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Education / Training Hornady Black Diamond BBs: Part 1

Hornady Black Diamond BBs: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

• Hornady Black Diamond steel BBs
• Size
• Velocity
• Daisy 499 BB gun
• Daisy 880 BB gun

Today I want to introduce you to a new BB that’s just come to market — Hornady Black Diamond steel BBs.

Hornady Black Diamond steel BBs
Hornady is an ammunition and bullet maker; so, when they came out with their Black Diamond BB, I had to test it. I already use several of their bullets in my firearms, and I know they’re a premium brand. The Black Diamond is a steel BB, so it will work in guns that use magnets to control the BBs. These days, a lot of them do use magnets.

Hornady says their BBs have an anodized finish, which is something I always equated with aluminum; but since the anodizing process uses electrical charges to move material, I guess it can work with many conductive materials. The BBs are black, like the name implies and Hornady says they’re very smooth and uniform. They also advertise 100 percent visual inspection, which has to mean a camera scan, because BBs are made at rates too fast for human eyes to be of much service.

Three BBs
Avanti Precision Ground Shot on the left, Daisy Premium Grade BB in the center, Hornady Black Diamond BB on the right.

The BBs come in a feeder bottle. You break off the top of the bottle by twisting a tab with pliers and the bottle mouth is wide open. A cap then fits down to seal the bottle when it’s on the shelf.

The packaging says these BBs are .177 caliber, but that’s incorrect. They would not fit in 95 percent of BB guns if they were that large. Most steel BBs range between 0.171 and 0.173 inches in diameter, and 4.3mm is often given as their true metric size.

I measured 5 Black Diamond BBs and found them to range in size between 0.170 and 0.171 inches in diameter. That puts this BB on the small side, though it’s very uniform, as advertised.

smallest Black Diamond
The smallest Black Diamonds measured were 0.170 inches in diameter. One of five measured were this size.

largest Black Diamond
The largest Black Diamonds measured were 0.171 inches in diameter. Two of five measured this size.

Oddly, though it is small, the largest Black Diamond weighs 5.2 grains. That’s one-tenth grain heavier than most popular BBs. Alloy differences could account for that.

lrgest Black Diamond weight
The largest Black Diamond weighed 5.2 grains.

Now, let’s check the velocity on 2 different airguns. First up will be the Daisy Avanti Champion 499. For comparison, I also tested Avanti Precision Ground Shot and Daisy Premium Grade BBs.

Daisy 499 BB gun
In this gun, the Avanti Precision Ground Shot took the longest to roll down the barrel, which was anywhere from 2 to 4 seconds. This BB averaged 235 f.p.s., with a spread of 3 f.p.s. — from 233 to 236 f.p.s.

Next, I shot the Daisy Premium Grade BBs. They averaged 233 f.p.s. with a 2 f.p.s. spread from 232 to 234 f.p.s. These BBs take about a half to three-quarters of a second to roll down the barrel of the 499.

Finally, I tested the Hornady Black Diamond BBs. They averaged 232 f.p.s., with a 2 f.p.s, spreads from 231 to 233 f.p.s. They also took one-half to three-quarters of a second to roll down the bore.

Both regular BBs held their own with the precision ground shot, which I did not expect. And the Black Diamond BBs seem to fit the 499 about the same as the regular Daisy BBs, despite being a little smaller (the Daisy BBs run 0.171 to 0.173 inches).

Daisy 880 BB gun
But one test wasn’t enough, so I got the Daisy 880 multi-pump and pumped it 5 times per shot for the next test. The Precision Ground Shot averaged 591 f.p.s. and had an 8 f.p.s. spread from 587 to 595 f.p.s.

Next up was the Daisy Premium Grade BB that averages 579 f.p.s. on 5 pumps. The spread was 17 f.p.s. from 569 to 586 f.p.s. n

Finally, the Black Diamond BBs averaged 579 f.p.s., also. Their spread was 9 f.p.s. from 576 to 585 f.p.s.

These Hornady Black Diamond BBs seem to be made very well; and, in terms of velocity, they do seem to hold their own. Of course, testing with just 2 BB guns is hardly conclusive, so my plan is to include them in many future tests of BB guns.

I will also do a Part 2 to this report, where I shoot all 3 BBs from both guns for accuracy. That’s just to end this report more conclusively, since the Black Diamonds will now be showing up in future BB gun tests.

This BB has a slight premium price, though it’s still quite affordable; so, it remains to be seen if the features it offers — smoother finish and coated with black anodizing — have any discernible benefit. I’m guessing we will find out that these are like pellets — they’ll be the best in some guns and not as good in others. We shall see.

90 thoughts on “Hornady Black Diamond BBs: Part 1”

  1. I don’t suppose a manufacturer could be convinced to make a run of BB sized golf balls for testing the hypothesis that dimpled BBs might gain accuracy at longer ranges from the dimpling. Every examination of a BB reveals that the the manufacturers are making them smoother and rounder. What if the answer to extend the effective accuracy of a BB was the dimpled and round as you have posited several times in the comments? You have mentioned before of rolling lead shot between mesh to cause dimpling before shooting them. Is there a way to make dimpled BBs?

    • I know that Daisy BBs have a rougher surface than Umarex or probably these Hornadys. However, I wonder if that makes them more abrasive to the barrel(?). That concerns me more than any extra loft that dimpling (or a course texture) would provide.

      • Most BB barrels survive years of abuse in clubs. I don’t think manufacturer’s would make a steel alloy BB harder than the barrel. Steel can be made relatively soft. Iron is hard.

        • This line of thinking interested me because my thought was that the heavier weight yet smaller size means they are a denser steel, couldn’t be otherwise, but it’ll be the coating that determines barrel wear. Anodizing is electrically impregnating a surface with usually a color and coating set for a certain purpose… so what is the coating? That’s the question I think. They do look nice though, and curiously I just received a hornady catalog yesterday,, they aren’t in there.

          • RDNA
            We use to do green, gold, blue and black anodizing at work on the military stuff. Anodizing that we did was to aluminum parts and it kind of soaked in and dyed the material.

            The coating’s that we use on our tooling adheres to the metal and kind of soaks in and builds up. but it super thin. Not even as thick as the cellophane from a cigarette pack.

            We also use to phosphate. The phosphoric acid line was used for metal objects again military stuff. It would etch the metal surface and almost feel like a real light grit sand paper if you ran your finger across it.

            We also have a piece of equipment called a surfaloid (I guess stands for surface alloy). Its almost like a old stick style welder in a sense but low voltage. We use it to electronically etch the collets on the machines that hold the part that are being machined. It has like a carbon type rod that has electric going to it and the part that you etch has a wire lead that has to be grounded to the part.

            But there is all kinds of processes that can be done to metal. Do you know how many steps of different types of coatings it takes to chrome a steel bumper on the old muscle cars and such. Its been a while but I believe there are 5 things that need to be done to chrome steel.

            • Gunfun
              I think you are right on the chroming as first the metal has to be prepped and polished perfectly smooth then it is acid dipped, then washed to remove the acid and then dipped in copper bath and then nickel bath and then finally chrome and the last three steps are using electrolysis to bond the copper , nickel and chrome to the metal.


      • The question that follows is will a manufacturer allow you “samples” of BBs in that stage for experimental purposes? If they do what would be a good platform to test this hypothesis that ridged BBs can fly farther with more accuracy than smooth BBs?

        Internet connection may have been affected by the storm. Ended up multiple postings because I could not see them being posted.

        • Siraniko,

          Crosman still makes BBs in America, but they are very tight about giving away samples. They only want the finished product going out the door.

          Daisy BBs are made in China and shipped to the U.S. in giant barrels. No chance there.


    • Siraniko,

      Round lead balls have been roughed up by rolling them between two wooden blocks coated with screen wire. It is called “screening” and it does make a difference. You get a better (higher) BC, or less drag on the ball.

    • Most golf clubs also impart some back spin to the ball (as does the hop-up of an AirSoft gun). Regular BB guns don’t have back-spin (might even have fore-spin, if gravity holds them to the “bottom” of the bore, the friction would be greatest on that surface).

      • That whole backspin thing… if that is designed to help plastic BB’s in Airsoft guns go farther or faster or straighter, why haven’t they incorporated that feature into regular BB guns? Also, why don’t they have electric .177 BB guns? You know, where an electric motor fires off a BB instead of manual pumping?

        • jared,

          I have heard several things. First, that there actually ARE some steel BB guns that have backspin. Next, the reason “they” don’t do it is because a steel BB will wear out the backspin rubber bumper in a short time. So that’s one rumor for and one against.

          Electricaly-fired BB guns have existed for over 70 years. They were used in World War II as aerial gunnery trainers. But they were complex and expensive.

          Why doesn’t someone do it again? I guess there’s no demand.


      • Siraniko
        We have done that at work before also. Not the electro type but the acid type.

        We called it phosphateing the part. It actually etches the metal and is like a black dull color when its finnished. We use to make projectiles for the military. 25,30mm projectiles and the 430 grenade projectiles. The phosphateing operation was to etch the metal to help the paint process adhere better for the electromagnetic painting process.

      • As also mentioned — it is called such as the recipient part forms the anode of a circuit — creating an oxide layer (whereas electroplating actually transfers ions of the metal from the source to the recipient part)

    • DCR
      I’m thinking its probably closer to what you said. We have numerous different coatings on or carbide and high speed tool steel cutting tools at the machine shop I work at. Such as Talan, Tican and Diamond coatings and there are more that is not coming to mind right now. They all have their own color from black to gray and gold color after their done with the coating. The different coatings will make the cutting tools last longer.

      Usually there is no texture to the coatings that we have put on our tools. If anything it makes the tool feel slicker.

      I would like to know what the coating really is on these new BB’s. If its one of the coatings I mentioned maybe its helping the bb to move more freely in the barrel. Also the amount or thickness of the coatings I’m talking about can be controlled very well. So depending on their process and what the coating really is they could hold the tolerance or size of the bb’s diameter very precisely.

        • Herb how’s it going.

          And that makes sense about the coating. I’m not a bb shooter and never even gave that a thought. I imagine rust on the bb can cause a lot of problems.

          Do you have a idea about what the coating really may be on these new bb’s.

          • No idea what coating is. However it surely isn’t to make the surface of the BB hard, nor is it some kind of lubricant to make the surface slick. It is just to “seal” the BB from the combination of moisture and oxygen which would cause the BB to rust.

    • You know now that I look at the name of the bb’s maybe it is the diamond coating we use on some of our cutting tools that they are using. The diamond coating has a gray black color to it and it can be black sometimes.

  2. BB
    We have used lasers and cameras at work to measure things and check to see if machining operations are complete from the manufacturing machines. Its a very precise way to measure and it can be done very fast like you say.

    Matter of fact that’s pretty much what my job has consisted of the last 7 or so years is building the vision systems at work. I do the machining and assembling of the proximity switches, electric eyes,lasers, shock dampeners and air system and such and another guy does the programing of the PC.

    One of the vision systems that does a simple check that’s similar to a bb that overlays the laser diameter or circle on the part and a photo eye that triggers the camera which is a instant on type camera can do 5 part a second and its a continuous feed conveyor belt.

    Lets see if that’s 5 part a second times 60 seconds is 300 in a minute. Then 300 parts a minute times 60 minutes in a hour is 18,000 parts a hour checked. A 8 hour shift would be 144,000. Then times that by 3 shifts in 24 hrs. is 432,000 parts or bb’s checked in a day. Hmm times a 5 day work week would be 2,160,000 bb’s checked.

    Of course that’s if the vision machine ran at 100% efficiency. We usually base production numbers on 85% efficiency. Either way that’s a lot of bb’ s moved in a week.

      • RR
        This is true. A machine can only do what it was designed to do.

        Some times mechanical devises have to be added to the system as a back up check. And then there also has to be a standard set for the vision and mechanical system to accept or regect. Then studies have to be ran on those systems to see if they will produce repeatable results that have been set as a standard.

        The recent system we made checks 9 holes for location and diameter plus can check over all legnth, inside and outside diameter of the part along with true position of th outside diameter too inside diameter. There is about 20 checks the machine does and all of the checks show up in real time in blocks on the flat screen. We have 10 parts that we call the standards that check 10 critical bimensions as the customer specifies.

        But yes the big thing is no matter how well the system is designed or how good the equipment is there is fall out that has to be determined is acceptable.

        And yes the hands and eyes can check parts also but not near as fast. And believe it or not after a person sits and screens part we find that there is human error also. Sometimes on certain products we do 200% screening. Them parts get looked at by many types of checking operations. Its all about how much parts that could be bad and make it through the whole system and still could be considered acceptable.

        That’s why that when I find a pellet that measures and weighs consistently and that pelket is the same from tin to tin I have no problem paying more money for that pellet and that pellet becomes one of my choice pellets.

          • No wonder there is work to be done on cheaper guns, that kind of qc and mantime to keep it running doesn’t sound cheap! That’s why good pellets are good, too, your absolutely right.

            • RDNA
              The system I just talked about me and that guy built at work. They needed another one to be able to keep up with the production numbers. Having only one vision system was creating a bottle neck in getting the product packed and out the door.

              We had a bunch of other projects going on and they wanted us to build another one. We just couldn’t get to it in the time they needed it. So they out sourced the work and had a company build a system that was different than the one we built and did the same thing in the end. It was a rush job and that added cost but it cost them 200,000 dollars for that system and there was things wrong with it when we got it. we had to change things and they had to by the software so our PC guy could communicate with the machine.

              So yes where I come from a lot of money gets spent for quality control.

  3. Hey you airgun manufacturers out there! I want a BB gun made for me!

    I want a machined steel barrel precisely bored for BBs only, not a short brass tube. I want a nice wood stock, not a piece of board cut to resemble such. I want good quality adjustable sights. I would like it to shoot in the 300-400 FPS range and I want accuracy to challenge the 499.

    If it will cost under $400, I’ll take it.

  4. Okay, I give up–what was the purpose of rolling the BBs down the barrel, and what did the different roll times tell you? You’ve mentioned this when shooting the Avanti before, although the only reason stated was to tell when the BB was secured by the internal magnet (by listening). If the reason is related to ballistics or velocity, isn’t rolling different than traveling straight down the barrel when shot?


    • Hiveseeker,

      Think about it. The tighter the fit, the longer it takes the BB to roll down the barrel. Things in industry are often measured this way.

      In World War II “they” (Rosie the Riveter, who was a school teacher of mine) checked rivets on airplane skins by wiping their fingers over the heads. If they could feel them, they weren’t good enough. If they couldn’t, they were less than 0.004″ high. That was faster than using a measuring device, and also more accurate in the long run.


    • HiveSeeker,

      One other thing I don’t think anyone mentioned is that I think the only way to load the 499 is to place the BBs in the barrel and let them roll down to the breech.


  5. I did not know that. Yet they make steel BBs. So club guns use special lead shot. Don’t ordinary BB guns use steel shot shot regularly?

    Fortunately the storm Hagupit bypassed most population centers and relatively minimal damage was done.

  6. Okay, okay, okay……

    I have been reading the Airgun Academy blog religiously for about one month now and I cannot stay out of this one…..

    I am proposing that the BB is not slamming down the sides of the barrel but is ‘float centered’ on a the cushion of escaping air around it…..



  7. Terrific and long needed blog, B.B. i use Daisy BBs only after looking at them under 10X loupe.The surace is like a golf ball versus Crosamn BBs.. Someone mentioned in the past that they could see no difference in performance to the ground Avanti BBs. I do not know. Looking forward to Part II, indeed.
    Thank you, your timing is perfect since i am collecting Crosman 760s….
    Orcutt, California.

  8. I don’t think that is accurate….the part about “float centered” I think that it would be no different from a firearm of days gone by. that if it is not gripped by rifling it will be less accurate.

    I do not shoot BB’s down my guns with rifling in them for fear it will damage the barrel. I do however want to try some round “pellets”.

    I do not have a “good” BB gun like an Avanti, but it is on my list. I really want to try one out.

    • I have to disagree.

      When they went from muskets (unrifled) to a rifle they also went to a mini-bullet or the equivilent. For this reason… A bullet will shoot better out of a rifle than a ball will…

      Almost 25 years ago I built a big bore air rifle by hand. It has been barreled in calibers from .17 to .357 and made 60 ftlbs on CO2 with a .357 .65gr ball at 650fps.. I shot it mostly with .308 hand cast balls. I also had a bullet mold for a 95gr .32 auto semi wad cutter. Unfortunately the CO2 would not even push the resized bullet at all..
      At 20-25yds the ball was target accurate. At 50yds you could (I know better than to shoot at them now) hit a golf ball most of the time…. BUT! At 100yds it would be pretty lucky to shoot very many shots witin a foot.
      When you would watch carefully you could see the pellets curve like a pitcher throwing a curve ball..

      Until recently I had no way to charge the big bore. I now have the Hill pump and charged it to 2000 lbs. It managed to shoot a .308 45gr ball 780 fps for about 60ftlbs. I have been unable to find my mold for the .32 auto bullets, I can’t wait! I have a .357 wadcutter mold but my .357 barrel is in storage somewhere.

      If I am shooting a round projectile I would choose a smoothbore EVERY time!



      • This is a repost since I put it in the wrong spot the first time.

        Speaking of smoothbore .357, have you read this article?


        This is where BB discusses Balle Blondeau pellets for big bore airguns. If you’re looking for more versatility… 😉
        Added note: there is a LOT of good info to be found using the links to the right of the page, or the search bar. it won’t answer every question, but it gives a nice place to start looking for answers. 😀

  9. Now we have another brand of bb. I have been shooting the standard Daisy bb’s, but just ordered a pack of Umarex, and a pack of Beeman bb’s to try in my Daisy No25, and Red Ryder bb guns. These two bb shooters are certainly not as accurate as the Avanti Champion Model 499, but they are shooting pretty well. I’m just shooting them at 15-17 feet, and mostly indoors. 3/4″-1″ 5 shot groups shooting from a chair with my left elbow supported are the norm. I got 4 of 5 into about 5/16″, then the 5th shot widened the group to about 11/16″ with the No 25. Certainly not up to my better pellet air rifles, but not bad. They make up for the relative lack of accuracy with their ease of shooting, quietness of shooting, ease of setup and take down, amount of fun to be had, inexpensive price of the guns and ammo, and the ease of shooting indoors across a room or down a hallway. Talk about your cheap shooting. I got my Red Ryder brand new shipped to my Post Office for $25.00! The trigger is so stiff , that I think it may draw blood from my trigger finger if I shoot too much. Think I’ll have to use tape on my trigger finger. I use a larger cereal box (like one might buy cereal in from Costco), and put more folded cardboard inside to be sure to stop the bbs. I hang the targets from the top of the box with a clothespin, and it works fine. When one side of the box gets too holy, I can turn it to another side and shoot away. When the box is worn out, I’ll dig out ant bb’s imbedded in the cardboard, recycle the cardboard, and start over with another box. These guns don’t have enough power to make it through very many pieces of cardboard.

    I like that Tom makes time and space in his blog for bb gun tests and articles among his pieces on lower, middle, and high end pellet air guns too. Shooting principles are pretty much the same, whether shooting 1″ groups with a Red Ryder at 15 feet, or sub 1″ groups at 100 yards with a .243 scoped rifle.

    • Jon, Your the man…I love popping tin cans at 15 feet with my Red Ryder or Crosman 760 smooth bores.
      Yes, i also use Daisy BBs only..I’ll consider a 499 for sure. I also like to shoot indoors.

  10. We use the Daisy Precision Ground in the 499s for junior shooters education. The tight bore fit aids accuracy and velocity sd, and we have sorted the BBs (another story) to .173-.175. We’ll try the . new smoother BBs but I suspect they will be too small for precision work. I wonder what market the mfg. is intending the Black Diamond shot for?

    • Cleanprone,

      OMG! I have a coach among my readers!

      And he sorts Avanti Precision Ground Shot! Of course he does! He’s a coach, and he wants to win.

      Come on, coach, help me with this blog. What I mean is keep right on posting comments like this one, so the readers know that I’m not just making this stuff up.


      • We have a class limited by range space and available Daisy 499s of different configurations to twenty new shooters. We teach basic marksmanship skills as well as safe gun handling and range etiquette and procedures. The shooters take both the NRA and the JC tests and begin the NRA Junior Qualification program. Since its inception (1994) we have trained almost 400 juniors, many who have gone on to Precision Airgun and Smallbore 3P at the college level. We’ve shared information on BB sorting and various modifications to the 499 to improve triggers and reliability, learned in traveling competion and at the Daisy Nationals in Bowling Green Ky. We expect the 499 to consistently shoot tens at 5 meters. Our group is in NE Ohio. BB- someday I will share my experiences with a #6 Ballard.

        • Cleanprone.

          So — you have read some of my past posts, eh? And you have( or had) a #6 Ballard?

          My 499 won’t shoot 10s consistently unless I shoot it rested. Obviously something is wrong with the gun, but I’m not sure where to begin. 😉

          I would love to hear some of those trigger tricks. Hint, hint.


          • BB- No secret on the 499 trigger mods- just Google “Daisy 499 trigger.” One of the 4H coaches has detailed the entire process with diagrams. Also the shot tubes will vibrate loose and degrade accuracy. We tighten the tube and secure with black tape. The cheap plastic cocking lever can be replaced with a nice cast steel lever which also adds a couple ounces. Daisy service is excellent and inexpensive. I’d love to see your friends “schuetzen” 499. The #6 Ballard is and early one, not engraved frame, full octagonal barrel and chambered in the rare 40-60 Ballard Everlasting cartridge (see Grant.)

    • Cleanprone,

      Would love to hear any info you could share on sorting BB’s by size. You mention it being “another story”.

      I suspect you have found an easier way than taking a micrometer to every BB?

      Reason I ask is that a coworker has kids shooting 499’s in 4H and I try to help him out since I am a known airgun nut.

      Mark N

      • For Mark N. Re: Avanti precision ground shot sorting- certainly not a new idea and not mine. Two steel plates were drilled/milled with xy grid holes, the shot is then passed through the larger set of holes, and then passed through the tighter grid. This two part sorting produces shot within a plus and minus spec (think go-no go.) We have very little loss of the BBs as they are caught in our hanging rubber mat target boxes and they are recycled and re-sorted annually. Don’t ask me the hole specs, but I believe .173-.175 and this was determined by actual shooting with several of our 499s. As you know, these are incredibly accurate at 5 meters.

  11. Tom,

    I’m glad to see these come out. It is good to see a manufacturer trying to improve upon the current crop of products, as we regulary see with airgun pellets. Even if these are not especially accurate (although of course they might prove to be stunningly accurate), Hornady is to be commended for developing these.

    Given the accuracy one can achieve with Blondeau inspired shapes, I would be willing to purchase dumbell (no jokes about my intelligence, please) shaped .174 caliber lead pellets.


      • I would love to see that idea happen.

        I bet with that design and used in the right gun could be a heck of a hunting pellet.

        I’m trying to imagine in my mind how that would mushroom or deform when it hits the animal or pest.

      • Is there some reason a dot of superglue between two pellets wouldn’t work?
        I’m also looking at using a pair from one of those “ball chain” strings, but would want to measure them first.

        Man, I need more free time!

  12. BB, Is the 50 round magazine in the Daisy 99 the same as the 50 round forced feed magazine ? I am referring to the quick skill Daisys that you wrote about in earlier blogs. Thanks, Ed

    • Clearprone,

      Thanks for the info I will pass it on.

      Also would like to add that your experience as a youth instructor would be much appreciated around here I think. I hope you stick around and chime in.

      Mark N

  13. This new bb is exciting news for me! Not only new ammunition, but possibly a new Nebraska product.
    Do you know if these are made at the Hornady bullet plant in Grand Island, NE?

    I used to run trains out of Grand Island. Hornady has a good reputation as an employer there, and the workers really take pride in their product.

    These bb’s are not in the current PA catalogue. I was getting ready to order some RWS wadcutter pellets for my grandkids’ use in the airgun school. I’m going to order some Hornady bb’s too, and do some side-by-side comparisons with Daisy’s (both standard and precision-ground) st the shooting school. Both seem to outperform Crosman Copperheads.


      • All .177 BB’s should be made in the USA, sized the same for EVERY BB (every BB graded to a specific diameter and every BB in the container is the exact same diameter), and BB’s should be made to fit precisely to the barrel of a manufacturer’s gun! Why is this not done?

        • Jared,

          You might as well ask why the government doesn’t work a lot of the time.

          It’s just the way things are. Where was your cell phone made? China, or Finland? Certainly not in America, because we don’t do that anymore.

          As far as the tolerances are concerned, good luck with that! No manufacturing short of space and a limited number of certified installations (like nuclear weapons facilities) can do that.


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