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[Sticky] The Ideal Power Level for Your Gun – What Do Pellets Have to Do With It?  


Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 135
April 14, 2019 03:42:10  

Choose the Power of Your Gun Wisely – As It Restricts Your Pellet/Slug Options

For a long time I have been agonizing over the choice of a new gun. One important factor I kept coming back to was the question how much power I should get.

The same “agony” with current guns -- When modding a PCP (or moving the power selector) -- What power level should I choose?


The answer of course depends on a host of factors:

–Caliber: the bigger caliber the more power I need

–Range I want to shoot at:  the farther I want to shoot the more power I need, in order to keep the trajectory reasonably flat

–Punching targets or killing game/pests:  paper requires very little power, tough racoons a lot of it

–Pellets or Slugs:  pellets are usually less heavy and require less power, slugs are and require more



Another important factor are the pellets/slugs I want to use.


So, I started calculating (ChairGun WIN) which velocity a certain muzzle energy would produce with each of the pellets/slugs I’m interested in. And my table finally ended up in the diagram at the end of this post.




Here are some important consideration for choosing the power level of a gun – as far as pellets/slugs are concerned:

Let’s assume midrange shooting (30+ yards) and beyond, since 10-yard target shooting with wadcutters is a whole different animal.


(1) To avoid extreme levels of drag and instability at transsonic speeds – pellets/slugs should have a max. velocity of c. 950fps.*


(2) To avoid unreasonably steep trajectories and instability – pellets should have a min. velocity of c. 650fps – and slugs preferably higher like 800fps.**


(3) In order to find just the right pellet that the gun likes (best precision, smallest groups) – it is better to have more pellets to choose from rather than less.


(4) To have a flatter trajectory for mid range and especially long range shooting – it is better for pellets/slugs to have a higher velocity. Also, hollow points generally have a better expansion at higher velocities.



Some Examples of How to Use the Diagram to Choose the Power Level of a Gun – or to See Pellet/ Slug Options

[Diagram at the end of this post, and also for download with a higher resolution.]


Example #1:

Say I wanted to have the most amount of pellets to choose from to increase the chances of finding the pellet that my gun likes.  ➔  For that I go to the red numbers (muzzle energy in FPE) and find the number that is abeam of the highest amount of gray boxes and pellets to its right. In this case, 24FPE is abeam of almost all the pellet boxes (P1 through P8 = 22 pellets not counting tin­­/zinc alloy pellets). Even at 17FPE, I still have 19 pellets to choose from. 


Example #2:

Say I wanted to have the most amount of slugs to choose from to increase the chances of finding the slug that my gun likes. Note that the slug boxes have a gray portion that shows the muzzle energy for 800fps through 950fps. Separated with a red line is the white portion of the box that goes all the way down to 650fps, and which many find is too low for slugs. Here we only consider the gray part 800-950fps.  ➔  If I wanted to have many slugs to choose from, but wanted to save air, or my gun isn’t that powerful, I find the red muzzle energy number 39FPE which is abeam of slug boxes S1 through S5. If I wanted to use very high power, but still have many slugs to choose from, I could go with 47FPE, which is abeam of boxes S3 through S8.


Example #3:

Say I wanted to be able to shoot hollow points, but also shoot long distance with the gun, and therefore would like rather heavier pellets than lighter pellets (because domed heavier pellets tend to have a higher BC).***  ➔  For that I would find where the bulk of the hollow points is, and they are in boxes P3 and P4. For P3 I can go up to 33FPE, for P4 up to 36FPE. Both of these muzzle energies allow me to use even the heaviest of the pellets from P8. Now, if high power (for hunting or a flatter trajectory at longer distances) was important, I might go with the 36FPE and the three hollow points in P4, and forego the use of the five in P3.


Example #4:

Say I’m obligated to (or choose to) shoot lead-free pellets. That means only pellets from box P1.  ➔  P1 requires a muzzle energy anywhere between 11 and 24FPE. However, if I want to increase my (lead) pellet choices, a power of 24FPE will give me access to almost all pellets listed here.


Example #5:

Say my gun has a muzzle energy of 40FPE.  ➔  Going from the red 40 to the right, I see that this limits my choices to the pellets in boxes P6 through P9 (=8 pellets total). Going to the left, I see I can use the slugs in boxes S2 through S5.




● For at least a mediocre level of wind drift resistance and energy retention at the target (hunting!) – this diagram only has pellets with at least a BC of 0.020 (source of BC, cf. ***).

(Yes, this eliminates almost all Crosman and RWS pellets. Remember, we’re talking mid- and long-range shooting, 30-100y.)


● For better precision/ accuracy – this diagram only has pellets from established high quality brands.

Note that many pellets are simply rebranded, e.g.: 

H&N is rebranded as: SIG Sauer, Remington, Stoeger, and there are at least 9 rebranded H&N Baracuda’s – quite a fish pond!  Crosman is rebranded as: Brocock, SILCO, Webley. JSB is rebranded as: Air Arms, Cometa, FX, Hatsan, etc.


● For the sake of comparison the power of a particular gun is assumed to be the same for all pellets/slugs.

Of course, that is usually not true, differences of 2 to 4FPE are quite common, even 5 and 10FPE in more extreme cases. And springers often develop higher power with lighter pellets, and PCPs with heavier pellets.


● This diagram includes representative commercial AG slug brands: NSA (Nielsen Specialty Ammo), and H&N (shown at IWA 2019). Slugs written in gray have shown poor precision in many barrels not made for slugs. | MrHollowPoint offers the following weights: 26, 28, 30, 35, 38, 40, 45, 46, 50, 51gr.



*Bob Sterne at

**Nielsen Specialty Ammo (NSA)

***BC table at


Happy shooting!



Diagram as Attachment

Linda McGee, scratchit, Danoman and 2 people thanked
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 6
April 14, 2019 12:29:55  


That took a great deal of time and follow through. And beyond that, the table is very well thought out. I can greatly appreciate the coordinating colors. It adds another level of logic and appeals to my senses.

There is a lot going on within the data and there is just so much information that there is no easy way to relate it; but, as I use it, it becomes more significant. Thank you for your efforts and contributing a great tool for us all.  

scratchit and ViKing thanked
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 32
April 16, 2019 14:51:02  

That looks like it took you some time to compile that data.  Thanks!

Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 551
April 21, 2019 13:18:12  

What I noticed in general when it comes to pellets or slugs, the more power you try to shoot them at, the more perfect they need to be (weight, consistency, no defects)  in order to shoot them with good accuracy at extended range.  Shooting them at lower velocities for shorter or normal airgun distances, not so much... a lot more forgiving to shoot not so perfect ones...


Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 753
July 26, 2019 11:20:38  

Reminds me of a mig welder door chart.

Several acceptable wire sizes, amperage range of the welder makes .030 wire fit entirely within all available power levels, the other wires fall at the top or bottom of same amperage range.

Inefficiency ensues... and while you could run .045 in a low power machine, it's not gonna perform, nor would .023 in a old Linde 400A beast (spray!)


My R9 shoots 10.5 heavies like crap, recoil changes substantially. Also shoots hobbies like crap, same funny recoil.

Given that the recoil changes outside of it's preferred range, you could almost select pellets blindfolded.


None of that is meant to take away from the more technical nature of your post, but you covered most of it already. 😉

Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 1
August 2, 2019 14:41:58  

Wow great article.. Thanks for all the time you put into this  

Joined: 10 months ago
Posts: 3
January 25, 2020 12:02:05  

I am grateful for all tinkerers here, you who go through the work and time to come to conclusions and post your results; kudos to you!

For me, I point and shoot. Then, if the groups wander, I do knob adjustments until it gets better or worse and note what works better.

Maybe in time I will drill down and get deeper into tweaks and tuning, but for now, I benefit greatly from your work.


Thanks guys!

scratchit and Eboniste thanked
Joined: 5 months ago
Posts: 3
February 1, 2020 14:47:46  


Eboniste and scratchit thanked
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 73
May 11, 2020 20:51:11  


 Great post.


Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 135
May 11, 2020 22:33:55  

Thanks, BB,

and I'm noticing that this table is in need of updating.

There's been a lot of new slugs....

The slugs can handle speeds even higher than the 950fps, and

And there's been a coming and going of pellets as well.... 😊


I'll get on that this week hopefully.


Joined: 1 month ago
Posts: 1
May 19, 2020 09:24:44  

That's a great post . After coming from powder burners it was difficult at first for me to understand  why to much fps would screw with accuracy .  I thought more speed meant a flatter trajectory which would in turn help accuracy .

Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 135
May 23, 2020 03:51:51  

Here's a fully updated and expanded version:  😊


▪Some new pellets (and some have been discontinued)

▪Some new BC numbers

New examples of how to use the diagram

▪Many, many, many more slugs

The weights and prices are based on a the Slug Table which is also updated.




❌ Attachment:

POWER.  How Muzzle Energy Restricts Pellet + Slug Options. 29. 2020 05


And the same as PDF:

Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 4
June 29, 2020 19:02:07  

Wow that is an amazing job compiling the data, makes a lot of sense. Here is something else to consider when searching for “The Ideal Power Level”...harmonic tuning. You tune a guitar, you tune a piano, you can even tuna fish, why not tune an air rifle. 

TomR_here thanked