by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- It begins with lead
- Lead becomes wire
- Wire becomes balls
- Clean and lubricate
- Hot off the press
- Production begins
- Pack and ship
Airgunners are naturally curious, and when it comes to their ammunition, their curiosity piques. Today we will take a look at how JSB, the Czech Republic pellet manufacturer, makes pellets. This report was made possible by information and photos supplied by JSB.
It begins with lead
The process naturally begins with lead — a lot of lead. JSB buys lead in ingots that are at least 99.97 percent pure. They melt this lead and add a small amount of antimony for optimal hardness and to prevent rapid oxidation. This process is entirely controlled by them so they know the quality of the end result.
It takes a lot of pure lead ingots to feed the pellet manufacturing process.
JSB alloys the lead to their own specifications in-house.
Lead becomes wire
The melted alloy is cast into lead wire, which is the most common form for lead that’s going to be swaged into diabolo pellets. The wire comes out in different diameters, depending on the weight of the pellets they want to make. But JSB adds another step in the process at this point.
Wire becomes balls
They chop the wire into small pieces with very precise weights. Most pellet makers would then swage these pieces, called preforms, but JSB adds one additional step. The wire pieces are turned into balls before being fed into the swaging machine.
JSB calls the balls semi-finished products and they make them in weights that range from 0.475 grams (7.33 grains) up to 5 grams (77.16 grains). These correspond to the pellets that will be made.
Lead balls are swaged into pellets.
Clean and lubricate
The semi-finished products (balls) are then cleaned and lubricated prior to swaging. Some are sent to an extremely precise scale and weighed to a sensitivity of 0.0001 grams (0.015432 grains) for further sorting. This scale is extremely expensive and has a limited capacity, so only the JSB Exact and Premium Match pellets are processed on it.
Now the lead balls are fed into the swaging machines. Each machine die has as many as 10 holes for pellets and only one lot of pellets is run on one machine at one time. There are 54 swaging lines in the factory. If any of the tooling has to be changed, the resulting pellets fall into a new and different die lot.
You must also understand that each die is unique. Even if it makes a pellet they have other dies for, each die produces slightly different pellets and it is the lot number that controls this. Pellets are kept in the lots in which they were made because serious competitors demand such regulation.
I would love to show you what this swaging machinery looks like, but JSB considers all of it highly proprietary and secret. They build all of it in-house and will not show it outside the company. This is not unusual. I encountered the same secrecy on Crosman’s pellet line years ago.
Hot off the press
Before the company commits to a production run, freshly made pellets are taken to their test range and tested for group size. If the pellets pass the test, the production run starts.
Each batch of pellets gets tested for grouping before the production run begins.
The test range is automated to speed things along. Undoubtedly, JSB uses this facility a lot!
A push of the button and the target frame returns for evaluation. Each batch is checked this way.
Once quality control announces success, the production run begins. From there the output is 100 percent inspected by one of 22 female inspectors. Nothing passes unless they say so. Production moves rapidly, producing great quantities of pellets to be inspected.
once production starts, the pellets begin to pile up.
Now is where those 22 inspectors come into play. They look at each pellet for imperfections and only the best make it into the tins.
Hand inspection of each pellet ensures high quality.
We don’t think about the rejects a company like JSB might see, but that’s because the inspectors remove them from the batch before they are packaged. JSB has a reject rate of 2 percent. Those pellets are remelted to go into a future batch, and what we see is what passed their test.
This look through an inspector’s magnifying glass shows what they are looking for (arrow).
Pack and ship
Once the pellets have passed the inspectors’ gauntlet they are packed and readied for shipment to more than 50 countries around the world. Pyramyd Air receives JSB pellets on wooden skids on hundreds of tins per skid. One can only imagine the number of labor hours that go into such a shipment.
After inspection the pellets are loaded into tins, weighed and sealed. Then they’re ready to go to over 50 countries around the world.