Lead-free target pellets – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

I think this will be a super-big series, because the times seem to demand it. Lead has been demonized so much that the Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (JROTC), a high-school training component of the U.S. military, has now encouraging the use of lead-free pellets for all marksmanship training using airguns. So, the question is, are lead-free pellets accurate? Can they compete with lead pellets in a formal competition situation?

I have to say that, at this moment in time, no lead-free pellet that I’m aware of can possibly compete against top-quality lead pellets. I’m not the expert, of course, but I have tested enough of these pellets to know their limitations. However, if the world is going to go in that direction, what I know or feel doesn’t matter.

I will, therefore, start testing lead-free pellets against the best lead target pellets available. I’ll use several standardized test guns whose performance can be documented and used for comparison. Before getting to that subject, though, let’s look at what JROTC typically uses for airguns.

There’s no standard gun or guns for JROTC target practice. Like their non-military counterparts in other NRA-sanctioned matches, they use the old favorites like the Daisy Avanti 853, but they also use a wide range of other target guns. Among them are the Tech Force 79 target rifle, the Daisy 953, the Crosman Challenger 2000, the Daisy Avanti 888 and other Avanti rifles, and there are a few target rifles of the junior series from companies like FWB. I’m sure the new Crosman Challenger PCP and AirForce Edge are starting to show up at matches.

So, JROTC is about to enter a field (lead-free pellets) that hasn’t been fully developed yet, and they’re doing it haphazardly, in my opinion. I do understand that their funding is fractionalized and that team coaches control and run the individual programs to a great extent, but lead-free pellets just aren’t ready to compete. At least, that’s my opinion.

I believe JROTC will not be able to remain competitive when shooting against clubs that do not have this sanction. However, it’s not clear to me at this time that they won’t be able to switch to high-quality target pellets when they compete outside the JROTC world.

I understand that this may be decided on a state-by-state basis. There may be more that we haven’t heard yet. And when it becomes obvious what’s happening, they might also rethink their policy.

However, none of that is my concern here. This is the bow wave of a general trend that will inevitably change the face of airgun target shooting in the future. I’m not about to throw myself under the wheels of the movement in protest; I want to stand off to the side and measure it. I want to know which lead-free pellets do what in different types of powerplants so we can get an idea of where the technology is. When it advances, we’ll be able to document it.

Some time ago, a reader asked me to test the Skenco Pointed Poly Match pellets. I agreed and have been planning this test for over a month. Now, however, I’m going to use this pellet test as the launch of a 10X larger test SERIES of all lead-free pellets that are touted as target pellets. If they have target in their name, they go on the list.


The Skenco Poly Match pellet will be the first pellet tested. I already see a problem with the shape. The pointed head will make scoring problematic, and such a pellet will not be permitted at the national level, where scoring is taken very seriously!

Here’s where you readers come in. You folks will keep me informed of all the new lead-free target pellets as you discover them. If I’m able to get them, I’ll test them. This is really an open-ended series.

I plan to use three rifles to test each pellet. I’ll use my HW55F springer, a Daisy 953 single-stroke and a Crosman Challenger PCP. Even with just three guns, these tests will take a long time to complete, so please don’t ask for this or that rifle that you might be interested in buying. Three guns of established performance should give us a good picture of performance.

And, there will be issues. Just yesterday, a reader named Ed asked about the Poly Match pellets. He said they were too long to load into his Daisy 953, so I tested one right on the spot. He was correct. I will show things like that as we do each test.

I have no stake in the outcome of this series. If a non-lead pellet is labeled as a target pellet, it will be tested…if I can get it. They’ll all be compared to the very best lead target pellets for each type of gun. This will not be a fair test. It will be ruthless, because the lead-free pellets are trying to play in the big time. So, they have to perform!

99 Responses to “Lead-free target pellets – Part 1”

  • Revwarnut Says:

    So, are we going to see you weighing and sorting these pellets too?
    How about shooting those plastic things backwards?
    I think this whole hysteria over lead is overblown. Just wash your hands, collect the pellets and recycle them..
    It’s not like we don’t handle so many other things that are far more hazardous every single day. (and put much of it on our hair, our eyes, our fingernails… well, not me, but…..)

    • rikib Says:

      I believe the term “TESTING” was used! Who knows maybe we’ll learn something new, probably not but you never know until you test. :)

      rikib

  • rikib Says:

    B.B.,
    This sounds to be an excellent on going blog, maybe the world is turning and air-gunners may have to adapt (although I doubt anytime soon).
    If you don’t mind my asking, would it be possible in the future to describe the differences in power plants for air-guns. The terminology blog did not seem to really address this, or maybe I was to ignorant to realize it was there. I know you’re not feeling well right now, just sometime in the future. Thanks. :)

    rikib

    If you’ve already address this just point me in the direction.

  • DaveUK Says:

    BB:
    I have two types of lead free pellets under the ‘Prometheus’ brand.
    The closest US equivalent I can find is the Skenco Hyper velocity field and the RWS Hyper velocity field.
    In both my springer and PCP the ‘Prometheus’ were not as accurate as quality lead pellets.
    They were better in my more powerful PCP and so I assumed they would probably perform best in an FAC rated Air rifle than a 12ftIb one like mine.
    For novelty value and punching holes in metal though, they are great :)
    DaveUK

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Dave,

      I know the Prometheus pellets have gone far into the lead-free design world. But as you point out, they don’t yet exist as pure 10-meter target pellets, which is the scope of this series.

      But knowing them and how aggressive they are, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them entering the race sometime.

      B.B.

  • Malcolm Says:

    This should be an interesting series, though I doubt that any currently available lead-free pellet can can compare to lead ammo.

    I think in the future lead-free pellets will improve, if only because they are forced to by higher demand for quality lead-free ammunition.

  • twotalon Says:

    B.B.
    When you say the word ‘match’ will determine which pellets are tested, does this exclude the ones labeled ‘competition’ and ‘target’ ?
    They all imply the same thing.

    twotalon

    • Ed Says:

      twotalon,

      Perhaps he simply means excluding the hyper-velocity type field pellets.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      twotalon,

      I would test any wadcutter lead-free pellet with any word like competition in its name. But field target is also a competition, and the scope of this series does not extend to that. Though when a field target lead-free pellet hits the market you can bet I will try to also test it in a separate report.

      B.B.

  • twotalon Says:

    B.B.
    After another cup of coffee and a look at the pellets on the PA ammo page, all I see for non-lead ‘match’ pellets are the plastic and the plastic jacket skancos.
    And both are pointed. Hardly good for match scoring anyway.
    You may have a short list.

    twotalon

  • derrick Says:

    BB,
    The only lead-free wadcutter I can recall are the Crosman Silver Eagles, but I see that they’re now discontinued. I’m sure that I have a couple tins if you want one for testing–not that it’ll help much since they’re apparently out of production. Or,I can save you the trouble and just let you know that they shot about as well as trying to throw a ping pong ball 40 yards.

    Sort-of-related: My buyer at work asked me yesterday about a “hazardous chemical” warning label on a 100 count box of bicycle brake cables(???) Told here it was because the cables have a lead anchor for the brake lever end. California requires any and all products containing lead to be so labeled. We had supply problem last year when it was discovered that some inner tubes with schraeder valves have a percentage of lead in the metal valve. Because all the distributors are in California, they weren’t allowed to ship the product as it hadn’t been properly labeled (for California). I don’t want to see this break into a political/ecological/biological series of follow up comments. –I just want to comment that the lead fear doesn’t just affect airgunners/shooters. We’ve also been unable to find a single instance documenting lead poisoning from a kid sucking on a BMX inner tube valve. While we (in theory) sort of applaud their efforts and acknowledge the concerns, the far reaching effects seem rather questionable.

    • kevin Says:

      derrick,

      Can’t say I’m surprised.

      Those hand wringing do gooders in California would be comical if their actions weren’t so tragic and costly.

      Common sense seems so uncommon these days.

      kevin

    • pcp4me Says:

      Derrick,

      Crosman is still making the lead free pellets. Only now they are called SSP for “super sonic pellet” They have a wad cutter hollow point also but it is different shape Than the silver eagle. I believe Crosman also advertises them to have “match” accuracy. Thankfully in my limited testing they seem to be MUCH more accurate than silver eagle’s were.

      They appear to be very uniform and to attest to that so far they are feeding 100% reliably in my Drulov DU-10 semi-auto pistol which is very picky and won’t feed pellets with non uniform skirts. In fact, the ONLY pellets which would feed reliably in that gun previously were the H & N Finale Match and Match Kulgen with .450 diameter heads! Both those are the exact same pellet, just the Finale’s are hand sorted and sized and the Kulgens are machine sorted and sized. The Kulgens cost about $10.50 per 500 tin, and the Finale’s cost about $25 per tin of 500. Add to that about $8 – $9 per tin shipping and these are not cheap pellets.

      This is why I would like BB to include the Crosman SSP in his testing. They are made with both the hollow point head which I referred to above and a standard non hollow point head, as well as pointed heads. Only ones I tested so far are the hp heads.

  • Wayne Burns Says:

    B.B.

    I hope your feeling better today, and tomorrow, and the next day:-) etc….

    I haven’t tried any of them yet, just the copper covered Kodiak, and they didn’t do well at all.

    My guess is those long plastic pellets will turn sideways in flight and hit the target making a long wide hole.

    My solution is to build boxes around the targets and collect the lead that bounces off. And wash hands when done shooting. Wear the same shooting clothes, that might collect the lead dust, and keep them separate from the clothes you wear around the house, so you don’t spread lead dust around the house.

    Hard to say where this will go. I think if we ignore it, regulations will be tougher, than if we are proactive and do what is possible ourselves, like the target boxes around the targets to collect the lead fragments.

    Just my .02 cents

    Wacky Wayne,
    Match Director
    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  • CJr Says:

    This is going to be so beneficial to us airgunners. Shot gun shot has been going this way so it’s only “natural” that pellets join the list. I guess there are incidents of lead having a detrimental effect on fowl accidentally ingesting lead shot so maybe the hysteria is justified so some extent. We’ve pretty much concluded in previous articles on this blog that there is hardly anything useful to be done with used pellets so for the most part billions of them will end up in waste sites, back yards, and woods.

    I find it interesting that no other state takes California’s environmental issues/warnings seriously. The only recognition I see are labels that say, “this product has been determined harmful in the state of California”, or some such warning. I have yet to see another state be included in that warning.

    -CJr

    • Malcolm Says:

      CJr,

      California is a train wreck, and anything that comes out of there I have a hard time taking seriously. Look at California law regarding airsoft guns, for example.

      I’m native-born of that messed up state, and I have no intention of ever even visiting the place…ever…

    • kevin Says:

      CJr,

      Re: “I find it interesting that no other state takes California’s environmental issues/warnings seriously.”

      In my opinion, this is one more example of California being ridiculously overzealous in their stance that government should be overly protective of the citizen at all costs.

      I’ve told this story before so I’ll make it short. In the late 1970′s the town of Leadville was targeted by the EPA as a place that could have a lead problem. EPA to the rescue. Lot’s of bloodwork done on the citizens, playground equipment, air, dirt, etc.

      “EPA Finds Dangerously Elevated Levels Of Lead In Leadville!!” was the headline in the paper. County Commissioners and Town Council immediately convene hearings to become informed as to the level of the “danger” and invite EPA to testify. EPA declined. County Commissioners, Town Council and citizens were concerned about the “danger” and potential affect this news would have on business, tourism, health etc. EPA was sued for information and disclosure.

      During sworn testimony EPA officials admitted that their lead level/toxicity standards were unique to EPA and adopted without any specific studies. Although they used CDC (Center for Disease Control) lead levels as a guideline the EPA levels were reduced by as much as 400% to create a new benchmark for a “Dangerously Elevated Level of Lead”.

      Why would a government agency do this? Wellll, there’s a lot of evidence that at that period of time the EPA’s primary task (the then “current health crisis”), and reason for unbelievably elevated budget and staff over previous 4-5 years was Asbestos. At this same time most of the regulation for asbestos management and abatement was turned over to or in the process of being turned over to State Governments (usually the State’s health department). EPA was rightly concerned about budget cuts and then staff cuts UNLESS they identified another “health crisis”). Enter lead. In the end, although there are very high concentrations of lead in and around Leadville (hence the name) and extensive mining has brought high concentrations of lead to the surface there weren’t any abnormal health trends found in the residents of Leadville.

      It concerns me when any sector of our government attempts to regulate our safety since they have a long history (send me your address for the 20 cd set that’s incomplete, LOL!) of regulation leading to over-regulation for the sake of bureaucratic preservation and perpetuation.

      kevin

      • Edith Gaylord Says:

        “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help.” Is it any wonder that phrase has become a joke?

        Edith

        • CYCLEALLEYRIDERS Says:

          I have a similar story a bit closer to home. There is/was a trap and skeet range in a County Park about 2 miles from my home. It had been there since 1905. With more development, neighbors began to complain about the noise. The range operated only on Sundays from noon to five. The locals tried everything, even raising the specter of lead contamination, to try to shut it down. After exhaustive studies of the ground and stream, levels of lead were found to be well within tolerable limits. It finally shut down as the building and throwing houses needed to be re-built but the area was declared to be in a flood zone so no money was to be spent – no builder to provide big political contributions, I guess. And that’s why I’m a lousy trap shooter :)

          Fred PRoNJ

  • Gene Says:

    Locally we have Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. They train several Federal groups. I have heard they have switched from lead to another metal/alloy. Except for elite shooter ( snippers maybe ), they can still use lead, because it is more accurate. The old shooting range may be a new super fund site, maybe not quite that bad, I forget the terminology. So yes things are a changing.

  • Jim Says:

    This is interesting, and exactly the sort of no-nonsense research that we “normal consumers” require to counteract the hype of the advertising departments. We live, unfortunately, in an age of ridiculous over-regulation and the unintended consequences thereof. It is true that, at present, lead-free projectiles are inferior but every change (desired or not) has to start somewhere. If nothing else, perhaps the data gathered in these tests can suggest a direction for the pellet manufacturers to pursue.

    So, Mr. Gaylord, press on. We (I, at least) eagerly await your results.

    Jim

  • cowboystar dad Says:

    Very off topic…but just had a very interesting conversation with a customer of mine.
    As some know, I work in the photographic industry…my ‘day’ job entails selling equipment to gov’t/industry/schools.
    So I get to work at my usual time (7:30AM) and a gentleman is in the parking lot waiting for the store to open, which isn’t till 8AM.
    Usually I don’t deal with retail walk-in traffic…but hey, who wants to make someone wait 1/2 hour in the parking lot.
    Asked what he needed and in a thick European accent he just needed to exchange a faulty lens.
    Had him come into my office…glad I did.
    He asked about a target I have on the wall of my office (one of my best 10m pistol results).
    He seemed quite interested so I asked him if he did any shooting.
    “Not for a couple of years…and much bigger gun…I was a 30mm gunner on a Russian BTR-90 (their version of the Stryker) in the Russian Army before I came to Canada”
    We chatted for a few minutes.
    So B.B., what is the chance you can do a test sometime on a 30mm canon…it sounds like a helluva gun ;-)

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      CSD,

      Maybe sometime I can regale you with some of my 105mm cannon experiences from when I was an armor officer? No “kidding,” I’ve got stories that can curl your hair!

      B.B.

  • KidAgain Says:

    BB / Edith,

    I’m having trouble finding the energy/velocity conversion link. Is it still available?

    KA

  • KidAgain Says:

    Edith,

    Thanks. That’s the one.

    KA

  • Paul Says:

    The only problem I have with non-lead pellets is their hardness. I have a number of brass barreled airguns (Crosman bulk fill CO2 models) and I won’t use anything other than lead.

    Paul

  • Stingray Says:

    BB

    Looking forward to this series of tests. I see you will be using a Daisy 953 as one of your test rifles. In your 5th blog on the 953 you wrote that the rifles “jumps slightly to the left when fired”. I too have noticed this on my 953. I also noticed that the stock flexes when the rifle is cocked. You can feel it if you hold the rifle with your left hand just forward of the pump lever while you cock. Could this be the reason why it “jumps” to the left?

    I also have a Daisy 853. It does not exhibit his “Jump”.

    Hope your health improves. My prayers are with you and Edith.

    Stingray

    • CJr Says:

      Stingray,
      Have you ever taken the action out of the 953 stock? One thing to look for is if the cocking lever is centered in the cocking slot. If the screw that holds the front of the barrel assy in the stock is put in from the wrong side it will cause the lever to be pulled over to one side. Also check to see if the front of the cocking lever, where it pivots, is hitting the stock somewhere. I couldn’t get the action out of the stock until I opened the lever about 90 degrees to clear the front of the stock.
      -CJr

      • Stingray Says:

        Cjr,
        Thanks for your reply. Yes, I have removed the stock previously. But the flexing of the stock occurs not when I pump the rifle but when I move the bolt rearward to load the pellet.

        • CJr Says:

          Stingray,
          For those of you who were kind enough not to chastise me for using the wrong nomenclature, I apologize for mis-labeling the 953 pump lever as the cocking lever. All my previous comments were about the pump handle and its action not the cocking lever. Because of this I was thinking the flex took place during the pumping action.

          I’ll pay close attention to mine to see if I have the same flex problem. BTW, when you cock the rifle (I do mean cock this time) does the safety button move in relation to the stock?

          OK, I just cocked and dry fired mine several times and I couldn’t feel any “flex” in the stock. I could feel vibration caused by the cocking action (same but more pronounced during the dry fire) but I wouldn’t call it flex. Now, I’ll be more consious of this in the future and start flinching :-) . And now I’ll be looking for that left jump, too. Just what I needed, more distractions :-D .

          I tried bending the stock to see if there was any play that way but the stock is too stiff for my feeble muscles.

          -CJr

          • Anonymous Says:

            The safety button does not move in relation to the stock when the rifle is cocked. I made sure that all the bolts are secure and tight. However, I feel the stock move (flex) with my left hand whenever I load a pellet.

            Luckly, I have a Daisy 853 with hard wood stock to compare. There is no movement (flexing) with the 853.

            The 953 also tends to “jump” to the left when fired (benched)- with only the right hand (trigger hand) holding the rifle and the fore stock resting on a shooting bag. The Daisy 853 does not have this “jump” problem.

            Thanks for taking the time to reply.

            Stingray

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Stingray,

      You may have identified the reason for the jump. I don’t know.

      The 853 stock is either maple or another dense wood that doesn’t flex at all, so that would be better.

      B.B.

  • pintosal Says:

    In UK the Thunderbolt pellets have some popularity for .22

    They are zinc pellets and are claimed to give great accuracy at very high velocity.

    I have not tested them as I use .177

  • Drew Says:

    I have a few questions about pellets: Will shooting super lightweight pellets such as the Gamo Raptor damage a magnum spring piston rifle? Will shooting cleaning Pellets out of a spring piston gun damage it? Will shooting pellets backwards damage a gun?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Drew,

      Shooting pellets backwards will not harm a springer. Apparently, lightweight pellets are okay for magnum springers, too. Felt cleaning pellets are too light for powerful springers and must be tripled up or more to be safe. To be sure, just never use them at all.

      B.B.

  • Matt61 Says:

    That is a pretty radical shape of the pellets in the photo. So, what are lead free pellets made of? Plastic, alloys? I suppose they are still working on materials. My sense is that lead is desirable as a bullet/pellet material because it is soft–to take rifling and to expand on impact–and heavy–to stabilize it in flight and for impact. So, if there is a material that is softer and heavier it should be better. Is lead the softest and heaviest substance that we know of? I suppose expense is another factor.

    One of the themes of going green as in green energy is that we will get a better product than we have with current technology. One possible example might be the DRT ammo that I’ve seen advertised. This ammo supposedly has no lead; it contains powder (of what material I do not know). Anyway, the powder is supposed to make the round more accurate because the axial spinning of the projectile works like a centrifuge to distribute the powder perfectly. And it hits with much more energy because all of it is dispersed into the target. As another benefit, there is no danger of ricochets. Sounds good in theory, but I don’t know if anyone has tested this ammo. It is super-expensive.

    Fickle person that I am, I have discarded the Mini-14 in favor of what may be the ultimate mid-range self-defense weapon. It’s a high-quality AK-47 manufactured by a company called Arsenal and features well-fitted parts and a milled receiver, whatever that is. This is a chance to test whether the reported inaccuracy of the AK is because it is purposely made with loose parts for reliability or because it is an inherent part of the design–as many seem to think. Range reports indicate that this AK is an MOA rifle. That’s about as good as you can get a piston semiauto and equivalent to the best piston systems for the AR for half the price! And it takes a scope that is about half the price of the EOTechs. Amazing.

    Matt61

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Matt,

      The Arsenal AK will be an impressive rifle for you. First, because the Kalashnikov design is so great and second, because Arsenal executes it to perfection. I’ve read nothing but praise for their rifles.

      If I didn’t already own a fine early 1950s Russian-made SKS that is also a stunningly wonderful gun I might be tempted to join you. It’s everything the Mini-14 promises to be but fails to deliver.

      B.B.

      • pcp4me Says:

        BB’

        A bit off the topic here, but on the M4 type guns designed around the “5.56 X 45 cartridge”, I have a few questions.

        I know they have an upper and lower unit. If I have one in say the standby 5.56 X 45 cartridge,and want to change to say a 6.5 grendel or even a 6.8 SPC what do I have to change? Just the barrel? Just the upper unit? Both the upper and lower unit?

        I already figured in some cases I would need to change magazines. But some guns may have a different bolt head diameter necessitating a bold change at least if not a wold lower unit change.

        Also with cartridges with same head diameter and oal as the 5.56 X 45 I would hope all you have to change is maybe the barrel and magazine.

        Please give me some guidance here would you?

        Thanks!

        • B.B. Pelletier Says:

          pcp4me,

          I am the worst person to ask about black rifles. I know next to nothing about them.

          I suggest you repost your question as a general one, because I’m quite sure we have the experts onboard to help you.

          B.B.

    • cowboystar dad Says:

      Matt, I’m seriously looking at the CZ SA58 later this year. I know it is not a true AK action…have you or anyone here had any experience with it.

      • duskwight Says:

        CSD

        Well, SA58 is no Kalashnikov at all, just looking the same :) It is more “german” inside with its falling breech lock and short-stroke piston.
        I shot it a couple of times in Czech Republic. It is a very well-made and well-finished weapon. Recoil seemed to me a bit odd – “dry” (however I’m used to AKM and AK-74M), but all in all if one’s used to AK’s – it’s not a problem. Another thing is the safety – it’s different from AK. Magazines are non-interchangeable with AK series. From what its owner told me it is a very good, easy-to-maintain and reliable weapon, however one mustn’t expect top accuracy from it.

        duskwight

  • Brian in Idaho Says:

    Yes, Lead is a “bad player” if you eat it, mix it in your Kool-Aid or otherwise ingest LOTS of it. But, the EPA and the enviro-wackos have created a stigma to lead that is undeserved on the scale it has been elevated to. Like most potentially toxic substances, safe handling requires some modicum of common sense. That is what our great bureaucrats have legislated into law, the ability to mis-handle substances like lead and be protected from the results by law. Remember the hot-coffee lawsuit against McDonalds? Imagine, hot coffee that is actually hot!

    Co2 cartridges may be next!?

  • semi Says:

    To Brian in Idaho,

    The main objection to lead-based ammunition in California has nothing to do with “safe handling” of lead. It’s because lead-based ammunition gets into the food chain for animals and birds. Hunters leave gut piles with lead fragments in the wild, and scavengers (such as the California condor) ingest the fragments, poisoning them. The effects of waterfowl ingesting lead birdshot are also well known and documented. Many private hunting clubs are moving away from lead-based ammo because of the cumulative effects of lead build-up in wildlife areas.

    We’re in the very early days of lead-free ammunition; with adequate demand, engineering of lead-free ammo will improve dramatically.

    I hope Tom is able to test the Dynamic brand of lead-free pellets which have a good reputation for accuracy (but are not widely available in the U.S.)

    • Brian in Idaho Says:

      “We’re in the very early days of lead-free ammunition; with adequate demand, engineering of lead-free ammo will improve dramatically.”

      Too bad Tungsten is so expensive (and possibly abrasive) it’s even heavier than lead (about 1.7 times).

  • Jim K Says:

    Is there any reason that no one has mentioned the H&N Field Target Green 0.177?

    http://www.pyramydair.com/s/p/H_N_Field_Target_Trophy_Green_177_Cal_Lead_Free_5_56_Grains_Domed_200ct/749

    I just received my order. When I can get the **** tin opened, I’ll let folks know how they compare to the other pellets in my collection. (Not that I’m a crack shot.) For my money, staying away from lead is a good idea.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Jim,

      I’m anxious to hear, but of course those are not target pellets. Those would be in the field target category because they are domed.

      B.B.

  • Bpaul Says:

    I’m looking forward to these tests, thanks for taking this on.

    Since I hunt on farms and dairies, I know if I can find good lead-free ammunition I’ll switch to it. Especially in the dairies. I have days where I put a whole lot of pellets into or near piles of feed for the cows. Since it can be stored in the fatty tissues, that means it will work its way into the milk.

    I’d like to see pellets tested that are lead-free and designed for hunting as well please.

    Bp

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    This was sent to me weeks ago, but sat in a dead account. Can anyone answer him?

    Hello Tom, you have been kind enough to answer questions in the past.
    I have been shooting a lot with my Benjamin Super Streak in .22
    caliber. I have done some mods to the stock to suit me better and am
    really enjoying the power and speed of this gun. I feel like the
    trigger is the weak link in this gun. The 1st stage is inconsistent .
    Some time i feel it and other times it seems to go straight to firing.
    Are there after market triggers that one can replace the stock one
    with or is that something out there in dream land ?

    John

  • tdung Says:

    BB,
    Have you ever done any article with the focus on triggers? I am just curious about triggers and would like understand their features, such as…

    -Why one trigger is better than another?
    -What are advantages of 2-stage vs. 1-stage?
    -What is over travel?
    -What does it really mean when a trigger is crisp or has creep?
    -Creep can be in either stage or both?
    -Why one trigger is much heavier than another (heavier means safer?)?
    -Does trigger quality play an important role in the overall price of a gun (like the Rekord)?
    -Are there big difference between springer’s trigger vs pcp’s?
    -And other things about trigger that shooters should know…?

    Thanks.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      tdung,

      I can’t say that I have done a special report on triggers. And as an old-timer, I favor two-stage, but lots of younger folks really don’t like them at all. You have to know what they are for and why they work the way they do, to appreciate them.

      Maybe we’ll do something with this, but I need to get my head around the topic first. It certainly is not a single report.

      B.B.

      • kevin Says:

        Old Timer??

        Based on the recent survey on the yellow about the average age of airgunners, you’re a few months older than the average. Wish I could remember when I was your age.

        kevin

  • pete zimmerman Says:

    A few comments on lead pellets and such. First, and I’m speaking as a physicist here, I seriously doubt that any pellet material other than a lead alloy, fairly rich on the lead, is going to give really good performance in anything as precise as a 10m International-class air rifle — an FWB, Anschuetz, Walther, Steyr and probably Air Force Edge as examples. Why not? Because there’s a lot of interplay in the internal ballistics between the pellet design and the gun design. The guns are designed to shoot lead-alloy diabolos, taking into account the weight of the pellet, the weight distribution along the long axis (I assume that the pellet is symmetric around the long axis, or you wouldn’t shoot it.) and more subtle things such as the rate of expansion of the skirt when the propelling gas hits it, the flexibility of the pellet at the narrowest point, and the exact way the head takes the rifling. Oh, I don’t suggest that the chief designer at FWB or Steyr actually looks quantitatively at those parameters; he or she just knows how to design the gas system, breech, bolt and barrel so that it all works together and lets you make better-than-single-hole groups of 5 or 10 at 10 meters.

    I think that to get a plastic or non-lead pellet to work well, you will have to carefully design the pellet to *match* a lead diabolo in the weapon. Or you will have to take the properties of the pellet into account and design a new gun, optimizing the gas transfer system for the higher acceleration and poorer ballistic coefficient of the plastic. For example, I think you’ll need a larger transfer port to keep the driving pressure up throughout the time the pellet is in the barrel.

    As to lead toxicity, it is very toxic in almost all chemical compounds, but the body actually has pretty fair defenses against metallic lead in solid chunks (weighing, oh, say about 0.5 gram). I won’t use lead paint (well, it’s been outlawed), or would remove it if I had it. I’m really glad leaded gasoline is gone. And I won’t melt my own lead and release the vapors into the air in my house (or if I did I would be very careful about ventilation). But I am not a bit worried about lead pellets. Collect them, recycle them, and wash your hands after every time at the range.

    –pz

  • pete zimmerman Says:

    We all have tales of utter stupidity occurring around us. Let me pass on two.

    Back in the middle 1950s modern long range missiles began to be built with fiberglass air frames replacing steel and aluminum, etc. The first company to go into this in a big way was Aerojet-General in Azusa, CA in those days. They worked out a good demo to show just how tough these new pressure vessels were: They made a sphere a couple of feet across and pressurized to some very high pressure. Then they hung it from a chain in one of the test stands for small rocket engines. The chief of the plant protection force was then asked to take his weapon, stick it in a small port in the concrete cut for the occasion and take a shot at the sphere. Instead of aiming off-center, he decided to show he was a good shot and aimed dead center. The ricochet banged up the front sight of the revolver, and nearly clipped his forehead.

    And another story that has become legend happened to a colleague of mine at Los Alamos, the nuclear weapons lab, lat in the George HW Bush administration. They were just learning to live with the hazmat regulations at that time. He needed something for his lab and ordered it from the Stores section. No problem. Have it to you this afternoon… but you do realize there will be a surcharge for special hazmat packing and we’ll have to have a hazmat convoy (escorts front and aft; hazmat truck in the middle) bring it to you. Well, OK, but what do I do with the waste? Well, you’ll have to put it in a special container, and we’ll have to send the convoy to pick it up, and of course you’ll have to pay for hazardous waste disposal.

    So he said, to hell with it. Got in his car and bought the two cans of spray paint at the hardware store.

    I can’t swear the first story happened, because it happened the summer before I went to work for Aerojet. The second happened to a friend, and I have to admit he tells it better than I can.

  • Victor Says:

    B.B.,

    The first thing that came to my mind was scoring, as you also mentioned. Does someone make a wad cutter (diabolo) plastic pellet? Was the extra length needed to add weight? I wonder about other characterizations like friction, and spin? In other words, I wonder how well they exploit the rifling, compared to lead pellets? The rifling is what allows the pellet to stabilize while in flight so that it wouldn’t tumble.

    My guess is that a pellet made out of plastic would make it easier for a manufacturers to play with the design. The first thing that came to mind regarding potential design improvements was those Nerf footballs that have grooves cut into them in a spiral fashion. Because of the spiraling, they stabilize better than a smooth football. So my thought is that a pellet could be designed with similar spirals that somewhat match the rifling of the gun, so that stability is further enhanced by the pellet itself while in flight. The only issue that I see with such a design is the energy lost due to escaping air through the grooves in the pellet, but you kind of that same issue with rifling, so maybe this can work.

    I think that IF this would make for a more accurate pellet, then some gun manufacturers would design these spiral grooves to match their particular rifling. In other words, pellets would be tuned for specific guns.

    Just a thought,
    Victor

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Victor,

      The Poly Match has 40 percent metal in its center, by weight. Plastic pellets won’t damage bores but they might gunk them up. Time will tell.

      As for design factors, I think we’re all just going to have to wait and see. This will be an interesting time.

      B.B.

      • Victor Says:

        B.B.,

        Indeed. Until you showed the pictures of these Skenco Poly Match pellet, I had no idea that such a thing existed. They seem very strange to me. Within Pyramyd Airs website, I did a search for “lead free pellets” but didn’t see a single wadcutter. I read some reviews and this particular pellet. Apparently the accuracy can be good, but with an occasional flyer. I wouldn’t expect to see a flyer in true “match” pellets. A match pellet with flyers would stink (hopefully not Skenco – lol). Another thing, I wonder how well they fit in the barrel? Are they loose? Would they be tight enough for the rifling to have an appreciable effect? If shot into ballistic puddy, where the pellet wasn’t too damaged, could you see any rifling marks? Just thinking out loud.

        I honestly don’t expect to see true match performance, BUT, if they can consistently shoot a single hole group (not single pellet hole) at 10 meters, without any flyers, then we might have a winner for sporter class, or a variation of sporter class where the target specifications were loosened up a bit. In any case, until I learn more about these pellets, I’d be a little afraid to try them in my FWB 700.

        I really look forward to seeing your results with the Challenger

        Thanks,
        Victor

  • Herb Says:

    RE: Lead

    If you want to avoid lead, then don’t use any antacid containing calcium carbonate. Lead behaves chemically like calcium. You can’t avoid it. So antacid tablets are more hazardous than lead pellets to give you some perspective.

    I used to do x-ray fluorescence. You can’t find any calcium compounds without significant amounts of lead. Worse than that, the lead in such compounds is in soluble form so it will be absorbed easily into the body.

    Of course you should avoid excessive amounts of lead. Of course you should reduce you exposure as much as possible with simple measures like washing your hands. But geeze, don’t dive off the deep end and assume that ANY exposure to lead will be catastrophic. It isn’t so.

  • Jim in KS Says:

    B.B. -

    Plastic and zinc, instead of lead? Say it isn’t so! This is really going to change movie dialogue in the days ahead:

    “Hands up, Lefty, or I’m going to pump you full of plastic.”
    “Marshall, ther wuz zinc flyin’ everwhere!”
    “slinging plastic”
    “Come on, get the zinc out. We’ve got to go!”

    You get the drift. ;-P
    Jim in KS

  • AirgunWeb Says:

    On the “lead free” front. I just shot some H&N Field Target Trophy Green pellets through a Beeman R9 Elite as well as a Stoeger 50x and had surprisingly good results. I’m looking forward to testing these further through other rifles.

    Rick Eutsler
    AKA: AirgunWeb

  • rikib Says:

    I was just wondering. If we are to give up the lead pellets for the plastic, then will there not be those that complain that they are not bio-degradable. It is just a thought. And buy the way I do support many environmental and wildlife issues, but I cannot see where changing from lead to plastic would change anything. Just my opinion! :)

    rikib

    • CJr Says:

      rikib,
      I’m playing catchup on the blog so someone else may have already addressed this issue, but, if memory serves me right the issue with lead shot was that when the bird ingests it it results in soft shell eggs and a decrease in survivability of offspring. So, it’s not just a duck choking on a pellet it’s an interruption in the reproductive cycle which would be devastating to the propagation of a species. Back to the blog…

      -CJr

  • Victor Says:

    B.B.,

    Actually, this topic is of great interest to me, so I am very eager to find out how well these lead free pellets perform in terms of accuracy at 10 meters.

    A few months ago I was involved in an effort to try to save the range where I was introduced to shooting. The ranged resided in a large recreational complex that was build on top of a dump site. There were problems with the building from the beginning because of this. Specifically, it was not settling very well, so the structural integrity was always a concern. Originally, this building sat adjacent to a trucking company, so it was fairly isolated from residents. Several decades later, the trucking company was gone and a residential subdivision was built right behind the building, and thus the range. Soon after that, the city hired a range master who apparently had a troubled past, but nothing glaringly obvious, and nothing illegal. This person then turned around and tried to sue the city for lead poisoning, alarming the newer members of the community, and thus local politicians (many of who are anti-gun). The bottom line, the range was recently closed, permanently.

    On a personal level, this really broke my heart because this range meant a great deal to me, and I knew the man who’s vision it was to create a first rate junior marksmanship program. His name was Mr. James Bristow. Mr. Bristow loved the sport of shooting, and it was his dream to make competitive marksmanship accessible to low-income kids such as myself. Another dream of Mr. Bristow was to officiate in an Olympics, which he got to do. Mr. Bristow has passed on, so I’m glad he never saw what recently happened. This result, in my opinion, was a typical consequences of what happens when politicians lack foresight, backbone, vision, and an inability to appreciate the benefits of sophisticated sports and activities. I wrote several papers to the mayor and city council in hopes that they could understand how competitive marksmanship differed from other sports.

    In the end, the fight to save the range centered around ex junior shooters. Realizing that there was little hope of saving the range, because the city council and mayor had already made up their mind, although they gave great lip service about being “objective” while “looking out for the cities best interest”, I started a second strategy for keeping the junior marksmanship program alive. My proposal was that we get the city entertain the idea of continuing with a junior marksmanship program that centered around air-gun shooting. My hopes would be that all of the money already invested in small bore rifles and equipment could later be salvaged once this new program has stronger support than the previous program.

    SO, with lead being the primary excuse for terminating the range and marksmanship program, I think that this whole topic of lead free pellets can go a long way towards justifying a re commitment to this new marksmanship program. I’d be very interested in knowing what the best lead free pellets might be for either sporter class, or even precision class air-gun competition. If you really think about it, this might even open up a new class of air-gun competition that has more relaxed standards for targets.

    One last thing. Is there any concern about whether or not these lead free pellets can cause damage to a sporter or precision class barrel? In other words, would they cause more wear, or require more cleaning in order to avoid excessive wear?

    Thanks,
    Victor

  • shaky Says:

    Hey maybe the Lone Ranger was on to something , expensive but doable. :-) :-)
    rikib, speaking of triggers did you make any changes on your 2240? Mine makes my finger sore at the edge of my finger nail
    because of the way it curves. Crosman used to make a shoe but they don’t seem to cary them anymore. I have been thinking
    JB weld to build it up then filing to a better shape.

    • rikib Says:

      shaky,
      My 2240 has always fit me just right (maybe hand size), I know Crosman did sell the shoe but did not know they discontinued it. Slinging Lead is well informed on Crosman products.

      rikib

  • derrick Says:

    shaky,
    Crosman has recently changed to a trigger that has a wider blade. You can buy it direct from them. I haven’t bought one yet, but you can be sure that it’s just a couple dollars and it’s a drop in replacement. The discontinued trigger shoes often show up on the various airgun forums and there are several vendors that make new trigger shoes as well as entirely new custom triggers for the 2240/2250/2300.

    • rikib Says:

      derrick,
      sorry I didn’t mention you, I could not find my bookmark to your page and SL’s name was the only one I could remember offhand. Sorry!

      rikib

    • shaky Says:

      Thanks derrick I will look into that, it is not so much the width as the curve .I have an old 1300 medalist that has never
      been a problem but one Co2 cartridge is about all I can handle with the 2240. The 1300 seems to have a larger radius on the trigger.
      rikib, thank you also

  • pcp4me Says:

    BB,

    Good to see you are feeling better.

    And wow for this test! Much needed. Just a question though? Why just test “target” lead free pellets. I know if you test them all it would be a VERY long series, but I feel any thing less would not serve the readers here very well.

    My feeling is there may be some “non target” pellets which will be more accurate than the “target” ones. Case in point is the new Crosman SSP pellets which in a limited test with a Drulov DU-10 pistol and a Daisy 953 seem to be more accurate than most other lead free I have shot. Ditto that for the RWS hyper velocity. I have tested them in 5 rifles and in 2 they are ALMOST as accurate as the best target pellets. In the other three however they are the least accurate of all compared to lead pellets.

    Your choice of the three test guns seems quite reasonable.

    And I think you will find that most lead free pellets, target or no, will not be as accurate as their lead counter parts!

    Just a suggestion here though. In order to cut down on your testing time why not test all pellets in the Crosman Challenger at 10 meters. If your group is not say .5″ ctc at that range then that pellet does not pass on to the multi gun longer range test. I am confident in saying I believe you will find many pellets which won’t even group an inch at 10 meters. For me PBA pellets were like that in every gun I tested.

    If all pellets are < .5" ctc then pick a group size which eliminates about 40% of the poorest groups. I have found that good accurate rifles with good target pellets will easily group <.25" ctc at 10 meters.

    Good luck with this test and your health!

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      pcp4me,

      I’m testing only 10-meter target pellets in this series because they comprise a class by themselves. They have specifications that must be met, as well as operating in target guns and delivering the goods.

      If I open this series to all pellets, it becomes too general to be of any value. For example, the word “match” appears in the title of many domed and pointed pellets even though they cannot be used in 10-meter matches. Newer airgunners will be confused as to what I’m doing if I lump everything together.

      I will be testing other types of lead-free pellets; just not reporting the findings in this series.

      B.B.

  • Jon Says:

    Howdy, I’d also really like to see an examination of general lead-free pellets. Personally, I’m interested in finding something I can shoot that I know is non-toxic, and a ‘natural material’ (not plastic) that will degrade gracefully on my land and not pollute in any way. The closest thing I’ve found to this is the Prometheus Dynamic stuff, but talk about hard to get! These are less expensive than the Gamo Raptor PBA pellets (which are obscenely expensive), but still expensive. It’s worth a little extra in my opinion for the peace of mind of not dealing with lead at all, but, there may be a point of diminishing returns…

  • Schutzeman Says:

    B.B.
    I’m overseas in Germany. We have a Jr. ROTC unit that is wanting to purchase some Dynamic match air rifle pellets 4.50mm x 150, and they are saying that the only non-toxic (non-lead) pellets that they can purchase are those made by PAX Guns Ltd in the UK. Aren’t there other brands comparable to this on the market that would work just as well?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Schutzeman,

      Are you telling me that in GERMANY, the cradle of 10-meter target shooting, the American military has a rule requiring lead-free pellets!!!

      Good luck with that! There aren’t any non-lead pellets that can hope to compete with lead target pellets — so you are doomed to compete with JROTC teams, only. Anyone else would clean your clock, given the huge advantage they have.

      There are no really good target pellets that are not made from lead. That said, the UK is the absolute LAST PLACE I would go to buy pellets of any kind! The pellets made in the UK are not suitable to be melted down for fishing sinkers.

      H&N, right there in Germany, makes green pellets, but as far as I know, none of them are the wadcutters that you must use.

      Can anyone help this man?

      B.B.

      • B.B. Pelletier Says:

        This was sent to the wrong address, so I am posting it here:

        BB

        Thanks for the reply. Admittedly, I’m not as up on all this stuff as the majority of your bloggers. I work in Procurement, and i’m the one who needs to make this purchase for the Jr. ROTC folks, and in the interest of competition, i’m trying to find out what else is out there. The pellets they want from the UK are made of tin, and according to person in charge of the ROTC unit, they are supposedly pretty good. My understanding is that it is a German mandate that they have to use other than lead pellets. Albeit, I did find a place here in Germany that sells a Gamo alloy pellet, but again I don’t know how good those are.

        • B.B. Pelletier Says:

          Schutzeman,

          Well, I have heard that Germany is becoming strange, so I suppose this is in line with that. Lead-free pellets are definitely not as accurate as leads pellets, but if everyone uses them I supposed the kids can all be inaccurate together.

          I conducted a test recently to discover the relative accuracy of lead-free pellets at low velocity, and you can read what I found here:

          http://airgun-academy.pyramydair.com/blog/2011/07/testing-non-lead-pellets-part-1/

          None of these pellets is as accurate as the target pellets designed for target shooting, but at least you can see what each of them does.

          The problem is, none of the pellets I tested was a wadcutter, which you b=need for scoring in matches.

          Prometheus in England makes a good lead-free pellet, but I’m afraid you will find the price is too high. Here is their website:

          http://www.airgunpellets.com/

          The Dynamic pellet would be a wadcutter, even though the nose is domed.

          I hope this helps,

          B.B.

          • Schutzman Says:

            B.B.

            Thank you for the additional information, and the results of your testing are not only very interesting, but can be useful in helping the JROTC folks justify why they want to only purchase the Prometheus Dynamic pellets. As I previously mentioned, I do not have any experience with Air Guns or in shooting them (other than a BB gun I had as a kid and shooting a couple of friends pellet guns), so this has been a very eye-opening and interesting learning experience. Thank you agian very much!

  • Arash Says:

    Does lead-free pellets (Copper, Alloy & … ) cause damage to rifling of the barrel ?

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