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How to find the best pellet

by B.B. Pelletier

This is a question I get asked a lot. Today, it’s easy to find good pellets, but back in the 1970s that wasn’t the case. Back then, you had to try pellet after pellet in a gun before you would stumble onto something that worked. That was because of bad pellets – not bad guns. In fact, here is something to think about. A 1955 Crosman 160 rifle may have initially grouped five shots in a 1″ group when it was new, but today we expect it to group inside 1/4″ with good pellets. That’s how much pellets have advanced over the years.

So, what’s a good pellet?
I have written about this many times, but here we go again. The JSB Exact domed pellets in all calibers and weights are always the place to begin. Most air rifles will shoot them better than any other pellet. That’s because these pellets are hand-sorted by weight at the factory. If you take the time to do that with your pellets, almost any pellet will shoot better.

Also consider the Beeman Kodiak (or H&N Baracuda, which is the same pellet). Sometimes, it out-shoots the JSB. I’ve never found the “match” grades of this pellet to be any better than the standard ones, so I buy them on price, alone. All Crosman Premiers are good, BUT ONLY THE ONES IN THE CARDBOARD BOXES! They are boxed by die number, where the pellets in the round metal tins are not. Sometimes, the tinned pellets are just as accurate, because they are the same in all ways except sorting, but the cardboard box guarantees that what you get is all the same.

10-meter guns are different
Each 10-meter gun needs to be tested not only with all pellet brands (only wadcutters, of course), but also all head sizes – if you want to shoot in competition. If you’re just fooling around and plinking, almost any wadcutter is suitable, and some inexpensive ones such as the Gamo Match are real bargains.

What about other pellets?
Many other pellets are very good and should be tried. The Logun Penetrator, for example, can be one of the most accurate pellets in a particular airgun. And, there are many pellets that shoot well – just not the best. I’ve already listed the best. Start with them.

What pellet should be avoided?
I usually avoid the novelty pellets, such as the new Gamo Raptor. It isn’t accurate, plus it develops LESS power in a spring gun than a light lead pellet – so it isn’t very efficient, either. I also avoid those pellets with steel tips and other gimmicks. I usually don’t shoot synthetic pellets; but, of those I have tested, both the Skenco and the Prometheus brands seem to be the best.

Be sure you have a good gun before testing pellets
You can shoot for days and test every pellet in the book, but your average Chinese air rifle will not perform. It’s a waste of time to try to shoot well with it. The Chinese are starting to bring out better air rifles, and the B20 is a long way from where they used to be, but it’s still only as good as an average Gamo breakbarrel (not the latest line of Gamos, but the ones made in the 1990s).

Just because I recommended only a few pellets doesn’t mean they are the only kind I use. Like you, I have a cabinet full of all sorts of other pellets, and I try to test each new one as it comes out. After all, testing means shooting, and that’s ALWAYS fun!

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 “How to find the best pellet”

  1. B.B.,

    I’ve read that using pellets that are “beyond” a gun’s power rating (i.e. a Beeman Kodiak Heavy in a Diana 34)can be detrimental–what are the truths in this, if any?. Just trying to avoid those beginner pitfalls =) cheers

  2. I think the potential issue in using pellets that are “too heavy” for a given gun is that the internal pressure in the gun needs to get to a higher level before the heavier pellet shoots. If the gun isn’t designed for this higher pressure there could be damge over time.

    A Diana 34 is a powerful springer. I can’t imagine any reason not to use heavy pellets in this rifle.

  3. “Hand Sorted” is not the same thing as “hand-sorted by weight”

    I think JSB Employees merely weed out the visibly obvious defects.

    BUT, I agree, they are the best pellets, period.

  4. As for the Diana 34 and heavier pellets, I’ve found that the roundnose pellets in 9.3-9.8gr are the most consistently accurate in my 34. Particularly the Beeman Field Target Special and the Beeman Ram Jet. For wadcutters and general paper punching I use the RWS Supermag at 9.3gr.

    Some of the lighter pellets (7.9-8.3) would barely print the target at 30yrds, especially the pointed tip ones.

    I’ll have to try some of the JSB’s. I don’t know why I didn’t order some in this last batch.

    Point of my post: I’ve been shooting heavier pellets in my RWS 34 with no ill effects. That said, I probably wouldn’t try them in a 500fps springer.

  5. Thanks to all for the info, looking forward to the next blog on this. I’m taking my Diana 34 .22 on a camping trip this weekend, having just purchased this from pryamydair as my first springer, I’m excited to get some target time!


  7. I’ve finally settled on Premier 7.9’s as my “universal” pellet in .177, as all my rifles seem to do well with them… and they can be had cheap! (especially when one buys 16 boxes, pays for 12, and gets free shipping)

    I’ve heard it said that the Benjamin-Sheridan Diabolos are essentially the same pellet – is this true?

  8. Hii B.B.

    I have a question about JSB pellets! A few monthe ago i bought a HW90 in 5,5mm. I was told that a should try JSB-diabolo exact in it because “they are the worlds best” and i did. They failed BIG time! It is impossible to get a decent group at any distance. The pellet the HW90 really liked is H&N Diabolo bacacuda. (like most of my guns) My question is: Is it likely that the JSB skirt is too thin and deform on the way out? I really wonder why I can’t get good results with “the worlds best pellet” 🙂

    Best Bjørn.

  9. this has been bothering me for a while – lead contains a toxic chemical which causes cancer and it is also harmful for the environment. when you use lead, do you use rubber gloves to load. i usually use rubber gloves when firing lead and dispose of them when i am done. as a result i am hesitant to buy a marksman 2004 which only fires lead and would rather buy a crosman 760 rifle which fires both lead and steel, so i dont only have to deal with lead, even though the compactness of the pistol suites my needs much better. last question – does the marksman 2004 have a magazine or is it you have to manually load it after each shot?

  10. Lead does not contain any chemicals. Lead is an element. It contains nothing but lead!

    Lead is a so-called heavy metal that can be toxic in the body. There are ways of removing heavy metals, like taking vitamin C.

    I handle lead pellets almost every day, plus I reload lead bullets and I also cast lead bullets. My blood/lead levels are below normal because I do these things in a safe way and I take suppliments to remove heavy metals from my body.

    Your fear of lead seems unfounded. Yes, exposure to lead without precautions can be bad, but the horror stories you read about are from abuses, such as children ingesting lead-based paint.

    If this doesn’t convince you, I recommend you look at lead-free pellets, of which there are more every day. Pyramyd AIR has several to choose from


  11. thanks for the quick response. i do feel much better about handling lead now. i totally forgot that even paints contain lead. i also feel better about handling it since i take a lot of vitamin c. i trust your experience and knowledge on the topic, so i guess the warning on the crosman packages for lead pellets is just what it is meant to be – a warning. they say that it can cause cancer some way some how. just a little interesting. anyway, lastly, and off topic, but what the hell, does the marksman 2004 have a magazine or does it need to be manually loaded after each shot. i guess i mean is it a repeater?

  12. The Marksman 2004 is a single shot. The barrel has to be manually loaded each time the pistol is cocked.

    About vitamin C, there are other suppliments one can take to purge heavy metals from the body. There is a type of clay that attracts heavy metals and flushes them from the body. I take it twice a day, though when my blood lead level was measured I was just taking vitamin C. I believe I was taking 3,000 mg a day. Of course only about 10 percent that you ingest is actually absorbed into your system, so that’s less than it sounds like.


  13. B.B., I appreciate the help your site has been in solving my 22SG’s problem. I can now plink tight groups with no effort, even with my “cheapest” wadcutters. Given the vast array of products, I will recommend Pyramydair to any other plinkers. I’ve a final question: what would be the best pellet to use for hunting? I’m thinking of the JSB Diabolo’s or the Beeman’s selection of hunting. Rabbit, crow, and squirrel will mainly be on the menu, and I don’t want too heavy a pellet. tarsch

  14. Hi BB

    I know you always say crosman premiers and jsb’s are accurate pellets. I know every gun is different in its pellet likings but in your experience are gamos accurate? I have found gamo match to be great in my cfx (I’ve have gotten a one large hole group @ 25 yrds with the gun rested on a couple of split pieces of wood). And I know gamo pba suck in magnum guns but are they accurate in lower power guns that dont break the sound barrier.
    Thanks Kyle.

  15. Kyle,

    I think Gamo lead pellets are very good. But you should always test for yourself. Use what others say as a starting point, but never accept something someone else say as the truth until you prove it for yourself.

    Gamo Raptors preoved to be the most accurate pellet in the Marksman 1010 I tested, so you never know what will happen.


  16. Hey BB

    Another question. Are the crosman premier pellets from the tin the same as the ones from the box? I’m not sure if they are the same because the tins of premiers have hollowpoints, match, dome, ect. I might be wrong but I think the premiers from the box are only a dome shape. I got premiers in the tin and they haven’t been all that great. There grouping about the same as the cheapy crosman pellets I bought before. Whats your thoughts?

    Thanks a lot, Kyle.

  17. Kyle,

    No, the pellets are not the same. The Premiers in the box are sorted by die lot (a die is what swages the pellets), while the pellets in the tin are random. They are made on the same machinery, but with different handling.


  18. B.B.
    I’ve a question requiring an experienced hunter with airguns. I recently went varmint hunting at a friend’s (peach tree) area, and the squirrel I trapped in a walnut tree and shot scurried up a branch and “clawed in” as it died, making it un-retrievable for dinner. I was using Beeman round head pellets. Do I need maybe a hollow point (Beeman Crow Magnums?) to pack more wallup so as to get him to fall down dead after the one shot,or was this something that sometimes happens? (I’ve seen it happen with regular rifles too).

    • Tarsch, forgive me for butting in on your “experienced hunter with airguns-“directed question: I am not what you would call “an airgunner” yet. Still, I have other experience that could be useful. That is, I might observe you likely hit that unhappy squirrel in the gut and he tore himself apart trying to remove ‘the insect’ his experience in the nest told him was the great bother to his comfort, besides that person below, skulking through his orchard! Here’s the cure: “Take aim.” I mean really take aim: the head is the place to start – and don’t stop until you get it down pat. It sounds to me you simply aimed at “the squirrel.” There’s little point in killing squirrels by bleeding them out rather than killing them quickly: they can cover a lot of distance when wounded, even if mortally. General body and gut-shots won’t kill a squirrel quickly, if at all: they are tough little buggers — all of them (hide, muscle) — which is why a lot of people parboil them like they would a woodchuck before finishing up using another cookery method. Hit them in the head solidly and they are dead (some neck shots will work as well if you sever the spinal column). NOTE: I read online that a lot of people kill raccoon with the .22 airgun. I used to kill a lot of raccoon with .22 while hunting with a gentle man, a local farmer, who incidentally made a considerable part of his living with a pack of dogs, a killer kid, and a strong lantern. I know from dark-of-night experience that a raccoon shot “in the head” with a .22 lr will only too often survive long enough to climb high or into a hollow nesting site where it will slowly die irretrievably: i.e., if you are going to shoot raccoon, practice well enough that you will one day be able to place your shot directly through the ear hole or eye socket. I know that can be learned with the .22 lr. That technique made it possible to retrieve both the raccoon and a pelt without a pesky hole in it, which led to a more valuable pelt. Whether the .22 airgun pellet can be tamed to do such precise work…I simply have no experience to say. Online commentary and pictures of targets suggest it can. If you can get to that stage of development, practice it on squirrels, too, which is the reverse sequence of how a 12-year-old boy might begin to control his shots if he wanted to hunt raccoon later on.

  19. About round ball lead BB’s. I purchased a few thousand .177rounds because of reviews and my hopes they would perform as well or better than normal pellets.

    Have tested them in several CO2, multi-pump, and spring pistols and rifles. Have found like any other pellet they have advantages and disadvantages and some guns like them better than others.

    What I like best about them is they feed through my CO2 pistol designed to shoot BB’s via a 15-shot tube (lead is safer than steel shot). Also like that when shooting with the kids they have a lot less trouble loading a round ball. So for those reasons alone it they are great.

    They do not shoot quite as well in most of the nicer guns. But they shoot every bit as well in the low end CO2 can poppers.

  20. All you who own high velocity spring or air rifles be extremely careful handling one. If you get shot by one it will penetrate deep for sure, specially at close distances once the pellet penetrates most doctors and I mean almost everyone of them will not risk to take it out because there are high risk of causing more damage. So you will live for the rest of your live with a pellet inside, which can causes serious side effects your whole future especially if they are led pellets. There is also another catch in some cases the pellet will not stay where it penetrates it travels up your body if a spasm does not form so this pellet will likely stop in your pelvis if you got shot in the leg or your stomach internals if you got shot on the back or stomach this causes internal damage! my main hobby before was target practice or simple varmint hunting but returned and sold all my rifles and guns after my leg shot that missed my leg arterie by less than a centimeter. I recommend to own one of these if you are mature enough to handle one and for wide range hunting. Take care, and hope this is helpful for you all.

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