Air gun 101: The differences between .177 & .22


I’ve always believed the popular phrase:

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters – but rather the size of the fight in the dog.”

It is clear, however, that both matter in the air rifle world. 

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Why is all the fuss about.177 vs..22?

These two calibers are the most in-demand air rifle calibers right now. This raises many questions from both new and experienced shooters about their performance.

This buying guide will help you to explore the details:

  • These are the differences between these calibers.
  • What are the pros and cons of each?
  • Further, it suggests which jobs are best performed by each.

What is caliber?

For now, let's start with a dictionary definition:

Oxford defines caliber as "the internal diameter or bore" of a gun barrel.

Merriam Webster defines caliber to be the diameter of a bullet.

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These definitions will be applicable to the purposes of this guide.

It is probably common knowledge that a pellet of.177 is fired by an air rifle. The same goes for the.22.

You definitely can’t fire a .177 pellet from a .22 air rifle.

To ensure that the ammo is propelled by the pull of a trigger, it must fit perfectly in the barrel. 

Caliber is generally given inches – such that .177 caliber implies an internal barrel diameter of 0.177 inches.

You may state this as 4.5 mm if you so wish – no harm.

Before we dive into the meat of this matter, here are some basics.

.177 Caliber

This is the smallest calibre currently in use.

Historians say that.177 was very popular in Europe before 1970, but the.22 was more widely used in America.

American shooters began to import.177 air rifles by the thousands, and it quickly gained some ground.

The 2 models are currently equally popular with hunters around the world. 

=> For more on the best break barrel air rifle that hits like a champ, see this post

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.22 Caliber

The.177 caliber is followed by the.20 caliber. This caliber has never been very popular.

It is not for technical reasons.

It happens with many products. An example of this is the Amazon Fire Phone.

It was amazing, but it never really caught on.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t find .20 models in the market.

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Next up is the.22 caliber also known as the 5.5/5.6mm.

This caliber has become a favorite among hunters and is currently the most sought-after in the entire world. 

This must be supported by solid evidence.

Continue reading to learn why.


Power of an air rifle is dependent on its powerplant type, quality, length, and pellet characteristics.

Muzzle energy is the measure of airgun power.

Tom Gaylord from Pyramid Air offers a simple muzzle-energy calculator. You simply need to enter the pellet weight and muzzle velocity.

You get the muzzle energy in foot pounds and joules.

Let's try some hypothetical values to see what happens.

Weight of a Pellet (grain)Velocity (fps).Energy (FPE)Energy (Joules)

The results show that, given that velocity is constant, the muzzle energy of a pellet with a heavier weight will be higher.

Generally speaking,.22 pellets weigh more than.177 pellets.

Here is a side-by-side comparison between.177 pellets and.22 pellets from different brands.

BrandPellet weight (grain)Type of Head
.177 caliber.22 caliber
H&N Field Target Trophy8.6414.66Round
RWS Super H Point6.9014.20Hollow Point
RWS Hobby7.0011.90Wadcutter
H&N Hollow Point7.1012.65Hollow Point
Beeman Silver Bear7.1012.65Hollow Point
Napier Power Hunter7.7215.42Round
JSB Predator8.0016.00Pointed
Beeman H&N Match8.1813.73Wadcutter

It is therefore safe to conclude that.22 air rifles can be more powerful than.177.

(For more information on the best air rifle to hunt medium games, please see this post.

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But, keep in mind that the velocity of the pellet changes with its weight and firing power.

The best combination of pellet shape, weight, and velocity will produce the highest muzzle energy.

Here are some typical muzzle energie values that were obtained from testing the.22 Stoeger X50 Air rifle with various pellets.

Pellet BrandTypeWeight (grain)Average muzzle velocity (fps).Average muzzle energy (fpe)
The PeakPointed12.190021.8
The PeakDomed13.789024.1
Daisy Max SpeedPointed14.289025.0
Stoeger X-FieldDomed14.786024.1
Crosman PremierDomed14.385023.0
RWS SuperPointPointed14.585023.2
Beeman Model 1249Pointed15.582023.1
Stoeger X-PowerDomed21.169022.3

Now, let's look at the typical muzzle energy values that were determined by testing the.177 Air Arms Pro Sport Air Rifle.

PelletWeight of Pellets (grain)Average Muzzle Velocity (fps).Average Muzzle Energy (fpe)
Gamo Raptor Platinum4.71090.7312.42
H&N Field Target Trophy Green5.561100.4314.94
RWS Hobby7.00961.7714.38
Crosman Premier HP7.9909.2014.50
JSB Exact Diabolo8.44830.8412.94
H&N Field Target Trophy8.64846.7713.67
H&N Baracuda Match10.65768.5013.97

The above tests are not of the same brand. However, it is evident that.22 air rifles generally outperform.177 air guns.

This post contains more information about the top.22 air rifles on the market.


When it comes to air rifle prices, the differences between.177 and the.22 models of different brands are often not significant.

The following is the result of a random search for Pyramid Air:

Air Rifle Price:.177 model (USD).Price for.22 model (USD).
Air Arms S510 XS Xtra1199.991199.99
Hatsan BullBoss - QE499.99499.99
Airforce Condor PCP744.95744.95
Airforce Talon SS PCP654.95654.95
Beeman R9 Elite Series Combo549.99549.99
Gamo Magnum Air Rifle299.99299.99
Diana 460 Magnum399.99399.99
Evanix Rainstorm II PCP699.99699.99

Surprisingly all of the air rifles listed above are priced equally for both models.

Although you might see them priced differently by other distributors, the difference in price is unlikely to be that big.

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Concerning.177 pellets as compared to.22 pellets the smaller caliber wins.

The.177 Tin will have more pellets than any other brand, regardless of the size of the tin used to package them. 

For instance, Crosman Premier .177 pellets of 10.5 grain come in a box packed with 1250 pellets and cost 32.95 USD

The.22 version will cost you roughly the same as the.625 version. However, you'll get 625 pellets for the same price.


For fun plinking and target shooting competitions, the.177 is highly recommended.

Experts suggest that manufacturers pay more attention when making.177 air rifles so that they can achieve precision levels that are unmatched by any.22 model.

This is a reasonable assumption if you understand what accuracy means for airguns.

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Air rifle accuracy can be measured by firing a set number of pellets at the same target, and measuring how far apart the shots are from one another.

High accuracy is indicated by shots that are tightly grouped together.

The air rifle will be less accurate if the shots are too close together. 

Airgun accuracy can be affected by many factors.

The first and most important thing is the quality of the rifle's machining.

The barrel must have enough quality to ensure that the pellet is moving in the right direction.

Manufacturers have found a way to overcome this issue by using rifled barrels. 

9vmCCzl7a Air gun 101: The differences between .177 & .22 - Which jobs they do best [Infographic]

Muzzle velocity is another factor that affects accuracy.

An airgun that has a higher muzzle velocity will likely be more accurate than one that has a lower muzzle speed.

The pellet must move quickly to reach the target, so that it doesn't get distracted by the air resistance.

This is also true for the weight of the pellets.

Fildena is used if the pellet being used has a very low weight and not enough muzzle velocity.

It is more likely to drift off the intended path and be partially overcome by air resistance. 

The.22 pellets tend to be heavier and less susceptible to being swayed or influenced by wind.

However, their muzzle velocity generally is less than that for.177 air rifles.

If the target distance is not too far,.22 pellets will be more accurate than.177 pellets.

This is the second aspect of air rifles, referred to as their range.

The range refers to how far you can shoot from your target.

The range of a.177 rifle is expected to be greater than that of a.22 rifle.

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The.177 caliber is great for target shooting and fun plinking.

It is usually exciting to hit the soda cans precisely.

In case there are any nuisance pests in your yard

They can still be eliminated one at a time with your.177 Airgun.

This is about magpies, squirrels, rats.

(See this post for more information on the best air rifles for squirrels.

However, the.22 caliber can be used for small game hunting and pest management.

(What are the best hunting opportunities with a.22 rifle? For more information, see this post

As mentioned earlier, the muzzle energy of.22 airguns is generally greater than that of.177 models.

(For more information about the best air rifles to control pests, please see this post.

The killing power is muzzle energy.

You don’t want to play around with rabbits or hares once you spot them. 

Air gun 101: The differences between .177 & .22 - Which jobs they do best [Infographic]

You want one shot to stop the prey instantly without any thoughts of fleeing.

This is possible more with the.22 than the.177.

The animals may be injured by very small pellets and forced to flee for their lives.

This is not ethical at all, as the animal will be forced to survive with injuries until death. 

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Reddit user claims he uses only the.22 caliber to target shoot.

His motivation?

He just likes to see the actual holes in the target.

Punching power

He understood that.177 does not leave an impression, but he was correct most of the time.

You might be wired like this A.D. Hopkins.

You are free to follow your heart.

Only ensure you don’t disturb neighbors with too much noise.

On that, let’s say something about loudness.


1125 fps is the speed of sound in air.

Many air rifles have muzzle velocity that exceeds this number.

Science says that sonic boom refers to loud noises produced by moving objects at speeds exceeding sound's speed. 

The.177 caliber will likely be louder than.22 caliber due to their higher muzzle velocity.

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You should note that the loudness and volume of air rifles are affected by other factors, such as:

The type of powerplant used, whether silencers are present or not, as well as the barrel's quality and recoil effect. 

Most Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which is bigger?.22 or.177?

Referring to the pellets: The.22 pellets will be larger than those of.177.

The barrel of an air rifle is the same.

However, regarding the size of the whole air rifle, you’ll be surprised that a majority of the rifles have the same weight and length for the different models.

See the manufacturer’s specifications below for some of the most popular air rifles.

Air Rifle Model.177 Model.22
Barrel Length  (inches)Overall Length (inches).Weight (lbs).Barrel Length (inches)Overall length in inchesWeight (lbs).
Air Arms S510 XS Xtra19.75”43.5”7.2 lbs19.75”43.5”7.2 lbs
Hatsan BullBoss - QE23.036.88.623.036.88.6
Airforce Condor PCP24.038.756.124.038.756.1
Airforce Talon SS PCP12.032.755.2512.032.755.25
Beeman R9 Elite Series Combo16.543.258.516.543.258.5
Gamo Magnum Air Rifle21.348.06.8821.348.06.88
Diana 460 Magnum18.4445.08.318.4445.08.3
Evanix Rainstorm II PCP17.

Wingman115 made an in-depth comparison here between.177 and.22

2. What distance will a.177 pellet go?

This information is crucial because it will allow you to determine how far away you must be from your target.

A number of factors affect the travel distance of the pellet.

The first is the angle at which you want to shoot.

If you shoot down from your position, the pellet is soon stopped by the ground/vegetation.

Shooting in an upward direction can cause the pellet to travel further than intended, as there is no obstruction.

A pellet shot at 45 degrees upwards will usually achieve the maximum distance. 

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The muzzle velocity is second.

The pellet's travel will be greater if the muzzle velocity is higher. 

Next comes the pellet shape.

As the pellet's air resistance is minimal, it will travel farther the more refined it is.

Take a look at the general shape and design of the front end of your car.

High-speed vehicles are not designed with square fronts.

You can find a variety of pellets, including those that are pointed, domed or hollow.

Nevertheless, weight is important when it comes to pellets.

Lighter pellets are more likely to be swayed by the wind so that they often don’t reach their maximum possible distance.  

Did you know pellets travel farther in hot weather than they do in cold?

Hot air is easier to penetrate because it is less dense than cold air. 

Most airguns can travel 400-500 meters if shot at a 30 degree angle to the horizon. 

(For more information on how far you can sight an air rifle from your eyes, please see this post.

3. Which.177 pellets work best for hunting?

It was already clear that you can hunt birds, squirrels and other animals with.177 pellets.

These are the 5 best.177 pellets that I recommend for small-game hunting.

  • Gamo red flame – 7.8 grain – these have a diamond-shaped polymer tip that easily penetrates the target. 
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  • Crosman hollow point pellets – the hollow pointed gives a greater impact than the pointed pellets, and this has a devastating effect on the vermin.
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  • JSB EXACT – The diabolo shape adds more weight to the pellet compared to the hollow point pellets, and the result is higher impact energy on the prey.
  • Crosman field hunting point pellets – Made of the finest quality lead but still priced fairly
  • Hatsan H&N terminator HP pellets – It combines a hollow point shape with a sharp raised tip at the center of the hollow for deeper penetration and high impact. 
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  • Haendler & Natermann H&N Baracuda Hunter Extreme hollow point airgun pellets – With a 9.57-grain weight and consistent quality, these are perfect pellets for both target practice and small game hunting

4. What is the danger of a.177 air rifle in combat?

Albert Grannon, Stanley Metcalf's grandfather, shot Stanley Metcalf in the abdomen last year.

The little boy died at the hospital several hours later, while being treated. 

One rooftop sniper was killed by a pellet gun in Brooklyn's East New York section in 2000. He also severely wounded four other people. 

Airguns can be fatal, but this is not the end of the story.

You should never play with them as toys, regardless of whether they are a.177 caliber or a.50 caliber.

Take all safety precautions when handling weapons. 

(For more information on Gun Laws By States, please see this post.

5. Which is more powerful?.17 or.22

The.22 air rifles are generally more powerful than the.177 airguns, as we have already explained.

They use heavier pellets.  

=> For more on the best PCP air rifles in the market, see this post

The differences between .177 & .22 – Infographic

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This is the end of my explanation on the differences in.177 and.22 caliber air rifles.

This guide will help you make the right choice when buying an air rifle.

You don’t want to go to the air rifle store blindly and pick a weapon you know so little about.

It may not be able to serve its intended purpose.

First, determine what exact activity you want to use the air rifle for.

Get an idea of the power required, the accuracy requirements and the range you will need for the activity.

These are the details that will allow you to purchase the.177 air rifle or.22 air rifle. 

There are many brands that you can choose from. See this post to learn more.

You can make better informed buying decisions by reading my air rifle reviews. 

Personally, I prefer the ".22."

It is a versatile airgun that I can use for both hunting and target practice.

Which caliber do you prefer? Please share your ideas below.


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