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Ammo The modern pellet

The modern pellet

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Don’t make them like they used to
  • Not a history report
  • The olden days
  • Crosman Premiers
  • The molecular level
  • The Pelletgage
  • Lead-free pellets
  • Investment
  • Production control
  • The Premier pee-wee
  • Are we done?
  • Summary

Don’t make them like they used to

We hear that a lot these days. “They don’t make them like they used to!” When we talk about guns, we talk about real wood and blued steel. When we talk about cars we talk about horsepower and body styles. No, they don’t make them like they used to. When it comes to pellets, they make them a lot better.

Not a history report

I will start with the history, but that’s not where I’m going today. I have to set the stage, and for many of you that will be a history lesson. But at the end of the report I hope that you will see that today’s pellets are the best they have ever been.

The olden days

Back when I was young and the Earth was still being formed there weren’t a lot of choices when it came to pellets. You bought whatever the store sold, which was pretty much one brand. Where I lived in northern Ohio it was Benjamin who made the pellets. I suppose that’s because of the limited number of stores I shopped in, so my experience may be very filtered.

Benjamin tins
Old Benjamin pellet tins. The one on the lower right is the newest one. The green tins were sold from the 1940s through the 1960s.

Benjamin tins sticker
Many green Benjamin tins have a sticker telling the buyer the pellets are sized and lubricated.

In other areas of the country, Crosman made the pellets and who was Benjamin?

Crosman Silent pellet
The older Crosman pellets came in cardboard boxes. These are for the Crosman model 101 multi-pump rifle that Crosman called the Silent, beginning in the 1940s.

Crosman "pepper can"
Crosman’s pepper can was popular in the 1950s and ’60s.

If a lot of this sounds familiar it may be that you read it in this blog about 3-1/2 years ago in a report titled, Vintage pellets. Now let’s transition to today.

Ashcans Premiers
Crosman “ashcan” pellets on the left, Crosman Premiers on the right. The perfect transition from old pellets to modern ones.

Crosman Premiers

I remember in the early 1990’s Crosman brought out their famous Premier pellet that’s still going strong almost 30 years later. I spoke with the engineer who helped design that pellet and he told me the design was based on aerodynamics. That was novel because until that time I think production was what drove pellet design. Production as in producibility, meaning how fast can we make them without risking a degradation in quality and how long can we make the dies last? If a die costs $20-40,000 they want it to last for many tens of millions of pellets.

I could have started this discussion 20-25 years earlier, because H&N in Germany and Mount Star in Japan were already making quality pellets in the late 1960s that were far better than the ones of the past I have presented here, but I want to look at the newer innovations that have made pellets one of the most highly developed parts of the airgunning experience.

The molecular level

About 30 years ago the H&N company told Robert Beeman that if pellets were to get any more precise it would have to be done at the molecular level. What they were saying is the process is so rigidly controlled that the pellets they are making are as uniform as they can be. But is that true?

Many airgunners take issue with such a statement because they are now examining their pellets much closer than ever. They sorted pellets by weight back in the 1980s but only a few did anything more than that. Some worried a lot about the swarf (lead residue) they found in the pellet tin or box and had procedures for washing their pellets to get rid of it. That also washed off the stuff that retards lead oxidation and those pellets rapidly turned white, so various recipes for oiling the pellets were discussed.

The Pelletgage

Then came the Pelletgage and things changed dramatically. With a Pelletgage we knew for a fact that some pellets had larger heads than others in the same tin, or we expressed our admiration when we found entire tins whose heads were nearly all the same size. What’s wrong with the manufacturers who had different head sizes? Why aren’t they catching this first?

There is a simple answer — time. To sell a pellet for a few cents no manufacturer can afford to spend a lot of time producing it. They have to use production methods that assure tight tolerances and then live with the product they produce. You must realize there are millions of pellets that never make it into a tin because they are removed by some inspection procedure. Yes those pellets are recycled, but the time spent producing and then inspecting and eliminating them has to be added to the time the good pellets take.

Sure — a hand inspection with something like a Pelletgage could improve the output to some degree, but how much improvement are you willing to pay for? Instead of $32.95 for a box of 1,250 Crosman Premier heavys would you be willing to pay $87? Crosman might be able to hire some folks and train them how to gage the head of each heavy pellet and sort them into exact sizes for you, but a box of 1,250 pellets might take 2 full hours to sort. And, if they paid the new part-time workers $11 per hour, that’s an extra $22 that has to be loaded with their corporate multiplier of 2.7 times (profit plus a very few benefits and holidays) and come out to $59.40 that has to be tacked on to the current wholesale price of $14.50 and now it becomes $73.90 to the distributors. Oh — I guess $87 a box isn’t going to be quite enough, because the distributor has to make a profit and so do the dealers! What dealer is going to spend $80 on a thing he makes $7 on?

Are you starting to see the challenge? And, if most airgunners are still shooting pellets straight from the box or tin — like I do on every test I run unless I say different — is there even a market for something like this? Don’t bother thinking about it — the answer is no. Anyone anal enough to sort their own pellets isn’t going to trust someone else to do it.

Lead-free pellets

In times past lead-free pellets have been like fat-free candy. People who fixate on the words think they are something special and shooters who have tried them know better. There may be no fat in a piece of candy but the effects of the sugar will still put fat on the eater!

HOWEVER — in recent years there have been some lead-free pellets that are actually accurate and worth consideration. You know how I have tested and recommended the Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellet in recent times. And the Journey pellet from Umarex is another one deserving of your attention. Both are very accurate in many airguns. “Yes, but BB, the Sig pellets are $35 a time and the Journey pellets are $25!” That’s because both are made of tin. Lead costs just under $1 US this year (except in February, when it spiked to $3 for a couple days) while pure tin costs between $11.50 (for 1,000 lbs. minimum) to $19.50 per pound. However you acquire it, tin is way more expensive than lead.

So tin is not just for making lighter pellets anymore. Speed doesn’t sell when it has the reputation of being inaccurate. Lead-free pellets also have to be very accurate to justify the expense. But now that there are a few good choices on the market, competition will start to drive the price down.


Producing airguns requires an investment of money. I’m not talking about making a couple dozen guns — I’m talking about high rate production that cranks out thousands to tens of thousand of guns each year. Making pellets requires a ten times larger investment to produce tens of millions of pellets per year. Making pellets is not something you get into as a hobby.

Production control

With everything I’ve said picture a modern pellet production line — one of several in the plant. It’s producing tens of thousands of pellets each hour. What happens when the line gets slightly out of tolerance? It continues to produce thousands upon thousands of pellets until stopped by an inspector. If the plant has invested in automated inspection procedures, the stop will happen sooner. If not it will happen until it gets noticed.

The Premier pee-wee

Like most pellets Crosman Premiers are made from preformed slugs called preforms. If a 7.9-grain preform ends up on the line that is producing 10.5-grain pellets, you get what we airgunners call a pee-wee. It looks like a heavy pellet as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. There’s not enough material. There is nothing wrong with the manufacturing machinery or dies, but there is a flaw in the procedures that allowed that smaller preform to get into the production line. You correct it by revising your procedures until things like that can’t happen.

Are we done?

We are not done. Pellets will continue to improve. And, I’m talking about mainstream pellets now, not the pellets with steel balls in their tips (for greater penetration — ha!) and things like that. There are still more shapes to explore, alloys to test and machinery to be designed and built. And, every so often something wonderful might happen. When the .22-caliber Crosman Premier hit the market the vintage Crosman 160 rifle went from being a plinker to a fine youth target rifle overnight.


Pellets today are better than ever before. And, they continue to improve. We are living in a golden age of pellets and can truthfully say, “They don’t make them like they used to!”

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.

61 thoughts on “The modern pellet”

  1. B.B.,
    Off topic: I just noticed that Vortek has new PG3 kits out. New enough that the PA links are messed up. I just got a new 97k, and was going to get a kit, but new product!

    Do you have something with a PG2 that you could install a PG3 kit in for a true apples to apples comparison?

    I have a 177 97k PG2, the new one is a 22, so not a true comparison and I don’t want to mess with the 177 as it’s so solid.


  2. B.B.

    Whenever I measure head sizes with the set of digital calipers I get a different size each time I measure the same pellet. Must be the angle at which I hold the jaws???
    Pellets are the best they have ever been with more choices than ever. We have the super duper pellets that you mentioned, the are the Olympic/ Match class of pellets, and they DO cost twice what other pellets cost.
    Now if there was a safe way to recycle the lead? Come up with a good tin pellet?

    Whatever happened to Vortek’s gas ram project?


    • Yogi,

      Get a Pelletgage if you are serious about it. A digital scale is good too. Mine has 1 place past the decimal and I can fill at least all of the bins in an egg carton with at least a few pellets (most of the time). I will set the center bins of the 12 for the most common weights and the add/minus .1 either direction. If you have not done weighing yet,…. you will be ((very)) surprised.

      I feel both are important and will at least insure that any inaccuracy issues are you and not the pellets. But,…. it is very time consuming.


      • Chris U,

        I have Pelletgages in .177 and .22 and sort of lost faith in them. I have found, with Crosman pellets, for instance, that with just a tiny bit of additional pressure (and I mean TINY) I can get many, many pellets that were unable to pass through a hole, to suddenly pass through and would, at that point, also pass through several smaller holes as well. It is as if the gauge is shaving off a tiny tit or protrusion of flash or something that I can’t even see and, after doing that, the pellet turns out to be much smaller than it first seemed. That means that if I vary the pressure (and the instructions say don’t use it as a re-sizing tool) I am going to have pellets that don’t pass through, NOT because they are too big in diameter, but because they have protrusions or aren’t actually round in shape and, to me, that seems like just introducing a different form of unpredictability into the pellet mix.

        Have you experienced anything like that?


        • Halfstep,

          I have found that with some tins of pellets. The thing that I have learned to do is to roll the pellets on a piece of glass before I check them in the Pelletgage. If you do that you will quickly learn by sound how to tell if a pellet is out of round or has a point of flashing on it – I simple toss those into the “plinking / tuning” pile. I only measure the round ones . . . .


        • Half,

          When checking my pellets with the Pelletgage I don’t put any downward pressure on the pellet.

          Because I handle the pellet by its waist (with modified tweezers) I can drop it into the gage fairly straight and I can tell by the way the pellets settle if I need to try a smaller size hole. If the pellet hangs up I will tap it from underneath with my finger tip to help it align itself with the hole; if that doesn’t work I will move the pellet to the next size up.

          While I do use the hole sizes for reference I am not overly concerned with the actual size – I am consistent with how I use my Pelletgages so my sorting will be pretty consistent as well.

          I sort for serious shooting and I am mostly trying to filter out extreme differences in sizes (and weight). While I am handling the pellets I check for damaged ones.

          Gene says that he doesn’t notice a difference which is great. Myself, I can see the difference if I am shooting from sorted or unsorted pile. Maybe it is just a confidence thing and will continue sorting.

          Saw a signature on one of the forums that I liked (because I can relate??)…

          “I am O.C.D. and A.D.D., everything is perfect now …but it won’t remain like that for long!”


          • Hank,

            Bottom line,… we are beginning to “split hairs”. First,.. YOU have to be good enough not to mess up to tell the difference. I do believe a good rest is essential. Second,.. you have to have a gun that is consistent in most every way. Regulated being ideal. At best,… I would say that I am on the cusp of that. This year (lack of shooting),… has admittedly set me back. It is a fine line that only the best shooters will be able to (positively) discern. Still,… I aspire to be so great! 🙂


            • Chris,

              I don’t know about splitting hairs but I have no trouble (at 25 yards) hitting the push pins I use to pin up my targets (bench rested) when I get bored punching paper. LOL!


          • Hank,

            That signature is hilarious. Thanks for sharing.

            As for the pellet sorting, are you saying that you keep pellets that lie within a certain RANGE of measurements. I ask because if you have NO concern with actual size, running your pellets through a device that can discern .01mm doesn’t seem to serve a purpose. I have assumed that the folks that market their pellets in 2 or 3 head sizes that only vary by .01mm ( not that I have ever found in my efforts that the pellets in the tin actually measure that size )must be catering to a group of shooters that believe .01 mm will make a difference in their accuracy and that shooters holding to that belief would be the ones that are measuring their pellets. I bought my Pelletgages to see if that was true and it hasn’t held for me.

            The point that I was trying to make was that if I don’t put ANY downward pressure on a pellet it won’t fall through, but if the reason it didn’t fall through was because of some small irregularity on the periphery of the head that I can’t see, I would judge that pellet to be a much larger head size than it actually is. I’m clumsy enough, I guess, that I don’t apply the same force every time, so I find that those irregularities sometimes get shaved off and I end up having to run that pellet through as many as 3 additional holes to find its actual size. Without first being able to determine that the pellet is indeed round and free of burrs or flash, trying to pass it through a round hole will not necessarily give you its true diameter. That has been my experience at least.

            It has been a bigger issue with some pellet brands and shapes than with others. If you are just gauging the brand and style that you intend to shoot from 1 or 2 guns, I can see where you may never encounter the issue that I’m describing. I’ve used my gauges to try to sort cheap pellets to make them act like expensive pellets, to see if Premium is really more consistent than Regular in head size and weight, and to try to eliminate flyers in tins of pellets that were basically accurate, otherwise, in an assortment of guns. I have run many different pellets through my gauges and that may be why I have turned up the shortcomings of measuring this way. Also, my experiments at making cheap pellets shoot well hasn’t worked and that was my great hope for measuring, being that I hate speeding more than I have to on consumables. LOL


            • Half

              When considering mechanical fit between pieces the actual measurement is critical. If I am making a part for your machine my XXX needs to match you XXX for it to fit. Because of tolerances on the gage and differences in how people use the gage there is a real probably that your results will differ from mine – my XXX could be your YYY.

              I am consistent in how I use my gage, so my results are consistent and all is good – I know that hole XXX in the gage works for this rifle and XXX+1 and XXX-1 work fine as well – I just want to be sure that an AAA doesn’t end up mixed in.

              I say that I am not concerned with the NUMBER on the gage beyond that I use it for reference to keep track of the sizes it is because I do not have to have a precise measurement to match to someone else’s part, I know what works for me. I sort my pellets to sift out the best sizes my rifle prefers and use them for “serious shooting” and use the others for plinking.

              The stainless steel of the gage is very thin and the edges of the laser-cut holes are quite sharp – any down pressure on the pellet can cause the edge of the hole to cut into the soft lead and hang the pellet up. Pushing on the pellet will just shear off some lead. I drop the pellet into the hole; if it falls in too easily I check a smaller hole; if it hangs up I will tap (bounce) it up from the bottom to try to align it; if that doesn’t work then I try the next larger hole. I learned quickly to judge by how the pellet falls in to the gage whether you need to try a smaller hole. As I said, it doesn’t have to be exactly one size as a range of sizes work.

              I think that at this level of repeatability we are dealing how all the tolerances stack up and finding what works. The lower the costs (rifle and pellets) the greater the tolerances, the poorer the groups and using a gage is a waste of time. At the other end of that spectrum, yeah, I can definitely see the difference between the sorted and unsorted pellets by the group size. I’ve shot consecutive groups; .250 ctc with JSBs and 1.500 ctc with Crosman – why such a difference? Sort both and it that will be obvious – the Crosman pellets vary greatly in weight and head size. If I use sorted “XXX” Crosman pellets they group quite well, just that there is a lot more variance in the tin.

              As you discovered yourself, cheap pellets aren’t always a bargain, by the time you reject the bad ones and factor in your time it might have been cheaper to by the good stuff. Depends on what you are shooting – a replica Co2 pistol isn’t going to group well regardless of the pellets used – people don’t buy them for accuracy anyway so cheap pellets are fine. Just don’t expect good results using them in an accurate rifle.


              • Hank,

                “I say that I am not concerned with the NUMBER on the gage beyond that I use it for reference”

                Thanks for clearing that up for me. I understand completely now.

                I have a hard time relating, since I’m developing ODMTMTMD as I get older. ( Obsessive Don’t Matter That Much To Me Disorder ) The major symptom is the unwillingness to sweat the small stuff and imagining that all stuff is shrinking. 🙂


        • Half,

          Yes,.. they can be a bit fiddly to get used to. Most tins of (JSB’s for instance) will fall into 2 categories next to each other. Maybe a 57/37% split with 6% going either way. Often a more even split and next to nothing to either side. Both,… may or may not be what is on the tin.

          I will use little to no pressure. I use the bent tip tweezers that grip when released. They are awesome. I use them for weighing as well. .25 pellets are bigger and will sometimes use my hands. I only have the .25 gauge. If “something” is giving me issue enough,…. I will put it in the non sorted pile without knowing exactly why,… and move on.

          I guess the bottom line is that you get a lot closer in the ball park than not using it. You saw my comment on weighing and that is a fact. HAM does good pellet reviews and does all sorts of tests with the results graphed.

          Me,…? My results seem to be better. But,… an off day can make you question results. What it WILL do is give you total confidence in your ammo and if something is off,…. it is you or your gun. Is it worth your time (lots of it) to do either? That is up to you. I do not have that time but like Hank,.. will make a go of it over the Winter and get a sorted stash to test again for Spring. They never last long as they are all I will use if I am feeling on my game for the day.

          Last,…. I would not use either method on a springer. Preferably,… a well regulated PCP. I would also single load as a magazine just introduces another possible question if the results are off.


          • Chris,

            I was measuring many different pellets for many different guns for many different reasons and that may be why I had issues that others haven’t seemed to have had. I’ve found that the more respected brands do measure more consistently, at least in some head shapes, JSB being one of those brands. I think I have found a little more difference in weight sorting than in head size sorting, myself, but neither method is worth the effort to me most of the time. When I do sort, I always end up with a range of sizes or weights that I call “GOOD”, rather than a single size or weight. And I can almost always be sure that it’s me, not the pellet, that’s havin’ a bad time of it ! LOL


            • Half,

              I will head sort first and then do weigh sort. When done, I have usually 2 batches that are all the same head size (one = one size, one the other) and then weigh. That makes 2 cartons, each a specific head size with up to as many as 12 different weights,… that if stacked,… would resemble a bell curve. I will shoot 5 shots from one egg cavity. Notes are made on the target of weight and head for each group,…. just incase one combo appears to “magic”.

              I will use a very slight wobble or circular motion with very little pressure when head sorting. If it does not go, then I move up in size. I would never attempt to sort cheap pellets. The better ones are worth it. .177 head sorting would be a real pain I think with my big hands. Those grip on close/release tweezers are soooo sweet (bent tips).


                • Half,

                  Believe it or not,… I do get “up to speed” for the evening’s post. Really,…. I am not sure I believe it myself,… but I do try my best with limited PM time. 😉

                  Weighing and head sorting is tuff and time consuming. Period. Having a good gun and great shooting skills are key to seeing any reward. I find sorting enjoyable on a Winter day.

                  Is it worth it? Yes,…. if it turns out to be that it works. On the way,… however,… there is a (wee bit) of a learning curve and maybe? an equipment upgrade.

                  I find myself going back to making sure I have my shooting skills in order (first). Shootski is an advocate of that and of course B.B. as well. I can “buy up” all I can want/afford and if I do not have the skills in order,… then it is time and money wasted.

                  Still working on that,……….. Chris 😉 LOL!

    • Yogi,

      You could start casting bullets for your airguns. I myself have been giving this very serious thought. This may not be the best design, but here is a possibility.


      There are others out there also.

      If all else fails, you can go fishing.

      As far as tin pellets, they have greatly improved in a very short time. I have a tin each of .177 H&N Green Baracuda and FTT pellets. The quality seems to be quite nice. Unfortunately, I have yet to find anything in my limited repertoire that likes them. I just ordered a tin each of .177 and .22 GTO Domes as I have been hearing some real good things about them. We shall see.

    • Yogi, good quality calipers (like Mitutoyo) claim an accuracy of +/- 0.001 inch. Convert to metric, 0.025 mm. It’s going to be hard to achieve consistent results sorting for 4.53/4.51 mm if you could be off by more than that range from actual. Add to that, since you are measuring two points on a (kinda) spheroidal surface, you need to find those same spots the second time. Add to that, you can cause some compression of the soft lead if you close the jaws a bit harder. And then, if there is an imperfection in the points between the jaws – like a dent in the circumference of 6 degrees (equivalent to a flat spot across one minute arc on the face of a clock) – this would reduce the diameter of a perfect 4.52 mm pellet to 4.51.

      So, I say to those who want to use calipers, the best approach may be to set to one span with the lock screw, and use the caliper jaws as a gage reference. Undersized pellets clear the jaws, and oversized won’t. This still only checks one diameter across the pellet, but can be more repeatable.

      And I agree that over the past few years, the pellet manufacturers have stepped up the game. I have heard that some are developing automated optical measurement equipment, and it seems that process controls are being improved.

      What we’d like to have is a full tin of pellets that are all within +/- 0.01 mm from the nominal size. I’ve seen that a few times, personally – not consistently. And there is sometimes an issue with a consistent tin that has a mean size 0.02 mm from the nominal. Thus, some shooters believe that gaging the pellets they will use in competition, or for hunting rodents, etc. need to be checked, or even sorted.

      • JerryC,

        B.B. did a report awhile back on pellets. Either JSB or H&N do use lasers to check for malformed pellets. The expensive Match grade pellets are sorted by hand.
        It was a great article!


    • Yogi,

      I will second what Chris said.

      If you want precision you will need a Pelletgage, a jewelers scale (they are not too expensive) and a modified pair of tweezers (tips bent to the shape of a pellet waist).

      For serious shooting – hunting, sighting in, target shooting amd searching for a golden pellet – I will only use sorted pellets; for 90 % of my shooting/plinking it’s straight out of the tin.

      Sorting pellets is takes some time but I find it relaxing. Not a bad activity when it is to windy or wet to be shooting!

      I have a custom “sorting table” that I made to make things easier/faster. I’ll take a couple of pictures and write a one-part Guest Blog on my procedure if people are interested.


  3. B.B.,

    Very good. Looking forwards to more pellet insight.

    The report stops at “Pelletgage”, where as the heading seems to indicate 6 more sub-sections to (this) report. ???

    Good Day to you and to all,…….. Chris

  4. BB,

    Chris is right. Where is the rest of the story. I was reading along, really getting into it and BAM, it’s over.

    As far as pellets improving over the millennia, I have witnessed a change in design and quality control in the short time I have been airgunning. As overall demand has increased, the demand for a quality product has increased also.

    Performance is another measurement where many have fallen to the wayside and new designs are stepping up. I had pretty much restricted myself to domes as anything else was not going to do it downrange, but there are newer designs that are starting to receive good reviews.

    One still needs to keep in mind that pellets are like fishing lures. Many are designed to catch the fisherman’s eye, not the fish.

  5. B.B.,

    As others have remarked the article seems very short. According to the list you are missing the following after Pelletgage:

    Lead-free pellets
    Production control
    The Premier pee-wee
    Are we done?

    Hoping to see the rest of the article soon


  6. BB,

    I had never heard of the Journey pellet before. I clicked on your link and know why. It is a wadcutter. I mostly deal with domes for my airguns although I do use R10 wadcutters in my Izzy. Also, over the years I have somehow ended up with a whole bunch of wadcutters of various brands. I did not buy them, but they seem to materialize in my ammo can. “Oh, you are into airguns? Here are some pellets I had when I used to have one of those ‘toys’.”

  7. B.B.
    I found your sharing about splatology to be helpfull in determining the speed of a lead projectile,
    from slightly bruised, to halfway mushroomed, then completely pancacked, to frappe’d?
    This rule applys, regardless of calibre. I see tin will be different, and may upset the applecart in regards
    to getting them heavy enough to fly right at long range?
    Just a thought.

  8. B.B.,

    Great report! Sometimes “Golden Age Syndrome” propagates falsehoods, doesn’t it? The photograph of the Crosman Trashcan next to a contemporary wasp-waisted dome pellet strongly suggests, just by itself as evidence, that the old trashcan shape might be suited to stools at beachside bars and hand drums, but not accuracy.


  9. “Back when I was young and the Earth was still being formed”… thanks for that B.B.! Makes me feel great – just had a B’day and I am only a couple of years behind you! LOL!

    Lots of improvements in pellets over the years but I can’t believe that any of those gimmicky composite pellets are any better than the basic dommed diabolo in spite of their claims for better performance. It is hard enough to make a pellet that is consistent in size and weight without adding extra parts. Any chance that you could do a comparison review to prove/disprove the claims?

    The pellet manufacturers do a pretty good job of inspecting their pellets now. Used to be (back in the dinosaur days) that it was fairly common to find partially formed “mutants” in the box.

    “Anyone anal enough to sort their own pellets isn’t going to trust someone else to do it.” Yeah, pretty much! LOL!

    B.B., will you be expanding this report on pellets to include airgun slugs?

    Hope so as there has been quite a few developments in this area – enough so that I am seriously considering buying an FX Crown (or Impact) with a slug-liner barrel. The excellent BC and long range performance is very interesting. There are a couple of custom ammunition makers; H&N is manufacturing them and I have heard that JSB is also setting up production.


    • Hank,

      I have been a holdout when it comes to solid pellets or slugs. I don’t like them because I think they defeat the purpose of a pellet gun, which is to provide short-range accuracy.

      That said, I will try to find out what has been happening with them. The last I checked no pellet rifle could stabilize a slug and they weren’t accurate. Plus they are very difficult to load. But I’m sure the times have changed.


      • B.B.

        I agree about pellet guns as short range weapons – I like that as it makes them safer to shoot in populated areas.

        Most of my shooting is done off hand within the point-blank range (15-40 yards) of my rifles. Still, the pellet will travel a couple of hundred yards so I am curious as to how much of that range can be useful.

        Recently, I have started exploring to find what my maximum effective range (25 consecutive shots, 5 targets of 5 shots and all shots within a 1 inch circle) is and I’m finding that benched, it is well beyond 50 yards in spite of the poor BC of the pellet.

        That got me interested in what it would take to consistently shoot 1 inch groups at 100 yards with an airgun. Seems that the answer is slugs.

        Matt Dubber has been doing a lot of work with FX on their slug-liners and summarized the research in a (long) video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLK5j2urOJ0 ). It’s a kind of a crash course on the subject.

        Price of admission is fairley high at the moment and the slugs are more expensive than pellets but that will likely change as the demand increases. Heard that JSB expects to offer slugs at about the same price as pellets.

        Think that there is going to be a lot of interest in this technology especially from the powder-burners group of new airgunners who are used to shooting at longer ranges.

        Anyway, I think that the diabolo design has reached its maximum potential and that improvements in accuracy at ranges beyond 50 yards will have to come from something different.


        • Hank,

          HAM had a good article on wind effects. It was recent. Quite, quite, quite surprising to what you may think. Since you occasionally dabble in the OCD/ADD realm,…. you might find it to be of some casual interest. 😉


          I saved the above (your) link for future review. I am quite curious.

      • B.B.,

        From what I (casually) gathering,…. higher power and a different twist are required. So,…. if that is the case,… they will not preform optimally in conventional airguns. I could be wrong. It will be interesting to see what you dig up and hopefully will give us your opinion on what you were able to turn up. I would greatly appreciate your take.


        • Chris USA,

          I have been reading the back and forth about slugs and pellet guns that Hank and you have been having. The answers can mostly be found in reading about the balistics of subsonic .22 Rimfire. The grain weight is similar and the velocities are now more attainable in the most powerful PCPs. The .25 caliber is the smallest caliber that I have personally found to be able to push a 40+ grain slug fast enough (think RPM) to stabilize to ranges beyond 70 to say 100m with any assurance of a clean hole and not a keyhole in the Target. Even a stock .25 Marauder set to flow as much air as possible will not have enough push to shoot a stable 40 grain slug because the stock barrel twist ratio isn’t fast enough.
          In the above .25 caliber land of the Big Bore as an example; my .308 has a 1:10 barrel and pushes a 118 grain slug at nearly 1,000 FPS. It gets perhaps 4 good shots before it gets refilled to 3,600+ PSI….

          My take away is: If you want to shoot lots of rounds all day stick to the pellets and don’t go above .30 caliber. Or be ready for tethering to a HPA pump or a bank of LARGE, 4,500 PSI CF cylinders cascaded to a regulator. Sound like fun?
          Slugs are for hunting and Extreme Benchrest in my opinion.


          • Shootski,

            Sounds like a logical take on the matter (airgun bullets) to me. No,…. 4 shots per fill sounds like 0% fun,.. except for a serious air gun hunt.

            The bulk of the conversation has been on weighing and head sorting and opinions on that.

            Thanks for weighing in,….. Chris

            • Geo791,

              Thank you for the links! I enjoy watching how others approach shooting out to 100 yards. I can see the problems that a Clip/Magazine create for slug length. I’m glad DAQ went with single-shot Long Actions that allow slug length to really not be an issue. I am intrigued by his belief that slugs can be unstable at shorter distances and then somehow stabilize with additional distance. My experience has been that a slug that is stable (no yaw) at some maximum distance is also stable at muzzle exit. I do agree that slugs can be less effected by the wind if they are suited to the MV, RPM and the Slug length, shape (form factor) and Mass. I have been working on a comparison of ball (spherical) and comparison to bullet shape in a give Big Bore trying to establish if a gun that has a certain degree of accuracy with ball that the accuracy with bullet shape projectile’s accuracy will correlate. Just think if you could shoot a simple spherical and obtain the fundamental accuracy potential of a barrel. I have been told by respected barrel makers that I’m barking up the wrong tree and chasing the wrong rabbit down the wrong hole…but I can’t find anything in the literature that says it has been done and no published results.

              If anyone knows of some factual reporting on the topic, I’m all ears!

              Even if it turns out “They” are right I will still have FUN doing it!


              • Shootski,

                You have my interest piqued now. Sure,.. obtaining 100 yard accuracy (and how to do that) is always of interest. But,… it is your current quest that is of interest (not sure I understand it fully,… yet).

                So,.. you want to find ballistic reports/comparisons of bullets/slugs VS balls? That is the basics of it?

                You seem to be well schooled on matters of ballistics already. To me,… it would seem that all 3,… 1) bullets/slugs, 2) balls, 3) pellets have all been thoroughly researched over the years.

                Thus,… it would seems that all 3 types have been researched/attempts to optimize accuracy (in their own realm) already,…. no? Balls first,…. but then bullets replaced balls due to better accuracy. Neither was ideal for air guns,… so the pellet was born.

                Fast forwards to current day and now we are trying to custom fit gun specs. to specific pellets. Further,… we are researching what gun specs. it takes to shoot slugs/bullets from air guns. Evidence thus far shows that a change is required to get air guns to shoot slugs well.

                So,… 1) You want to find reports/data to study/compare on ball VS bullets? 2) I ALSO get the sense that are wondering if anyone has ever tried to (fully optimize) the ball for air guns yet, as well. No? Of course, not the ball itself,.. but rather the gun to shoot the balls.

                Hmmmm?,… that could be. The ball gun research got left behind when pellets and bullets proved easier and obviously more accurate. Was there more to be done on ball shooting? I agree,… a simple ball would be easier than the plethora of slug and pellet choices.

                By the way,… I am still trying to fully understand how a slug can be more accurate at 100 than it can be at 50. Apparently you are too.


                • Chris USA,

                  I wrote out a long response to your post and then hit Post Comment and got sent to FORBIDDEN to Post to this blog! And, of course I hadn’t copied it to avoid it winding up in the Bit Bucket with no hope of recovery. I will find some time and try to reconstruct my reply to you from the foggy recesses of what is left of my Thinker…it was a long and fair answer too!


                    • B.B.,

                      Thank you for trying!
                      Don’t know where the reposting from trash went.
                      It will just be a reinforcement to copy before hitting Post Comment when writing a longer post.


                  • Shootski,

                    –IT happens. Been there, done that, have the T-shirt. No fun. B.B., it would appear made an attempt to recover such,… or not. At least not successfully.

                    Still,… keep us posted on the ball VS pellet VS slug shooting studies. You might be onto something that has been dropped and/or overlooked. Barking up the wrong tree? Going down the wrong rabbit hole? Been there and done that too. Sometimes,.. it pays off! 😉

                    It would be quite interesting to hear some of the counter-arguments.

                    Good evening,…. Chris

                    • Chris USA,

                      My theory is that shooting spherical eliminates a great deal of the complexity in finding basic accuracy and/or repeatability.
                      I think you need to rethink your impression that ball ammo is less accurate than other shapes of ammo as long as maximum range is not exceeded.

                      I’ll provide the link that got me thinking about the entire issue to begin with:


                      That should keep you busy all Fall and most of Winter! It is very nice since he mostly avoids the MATH that normally makes many folks run in the opposite direction from Balistics.


                  • Shootski,

                    Thank you for the link. I will check it out (along with all of the other links that I have yet to dig into). 😉 I have quite the collection and not much time. At least I have them.

                    If you are inclined,… please share as your research and thoughts develop on the topic.

                    Thanks again,……. Chris

                  • Shootski,

                    As an adder,… I am open to all thoughts, always. Of course,… we all want “no-brainer” projectile choices with maximum range. What is more simple than a precision lead ball? Given weight, given diameter, given shape.

                    Now,…. (if) you can make the argument that balls can be as/are more accurate,…. more consistently,… than bullets,…. within a given range,… you might be onto something.


                    • Chris USA,

                      I know that you read HAM and the most recent by Bob Sterne in Pellet and Slug Stability is a good one as far as it goes. If you think about the CG and CP of a ball you will be on to a big potential breakthrough. The but of course is that you can only see the outside with your eyes, unless you share X-Ray vision with Superman! So if the ball, slug, or pellet has voids (even tiny ones) the CG will shift and the ball will wobble. Another but now, it won’t yaw like a slug or pellet do. So one factor eliminated right there. The other but is that although it can have a CG that doesn’t coincide with the CP it will not have any dynamic yaw issues or wind jump variance and variations in crosswind lift or drag and more! So in a nutshell we have disrespected the humble ball because of the lower BC (mythical number) actually Sectional Density that is a prime factor of/for reaching out to greater distances.

                      More eventually.


                  • Shootski,

                    Yes, I did read it with great interest. I think I soon referred someone to it right here when we were talking wind and pellets.

                    You are “selling” me so far! 🙂


    • Hank,

      When I get a new gun I will usually shoot about 50 different pellets through it in an effort to find what it likes. That includes all of the “gimmick” pellets marketed by Gamo and that ilk and I can say that they are almost always the worse pellets in any gun that I try them in and are never even close to being the best in any of them. Save your money. I have not been replacing those pellets when I run out because they are a waste of time. That being said, the various “Mags” that Predator International markets do much better, but are still not the best. Haven’t had good luck with Alloy pellets either, but I don’t have all of them in my arsenal ’cause some of ’em would cost too much to use, even if they were the best.

      Don’t know if that helps or not.


  10. BB ,

    Great article , I agree with you 100% on the anal pellet sorter !!! I have taken pellets with skirts that look like a D and fired them and they go in the same group as the good skirts . People “OVERTHINK” the pellets way too much ! You are supposed to be shooting to relax and enjoy yourself , put Your efforts into range time . Modern air rifles are so well made and choked that most pellets shoot good and of course there are the ones that are the best in that gun . Just remember guys we do this to relax , that is why I had to stop competing in IDPA , it became a job !! My 2 cents for today !


  11. BB

    I don’t use my Pelletgages much now except for Premiers in the brown boxes. These are the most accurate pellets in two of my guns but a few outliers for head diameter variation need culling. For example if 9 pellets measure 4.50 mm and 1 pellet is off by .03 mm or more this may or may not mess up a nice group.

    I did find the gages very helpful in identifying brand models with close tolerances. This has a major influence on my purchasing. Maybe it is all in my head but confidence counts too.


  12. BB,
    I agree about the cost to produce a “perfect” pellet. And, don’t ask me how I determined that my favorite gun likes 4.52 pellets but that is what I came up with. So I order 4.53 so that I can size to 4.52. It would be nice to get at least 1 that is 4.53. The last tin had 0 4.53- 0 4.52- about 100 that were 4.51 and the rest were from 4.50 down to 4.47. Not that I can tell a heck of a lot of difference in the accuracy but just saying that maybe the tins should have no size or just” in he vicinity of ?” No matter, will keep shooting and having fun. Thanks for the article.

    • Don,

      Well said. The trials and tribulations of sorting. As you can testify to,…things are not always as advertised.

      Well wishes going forwards and hopes that you will eventually find that perfect tin,…. or at east 70% of it anyways. 😉


  13. Chris,
    I just sorted a tin of AA 10.3- 4.52 ( according to the tin) and did not have ANY that were 4.52 – had 2 that were 4.51- a few that were 4.50 and most were 4.49 to 4.47. Very disappointing. I have yet to find a way to “upsize” so will just deal with it. The others that I referenced above were JSB 8.4 ??- I don’t bother to weigh anymore since the sizes are completely wrong. Now I am going to see if I can find any that are listed at 4.55 or 4.56 and maybe I will get enough to size to 4.52. It could be my “part-timers” –no “all-timers” yet.

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