Sorting pellets and what to expect
by B.B. Pelletier
We’ve got a guest blog today. FredProNJ, also known as CycleAlleyRiders, has been sorting and weighing pellets to see if he could detect a difference in accuracy among the different groups.
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Take it away, Fred!
by Fred — People’s Republik of NJ
As my education in airguns progressed from total ignorance to semi-literacy, the last thing that occurred to me was that sorting pellets would make a significant difference in accuracy, be it target practice or hunting. I was under the impression that after you tried as many types of pellets as possible to see what worked best in your rifle or pistol, you were done. Weren’t you? As I learned on this blog, the answer is absolutely not. It’s vital to weigh and sort your pellets if you hope to be competitive in any type of airgun competition. Just ask Wayne Burns or the Apelles’ — all serious shooters who occasionally make comments on this blog. While B.B. was in the hospital, one of the things he asked of the blog readers was to weigh and sort their pellets, shoot the different groups and report the results on this blog.
Since I had a significant number of RWS Superpoint Extra pellets in my collection, I decided to use them. I’ve found other pellets to be more accurate in my RWS rifles, but I felt everything was relative and the increased or reduced size of my groupings might be more dramatic with a so-so pellet.
My scale was an inexpensive Frankford Arsenal digital scale that costs less than $20. These scales are normally used by reloaders and can be found at any well-stocked sporting goods store that caters to reloaders.
While the pellet tin advertises a weight of 14.3 grains, I found pellets varying from 14.0 to 14.7 grains. The majority of the pellets weighed 14.3 on my scale, and 10 were set aside. I also randomly picked 20 pellets; 10 of them were marked with a Sharpie where the seam was left from the dies on the pellet body. The test was to shoot 10 randomly picked pellets, the 10 weighed pellets and then the 10 pellets with the orientation mark loaded into the rifle’s port the same way.
I planned to do my shooting with an RWS 46 in .22 cal. This is a medium-powered underlever spring-piston rifle and was the first one I bought. My chronograph showed this rifle would shoot the 14.3-gr. pellet 643 fps and achieve an energy of around 13 ft-lbs. The range first used was my basement range, which allowed me a 29 ft from muzzle to target. The rifle was rested on my palm, and my elbow rested on a rolled up blanket.
With unsorted pellets, I achieved a group of .52 inches. The pellets sorted by weight gave me a slightly smaller group of .495 inches, while the pellets sorted by orientation achieved a group of .561 inches. These numbers are all full measurements, not center-to-center figures. As the pellet head for an RWS Superpoint Extra measures .212 inches, purists can just subtract this from the group numbers for center-to-center figures.
I felt these results were not too conclusive, so a longer range was needed to bring out any major differences, and I made plans to head for the local municipal pistol range. There, I would have a range of 35 yards. Again, I sorted pellets by weight, but this time I set aside 20 pellets weighing 14.3 gr. and half were marked with the Sharpie where the seam was visible. I hoped that any difference in groupings between the sorted pellets that were inserted into the rifle port randomly and those inserted the same way every time, would show a difference. I also changed my shooting technique at the pistol range. I sat in a chair, the rifle stock lay on my open hand, which was resting on a rolled up blanket.
The unsorted pellets produced a group of 2.25 inches. Next, a bit of controversy as I ignored two pellet holes in my sorted, unoriented group. I moved just as I fired these two pellets, putting one outside the bull at 11 o’clock and one at 3 o’clock, so this group has only 8 pellets. My group was a much-improved 1.41 inches. If I included the two pellets that I fired as I flinched, the group would 2.15 inches. Finally, the sorted and oriented pellets produced a group of 1.84 inches, just .40 inches larger than the unoriented but sorted group. All 10 pellets were counted in this group.
Keeping in mind that we’re comparing a group of 8 pellets to 10 pellets, this alone could account for the size difference. When I next have the time, I’ll reshoot this portion of the test to see what, if any, difference is obtained between sorted and oriented vs. nonoriented pellets. Personally, I didn’t see any significant differences from the first test (.56 inches vs. .52 inches/random vs. random but oriented pellets).
Weighing pellets produced a group almost .50 inches smaller than unsorted, enough of a difference to make up a number of positions in field target competition. In addition, that long-range head shot you’re taking at that tree rat will actually be on target. It’s very discouraging to watch the squirrel drop his head in a flinch reaction as the pellet passes harmlessly above him and then take off like a squirrel running for his life…which he is. Don’t ask me how I know this.