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Synthetic-skirted (saboted) pellets and accuracy

By B.B. Pelletier

Today’s posting is an answer to a question from one of our readers:

I heard saboted pellets don’t work very well in some airguns because of the barrel being choked. Is that true?

Can a synthetic skirt be accurate?
I can only give you my personal observations on this question, plus the scant material I’ve read and seen. I’ve not had good luck achieving the same level of accuracy using pellets with synthetic skirts (what our reader and some manufacturers refer to as sabots) as I have with homogenous, pure lead pellets. Ten years ago, synthetic-skirted pellets were not very accurate at all. They were relatively new to the airgun scene and certain manufacturing problems I’ll discuss in a moment weren’t properly addressed.

Top-quality synthetics are better today
Today, the picture has changed greatly. Top-quality synthetic-skirted pellets are now very uniform, and accuracy has improved quite measurably. That said, there are still some brands of synthetic-skirted pellets that do not measure up to the high standards of the makers I am going to mention. Therefore, what I’m about to say only applies to the specific brands I mention.

Prometheus was a pioneer
Prometheus was an early developer of synthetic-skirted pellets. Initially, they marketed their pellets as the fastest pellets on the market, because, indeed, with the combination of their light weight and their low-friction synthetic skirts, they proved faster than any lead pellets around. But that nearly sank the company! They caused British spring guns that had been below the legal UK limit of 12 foot-pounds to suddenly exceed it!

Accuracy was such an issue with the early synthetics that Prometheus did a huge amount of R&D to correct it. The problem resides in the two-part projectile. A synthetic pellet is made from a hard metal core and a lightweight synthetic skirt that surrounds and contains the core. Unless the pellet is very uniform, it will not be accurate. It’s more difficult to marry two dissimilar parts, the core and the skirt, into one than it is to form homogeneous lead into a precision projectile.

Prometheus finally made an accurate saboted pellet!
Prometheus persisted and by the late 1990s they had a pellet that was very consistent. They even made a promotional video showing shot groups with large numbers of pellets going through very respectable groups at decent distances of 25 yards and more.

Skenco pellets are very accurate!
I’ve tested almost all of the different types of saboted pellets made by Skenco and found them to be very accurate. They’ve got quite a variety to choose from, including some long-range .177 pellets heavy enough for some of the more powerful springers.

In the final analysis, I must say that top-quality homogeneous lead pellets are more accurate than synthetic-skirted ones. It isn’t because of the choke at the end of the barrel, but because of the two-part construction of synthetic pellets compared to more uniform lead pellets.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

33 thoughts on “Synthetic-skirted (saboted) pellets and accuracy”

  1. Just my $0.02

    I have been using the type 3 pellets in my gun (Winchester1000B) and I can honestly say I am very impressed. At 20 yards the rounds groups equal to several other pellets ranging from 7.1 to 8.5 grains. The only real differene I noticed is an increase in penatration power, I would assume due to the non-lead core.


  2. Well, now, thanks for weighing in! That’s why we have this comment section – so my voice isn’t the only one that’s heard.

    I have to agree that the hard core is the reason for your increase in penetration. I didn’t think about that aspect.

    How about you other shooters who have experience with synthetic skirt pellets telling us about it?


  3. Hey BB,
    Thanks for answerng my question.
    About sabot pellets.
    But i have another about sabot pellets?
    How well do they work in gas ram guns?
    And pump ups and PCP guns?

  4. Synthetics are light, so I wouldn’t use them in a gas spring gun unless the power was adjusted low enought that the pellet would be less than supersonic. A 12 foot-pound Fenman might be okay, but a full-bore Eliminator might be a bit too powerful for a pellet that’s probably going to be much faster than the lightest lead pellet.

    In multi-pumps and PCPs you can usually control the velocity these days, so synthetics would be easier to control.

    I can’t think of any reason they would be bad in any of the guns you mentioned, other than velocity possibly getting out of hand.

    Oh, and some gun-makers like AirForce specifically recommend against their use because they leave a deposit of plastic in the bore (it’s in their owner’s manual).


  5. I get slightly better accuracy from Skenco sabots as I get from lead pellets out of my Gamo 1000, but they sure ding up my pellet trap a lot more.

    I started using them because they are made of zinc instead of lead. I’ll keep using them because of the accuracy.

  6. I’ve used the Skenco “hyper-velocity lead-free Type 2” sabots in my Baikal IZH-61 several times. But I recently stopped because I’ve been wondering: what metal are they composed of and will it damage the rifled bore of my gun?

  7. I was just tring to sight in a Gammo Hunter using Skenco typ 3 and Beeman Silver arrow pellets. I was seated at 25 yards with no steady rest. Ten round groups with the beeman pellets fit in about 1.5 inches, the Skencos about 4 inches. I was surprised to see that the Skenco pattern was about 6 inches below and 6 inches to the left of the beeman pattern. I know springer rifles are tricky but this seems like a large mean shift between pellets. I have not tried other pellets. Is this much difference typical?

  8. Steve,

    That is a large difference, but it may be due to velocities at the opposite ends of the spectrum. The Skencos are a mid-weight synthetic, while the Silver Arrows are heavyweights. A longer dwell time in the barrel allows the rifle to move more in recoil before the pellet exits the muzzle.


  9. Anyone interested in buying Sussex Sabot Boxes from the 80’s? as I accquired the entire mnt conditon stock on the cessation of production in the UK in the 1980’s. Boxes of 100 pellets + pencil aaptor available. Email me at sussexsabo@hotmail.co.uk showing interest and quantity required. Appearing on ebay.co.uk

  10. I have a Chinese under-lever that loves the Skencos! In fact, that is all I shoot through it, because it raises the velocity to a number I prefer & I still get great accuracy, as opposed to PBAs.

    Hey B.B.
    I am curious about one thing though… Speaking of sabots, what do you thing about shooting a .40 cal jacketed sabot through a 909S?
    The sabot IS .45 cal so the fit would work, I'm just wondering if the sabot will stay with the jacketed round all the way out of the barrel, so the copper doesn't damage it.
    Also, what would the pros & cons be, &/or would there be a big enough benefit?

    Here's a link to the sabot rounds I'm talking about;


    When I saw them (especially the hollow point), I couldn't help but to wonder. I'm thinking might be a great way to throw a more devastating round through the 909s?

    I have to ask because I love the 909S. It's a beautiful gun, a monster when it comes to power, but the choices of ammo are limited. There's a lot of different weights, but not styles.
    Heck, even Eun Jin doesn't make anything in .45 cal.

    – The BBA –

  11. BBA,

    You raise an interesting point. The 909 bore is sized 0.457, while pistol bullets are .451 or .452. So standard .45 pistol bullets aren’t large enough for the gun. That’s why round balls are used.

    But with the added size of a plastic sabot, a pistol bullet might be accurate and powerful.

    The 909 twist rate is 1:16″, I believe. So you want to keep the bullet as short as possible. The bullets you link to are certainly light enough to be short, but they are .40 caliber, so there is the question of whether they will fill the bore.

    I am testing a 909, so I will look into this.


  12. B.B.

    Exactly! 🙂
    They are light enough to work VERY well with the 909's power, & as for the size… the SABOT IS .45 CAL! 🙂
    So the sabot should fill the bore. Right? I mean I'm guessing it's like you say about the bore & bullet sizes, & that if sabots are for black powder guns that use round balls, I'm hoping the sabot will be the right size because of that.
    That's WHY I chose THOSE sabot rounds. They're the only ones I found that were the size, that I think just might work.

    I'm VERY anxious to see what you find out when you test this theory of mine out. I'm tempted to try it out myself, but I'm not that knowledgeable about black powder stuff, & have never used sabots.
    Personally, as long as the size is right I don't see why they wouldn't work, & it's just a matter of how far they'll be accurate. But when experimenting with something new like this… It's probably better to leave it to an expert like you, that has the knowledge to test this safely.
    And since you are testing a 909, I'll hold off & wait to see what you think. 😉

    BTW… I have a 909S, along with some 190gr RN, 225gr HP, 143gr Hornady RBs, & an Alpha chrony with printer. So if you want me to confirm or double check anything for you, it would be my pleasure.

    The other thing I'm trying to figure out, is how to easily & inexpensively, make a shot shell for the 909S.
    BTW… That's actually how I found those sabots. I was looking for some sort of a .45 cal wad.

    The main problem though & why I was looking for JUST a wad, is that due to the style of it's breach, it would have to be a rimless shell in order to fully close the breach. Like a capsule that you insert all the way into the breach, as opposed to the rimmed style of a Crosman 1100 Trapmaster's shell.
    And because of that style, it wouldn't be reusable, so keeping the cost down is a consideration in the design & materials as well.
    That's where I'm stuck.
    I wish I had experience with reloading & maybe black powder guns, then I might have more to go by. Looks like I'll have to head out to the local reloading supply store, & see what they have.

    How about you… Any suggestions on a shot shell design for that 909S?

    – The BBA –

  13. BBA,

    What you need to understand is .45 caliber means nothing by itself. What matters is the diameter of the bore to the thousandth of an inch. So it is very important that the sabots are 0.457″ and not 0.452″, if they are going into the 909.

    As for the components for a shotshell, I’d say you have to find and make them yourself. The base could be a nylon plug turned to 0.457″ and the plastic walls could be sheet plastic cut to size and glued to the base. I’m sure it can be done – just not sure of how much you are willing to go through to do it.


  14. B.B.

    Yes I DO understand that. I understand what you said about that .45 cal can be 3 different diameters between hand gun bullets & round balls, & that pistol bullets are .451 & .452 which are too small. BUT… the round balls ARE .457
    That's what I was basically trying to convey, when I said…
    "that if sabots are for black powder guns that use round balls, I'm hoping the sabot will be the right size because of that."

    In other words…
    Round ball =.457
    And if those sabots ARE made for the guns that shoot round balls… HOPEFULLY those sabots should = .457 too.

    See my logic now? 😉
    I may be completely wrong, but that's what I meant & is WHY I chose THOSE specific sabot rounds.

    As for the shot shells for the 909 I agree, it doesn't look easy. There doesn't seem to be anything readily available from the reloading shops that will work, so I'm going to have to start completely from scratch.
    But if I can find a company, maybe an arts & crafts supplier or one that makes packaging supplies, that makes or CAN make me some thin plastic or maybe even thin but hard cardboard tubes, & then have a machinist make me a .457 hole punch that would work on either plastic, thin hard cardboard, leather, felt, or something like that, it could work. The biggest problem, would of course be the initial cost for the first dies for them.
    Since there are a lot of people out there with 909s, it may be a good idea to see how many people would be interested in them. If there's enough interest & they can be made quickly, easily, & the overall materials are cheap enough… then if someone could sell enough of them on a regular basis, it would be worth the initial tooling costs. Just sell the empty shells & wads, & you could keep the shipping costs very reasonable. The buyer can then simply pick up what ever size shot they prefer locally, & then put them together themselves in about five seconds.
    I mean heck… Jorge C. is doing it with his 13mm right? And 13mm is basically = to .51 cal. So with the much more powerful .45 cal 909, I would think it would blow his 13mm out of the water in comparison. I just measured it, & it can accept a tube that's just under 7/8" which is wider & longer than a Trapmaster shell, & those throw enough lead to drop pigeons. So with the power of a 909 I think they'd work pretty darn well.
    I wish I knew Jorge better so I could find out where he gets his shot shells made.
    I can't help but to think that the majority of 909 owners would love to be able to shoot shot shells through it too. I KNOW I would, so depending on how many 909's are out there, maybe there just might be a big enough market for the shells.
    Looks like it's time to put a post up on the Yellow Forum to gauge interest in this idea.

    To summarize…
    Considering one would have to start completely from scratch & the initial costs wouldn't be that cheap, I think the way to go about this, is to post to gauge interest in the marketing of them, & THEN if there's enough interest, start shopping for material suppliers & someone who could make the wad cutter.

    I only have one question though…

    If I COULD make & sell shot shells for the 909, would that now become the most powerful air-shotgun out there? At least as far as modern guns go?

    Thanks for the input,

    – The BBA –

  15. BBA,

    Thanks for explaining your logic. Now I understand.

    I think Jorge imports the shells from Argentina, but I don’t know for sure. He has becpme difficult to contact.

    You may be onto something with your idea. Surely you can find plastic somewhere and a .45 punch is a common item in machining.


  16. B.B.

    Yes he has. I wanted to place an order with him & have emailed him a number of times in the last 3-4 months, but still haven't heard back from him.

    That is actually what got me thinking about the shot shells for the 909.
    I wanted to buy his 30 shot semi-auto carbine rifle & his 13mm Shark CO2 shotgun, but if I can't depend on him for shells, I might be better off making shells for my 909 instead.

    That's WHY I asked if I did that… WOULD the 909 be the most powerful air-shotgun currently out there, as far as current models & in decent numbers?

    If so, then you may be right! I MAY be on to something, AND… THEN it just may be worth seriously pursuing AND mass marketing.

    Now I know the 909 will lay to shame the Viper Express & Trapmaster with a shot shell. And I'm fairly confident that it would also out perform the 13mm Shark, & Farco as well.

    I would REALLY like to be the one to introduce & make available a reasonably priced shot shell for the 909.
    By doing that, (in a round about way) I'd be giving people the most powerful air-shotgun. 🙂

    I'm just curious if there are any other air-shotguns currently out there that would out perform the 909 with a shot shell? Other than a .50 cal Dragon Slayer of course.
    (I believe there are more 909s out there than Dragon Slayers, so I'm looking for the largest potential market for the shells.)

    So if you say that the 909 would be the most powerful air-shotgun out there (in large numbers) or at least one of them, then I just may really pursue this.
    AND, if it turns out to have a large enough demand, I may just expand & make shells for some other air guns too. I'm guessing the best would be large caliber PCPs with breaches that are the right style & large enough to accept a large enough shell.

    For the record, I really am VERY seriously considering pursuing this.
    I think it might be a decent way to bring in some extra income, & would be a great thing to do & keep me busy with when I retire, not to mention the satisfaction of being the one who made it happen & made something pretty cool available to my fellow airgun enthusiasts.

    Now not to get too carried away or ahead of myself here, but… Maybe eventually even design a large caliber PCP shotgun. Quite frankly, I'm surprised nobody is making one?
    I can see why the CO2 versions never got THAT big, but with the technology & advantages of a PCP… How cool would a 20 gauge PCP break barrel, with the same cocking mechanism as the 909 be?
    Think about it… Break barrel for easy & quick loading, & the cocking style of the 909 should look & function quite nice with it.



    Could you just answer me two questions please?

    1)IF I could make & offer shot shells for it… WOULD the 909 be the most powerful air-shotgun currently out there, as far as current models & in decent numbers?

    2) Where & what (how should I phrase it) should I go & ask for, as far as that .45 punch?

    Thanks & Merry Christmas,

    – The BBA –

  17. BBA,

    The 909 would probably be the most powerful air shotgun of those available. At least until someone made a Quackenbush .457 LA into a shotgun. That would be double the power of the 909.

    As far as the .45 punch, check with Brownells.


  18. B.B.,

    Thank you! That's exactly what I needed to know & tells me that there just may be a viable market for a 909 shot shell. This is looking like it's seriously worth pursuing.

    I could be wrong, but even with the possibility of someone modding a .457 LA, I don't foresee that turning into a large threat anytime soon if at all, because I think the 909 would deliver enough power to satisfy most people, so why would anyone want to mod a .457 LA (in my opinion) into less of a gun,
    when they could simply use their 909 for their air-shotgun purposes, not to mention there's probably a lot more 909s out there.
    BTW… Please don't take that wrong, as I know you are just trying to answer my question & I don't take it as a negative or a shoot down. I'm just thinking out loud. And thank you for not leaving that out, as it's good to know any & all that can compete with my idea. 🙂

    The only other question is, are there enough 909 owners out there, & ones who'd be interested to create a large enough demand for the shot shells?
    Personally, I think the answer is yes, & if I can design & produce a disposable shot shell for the 909 that is reasonably priced, & doesn't require any modification to the gun so that it can still fire pellets & the shot shells simply by loading it with the ammo you choose at the time…. I may just have something.

    Looks like I have some research & shopping to do. 🙂

    I'll keep you posted.

    Thanks again,

    – The BBA –

  19. BBA,

    Yes, there are a few more 909 owners than .457 owners, but Quackenbush is over the 500 mark already, so that may change someday. However, I think a shots shell might work in both guns, even though the inside differs a few thousandths. It all depend on the base of the shell.

    Actually, your project is interesting, as it could produce the first really useful air shotgun ever. If Q’bush would make a smoothbore barrel for his .457 (should be easy), then the world would have an air shotgun with power sufficient to really take small game on the wing. A .410 with a inch and a half shell, so to speak.

    Might be interesting.


  20. B.B.,

    Yet more good news… That just tells me that there may be a larger market for the shells than I originally thought. Nothing wrong with that! 🙂

    And if I'm making shells for it, maybe it will give Dennis the motivation to make the barrels?
    If he could make them so they were interchangeable, it would be a nice upgrade & add on sale for him, in addition to a dual purpose gun for the consumer.

    One question… Is the .457 the "Outlaw" or another gun?
    The reason I ask, is because I couldn't find anything about a .457 on his website. He lists the Outlaw as a .458

    quackenbushairguns.com correct?

    Although I fully intend to add a .308 Exile, a .458 Outlaw rifle & pistol to my collection eventually, I've never seen any of them in person yet.
    Unfortunately, his pics don't show me what I need to see close up, opened & closed on the breaches to get a good idea, yet alone the exact measurements to know what size (length mostly) shot shell they can accept.

    You say "A .410 with a inch and a half shell" for the .457, but the 909 can only accept a shell that's just under 7/8" which means to yield the maximum potential out of the .457, I'll have to make a longer shell for it. Maybe you could just load two of the 7/8" shells in it?

    I plan to start off with shells specifically designed for the 909, & see how they sell. If they do good… THEN I will expand & make other shells as per demand calls for.

    Since I have a couple of Trapmasters & a Crooked Barn shot pistol too, I might look into shells for those as well, but I will initially concentrate on the 909 shells.

    In any case, thanks for the info. With the power of his gun, I don't think a few thousandths would make too much of a difference with a shot shell, as long as it isn't too wide.

    – The BBA _

  21. B.B.,

    Thank you clarifying that.

    I figured that, but wanted to be sure.

    Now the only question is to sell the shells with the shot in them, or just the empty shells & wads.

    The advantage of the empty ones, is of course cheaper shipping, but more importantly, it would allow the consumer to load it with their choice of size & amount of shot.

    But I'm thinking that most people would prefer a loaded & ready to go shot shell.

    Now… what size shot should I use?
    I'm thinking either #8 or #6 shot, & want to try both to see the spread patterns, but I'm guessing with the power of the 909 the #6 would be better.

    I'd really like to be able to load some with something that has more of a punch, but I'm limited by the size of the breach on the 909.
    It will only allow a 7/8" long shell, so in order to get a reasonable amount of shot pellets in the shell, I don't think I'll be able to go much larger than #6 as opposed to #4 shot, like I REALLY want to try.
    I mean a .45 cal 7/8" long shell would only allow in #4 size shot what… about 12-14 pellets at best?

    What do you think?

    – The BBA –

  22. B.B.,

    I forgot to say, BTW… I think your right about where Jorge gets his wads, because when I went to his site & enlarged the pics.
    Sure enough… They said "Imported from Argentina" on the bags they come in. 😉

    Man your good! lol

    – The BBA –

  23. B.B.,

    Either you are psychic, or I really do have some common sense. lol

    I was leaning towards starting off with just the empty shells, for those exact reasons.

    The only reason I was thinking about trying loaded shells, was because I figured a lot of people would rather not have to take the time load them themselves.
    I also had a different design in mind for them, that would require them to be full.

    However, buy selling just the empty shells, it would be faster (instead of me having to load them myself), & cheaper to ship, giving the customer a chance to try them at a lower price, & less risk in case they don't take off.
    Plus, like you said, it will give people the chance to see for themselves what size shot works best, & tell me what size shot THEY want, or if they prefer to keep buying just the empty shells.

    Thanks for the feed back.

    – The BBA –

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