By B.B. Pelletier
Sorting pellets is a key to accuracy. It doesn’t matter which pellet you use, sorting them will result in tighter groups.
What do you look for when sorting? For starters, look for all irregular pellets. That includes pellets that are deformed in some way, plus those that weren’t right to begin with. In most brands you will find “peewees.” These are pellets that didn’t fill out fully during manufacture. The skirts will be shorter and the edges will be rounded on most peewees. A few brands, like JSB, don’t seem to have peewees, which may be due to the factory sorting them out before they are shipped.
The second and ONLY other thing I do to sort pellets is to weigh them on an electronic powder scale. Buy this at a gun store or from one of the reloading supply houses like Midway. If you have a mechanical scale, they are just as accurate but they take much longer to use and are a drag when sorting several hundred pellets.
Sort the pellets into lots of identical weight. The electronic scales measure down to one-tenth grain, which is fine for this application. What a surprise you’ll have when you do this. Crosman Premiers in .22 caliber don’t all weigh 14.3 grains! In fact, most of them may weigh 14.4 or 14.5 grains, with relatively few weighing exactly 14.3 grains. In a box of 625 Premiers, it is not unusual to find a weight range from 14.1 to 14.7 grains. Imagine what a five-shot 50-yard group would look like if two of the pellets were from the extremes of that range!
Got flakes in your skirt?
Other things some people sort for are lead flakes and debris in the skirt of the pellet. All pellets have this stuff to some extent, but some brands are worse than others. Crosman Premiers are nearly always very clean, while some brands of pure lead pellets can be pretty dirty. The feeling among those who sort for lead debris is that it can throw a pellet off course. I haven’t found it to be such a problem, but I am probably dealing with it pretty well by weighing the pellets.
Some folks wash their pellets to get rid of the lead debris. I don’t because washing also removes the antioxidant coating the maker applies to keep the pellets from turning white. If you wash, you also have to immediately coat each pellet with oil or wax to preserve it. Personally, I think washing is a waste of time.
Other things people do when sorting pellets is check them for size uniformity. Airgun maker Dennis Quackenbush once made a gauge to check pellet skirt diameter, but what it showed was that pellet skirts are not all round. And inserting them in the breech of a high-quality pellet gun resizes them to as close to round as possible. That’s also what a choked barrel does at the muzzle; so in better airguns, the pellets get sized twice.
Some folks purchase a pellet sizer and resize all their pellets before shooting. These people aren’t concerned with the size of the pellets as they come from the box or tin because they are going to change that size after the fact. This doesn’t qualify as sorting; and from the previous discussion about barrels, you should be able to see why it isn’t necessary.