Testing the .177 Pelletgage: Part 2
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
The Pelletgage comes in .177 and .22 calibers at the present.
This report covers:
- Texas airgun show
- Today’s test
- The challenge
- Qiang Yuan Olympic pellets
- Time to change direction?
- Crosman Premier Supermatch
- A chance to check the pellet skirts
- Test 1 — youth program pellets
- Discussion of the 3 targets
- Coaches — pay attention!
- Test 2 — Can you test quality into a product?
Texas airgun show
Before we begin, I want to remind all of you that the Texas airgun show will be held on Saturday, August 29. There’s a link at the top of this blog page that takes you to the show flier for all the information.
On Friday evening before the show, the public is invited to attend a reception at the Texas Star Ranch and Retreat, located near the show. American Airgunner will film an episode of the Round Table and welcome questions from the audience.
We have dealers coming from all over the United States, including some major retailers who will have premium pellets, CO2 and other necessary expendibles for sale. A range will be available all day for the public to try different airguns, and we’re going to host the LASSO big bore airgun competition.
This year’s show promises to be the largest airgun show ever held; and, if last year’s show is any indication, it’ll be well worth attending. Dealer tables are available for $30. Early buyers may also get in before the doors open for the price of one table.
As more information becomes available, I’ll keep you informed.
This test has already become one of the most interesting things I’ve done in the last 10 years. It’s as interesting as my 11-part Pellet velocity versus accuracy test.
Today, I’ll consider 10-meter target guns and the pellets they shoot. This may be one of the most challenging tests in the series, because the wadcutter pellets made for 10-meter target shooting are very consistent. I was concerned I wouldn’t find any deviation in pellet head size at all!
Qiang Yuan Olympic pellets
The first pellet I measured was the Qiang Yuan Olympic target pellet that did so well in a recent test. I shot it in my Crosman Challenger PCP target rifle that I also plan to use for this test. And my fears about uniformity were realized! After measuring about 25 pellets and finding them all to have the same 4.51mm head, I stopped measuring. I could be there for hours before finding even one different head. I had to try something different.
This is the problem I had feared from the beginning. Match pellets are all very uniform, so they shouldn’t really vary at all. What could I do?
Time to change direction?
I thought I might switch horses in midstream and test domed pellets at 25 yards, but that didn’t go well, either. I looked at Air Arms Falcon pellets, which are supposed to have a 4.52mm head. After measuring 21 of them I had 20 that were head size 4.51mm and one that was size 4.50mm. None measured the 4.52mm that’s marked on the tin.
Clearly, premium pellets other than wadcutters have uniform heads, as well. So, I rethought the test. I still wanted to test 10-meter target rifles and pellets, and I thought of a way to do it. In fact, this was the ideal test to conduct.
Crosman Premier Super Match
Many youth shooting clubs use target pellets given to them by both Crosman and Daisy. Both companies are huge supporters of youth marksmanship programs. I had a fresh tin of Crosman Premier Super Match pellets on hand. These pellets sell for very little money (for target pellets), so I wondered how consistent their heads could be. And I had the perfect instrument to find out!
As it turned out, Super Match target pellets had heads that were sized either 4.50mm or 4.51mm, and the distribution of both sizes in the tin was about equal. That lead me to construct the first test. I sorted a total of 30 pellets and put them into 3 labeled containers. There were 10 4.50mm pellets in one container, 10 4.51mm pellets in another container and 5 of each head size in a third container.
I would shoot three 10-shot groups at 10 meters to see what happens. First, we’ll see if the Challenger PCP has a preference for pellets with 4.50mm or 4.51mm heads. Second, we’ll see how a mix of both head sizes does. That will represent picking pellets from the container at random.
Ten meters is extremely close for any irregularities to show up. I know I’m shooting 10-shot groups, but to convince me that sorting head sizes is necessary, there will have to be a visible difference in the group sizes — one that can be attributed to something other than a measurement error.
A chance to check the pellet skirts
Before I packaged them for testing, I looked at each pellet skirt critically. As all the pellets were standing skirt-up, I took a tactical flashlight (a very bright light) and shined it at an oblique angle while I examined all the pellets. There were 32 pellets that had been measured, and one of them had a flat spot on its skirt. I disposed of that pellet and put the one extra pellet back in the tin after putting the 30 sorted pellets into 3 marked containers.
Test 1 — youth program pellets
Next, let’s shoot these 30 pellets and see what we get. The range is 10 meters, and I’m shooting off a sandbag rest. I don’t care where on the target the pellets go — just how close to each other they hit.
Discussion of the 3 targets
Clearly, there’s a big difference between the results of the 4.50mm heads and the 4.51mm heads. There’s also a significant difference between the 4.51mm heads and the target that was shot with an equal mix of 4.50mm and 4.51mm pellets. That target represents what will happen when the pellets are taken directly from the tin without regard for the head sizes. Right there, youth shooting program coaches can see point gains of 5 points per match per shooter! And I’m being extremely conservative with that estimate. Your best shooters will gain close to 10 points per 40-shot match by shooting pellets with the correct head size.
Now, for the tough question. Why is the group of 4.50mm pellets larger than the mixed group? I can’t tell from these few results. If I had to guess, I would say that while 4.50mm pellets are less accurate, some of them do go to the same place as the 4.51mm pellets. Just not all of them, which is illustrated by the first target. There were absolutely no called bad shots in this test. All shots broke with the bull centered in the front sight aperture.
These results are from one specific Crosman Challenger PCP target rifle. Other rifles, including other Challengers, may prefer the pellets that have 4.50mm heads. This is something that has to be tested to know for sure.
Coaches — pay attention!
Many of the 74,000 youth shooting programs in the United States are given free pellets by Crosman and Daisy. If they’re not completely free, they’re supplied at a very low price — so low the clubs cannot afford to ignore them. This test has just demonstrated how to take these bargain pellets and turn them into something that will make more points for your shooters. If I were involved with a youth shooting program of any kind that used these pellets, I would get a Pelletgage, post haste!
Test 2 — Can you test quality into a product?
Now we come to the big question — the one most of you have been pondering, myself included. Can non-premium pellets be sorted with the Pellegage into batches of superior pellets? I didn’t know, and after my experience measuring the very uniform Crosman Super Match pellet (it was far more consistent than I was expecting), I knew I had to go way down the quality scale to find a suitable pellet, i.e. one that has pellets with heads of multiple sizes in the same tin. I did find one.
This pellet is an Industry Brand pellet that is made in China to dubious quality standards. I keep this tin in my junk pellet drawer, thinking maybe a day will dawn when I need 500 split-shot sinkers for fishing. You get the picture. These aren’t pellets I ever shoot.
I started sorting these pellets and got some dramatic results — the results you were probably expecting from this test — I sure was. The head sizes were all over the place. They ranged from 4.51 to 4.56mm. After I got them grouped on a paper by size, I saw what was happening. It looks to me like the Chinese plant was using several dies to make these pellets. Some of the dies were new and others were old and wearing out. But they just dumped the entire output from all the dies into a single bin and then packaged all the pellets from that one bin. At least, that’s what it looks like.
Let’s see if we can sort these pellets into quality batches by head size. Most of the pellets had a 4.55mm head, so I kept sorting until there were 10 of that head size and 10 more with head sizes ranging from 4.51mm to 4.56mm (but no 4.55mm heads). That gives me 2 groups of pellets to test in the rifle — one with all their heads the same size and the other with heads of mixed sizes. I don’t care whether or not 4.55mm heads work well in the Challenger. I’m interested in seeing how pellets with mixed head sizes compare to the same pellets with a single size head. If head size matters, this test should bring it out. The group shot with mixed head sizes should be significantly larger than the group shot with identical head sizes.
I used most of the gage holes for these Industry Brand wadcutters. Though only nine 4.55mm pellets are shown, I gaged another one for the test.
This target was shot with Industry Brand pellets having a consistent head size of 4.55mm. It measures 0.323 inches between centers.
This target was shot with Industry Brand pellets of various sizes — from 4.51mm to 4.56mm. It measures 0.314 inches between centers.
The results of this test surprised me. I expected the pellets with varying size heads to do worse than those that were consistent. My interpretation, which doesn’t have enough data to support it, is that 4.55mm heads are so wrong for this rifle that even variable sizes are not worse. I would have to shoot many more targets with Industry Brand pellets of consistent smaller sizes, and I would think the 4.51mm head size might do best. But that’s just conjecture, and I’m not going to test it, because there aren’t enough smaller-sized pellets in the tin. I do plan on testing uniformity versus variable-sized heads in a later test when conditions are more favorable.
Well, I certainly learned a few things today. First, I learned that many name brand pellets are more uniform than I thought. I expected the premium 10-meter pellets to be uniform, but not the other ones. As you read, I really had to search to find a pellet with variance. That tells me that sorting by head sizes isn’t necessary when you shoot premium target pellets. I don’t expect World-Cup 10-meter competitors to use the Pelletgage.
I didn’t know if 10 meters was far enough to discern differences between the consistent pellets and the pellets with mixed head sizes. But the first test proved that it not only was far enough — it actually makes a huge difference when you use the right pellet in a Sporter-Class target rifle like the Crosman Challenger PCP. I would expect to see similar results with the AirForce Edge and the Daisy Avanti 853, but neither of those rifles is available to me.
Next, I learned that my Challenger prefers pellets with 4.51mm heads. The Qiang Yuan pellets that it shot so well during that test have a 4.51mm head (all of them!), and the best target shot with the Crosman Super Match pellets was also with the 4.51mm heads. So, I think this rifle is telling me that it likes pellets with 4.51mm heads best.
Today’s report took me 2 days to complete. There was the measuring and sorting, the photography the shooting and of course the writing. I’m telling you this so you’ll understand why I have to space these reports out a bit. There just isn’t enough time to do them as fast as I would like.
I am done at 10 meters. The next test will be shot from 25 yards with a more powerful spring rifle.
I consider this the start of one of the most important test series I’ve ever done, because today’s results suggest the Pelletgage works very well. If things continue in this direction, this will be the most important invention airgunning has seen in a decade.