The great pellet comparison test: Part 1
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• A big question
• Discount stores sell the most pellets
• Are bargain pellets any good?
• The premium brands
• The test
• The new test
• The first test
• Bottom line
A big question
Today I’ll begin a test I’ve wanted to do for many years. I’ve been putting it off for various reasons, but no longer. When I was at the Pyramyd Air Cup a couple weeks ago, I spoke to a man by the name of William Schooley, and we got on the subject of pellets. Specifically — are the pellets sold at discount stores and sporting goods chain stores as good as the premium pellets that I use in all my testing? I also use these same premium pellets for my general shooting.
But I don’t really do much general shooting. I haven’t for over a decade. I shoot airguns 7 days a week, and the only time I’m not using premium pellets is when I just want to feel how a certain gun shoots. So, for that purpose, alone, I load something I would never shoot at a target or a game animal, and shoot it into a pellet trap that’s about one foot away. That happens several times a day, almost every day of the week.
The rest of the time I have to get results that can be reported — results I can depend on. For that, I use pellets with a pedigree. But, is that necessary?
In truth, don’t most people buy their pellets at the big box (discount) store? And don’t those pellets work well? That is what this test will explore.
Discount stores sell the most pellets
Undoubtedly, the answer is yes to people buying pellets at discount and sporting goods stores. That’s where they buy ammunition for their firearms, too. If something isn’t there, they don’t buy it. This is easily proven by examining the amount of pellets shipped to these sources. I’ve been told by both Crosman and Daisy employees that these are the places where most of their pellets are shipped.
Pyramyd Air is a large airgun retailer that sells a lot of pellets, but compared to the big chain sporting goods and discount stores that exist in the tens of thousands around the country, the volume of pellets Pyramyd sells is small. Without question most people buy their pellets at discount stores and sporting goods chains.
Are bargain pellets any good?
Then, the question becomes: Are those bargain pellets any good? We know that Pyramyd Air carries many times more brands and types of pellets than any of these large sources. The biggest of them only stocks a handful of pellet types from three or four manufacturers, while Pyramyd Air carries hundreds of types of pellets in all 4 smallbore calibers from 17 different manufacturers.
The premium brands
I can name the manufacturers whose pellets are premium: JSB, Crosman (includes certain pellets branded Benjamin), H&N, Beeman, RWS, Air Arms and Predator International are the only manufacturers of what I would call premium pellets sold by Pyramyd Air. The discount stores and sporting goods chains carry only Crosman pellets, as a rule, and none of the types of pellets they carry are the ones I’m calling premium.
The choice is clear — shop online to get premium pellets, and shop at discount stores and sporting goods stores to get bargain pellets. Brick-and-mortar gun stores lie in between, because they can stock whatever the owners decide will sell.
My original idea was to use one moderately powered spring gun for this test and shoot both bargain pellets and premium pellets in that gun to see which ones did the best. And, is the difference in accuracy, if there is one, worth spending the additional money and effort to get the better pellets? Premium pellets can cost 3-4 times as much as bargain pellets.
I thought I would use my Beeman R8 Tyrolean for this test. I do that because the R8 is a proven lower-power gun that has delivered spectacular results in past tests, and also because I want another excuse to shoot it again!
My Beeman R8 Tyrolean has proven itself as an accurate, lower-power spring rifle over the past few years.
Next, I planned to conduct the same test with a powerful spring rifle. I could have selected a TX200 Mark III for this test; but since many people don’t spend that much on a gun, I decided to use the RWS Diana 34P, instead. That’s why I started a series with it a couple weeks ago.
You can argue that my test is slanted or imperfect because of my choice of airguns; and I can’t really defend my choices, but I do believe that I have selected 2 air rifles that represent low and high power very well. Both are accurate, because life is too short to fool around with inaccurate guns.
There’s always something else that can be done. To those who would suggest doing it, I say — join me in this test and do it your way. I’ll publish your results, as long as you adhere to our guest blogger guidelines and the test structure I disclose.
The new test
This is where William Schooley comes in; because after I explained my idea to him, he asked me if I could include 10-meter target rifles in my test. He’s involved with junior shooters who cannot or will not purchase premium pellets for target shooting. The reasons for this are simple. Both Crosman and Daisy contribute a lot of support to junior marksmanship programs, to include providing lots of pellets for free. When I was associated with some juniors in Maryland, all our pellets were donated by these 2 companies. Our young shooters shot the Daisy 853 rifle almost exclusively until the last year I was there, when a couple specialty rifles such as the Daisy 887 and 888 and the Crosman Challenger (the original Challenger that used only CO2) crept in.
Since those days, the number of junior target rifles has exploded! Crosman brought out their Challenger PCP, and AirForce has given us the Edge. Both of these rifles are modern in design and features and are very accurate. The NRA was behind these new airguns, because they used to host an annual Airgun Breakfast at the SHOT Show, where they briefed all who attended on the number of junior shooters competing each year. I remember hearing the number 750,000 shooters per year from 72,000 shooting clubs back in the late 1990s! Those numbers caught everyone’s attention and got the ball rolling for the future of youth target rifles in the U.S.A.
William wanted me to add youth 10-meter rifles to my test, and I agreed that it made sense. Why not? If there are more shooters shooting airguns this way than any other, why wouldn’t I also look at this sport and the guns and pellets?
The first test
Therefore, the first test will be shot at 10 meters. I’ll use a Crosman Challenger PCP and a Diana 72. I don’t own a Daisy 853, but I’ve noticed that the Diana 72 accuracy is equivalent to the 853 when I tested the rifle. I’ve already tested the Crosman Challenger PCP, so I know it’s a contender, as well.
Diana 72 is a vintage 10-meter target rifle with accuracy roughly equivalent to the Daisy Avanti 853.
I’ll shoot this test with 10 pellets per group — a departure from my norm of only 5 shots for a 10-meter target rifle test. I do that to cut down on the luck factor. One 10-shot group tells me more than three 5-shot groups, because it represents a gun’s true accuracy potential so much better. I’ll use the target sights that come standard on both rifles. At 10 meters, there isn’t much difference between a target peep sight and a scope.
And, I’ll shoot from a rested position because we’re testing the pellets in this endeavor — not the shooter. I have no idea how the first test will turn out, because I’ve never done this before. But, like I said in the beginning, this test is one I’ve wanted to do for many years.
What I want to know is whether or not it’s worth it to spend $9-14 for a tin of pellets, or can I do just as well (or nearly so) with a $4 tin? A brick (normally 500 rounds, but these days it can vary from 333-525 rounds) of .22 long rifle cartridges costs $50 on the street. That may come down once the hoarders stop buying everything, but don’t look for realistic prices much below $30 in the future. So a tin of 500 pellets at $14 is still a bargain. But, do you even need to spend that much? That’s what I want to find out.