How does BB select pellets for a test?
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Don’t I wish?
- What’s the criteria?
- Brands first
- Choosing a pellet
- Target guns
- Action airguns
- Hunting airguns
- General purpose airguns
- Trick pellets
- How should you do it?
This blog was requested by reader Cobalt 327. And the answer is simple. BB gets paid by the pellet manufacturers to promote their products — the same as for the airgun manufacturers. The more they pay me, the more I talk about their pellets. I get a very healthy stipend from Crosman for writing about their Premiers, and from H&N for touting their Baracuda Match pellets. JSB actually sends me on all-expense paid vacations to the Bahamas several times each year, in addition to a very large check each month! Pocketa-pocketa-pocketa…
Don’t I wish?
I know that’s what some people think. There are no kickbacks that I am aware of in the airgun industry. If there are, whoever is paying them is fooling themselves, because we writers do this because we love it. I do get paid to write this blog, but no one tells me what to write and I have never been told to give a product anything but an honest report.
I do get free pellets from manufacturers and from Pyramyd Air. Every once in awhile I will buy some pellets out of my own pocket, but that will be because they aren’t easily available through any other source.
What’s the criteria?
So, how do I select a pellet to test? The answer is simple, really. I have very little time because when I’m not writing blogs, I’m either testing airguns, answering questions or doing research. I work at this job 6 days a week and up to 16 hours per day, though not altogether most of the time. Suffice to say I have very little time to spare. So, testing a new airgun with pellets I can’t trust just doesn’t cut it. That’s why you see the same pellets in my reports time after time — because I trust them.
Sometimes, I am surprised when a certain pellet lets me down. It isn’t expected, but I try to milk the occasion for all it’s worth, because there is no time to stop the train and smell the flowers. I take high-speed pictures of the flowers and try to imagine what they smell like! Laugh if you want — it’s true. You guys just think you like honesty, but if I ran three consecutive bad reviews back to back, you would get bored. And, given the excellence of today’s airguns, I never have to.
If you were to look in my pellet cabinet you’d see a lot of pellets — maybe as many as a small store would have. A lot of those pellets are ones I have tried in the past and found specific uses for, or they just didn’t pan out for the hit list. I used to buy pellets based on readers’ recommendations, but stopped when I discovered not all readers have the same criteria for accuracy that I have. It’s not that I’m such a great shot. It’s that I want to get myself out of the picture as much as possible and let the gun being tested stand or fall as it may. How I shoot doesn’t matter. It’s how that new .25 caliber LuftWhacker shoots — or doesn’t shoot.
Therefore, I have a stable of pellets I know to be reliable. Those are the first ones I try. Then, I let the circumstances of the test dictate the next step. At times I purposely try a pellet I think is ill-suited to a particular airguns, and if it pans out, I tell you.
The brands I trust the most are JSB, H&N, RWS, Qiang Yuan and Crosman. Then there are secondary brands that are made by a few of these same makers — Beeman and Air Arms. If I lived outside the U.S. these same brands might take on different names, so what I’m saying only applies here. I don’t trust all of the pellets made by any of the brands. But I trust most of JSB’s (and Air Arms) domes, H&N’s Baracudas (and Beeman Kodiaks), H&N’s target pellets, with the Finale Match being on top of that list. And I trust pretty much anything RWS makes, though pellets like their Superpoints are reserved for certain airguns. Finally, I trust the Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellet! That darn thing usually shoots the pants off half the premium brands!
Choosing a pellet
I tend to select lighter pellets for weaker airguns, regardless of their powerplant. If air or gas sealing is an issue, like it is in CO2 guns, most pneumatics and all taploaders, I look for pellets with thinner skirts. That’s where a pellet like the RWS Superpoint comes to the front.
For the magnum spring guns I find it’s best to start with a heavier pellet, but often they will shoot their best with a lightweight. For these I want pellets that have thicker skirts, because when the gun fires the air blast is sudden and powerful.
For 10-meter target guns I always select wadcutter pellets. I know some of you shoot these guns with domes and they can be fun to plink with, but I stay focused on their primary purpose. You have to remember what it is I am doing. It’s not the same as plinking, so my pellet needs are usually quite specific.
These are the semiautomatic repeaters and those that fire full auto. They rely on smooth feeding, and I have found that harder pellets like those Crosman makes are the best bet. The good news is Crosman pellets are made well and are usually quite accurate. They are also often a bargain!
I don’t care what hunting ammunition costs — it has to do its job. If it does, I will pay the price. We are starting to see specialized hunting ammunition come to market whose price we cannot compare to what we have now. These pellets are made for one job only and if they do that job, they are a bargain.
General purpose airguns
You won’t find me testing airguns this way, but when I give a gun to someone as a present I generally give them lower-cost pellets. I don’t know how long they are going to shoot that gun, so I don’t see the need to go top drawer.
These are pellets that depart from the general description of what a pellet is. They are touted as being able to punch through metal, or they are copper-plated to not oxidize or they have some other unique and unusual characteristic. I remember year ago when my wife Edith invented a trick pellet called “Flava Shots” that basted the animal in sauce to prepare them for cooking. They were edible, so you didn’t have to worry about leaving them in the game. It was an April Fool’s joke that got a lot of attention!
How should you do it?
I bet you are already doing this to some extent. If you have more than a single tin of pellets you probably have one you like the best. That’s how it starts and none of us knows how it ends. When we get that far there is no one we can tell!