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Ammo H&N Excite Smart Shot copper-plated lead BBs: Part 3

H&N Excite Smart Shot copper-plated lead BBs: Part 3

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 2

This report covers:

  • The point of the Smart Shot BB
  • Colt SAA
  • The test
  • First target
  • Splatology
  • Result
  • Wood is next
  • What to do?
  • Hard oak target
  • Weight retention
  • What have we learned?

Today’s test involves a very small number of shots Yet it is captivating! Today we find out whether the H&N Excite Smart Shot copper-plated lead BBs really don’t bounce back. How timely is this, since Pyramyd AIR has just listed the new John Wayne Duke single action BB revolver?

I tested these BBs against three hard targets. Two were planned and the third one popped up as the test unfolded.

The point of the Smart Shot BB

The Smart Shot BB is copper-plated lead. As such it should not rebound from a hard surface like steel BBs do. That’s is the whole point of this BB and why it is worth the money, if it really works that way. Because if it works, the Smart Shot BB allows airgunners to safely enjoy action shooting sports like Cowboy Action Shooting.

Colt SAA

I used the Colt Single Action Army BB gun for this test. We already know how fast this pistol shoots the Smart Shot BB (it’s in Part 2), so we will discover how the BB acts at that velocity

The test

I shot all targets from a distance of 6 feet. Naturally I wore shooting glasses. Shooting this close to a target that potentially rebounds I had to protect my eyes at the minimum. Don’t you try this at home. I did it so we would know, but this is not something I recommend.

First target

The first target was metal. I shot at the flat bottom of an empty aluminum 20 lb. CO2 tank. I have had several empty CO2 tanks for years. They all have the siphon tubes installed for bulk-filling CO2 guns, and I lug them to airgun show after show, but nobody will pay me even $20 for one. The siphon tube conversion cost more than that in the middle 1990s.

At any rate, I know these tanks are empty. I would never shoot at a tank that had gas in it, because even though there is no way a BB gun could penetrate an industrial gas tank like this, it’s not a good practice to get into.

I put a moving pad down in front of the tank to catch any BBs that might fall close, and as you will see, they all did. Five BBs flattened out and fell to the floor within 6 inches of the tank and one fell 3 feet closer to me.

Smart Shot BBs on pad
Five of the 6 Smart Shot BBs fell to the floor 6 inches from the end of the tank. This is exactly how they fell.


If you have read the Splatology report I wrote for you back in 2009, you can tell a lot from these deformed BBs. In fact, the first thing I’ll tell you is I knew this test was going to come out this way. Over the years I have seen many metal targets hit by 300+ grain lead bullets that left the muzzle at over 400 foot-pounds. The splats from those deformed bullets were lying within a foot or two of the metal silhouette targets downrange. I have seen this hundreds of times, so I knew the lead Smart Shot BBs would perform the same. Seeing them land within inches of each other was a surprise I will admit, but the outcome of this test was never in doubt.

If you read Splatology you can also determine the velocity of the BB upon impact. It was traveling 300-350 f.p.s., when it impacted the aluminum target.

Smart Shot BBs splats
The 6 lead splats from hitting the metal target. The one in the center shows the classic shape of a lead ball traveling 300-350 f.p.s. on impact.


That is a result! Without question the Smart Shot BBs do not rebound from metal targets! Now, I was careful to shoot as close to 90 degrees to the face of the target as possible. If you hit a metal target on a slanted surface, then yes, it might glance off and go farther. All this test proves is that the Smart Shot BB has very little tendency to rebound from a metal target.

Wood is next

The only other target I thought about testing was a wooden one. People often use wood to make targets. I selected a piece of soft yellow pine and set it up the same as the metal target before it. I thought maybe wood would have some bounce of its own to add to the BB, and maybe that would cause a problem. But what happened this time was unexpected.

The BBs hit the wood and stuck in it! I did not expect that! But the lead BBs have so much energy that they perform differently than steel BBs. The only BB that didn’t stay in the wood was the first shot. My second shot hit next to it and popped the first BB out. It fell to the floor and I saved it to show you.

Smart Shot BBs in wood
Five of the 6 Smart Shot BBs stuck in the wood. The first shot got knocked out by the second shot.

Smart Shot BB from wood
This BB was knocked out of the plank by the second shot. It is deformed from that hit and also from hitting the wood, but it’s still generally spherical.

What to do?

Now I had to make a decision. I had not expected the BBs to stick in the wood that way. Interesting that they did, but it did not answer my question of whether these BBs would rebound from wood. The only solution was to try them on harder wood. And I had the perfect thing. I have a couple oak boards that have aged and hardened over many decades. If the Smart Shot BBs were going to rebound from anything, this would be it.

Hard oak target

Reboiund they did. This time all 6 BBs rebounded from the target with some force. Three of them came back and hit me and I would estimate they were traveling 30-50 f.p.s. with they hit. I know that one of them went 10 feet before it stopped, but if the room was clear the distance would have been more.

So, what happened this time? Did the lead BBs suddenly defy the laws of physics and start exhibiting elastic properties? Not at all!

The wood was the culprit this time. The hard wood absorbed the energy of the BB and then rebounded like a miniature trampoline. I knew wood had a tendency to do that, which is why I tested a wooden target. Obviously things like trees are to be avoided because they aren’t just wood — they also have irregular surfaces that can send the BBs in any direction!

Smart Shot BBs wood target
A hard oak board was resilient enough to send the Smart Shot BBs back at the shooter with some force.

I want to make it clear that it was the nature of the hard wood target and not the Smart Shot BBs that caused these rebounds. I found 3 of the BBs on the moving pad after I finished shooting, and they were clearly deformed, as they should be.

Smart Shot BBs deformed
These 3 Smart Shot BBs rebounded from the hard oak board. They are deformed, which shows where their energy went.

Weight retention

One last question I wanted to answer was how much weight was lost by the BBs when they hit a hard target. The BBs that hit the first metal target were the most deformed, so that was what I measured.

Smart Shot BBs weight retention
The BB that was the most deformed weighed the same afterward as it did before.

What have we learned?

This test demonstrated that the Smart Shot claim of a safer BB is valid. It also demonstrated that even with the safety of a pure lead ball, BBs can still rebound — at least at very close distances. So the designers of action pistol events need to keep these results in mind when designing action targets.

We have also learned that Smart Shot BBs do deform in accordance with the principles that were established by the Spaltology study. Physics is still physics.

One reader was concerned that the copper might chip off when the BBs struck a target. That didn’t happen. Yes, the lead expanded to the point that the copper no longer covered it, but no flakes of copper were found after the shooting was finished. For that matter no lead flakes were found, either.

We now know how these BBs perform when they strike a hard target at 300-350 f.p.s. That doesn’t tell us what they will do at 500 f.p.s. That test still needs to be done. From my time with Spatology I do know what will happen, but I will test it for you just the same.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

65 thoughts on “H&N Excite Smart Shot copper-plated lead BBs: Part 3”

      • The “Color Balance” of photography is always interesting as it’s as much a perception issue as anything. My personal (BIG emphasis on the word “personal”) is what’s normally considered …”normal.” But decades of work/training in photography and print reproduction have made me able to say things like, “…there’s a little too much cyan in the facial highlights, about 5 points worth, that make the magenta bias of the dress look unnatural…” Or, “your new (very expensive) 4x big screen is decidedly too yellow, but can easily be recalibrated…”
        I try not to be too obnoxious about it, though.
        The real problem is that personal perception is so …personal…that many folk actually deny there is such a thing as personal variations of color perception. I have a very close friend who really cannot tell the difference between the more subtle shades of blue, green and sometimes pink, all at the same time. But since she easily sees stronger variations of those colors, she denies the phenom. Makes for some interesting daily clothing selections sometimes. There’s little profit or appreciation earned by pointing out the discrepancies, (especially from me, belatedly learning to fly my new hearing-aids.) And I did at one time have a girlfriend who pretty much required vacuuming before allowing her out the door, unsupervised, but that’s another story.
        Now just to make it interesting, the type of light one shines on the object in question ( say, BB’s cherished M1 Carbine,) will show up drastically different if the light is fluorescent (very green,) or incandescent (very red/orange,) or various versions of unregulated LED, (who the heck knows.) Nighttime street lighting mostly belongs on other planets lit by neutron stars with pretty shades of different versions of orange and purple, none of which portray anything like a full spectrum.
        My Mom, ( the Combat Nurse,) during the battle of Okinawa in 1945, claimed to know one of their Docs that could demonstrably see somewhat into the infra-red spectrum. Since IR sights were beginning to be used by the US about then, that would be a useful talent .
        Our car is a lovely sea-foam green…in daylight. At night, under varying non-full spectrum streetlights, it’s mostly a peculiar gray color. Makes finding the Prius in the parking lot after “King Lear” a bit daunting if there aren’t enough in Sea Foam Green but way too many in “eye-gouge grey” (note proper Shakespeare reference plus Brit spelling.)
        Point being, our pesky brains largely (but not completely) have the sometimes disconcerting ability to modify what the eyes are sending and make what is seen appear to be “normal,” rather than “way too orange” or worse, “way too green.”
        Well, as many of us can observe, whether eyes or ears, ( or other body parts,) we all gotta “run-with-what-we-brung.”
        I reckon as long as we know not everyone is seeing or hearing the same exact thing, it’ll all work out.

        • 103David,

          Wow,…thanks for the insight as to what it would be like to have a well trained, color “tuned” eye.

          However,…your second to last sentence,.. and more so,.. your last sentence,…were really good.

          • Chris, I believe the copper coating on the BB’ reached annealing temperature during impact absorption
            Annealing makes the copper software and turns the color of it to a more reddish tint,I guess it’s a good thing they have 2 layers of it.

              • Reb
                Then why is the bb’s that are in the pine board the normal color.

                Then the next picture is the the bb that hit the other bb in the pine board. It’s colored red.

                Then look at the second picture down from the top were the splatology pellets are laying on the white matt as they fell. There not red.

                • The ones sticking I’m the board had the board helping absorb the impact, if it didn’t turn red then it didn’t reach the 6-800℉ required for annealing copper.
                  Just an educated guess.

                  • Reb
                    If that’s the case the one bb that hit the other bb in the wood that turned red. If it got 6-800 degrees it wood of been like one of those wood burning irons. You would think the wood should of turned brown from the heat of the bb.

                    • Wood burning takes time.if you don’t go slow you have to keep going over the same spot to see much discoloration. If they’re just bouncing off we’re only talking milliseconds.

                    • I’m surprised it stayed on! But annealing is probably the key and I guess it didn’t work well enough with just one coat. one coat.the good news is if they do rebound the red

          • Thanks, Chris, nice of you to say.
            Interestingly, someone forwarded the piece to the “Vacummable Lass” and I got a quick phone call from her her asking if I was talking about her or someone else.
            There was a moment of silence while I weighed the value of exact truth versus …not entirely-exact-truth…
            The contemplative silent moment was broken by the unmistakable “crunch” of a dying Cheeto.
            And I said what I thought was best.
            “No, it was *****.”
            Whew, that was close.
            Sometimes the wisdom of revealing the exact truth is overrated.

  1. What would the accuracy of the H&N Excite Smart Shot be in the Daisy Avanti Champion 499 which usually does well with Avanti Precision Ground Shot? I had just read your previous test done in 2013 when you tested the accuracy of the 499 up to 10 meters and was wondering if a similar test can be dine using this BB.

    Admittedly the H&N Excite Smart Shot seems to be made for BB Action Shooting. I’m just wondering if the lead composition, which is easier to make into a uniform ball, can equal the accuracy of the Avanti Precision Ground Shot?

    They are more expensive though looking at PA prices list that the Avanti Precision Ground Shot sells for $6.99 for 1050 count while the H&N Excite Smart Shot is sold at $9.99 for 500 count.

  2. First and foremost,…hat’s off for putting yourself in potential harms way for the sake of this testing. I would have added a face shield and an extra layer or two of clothes…. 😉 Nice photos as well. Looking forward to testing in guns that use magnets to retain the bb’s. The higher retained energy allowing the bb’s to stick into the pine wood was cool too. I would expect that another 6′ or at 5 meters,…and results will be different with a 300~350 fps. airgun.

  3. Just a friendly reminder for those looking for something to do this weekend.

    Friday and Saturday
    Hickory, North Carolina

    Lloyd and I will be there Saturday, but don’t let that stop you from attending.

  4. Well, yesterday I put all three models of the Duke Colt pistol in my PA wish list, but they were the pellet version. Now I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be better to go with the BB type using these lead balls; it seems it may be easier to load the cartridges with a ball instead of a pellet. I’ve been holding off on these revolvers, but with a John Wayne version it’s a no brainer.

  5. BB,

    I remember someone describing the ricochet of a steel BBs shot from the Bug-a-salt, and asking you to estimate the velocity. How will the Smart Shot BBs behave if shot at a cockroach at the slower velocity achieved by the bug-a-salt? Would the ricochet be worse at velocities that don’t deform oak, bamboo, brick or linoleum?

    Cockroach hater in Chapel Hill

    • Subsonic,

      To begin with, the Bug-A -Salt is not designed to shoot BB’s of any kind, only salt! The current 2.0 version is much more powerful than the original, I have experience with both. The original would barely penetrate a sheet if aluminum foil at point blank range, the 2.0 version will do so at up to 3′ distance.

      I use margarita salt in mine, which is a coarser grain than the recommended table salt, bug- shot if you will. I have found this combination effective on flies of any kind, yellow jackets and hornets. Paper wasps are iffy and I believe that it will be effective on carpenter bees at point blank range this coming spring. It does not work well on “stinkbugs”. I have had no experience trying it on cockroaches, but with a coarser grain salt, within reason, it would be worth a shot!

      A word to the wise, the manufacturer recommends that the current 2.0 version NOT BE DISASSEMBLED by consumer, if you insist on trying to use BB’s, you may end up with an expensive, plastic toy gun!


  6. Subsonic,

    I remember the Texas water beetles that I used to kill in El Paso had thick shells. I don’t think the Bug-A-Saly could do it with them.

    Eastern roaches are smaller and less well armored, so perhaps it might work.

    A slower speed won’t increase the rebounds. It should diminish them.


    • B.B.,

      For a time I lived in South Carolina, and I can’t imagine a Bug-A-Salt would even slow a Palmetto Bug down. For the uninitiated, the Palmetto Bug, also sometimes called the SC state bird, is a flying cockroach about the size of one of my thumbs — and I wear 5XL gloves.

      I do believe that rock salt fired from an Air Venturi Wing Shot pcp would get a Palmetto Bug’s attention; however, a Gamo Viper Express would probably just get the bug angry. A Farco might be a happy medium for that sort of game.


  7. Tom and all, this is really interesting – and there will soon be a BBGage to measure/sort for diameter. I had never known that there were really accurate BB guns and ammo. But I thought my Daisy model 25 was accurate in 1963. Thanks for another interesting angle on airguns! Tom, you should have a prototype early next week.

  8. Hi BB,

    I recently bought a Hawke 3-9×40 AO Mil Dot scope, #14123, from Amazon (Pyramyd AIR only carries the Hawke 3-9×40 AO 30/30 Duplex reticle, #14122, and I wanted the Mil Dot reticle model). I also wanted a light scope. When first adjusting the objective to focus, it spun very freely but wouldn’t focus, then something popped, and it became stiff and began to focus normally. I thought there was something wrong with the scope, so I returned it. I received the replacement scope and it did the same thing. The adjustable objective spun super easy and would not focus, then it popped and became stiff and started focusing normally. The is the first Hawke scope I’ve owned. All of my other scopes are Leapers or UTG scopes… (2) 4-16×44 swat, (2) 3-12×44 swat, 3-9×32 bug buster, and this never happened with those scopes. Have you ever come across this “popping” when first adjusting a scope out of the box? Is this normal for Hawke scopes?

    Thank you,

      • Hi Twotalon,
        I’ve owned my .22 Talon SS for about 6 months. I haven’t shot it in around 2 months, and it seems to be down around 100 pounds or so. If it has a slow leak, is there anything I can do with silicon or some kind of lubricant to try to stop it from leaking?
        Thank you,

        • Doug

          You have a small leak…really small .
          If it is the valve , then more shooting may get it to seal up better . May have a tiny piece of dirt in it that may blow out.
          My Condor tank developed a very small leak after sitting for a long time . When I tried shooting it to get it to settle back in, the leak got much worse . Had to drain the tank and spin the valve to get it seated in again . This might not always work .

          My tanks are all the older type before they came out with the spin-locks .


        • Doug

          One other thing…
          Temperature . 100 psi is not much compared to 3,000 psi. It will not take a great deal of temperature change to show a pressure change this small . You may not have a problem at all .


  9. B.B.,
    As someone who has been pelted (in the body, while wearing safety glasses) by many BBs over the years, I found this report most useful and informative; thank you!
    take care & God bless,

  10. BB,

    Thanks for doing this review series. I am looking forward to trying these bbs. The reference to splatology was of special interest to me.
    When I lived in New Mexico, one of the places I shot my pellet rifles was in a railyard using a huge pile of steel-reinforced used concrete ties as a backstop. These things were piled in a stack two ties thick, end to end. I was shooting at the end surface of the ties.
    When examining my targets, I would find my pellets would deform into discs. They looked like a pile of dimes.
    Sometimes, I shoot my bb guns and my pellet pistol in my basement. Anything that would reduce bounceback would be appreciated by myself and my wife (whose washer and dryer are near my target). The wall there is unfinished concrete. So far, I’ve only had to patch it once.

  11. B.B., this seems lie a reasonable to talk about rebound. I have a 2×12 pine board that has served as my target holder. I do have, I can’t remember the label, but I do have further safety stops past this board but I only state this so that you know I do.
    At issue is that only recently have I really cut into one area of that board. With my now super charged Titan, I have shot Crosman .22 hollow points at a distance of 10 yards and have had them fly past me on the rebound. I was at 10 yards to begin to sight the scope; I start there lest I do miss the board at longer distances, and move back from there.
    Anyway, Mom was right. Sooner or later I would shoot my eye out (but safety glasses prevent that).


    • Those Crosman pellets are so hard that they splatter into many fragments and come back into my apartment, I have to clean the floor after every session to keep from driving any into my feet and have heard solid impacts on the front door behind me.

  12. I didn’t realize that wood hardens with age and that explains something. I have a hundred year old rocking chair from a great-grandmother. When I tried to repair the wooden frame, I found that the wood was so hard that I couldn’t drive a nail through it. I thought it was some special kind of dense wood but age must be a factor.

    B.B., did you tell me to measure cartridge length from the ogive and not the tip? That is an egregious fact to have slipped under my radar. Well, I certainly paid the price with the hours of adjusting the die. Reb, yes, I can figure out the length differences between my old and new methods. My tip variation for a lot of 50 rounds was about .015 inches. The variation from the ogive was essentially zero. So, by making the tips uniform, I was introducing .015 inches of variation into the ogive length. As far as how much this affected my shooting, I doubt I’ll be able to tell since my old targets were compromised by the malfunctioning gun. Accuracy was awful. I don’t expect the improvement to be huge. The ogive length only comes into play for the tiny jump to the rifling which, I suppose, can alter the exact orientation of the bullet in the barrel. Very small effects but I will hope for the best.

    Airguns are so much easier since rifling is not as significant in stabilizing the round. Other than making sure that your pellets fit the chamber tightly, there’s not much to worry about like bullet seating and throat erosion.


  13. My basement target is a duct seal trap in a 12x12x4 electrical box. For lighting I use a lamp used for lighting paintings. Decided to “armor” the light with some scrap pine lumber. Have noticed the errant pellets into the wood (shot from a Beeman P17) will ricochet back with a healthy velocity. Pellets shot from the Crosman Quest 1000 just bury flush into the wood. Shooting distance is 10 yards. Pellets shot into the duct seal just stay there, of course.
    Saw an article one time on estimating velocity by shooting into duct seal from a known distance. Have not been able to find it again. Has anyone heard of such a method for estimating velocity?

    Silver Eagle

  14. I believe I have made a breakthrough on the Daisy 120, I cut about 1/4″ off the bottom of the trigger return spring because bending it had it too misaligned to stay tucked behind the trigger(stamped steel) now instead of the fulcrum moving to a less favorable

    • Position as the trigger pull progresses it stays up in the top half of the trigger whereas it was extending to the tip before the trim.
      It’s still a horrible trigger but I’ve only been able to do any work through the cocking slot until I build a Daisy tool. It’s only about half as hard to pull now

  15. This discussion reminds me of an old fort I visited in St Augustine, FL. It was an old Spanish fort that was made of a very soft rock. It was impervious to solid cannon balls, because the shot would simply stick in the rock without damaging it.


    • Desertdweller,

      That’s probably El Castillo de San Marcos. It was made of a mineral called coquina. It is similar to limestone or meerschaum but is actually the result of shells and coral being ground into powder by the sea and then being compressed in the earth for thousands (or more, I suppose) of years until it is a solid and durable substance.


  16. Interesting. I’ll try them in my old Benjamin pumper at some point. Right now, I plan to test the results of No.5 shot applied to Pheasants. I’ll be leaving for South Dakota in the morning. So, since I don’t have a Lap Top or a Smart Phone, I’ll be off line for a week. Enjoy the fall, it’s a great time of year!


  17. B.B.,

    I once, only once, used my Daisy 880 to shoot a few Daisy Premium BBs at 10 pumps. My target was a milk jug filled with water at about ten feet.

    Instead of safety glasses, I actually used my fencing mask. There were no ricochets, however, just through-and-throughs that went into the berm at the edge of our backyard.


  18. Good news is they’ll be red and easy to spot on the way in but they’ll be hot.
    Sounds like 6′ would be less than a minimum safe distance.
    Thanks for takin’ one for the team B.B!

  19. BB,
    I shoot 177 Gamo round lead balls out of a Gamo P23 and they rebound to almost 10 meters and stay mostly round after hitting a metal plate! These Exite bb would be worth a try. My P23 has written on it that bb should not be used though.

    Second, BB, can you do a test of the new Duke SAA pellet version? I am not a fan of bbs thats why I have not bought the SAA. I am now in the market for the pallet shooter

  20. Hey B.B! I just watched a couple videos of color blind guys seeing in color for the first time… Courtesy of En Chroma glasses-very compelling. Reminds me of my photosensitivity during and for some time after my stroke. They look like cool Amber tinted shades.You gotta check em out!

      • B.B.,

        I’m red-green color blind, which is as I understand it the most common type (distantly followed by blue-yellow and ultra-rare total inability to perceive colors). I am able to discern most reds and most greens, only having trouble occasionally. Most of the time if I have an issue it is telling the difference between some browns and some greens, probably because of the red in the brown.

        Color blindness in women is extraordinarily rare, I’ve read.


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