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Gamo Rocket pellets

by B. B. Pelletier

rocket-tin-web
Gamo’s new Rocket pellet is tipped with a steel ball for better penetration and shock. B.B. will put it to the test.

Reader JDB asked for this report. The Rocket pellet from Gamo is a steel-tipped lead pellet. This type of pellet has been marketed for several years, first in the UK and now in the U.S. Daisy sells them and now Gamo has thrown their hat into the ring. I have always considered these to be gimmicks, so this will be an opportunity for me to see if my predictions of poor accuracy and mediocre shock and penetration are correct.

A STEEL tip? Why?
Gamo advertising claims maximum shock and enhanced penetration. I may not be a ballistics expert, but I am both a shooter and a handloader who knows that penetration and shock are at opposite ends of the performance spectrum. And, they are directly linked, as in “greater penetration equals less shock.” For penetration, a projectile has to retain energy as long as possible, carrying it deep into the target. To generate shock, a projectile must transfer energy as fast as possible to the target. These are mutually exclusive goals. Bulletmakers have worked for decades to offset this relationship, because it affects their product so much.

So, why do airgunners need a steel tipped pellet? Do we shoot through armor? The whole idea of steel-tipped pellets seems to be a solution for which there is no problem. However, I’m going to keep an open mind until the test results are in.

rocket-pellet-ball-web
Rocket pellet is flanked by conventional BB on the right and a steel ball from the pellet on the left. Note how much smoother the ball appears, compared to the BB.

Not a BB!
At first glance you might think the tip of a Rocket pellet is just a common BB, but it isn’t. It’s much smaller than the traditional airgun projectile. Yet after examination under a magnifying glass, it appears to be made just as well as a modern BB, which raises another question. Why go to the trouble to head, finish and plate a steel ball, then attach it to a lead pellet MECHANICALLY – not with glue? What extreme benefit does this pellet possess to go to all that trouble? I was intrigued.

The one steel ball I removed measured 0.1186″ – very close to the size of a Daisy .118 BB that fits the .118-caliber Daisy Targeteer and all the Bullseye and Sharpshooter catapult pistols. I measured a vintage Daisy .118 BB to compare, and it was just two-thousandths smaller and not nearly as well-made. In fact, under a 10X loupe, the Gamo ball appears as uniform as a ball bearing. I wonder if Gamo is aware that they have created a second product they could sell for a premium to collectors? If not, I hope someone alerts them to this possibility.

Weight and balance
The steel ball weighs 1.6 grains, leaving the remainder of the 9.4 to 9.6 grain weight in lead. I was surprised by the weight uniformity of these pellets. Most weighed 9.5 grains, which is on the heavy side for a .177 pellet. Balance is best determined by shooting groups. By balance, I mean the uniformity of the weight distribution along the pellet’s axis. Close examination of the lead body shows seams with some flashing on opposite sides.

rocket-penetration-web
Rocket pellet on left did not penetrate as deeply as Beeman Kodiak on the right. This extreme closeup makes the base of the bar appear curved, but it is actually straight. The slightly broader penetration channel does indicate greater energy transfer, as Gamo claims, and that would explain the lack of penetration.

Penetration
The Rocket was tested against a Beeman Kodiak pellet. Both pellets were shot from a Beeman P1 pistol into a bar of transparent facial soap. The Rocket weighs 9.5 grains, while the Kodiak weighs 10.6 grains – giving the power edge to the Rocket when shot from a springer. That didn’t make any difference, however, as the Kodiak clearly went slightly deeper into the soap. While other tests, such as penetration in wood, might produce different results, this test establishes the degree of penetration in a uniform medium. I believe a test could be constructed that would favor the Rocket, however that’s not what I’m after. Shooting into wood, for instance, is not a reasonable test for pellets. Neither is soap, however the soap is at least a homogeneous medium that shows comparative results.

Shock
The wider wound channel in the soap indicates that the Rocket did transfer more energy to the bar. That would explain why it did not go as deep. So that part of Gamo’s claim is true, when tested against a Beeman Kodiak.

It might appear that I’m being overly critical of the Rocket, but that is not my intent. Gamo has made some big claims for shock and penetration, and I’m trying to report the performance data I obtained along with the test I used. I tested penetration for you today – and I’ll test grouping and velocity tomorrow.

author avatar
B.B. Pelletier
Tom Gaylord is known as The Godfather of Airguns™ and has been an airgunner for over a half-century, but it was the Beeman company in the 1970s that awoke a serious interest in airguns. Until then, all he knew were the inexpensive American airguns. Through the pages of the Beeman catalog, he learned about adult airguns for the first time. In 1994, Tom started The Airgun Letter with his wife, Edith. This monthly newsletter was designed to bring serious reports about airguns to the American public. The newsletter and Airgun Revue, a sister magazine about collectible airguns, was published from 1994 until 2002, when Tom started Airgun Illustrated -- the first American newsstand magazine about airguns. Tom worked for three years as technical director at AirForce Airguns, the makers of the Talon, Condor, and Escape precharged air rifles. Today, he writes about airguns and firearms for various publications and websites. He also makes videos, and you'll find short clips embedded in some of his artices on Pyramyd AIR's website. Tom is a consultant to Pyramyd AIR and writes under the name of B.B. Pelletier.

21 thoughts on “Gamo Rocket pellets”

  1. Each day is a new insight for this newbie Air Gun Shooter. Many thanks for these excellent reports. As for the present report, is this and example of B.B. testing a BB. BTW, what does BB stand for when applied to BB Gun?
    PCR

  2. PCR,

    The BB comes from the original size of shot used in Markahm’s first BB gun in 1886. When Daisy brought out theirs a year or two later, they also used 0.180-inch lead shot, which is BB shot (as opposed to size B or BBB).

    B.B.

  3. Eric,

    They’re everywhere.

    Do a search on google.com for Weihrauch or HW77 or whatever you can think of as a search term.

    Go on auctionarms.com and gunbroker.com and look at the guns pictured there. I bet with a little msearching you will find several hundred pictures.

    B.B.

  4. BB,

    I have tried steel tipped pellets before. I’m pretty sure they were Champion Fireballs. At the time they never grouped well, in any of the guns I had then. I am excited to see what kind of accuracy the Gamo’s give. Thanks.

    Jason

  5. A minor observation –
    The post states that the Rocket appears to have transferred more energy to the soap than the Kodiak due to the wider “wound” channel and shallower penetration. I merely wanted to point out that since both pellets stopped inside the bar, they both delivered 100% of their energy to the target. The Rocket merely did so faster (trading shock for penetration as B.B. discussed above). We should assume the Rocket impacts at a higher velocity (at close range, anyway, being lighter), which is where the extra energy comes from. It clearly gives it up quickly.

    So if the pellets were identical in weight and velocity(which they are not), they would have delivered exactly the same amount of energy to the soap at different rates. A casual pass through the pellet selection in the pyramyd catalog does not reveal any round-nosed pellets of comparable weight, unless perhaps the Beeman Field Targets are massed as listed in a batch other than mine. A 50fps velocity advantage to the Rockets would be enough to offset the added weight of the Kodiaks in kinetic energy terms. A useful question is how do these pellets differ ballistically over some distance. Does the Rocket keep its velocity better than the lead pellet?

    I’m unconvinced that any useful conclusions can be drawn from the test, in part because the difference in pellet composition is unlikely to be relevent until pellet deformation begins in the target material. The transition velocity from penetration to expansion would be interesting to look at. At 750fps plus you’d see something serious effects, but likely leave soap all over the basement.
    Sounds like fun. I bet I can get a brick of those Noxema bars at Job Lot real cheap, but won’t be wasting money on the steel-tipped pellets.

    I think B.B. probably has better things to do than spend all day blasting soap at hunting ranges with pellets that probably fly like shuttlecocks anyway.

    -E

  6. I just did crude test with the rocket against a host of RWS. pellets fired into a telephone book using a rws model 34. and also complared it to pellets from a 460 mag. I was really surprised to see that the rocket beat them all.

  7. I am personally using the Gamo Rockets and they have benn nothing less then reliable and powerful in my Crosman G1 Extreme at appx 1000fps at muzzle (not cronographed but info came from both Gamo & Crosman to vary between 900-1000 due to weight at 9.5 grains). Using a 8in wide 8in tall, 14in thick clear wax candle at a distance EXACTLY MEASURED 68 feet the Gamo Rocket penetrated on an average of 7-8 inches and a best of 10 inches! The PBA Raptors did almost the same at Supersonic Speeds with less shock. I am impressed with the Gamo Rockets as I was at first skeptical about them, I am however a fan of Glaser rounds and this is about as close as I have found to them in pellets. I also did an aluminum penetration test using 2 coke cans (empty) attached togther front to back and shot the bottom of the can nearly TDC at 65 feet distance the impressie thing was that the lead pellet stopped at the top of the second can (clearly visible) but the Ballistic Tip (or metal "bb" for some of you) actually continued on into the candle and penetrated 7/8 of an inch into it! The PBA Raptors went through both sides but not into the candle, also the entry and exit points of the rockets was larger by a few millimeters over the raptors. All in all for .177 pellets and used for long range Varmint Hunting they will be very accurate (due to weight) and have the stopping power and penetration to take down squirrels and the like with ease.

  8. What a great shot of the Kodiak and the Rocket, you’ve shared with us here, my friend! A very informative and enlightening blog entry too, to be sure! 🙂

    Lookin’ forward to more of your stuff in the future.

    Cheers,

    lb

  9. Old post but I figured I would add a cautionary note for any future readers.

    The steel tips can and do RICOCHET!

    Shooting at a pine board, I broke a window behind me!

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