This is something my son asked me recently and I discovered I actually had no idea whatsoever what the answer was. So, I thought I would perform some investigation myself. To get a meaningful reply to this question, as there are so many variables involved, we do need to be quite specific about what Air Rifle we’re using as well as several other factors.
The quick and general answer to this question is this: the distance a .177 caliber air rifle shoots a pellet depends on the type of rifle, the velocity at which the pellet is fired from the rifle, the angle you fire at and the direction of the wind. Then you also need to consider, the weight and shape of the pellet as this will affect the distance it travels. On average a .177 air rifle has a range of about 400 yards (366 metres) but for some models, this distance can be further.
How Far Will a .177 Caliber Air Rifle Shoot?
Is This Information Useful to Know?
Well, it might be. You may be asking how far will a .177 air rifle shoot because you are thinking of buying one and want to know if your pellets will be able to reach neighbouring properties or cause harm if you miss your target. You should never aim an air rifle towards another property or land that does not belong to you (unless you have specific permission.) If you are using an air rifle for target practice it is a good idea to shoot from a height above your target so you are aiming downwards. That way, if you miss your target the ground acts as a backstop. Alternatively, set up a large concrete slab as a backstop. If you aim upwards and you miss your target, the pellet will continue in an upward trajectory and when it eventually begins its descent it will have gravity on its side, which will keep its velocity up and, therefore, its potential to damage anything in its path.
The Speed (Feet per Second) a Pellet Leaves the Weapon
There are some .177 air rifles that will shoot pellets at over 1200 feet per second (f.p.s). Most people prefer a speed of 600 to 900 feet per second because they get more accuracy.
When the velocity reaches 1200 f.p.s it breaks the sound barrier and produces a loud cracking sound. For comparison, this speed is equivalent to 800 mph. However, the speed of sound is variable and depends on the temperature and the amount of moisture in the air.
How Other Factors Impact the Answer
The distance a pellet travels is not just dependent on the air rifle itself it also depends on the pellet itself. There are several types of pellet for a .177 air rifle on the market. The type you choose depends on what you are intending to do with your rifle. I have a post dedicated to the types of pellet you can use actually so if you’re interested in finding more information about this then take a look here. However, if you’d just like a summary then carry on reading the below – here is some information to help you select from one of six types of pellet:
- Wadcutter pellets
These are the ideal pellet for target shooting in your back garden.
They have a broad, round head which cuts big holes in paper targets. Wadcutters are good for shooting at home-made targets such as tin cans and logs. They vary in price depending on the grade you choose. The shape means they are not particularly aerodynamic so they drop faster than other pellets – which is ideal if you have limited space and have your target reasonably close.
- Pointed pellets
Pointed pellets are designed to penetrate so aren’t really a good choice for target practice. They shoot straighter than wadcutters and penetrate well. One thing that sets pointed pellets apart from wadcutters and domed pellets is the skirt, which tends to be longer to compensate for the lighter tip. If your airgun isn’t fantastic you will get greater accuracy from a pointed pellet. A great pellet to be used in a pistol as they’re light enough to retain velocity but aerodynamic enough to push them further then they would if they were more rounded. You’ll find the pointed pellet actually works best in the low to medium powered airgun and actually don’t work that well in higher powered airguns.
- Domed pellets
Domed pellets are more aerodynamic so they hit harder at long distances. These pellets have a heavier tip, and so hit a target with more power than other types. They keep a lot of that power at long range so are not a good choice for target practice in a small area. As domed pellets are usually heavy, they aren’t as fast as other types, but they are more accurate over a long range. Although the Domed pellet wasn’t designed especially for hunting, it can be used for this and if we make the assumption that your airgun has enough power then you’ll find they pack quite a punch. The main reason for this is that firstly, they have more mass than the Wadcutter and secondly, they’re more aerodynamic.
- Hollowpoint pellets
When hollowpoint pellets are fired out of a powerful air rifle, they expand to cause maximum damage. These pellets are designed to kill so are definitely not a pellet to choose for a fun target practice session! You might expect them to have some mass behind them given their purpose but actually, they’re quite light – lighter than the Wadcutter.
- High-velocity pellets
High-velocity pellets come in different shapes and are designed for speed. Almost all high-velocity pellets are made using lightweight metals, typically lead-free alloys, so they travel faster than heavier ammunition. Designed to be used for the more powerful of airguns, this pellet can reach speeds of approaching 1,300 FPS and some have been recorded even higher than this. This is due to aerodynamics and the materials the pellet is made of (typically, light-weight metals). Because they’re fundamentally lighter than most other pellets, they travel faster.
- Hybrid pellets
Hybrid pellets have a combination of features from various other pellets and so combine the benefits. They have more mass, so are heavier (unless you’re shooting on the Moon), they’re aerodynamic and are quite brutal. You obviously can’t use them in any gun, you need a high-calibre air-rifle but boy can they stop a target in its tracks.
The distance your air rifle fires a pellet will be affected by the weather conditions at the time. This may seem obvious but is interesting to understand how much these factors can actually impact the distance the pellet travels.
You may think a pellet will drift off target if there is a crosswind. This doesn’t actually happen as much as you might think as pellets are designed to stay on target in such conditions. However, the longer the distance you’re shooting, the more it will impact the accuracy. You will, however, find a pellet is slowed down in windy conditions and so won’t travel as far as on a still day.
On a colder day, a pellet may lose velocity more quickly as cold air is denser than warm air. So generally, a pellet will travel further on a warmer day than it would on a cold day.
Typically, these are the only obvious factors that will impact the accuracy of your shot – for instance, you won’t find that humidity will impact it to any degree. Of course, I haven’t mentioned stuff like Tornado’s and Hurricane’s here! 🙂
Hang On, What About Trajectory?
For maximum distance, the trajectory would be at 45 degrees to the horizontal. We’re getting a bit silly now of course, as this is not how an Air Rifle would ever be used but we’re talking about achieving maximum distance, not actually hitting something. Also, I have no idea how you’d actually find the pellet if you fired the Air Rifle in this manner! You’d be out with a metal detector for the next two years trying to find it. This is hypothetical though of course and all we’re doing is trying to explore maximum range.
So What Do I Now Know?
I’m not convinced the result of my hours and hours of research was actually worth it but being a bit of a scientist I know that this sometimes happens. There is a result of course but with so many variables involved, there’s quite a large range of uncertainty.
Anyway, we have to be looking at averages here as different Air Rifles with different pellets in different weather conditions will yield vastly different results. On average though, a .177 pellet can travel approximately 400 feet. That’s about 1/10th the length of a football field. Or 0.0000003 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
At this distance, the pellet will have very little stopping power and would probably just bounce off the lonely tin-can sitting those 400 yards away!
If you have any opinions about the above or would like to discuss any of these points then I’d genuinely love to hear from you. It’s lonely writing these articles you know. However, I don’t really write them for everyone else’s benefit believe it or not. When I have a question that I don’t know about a subject I’m interested in I tend to research it and write-up my conclusion. I often go back to them over time, amending them where necessary to make sure they have the most accurate, up-to-date information. I do love a bit of a debate though so if your opinions differ in any way to anything I’ve written here, drop me a comment and let’s discuss!
One last thing if you’ve got a springer air rifle and it’s a question that comes up all the time – can you dry-fire your air rifle? If you’re not sure what this is or indeed what the answer is, just check out this article, as it is quite important if you’re using this power plant. If you’re not sure what types of airgun are available to you, then take a look here.
For now, though, happy shooting, stay safe and have fun.