Can Air Rifle Pellets Be Reused?

Can Air Rifle Pellets Be Reused?

You might even have some dirty ones floating about. After all, it seems like a waste to shoot the pellets once and then never again. Your air rifle pellets have a unique look and designed for optimal performance. Maybe you’ve collected a handful of them after firing them off or picked some of the floor. Why? Well, you intend to reuse them again. So, can air rifle pellets be reused?

No, it’s not recommended that you reuse air rifle pellets. For one, if the pellet has been fired the shape of the pellet gets compressed. If the pellet has hit something it will be badly out of shape. The chances are, you couldn’t even fit the pellet back in the air rifle.  A dirty pellet could transfer the dirt to other parts of the gun, making reusing the pellets dangerous.

In this article, we will elaborate further on the reasons against reusing air rifle pellets. We’ll also, tell you whether cleaning the pellet makes it eligible for reuse and if you should consider using an alternative pellet to shoot with. Let’s begin. 

Why Shouldn’t You Reuse Air Rifle Pellets?

Can Air Rifle Pellets Be Reused?
A rusty pellet, a pellet that was dropped and is dirty, and finally a pellet that was fired and hit an object.

We said it in the intro, but we want to reiterate it one more time. You absolutely should not use air rifle pellets again once you shoot them. It’s just not going to work, nor should you want it to.

Here are several reasons that should hopefully convince you to avoid reusing pellets. 

You Don’t Want dirt in the gun

Can Air Rifle Pellets Be Reused?
I know which pellets I would not want going through my barrel.

If you recall from another post on this blog, one of the factors that can contribute to air gun loudness is how dirty the gun gets. 

When you fire off pellets with your air rifle, you’re not doing so inside your clean house. That means the pellets are going to land on the ground at some point. Maybe that’s grass, rocks, dirt, or concrete, but either way, they’re not making a clean landing. 

Let’s say you collected some pellets from the last time you fired your air rifle. You decided to reuse them, and they fit in the gun (more on this shortly, so keep reading). Well, as we said, the pellets are dirty or wet, maybe even filthy. Where do you think all that grime goes? It gets trapped inside your air rifle, of course. 

Your gun may now fire loudly, which can attract the attention and ire of your neighbors. Plus, all that dirt in the gun isn’t great for your air rifle. It’s a bad situation all around. It’s also something you can completely avoid by using fresh pellets in your air rifle. 

It’s Too Dangerous

Air gun pellets are meant for single-use, and that’s it. Fullstop. If you try to shoot with your old pellets again, then you’re misusing your gun. At that point, who can say what will happen? A lot of things can, and none of them good. 

For one, the air rifle can malfunction. You could end up misfiring as well, shooting at something unintended and causing severe property damage. You could also hurt yourself or potentially cause harm to another person. 

Air rifles and other air guns might not be real firearms, but please don’t be mistaken. If misused or mishandled, air guns can kill. It would be extraordinarily unfortunate if you caused an injury or death because you tried to reuse an air rifle pellet. It’s much better to refrain. 

The Pellet Likely Won’t Fit 

If you’re by chance still not convinced, luckily, most of the time, you couldn’t even reuse the air rifle pellet if you wanted to. You see, when an air gun fires, the shape of the pellet changes. It will compress as a result of the intense air pressure needed to expel the pellet from your air rifle.

Not to even mention in you hit a target. The pellets which are normally made from soft lead, will compress and deform by design. It doesn’t take much brainpower to know that you shouldn’t put this back in your gun, even if it would fit. 

When you go to find your pellets next time, bring one back home and compare it to an unused air rifle pellet. The used one probably looks squished and smaller by comparison, right?

You can try jamming the pellet in your air rifle, but if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. There’s no changing that, so it’s best to just move on and use a new pellet instead.

Can You Clean an Air Rifle Pellet and Then Reuse It? 

We’ve all dropped a pellet or knocked over a few from the tin. The temptation is to pick it up and use it. Okay then, you think, what if you were to clean the used pellet? Would it work then? 

Possibly, but it’s still not something we’d recommend. After all, you’d have to be very careful with the cleaning product you use. As we wrote about in our blog post on air gun noise, besides dirt, another contributing factor to loudness is the type of cleaning product you use.

A cleaner with petroleum-based lubricant is a no-go. This lubricant is more flammable due to its composition. The air pressure that’s forcing your pellet from the air rifle could cause miniature detonations, a phenomenon referred to as dieseling. 

Most of the time, among air gun enthusiasts, if someone happens to drop a fresh, unused pellet on the ground, the rule is to throw it away. This would be our recommendation, 100%.

Once the pellet gets dirty, there’s too much risk of that dirt getting transferred to the barrel of the gun and causing excess loudness and malfunctions. The dirt on the pellet could also significantly change the trajectory. It’s not safe, and it’s not smart.

Even if you cleaned the used air rifle pellet until it was shining and had no traces of dirt left at all, there’s still the matter that the pellet probably compressed and wouldn’t fit in the gun. You’re just wasting your time cleaning a useless pellet, then. 

Could You Substitute Something Else for Air Rifle Pellets? 

Okay, so you can’t reuse your air rifle pellets, even if you happen to clean them really well. That’s a bummer, but you’re not out of ideas yet.

Maybe you can use a substitute, some sort of alternate air gun pellet. 

For instance, you could try a hard-fin air gun dart. Yes, that’s not a pellet, but it’s sort of the same, so it might work, right? You could always go the do-it-yourself route if you can’t get your hands on any air gun darts.

With toothpicks, cotton swabs, and scissors, you can make a kind of monstrous “pellet” hybrid with the pointed end of a toothpick and one side of the cotton swab. Do we even have to tell you how ill-advised this is? Hopefully not. 

It doesn’t even sound like a good idea. The “pellet” you get doesn’t resemble real air gun pellets in the slightest. Plus, there’s the major issue that cotton can combust. All it needs is a source of ignition. Your “pellets” are likely to come out charred. They can also cause some serious damage to your gun on their way out. 

It’s even worse to use your own homemade substitute air rifle pellets than it is to reuse the ones you have. At least those are legit pellets.

How Much Do Air Rifle Pellets Cost?

The whole crux of this article has been about dissuading you from reusing air rifle pellets. The main reason you probably feel inclined to reuse your pellets in the first place is to save some money. That’s a good reason to go the homemade pellet route as well, as you have the supplies lying around at home. 

That brings us to a pretty good question, namely, how much would you spend on air rifle pellets? While it depends on which brand you choose, air rifle pellets aren’t costly. Some of the cheaper ones are available for around $(£,€) 5, while you may pay upwards of $15 for the pricier pellets. Tins of 50 – 500 are available, generally for about $5 you can get a tin off 250 pellets that will be fine for general target practice. 

That won’t break the bank, or at least, it shouldn’t. Sure, pellets only last as long as you use them. Depending on how often you shoot your air rifle, you could blow through all your pellets in a week or have them last a couple of weeks. You’d have to take the above costs and multiply them by two or three to get a realistic picture of how much money you might spend on air rifle pellets month to month, then. 

Air guns aren’t the cheapest hobby, that’s true. If you can’t afford air rifle pellets to the point that you’re thinking of reusing them or making pellets from cotton swabs and toothpicks though, then maybe you want to rethink your choice of recreation. It’s not worth risking injury and even your (or someone else’s) life to save some money. 


So, can air rifle pellets be reused? Air gun rifle pellets, like those for any air gun, should not be reused. Once the pellet gets dirty, you risk passing dirt to the rest of the gun. Not only does this make firing sound louder, but it could damage your air gun as well. Also, in almost every case, the pellet compresses upon being fired and won’t fit back in your air rifle. 

You should avoid cleaning your dirty pellet to try to reuse it, and you definitely shouldn’t makeshift your own air rifle pellets. Instead, just use them once and replace them. It’s the safest and smartest option.

Be sure to check out my blog post on Can Air Rifle Pellets Be Traced?

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An image of Air gun pellets in tins, one tin is rusty with rusty pellets.