again. A quick barrel clean will tidy things up ready for more serious use with that gun’s preferred pellet.

So bargains can be had – it’s now up to you to get out there and find them.