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.