H&N Excite Smart Shot copper-plated lead BBs: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Smart Shot BBs
H&N Excite Smart Shot BBs are the first lead BB in 90 years.

Part 1
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Colt Single Action Army BB gun
  • All SAAs shoot the same
  • Safety
  • Velocity Hornady Black Diamond BBs
  • Velocity Excite Smart Shot BBs
  • Accuracy with steel
  • Accuracy with lead
  • Conclusions

Today I begin testing the new H&N Excite Smart Shot copper-plated lead BB for you. There will be many tests of this BB. Today I will start with an airgun that I think will be ideal because of the way it is designed. I will test today with the Colt Single Action Army BB gun.

Colt Single Action Army BB gun

This BB gun is one that the world waited for. And when Umarex brought it out, they nailed it. It’s everything you could want in a BB revolver that is still affordable. And they didn’t rest on their laurels, either. The first guns were a blued model and a nickle-plated one — both with the artillery-length 5-1/2 inch barrel. Within a year, they added the trail-worn gun that shooters love so much. The first iteration was 500 U.S. Marshal’s Museum models, followed by 500 NRA specials with the same finish. The Marshal’s models sold out at the SHOT Show in 2 days. The NRA guns are all gone too, though Pyramyd Air did stock them until the last one sold.

But if you want something different, there is still a special edition that’s available. I’m talking about the engraved single action that’s only available from Pyramyd Air. Sure, it costs more — it’s hand-engraved! That’s what makes it a special edition! Trust me — in 2 years people will be whining that they didn’t get in on these guns when they could. Only 100 were made, and by the absolute luck of the draw — plus Edith ordering it for me the instant she noticed it became available — I own serial number 1. Actually it’s number 701, but it’s the very first in the series. Never had one of those before, but I own one now.

All SAAs shoot the same

I have done extensive testing of the Colt SAA BB gun already. You may remember the 4-part series I did earlier this year. In Part 3 of that series, I actually shot the gun with 4.4mm round lead balls and got the tightest group the gun ever shot. Those balls were copper-plated just like the Smart Shot BBs I’m testing today, but at 4.4mm they are much larger. They measure 0.169-0.175-inch in diameter (not that round, are they?), where the Excite BBs are a much more uniform 0.171-inches. Today we will see what difference that makes, if any.

Colt Single Action Army
The U.S. Marshal’s Museum SAA sports a worn finish, like it had ridden in a leather holster for years. Only 500 were produced.

engraved single action
This special SAA was engraved by hand. Only 100 were produced and this is number one. You can still get these at Pyramyd Air, as of this date!

So, for today’s test, I’m using my blued SAA that was used in all the other tests. While there will be small differences between individual guns, within the SAA series the performance should be pretty much the same.

Safety

The principal reason for the Excite Smart Shot BBs is safety. Being lead, they don’t rebound from hard surfaces like steel BBs. I will test that attribute in the next report. Today I’m just getting our feet wet with the SAA. Let’s get started!

Velocity Hornady Black Diamond BBs

I selected Hornady Black Diamond BBs for this test, because in the last accuracy test they they were the most accurate of all the steel BBs. In the last test they averaged 408 f.p.s. with a range of 402 to 416 f.p.s. This time they averaged 412 with a spread from 406 to 422 f.p.s. The spread was 16 f.p.s. Perhaps the gun is breaking in. At the average velocity these 5.1-grain BBs developed 1.92 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Velocity Excite Smart Shot BBs

Excite Smart Shot BBs weigh 7.5 grains, so more than 2 grains heavier than steel BBs. We expect them to travel slower and hit harder. In the Colt SAA they averaged 349 f.p.s. with a spread from 343 to 359 f.p.s. That’s also a 16 foot-second spread. At the average velocity they developed 2.03 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle, which is very close to the power of the steel BBs.

Accuracy with steel

Before I tell you how the gun did on target, I tried something suggested by one of our readers. Instead of ejecting the cartridges from the cylinder and loading them outside the cylinder, I loaded them while they were still in the gun. The BBs go in the back of each cartridge, so this seems easy to do. The results were horrible, though. I got a 4-inch group of 6 Hornady BBs, with shots going everywhere! I think the BBs need to be seated deeper into the cases by your finger to be accurate.

I chose the Hornady BBs for their accuracy in past testing with the SAA. Last time I put 6 into 1.13-inches at 5 meters. This time I put 6 into 2.402 inches at 5 meters. Two shots went wide, but 4 landed in 0.451-inches. The gun does want to shoot and so does the BB, but something sent 2 shots wide. None of the shots were pulled.

Hornady target
Six Hornady Black Diamond BBs went into 2.402-inches at 5 meters, but 4 of them are in 0.451-inches.

Accuracy with lead

The Smart Shot BBs were loaded into the cartridges outside the gun, just like the Hornady BBs. Six BBs went into 1.734-inches at 5 meters. This time there was no smaller group inside the larger one, but the point of impact did shift to the center of the bull, instead of low and right for the steel BBs.

Smart Shot target
Six H&N Excite Smart Shot lead BBs went into 1.734-inches at 5 meters. Notice they are well-centered on the bull.

Conclusions

You probably noticed that today’s test is different than what I normally do. I want to try the Smart Shot BBs in as many different BB-gun situations as possible, so I’m not testing them as thoroughly in any one test. This allows me to cover a lot more ground.

I would call the accuracy equal between the two BBs tested today. I did note that the Smart Shot BBs went to the center of the target, and that’s something I will watch as the test progresses. With just a single test conducted, it’s too soon to say what it means or even if it means anything at all.

Smart Shot BBs do go slower than steel, which was expected. That’s also going to help us with the rebound issue that I plan to test next.

So far the Smart Shot BB is looking good. I would say the next test is the critical one.

38 thoughts on “H&N Excite Smart Shot copper-plated lead BBs: Part 2

  1. Interesting that the heavier (7.5 grains) and slower (349 fps) lead shot had a slightly higher point of impact than the lighter (5.1 grains) and faster (408 fps) steel shot. You didn’t change your point of aim I assume? If this also holds true with the Avanti test you might consider how it performs at 10 meters, although that would probably be pushing it.


    • Siraniko,

      All shots were shot with a 6-o’clock hold on the bull. So the aim points were the same.

      I though about adding the Avanti shot to the test, but I decided that the cost of the shot would prevent most BB-gunners from purchasing it. The Smart Shot costs more, but has the added safety factor people are looking for.

      B.B.


    • It is common for a heavier projectile to shoot higher than a lighter one. This is caused by the round being in the barrel a bit longer. The barrel has a chance to rise more in recoil before it leaves the barrel. Now most airguns don’t recoil much but it still has an effect.

      Mike


      • Mike,

        I was looking at some Chairgun type charts this morning and the heavy pellets did shoot higher,..(up to a point). After that, they dropped off quicker than lighter pellets. I found this to be true at my 41′ indoor range -vs- the 25yd. and 30yd. outdoor ranges…..higher at 41′ and lower at 25yd. and 30yds. Chris


  2. Putting shots on target is a big deal to me, especially with BB’s. I like ’em but the price will keep their use in check, using them will take the cheap outta BB shooting.


    • Reb,

      That will be true for most BB-gunners. But those who want to shoot at hard reactive targets, such as might be found in Cowboy Action Shooting, will want the Smart Shot regardless of the cost. And they will still wear safety glasses when they shoot.

      B.B.,


      • I’m sure a lot of that copper is coming off once the lead starts flattening while absorbing the collision with hard targets. I’ve been considering a M712 for a while now and these BB’s would be excellent in one…
        Back to saving again!



    • Reb:

      Are those the Excite Econ pellets? I’ve had good luck with them from both my 2400 and my 1077 when using for plinking. I normally shoot the RWS Basic. The Econs shoot about the same but with more (but not many) uncalled flyers.

      Jim


      • Yep, the price was right and I was trying to fluff the order to keep my book from being folded or wadded Like most of my PA catalogs.
        I’m not expecting them to be as good as their match pellets but if they work ok the difference in price will make them an asset I wanna have available.
        JSB’s that I want are just too high for plinking.


  3. B.B.,

    In your experience, what is the most efficient barrel length for a Crosman 2400 KT in .177 caliber to obtain maximum velocity? Have you ever tested any copper plated pellets in .177 or .22 caliber and/or what is your opinion of them?

    Bugbuster


    • BB,

      In my experience the optimum barrel length for a 2400 will be around 16-18 inches. For the .177 it will probably be shorter because the bore is so small the gas doesn’t move through as fast.

      It has been decades since I even shot copper-plated pellets. I still have some I bought in the 1970s, but I don’t remember how they did. They don’t tarnish or oxidize.

      B.B.


      • B.B.,

        When you announced you would try these copper-plated lead BBs in the SAA, I thought about how you also tested lead pellets in the SAA and at least one premium brand did very well. This in turn got me thinking about copper-plated ammo in rifled barrels. My question is probably laughably naïve, but here goes. Does rifling get fowled less, more, or about the same with copper than with lead? Is one substance easier or more difficult to clean from a rifled barrel?

        Thanks much,

        Michael


        • Michael,

          Good question (s). 😉

          At low velocities, lead is very clean. But harder lead does start leaving deposits in barrels. It depends on the smoothness of the bore and the coefficient of friction of the pellet, and it all hinges on velocity.

          At pellet gun velocities, copper-plated pellets are very clean in the bore. They also never oxidize, which is a big plus. The downside is the additional cost to make them.

          B.B.


          • B.B.,

            Thanks much! (And yeah, I should count my questions more carefully.) :^) I had been curious about the copper-plated pellets that are available for a while now, as well as the normal weight environmentally safe alloy pellets now available. Now I think I’ll try some with my next P.A. order.

            Michael


      • B.B.,

        Thanks for the information.

        I am contemplating buying a 2400 KT from the custom shop and would have preferred the Lothar Walther barrel but wanted one longer than 10.1 inches.

        As far as the copper plated pellets go, it sounds to me that since you haven’t used them for 40 years or so that they were either too pricey or you were not impressed with their performance.

        Bugbuster


  4. siraniko–Heavier, slower projectiles take longer to pass through the barrel. The muzzle starts to rise before the projectile leaves the barrel. The longer the dwell time, the higher the muzzle when the projectile leaves the muzzle. The higher the muzzle , the higher the point of impact. Ed


  5. Shooting the Crosman pointed pellets through the QB-88 again because it’s all I have left in .177, about every third one is too small to stay in the breech but I’m feeling a lot more comfortable fumbling around in the sliding chamber since I had the stock off and noticed a tack- weld holding the beartrap teeth in alignment it’s slipped sideways before on someone leaving a chip outta the forearm and a couple impressions on the side of the compression tube, no fingertips so far though.
    🙂


  6. So far it’s ok, but if you don’t need them for safety, I’m thinking the Avanti bb. It’s more accurate and cheap when compared to these lead bbs. $7 for 1,050 rounds sure seems to kill $10 for 500. But as more guns are tested, we shall see. Now if you are shooting a hard target, that is different. Then again, if you are talking about shooting hard targets and it happens to be with this Colt SAA gun, we know it will shot lead pellets. You could find a pellet that shoots better and costs less than the lead bb. Just a thought.


    • Doc,

      Yes, a lead pellet in the SAA would be better, but the Smart Shot is all about BBs. It’s for those guns that have 50-shot forced-feed magazines, 1,000-shot gravity feed magazines and hoppers of BBs. For those only a BB will work.

      B.B.



      • I’ll be getting some of these for my older BB guns.
        I probably would’ve with the Blue Book order I placed today. I did pick up 4 tins of the 7.48 Excite economic and 1 RWS basic to explore.
        Inventory looks a lot different than it did a year ago



      • Looks like there is an option for lead pellets in the SAA now – The Duke.!! Things do happen fast and the SAA has got to be one of the hottest things to come along in a long time.

        I simply love this gun, no questions asked. I got my engraved silver the other day and it is a fine piece.

        What I seem to have missed was the NRA special you mention above. Possibly I was too focused on trying to land the Marshals Special, which I did, and missed seeing the NRA branded one. Wondering if they were they serial numbered NRA??

        Looking forward to giving the SmartShot a try. Any clues on if the Cowboy Shooters will be blessing these ant time soon??


    • I would expect the Avanti BB’s to have lousy accuracy in any gun other than the 499 which they’re sized specifically for.
      They should be very uniform but undersized for regular BB bores.


      • Reb, The Avanti was the best bb accuracy in the Umarex SSA Colt. They win out a lot of times. They are made for bb smooth bores. Crosman is the one I believe is a little undersized for a bb bore.


  7. Does the pellet gage work on BB’s? BB’s are probably too small for it. If they are varying in size (or roundness), it would make a difference in accuracy.


  8. Before long we should be able to sort better than the factories.
    If only them boys sifting through those ball bearings woulda had a BBgage Wed still be shooting lead.
    🙂


  9. Found a tool mixed in with my chisels and scooped 1/4″ wide and about that deep outta the cocking slot on the Daisy 120, got about 20 shots on it so far and it’s smoking like a freight train.
    I’m gonna let it rest tonight and pull the stock again before a solid round of accuracy testing.



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