The great pellet comparison test: Part 5
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Test results
• Best bargain?
• The rest of the pellets
• Gamo Silent Cat pellets
• What’s next?
Today, we’ll look at the test I presented last Friday and see if we can make some sense of the results. As you remember, this test was to see how premium pellets performed compared to bargain pellets when all were shot from an air rifle of known accuracy. I used my tuned Beeman R8, and there was some discussion about that, as well.
Kevin told us that the R8 I have was based on an older Weihrauch model that’s no longer made and it differs from the current HW 50S that can be bought today. From that discussion, we learned that several of you have either received HW 50S rifles recently, or placed an order and are awaiting their arrival. There was some discussion about which was better — old or new — but I should point out that my rifle has been tuned and any new rifle would have to be tuned to match it.
Enough talk. Let’s see how we did. The first point is the most obvious. I predicted that a premium pellet would be the best (shoot the tightest 10-shot groups) in this test and, indeed, that happened as predicted. I shot only one pellet on the premium side — the Air Arms Falcon domed pellet with a 4.52mm head — and it posted a 10-shot group of 0.463 inches between centers at 25 yards. I told you that was not the best group that rifle had ever fired at that distance — in fact, it’s about average, which works out well for this test.
I was very surprised when the final shot missed the main group and landed low and to the right. There usually are no stray shots when I shoot Falcon pellets in this rifle at 25 yards. I don’t want to get into a lot of suppositions, but I will say that the 9 other shots landed in a very round 0.353-inch group. That was what I expected this rifle to do for 10 shots, although the last shot was definitely not pulled in any way.
After establishing how good the rifle and pellet combination was, I proceeded to shoot all 9 of the bargain pellets. You might think that I tired at the end of this test; and while I won’t deny that it’s possible, I have to tell you that shooting this R8 off a bag rest is not difficult. The rifle cocks with very little effort, and the bag steadies it for each shot. It’s not hard to keep shooting this way for a long time! That’s why the R8 has moved up to my go-to air rifle.
I’m saying the stray shots from the rest of the groups were also attributable to the pellets and not to me. Let’s look at the very first bargain pellet, which is a 10.5-grain Crosman Premier Ultra Magnum. This pellet is dimensionally identical to the 10.5-grain Premier Heavy that comes in the cardboard box, so the question is: Does the box make any difference? That’s a topic for a blog series of its own, and I will not try to convince any of you one way or the other today. Just know that when Premiers were first made back in the 1990s, the boxed ones were the best. In fact, you could only buy them that way — they didn’t come in tins. I competed in field target matches with Premiers in a number of different spring guns and PCPs and considered them to be the best pellets available back in 1998.
The Premier Ultra Magnum put 10 into 0.645 inches, which I thought was pretty good! Just like the Falcons, one of those 10 pellets is not in the main group — though this time it was not the last shot. I don’t really remember which one it was, but not the last. The 9-shot main group measures 0.508 inches. Let’s talk about that.
This 9-shot main group is the third-best group in this test (considering only the nine shots in the main group), yet it’s still measurably larger than the 10-shot Falcon group. That shows the difference between premium pellets and bargain pellets. Some of you may feel I’m splitting hairs to make such a statement, and I can’t say that I blame you for saying that; but what I see is the premium pellet beating the bargain pellet, even when it’s having an off-day.
Still, there’s no denying that the Premier Ultra Mag did very well. It would certainly be worth buying and shooting for everything other than making the absolute best groups. For $10, you get the same number of pellets that cost $13 when you buy Falcons.
The best bargain pellet in this test was the Winchester hollowpoint that’s made in China and distributed by Daisy in the 300-pack Dial-A-Pellet container. Ten of them went into a single hole that measures 0.598 inches between centers. It’s marginally better than the Premier Ultra Magnum group (overall) but still measurably larger than the Falcon group.
These pellets only costs $4.45, but you only get 300, where the Falcon gives you 500. So, they’re roughly half as much as the premium brand. Yet, they shoot extremely well in this accurate rifle. They might be the bargain of the day — except for one thing. There are only 100 of these accurate pellets in the container, and the other 2 pellets are mediocre, at best. So, is this a real bargain? You will have to decide, but as far as I am concerned, there is more good shooting in the Falcon tin.
If you want to buy just the Winchester hollowpoints, you can get a tin of 500 for just $5.45.
The rest of the pellets
The rest of the bargain pellets did about as I expected them to do. Some of them did shoot into tantalizing holes, but there were always strays that landed apart from the main group. This is where you have to make a choice.
I think some optimistic shooters will see the clusters these cheaper pellets made and believe that this is something they should pursue. If they shoot enough of them, they will eventually get a couple groups that are stunning — and perhaps even challenge the Falcon group shown here. But I won’t do that.
For me, life is too short to shoot pellets that almost shoot well. I’ve shot enough of them in my lifetime to have reached my limit. I look for pellets that, like the Falcon in this rifle, out-perform all others even on their off-days.
Gamo Silent Cat pellets
You will recall from the test that the Gamo Silent Cat pellets were so inaccurate that I stopped the test after only 3 had been shot. Let’s discuss that.
Gamo’s claim that this pellet is quieter than others is hard to believe. However, Gamo does specify in the small print on the back of the package, how it’s supposed to work.
This is what the package says.
Gamo also packages the Silent Cat pellets as Whisper pellets, and Pyramyd Air stocks them under that name.
I think my Beeman R8 is unsuited for this pellet. The combination of a 10.5-grain weight, plus a non-lead outer coating on the pellet was just too much for the R8’s lower-powered powerplant. The weight, and I presume additional friction in the bore, simply made this a non-starter. But I’m not ruling out the pellet.
The RWS Diana 34P that I’ll test next is much more powerful and should have no problem with the Silent Cat. I think it will give a much better result than the one we got in this test.
Next, I plan to test the same bargain pellets with the Diana 34P at 25 yards. I think the premium pellet for that test will be the Crosman Premier lite, because historically it has performed best. But it has been a long time since I’ve shot the Diana, so I may shoot a couple premium pellets to verify I have the best one.
I do plan on taking the R8 to the 50-yard range and shooting at least a couple of the bargain pellets against the Falcons in a future test. I wonder what we’ll see? Stay tuned — there’s much more to come!