The BB gage: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BB Gage
The new BB Gage looks like a Pelletgage, and operates in a similar way. Photo provided by Pelletgage.comwhich is why the range is not the same as in the text.

This report covers:

  • Precision required
  • Getting started
  • Avanti Precision Ground Shot
  • Measuring procedure
  • Daisy Premium Grade BBs
  • Wide variation!
  • Hornady Black Diamond BBs
  • H&N Smart Shot
  • Crosman Copperhead BBs
  • Evaluation so far

This Thursday, December 24, is Christmas Eve. On that day I’m running a special blog that allows you readers to do most of the writing. We will all tell which airgun we would like to receive for Christmas, and I will get things rolling in the text. Be thinking about the one airgun you want the most this year. It can be a new gun or a used one — your choice.

I realize that not all readers celebrate the Christmas holiday. But don’t let that deter you. Whether you celebrate or not, this exercise is open to all readers.

I said yesterday that I was running some Best of B.B. reports starting today, to give myself some time at Christmas. I have family and guests coming today, and I won’t be able to get to the computer as often as I would like. But today’s report is a new one. Let’s get started looking at the BB gage.

Precision required

The BB Gage sounds simple, but there’s more to it than you might imagine. The BB Gage actually measures the diameter of the BB, because BBs are spheres. The diameter of a sphere is also a chord like the head of a pellet, but in this case the BBs don’t fall into the holes of the gage because their skirts are too large to pass through. They fall completely through. Or not, if they are too large.

When they don’t fall through, you start wondering about that hole. Is it perfectly round? Is it the correct size marked on the steel plate? Is there a tiny burr on an edge of the hole preventing the BB from falling through? These holes are graduated in hundredths of a millimeter. A 4.37mm hole measures 0.17204724-inches across, while a 4.38mm hole measures 0.17244094-inches. The difference is a little more than 4 ten-thousandths of an inch! Until the 1990s there weren’t any BBs that were worthy of being measured with such precision, because none of them were close to being perfect spheres.

Today I’m going to sort some popular BBs for you and show you how the gage works. In the next report I will use the Daisy Avanti 499 BB gun to test the sorted BBs by size — to see if it makes any difference on target.

Getting started

The gage plate has 10 holes ranging from 4.35mm to 4.44mm. It is made similar to the Pelletgage, except there is no plastic plate on top of the metal gage plate. The BBs don’t need to be guided to the hole.

BB Gage holes
Ten holes range from 4.35mm to 4.44mm.

I started out placing a cloth under the gage, but I soon discovered that it was better to just hold the gage in one hand and manipulate the BB with the other. I have containers for each BB size. These little balls aren’t going to stay still if you don’t have a plan.

Avanti Precision Ground Shot

The first BB I tested is the one we are most interested in — Daisy’s Avanti Precision Ground Shot. The Avanti 449 BB gun uses this shot exclusively, and shooters may want to sort their shot into groups of known size.

I sorted 58 BBs and got 5 groups that ranged from 4.41mm to greater than 4.44mm. The gage holes stop at 4.44mm, so I lumped all those that were larger into one group. The breakdown is as follows.

Size…….Number
4.41…………1
4.42……….20
4.43……….16
4.44……….14
>4.44……….7

BB Gage in use
As soon as a BB was measured it went into a container with others of the same size.

Why 58 BBs? I was trying to get as many groups of 10 BBs as possible, for a future accuracy test with the 499. Sizes 4.42mm through 4.44mm were easy to find. It was the two outlier sizes that were difficult. My plan is to test 10-shot groups with BBs of known sizes, then shoot a group of BBs taken straight from the box. I will also probably mix the largest and smallest BBs and add 2 additional BBs for a final group. That should be a pretty good first test of whether or not the BB Gage has any affect on accuracy.

Measuring procedure

I discovered that, like the pellets, there is a procedure for measuring BBs with this gage. First they are dropped into a hole, then if they don’t pass through, I touch them lightly on one side. That overcomes any small resistance to passing through. If the BB doesn’t pass through with this, it’s on to the next largest hole and the same procedure.

I had no idea where to begin so I started trying BBs in the smallest hole first. Then I moved up until the BBs dropped through. Okay, let’s measure a conventional BB.

Daisy Premium Grade BBs

I always defer to Daisy Premium Grade BBs as the industry standard premium BB in my testing. It doesn’t mean they are always the most accurate, though. There have been several tests when other premium brand BBs have done better. The Daisy BB is just a good place to begin, because I know it produces good results in most guns.

Wide variation!

I was shocked, therefore, when the gage revealed a size spread from 4.36mm to 4.42mm. That’s huge! Fifteen BBs grouped in 7 different sizes. My past testing has shown that this doesn’t matter so much in conventional BB guns, but it could make a noticeable difference in a gun like the 499. Here is how Daisy BBs broke down.

Size…….Number
4.36…………1
4.37…………2
4.38…………3
4.39…………2
4.40…………3
4.41…………3
4.42…………1

I don’t know what to make of this, other than to note that it might not make that much difference in most guns. Conventional BB guns may be very forgiving of small size differences. Maybe the gage is revealing things that really don’t matter. Only more testing will tell us what the real impact might be.

Hornady Black Diamond BBs

I tried Hornady Black Diamond BBs next. These new BBs have surprised me with their consistency in some guns, and today’s test may reveal why. They turned out to be more uniform than even the Avanti Precision Ground Shot! The range for 15 of them went from 4.39mm to 4.42mm.

Size…….Number
4.39…………2
4.40…………4
4.41…………7
4.42…………2

While the uniformity is good, these BBs are much smaller, on average, than the Precision Ground Shot. So it may not be a matter of simple substituting them in the 499. But isn’t it interesting how uniform they are?

H&N Smart Shot

You knew I had to test the new H&N Smart Shot lead BBs. If I hadn’t I would have been besieged with requests to go back and check them.

Surprisingly Smart Shot BBs are pretty uniform, in terms of BB uniformity. Fifteen of them ranged in size from 4.39mm to 4.43mm. Here is the breakdown.

Size…….Number
4.39…………3
4.40…………6
4.41…………5
4.42…………1
4.43…………2

Too bad Smart Shot BBs don’t work in the 499. I tested them that way while I was testing this lead BB, and the 499 magnet cannot hold the BB in the breech for firing.

Crosman Copperhead BBs

The final BB I tested was the Crosman Copperhead BB. These measured surprisingly uniform, with just 4 groups that ranged from 4.37mm to 4.40mm. That would make Copperheads an ideal choice for guns with smaller barrels, except for one disturbing thing. Two of the 18 BBs I measured actually spanned the entire range of sizes — from 4.37mm to 4.40mm. What I’m saying is they were both stopped by and also passed through all these holes except the largest and smallest hole. These 2 BBs were not round!

Size…….Number
4.37…………4
4.38…………7
4.39…………5
4.40…………2

As I touched their sides while measuring them with the gage I could feel rough edges digging into the sides of the gage holes. But when I removed them and turned them on their axis, they dropped through! Both were absolutely stopped by the 4.37mm hole and also passed through the 4.40mm hole, but both could be made to both pass through or to stop on the other two holes, depending on how they were oriented.

Evaluation so far

All we know at this point is the BB Gage does work. It does show the relative diameters of the BBs that are tested on it.

I can’t say whether the holes are exactly correct, but I do know they allow BBs to be sorted into groups by their size. What remains to be seen is whether sorting BBs this way will have an affect on their accuracy.

42 thoughts on “The BB gage: Part 1


  1. Hi BB and the group. I have been waiting for this report and this product. If it is not too expensive will be on my short list for 2016. I can’t help but think that many flyers are caused by less then perfect “if there is such a thing” BB .Looking forward to your tests on using the matched BBs and seeing the results. Thanks for the great informative post.
    Harvey in wet, soggy western Idaho


  2. Very interesting. I am looking forward to further testing. Just an idea, but since you will have the 499 out, why not give the plastic sleeved barrel “tune” a try? Find the best of the best and then see if it can be bettered. Quick, easy and 100% reversible. 10 meters should show it well. Or even 15 meters, since I had 8 of 10 go into 1″ at that range.



      • B.B.,

        A lesson I have yet to learn I suppose. Being fairly new, I don’t trust myself to know what “best” is, short of keeping data. As for the (now) 499 project, it might fall into that “why would you?” category, or perhaps the “don’t try this at home” category. I am however thankful that what I have learned here has given me the confidence to try new things. Learn all you can, bite your lip and go for it. Don’t be stupid, know your limits and above all, be safe.

        No doubt you have done that and ended up saying…”why did I do that?”. Well, to learn and know I guess. But, there is no doubt those times when you said,…”I’m glad I did it” too. 😉

        Thanks for the reply,……Chris



  3. Hello, Tom and all, Merry Christmas to all the BLOGers!

    The BBgage is calibrated (using the term unofficially) using a set of Class X plug gages (from Deltronic), NIST traceable). These pins are plus 0.0001 mm (+0.00004″) minus nothing. The sets (we now have five) have three pins at between each of the 0.01 mm steps in the Pelletgage of BBgage. Subjectively, it’s possible to infer whether the pin is “snug” in the BBgage aperture. We sample and check every lot from the laser. It has never failed. I assure you, if you have a Pelletgage or BBgage, it is capable (precise and accurate, with repeatability) for true measurement.

    Thanks for your interest, I sincerely appreciate you and the participants here. Let’s all work for a better 2016.


    • JerryC.,

      I must admit, the more I hear from you, the more B.B. test your products and the more I hear feedback from the blog readers,…the more you have me sold. More so,..I admire you seeing a need and taking it to the “next level’ with time, research, dedication and cost,..and finally bringing it to market. That I admire.

      Seeing a need and filling it is to be admired,..but I sense that you have a passion for airgunning as well? I do not remember you or B.B. telling anything about that, if it exist. If it does, and you have said, I apologize, I missed it.

      Either way, you have done a great service to air gunners everywhere. Especially those at the most serious levels.

      Chris




    • RR
      I got to spend a little time on that balistic caculater.

      It’s much simpler than Chairgun. Basically because it doesn’t have as many options to select from like Chairgun. Pretty basic calculator. And I had to punch in the fpe my gun was making on that option on the screen. If I imputed the fps it would overide it with a lower fpe at the end with the graphs.

      But I do like how it graphs out velocity and fpe on the two separate graphs at different yards out to 100 yards. Then shows you your trajectory graph.

      And it only has H&N pellets to choose from. Chairgun has a wide variety of known pellets. Plus Chairgun you can input your own coefficient of drag. And you can bring up scope views with yardages showing so you know what holdover to use.

      The H&N program only shows drop in inches. Although I did input my .25 Marauder with the Barracudas and it was pretty much right what the pellet drops at different distances compared to what my targets show holding dead on.

      So yep the H&N caculater is nice if you want to keep it simple and quick. Pretty cool. I like.



        • RR
          Oh and I like how it shows remaining fpe as the yardage increases on the graph.

          And if you knew the coefficient of drag from other brand pellets you could probably look at the H&N pellets it lists and find one similar.

          It gives generic scope heights too. Unlike Chairgun. You can punch a exact dimension into Chairgun. So not exact. But does give multiple heights to work with. So a person could still change that around to see how it changes the graphs.

          And yep got it on my phone like I mentioned above so I can use it whenever. Nothing like technology.
          🙂


  4. B.B.,

    Just sayin, the first pic is a little confusing since the range is from 4.32mm to 4.41mm and not 4.35mm to 4.44mm discussed in the blog. Perhaps it’s an old pic of a trial version? The second pic shows the discussed range.

    Mark N



    • Hello, Mark,

      You’re right – this photo was taken from the first prototype, and testing showed that the range is much better from 4.35 to 4.44 mm (1.71 to 1.75 in). Tom has the only one that was ever shipped. 😉
      Thanks for the catch!


      • B.B. and Jerry,

        The BB Gage has a maximum size of 4.44, but 7 of 123 BBs were too large, roughly 6 percent of BBs tested. It seems that the BB Gage should have holes that measure up to 4.46 or so. Also, out of the 123 BBs tested, only one measured 4.36 and only four measured 4.37. None was 4.35 or smaller.

        If Pelletgage is bound to an even number holes for a uniformity-of-design aesthetic, then I would suggest a BB Gage with, ideally, twelve holes (4.35 – 4.46). If Pelletgage’s production methods require a ten-hole device, then I would think 3.36 – 4.45 might be adequate.

        Nevertheless, if seven BBs measured larger than 4.4, how many of those seven would have also been larger than 4.5? Two or three of them, perhaps? (I am attempting to extrapolate from the sequence of 1-20-16-14-7. ) And keep in mind that those were all Avanti Precision Ground Shot, which are used by the world’s most finicky BB shooters, 5 meter competitors. I would consider these competitors and their coaches to be a target (pun intended) market for this device.

        Michael




          • Jerry,

            Thanks for that link. That is an amazing event, even more so than I imagined. Do they sort the Avanti shot by size or weight? By how close they are or aren’t to being spherical?

            I have thought a lot about the BB Gage today. First, I think precision is your greatest selling point, so I would not loosen tolerances or enlarge measurement increments. Also, I am sure a big part of your operating costs are tied to R&D. My advice is that you interview coaches of these young sharpshooters to find out if they find too many Avanti Shot to be too big or too small, and whether or not they seek out tighter shot tubes/barrels or larger ones. Your product might make their process a lot cheaper. Buy one BB Gage and sort the Avanti Shot rather than sort the shot AND barrels.

            I think B.B. is right (he has a habit of that). Maybe the huge difference in BB sizes means that the BB Gage should have twelve or perhaps even (gasp) fourteen holes. I could not argue with 4.34 – 4.47 or 4.33 – 4.46.

            Michael


          • JerryC,

            I read the article too quickly. After reading it a second time I now know how they sort BBs. I believe that the BB Gage would speed up their sorting process, eliminating at least more than half of the “loser” BBs pretty quickly. Man, rolling them on glass to listen for flat spots! I’m already too hard of hearing to be any good at that.

            Michael


  5. Hey Tom, on YouTube, is The Godfather of Airguns™ your legitimate channel? I came across it and didnt know you had that going. It only has a few subscribers so anybody that hasnt checked it out yet give it a look see and show our support. Looks like a lot of the gun show stuff is going there and some cool instructionals.


    • And the gage tests for spherical uniformity, not just diameter. You proved that with the copper head observation. Is there a way to speed the process of sorting? Id love to sort all my pellets but the time involved, urrh.



      • Cant argue, that’s me with the prayer. Very impatient. I’m thinking about a hatsan AT-44-10w 22, and thinking of the shorter time it would take to get a disco… but like the hatsan in every way more. Here’s where getting more patient comes into play. Hopefully after the holiday I can make it happen. On the YouTube channel, I saw just your official, watched a few vids but didnt see your face in the ones I’d watched, just the hands lol, but figured it was legit but was surprised there wasnt many subscribers. People should love the more direct Godfather YouTube resource, once they find it. I know I use YouTube quite a bit, and only see you on the round tables If I remember right.


        • RR,

          (When) I was looking at PCP’s, the Hatsan line did catch my eye,..hard. My only worry was all the goings on in that part of the world and whether production and parts would be in danger of short or non-existent supply..other than that, they do offer more pounding for the buck.



            • It comes with adapter though, right? I would hope so, as far as switching the fill heads, that isnt too bad a thing. I use only one gun at a time and will spend a long time with it. Its one gun per season, actually, historically, but things they are a changin so we’ll see. If I get two great pcps in one year, one in 17 one in 22, I’ll probably be done until the price gets driven down. Even then, a super accurate 177 (covered) and a super accurate (beast) 22 is all this simple man desires.


          • Yeah, the reviews are good, price is good(ish), little more juice then the disco but having great accuracy from the reviews. I like the looks too. The other option, and much more cost effective, would be ordering a 22 conversion for the mrod, not that the 177 doesnt drop it like its hot, I think im just addicted to the dark side and want to see how the bigger caliber does things in a smooth world. I love 177- its cheaper, low trajectory, and I’ve always appreciated its ability as a pester when well placed.. I just prefer the bigger pellet and have never been able to get it to do what it can from the springers. Plus, how many good reasons do you need to get another great air rifle?? 😉



              • I’ve wondered about 30 and 9mm air rifles, I guess im just taking it one step/caliber at a time, but if the rodder can take care of all the small stuff, the next might as well take care of big stuff without questions, I still like the idea of the escape, but now I have repeater on the list of required qualities after using the mrod and magazine. If the at44,10w could make the sledgehammer of the 25 escape I’d be late on my rent next month 😉 but everythings got its toss ups and things to think about. There’s some evanix guns making the grade of power and repeater, but I’m not on for even the hatsans 400$, nevermind a grand, not this month anyway! Spring time or at least after the holidays im going to have to get disciplined with and airgun piggy bank.


                • The money required is why I ordered my 2400kt and now have a 2240 both on HPA with the HIPac kits.
                  I’m waiting for BNM to get .25 barrels back in stock now so I can get one of their shrouded .25 repeating kits.


  6. Great report again, Tom! AND… I had an interesting time this summer regarding this very issue. I ran a mini day-camp f event for Cub Scouts SAFELY shooting DAISY Red Ryder air rifles. Turns out that many of these DAISY rifles could not reliably function on DAISY BBs: the same ones you gaged here: they jammed inside the barrels about 5-10% of all shots. However, feeding them (the rifles, NOT the Cubs!) the CROSMAN BBs you rated above, I think ALL shots ran true (well, as true as some of these little guys could do anyway!). I wrote a note to the local BSA leaders, recommending they buy & feed only Crosman Copperhead BBs in these guns. Sad to find that Daisy rifles couldn’t reliably handle Daisy BBs!


  7. Another excellent blog – thank you. I have the Pellet Gage. I purchased it on line, and it was shipped all the way down under. The Gage is a great piece of equipment for those interested in squeezing just the little more accuracy/consistency in their shooting. I am in my late 60’s and need just that little bit of an edge over the younger competitors. The Gage helps me to even out the odds. Rick.



  8. I’m too lazy to sort bbs, but I can identify after my recent reloading effort. Over the weekend, I loaded 200 rounds for the Garand to finish off my reloading supplies. Every case loaded to the exact particle. My ogive length was a little more variable than before with +- .004 inches but still better than what I was getting with overall length.

    Interesting about the Christmas Eve blog. I don’t quite see how we can all contribute our thoughts and get it turned into a post in a single day. Unfortunately, I may not have access to see this in action. But I will send in my fantasy guns in advance. They are the HW30S, ultimate low-powered German breakbarrel. Runner-up is the TX200 which is a best in class gun but really overpowered for my 5 yard indoor range.

    Gunfun1, I’m sure that my Delta Force trooper was thinking about trajectory for his laser zeroing, considering who he is. But seeing as he was writing about the tactical carbine (which he differentiated from sniping work), I believe he was talking about the use of a laser with holdover. There wouldn’t be time to rezero your weapon in a close-quarters or surprise engagement. So, he would holdover with his optical zero and by zeroing his laser a few horizontal inches to the side, he could holdover with the laser in the same way. Had he zeroed his laser to converge with the optical sights, holdover would be impossible. And supposing that he did have time to re-zero the optical sight, I think it would speed things up to rezero the laser in parallel rather than find a new point of convergence since doing that would require different adjustments to the laser which has a different relation to the bore than the scope. I think that’s what the Delta Force vet means.

    Fido3030, interesting about closing one eye to save your vision. That reminds me of a story I’ve heard about the pilot of Air Force One which operates as a mobile Presidential command center in time of war. The report is that the pilot wears a patch over one eye so in the event of a nuclear blast, he can use the other eye. You will run out of eyes pretty quickly at that rate, although I suppose it does give you an advantage. Similarly, in a tactical situation you can’t shine the light too often, but you probably wouldn’t want to.

    Matt61


    • Matt61
      From what you explained and if I’m understanding right.

      He still had to pick a distance for a target to be at and zero his scope at that distance. So then if he wanted to corospond the laser say 2″ to the right of scope sight in distance zero. Then he could visually see on a target how much hold he is putting in at a different distance.

      He still had to pick one distance that he wanted the laser to be true to the scope reticle point of aim and point of impact. That way he would have a reference point for zero aim at that distance.

      And why would you not go ahead and zero the laser windage/ left, right dead on to point of impact of what the scope reticle sees and is zeroed at that determined distance. Why would you want it zeroed to the left or right of what you zeroed your scope at? That makes no sense to me.

      Your scope is zeroed to hit at one distance. So why not corospond the laser at that distance to the scope? Then when you shoot at different distances you will still visually see your laser on your target and can compare to what holdover you have chose at that distance to where the lasers pointed at.

      I think we’re talking about the same thing. Just in your explanation the laser is sighted to the side of the scope zero instead of dead on to the scope at that distance.


      • Yes, you’re right that he picked a distance to zero his scope. He has a long section in his book about the right distance to zero so that you can make easy holdovers at other distances you are likely to shoot at. It is something like zero at 100 and hold low at 50 and high at 150; the kind of thing that hunters do. But he definitely says that you zero the laser two or three inches to the side of the aimpoint at the zero distance, not coincident with the aimpoint.

        I admit that I didn’t get it either at first. But seeing as he is a Delta Force operator, I figured that he must have reasons. I think he is imagining the following scenario. Suppose with his zero method, you switch to a laser at 50 yards. You just have to hold low the same amount as the scope and the same horizontal displacement as at your zero distance. Had he zeroed the laser to coincide with the scope, how would he hold the laser at 50 yards? Both the elevation and windage holdover would be different because the laser is in a different relation to the bore than the scope. So it will go at every distance other than the zero distance. With his method, your elevation holdover would be the same as the scope and you are always the same distance and direction to the side. By zeroing your laser to the original aimpoint, your laser holdover will be different from your scope holdover at every other distance.

        Matt61


        • Matt61
          So what happens if the laser was mounted in different locations in relation to the barrel?

          What if the laser is mounted to the side of the scope. Our on the bottom of the barrel or on the right or left side of the barrel.

          Then lets say the gun was zerod at 50 yards with the scope. Same with the laser. Now what if we look at a target at 80 yards. And remember the laser is zeroed at 50 yards. And let’s say 5″ to the right. Where will the lazer be pointed when you put the scope reticle center right on the middle of the bullseye on the target.

          Will the laser be pointed at the bullseye and 5″ to the right or would it be above or below the bullseye.

          I believe the laser will intersect the target different at that 80 yards than 50.

          Do this old trick. BB talked about this before. Have the laser on your rifle turned on. Then look through the scope in the house. Watch what the laser does through the scope when its close to you on the floor then move away from you across the floor and up the wall. After you try it. Tell me what happens with the laser in relation to your scope reticle.

          I think you will be surprised.


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