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Can a common BB gun be accurate?

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, I’ll venture into an unknown realm – BB gun accuracy. Most shooters feel that anytime a BB gun can keep five shots inside an inch at 20 feet, it’s doing pretty good! So, let’s see if we can learn to do better.

No ringers allowed!
There are some BB guns that can hit aspirin at 20 feet regularly – from the offhand position! The Daisy Avanti Champion 499 comes to mind. In fact, it is the 499 that inspired today’s posting, because it was developed with accuracy in mind. Before it was created in 1976, shooting coaches all around America pooled their knowledge to make a shooter out of the Daisy 299 – a regular BB gun that sported target sights. There was nothing special about the 299, but Jaycee coaches re-learned an accuracy secret that marksmen in Ohio discovered around 1850: if you shoot a round ball from a smoothbore gun, the closer the ball fits the bore, the more accurate it will be. I’ve read accounts where these gentlemen shot 2″ five-shot groups at 100 yards!

The barrel search
The coaches figured that if they could find the tightest barrels, their guns would be most accurate. And, from a conversation I had with one of them, that’s how it worked out. He told me the thing to do in those pre-499 days was to be “in” with someone at Daisy who would let you test dozens of shot tubes before buying a few. You didn’t have to live near the plant – just be prompt about returning the shot tubes you didn’t want. Daisy was very proud of the World BB Gun Championships, and they wanted to see kids do well.

Airsoft does it, too!
Let’s not overlook the fact that for airsoft guns, a more accurate barrel is always a tighter barrel. I know a sniper who insists he can hit a 12″x12″ target at 100 yards on a calm day. Of course, when you start using a tighter barrel, you also have to use the more expensive ground shot.

The results
A tight barrel could make the old Daisy 299 shoot half-inch groups at the regulation 5 meters. I’ve heard of some that were a little better. So the tight barrel really is the way to make a smoothbore shoot a round ball better. But what can you do if you can’t cherry-pick through shot tubes?

If you can’t make the barrel smaller, make the BB bigger!
There are a couple ways to do this. One is to sort through new BBs from different manufacturers until you find the largest BBs. Then, look through your BB guns for the one with the smallest barrel. Putting the two together should give you an edge up on the competition. Another tactic is to locate a supply of lead balls that are larger than BBs. I did this with a No. 25 pump gun, and I got groups of less than one inch at 20 feet. With steel, I was getting 2.5″ to 3″.

It’s all academic
With the 499 so available today, we don’t have to go through the gyrations coaches went through before 1976. In fact, this same information can be transferred to other types of guns, including the pellet guns we all love so much. The fit of a pellet to the bore of your rifle is also quite important.

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.

21 thoughts on “Can a common BB gun be accurate?”

  1. bb,

    great post. i never thought bbs, no matter how finely ground, could be accurate in any barrel.
    i was wondering, though, how to improve my daisy grizzly’s accuracy. its a combo gun, so it cant be expected that bbs will group well. in fact, i can only get reliable shots from about 6-7 metres! and even these shots are about 1 inch groups, and every now and then it would throw out an outliar, which ventured _2_ inchs out!! so, i decided to buy some crosman hyper-velocity wadcutter pellets. they fit snug (i was afraid, since my gun is so weak, that they would jam in the breech!), yet i’m still getting the same groups. i keep my gun over oiled, so lubrication is not a problem. mind you, i can keep my croshairs on a dime from that distance with the scope that came with the gun. (i did move the scope up away from the cracked section- see below) what can you suggest? i have tried the loose holds oyu described in your other posts. or is it that the gun is just plain inaccurate?
    looking forward to your next post!

    p.s. for those of you who are thinking about buying this, stay away. you can get higher velocities (410fps) from a crosman model 781. it, too, is a single pump pneumatic and my friend tells me it gets reasonable accuracy. the grizzly is okay, but soon you will grow tired of its power, poor quality, and poor accuracy. the scope provided in the box was crooked when it shot straight, and the dovetail mount cracked when i applied too much pressure on the screws.

  2. I have a crosman 760 that is open sights and I can get 1 inch groups at 15 yds. I use crosman hollow point pellets and they group really well. I am not sure if it is the combo of the two or if I have a rare one. Remington’s pump up is another one that I tend to find grouping well. I have shot the grizzly and it is a bb gun, nothin fancy or particular about it.It might be the pellets you choose, but other than that BB guns are cheaply made and mass produced.


  3. BB,
    I was reading an article in the “Predator Extreme” and it mentioned the name George Pelletier. Out of curiosity is this you they are talking about in the coyote hunting article? Just had to ask.


  4. Grizzly owner,

    I think you’ve reached the limit of that gun. Some guns just don’t have what it takes to be accurate, and your Grizzly sounds like one of them.

    The cracked scope mount can’t help the situation.



  5. My Grizzy was realy not a good gun. The stock is the only thing that’s nice on the gun.My airsoft gun shoots faster and it shoots at 287 feet per second. Itook it back and got a skateboard. I now have arws modle 24.

  6. My 781 bb gun shoots to the left by about an inch at 20 feet, anyone know how to fix that, the barrel moves to the left and right but if you line up the front and back sights perfectly it still shoots to the left.

  7. Bought a Daisy Grizzly just for plinking but was astounded at the lack of accuracy. Watching the BBs fly was like watching Phil Niekro pitch. I was looking at a 1 foot pattern at 50′. I measured the bore: .230 so I started to think about sleeves and there is off the shelf precision tubing that would bring that down to .187 with an OD of .25… Then I started thinking about a magnetic ring to maybe center the shot?…It then occurred to me that pulling the shot to the top of the barrel might solve the problem. If I could get the BBs to roll out the top side of the barrel it would straighten out the shot and put a back spin on the BB thereby leveling out the arc as well (similar to a softballers rise pitch) I had a bunch of fairly powerful button magnets (1/8″ dia x 1/16″) which I lined up on the top of the barrel 3/8 of an inch center to center. Now It’s shooting less than 1″patterns at 50′ at a much flatter trajectory. Those magnets are just taped there now but I’l be breaking out the epoxy soon.

    • So the magnet hopup idea works then, even with a looser barrel! I had been considering this idea for a time. I suspect this would work even better than rifling for lead balls, as the rotation is parallel to the line of flight. I am considering this idea with a regulated pcp platform. I just need to figure out how to make or get barrel. The dream gun would shoot BB’s at maybe 600fps and have a reservoir.

      • Appye,

        I have used the strong mini magnets on the tube of a Avanti 499. I did top, spiral, spaced, close, etc..

        Goal was to impart a spin. A back spin or spiral. Overall,… it did seem to work. That proved, at least enough to satisfy my curiosity,… I moved on.

        By the way,….. Post on the most current blog. Very few will ever see this comment and those that do will be using the “comments RSS” at the top right of the page. Off topic, on the current topic, is fine.

        By the way,… Welcome too! 🙂

        Lots of good folks here with tons of airgun knowledge,………… Chris

  8. Hello: I have Beautiful Benjamin 3100 BB gun. Everything is Tight. At 20 feet it puts BBs, and .177 lead balls, all over a 6 inch black paper target? No grouping, no consistency, HELP !! I cleaned the smooth bore, and nothing will get my Beautiful 3100 consistent?? I have been using .177 lead balls, because the barrel is brass, and I figure Steel BBs would wear it out? They feed fine, both .177 lead balls and BBs. I know the gun was made for steel BBs. I don’t think a soft lead .177 ball, would do any harm to a thick smooth bore Barrel. HELP !! Thank You !!

    • Forrestanfo,

      Welcome to the blog.

      You’re right — your gun was made to shoot steel BBs. Are you using premium BBs? That would be Daisy, or Hornady or Umarex or Air Venturi.

      Is the front barrel dovetail loose, allowing the barrel to slide left and right? That will cause inaccuracy in these guns.

      Please come to the current blog, where over 30,000 registered readers can see and comment on your questions.



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