by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

• Test structure
• Discount store pellets
• Commence shootin’
• Uh, oh!
• What’s next?

Today, we’ll begin the test I’ve been thinking about for so many years. Namely, how do bargain pellets sold in discount and sporting goods stores compare to premium pellets when shot from airguns that are accurate? I know we all harbor secret feelings on this subject, and today I’ll start a little test to see how those feelings turn out in the real world.

In no way is the test I’m about to show you conclusive. There isn’t enough data for that. All it does, if anything, is point out the possibilities that exist for all these pellets when they’re used under the test conditions. Run a second test, and the results will be different. BUT — and this is the very heart of what I’m doing in this test — if my supposition is correct and premium pellets do perform better than bargain pellets, then we might see something worth considering here.

And for the record, let me say this: I will not compare the relative prices for each of the pellets against how well they perform. That’s not what I’m after. I’m not looking for a relative index of performance. When I shoot, I shoot to hit the target. Anything that helps me do that is good, and anything that does not help is not good. In other words, I will not shoot a 70 percent effective pellet, just because it costs only 30 percent as much as the best pellet. I shoot to hit, and only the best will do.

That said, I’ll acknowledge that mistakes will be made when measuring group size. I’ve said that often enough in this blog. While I will not attempt to develop a “fudge factor” for group sizes, I will look at all the groups with to determine if I think they might do significantly better if given a second or third try.

My guess is that some bargain pellets will do better than expected, while others do worse. My plan is to take this test to 50 yards and run it again, with premium pellet(s) and bargain pellets that came close or even exceeded the premium pellets’ performance.

At the end of this test, I hope to have a clear picture of how premium pellets perform in comparison to bargain pellets.

Test structure
Today, all shooting will be indoors and off a rest at 25 yards. I’m using my .177-caliber Beeman R8 that has been tuned and also installed in a Tyrolean stock. It has a Burris 4.5-14X32 scope. I received this air rifle as a gift several years ago. Since that time, I’ve used it in several tests where accuracy was required. In one of those tests, I discovered that the Air Arms Falcon domed pellet is the one this rifle likes the best, and that’s the only premium pellet I’ll shoot in this test. Since I’ve demonstrated that this pellet out-shoots all others in this rifle, there’s no need to shoot anything else. The head size of this pellet is 4.52mm.

I’ll also rest the rifle directly on the sandbag. This R8 allows me to do that and still get top accuracy. And that reduces the chances for me to influence the test by changing my hold at any point.

Beeman R8 Tyrolean
Beeman R8 Tyrolean is now my go-to airgun.

Air Arms Falcon
Air Arms Falcons are best in my Beeman R8.

Discount store pellets
I purchased the bargain pellets at two different stores. One was a large chain sporting goods store and the other was a discount store that I’m sure anyone living in the U.S. will know quite well. There was no discrimination here. I bought every .177-caliber pellet they had! The wadcutters have already been used in the target rifle test that I ran in Parts 2 and 3, so today I will be shooting only the pellets that are not wadcutters.

The sample size is quite large, considering the sources. Here are the pellets I bought:

  1. Crosman Premier Ultra Magnum 10.5-grain domes
  2. Crosman Premier Hollow Point
  3. Winchester 300-count dial-a-pellet: This choice gave me a pointed pellet, a dome and a hollowpoint.
  4. Gamo Silent Cat: A domed pellet they advertise a “very quiet” pellet — whatever that means!
  5. Gamo Pointed Hollow Point: Just a hollowpoint that’s really just a point in the center of the hollowpoint hole.
  6. Benjamin Hollow Point: Crosman Premier hollowpoints under a different name and made for discount and chain stores. 750 to a tin.
  7. Crosman Destroyer EX: These look the same as regular Destroyer pellets (pointed hollowpoint) but have the EX in their titles to differentiate them for sales to certain vendors.

That makes 9 bargain pellets I acquired for this test. Some of them are available from Pyramyd Air, while some have slightly different names, like the Destroyer EX, and others, like the Gamo pellets, seem to not be available except in discount and sporting goods chain stores.

bargain pellets
These are all the bargain pellets in this test. The Gamo pellets have no identification on the tin, and after they come out of the blister pack, you have to label them yourself to know what you have.

I’m sure your hardware store has different pellets. I simply bought everything that was on the shelves. If it was there, I bought it and it’s in this test. There will always be bargain pellets I haven’t tested; and if you want to test them, please do. I will be glad to publish your results as a guest blog.

Commence shootin’
There are 10 pellets (Falcon plus 9 bargain pellets) in this test, with 10 shots for each at 25 yards. That’s 100 shots if I finish all the groups. I’ll show you the groups today with the sizes, and save my comments for Monday’s blog.

First up was the Falcon pellet. This will give us a baseline for the rifle on this day. Ten Falcons went into 0.463 inches at 25 yards. That isn’t the smallest group I’ve ever shot with this rifle and pellet, but it’s representative of what can be done at any random point in time.

Falcon group
Ten Falcons went into 0.463 inches.

Next, I tried the first bargain pellet — a Crosman Premier Ultra Mag. Ten of them went into 0.645 inches and stayed together very well.

Crosman Premier Ultra group
Ten Premier Ultra Magnum pellets went into 0.645 inches at 25 yards.

Next up were the Crosman Premier Hollow Points. Ten of them made a 0.843-inch group that had several outliers.

Crosman Premier Hollow Point group
Ten Premier Hollow Points made this 0.843-inch group.

Next up were the Crosman Destroyer EX pellets that are pointed hollowpoints. Ten of them went into 1.083 inches with several outliers.

Crosman Destroyer EX group
Ten Crosman Destroyer EX pellets went into 1.083 inches.

Next came the 3 Winchester pellets that came in the dial-a-pellet plastic dispenser. I tried the pointed pellets first and netted a 1.143-inch group that has 2 pellets outside the main group. Next I tried the hollowpoints and did better. Ten of them went into a 0.598-inch group that has no strays, though is is elongated. Finally, I tried the Winchester domes and 10 went into 0.697 inches between centers.

Winchester pointed group
Ten Winchester pointed pellets went into 1.143 inches at 25 yards.

Winchester hollowpoint group
Ten Winchester hollowpoints went into 0.598 inches.

Winchester dome group
Ten Winchester domes made this 0.697-inch group.

Uh, oh!
Then, a not-so-funny thing happened. I shot the first 2 Gamo Silent Cat pellets (they are a long dome) and found they’re not silent in the slightest. They also landed 3.696 inches apart on the target! I took one more shot and missed the backstop altogether and that ended the test of this pellet. These are sinker larvae, by which I mean they are suitable for fishing weights but not as pellets — at least not in my Beeman R8!

Gamo Silent Cat
Two shots don’t make a group; but when the third one misses the trap, you stop! Shot 2 with the Gamo Silent Cat is at the extreme bottom of this image. I had to zoom the camera out to get both shots in the frame.

After that, I was nervous about shooting the Gamo Pointed Hollow Points, but I didn’t need to worry. Ten of them went into a 0.756-inch group that was in pretty much the same place all the other pellets had been hitting.

GamoPointer Hollw Point group
Gamo Pointed Hollow Points put 10 in 0.756 inches at 25 yards.

The last pellet I tested was the Benjamin Hollow Point that I said was very much the same as the Premier Hollow Point. Ten of them made a group that measured 0.971 inches between centers.

Benjamin Hollow Point group
Ten Benjamin Hollow Points went into 0.971 inches.

What’s next?
So that was the test. In the next report, I’ll elaborate on the performance of all the pellets and look at 2 bargain pellets that did pretty good.