Are CB caps as good and accurate as pellets? Part 2
by B.B. Pelletier
We’re not sure which rifle Jakub is holding, but it looks like the Walther 1894 lever action rifle. We’ve asked him but did not receive a response prior to the blog going live.
There was a lot of interest in this subject when I posted the first report. Some of you have had experiences with CB caps and others hadn’t heard of them until now.
Just as a refresher, I’m testing the theory that you can shoot CB caps in your .22 rimfire and get results that are about as good as those of a good air rifle. I’m interested in accuracy, power, discharge noise and the cost of ammunition.
I selected several good .22 rimfires to test the CB caps, but for the air rifle I’m using only the AirForce Talon SS with a .22-caliber, 24-inch barrel. The reason is that this is not a shot-for-shot comparison, just a general one, and only a representative air rifle is needed. The Talon SS is very representative of what you can do for a relatively modest amount of money when you want to maximize performance.
I could test each round in each rifle, but that would take a long time. And, what value would the data have? So, I’ll tell you which rifle I used to test each cartridge and give the velocity spread for that one rifle, only.
I’m not going to bother reporting on the Talon SS performance, since it has adjustable power and varies widely with every pellet used. Just know that it can go from about 425 f.p.s. to about 970 f.p.s. with the 18.1-grain JSB Exact Jumbo dome. For this test, I’m shooting it at around 850 f.p.s. That delivers about 29.05 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
What do they look like?
I received a request from a blog reader to show the ammo, but I wanted to wait until I had the RWS rounds to show. They came in this week, so let’s take a look at what we have.
The CCI rounds appear similar to conventional .22 Short and .22 Long (not Long Rifle, because the bullets are shorter) rounds. If you didn’t know what they are, it would be easy to get confused.
Aguila rounds come in what appear to be conventional .22 Long brass cases, but their semi-pointed bullets set them apart. Both types — Colibri and Super Colibri — appear identical.
The RWS ammuntition is the one that really looks different. Both are cased in pure copper cases, with the only difference being the shape of the bullets.
From left to right: CCI CB Short, CCI CB Long, RWS CB cap, RWS BB cap, Aguila Super Colibri and Aguila Colibri.
And this is how they’re packaged.
CCI CB Long
The CCI CB Long has a Long/Long Rifle case with a 29-grain plain lead conical bullet. The velocity on the box says 710 f.p.s., which would generate 32.47 foot-pounds.
I tested this cartridge in the Remington model 521T and got an average velocity of 686.38 f.p.s., which is an energy of 30.34 foot-pounds. The spread for 10 shots went from 626 f.p.s. to 758 f.p.s., so a pretty broad spread of 132 f.p.s. That’s to be expected, because these cartridges are powered only by priming compound. And, priming is the most variable part of any cartridge — especially the rimfires that have the wet compound injected into the rim of the case, where it must dry in place. As we’ve discussed in the comments section under Part 1, some companies, especially Remington, are getting more and more careless in the priming of their rimfire cartridges. Sometimes, you have to extract a dud cartridge and turn it slightly so the firing pin can strike the rim at a different place, where, hopefully, there will be priming compound.
I found these CCI cartridges to be completely reliable in the Remington 521 as well as the Ruger 10/22, but the muzzle velocity was a large variable.
The CCI CB Long is quiet, but no more so than the Talon SS with the bloop tube silencer installed.
They come packed 100 to a plastic box and sell for $9.95. I found that price firm regardless of where I looked.
CCI CB Short
Like the CCI CB Long, the CB Short cartridge also launches a 29-grain plain lead bullet at an advertised 710 f.p.s. Of course, it’s loaded in a case that’s identical to the .22 Short case. Here we encounter an unavoidable variable of the test, because I didn’t want to shoot the Short cartridges in a rifle chambered for Long Rifle. Both the chamber and the rifling twist rate would be wrong.
I used the Winchester Winder Musket with a 28-inch barrel, compared to the 25-inch barrel of the Remington 521T. If there’s any slowing of the bullet in the barrel due to friction, we should see it with this rifle.
The Winder shot 10 CCI CB Shorts at an average 708.33 f.p.s. That works out to a muzzle energy of 32.32 foot-pounds. The velocity went from a low of 679 f.p.s to a high of 769 f.p.s., for a spread of 90 f.p.s. That result surprised me, as it was faster and more stable than the CB Longs had been in the rifle with the shorter barrel.
The sound of the CCI CB Short is very comparable to the discharge of the Talon SS as tested. It delivers slightly greater power than the CB Long, though that may just be the dynamics of the test. In reality, these two cartridges (the Long and the Short) may perform exactly the same.
These caps come packed 100 to a box and list for $9.95. That price is fairly standard, regardless of where you buy them. My thanks to CCI for providing 1,000 rounds for this test.
I was confused by the Aguila ammo because of what Mac had said to me. He said the Super Colibri is lower velocity and made specifically for use in handguns, while the Colibri was faster and made for rifles. The names of the two cartridges, however, made me think just the opposite, so I was very curious to see how things would turn out.
Colibris are a Long/Long Rifle case loaded with a semi-pointed plain lead bullet of 20-grain weight. I tested them in the Remington 521T rifle. They averaged 391 f.p.s., which means a muzzle energy of 6.79 foot-pounds. The velocity went from 365 f.p.s to 415 f.p.s., for a total spread of 50 f.p.s. And they were quiet.
In fact, Colibris were so quiet in the Remington 521T that I wondered if the gun had discharged at all. My shooting partner wondered the same thing. I even went so far as to check the barrel to see if the bullet might have gotten stuck. Of course, I was outdoors and I did have hearing protection on, which for once was not my fabulous Dillon electronic earmuffs that I forgot to bring, but a cheapie pair of sponge-rubber earplugs that come a dozen to a pack. So, I wasn’t hearing very well that day.
However, I also tested them at home and when I heard how utterly quiet they are I invited Edith into my office to witness the firing. These cartridges are quieter than a Diana model 27 discharging. They are not silent, as all the chat forums claim, but they’re the closest thing to it. Even my silenced 10/22 shooting standard-speed ammunition is much louder than this. Of course, they are also under seven foot-pounds at the muzzle.
This is obviously the cartridge intended for .22 handguns. Be careful when shooting them from rifles, as they could easily stock in the barrel.
Colibris came 50 per box, like .22 Long Rifle ammo. The list price for a box is $3.29, which seems extremely low, but the supplier, Natchez, even lists the velocity as 375 f.p.s., indicating that they know something about what they’re selling. Ammunition to Go has them for $6.95 per box, so there’s a lot of price variation. I found Colibris very difficult to locate, compared to Super Colibris that everyone seems to stock.
Aguila Super Colibri
Having tested the Colibris, I knew that the Super Colibris were going to be faster. They have the identical semi-pointed 20-grain bullet and the identical Long/Long Rifle case. Even the headstamp is the same for both cartridges, so you better keep them packed in the right box. Once they’re out, you can’t tell the difference.
And faster they are, averaging 615 f.p.s. in the Remington 521T. That works out to a muzzle energy of 16.8 foot-pounds.The velocity went from a low of 597 f.p.s to a high of 635 f.p.s. That’s a spread of just 38 feet per second, which approaches air rifle stability.
The Super Colibris seem just as loud as both Long and Short CCI CB caps, which just means it’s too close for me to call. They’re definitely much louder than the Colibris. This is obviously the rifle cartridge, although I see no reason why it wouldn’t also work well in handguns.
Super Colibris come 50 to a box and list from $3.19 to $4.99 per box. You have to be careful, as many of the retailers sell this item in bricks of 500 only and not by the package of 50.
RWS BB caps
RWS BB caps were tested next. I remember these from my youth in the 1960s, when I bought a box just because they looked so much like the ammo for the 4mm zimmerstutzens I wanted so badly. They also came in handy for testing old shot-out Saturday Night Specials with little danger to the shooter. I still have that box I probably purchased back in 1961; and when I find it, there will still be a few BB caps slowly oxidizing to death.
RWS USA was kind enough to send me three boxes of these BB caps for this test. All I’ve been able to do thus far is test the velocity. Now I have to take more license, because not only do I not own a Flobert long gun for testing these short rounds that are even shorter than a conventional .22 Short case, but I’m also going to shoot them in a .22 instead of the 6mm they’re designed for. It’s perfectly okay to do that because their soft lead ball conforms to the bore diameter with no problem. I checked with RWS USA before running the test, but I’ve also shot plenty of these rounds in multiple .22s down through the decades. So, it’s a little late to stop now.
The BB cap holds a perfectly round 6mm lead ball in a copper case. The ball weighs 15.8 grains. Surprise, surprise, as small as they are, these BB caps shoot just as fast as the CCI rounds. They make nearly the same discharge sound as a conventional .22 Short, being considerably louder than either of the other two brands of ammunition. I remember the sound from the past, so it came as no surprise, although in the quiet of my office it was very much like hearing a magnum spring rifle with a detonation.
Here are the conical bullet (left) and ball pulled from the two RWS cartridges. Notice the deep hollow tail in the conical bullet that allows it to weigh about the same as the ball. The conical bullet was deformed during pulling.
The velocity in the Remington 521T averaged 714 f.p.s., for a muzzle energy of 17.89 foot-pounds. The spread went from a low of 684 f.p.s. to a high of 749 f.p.s., so a total of 65 f.p.s.
These caps are sold 100 to a round box that looks like a pellet tin. The listed price is $30 per box, and I found street prices for a box of 100 ranging from $23.50 to $39 per box.
RWS CB caps
The RWS CB caps were the real wild card. I wasn’t even aware of their existence before starting the research for this article. RWS USA was kind enough to provide me with three boxes for this test.
The projectile is a pointed lead bullet that’s actually conical in shape, but with a deep hollow base that trims the weight back to 15.7 grains. Actually, because I weighed only a single projectile (removing them was difficult), I don’t doubt that RWS intended the weight to be identical with that of the BB cap ball.
The velocity, though, is much higher. The CB caps averaged 974 f.p.s. They’re the real speed demons of this test. Given the weight of the bullet, the muzzle energy is 33.08 foot-pounds, which is the most powerful of all six cartridges being tested. The spread went from a low of 933 f.p.s. to a high of 1003 f.p.s. and was done with the Remington 521T rifle. The total velocity spread was 70 f.p.s.
The sound was the loudest of all six cartridges tested. I would rate it as equal to the discharge of a standard speed .22 Short cartridge.
The price for a box of 100 ranged from $29.51 to $39.99.
I’d hoped to show you some targets today, but this report is already too long. I do have some targets and there are some very interesting results, but one more trip to the range will allow me to also test the RWS rounds at least once. The next report will be full of targets and accuracy observations.
Although it’s early for any conclusions, we know the pricing isn’t going to change that much. It appears that the Aguila rounds are priced much like regular .22 Long Rifle rounds, if a bit on the high side. CCI rounds carry a premium price but are still affordible for shooters who own vintage and even antique .22s that they still wish to shoot.
I hope this series continues to interest you. I know it departs from airguns, but from my vantage point the departure isn’t that great because shooters lump CB caps in with air rifles and .22 rimfires whenever they talk. I just thought it was time to record some actual results with this curious type of ammunition.