When most of us think about airguns, we think about those built to shoot .177 or .22 caliber pellets. And as a point of fact, the vast majority of guns sold around the world are one of the two, though there are a couple of other ‘standard’ calibers to choose from. The .20, which possesses many of the attributes of both the small calibers it sits between, and the .25 which is the ‘major caliber’ of the standard airgun lineup.
Historically, mainstream acceptance of the .25 has been limited by several factors; lack of guns designed and chambered for the caliber, lack of ammunition and limited availability, and often times less than stellar accuracy depending on the gun / pellet pairing. In countries with severe restrictions on the power an airgun is permitted to generate, the .25 caliber might not be a viable option. In the UK for instance, keeping the power under 12 fpe would require such a low velocity, at thirty yards the trajectory would look more like a shot put than an airgun projectile. But in countries without these Draconian restrictions on their citizens, this has been changing over the last few years. There is an ever expanding selection of .25 caliber spring piston and PCP hunting rifles and a wider selection of .25 projectiles becoming available. In this article I’ll take a look at the state of affairs related to the big twenty five, at least from my perspective.
As an airgun hunter the first question I asked myself was why one would choose to shoot a .25 caliber gun? It is true that some of the new. 22’s are generating well over 30 foot lb of energy (fpe) rather than the 15-20 fpe range that was typical in the past, and this is enough energy to easily punch through most small game hunted with airguns. In addition many are providing superb accuracy as well, so why move to a .25? I think the rationale is based on the fact that when an airgun is used for hunting it does not create extensive tissue damage as does a firearm. And though some may argue this point, I believe that with airguns there is very little pellet expansion in soft tissue even when using hollowpoints (unless the pellet hits bone). These guns kill by punching a hole in vital organs, so the bigger the hole the more efficiently it does its job. And if you don’t get a bigger hole from pellet expansion the only way to get it is by throwing a bigger chunk of lead down range to start with. The larger diameter of the .25 projectile combined with its increased mass has a telling effect on game. If your airgun hunting is restricted to rabbits, squirrels, and smaller animals the terminal performance of the bigger caliber probably doesn’t make a lot of difference, the rabbit is only going to get so dead after all. Having said this, there is not really a downside to smacking the smaller game with a bigger pellet and at least anecdotally tougher small game like squirrel do seem to go down faster. However, if you are shooting larger quarry such as groundhogs, raccoons on up to coyote there will be a noticeable step up in killing power, as well as a bit more latitude in shot placement and range. It allows a chest shot where previously only a head shot would have been taken, or it permits the shooter to reach out a bit further. If you take two pellets of the same design, one in .22 (at 21 grains) and one in .25 (at 31 grains), and shoot them at the same velocity (900 fps), they will have a similar trajectory and energy retention profile (approximately 80%). But the .25 begins its trip at a substantially higher energy level and creates a larger wound channel anywhere along the pellets flight path.
The down side of this caliber, related to the availability of guns and pellets, was touched on earlier. I believe that with all of the online airgun shops offering a wide range of guns and pellets these days this is no longer a valid argument against the caliber In terms of performance, there is no reason the .25 can’t be intrinsically accurate, as always it’s a matter of the gun/pellet combination. If a .25 pellet is propelled at a much lower velocity than a .22 pellet, the point of impact will have a much greater drop at longer distances. This requires that the shooter applies a greater degree of correction (holdover) to stay on target. As previously discussed, if the .25 leaves the muzzle at close to the same velocity as the smaller caliber, the trajectory will be similar. In my experience, the .25’s trajectory is not that far off a .22 with most of my pcps, and even when the trajectory of the .25 is more pronounced can be easily compensated by using the scopes mildots. I have my Marauder .25 zeroed in at 50 yards, and have no problem dropping prairie dogs out at 75 yards and further using the mildots to find my target. The secret here is to spend the range time to know what your gun will do at different distances, and if you can’t remember it, write it down on a card and tape it to the rifles stock. Another frequently mentioned disadvantage of .25 caliber guns is that the ammo cost more, however we’re still talking about 200 pellets averaging around $10.00. Considering the fact these guns are used primarily for hunting, that’s a lot of shooting for not much money. In terms of the availability of guns and pellets in .25, there is good news on the horizon; manufacturers of both spring piston and precharged pneumatics (PCP) air rifles are offering more of their guns in the larger caliber. Companies like Crosman, UMAREX and Gamo produce several of their spring piston rifles in .25 caliber, and Eu Jin, Crosman, Falcon and many other PCP manufacturers are expanding their .25 product portfolios. While PCPs tend to work more efficiently with larger calibers, some of the new springers are working very well with the lighter .25 pellets. The recent availability of light weight alloy pellets is an interesting development, and in specific applications can make sense.
One of the .25 caliber springers that I’ve been shooting a lot and finding very effective is the Walther Falcon from UMAREX USA. For a spring piston gun to work well in .25 it needs a powerful spring and a substantial compression chamber which means the gun will be big and will require some effort to cock. But by using a well designed synthetic stock on the Falcon, the weight is kept reasonable and the shooting ergonomics are retained. Further, the long barrel reduces the cocking effort to a point that most average sized adults can manage it without difficulty. This isn’t a gun you’d necessarily spend the day plinking or target shooting with, but for a day of hunting it is not a problem. The Falcon in . 25 is generating a very respectable 30 fpe, which I think is quite impressive in a gun that is fully self- contained. I’ve used this rifle to put down groundhogs and raccoons at 45 yards, and it hits with authority!
Another gun I’ve been using (and talking about) a lot is Crosman’s Benjamin Marauder in .25. This is a full sized PCP rifle that charges to 3000 psi, and delivers approximately 45 fpe. It is a feature rich design; with an eight shot rotary magazine, a fully shrouded barrel, an excellent two stage adjustable trigger, all matched with outstanding performance. At 25 yards this gun will consistently empty the magazine into a one hole group (using the Benjamin domed pellets), and at 50-75 yards a shooter can drop prairie dogs all day long without a miss providing they do their part. This rifle delivers sledge hammer power with tack driving accuracy, and has proven an excellent long range varmint gun.
So with manufacturers offering more guns in .25 caliber, both PCP and spring piston models, which will best meet your needs? The optimal gun for you will depend on how you shoot, what you shoot, and how much of your hard earned paycheck you want to be separated from. The springers are less expensive, are self contained (no filling equipment needed), offer good all around performance and are fairly quiet. However, the cocking effort is such that you probably don’t want to spend the whole day on the target range or out plinking with them. To cock one of these big guns 10-15 times while hunting is nothing, but a couple hundred times for a plinking session, well your arm will know it’s been exercised. The pcp guns on the other hand, tend to cost more, require filling gear (pump or tanks), and unless shrouded are louder (still far below the sound signature of a .22 rimfire). However, they are more powerful, easier to shoot accurately, and they tend to be lighter and more compact than spring piston models. Also many of them are multi-shot and much faster to cycle when a follow up shot is required.
In terms of pellets, you most likely won’t find .25 caliber pellets on the shelf of your local sporting goods store. But go to one of the excellent online airgun shops and you’ll find a wide selection of styles and brands to choose from. I have used the new Benjamin 27.9 grain domed pellets, the 31 grain H&N Baracuda, the Eu Jin 43.2 grain, the 25.4 grain JSB Jumbo Exacts, and the 21.5 grain Gamo Pro Magnum pellets all with good results. Some work well with a particular gun, while others produce acceptable to very good results in most guns. You need to try several and find what works best for you. I tend to get better results with lighter pellets in the springers and heavier pellets in the pcp guns. I believe one of the reasons that pcps handle the heavier projectiles better is that they propel the pellet with a larger volume of air released over a longer period of time than does a springer. In terms of pellet configuration my preference is a domed (AKA roundnose) Diabolo pellet for most hunting applications, finding that as a rule they provide excellent accuracy and terminal performance. And though not usually a big fan of pointed field pellets, because the accuracy is often suboptimal, I do have a couple .25 caliber guns that shoot very well with them. I also find that the Predator International polymer tipped pellets in . 25 caliber work well in many of my guns, both springers and PCPs, and have devastating terminal effect on game. The point is that as with all airguns, you’ll need to take the time to figure out what works best with your particular gun So the take away is; if you want to hunt larger animals or have a bit more latitude in shot placement, the .25 caliber offers tangible benefits to the airgun hunter. There are more places to buy, and more guns and pellets from which to choose, than ever before. Both springers and PCPs in this caliber are available, the one that best suits you will depend on your specific needs, so consider well before you buy. If I only had one gun to use for everything (squirrels to raccoons) with most of my hunting targeting smaller game I’d probably stick with a .22. But if I was going to be hunting the larger critters (raccoons to coyotes) on a regular basis, the .25 would be the way to go!
The AirArms s510 FAC in .25 is moderately powerful, but dead accurate. The Benjamin Marauder is a great entry level gun that is feature rich. I’ve used the .25 to take Crows, Guinea fowl, raccoon, beaver, and bobcat. The Sumatra is a lever action powerhouse that cycles quickly and is accurate, but something of an ugly duckling. Hatsan is producing many of their magnum springers in .25. These guns are cost effective, powerful and fairly accurate.
The Benjamin Trail is one of the smoothest shooting .25 spring powered guns I’ve hunted with., due to the nitro piston spring technology.
I’ve taken lots of game , with the Wewbley Falcon which was a little rough out of the box, but smoothed out nicely after a couple tins of pellets There is a big selection of traditional pellets in .25 caliber these days, which are widely available.
There are also a number specialty pellets coming to market as the popularity of the caliber continues to grow, that are suited primarily for powerful PCP such as the Nosler .25 bullet (L) or for less powerful springers (Gamo alloy R) or ones that work well in either powerplant generate medium energy levels. The .25 springers are big guns, but when you get used to the shooting characteristics they can be very accurate and effective game getters.
I like the .25 for hunting squirrels in heavy cover, shots are closer and the big pellets anchor squirrels so you don’t loose them in the thick folluage.
I built up a .25 caliber pistol on the Crosman 2240 platform, that was used to take many cottontail rabbits on a local golf course where shots were mostly inside 20 yards.
On the other end of the spectrum I used the Royal 500 .25 to consistently take prairie dogs out to 125 yards.