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Can you shoot pellets backwards? Introducing the “flying ashtray”

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I start, I will be on the road from Wednesday through next Monday, attending the Roanoke Airgun Expo on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26 & 27. I will answer those comments I need to, but my capability is limited, so will you old hands please help out? Thank you.

Nate in Mass. asked if it’s permissible (possible, without damage to the gun) to shoot pellets loaded backwards. He was thinking of them acting as extreme hollowpoints.

Well, Nate the short answer is “yes,” and so is the longer answer I will give today. Diabolo pellets loaded backwards work fine in most guns. On principle, I would avoid loading them that way in repeaters, though I have shot some that way when they were misloaded.

My experience is limited
I don’t make a practice of shooting pellets loaded backwards. I have limited my testing to 10 meters, so others may be able to expand what I’m about to say. The guns I shot them from were all low- to mid-power. No magnums were used, though I did shoot several from an HW77.

Not as accurate
They don’t group nearly as well as when loaded the conventional way. The rifles I’ve tested seemed not to mind them at all, and at 10 yards I could see no evidence of them trying to turn around in flight.

Good for pests
I haven’t tried this but I’ve read for the past 30 years that pellets loaded backwards make good critter-gitters, for obvious reasons. The thin soft skirt opens rapidly when contacting tissue and is especially good on rats.

The “flying ashtray”
I borrowed that nickname from the defensive hollowpoints used in some handgun ammunition. It means a wide-open hollowpoint that hits its target in an attitude that’s ready to expand dramatically. There used to be a pellet made that way, and very curiously, it resembled a diabolo pellet loaded backwards – hence the title of today’s post. I’m referring to the Vortek Lamprey.

Makarov 9mm pistol bullet of the flying ashtray design.

Vortek Lampreys were remarkable hollowpoint pellets that looked like they were flying backwards. The pellet that’s standing shows the deep hollowpoint. The rounded skirt is shown on the pellet lying down.

The Lamprey has a huge mouth (Vortek called it a hollow head pellet), like its namesake, and a tiny shallow skirt. It seems wrong to load it the right way – as though the maker somehow reversed the directions. Yet, it’s reasonably accurate and is one of the few hollowpoint pellets that performs well at slower speed. The walls of the hollowpoint are thick, but this is a pure lead pellet, so it mushrooms well and holds together even better.

Lampreys are no longer made. The new crop of hollowpoints seem to have learned some things from them because the hollowpoints are now much deeper than in the past.

So, Nate, your idea will work. Give it a try!

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.

39 thoughts on “Can you shoot pellets backwards? Introducing the “flying ashtray””

  1. All hands,
    Be advised they may not load in your rifle. I attempted a reverse load in a 22SG (Daisy), and it wouldn’t load. I didn’t want to force it, so I gave it up: after all, the rifle worked well with forward flight pellets anyway. JP

  2. Another interesting pellet comment — I tested some wad cutters in my (used to be your???) SAM M10 and, just for interest, tried some JSB Exact Heavy pellets. I was very suprised that the JSBs were much more accurate than the wad cutters even at 10M.

    I had assumed that one had to use wad cutters for matches, but it seems that the ISSF and NRA rules do not specify what pellet must be used (some local juristictions do!). You can use domed pellets for target shooting — the judges will hate you because scoring will be more difficult (or easier for some cheap paper targets since the domes will not tear as much).

    Don’t expect to be shooting Xs just because of switching — we are talking about the difference between one hole and about 1.5hole patterns. For silhouette and other “long distance” shooting, I would always use domes.

  3. B.B.

    I’ll try to sneak in this off-topic post before your trip which I wish to be safe and informative.

    Since your revelation last week, I’ve been very curious to ask you about an article you wrote on the Tech Force 79 for Compasseco. You had lots of good things to say about that rifle, but somewhat uncharacteristically did not include numbers about group sizes from your testing. You did mention a target that I assume had that information, but unfortunately, Compasseco did not post it with the article.

    I have checked around and heard group sizes for this rifle that are good but just a tick below the ones I’ve seen quoted for the Crosman Challenger and Daisy target rifles. Also intriguing is that your article compared the Tech Force 79 to the Daisy 888. Is that model comparable to the Daisy 853 that I’ve heard so much about?

    I’ve learned to be cautious about quoted group sizes. Also, it’s noteworthy that the QB78 family seems to have a very devoted following out there. People really seem to like this gun. I saw the same passion in the IZH 61 reviews and that certainly turned out to be a good indicator.

    Your commentary on any of this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


  4. Matt,

    The 79 isn’t as accurate as the Daisy 853. Neither is the Crosman Challenger, but even it is a bit ahead of most 79s.

    The Daisy 88 is a precharged rifle that is as good as the 853.

    Some 79s are very accurate, but the bulk of them shoot groups a little behind the 853/888.


  5. From what I can remember of shooting backward loaded .177s in the 880 Daisy, they were not as accurate as standard loads, and could be counted to miss the mark beyond 20 yards. I generally used BBs anyway though – faster to shoot in ‘heat of battle’. :^)

  6. ok i gave it a try,
    i fired a misterkuglen .22 wadcutter out of my 392 (bolt action lends itself to this) with little error. it is extremely windy(trees blowing over) and i had lots of trouble sighting in at 30 feet. i chose this range because i think the practical range of this set up isnt too far. i finally managged to hit the target from about 20 feet and 5 pumps. i shot into a bar of soap and dug the pellet out. it had expanded to a little under .37 inches/caliber. pretty good! the skirt had folded back completly. i will conduct more testing on a calmer day with different pellets, velocities, ranges ect. i guess im kinda lucky because i have about 55 yards of shooting space in my back yard 🙂

    Nate in Mass

  7. i would not test past 10 yards because they would stop being more daedly than when forward. Think how that cup pushes into the air unlike the forward pellet= very slow! And the skirt is bigr than the head of the pellet= not stable – not accurate.

    BB has said it before – accuracy first when it comes to airguns.

  8. BB, I’d like your opinion on something…

    The “CDT” trigger that so many people rave about seems to have one drawback: if you pull the trigger through the first stage and then relax your finger or take it off the trigger, the sear does not return to it’s normal “at rest” position – it stays right at the edge of the 2nd stage. The trigger will now have looseness in its travel (because the 1st stage sear travel is still taken up). If I’m not mistaken, Charlie makes the point in his instructions that if this happens the gun should be fired in some safe direction – because the sear is on the “knife’s edge”.

    This is not due to the Charlie trigger, since the standard Gamo trigger will also stay on the “knife’s edge” if the trigger is pulled partway through the 2nd stage (which is really the only stage for that trigger).

    Do you consider this to be an issue?

  9. Vince,

    There is a workaround to the problem you mention with the GRT-III trigger, which is to simply recock your rifle, which will return the sear to its original unpulled position.

  10. Kevin,

    I even handloaded up 100 of them some years ago into my Ruger Blackhawk .45 Colt with hefty charges of Winchester 296, and all I can is WOW!
    Those slugs opened up in water and snow and looked like frisbees when I recovered them.
    Speer has since improved upon them with their Gold Dot version, and they are even better, since the jacket is now plated to the core, thus eliminating core separation.

  11. Vince,

    My Crosman 2300S suffers a similar issue – pull the trigger just enough and the sear is balanced on the “knife’s edge”.

    More alarming is that Kahr products exhibit the same vulnerability – a well trained finger can “balance” the cocking cam and striker on the verge of release, these parts then retain their position when pressure on the trigger is released. The slightest subsequent jolt will discharge the arm.

    Thus we follow Jeff Cooper’s four rules of safety

  12. After reading this article I decided to test this idea out with some Beeman .177 Crow Magnums. Let me just say that in the past I have tried using wad cutters back wards as makeshift hollow points. I have had some very near misses on various birds but never hit one.

    Today, actually an hour ago, I just finished firing a dozen CMs into a kiddy pool, full of water, at about 20 feet. I shot a total of 4 three shot groups. One loaded normally in a low velocity multi pump, and one group back wards. And both forward and backward groups out of a 1000fps springer.

    The pellets fired normally out of the multi pump showed minor expansion, the cup became as wide as the skirt. The cups on those fired from the springer completely flattened out and begun to turn inside out.

    The pellets fired back wards were surprising. The skirts fired from the multi pump expanded to literally twice their original size, while the pellets from the springer turned completely inside out and began to brake apart. Because flesh is denser than water, I think that the expansion will be much more dramatic on small game.

    I did not do any accuracy test tho.

    Also just for the heck of it, I fired a JSB Predator into the water(the right way) just to see what it would do. The tip came of and the hollow point turned inside out.


  13. Shooting into water sure makes me nervous. A pellet could deflect off the surface. Happened to me once golfing. I tried to pop the ball over the water. Instead, it went straight at the water, deflected off, and landed on the other side!

  14. I do prefer to shoot into water pipe at 90 degrees but I wanted to test pellets at range.

    The trick is to fire at the steepest angle possible in order to prevent deflections. Too shallow of an angle and the pellet will skip like a flat stone on a pond.

    Also, pellets lose velocity and energy very quickly, so terminal(expansion) tests need to be done at longer range as not to skew the results.

    Crime labs often fire and guns fire hand guns into tanks of water at point blank range because traditional hand gun loads do not lose that much energy between the muzzle and the target, provided that the target is at the average range that a hand gun is mostly used. This range is usually anywhere from 8 to 20 feet depending on what text book you read.

    Rifle bullets just disintegrate in about 2-3 feet of water, so this method is not used for them.


  15. Mech,
    Seems like you could also just use a lower powered/velocity gun at short range to simulate down-range results. I believe B.B. has mentioned that in the past, possibly with regards to changing out the Whiscombe’s various transfer ports to adjust velocity and power for experimentation. I may not be remembering that exactly right, though.

  16. pestbgone,

    I took your advise. My brother-in-law had my bullet tank (a 2 foot long section of 2″ galv pipe that opened into a 20 gallon steel drum that was wrapped in Kevlar) that my brother-in-law and I had made for testing hand guns. So, i had to use a 5 gallon bucket full of water. I held my old pumper vertically about a foot from the water. There wasn’t that much of a difference between the point blank shots and the 20 footers from my pump rifle. I decided to try the springer and those pellets pretty much exploded. I guess that the power difference between my pump and my springer is just to great to test like this. Good concept though.

    And if your wondering about my bullet tank, I was given the specs for a home made one from a guy working in a crime lab while I was an intern with the sheriff’s department. I was working in building supply at the time and was able to get the tank and the pipe. My brother-in-law works for his father as a cabinet maker ad was able to get some armor grade Kevlar that they would use to make security cabinets. He was able to weld the pipe to the lid of the drum and away we went.

    When PBA pellets came out, I heard stories of them going through steal pellet traps. I made a wood pellet trap lined with 3/4″ thick ballistic grade Kevlar, 1/4″ of which is rated to stop all semi automatic hand gun loads. This trap has at least twice the target area of a traditional steal one, but only weighs 7 lbs.

    dimensions: 18×22.5×3.5″
    shooting area: 16.5×21″
    odd ball sizes due to the size of the Kevlar I could get.


  17. There is no reason the loading port on the Daisy 22sg has to be lower than the bore. The bolt doesn’t need the clearance. Maybe it could be filled with some kind of putty.

    That’s the drawback to the backwards pellet: they are hard to load. The skirt doesn’t want to easily enter a break open barrel sometimes.

  18. I’ve done this since the early 80’s. The first pellets I used were the old Crosman “flying ashcan” pellets loaded backwards. Sometimes, I’d re-round the dented skirts with a BB. If the pellets were .22 caliber and used in my Crosman 160, I’d sometimes stuff the BB in the skirt and make a version of the now produced “power point” pellets.

    I used these pellets in the Crosman 160 as well as the Crosman 700 and even in the 500 FPS Crosman 700, these things would complete turn inside out on impact with starlings or pigeons. Accuracy was only OK and poor bore obturation lead to lower velocity (later chrony testing showed), but they hit like a ton of bricks.

  19. Hey B.B.,

    I was wondering about the true diameter of airgun pellets because I have heard many things about the size variations. So could you tell me what the true size of a .22 air gun pellet is and the variations in diameter among different pellets? Thanks!

  20. Jack,

    There is no “true size” for an airgun pellet in the sense you imply. The size is the bore diameter of the guns, and the pellets have to fit.

    A .22 caliber airgun barrel is 0.218″ groove diameter and 0.216″ – 0.2165″ bore diameter.

    That said, they haven’t always adhered to those dimensions. So it is possible to find barrels with larger groove diameters.


  21. Hi!

    This is a very interesting topic…
    I have a breakbarrel (Whisper X), so its easy for me to load a pellet backwards.

    I'm from Portugal and here as I guess in many countries in Europe its hard to find any kind of pellets, only gamo pellets are abundant everywhere (at least in Portugal).
    So hollowpoint pellets are very hard to find, I also don't think they expand that much in flesh with an air rifle (with 8ft-lbf on impact)…

    Gamo have the pellet TS-10 which is suppose to be for field target, it looks to have a good BC, its 10grains and it have the same shape as the Gamo Pro Magnum with a longer skirt.

    For curiosity, we in Portugal are free to buy any air rifle (the gun needs a barrel with at least 30cm/11.8") without a need for licence, but they are limited to 24 joules (17.7 ft-lbf).
    (because 24J is the max power allowed to use in target field competitions, we also cannot hunt with air rifles)

    I did some small test with a 4.5mm/.177 cometa wadcutter pellet witch have a thin skirt.

    I used 2 mature pears (~4cm/1.5" large) and put a block of wood on its back to absove the pellet impact. The distance was ~10m/11yards

    Pellet normally loaded:
    – Nice hole
    – Normal accuracy
    – Big impact in the wood

    Pellet loaded backwards:
    – The pear was pulverized, all shred into pieces
    – Normal accuracy
    – Very small impact in the wood, the pellet didn't pierce the wood, and the pellet was fragmented.
    – Big impact sound, simillar to the sound of a supersonic PBA.

    Small conclusion of loading a pellet backwards:
    All (or almost) the energy of the small 4.5mm pellet will be delivered to the target, it might deliver even more energy that a 5.5mm/.22" pellet.
    It won't pierce much.
    The accuracy might be enough for close range or for mid range with another pellet.
    This huge damage is bad if you want to eat what you kill (rabbit)

    The normal expansion of a pellet is nice but the fragmentation and tumble of a pellet loaded backwards is better to kill with a body shot.
    Ignoring the accuracy, a fragil 4.5mm pellet might be better to kill that a 5.5mm one.

    If we could find a pellet that loaded backwards could have good accuracy… 😀

    Small calibre can be effective:
    The new firearm MP7 from H&K will use a small 4.6x30mm cartridge.
    But it will be a good armor piercing and it will also do big damage to flesh.
    If you read in:
    How the bullet can cause so much damage to flesh is because it will tumble in flesh, this is because the center of gravity its in the back of the bullet.

    If pellet makers could create a pellet with this center of gravity, we could have in 4.5mm/.177" high piercing with high impact.

    There is a interesting video in youtube that shows the impact of some pellets in real flesh.
    The pellet Gamo Hunter seems to be the winner here.

    I know that you B.B. had a ballistic test in soap in this blog, but if you could speer the time to also use some gamo pellets (which is more common in Europe), like TS-10, Pro magnum, Pro Match, Hunter and also use 2 .177 pellets loaded backwards, one with thin skirt and other with a more harder skirt, that could answer many questions.
    Also not forgetting some accuracy tests with pellets loaded backwards, would be good to use just a 8ft-lbs gun, that way it will be in the same conditions as a impact at 25-35yards of a 14-16ft-lbs .177 gun.

    I would love to see this kind of scientific test, as I think many many readers will also appreciate.

    Sorry for my bad english.

    Best regards from ZeChico, an Whisper X owner…

  22. ZeChico,

    Your idea is a good one. I will do a report on these two things:

    Accuracy of a couple Gamo pellets loaded the normal way, and accuracy of the same pellets loaded backwards.

    Penetration of those same pellets loaded normally and penetration for them loaded backwards.


  23. My 13 year old sister took the advice I gave her to heart a bit too well when we were doing some short range plinking with my CO2 rifle. I had been shooting with wadcutter (flathead) pellets and told her to load the flat part first, the next day I was using domed pellets and she loaded the flat (back) bit first, as I told her the previous day. They were reasonably (at best) accurate but what it has done to the barrel’s rifling I have no idea!

  24. Cooky,

    Never fear! The lead pellet will not harm your barrel wether shot base or nose first. Your comment was posted on a blog from 2007. B.B. writes sa daily blog where alot of pellet gunners trade info etc.

    Please join us at /blog/. Lots of good people there to answer questions, give and get advice. Looking fwd to seeeing you their.

    Mr B.

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