The BB Conundrum Part 3

The BB Conundrum Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

Smart Shot, lead, steel and dust

By Dennis Adler

The generally underpowered Umarex Walther PPK/S gets an impressive boost from using lightweight Dust Devils which work perfectly in the stick magazine and blowback action of the PPK/S.

A pound of lead or a pound of Dust Devils will fall at the same rate of speed according to Galileo, but a 7.4 gr. lead BB will have a slower velocity than a 4.34 gr. Dust Devil. Galileo never had to deal with such problems. To begin our final installment let’s review the velocities with the test guns fired using Smart Shot and Dust Devils.

The first gun up was the latest Umarex Walther PPK/S which sent the heavy copper plated lead shots downrange at a marginal average velocity of 228 fps, and even with .177 caliber steel BBs the PPK/S can barley do better than 290 fps. But loading the Walther with Dust Devil BBs gave the CO2 pistol a competitive average velocity of 315 fps. So, let’s see what the PPK/S delivers in accuracy at that velocity, and not from 15 feet but a full 21 feet like other blowback action BB models that shoot in the 300 fps range.

Usually shot from a maximum target distance of 15 feet, with Dust Devils the PPK/S was accurate at 21 feet with a best 5-shot group all inside the 10 ring and bullseye.

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The PPK/S delivered a best five shots in the 10 and red bullseye of a Shoot-N-C target at 1.43 inches from 21 feet, and with the Walther at that range, any five shots in the 10 is a good score. I ran steel BBs through it at 21 feet and the average group measured a little over 2.25 inches. At 15 feet, which is optimum range for the little Walther, the Dust Devils grouped at 1.25 inches, so it’s Dust Devils for the PPK/S.

Higher velocity vs. Smart Shot

I am going to start with the Sig Sauer P226 X-Five and Smart Shot from 21 feet. In the velocity test the Smart Shot had clocked 281 fps in the Sig which is about 20 fps slower than steel BBs. I didn’t adjust POA and the heavier Smart Shot hit low, as expected, but put 10 consecutive rounds of the copper plated lead BBs at 1.22 inches, with seven of 10 rounds at 0.625 inches. Switching to Dust Devils, which had clocked 340 fps, 10 shots hit in the 10 and X rings just a bit wider at 1.75 inches, with three in the X and seven rounds grouped at 0.875 inches. The Sig has shot as tight as 0.562 inches with steel BBs.

Upping the performance of the Sig Sauer is hard to do. With Smart Shot, velocity suffers and the gun shoots low (as would be expected) but it still maintains tight groups making Smart Shot a good match with the Sig for use with reactive metal targets (used with pellet pistols). Metal targets would not be safe with steel BBs, which can ricochet and cause damage or injury.

If you are wondering if the frangible Dust Devils leave behind any trace elements (dust) the answer is yes, and after my tests I cleaned all the barrels, slides, frame rails, and magazine wells (on guns that disassemble). This is nothing unusual, it would be a routine cleaning after shooting lead in any smoothbore air pistol, and Dust Devils leave a light powdery residue. Smart Shot and steel BBs (and alloy pellets) leave almost no trace at all and cleaning would be the routine 1,000 rounds as recommended. With Dust Devils a quick cleanup after a long shooting session would be prudent, and only takes a couple of minutes.

Loaded with Dust Devils the Sig performed well once again printing tight groups with the 4.35 gr. frangible BBs flying at 340 fps. This is 10 shots measuring 1.75 inches, with three in the X and seven rounds grouped at 0.875 inches from 21 feet.

Next up the top training gun, the Umarex S&W M&P40 sends Dust Devils downrange. In the velocity tests the frangible BBs averaged 320 fps in the M&P40. At 21 feet the molded composite rounds surprised me by actually hitting low rather than high given their greater velocity, but this remained a constant throughout the M&P40 test. The Dust Devils punched 10 shots into 1.26 inches with enough overlapping to make the tightest group at 0.74 inches for five shots. To hit the bullseye I would have needed to hold over by about 1.5 inches. With Smart Shot the M&P40 again shot low, as expected, and delivered its best group at 1.50 inches with a 3-inch hold over. So, while both Smart Shot and Dust Devils work in the M&P40, unless you are shooting at reactive metal targets, 5.1 gr. steel BBs seem to be the best food for this blowback action model for maintaining POA accuracy.

For some reason Dust Devils shot low in the M&P40 even with a fresh CO2 cartridge, but still grouped tightly. This is 10 rounds at 1.26 inches with enough overlapping to make the tightest group at 0.74 inches for five shots at 21 feet.

The big Swiss Arms P92 clocked 330 fps with Dust Devils and 271 fps with Smart Shot. With steel BBs the gun averages 312 fps. With a normal 6 o’clock hold at 21 feet, the Dust Devils also shot low in the Swiss Arms model but delivered a best group of five shots below POA measuring 1.125 inches. Toward the end I adjusted my POA and put the last pair in the bullseye, which blew out my total spread to 2.25 inches. Again Dust Devils didn’t gain anything with their added velocity but did not lose anything in accuracy either. Smart Shot runs at below 300 fps and I decided to adjust my POA up by 2 inches with the P92’s fixed single white dot sights. This gave me a best group of 10 shots at 1.74 inches with a tightest group of 0.74 inches. My hold over to zero the 10 ring was 4.5 inches. So a lot of compensating to get the Smart Shot in the center with blowback action CO2 models designed for steel BBs. But, it can be done for shooting with hard surface and reactive targets.

The Swiss Arms version of the Beretta Model 92FS also shot low with Dust Devils and was not as accurate. They worked but not as well as in other blowback action models tested.

Speaking of hard surfaces, cardboard really isn’t but if you look at the photo below you will see a pile of Dust Devil fragments that fell on the edge of the target stand from the baffle box above it. They aren’t called Dust Devils for nothing.

The operative word with Dust Devils is “dust” which the frangible BBs leave behind in tiny black particles. This is the top of my target rest with the baffle box above. This is the fallout from around 50 shots with Dust Devils, most of which disintegrated against the hard outer cardboard of the baffle box. This cleans up easily with a damp paper towel. The guns also need a light cleaning after extended use with a bore brush and wipe down of the rails and internal parts (on guns that can be field stripped).

Among the non-blowback action models the USP delivered the goods at POA with eight out of 10 Smart Shot rounds measuring 1.437 inches and two flyers, which was entirely my fault pulling the heavy HK DAO trigger. You never can get enough practice!

Among the non-blowback action models the HK USP shot to POA with the Smart Shot and delivered a tight group until I pulled two shots right. Several hours of shooting tests and I saved the heaviest trigger for last!

The wrap up

Smart Shot definitely has a place with blowback action CO2 pistols for use with metal and reactive targets in all of the air pistols tested and others that meet the same magazine restrictions. It functions well, and aside from lowering velocity and causing you to hold your POA high to hit the center of the target, has excellent safety advantages to minimize ricochets. As for me, Smart Shot in rifled barrels makes a lot of sense if it works with your airgun.

Dust Devils (which will be available very soon and can be pre-ordered) will be a boon to shooting reactive targets with a wide variety of pistols. It increases velocity (though not necessarily accuracy) and, as the first frangible BB, eliminates the likelihood of a ricochet from a steel or metal target. As a practice round with reactive targets in all of the pistols tested and many others, it will become both an asset for training and a safer way to shoot BBs indoors and out. On the cleanup side, they have that one disadvantage of leaving light residue spread out below the target, as well as inside the pistol, but it is an easy cleanup and helps promote good maintenance habits. It’s a fair tradeoff for the advantages.

8 thoughts on “The BB Conundrum Part 3”

  1. Seem like they are special purpose rounds. For use in a rifled barrel airgun , if you are so inclined , the Excites may be useful. They also weigh the same as a pellet ,and the bulk crosman 7.4 gr pellets cost less and for me, shoot well in most pellet guns. To use in a pistol like the anemic Ppk/s the Dust Devils make sense.They shoot faster, and the Walther is about the easiest pistol to take down and clean. I no longer have a Walther , I replaced it with a Makarov Ultra. It is an excellent pocket pistol and is what the Walther should be. Recoils hard , velocity is around 350 fps,and is as accurate as the Walther. I could see the dust Devils be very useful for shooting at reactive targets, as used in Cowboy Action type shooting, especially the new Legends 1894. It appears there are no plans as yet to do a pellet version, a poor decision in my opinion,as well as down tuning the valve to decrease velocity. As it now stands the rifle will shoot at the same velocity as the 5 1/2 revolver.Looking forward to the Dust Devils. More cleaning , but will be useful

  2. You may want to consider adding a part 4 to this series. As I was search Pyramyd Air and Umarex for an expected release date for the Glock replicas, I found a new product listing at Umarex for an HK USP Blowback BB pistol shooting 0.177 caliber steel BBs at a nominal velocity of 325 fps. It would be interesting to compare the shooting results of the blowback HK USP using the Smart Shot and Dust Devils. At this time, Umarex does not show an estimated release date for the USP Blowback pistol.

    • I wouldn’t expect to see it anytime soon. We are coming up on May 2018 and pretty much nothing new except availability dates keep getting kicked further down the road. 2018 has to be one of the worst roll outs for new products in a long time.

    • Yes indeed, but it is currently not in stock. As soon as it is, we’ll have an update in Airgun Experience. If it is as good in a blowback as it is as a non, this could be a new rival to the Beretta, Sig and M&P40!

  3. Nice, dust devils should serve a good purpose so I can finally use BB guns with my pellet spinner traps and not duck for cover lol. I’ve used smart shots but I’m no expert shooter and I find the hold over gets difficult to stay on target especially when the c02 is getting used and POI drops even more in certain guns. This didn’t seem to be an issue with non blow backs that are by nature more c02 efficient. Still, it is always best to have more options than less. Nice write up, answered a lot of questions I had.

    • That’s good to know, glad we answered your questions! Dust Devils are going to be great for reactive target shooting with air pistols that usually require steel BBs. I’ll be running a series this Summer on reactive targets, so stay tuned!

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