by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- The test
- Group 2
- Remember what we are doing
- Lead pellets
- Back to the test
- Two hands wins!
- Other pellets
- Let’s try BBs
- 4.55mm lead balls
- Wild shots explained?
Today I shoot the Sig P320 M17 pellet pistol for accuracy. I learned a lot in today’s test, so this should be interesting.
I am testing both pellets and BBs (plus lead balls), so I will test at two different distances. I will begin with pellets at 10 meters. I knew that Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets would be accurate, so I started with them.
I started the test by shooting off a sandbag rest. I rested the bottom of the gun’s grip on the bag and I also tried holding the gun with my hands resting on the bag. It turned out that resting the pistol directly on the bag worked the best, but I had to shoot a second group to learn that.
My first group was lousy, because of how I shot. I picked the pistol up and then reacquired the target for each shot. However, in the middle of that string of 10 I tried just leaving the pistol where it was and kept shooting, making very slight corrections to compensate for the recoil. When I did that the final 6 shots tore a much smaller group on the target. So, I chalked that up to learning the gun and shot a second group for record.
This time I got the desired result. Eight of the Sig match pellets went into 1.329-inches at 10 meters, and the other two opened the group to 3.309-inches between centers. I was confused about the two fliers at the time but I think I may have discovered the reason for the two wide shots. Let me address that in a little bit.
Once I learned how to shoot the M17 pistol rested, this was what I got. Those 8 pellets are in 1.329-inches, while the 2 fliers opened the group to 3.309-inches I will discuss the fliers in a bit. The 8 tight shots are good for an action air pistol at 10 meters.
Remember what we are doing
Before anyone gets all “10-meter target pistol” on me and starts complaining about a group that’s larger than one inch, let me remind you that this Sig M17 pistol is an action pistol that fires semiautomatically. It recoils a lot, with the heavy slide moving all the way back each time. Have I ever tested such a gun at 10 meters? I don’t believe so. This is a handgun that you shoot as fast as you can acquire the target. I saw and shot an M17 pellet pistol when I was at Sig last July, which is what gave me the idea for shooting at this distance.
I also tried a couple lead pellets (Air Arms Falcons and H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets) in the M17, but they both landed too low to hit the target. At 5 meters they would be on target, but at 10 meters they were off the paper. So I confined my pellet choices to Sig ballistic alloy pellets. If these seem too pricy I see no reason why other less expensive lead-free pellets that aren’t made of tin would not work, as well. The key is the shoot the lightest pellets available.
Back to the test
Okay, what I’m about to show was actually shot at the end of the test, but I’m putting it here because it makes more sense. After shooting three other groups from 10 meters and then moving to 5 meters for BBs, I thought I would come back to the Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets and try another theory.
When I was at Sig in July I saw John Bright of the UK firm Highland Outdoors shoot incredibly good groups with the M17. Of course he used a 2-hand hold, while old BB still holds pistols with one hand. So I wondered whether holding the gun unsupported would be even better than with the gun rested on the bag. And it was! In honor of John Bright, I also held the pistol in two hands this time.
Two hands wins!
This time I shot the smallest 10-shot group of the test from 10 meters. It was like being back at Sig again. Ten Match Ballistic Alloy pellets went into 2.561-inches at 10 meters. There were no fliers in this group.
Note that both groups have hit in very close to the same place. I was using a 6 o’clock hold, so this pistol is right on for elevation and shooting slightly to the right. A right-handed shooter like me usually pulls his shots to the left, so if I shot the pistol one-handed like I normally do, I think it would be dead-on at 10 meters. I didn’t figure this out until everything had been put away, but I can say that this pistol shot exactly like the one I shot at Sig, back in July.
I told you that I tried lead pellets and found they shot too low. I also tried Crux Ballistic Alloy pellets. I shot them at 5 meters by mistake, because I had already moved the shooting bench up to that distance before remembering they were still loaded in the magazine. I figured if I got a super-tight group at the close distance I would move back to 10 meters and try them again. But the group I got at 5 meters was larger than 2 inches and I felt that was too large to try again at 10.
Let’s try BBs
Okay, we know that steel BBs will work in the M17, so let’s give them a try. For this I moved the bench to 5 meters from the target. I shot the targets that follow before shooting the target you just saw, so everything that follows was shot with the pistol rested directly on the bag.
As we saw in Part 2, steel BBs are not as efficient as pellets in the M17, so I didn’t expect much accuracy. I used the largest steel BBs I have, which are Avanti Match Grade BBs. In all the tests I’ve done they average a half-thousandth larger than the next-largest BB (0.1735- compared to 0.173-inches).
Ten of these BBs went into 1.956-inches at 10 meters. I would expect a smoothbore action pistol to put 10 into closer to one inch at the same distance. This group was a little below the aim point, but in line, left and right.
4.55mm lead balls
For the last target, I loaded ten 4.55mm lead balls. You aren’t going to have these unless you shoot Zimmerstutzens, and, since they are way too expensive ($25 for 100?), you wouldn’t shoot them anyway. But inquiring minds want to know.
I shot vintage Beeman Perfect Rounds in the Part 2 velocity test. They are supposed to be 4.5mm in diameter, so these balls are even a little larger! I figured they would take the rifling better. And they seemed to work! Nine of the ten went into 1.742-inches and dead-on the aim point. But shot 10 (I really have no idea which one it was) opened the group to 2.413-inches. Notice that this shot is lower than the main group.
Wild shots explained?
Now, look back at the first target and notice that the two wild shots are also lower than the main group. I think that might explain the reason for the wild shots. I think the chambers in the ammo belt may sometimes not align with the rear of the barrel, exactly. If so, they might hit the side of the barrel as they enter. That could both damage the side of the pellet or BB and also slow it down. I do remember hearing one shot with the first target group shown sounded very slow.
So — what’s my take on the M17 pellet pistol? Well, for starters, it’s a pellet pistol — not a BB pistol. Let’s shoot it with the ammo that works the best.
Next, it’s an action pistol. Use it that way — not the way I have tested it in this report. So, why did I test it the way I did? Because you can’t be with me and watch me use it as an action pellet pistol. I am thinking about ways of doing this — and no, a video isn’t the only answer. Video of a pellet pistol shooting is about as exciting as watching golf! It takes a large crew of very expensive cameras, custom software and highly skilled videographers to make golf interesting, and BB doesn’t have the budget for that!
But I have three action pistols (this one, plus a CZ-75 SP-01 and a Sig P365) to test for you, and I intend doing just that, somehow.
This report concludes the main test for the M17 pellet pistol, but as I just mentioned, I will be coming back when I get my act together (and when the P365 BB pistol arrives). This pistol is very realistic, as we have seen. If you own the firearm I would get one of these to go with it!