by B.B. Pelletier

Let’s look at something way out there, as far as mainstream airgunning goes. It’s called Convert-A-Pell. According to the research I just did, it’s sold direct off the internet. I’ll tell you everything I know by the end of this posting.

What is Convert-A-Pell?
Airgunners are as curious as cats. They are always thinking of things that relate to airguns, so it’s no surprise that someone thought of powering a pellet with a primer! Actually, this method of propulsion dates back to about 1840, when the first experiments that used percussion caps and very small lead balls were performed. They quickly evolved into a percussion cap that had a ball stuck in it, which was the grandfather of the rimfire cartridge. So this has been done before – many times. Convert-A-Pell is just a modern adaptation of an old process, with an interesting twist.

The “Convert” part is what’s interesting
With the Convert-A-Pell system, you can adapt a firearm to shoot pellets. You get a barrel for a specific model firearm, like a S&W 586, that attaches to the revolver barrel tightly. It does not injure the rifling in any way, because the insert tube is made of brass. You also get six brass “cartridges” that accept lead pellets at one end and a large pistol primer at the other. The advertising says you will get groups of one-inch or less at 15 to 20 feet. It also says a handgun will get about 500 f.p.s.

Airgun Letter tested one with poor results
Back in 1997, Tom Gaylord tested a Convert-A-Pell in a S&W 686 6″ stainless revolver. He had the following remarks:

  • Accuracy was 3 to 6 inches for five shots at 15 feet.
  • Velocity ranged from 293 f.p.s. to 375 f.p.s. (He used both heavy diabolos and round balls).
  • Velocity spread was high – 80 f.p.s. with balls and 50 f.p.s. with pellets.
  • Noise was louder than a powerful CO2 pistol
  • It took a lot of work to load each cartridge. Seating depth was essential to the best accuracy.
  • Although the primer flashholes were bored out, the primers still sometimes backed out, tying up the gun’s action
  • The gun needed nearly as much cleaning after shooting just primers as it would have with loaded .357 cartridges. The only thing that didn’t happen was bore leading.
  • I tried them in an M1911A1
    In 2002 I tried this system in an M1911A1 .45 ACP pistol. I didn’t have the action hang up problem, because the 1911 doesn’t work like a revolver, but all the other problems were there. Accuracy in my test may have been slightly better, say 2″ to 4″ at 15 feet, but it was still nothing to write home about. I didn’t have a chronograph to test velocity.

    And, yet, they persist!
    What amazes me is that this system is still on the market. After all these years, it should have gone away, which makes me wonder whether Tom or I gave it a good test. I scanned the internet for info, and here’s what I found. For starters, the company seems to have changed hands at least once. The current company seems to have only a website with a phone number, but their last site update was in November 2005. That makes me believe they are still viable. However, they have no prices on their website, and that’s never a good sign.

    I tried to find actual test reports on the system but there isn’t much. I did find some mentions on forums that suggest the .22 centerfire system is not too bad. In a single-shot action such as a rolling block, there would be zero functioning problems.

    After reading about the product on their website, it looks like the product may have been updated since Tom and I tested it. I mention this because I am not opposed to retesting one, if there is enough interest. By enough interest, I don’t mean one or two persistent people, but a larger crowd.

    Is this an airgun? Definitely NOT! Does it have to do with airgunning? Probably, just because it uses pellets. Are we interested? You tell me.