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Ammo Testing non-lead pellets: Part 2

Testing non-lead pellets: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This is a long-term test of non-lead pellets that began nearly a year ago. There’s a lot of pressure these days to abandon lead for projectiles and move to some other substance that’s not as toxic. The problem is that there isn’t any material as good as lead. Ammunition companies have been working on this project for decades, and they’ve yet to come up with a substance that can take the place of lead.

I don’t want to get into the discussion of the evils of lead in this report, but suffice to say that a lot of what’s being said about it is untrue. However, that’s not my concern here. I just want to discuss the feasibility of using non-lead projectiles in airguns and hold it to that.

So, I did a little test that I want to talk about today. I tested both lead pellets and lead-free pellets in the same gun at the same distances.

For this test, I used the .22-caliber Hatsan 95 combo breakbarrel that we recently found to be reasonably accurate. I shot the rifle at 10 meters and again at 25 yards; and doing that proved quite revealing. The open sights of the rifle were used for this test.

The best of the best
For this test, I wanted to use the best pellets. For the lead-free pellet, I chose the .22-caliber Beeman ECO FTS. For the lead pellet, I actually tested four different pellets, but settled on just one; and strangely enough, it was the same best pellet that was best in the last test I did with the Hatsan 95.

Before you yell, “Bias!” I know I should test other lead-free pellets in this rifle; but there aren’t that many to test. I do have some others, but in .177 caliber. So, I’ll have to test them next.

Start at 10 meters
I began this test at 10 meters and tried two lead pellets that I knew to be good in the Hatsan 95. The first of those was the heavyweight Beeman Kodiak. When I last v\tested the Hatsan with these pellets in Part 3 of the Hatsan test, 10 shots at 10 meters gave a group measuring 1.073 inches, thought 8 of those shots made a much smaller group that measured 0.529 inches between centers. This time, 10 Kodiaks went into a group measuring 0.834 inches. That’s in between the 8- and 10-shot groups made the last time.

Ten Beeman Kodiak pellets made this 0.834-inch group at 10 meters. Shot with a Hatsan 95.

Next, I tried the best pellet from the last test with the Hatsan, which was the JSB Exact Jumbo that weighs 15.9 grains. Ten of those went into a group that measures 0.514 inches between centers. That compares favorably to a 0.648-inch group last time.

Ten 15.9-grain JSB Exact Jumbo domes made this 0.514-inch group at 10 meters. It’s smaller, but in the same range as the last 10-meter group fired by the Hatsan 95, which was 0.648 inches.

The lead-free pellet
Next up was the Beeman ECO Field Target Special pellet, a 9.57-grain domed pellet that has no lead in it. Weighing less than 10 grains, this is extremely light for .22 caliber. So, the question is — Can it be accurate?

At 10 meters, this pellet turned in a 10-shot group that measures 0.704 inches between centers. That’s smaller than the Kodiak group but larger than the JSB group. And it’s a decent 10-meter group for an open-sighted air rifle of the power of the Hatsan 95.

This is a great group of 10 Beeman ECO FTS pellets. But 10 meters doesn’t tell much. We need to shoot farther to know if this pellet is accurate.

The real accuracy question
Here’s the real question. Ten meters tells us very little about the real accuracy of any pellet. Almost anything can be accurate at 10 meters, but not for very much farther. Real accuracy is the ability to hold a group together at twice the distance and more. To see that, we needed to back up. That’s what I did — backed up to 25 yards and shot again.

At this new distance, the lead-free pellet was again shot 10 times. The group it made this time measures 2.237 inches between centers. That’s a huge group — even when using open sights.

This is the group made by the Beeman ECO FTS pellets at 25 yards. Here we see the true nature of this lead-free pellet. It doesn’t stay together by flies apart as the distance increases.

As a control, a group is shot with the JSB Exact Jumbos. We know from the last test of the Hatsan 95 that this pellet grouped ten shots in 1.882 inches. This time, 10 went into a group that measured 1.728 inches between centers. Not only is that very consistent with that last test, it’s also significantly tighter than the group made by the lead-free pellets.

A 10-shot group measuring 1.728 inches was made by the JSB Exact domes at 25 yards.

Where does that leave us?
This test has many more cycles to run, but what it looks like at this point is lead-free pellets are not yet as accurate as lead pellets in the Hatsan 95. The first test done a year ago showed some surprising results, and there are many more tests yet to be conducted.

Here’s my take on the lead-free pellet issue at this juncture. They’re accurate enough for plinking, and in some guns they’re even more accurate than that; but to-date, I’ve not seen a lead-free pellet that could do as well as a good lead pellet. Since they cost about the same as premium lead pellets, my advice for now is to continue to use lead if you can.

I believe the pellet makers are working hard to perfect lead-free pellets, because they seem to be in our future. This is a topic I will watch and continue to test as new pellets become available.

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.

67 thoughts on “Testing non-lead pellets: Part 2”

  1. One problem is that current airguns are optimized for lead pellets. Their bore would certainly need a different twist rate to cope with lead-free ammunition.

  2. B.B. did you write this? I have been a solid reader for years now and you are always so meticulous. But I do not agree with your methods and the way you derive your conclusion at all today!

    This test has too many variables to say the pellets are the problem with the accuracy. This test only proves that FT green pellets in .22 do not group as well as other pellets made out of lead at extended ranges when shot from the hatsan 95.

    You can not conclude from this test that ALL non-lead pellets shot from ALL airguns deliver sub lead accuracy.

    Also there are two other tests you did which are contradictory to this conclusion. The first one of course being your last test with the FWB 150 which showed non-lead pellets to be surprisingly accurate.
    But do not also forget the test you did about pellet velocity versus accuracy, where you proved that harmonics is the main driver of accuracy in airguns.
    So it seems to me the best way to say anything about the accuracy of non-lead pellets is to take the harmonics of the airgun out of the equation.
    In the next episode of the non-lead pellets VS lead pellets test perhaps you could include more types of non-lead pellets and use your Whiscombe JW 75 to tune the harmonics.
    I know this is a lot of work but such a test would be much more conclusive.

    Best regards,
    Carel from the Netherlands

    • How would you take the harmonics out of an airgun for a test? They are intrinsic to shooting. If the solution is to use only the Whiscombe, you are just measuring the harmonics of the Whiscombe.


      • The Whistcombe comes with a harmonic tuner so BB will be able to find the harmonic sweet spot for each pellet. This way you can weigh them against each other on more equal terms because harmonics can be tuned to be optimal for each specific pellet. Now it could just be harmonics for this rifle suits the lead pellets better. Not saying anything about their intrinsic accuracy at all.

  3. B.B.,
    Maybe I missed something but aren’t there better, more proven accuracy-wise, airguns? Hatsan would not have been my first choice for testing the accuracy of hardly anything.

  4. B.B.

    I am not quite sure what to say about today’s subject.

    Springers are so squirrely and unpredictable about different pellets……

    Perhaps a test between lead and pot metal pellets of the same kind may have had a bit more relevance. Like lead vs. non lead FTS and lead vs. non lead Kodiaks. Still, springers are unpredictable about the slightest differences between pellets.

    I take it that you were shooting indoors again. What may have been more relevant would be to take it outdoors also in some wind for a comparison. Sort of a calm air vs. a real life test to see which pellets fall apart worse. Then you have to wait for the right day for the outdoor test.
    If I have two or three pellets that shoot about equally well under the best conditions, then I look for which one does the best under more typical conditions.


  5. Everyone,

    There have only been a few comment thus far, but you have told me what In needed to know.

    Yes, one test like this doesn’t prove much. That was what I referred to when I said there would be more tests coming.

    As for whether the Hatsan 95 is appropriate to test this lead-free pellet, who knows. At this point all we know is it doesn’t seem to like it.

    What I was hoping you would comment on was the extreme spread when I went from 10 meters to 25 yards. The non-lead pellet opened up considerably faster than the lead pellet.

    Edith suggests a test with the Whiscombe. I think I will add the Talon SS, since it is hands-down the most accurate .22 I own for long-range work.

    Bt is that good enough? What am I missing?


    • B.B.,

      Since you asked, here’s my two cents.

      Although I don’t like it, I think lead free pellets will be forced upon us more and more. Lots of airgun hunters in California can only use lead free pellets. I also read about airgun ranges that only allow lead free pellets. Suspect this trend will grow in the future. For these reasons your report on lead free pellets is very important.

      Seems that there are two catagories of shooters that MUST use lead free pellets. Indoor range shooters (10 meter primarily) and hunters. For these two catagories of shooters I like your idea of using two guns for testing lead free pellets. I think your talon is a good test bed for those hunters that are required or will be required to use lead free pellets. Rather than the Whiscombe I would humbly suggest the FWB 300 or FWB150 as a better test bed for those indoor shooters that must use lead free pellets.

      Last suggestion is to include the baracuda green pellets in your talon testing. From what I read, these seem to be the gold standard of accuracy for a long range lead free pellet.


        • Hope that these light weight lead free pellets don’t cause piston slam in your R8.

          Can someone tell me what these lead free pellets are made out of? Pot metal? Aluminum? Combination? Anyone know what the long term effect on the rifling of a mid-high power airgun will be shooting these hard pellets?


          • Kevin,

            Oddly enough, the rifle was as quiet with the non-lead pellet as with the heavyweights. And just the last test I mentioned that it was louder with lightweight lead pellets.

            These pellets appear to be made of a zinc alloy, which puts them in the pot-metal class. I suppose there are several alloys for pellets.


  6. I’m sure that B.B. did not intend for this one article to be the final word on non-lead pellets.

    Lead-free pellets are the same as lead pellets in one respect – each airgun will do well with some and poorly with others. I have tried one particular non-lead pellet that grouped poorly in every airgun I tested. Another one was the most accurate pellet at 10 meters in a Haenel 303 and even did well at 25 yards in an R1 despite starting at over 1000 fps. You just have to test, test, test.

    I can echo B.B.’s results with the FTS Eco pellet. In a .22 Diana 25 they do as well as Superdomes at 10 meters; at 25 yards the Eco’s groups were larger. Maybe a trend, maybe not.

    Paul in Liberty County

  7. BB,

    I’ll weigh in with the thought that this test might be best done with a PCP with adjustable power, preferably at speeds that make sense for the lighter pellets. Obviously any gun may like or dislike the pellets on its own basis, but I think it best to give the pellets the best possible chance of “generic” success.

    I included a tin of .22 Baracuda Green pellets in a recent order from PA to try in my Marauder. All I have had time for since I got them was one ten shot group that I shot rested at 20 yards, and they show some promise – nine of the ten went into about 0.4” ctc, and one was an uncalled flyer that opened it up to about 0.75” or so. This gun will put all ten JSB 18.1s in a group under 0.25” at that distance, so 0.4” is not bad. But here is the thing – the gun is set for 32 foot pounds with those JSBs, so these light pellets were probably shooting at almost 1000 fps. I imagine they could do a lot better if I slow them down to a more reasonable speed.

    I don’t have time to get into the changes now, and I’m not sure when I will have the time, but that quick look showed that they do have some promise. I don’t have a real reason to switch over from lead, and given the cost difference I am sure not in a hurry to change, but it is nice to know that if I had to shoot them for any reason, they can probably shoot well enough – least at close range so far.

    Alan in MI

    • I’ll weigh in with the thought that this test might be best done with a PCP with adjustable power, preferably at speeds that make sense for the lighter pellets. Obviously any gun may like or dislike the pellets on its own basis, but I think it best to give the pellets the best possible chance of “generic” success.

      Reducing speed (since I’m presuming you mean that the non-lead pellets, being lighter, will tend toward obscene velocity) also means reducing muzzle energy.

      This may be okay for plinkers and paper targets, but if non-lead is ever to be viable for small game hunting one will need to be able to produce comparable muzzle energies (at the least — since the ballistic coefficient likely negates any chance of similar down-range retained energy). Granted, some of the organizations lobbying for the non-lead approach do have the ultimate goal of driving out the hunting industry (by cost of the substitute, if not by unavailability of viable ammo).

      And a general comment regarding the power-plant being used in the test.

      Experience (with lead) has shown that spring guns tend to be more efficient at the lower pellet weights, whereas PCPs are more efficient on the higher weight pellets. Restricting the test to just one power-plant would not be fair, in my mind. {I’d really want to see not only a spring and PCP rifle, but — at 5 & 15m — CO2 and single-pump pistols; the pistols probably need to be reserved for .177 since they’re more likely to be target guns}

      • A true, complete test would require many power plants and many guns – I was going in the spirit of a quick assessment on whether or not lead free pellets have merit, and easily adjusting velocity to find their sweet spot came to mind. But I do not disagree on your points on powerplants, and would love to see more tested – someday I’ll test the Barcuda Greens in my Quest 800 and 1322, but as I said I don’t have much tme now.

        Sadly, I see no viable path for lead-free versions of traditional pellets to be able to even begin to come close to the energy that lead can deliver. The Baracuda Green .22 cal pellet appears to be dimensionally the same as the regular Baracuda pellet (which is physically on the large size as .22 pellets go), but has only 60% of the mass. Unless something changes aerodynamically to allow stable flight in and above the transonic region, the current crop of lead free pellets is doomed to provide about that relative level of energy, as compared to lead.

        Given the wasp waist design, I am sure that they will do better for me at lower velocities than they did at almost 1000 fps – it is not that I want less energy, but I think it will be required to shoot these well at a distance.

      • Wulfaed,

        That is kinda why I tested them with the Hatsan 95. I thought it was a real-world test because a hunter might try to use them.

        I can see that this issue is much larger than I envisioned, and I need to expand my testing parameters. Kevin’s thought that there are two groups who use them — hunters and target shooters — is good food for thought.


    • I agree with Alan in MI. PCP’s remove all of the quirkie characteristics of springer’s. Springers introduce a wide range of side-effects that speak MUCH louder than the pellet itself. Also, since I would never think accuracy when considering a Hatsan, that seems like a poor choice. If I were to go with a springer for accuracy test’s I’d much rather see a TX-200, or some other truly accurate rifle. Anything less will only mask the true performance of a pellet.

      • Yeah but then the package would have to state USE ONLY IN PCP for best accuracy.Silly as that is there are non lead pellets that informs the buyer (recommended for springer ) they are packaged in cardbord box marked SN1 SN2.

        • Chris,

          They would not need to be labeled “Use only in PCPs” anymore than other pellets. The reality is that almost every pellet could be labeled “For best results, use in PCPs”, which is basically the point that Victor and I were trying to make.

          In truth, SSPs and MSPs are similar in that regard too – as much fun as springers can be, pneumatic powerplants simply have better inherent accuracy due to the physics. We simply were suggesting something that would best show the ultimate capability of lead free ammo – and if it falls short of lead, then at least we all know that going in.

          Alan in Mi

  8. B.B.,
    Way back when you first wrote about lead-free pellets, where I thought things were going was with respect to target shooting, because in that realm accuracy is everything. Question is, can ANY lead-free pellet qualify as target ammo? The acceptance of things like junior marksmanship programs can be hindered by concerns about health issues related to the use of lead pellets, especially in places like CA. Is there no option to lead? I’d be happy to know of just one brand or type of lead-free pellet that is at a minimum worth practicing with.

    • Victor,

      Well that is exactly what this is all about — accuracy. And as of this time I haven’t seen anything near what it needs to be.

      I refuse to recommend a “training” pellet that is cheaper and therefore a little less accurate than the best. Shooting is about accuracy. Anything less is a waste of time and money.

      If people want to just save money they should all cut slots in their heads to accept copins!


      • B.B.,

        From a practical standpoint I beg to differ regarding accuracy requirements, at least to a certain extent. I know that if I take 99% of kids between the ages of say 10 to 15 years old that it would be difficult to tell the difference between a high-end target pellet versus something with “decent” accuracy when shooting offhand. Most juniors have difficulty holding a discernable group. When a youngster can clearly hold a group that is close enough to the 10 ring, then I would say that it matters a great deal that they only use “the best”.

        I agree with you IF we were talking about benchrest or prone shooting, or an adult with all the modern-day ultra stiff and ultra binding clothing that’s now allowed in competition. But junior shooting offhand is an entirely different matter, I think.


        • Victor,

          Now I must disagree. I have seen kids under the age of 11 on a local team that could tell the difference between average and great pellets. And I remember when I was a kid, shooting Winchester 52s. I could tell the difference, though in those days, we had good ammo all the time, because the NRA provided it.

          Never train with less than the best, unless there is a compelling reason. Yes, sporter-class airguns are less accurate than precision class guns. But don’t hamstrung them further with average pellets.


          • Gotta agree wholeheartedly with b.b. on this one…and I shoot regularly with an 8 and 11 year old.
            Their Red Ryders have sat unused now for over a year because once they got the pellet rifles they just weren’t happy with 4″ groups (at 30′) when they knew they’re pellet rifles would give 1.5″ groups.
            And my experience on the rimfire range is the same. They shoot their new Marlins at 100m (110yds). They’re getting 4″ groups..not bad for an 8 year old. I’ve mentioned a couple of times that they could get better groups at 50 yds but they have both declined…both of them saying that it is too easy. The 11 year old actually stated that he doesn’t feel he is being tested at 50yds.
            I know for a fact that if I said we could save money by buying a cheaper pellet/.22LR and shoot more…but that it wouldn’t be as accurate that neither one would be happy.
            Now there may be some out there who wouldn’t care…but I’m of the thinking that if anything is worth doing it’s worth doing well. That’s why my ‘practice’ pellets are RWS Meisterkugeln (R-10 when I enter a match). As good as they are for the price, I only use Hobby’s in my action pistols.
            Personally I can’t see the point of spending the time and effort to only get ‘pretty good’ groups when I know I can do better.
            Anyhoo…however, the main thrust of my response is to not give to little credits to kids…all the young shooters I know are much more pleased when they shoot well.

          • B.B.,

            But the heart of my question is whether there are non-lead pellets that are better than “average”? I think there’s a miscommunication here on my part. The term “average” can be relative. Also, I know very well what a junior can do. I’ve shot against every top junior shooter during my competition days. No shooter cleaned offhand, and very few of us could clean kneeling. I won my first prone state championship when I was 15 years old only dropping 2 points for the entire match (one shot a clear choke at 50 yards and another at 100 yards because of wind – I cleaned 50 meters and the Dewar). Anyways, regarding “average”. When I first started shooting competitively I used Remington target ammo, while “the real” competitors used Eley Red or Eley Black. I used a Remington target rifle. I was not allowed to move up to an Anschutz until I could clean a match at 50 yards (that’s 40 shots). Proving that my “average” target rifle shooting “average” target ammo could do the job, I earned my first Anschutz. I’m sure that my equipment and ammo were barely able to eek out a match at that level (shots barely hanging around the ten right), but they did.

            If I were starting a junior marksmanship program, I’d do the same with all of my shooters (i.e., they’d have to earn their next gun). The difference between the really good stuff (equipment and ammo) and the “average” stuff would be tight X’s versus a pattern around the 10 ring. Again, this is MY personal experience. However when I first started, I was still shooting 8’s and probably even 7’s. My relatively low-cost, lower-end, equipment and ammo were able to establish my potential. Once I earned something better there was no turning back. Sure, I would never handicap a good shooter with inferior anything, but from the start, they’d have to prove themselves. Add offhand shooting, as in the air-rifle competition that I did decades ago (these days it can be 3-position), and we’re talking barely holding the 9 ring. Realistically, except for the stronger, more mature juniors, young shooters are still hitting 7’s, 6’s, and even 5’s in the offhand position.

            So can any non-lead pellet consistently hit the 10 ring at 10 meters? ANY non-lead pellet at all?


      • Also, for accuracy test’s, such as this, I would refuse to use anything but the best rifle (at least a better class than springer’s). For sure a Hatsan springer would never qualify as a test platform. With such an inferior test platform it’s near impossible to learn anything about the pellets true potential, and that’s what I thought we were trying to determine here. As I mentioned elsewhere here, a TX-200 would be a better choice.

        Maybe the best test platforms would be something like a Challenger or an Edge. The Talon would also be good.

        • I think the hatsan 95 is good as any rifle BB is not comparing guns. AS long as BB dont use aTX200 to shoot lead pellets and non lead in the 95 and tell us that lead grouped better or vise versa

  9. Since there’s all this talk about the higher velocity of lead free pellets is there a reason why they can’t make them heavier? If the pellet was as heavy as lead pellet it would have the same energy on impact no? Plus it wouldn’t go above the sonic barrier so easily am I wrong?
    Making them longer would cause loading problems in repeaters but isn’t there another way, a better alloy maybe?
    I’m not asking for a new pellet to test here just wondering why it hasn’t been done.

    Taking about velocitys, air is supposed to have a maximum speed of 1650fps so how about that guy shooting the 1.4gr sabot of a non-lead pellet? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jxT8y8-9j8


    • J-F,
      I think you make a very good point about making them as heavy as lead pellets. Unfortunately, it appears that lead free pellets are made lighter specifically so that higher velocities can be claimed. In other words, lead free pellets are purely a gimmick. What you’re asking for, and am to, is a real product that one would actually want to use.

      • Foremost, the velocity gimmick. Secondary, the “environmentally friendly” gimmick.
        Two gimmicks at once. OOPS… let’s throw in words like “gold” and “platinum”. Looking like three gimmicks at once. Look at the reviews closely….see what really impresses those who shoot non-lead.


        • That’s another one I’m really not getting… how can dumping other metal and even plastic be better than lead? I know lead is poisonous in large quantities but isn’t dumping other alloys just as dangerous over time? How about those pellets with the plastic sabot? The plastic part will remain where it was shot for the next what, 500 years? How’s that supposed to be better for the environment?


          • Depends on how toxic the alloy is. I doubt if plastic really hurts anything unless there is a choking or smothering problem for something that tries to eat it or gets tangled in it. Otherwise it is just unsightly and takes up space.

            The problem with lead “substitutes” is weight, hardness, toxicity, and formability….if that’s the right word.

            Forgot a fourth gimmick….
            You can pig hunt with non-lead…as long as you use a Gamo.


      • Victor,

        It would be interesting to see “non lead pellet consumer” statistics.

        I’m guessing that a very small percentage of non lead pellet buyers pay the premium for increased velocity (the “gimmick”). I’m guessing the majority of the buyers buy non lead pellets because they think or someone else thinks they’re less of a health risk than lead pellets. I’ve read that many public and private hunting grounds have prohibited the use of lead pellets. I’ve also read that some indoor ranges have prohibited the use of lead pellets. Gimmick or not, whether accuracy suffers or not some airgunners don’t have a choice but to buy non lead pellets.


        • Kevin,

          I agree with you on each of your statements. And, yes, lead pellets are an issue with indoor ranges, especially when shot at really high velocities because of how they practically disintegrate, spraying lead powder everywhere. Another concern is the fact that places like California are getting more and more strict about the use of lead for projectiles. The range where I grew up was shutdown because of concerns regarding lead poison. I’m still trying to convince them to keep an airgun program. I was just hoping that there would be some lead-free pellet out there that was worth considering.


          • Victor,

            Seems that were just at the beginning of an extensive non lead pellet test so I guess we’ll see if there’s a lead free pellet out there worth considering.


              • B.B.,

                There are a lot of airgunners hoping the same thing. BTW, for ease of folks doing a current or future search for this article do you think the title could be “Testing non-lead/lead free pellets”? I did a search on another forum and “lead free pellets” turned up twice as many hits as “non lead pellets” did.

                I’m not fearful of lead pellets, don’t believe they pose great harm and hope I’m not forced to shoot lead free pellets anytime soon. Too late for other airgunners though. I put lead free pellets in the same catagory as non-alcoholic beer and decaffeinated coffee. Hope you prove my unwarranted skepticism about the accuracy of lead free pellets wrong.


          • I have only been to one indoor firing range in my life (it was a facility for cops and my mom worked at the police station, so I got to go there a few times and once they found out I likde guns they kept me busy everytime I went there) and since I already liked guns I asked a lot of question and I was told they had a state of the art ventilation and filtration system for preventing lead dust from contamining the people at the range as well as from going back into the atmosphere, so I assumed all indoor ranges were like that and that other than picking up the lead afterwards it was pretty safe for the environement…


            • J-F,

              You just struck a nerve with me.

              Yes, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) fairly recently stuck their noses into indoor gun ranges and created lots of regulations. I think it was in 2009 that NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) published their report on indoor gun ranges. The most significant/costly regulations to come from these fine folks was air filtration and air exchange.

              I first started going to the Green Mountain shooting range in Lakewood, Colorado in the late 1960’s. It’s changed hands several times since then and is now called BluCore. Several years ago the owners had to install a new filtration and air exchange system to meet current regulations. Cost around $500,000 (half a million dollars). Range fees tripled.

              Here’s the funny part. Regs dictate a standard that measures lead in the area in Micrograms. Where do their safe standards come from? The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). What studies does the CDC use to determine safe levels of lead? NONE. I found this out years ago when EPA was talking about condemning the entire town of Leadville, Colorado for high lead levels during their hearings.

              Regulatory agencies at their best trying to justify their existence.


              • Well my story dates a bit less than 20 years so it’s been like that for a while here, it could have been a Canadian, provincial or municipal regulation, I didn’t ask about that part… It could also have been a union request for it’s members since this was a police only range?


    • I don’t think depleted uranium alloys would be approved…

      Many (all?) of the options for non-lead pellets involve the use of less-dense materials. That means that a pellet of the same dimensional measurements WILL be lighter. (Especially those plastic sabot with steel BB rounds)

      Making the same mass will require a longer pellet, which will have different ballistic behavior — and may not fit any magazine fed repeater designs (heck, pointed lead pellets are too long for the magazine of my CP99).

  10. Dynamic pellets by Promethius should be included in non lead pellet tests. I myself have not used them, But I’ve read some good reviews online (lame, I know) They are available in .177 .20 and .22 with weights that are kind of consistent for caliber, as in: not a lightweight. The lightest .22 is sort of light at 12.85 grains. But the heaviest is 17 grains.
    I believe it was the yellow forum (but I may be wrong) a guy was getting good results from a marauder air pistol and promethius pellets.

    • Jonnie,

      I tested Promethius pellets extensively back in the 1990s and they never lived up to their claims. But I know they haven’t remained static. So maybe it’s time to test them again. Like BKL, things do change over time.


  11. Isn’t gold very soft and heavy? Those are the key features that make lead good for projectiles right? 🙂 But this would be a little expensive . . . And as another alternative to lead, I don’t know if anyone has more information on bullets full of powder that they are advertising on Cheaper Than Dirt. The idea is that the spinning of the bullet distributes the powder with perfect symmetry to make the bullet more aerodynamic. Also as added benefits, when it hits, all the energy goes into the target, and there is no danger of rebound from the target back to the shooter. But here expense would be a concern too.

    Desertdweller, no doubt crocodiles got some Japanese on Guadalcanal and Americans too although I would definitely put my money on the side of the modern weapons rather than on the crocodiles. But the escape by swimming from the Marine riflemen did not work either.


    • Matt,

      I read an account that the Japanese troops objected to crossing the river after several of them had been killed by crocs. These same troops were willing to sacrifice themselves attacking the Americans, but being eaten alive was another matter. I assume an application of modern weapons took care of the problem.

      This episode stands out for me because of the Japanese’ reputation for fearlessly following orders, no matter what. Apparently, even this has its limits.


  12. Hmmmm,

    BB, you may have unintentionally introduced another variable here. The hold may need to change with a spring piston rifle based on the pellet being shot. I have some time on my hands. I’m going to take perhaps my FWB 124 and shoot one of the lighter pellets I have and see if I can get them to shoot as accurately as JSB’s, which are the most accurate in that FWB. I don’t have any non-lead pellets to play with here.

    Fred DPRoNJ

  13. Just to toss my 2 cents, I’ve used skenco polymatch pellets quite extensively and they aint worth beans. They tumble in midair and veer in random directions, even with no breeze.

    Plus being pricey, like all/most lead-free shot.

    Nothing compares to lead. Unfortunately, it seems we are being pushed away from lead by unsound laws against its use.

  14. Hello folks. I just wanted to put out a reason or two in defence of B.B. using the Hatsan as the test rifle. I know the test is between lead and non lead pellets, however there are some owners of the less accurate guns. In fact, I would say they are in the majority. As I see it, if the Hatsan shoots a 2 inch group at 25 meters with lead, and a 4 inch group at the same distance with non lead ( my numbers ), it tells us that these two types of pellets are not equal. If the TX200’s groups were 1/2in. and 2 in. respectively, we have the same information. It’s not the size of a group, but the difference in size. At least this is how I see it.
    Now I have to get my tax payment down to City Hall. Great blog and debate today.
    Caio Titus

    • Titus Groan,

      Thanks for the info. I believe that the reason for my debate with B.B. and others regarding the use of non-lead versus lead pellets has to do with the fact that I have absolutely no experience or hard numbers regarding their accuracy or inaccuracy. With the right air-rifle I expect that a fairly wide number of match grade pellets can hit the ten-ring at 10 meters probably every time. Maybe not all pinwheels (although some might perform to that level), but good enough to provide solid evidence that the shooter is doing things right. What I think is definitely NOT clear about my point is that I would never accept ammo (leaded or not) that can’t hit the ten ring almost every time.

      Based on my experience with my own air-rifles, I know that I can get pretty good performance from even cheap pellets like Crosman Premiers. In fact, my Gamo CF-X can shoot damn near single pellet hole size 10 shot groups at 10 meters. I never would have expected that. So the question that we all have is how well can a (any) non-lead pellet perform? I’d like to see a test that approaches as close to the theoretical limit as possible. Since we all seem to assume that non-lead pellets are nowhere near as accurate as leaded, then we’ll never know if the test platform is itself inferior.


  15. Very interesting blog on lead verses non lead 22cal pellets. personally I live in California and tried some non lead 22 cal pellets, The H&N Baracuda Green’s are my favorites(12.65gr). I have a Bam B21(beast) with a Jim Macardi Diana 460 spring, guides and seal. Non lead or lead, one shot one kill at ranges of 40yd to 120 yd(ground rats) average 70yds. I also have a Diana 34P in 22cal less power but pretty much the same results. They both have 3 – 12 40 Barska mildot AO scopes and get shot a lot(daily).
    I also have Dynamic PCP 2 22cal 14.5 gr non lead which are accurate but the H&N’s are semi point configuration and I prefer them for long shots (50yds plus). The H&N’s will almost stack at 80+/- yds.
    When I shoot less than 25yds I use a pistol.
    Just a shooter’s account of shooting nonlead pellets.

  16. There is still much to learn about lead-free pellets since it is just new to the market. Surprisingly though, it did fare well when compared to lead pellets. Goes to show that lead is not a main factor for accurate shooting.

  17. I’m just getting into BB/pellet air guns (BB guns, Air Rifles, etc.). Can’t decide what gun to get nor what ammo is ideal. Is the best option to go with a gun made by a manufacturer who also makes ammo for it?

    • Jared,

      Welcome to the blog.

      We can help point you in the right direction, but we need to know a few things about you first. What do you want to do with whatever airgun you get?

      Do you want to hit very small targets at long range (quarters at 50 yards?) or are you more interested in shooting fast, with less regard for pinpoint accuracy?

      Do you want a handgun or a rifle first? The answer will depend on how you answered the first question.

      Do you want a gun that looks like a firearm, or doesn’t that matter?

      Where will you be shooting the most? Indoors, in the back yard, on public land?

      What experience do you have with firearms? Have you been trained in safety and safe handling practices?

      If you can answer a few of these things, I think we can help you find the airgun that will work best.


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