A reader is considering giving them a try. What does Mat Manning recommend?
Q: After all the talk about shotgun shooters moving away from lead shot, I feel inspired to try using lead-free pellets in my airgun. Are there any brands you can recommend, and should I expect them to perform differently?
A: Many of the best airgun pellet manufacturers, such as JSB, H&N, RWS and Gamo, produce lead-free options. It is difficult to recommend one particular brand because they perform differently in different barrels, so you will need to try a few to see which suits your gun best. (You’ll find our guide to discovering which will be the perfect airgun pellets for your rifle here; it’s worth a read because air rifles are fussy about pellets.)
Lead-free airgun pellets to buy and try
I have yet to find non-toxic airgun pellets that group quite as well as traditional lead ammo, and they seem to be particularly affected by the wind which can have a serious impact on accuracy. This can make shot placement unpredictable at longer ranges.
The pellets I have tested have been impeccably made. The problem is mostly to do with their weight — .177 lead-free pellets tend to weigh around six grains, whereas the lead equivalent would be between eight and nine.
Non-toxic airgun pellets also feel hard by comparison, which makes them quite rough through magazines and I would imagine it compromises their ability to hug the rifling of the barrel.
Though lead-free airgun pellets tend to fall short of lead in terms of performance, they have come a long way over the past decade and I expect them to advance further as demand increases.
Will they be suitable for your gun barrels?
Can these pellets harm gun barrels? Go for a reputable brand and the finish and consistency should certainly be on a par with lead ammunition.