How does BB select pellets for a test?

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Don’t I wish?
  • What’s the criteria?
  • Brands first
  • Choosing a pellet
  • Target guns
  • Action airguns
  • Hunting airguns
  • General purpose airguns
  • Trick pellets
  • How should you do it?

This blog was requested by reader Cobalt 327. And the answer is simple. BB gets paid by the pellet manufacturers to promote their products — the same as for the airgun manufacturers. The more they pay me, the more I talk about their pellets. I get a very healthy stipend from Crosman for writing about their Premiers, and from H&N for touting their Baracuda Match pellets. JSB actually sends me on all-expense paid vacations to the Bahamas several times each year, in addition to a very large check each month! Pocketa-pocketa-pocketa…

Don’t I wish?

I know that’s what some people think. There are no kickbacks that I am aware of in the airgun industry. If there are, whoever is paying them is fooling themselves, because we writers do this because we love it. I do get paid to write this blog, but no one tells me what to write and I have never been told to give a product anything but an honest report.

I do get free pellets from manufacturers and from Pyramyd Air. Every once in awhile I will buy some pellets out of my own pocket, but that will be because they aren’t easily available through any other source.

What’s the criteria?

So, how do I select a pellet to test? The answer is simple, really. I have very little time because when I’m not writing blogs, I’m either testing airguns, answering questions or doing research. I work at this job 6 days a week and up to 16 hours per day, though not altogether most of the time. Suffice to say I have very little time to spare. So, testing a new airgun with pellets I can’t trust just doesn’t cut it. That’s why you see the same pellets in my reports time after time — because I trust them.

Sometimes, I am surprised when a certain pellet lets me down. It isn’t expected, but I try to milk the occasion for all it’s worth, because there is no time to stop the train and smell the flowers. I take high-speed pictures of the flowers and try to imagine what they smell like! Laugh if you want — it’s true. You guys just think you like honesty, but if I ran three consecutive bad reviews back to back, you would get bored. And, given the excellence of today’s airguns, I never have to.

If you were to look in my pellet cabinet you’d see a lot of pellets — maybe as many as a small store would have. A lot of those pellets are ones I have tried in the past and found specific uses for, or they just didn’t pan out for the hit list. I used to buy pellets based on readers’ recommendations, but stopped when I discovered not all readers have the same criteria for accuracy that I have. It’s not that I’m such a great shot. It’s that I want to get myself out of the picture as much as possible and let the gun being tested stand or fall as it may. How I shoot doesn’t matter. It’s how that new .25 caliber LuftWhacker shoots — or doesn’t shoot.

Therefore, I have a stable of pellets I know to be reliable. Those are the first ones I try. Then, I let the circumstances of the test dictate the next step. At times I purposely try a pellet I think is ill-suited to a particular airguns, and if it pans out, I tell you.

Brands first

The brands I trust the most are JSB, H&N, RWS, Qiang Yuan and Crosman. Then there are secondary brands that are made by a few of these same makers — Beeman and Air Arms. If I lived outside the U.S. these same brands might take on different names, so what I’m saying only applies here. I don’t trust all of the pellets made by any of the brands. But I trust most of JSB’s (and Air Arms) domes, H&N’s Baracudas (and Beeman Kodiaks), H&N’s target pellets, with the Finale Match being on top of that list. And I trust pretty much anything RWS makes, though pellets like their Superpoints are reserved for certain airguns. Finally, I trust the Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellet! That darn thing usually shoots the pants off half the premium brands!

Choosing a pellet

I tend to select lighter pellets for weaker airguns, regardless of their powerplant. If air or gas sealing is an issue, like it is in CO2 guns, most pneumatics and all taploaders, I look for pellets with thinner skirts. That’s where a pellet like the RWS Superpoint comes to the front.

For the magnum spring guns I find it’s best to start with a heavier pellet, but often they will shoot their best with a lightweight. For these I want pellets that have thicker skirts, because when the gun fires the air blast is sudden and powerful.

Target guns

For 10-meter target guns I always select wadcutter pellets. I know some of you shoot these guns with domes and they can be fun to plink with, but I stay focused on their primary purpose. You have to remember what it is I am doing. It’s not the same as plinking, so my pellet needs are usually quite specific.

Action airguns

These are the semiautomatic repeaters and those that fire full auto. They rely on smooth feeding, and I have found that harder pellets like those Crosman makes are the best bet. The good news is Crosman pellets are made well and are usually quite accurate. They are also often a bargain!

Hunting airguns

I don’t care what hunting ammunition costs — it has to do its job. If it does, I will pay the price. We are starting to see specialized hunting ammunition come to market whose price we cannot compare to what we have now. These pellets are made for one job only and if they do that job, they are a bargain.

General purpose airguns

You won’t find me testing airguns this way, but when I give a gun to someone as a present I generally give them lower-cost pellets. I don’t know how long they are going to shoot that gun, so I don’t see the need to go top drawer.

Trick pellets

These are pellets that depart from the general description of what a pellet is. They are touted as being able to punch through metal, or they are copper-plated to not oxidize or they have some other unique and unusual characteristic. I remember year ago when my wife Edith invented a trick pellet called “Flava Shots” that basted the animal in sauce to prepare them for cooking. They were edible, so you didn’t have to worry about leaving them in the game. It was an April Fool’s joke that got a lot of attention!

How should you do it?

I bet you are already doing this to some extent. If you have more than a single tin of pellets you probably have one you like the best. That’s how it starts and none of us knows how it ends. When we get that far there is no one we can tell!

30 thoughts on “How does BB select pellets for a test?



  1. Very nice. I am sure that just helped a bunch of folks with pellet choices in the future. The JSB domes have always won out for me. I did try others, but (actual) shooting and data collection proved them to be the best. I have tried 12 different types in .22 and 5 types in .25 (varied brands). Head and weight sorting may improve any pellet and may even make the best,.. better,.. but I have had limited success seeing the benefits. I am sure that is a case of me just not shooting well/consistent enough to see the difference.

    Shooting (over time) and (keeping data) is essential for initial pellet trial/selection.

    Good Day all,.. Chris


  2. I just noticed, and ordered, two new hunting pellets: .22 caliber pyramid-shaped and the .177 ones with the 6 sharp edges, sort of like hunting arrow tips. I’m interested to see how they perform in my airguns. These are truly exciting times, eh?


  3. Also, Ballistol now comes in the form of Multi-Purpose Wipes. This is a cool development, especially since my bottle of the stuff has disappeared since our last move. :^>


    • Joe,

      Thanks for the tip. I’ll get some of those wipes the next time I order something. I used to scoff at the idea, thinking it gimmicky, but then I bought some Armor All wipes years ago when they first came out, and I realized that the extra convenience made me keep at the dashboard more often.

      Just don’t ever mistake Ballistol for baby wipes!

      Michael



  4. BB,

    Like yourself and many others I have come to rely on JSB domes with H&N Baracudas and RWS Superdomes, Superhollowpoints and R10 Match rounding out my top go to pellets. Recently though I tried various pellets in my Webley/Hatsan Tomahawk in .22 with results that were not bad, but not stellar either. I noticed it seemed to shoot smoother with something in the mid weight range, so on a hunch I bought an old style pellet you do not hear much about these days, the H&N Field Target. This pellet seemed to give a smoother shot cycle than most and the groups tightened right up. Go figure, an “obsolete” pellet that PA seems to no longer stock. I guess I am going to have to hunt around and stock up.


  5. B.B.,

    When you employ a classic and familiar air gun of yours, such as your TX200 or R1, you frequently write an explanation along the lines of, “I decided to use [Brand X, Model X Pellet] because I know it to be exceptionally accurate in this rifle. For the Gamo I chose the following three pellets which experience tells me usually do well in supermagnum springers.” My point is you often do plenty to explain why you try certain pellets. And you sometimes also point out that you simply do not have the time to try every single pellet out there in a given air gun. Finally, if an air gun has a lot of reader interest but has not performed well, you are sometimes open to trying a fourth pellet that a reader suggests might do well.

    Skepticism is appropriate when things seem “fishy,” but your process is transparent and consistent.

    Michael


    • Michael,

      Thanks for saying that. I try to remember that this blog is constantly changing and getting new readers all the time. I do not want to jargonize what I say so they cannot follow along. I guess that’s why I write things the way I do.

      B.B.


  6. B.B.

    Do you find that 200 count pellets tins get less deformed in transport. About 35% of the AA 16 grain pellets I have in a 500 tin count have bent or dinged skirts. I wish it were only a 200 count tin.

    -Y


  7. “Flava Shots”……Epicly humorous 🙂 I have my favorite pellets, but always try to expand my horizons and try new stuff all the time. If they don’t work out they become chrony food.
    Have you one combo that works best over the years?


  8. BB,

    My rifles seem to favor JSBs so they have become my baseline.

    I’ll frequently will try a tin of something different just to see how they are. I always weigh and head-sort a sample from the tin (usually 100 pellets) to get a feel for the manufacturing consistency in that batch before shooting. Poor quality pellets are returned to the store, used for plinking feral soda cans or melted down for fishing sinkers depending how bad they are.

    I notice that you don’t mention or use Gamo pellets. They have a wide variety of designs and make some serious claims about accuracy and quality.

    Some of their “special” pellets are expensive (at $19.95 USD for a 100 cnt tin of their .22 cal Whisper pellet they had better be VERY special) so I try them. Local Canadian prices range from $30 (1-2 month delivery) to $71.49 + $5.54 shipping for a 100 cnt tin.
    Here is the link to that price if you don’t believe me (I don’t believe the price!!!)…
    https://www.amazon.ca/Gamo-632272354-Caliber-Whisper-Pellet/dp/B01N2H0IAX/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1492689329&sr=8-6&keywords=gamo+whisper

    I would like to request that you consider a blog of the Gamo pellets to see if their claims are supported by the results. Think that a lot of shooters are curious about the performance of these novel pellets and if they are worth to price they are asking.

    If there is a hunting pellet available that out performs a standard domed pellet then I would not mind paying a premium price for it… within reason of course.

    Hank


    • Hank,

      I also favor the JSB (and Air Arms) pellets. There are some online reviews of their processing, and one possible key is they way have an intermediate step to form spheroids, with some (apparently not all) of these being weighed and selected prior to swaging. This may be how they get the consistency we all want.

      http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2015/08/how-does-jsb-make-pellets/
      http://hardairmagazine.com/features/jsb-pellet-manufacturing/

      I suggest that a 50 pc sample taken from a new tin would be gaged for head size, with no more than one exceeding +/- 0.01 mm from the nominal head size. This is based on an old military standard developed for lot acceptance of ammunition. Not all JSB Exact seem to meet this, and I have seen unexplained shifts from expected nominal even when the variance is good.

      In one of my very early experiments using the Pelletgage, I found two tins from my ownsupply, with both having good consistency in head size, but they were 0.02 mm different, with a noticeable shifting of the POI in groups.

      My opinion is that for target shooting, even when you have found the pellet your rifle “likes”, you may want to find ways to assure that you are getting consistency. Several customers have reported to me that they thought their gun (or the scope, et al) had a problem, but it was really variation in the pellets.

      In my own early purchases of pellets for my first air rifle, I tried some Gamo pellets, but they did not perform well. I think I still have a tin somewhere, I will try to measure some and report.


      • JerryC

        I have found that the .177 and .22 JSBs (don’t have a .25 Pelletgage yet) to be pretty consistent across the cans I have sampled – much better than other brands I have checked.

        I check (weight and size) 100 pellets to get an idea what the consistency is… if its bad I might just screen the whole can. ChrisUSA is very methodical in his approach to shooting – I am going to follow his example in keeping detailed notes… I’ve been a little lax in that department of late 🙁

        I made a couple of jigs and modified my Pelletgages (added a thicker top plate to have the pellet drop straight into the guage) so my sorting is quick to do. I can sort quite a few pellets per coffee 🙂

        I sort all the pellets I use for bench shooting (for finding the “golden” pellet; sighting in and formal target shooting) and for hunting which represents about 20% of my shooting. For the other 80% (off-hand shooting and plinking) I use unsorted pellets.

        My experiences with Gamo pellets has not been very good either so I am interested to see what you might fine out.

        Thanks for the links – I will check them out at lunch!

        Hank


        • Hank
          I also use theJBS as my go to pellet. A hunting pellet I like because it shoots nearly as well is the H&N crow magnum. It also makes a distinctive sound when it strikes the target during pest control.
          The last time I was at wally world, I got a tin of Ruger super point to try. The wet and windy weather has kept me from shooting time.



      • Mike,

        You could be right about the numbers being swapped on Amazon.ca.

        You see where it says “Ships to Canada” on the link you gave me? The local mail-order store that deals with Pyramyd charges $29.52 + tax for a total of $33.36 for a can of 100 pellets… 18 cents a pellet that you guys pay is bad – the 34 cents a pellet that they want here is out of my price range (they would have to be made of pure silver at that price).

        You see why I asked B.B if he could test some of the Gamo pellets (preferably in .22 cal). If they are as great as they say I might get a can to try out.

        Thanks for the reply!

        Hank



          • Mike,

            Guess that notice only shows for Canadian viewers.

            I can order (some things) directly from PA but getting things shipped across the border can be a bit of a pain. I ordered $50 worth of fly tying materials from a place in the States and the stuff came through no problem. My next order (a month later again about $50) to the same place was delayed several weeks and was assessed an $80 brokerage fee. Go figure.

            Happy Friday all!!

            Hank


  9. B.B.,
    Great job by Miss Edith on the “Flava Shots.” =)
    And you had me going for a second with “BB gets paid by the pellet manufacturers,”
    until I got to “JSB actually sends me on all-expense paid vacations to the Bahamas”…hilarious!
    But I hear you on pellet testing; I have lots of left over pellets that didn’t pan out in some airgun that I keep to try out in future airguns. However, each airgun I currently have gets shot with only ONE pellet, which is whatever pellet has proven to be the most accurate in that particular gun (this even applies to the plinkers =>).
    Thanks for another interesting write up, and keep up the good work.
    take care & God bless,
    dave



      • P.P.S. On the other hand, my Crosman 1377 from Pyramyd, which is now modified into a 1322 with a 12″ barrel, steel receiver, upgraded trigger, and click adjustable rear target sight, shoots its best with plain old Wally World Crosman 14.3 grain hollow point pellets; the hollow points are totally unnecessary for the way I use it, but they are the most accurate so they are what I shoot. *shrugs* =)




  10. Proof of pellet integrity was a blog test of the PBA Raptor pellets awhile ago. The assessment was: “It was hard to say how they did since they didn’t even hit the paper.” Ha ha. Also, I was very persuaded by the article on the JSB factory where they employ women for quality control because of their natural attention to detail. Coincidentally enough, the pellets I have consumed in great numbers over the years are the RWS Hobbys, JSB Exacts, and HN Finale pistol pellets.

    Matt61


  11. BB,

    Whereas you have not had much luck with H&N FTTs, they have worked really well in many different guns for me. The 19.9 grains are working the best on my .25 cal smoothbore multi-pump pistol. JSB Kings are also good though a bit too heavy. Let’s not leave out the lowly Crosman Destroyer when all else fails.


  12. B.B.,

    I can’t add much to this subject than to say I know I need to place an order for a few different pellets.

    Now … I can’t find anything helpful on this so I will ask here. It appears that Crosman is reversing the nitro piston 108 degrees on some lower end rifles (maybe some other, but I only know of these); the F4, the Fire and Shockwave. I suspect the stocks are the primary difference between these three, except that the Shockwave has open sights. The reversal is shown on the boxes of these three. I can only personally attest to the fact that the F4 with traditional stock is as shown on the box.

    As I wrote earlier, I know that reversing the nitro piston (actually the gas spring) does not turn it into an NP2. Still, there may be some variation in the actual shooting. Perhaps it will prefer different pellets. I don’t know. I just think it is interesting.

    ~ken


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