Going back to leaded
An alternative to steel BBs and rifled barrels
By Dennis Adler
I know the oil refining industry has a rational explanation for this, but I spent a good portion of my life as an automotive journalist and back in the 1970s when unleaded gas was introduced I was always amused that it cost more at the pump than regular leaded gasoline; you see lead is an additive, not a natural property of gasoline, so they were charging more for not putting it in! How does this apply to air pistols? Today we use steel BBs and a variety of cast alloy pellets as an alternative to traditional lead pellets. Even in the world of cartridge firing handguns and rifles, there are a number of non-lead bullets available today. Lead is not a good thing for humans or animals, but it is an often necessary component of a bullet, a pellet (such as the pellets in shotgun shells, though there is steel shot as well), and yes even original type BBs and pistol and rifle pellets. Environmentally conscious airgun shooters often defer to steel BBs and alloy pellets, and that is commendable, but lead pellets still dominate, and proper shooting conditions (use of pellet traps, just as lead bullets are reclaimed at indoor shooting ranges) can keep lead from becoming an environmental issue. (I use a baffle box behind my targets to trap the pellets). But, there is this little question that has arisen of late with the HK P30, a rifled barrel semiautomatic that can fire either pellets from an 8-shot rotary magazine or BBs from a combination CO2 and BB magazine. The question is what happens to the rifling when you shoot steel BBs through it, instead of a lead pellet? The answer is that using steel BBs will unfortunately erode the rifling over time.