Synthetic-skirted (saboted) pellets and accuracy
By B.B. Pelletier
Today’s posting is an answer to a question from one of our readers:
I heard saboted pellets don't work very well in some airguns because of the barrel being choked. Is that true?
Can a synthetic skirt be accurate?
I can only give you my personal observations on this question, plus the scant material I’ve read and seen. I've not had good luck achieving the same level of accuracy using pellets with synthetic skirts (what our reader and some manufacturers refer to as sabots) as I have with homogenous, pure lead pellets. Ten years ago, synthetic-skirted pellets were not very accurate at all. They were relatively new to the airgun scene and certain manufacturing problems I’ll discuss in a moment weren't properly addressed.
Top-quality synthetics are better today
Today, the picture has changed greatly. Top-quality synthetic-skirted pellets are now very uniform, and accuracy has improved quite measurably. That said, there are still some brands of synthetic-skirted pellets that do not measure up to the high standards of the makers I am going to mention. Therefore, what I’m about to say only applies to the specific brands I mention.
Prometheus was a pioneer
Prometheus was an early developer of synthetic-skirted pellets. Initially, they marketed their pellets as the fastest pellets on the market, because, indeed, with the combination of their light weight and their low-friction synthetic skirts, they proved faster than any lead pellets around. But that nearly sank the company! They caused British spring guns that had been below the legal UK limit of 12 foot-pounds to suddenly exceed it!
Accuracy was such an issue with the early synthetics that Prometheus did a huge amount of R&D to correct it. The problem resides in the two-part projectile. A synthetic pellet is made from a hard metal core and a lightweight synthetic skirt that surrounds and contains the core. Unless the pellet is very uniform, it will not be accurate. It's more difficult to marry two dissimilar parts, the core and the skirt, into one than it is to form homogeneous lead into a precision projectile.
Prometheus finally made an accurate saboted pellet!
Prometheus persisted and by the late 1990s they had a pellet that was very consistent. They even made a promotional video showing shot groups with large numbers of pellets going through very respectable groups at decent distances of 25 yards and more.
Skenco pellets are very accurate!
I've tested almost all of the different types of saboted pellets made by Skenco and found them to be very accurate. They've got quite a variety to choose from, including some long-range .177 pellets heavy enough for some of the more powerful springers.
In the final analysis, I must say that top-quality homogeneous lead pellets are more accurate than synthetic-skirted ones. It isn’t because of the choke at the end of the barrel, but because of the two-part construction of synthetic pellets compared to more uniform lead pellets.