There is a lot of stock currently being put into expanding hunting pellets. Do they have any real benefits to offer to the hunter? Before we get into the thick of the article, I want to inform you on expanding pellets. There are 3 requirements that must be fulfilled before a pellet is capable of expansion. First, a pellet must be properly designed to expand. It must have a deep hollow recess, preforations, etc. Secondly, it must be constructed of soft materials. Soft, pure lead is as good as it gets. Crosman and Benjamin hollow points use an alloy of lead which makes them harder than a typical pellet (the recess is also to shallow to effectively expand). Lastly, the pellet must have enough force to properly expand. The best pellet for expansion won’t expand to its full potential in a low power rifle.

That being said, I’m going to show you two photos of dead critters, one shot with an expanding pellet and one shot with a non expanding pellet, and you decide which one died faster:


This squirrel received a 35fpe expanding H&N baracuda hunter extreme between the eye and ear at 25 yards. Instant hemisphererectomy. You can probably see chunks of brain in the photo. Needless to say…he didn’t make it.


This was my first squirrel with an airgun. I was shooting a Crosman 14.3gr with 11 fpe at the muzzle. He was facing me at about 25 yards. I held on his nose and hit just to the left. The pellet drove through his brain and stopped in the skin on the back of his head.

Which one died faster? That was a trick question. Even though the first photo looks more violent, both were instantly killed. Proper shot placement it the most important factor in ethical hunting.

But I want pose a theoretical question to you. I shot a squirrel this fall with my Condor shooting about 30 fpe JSB 18.1gr domed pellets. The shot was taken at about 12 yards at a very steep angle. I held for a headshot and fired. I heard a solid impact, saw him drop, and he… started running. Not involuntary twitching , I mean full out sprint for cover. Luckily, my dog managed to catch him before he made it up a tree. I checked my shot placement. The pellet entered behind the jaw and came out in front of the eye. I misjudged my hold by less than half and inch (probably more like 0.25″).

Do you think a hard hitting, expanding pellet would have killed a squirrel with that shot?