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Baracuda pellets then and now: Part 1

This report covers:

  • Baracuda history
  • Domed?
  • Which guns can shoot the heavy Baracuda?
  • Baracudas are pure lead, too!
  • H&N Baracuda 15
  • How to test
  • Weight
  • Summary

Today we set the world of airguns aside to look at a pellet — one that has helped to define our hobby.

Baracuda history

The Baracuda pellet was developed for a specific purpose. In the 1950s the Barakuda (yes, the spelling is different) device that injected medical-grade ether into the combustion chamber of a spring-piston rifle produced an explosion so powerful that it blew the heads off thinner .22 caliber pellets. This was an early attempt to get more power from a spring-piston air rifle and it was before the importance of the piston stroke was appreciated.

Barakuda was a separate company from Weihrauch, but their patented ether-injection device was often attached to the HW35 rifle, turning it into the model HW54EL (for ether/luft? — just my guess). The device could be put on any spring piston rifle, but the HW35 action was particularly robust and perhaps could withstand the explosions better. And if the velocity wasn’t needed it was always possible to shoot without the ether boost.

Weihrauch recommended shooting the 5.5mm H&N lead ball in the 54 because of the rifle’s power. But the Baracuda pellet came to market expressly for powerful airguns like the HW 54EL. It’s a domed pellet with a difference.

I will now depart from the HW54 EL rifle, but I want to say one thing in parting. The ether explosions were not consistent, so the 54 EL wasn’t the precision pellet rifle that we would hope. And the explosions were harmful to the piston seal and breech seal in those early Weihrauch guns. I believe the seals were leather. You often find a 54 EL that needs seals.

Domed?

Although the heavyweight Baracuda is considered a domed pellet, it is very different from most other domes. To get the extra weight, the dome is both longer and necessarily sharper, making this domed pellet resemble a pointed pellet with a blunted point. An argument could be made for either description. That’s not important here, except that you acknowledge the difference. It makes the weight distribution very forward-biased, which helps keep the pellet on track as it flies. The potential accuracy of the 21.14-grain Baracuda has never been in doubt.

Baracuda and Premier
The .22-caliber H&N Baracuda pellet on the right has a longer nose that increases the weight over the 14.3-grain Crosman Premier on the left. Also note that the waist is higher, adding more weight.

Baracuda skirt
The Baracuda skirt (right) is thicker which also increases the weight of the pellet.

Which guns can shoot the heavy Baracuda?


Because of the length and weight, the .22-caliber Baracuda pellet is meant to be used only in powerful air rifles. Guns that top at least 20 foot-pounds are necessary to provide the velocity to stabilize the big pellet out at longer ranges. You can calculate an airgun’s potential power by using the Airgun Calculator in the Airgun Resources web page on the Pyramyd Air web site.

However, out to about 20 yards, practically any air rifle and most air pistols should be able to shoot this heavy pellet fine, because the diabolo shape and nose-biased weight provide the stabilization. But, as distance increases, you need an adequate spin to keep the pellet oriented forward, and velocity is the only thing that can produce enough spin, given the standard airgun twist rate of one turn in 16 inches.

Baracudas are pure lead, too!


Pure lead projectiles are the absolute best for airgun velocities. They slip through the bore because of the natural lubricity of lead, and they seal the barrel perfectly because of lead’s inherent malleability. Also, if you keep the terminal velocity below 900 f.p.s. and have a premium barrel, lead is the cleanest material you can shoot. It never needs cleaning, even after thousands of shots.

Now, there are lighter Baracudas. They have no connection with the long-obsolete HW54 EL, but they do stand on the shoulders of the original design for the Baracuda pellet. They carry the Baracuda name and it remains to be seen how they perform.

Shop New Products

H&N Baracuda 15

This past weekend I received an email from Pyramyd Air announcing the new .22-caliber Baracuda 15 pellet from H&N. I was intrigued, so I ordered two tins to test.

You will recall that several months ago I started testing the Baracuda 18 in different .22-caliber pellet rifles. What I haven’t done is write a special report for the new 18-grain Baracuda. I should have done that when the 18-grain Baracuda came out, but now that the 15-grain Baracuda is here I’m glad I waited, because I can get them all into a single report.

Baracuda 18
The new-ish Baracuda 18 on the left is shorter than the heavy Baracuda on the right.

I don’t have the Baracuda 15s yet, because I just ordered them this weekend. But when I get them I plan to run some comparison accuracy tests of all three pellets in the same airgun.

Baracuda 15
The Baracuda 15 head is lower than the head on the 18-grain, and much lower than the head on the original Baracuda.

How to test

No matter what I do to test the new pellets there are bound to be omissions and gaps. I will miss doing something(s) that some people feel is/are important. But I’m a pragmatic guy, so I will just test these pellets empirically and see what happens.

Weight

As I wrote this report I noticed that the new 18-grain Baracuda is actually 18.13-grains and the 15-grain is really 15.89-grains. These are the same weights as the JSB Exact domes in .22 caliber. I’m not suggesting anything; it’s just something interesting to note. Those two JSB pellets are also hard to find in stock these days, so maybe these new H&N pellets will give us a choice.

Summary

H&N is giving us a whole family of Baracuda pellets in .22 caliber, and I want to find out whether they are any good. Follow along and perhaps we will discover two new good pellets that are available to buy.

31 thoughts on “Baracuda pellets then and now: Part 1”

  1. BB,

    The simplest approach to testing would be to include all three types of Baracuda pellets when you are testing .22 caliber PCPs. The other way is to test the pellets on a known .22 platform that you can reliably adjust the velocity to find the best velocity for the three weights (Original 21.14 Grains, Baracuda 18.13 grains and Baracuda 15.89 grains). That’s a whole lot of testing either way.

    Siraniko

    PS Section Weight 1st paragraph 3rd sentence, “I’m not suggesting abnything (anything); it’s just something interesting to note.”

    • Siraniko,

      Agree, it makes sense to test each weight at its optimal velocity.

      I’ve shot JSB 13, 15, 18 and 25 grain pellets out of my FX Impact MK2 and they are all tack-drivers (3/8″ tacks @ 40 yards 🙂 ) once the rifle is tuned to the specific pellet. Shooting a 13 or 18 grain pellet on a 15 grain tune is reasonably accurate (1/2 to 3/4″ groups @ 40 yards) but definitely not optimum.

      Hank

  2. BB,

    I did a quick search of the EL54 name to check what it means. The stuff that goes in it is typically spelled “Äther” in German.

    Somebody on co2air.de said he owns a box of ampoules that says “Barakuda – Explosions – Luftdruckgewehr EL 54 ”
    (source: “https://www.co2air.de/thread/55667-lg-barakuda-von-weihrauch/”)

    So it seems to stand for “explosion air rifle”

    It would be interesting to know what the reasoning behind this invention was. Using it would be a lot of hassle and it’s hard to imagine that it’s cheaper than shooting .22 LR.

    If there wasn’t a legal loophole at the time (e.g. a firearm that’s still legally an air rifle), this seems like an attempt to reinvent the square wheel…

    Stephan

  3. BB,

    I received a tin of Baracuda 15’s a short while ago. I have not had the opportunity to test these as of yet. I will be following this closely. The possibility of another quality pellet to compete with JSB in my lower powered .22s has me hoppin’ like a toady frog.

    Perhaps you should drag out one of your AirForce air rifles for this test. Better yet, the HM1000X. It has an exceptional regulator and we are quite sure of how capable it is in the accuracy department.

  4. Good morning, everyone. I have a tin of Baracuda 15s and 18s on order as well. I will test them in a Beeman R9 and in a Crossman Mark I. The original Baracudas did not fare so well in the R9. Field Target Trophys with the 5.53 mm heads were significantly more precise. But now I can’t get those, either, and I’m hoping the 5.54 mm FTTs do as well.

    I’m planning on taking an Air Venturi peep sight to my gunsmith to have him drill and tap a scope stop into it for use on the R9 and R7.

    Last night I ran all my various .177 wadcutters through a Crosman Mark II that I picked up recently for my daughter’s Christmas present. Sadly, HN Excite Econ IIs did not fare well. The surprise of the night was that the heavier pellets did quite well. JSB Match S100 heavyweights at 8.26 gr. and RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle pellets at 8.2 gr. did the best.

        • Thanks, 45Bravo. I have to admit that I was testing pellets en masse from a seated position with my wrists resting on a sandbag. However, I really go to know the trigger after 250 some odd shots, both on high power and low power settings. I think next, since the high power setting gives you a crisper trigger break, I may try the adjustment to lower the power of the high power setting to get more shots at the better trigger pull.

  5. I bought some of the Baracuda 18 specifically to try in my Huben K1 semi-auto. The Huben is an amazing gun, but as a semi auto that shoots the pellets directly out of the magazine, It can be both a little prone to be tougher on pellets than most guns, and a little more demanding on the pellet for consistency of sealing with the skirts for best consistency and accuracy.

    I had high hopes for these, as the JSB 18.1s are very accurate in it, and with the H&N pellets having a harder lead alloy than the JSBs I was hoping for the same accuracy but in a little more robust pellet design. Unfortunately they are not very accurate in the gun – I am getting a little over a half inch group out of a full 19 shot magazine at 21 yards indoors, as compared to under a quarter inch from the JSBs.

    I am considering ordering some 15 to try as well, but am doubtful after my experience with the 18s. But I would love it if the 15s shot well as the gun also shoots the JSB 15.9s great, but with the caveat that I have to be real careful selecting and loading pellets as the skirts are much more fragile on these than the JSB 18.1s. So a more robust Baracuda 15 would be great – but only if it shoots well!

    Of course when it comes to testing pellets, there are really two kinds of tests: The first (and perhaps easiest to test) is the simple “how does it shoot in XX gun?” kind of test. This is where you just get them and shoot them like I did above. The second kind of test is on the actual consistency and quality of the pellets – the weight and head size distribution in a tin of pellets, and ideally across multiple tins or production lots of pellets. Both are interesting (and potentially important), but it the pellet does not pass the first test, the shooter will likely not have much interest or need for the second test . . .

    Alan

    • So this blog and my post above got me curious, so I broke out the Pellet Gauge and checked some head sizes – my stash of Baracuda 18s have some small head sizes!

      Most of the ones I checked (just a sample of about 20) would pass through the holes at 5.49 or 5.50 mm, and I even had one that passed at the smallest size of 5.48 mm. None were stopped by the 5.52 hole – so the largest was 5.51 and that was only one of the sample. The rest were smaller. As for weight, they all came in between 18.1 and 18.38 grains, so that was good.

      I think the small head size might be my issue . . . .

      Alan

  6. BB,

    Looking forward to this report! It would be good to have an alternative to the popular (and hard to get) JSBs. Interesting that the H&N are pure lead, I was under the impression that they were a (harder) alloy.

    From that perspective as being alternative choices, that many people would be curious if JSB and H&N had the same POI and group size.

    In searching for the golden pellet you end up with the weight that best matches the (fixed) tune of the airgun, testing other weights in that tune would just show how poorly less optimal pellets performed.

    With my testing and experimenting I’ve come to the conclusion that a pellets potential accuracy can only be determined with a properly tuned airgun.

    Just saying.

    Hank

  7. B.B.,

    I never knew the origin of the original Baracuda. This is quite an education on something I confess I don’t think enough about: pellets. Right now I’m thinking original Baracudas might be the perfect pellet for AirForce Condors in .177.

    Oooh. Here’s a fun newspaper (remember those?) headline: “Condor Spits out Baracuda onto Southern California Beach.”

    (Yeah, nothing beats “Police Help Dog Bite Victim.”)

    Michael

  8. I’ve had a few guns that really liked the Baracuda pellets. I had a Daystate MCT that shot the older Baracuda’s with 5.53 head size better than any other pellet. Wouldn’t shoot the 5.51 or 5.52 worth a hoot. Scattered all over the place.

    Don’t know if PA stocks different head sizes but they come in different head sizes. If you guys have a powerful enough airgun to shoot Baracuda’s you should try the different head sizes before giving up on this pellet since the bc is good.

    • Kevin

      My ASP20 in .177 caliber prefers Baracuda Match 10.65 grain in Pelletgage selected 4.51-4.52 mm head diameter at 25 yards. Rifle gives reasonable accuracy in other head sizes but excels with this one.

      Deck

  9. I have been using the JSB simply pellets for a while. They seem to be the same as the regular JSB pellet, but are not put through the rigorous quality control of their other pellets. For most shooting they are great. With a little visual sorting they may be almost up to the accuracy of their other pellets. And they are available.

    I have also been buying the Crosman 177 pellets in the 1250 quantity small milk carton, they are great for plinking. They also come in both wadcutter and pointed pellets.

    Don

    • Don: Agree on the JSB Simply Pellets. I love it when the cheap pellets perform as well or better than more expensive ones. Makes me feel like I discovered a hidden gem. I have a tin of 8.26 grain Simply Pellets.

      Did you know that they come in 2 weights: 8.02 grains and 8.26 grains?

      Another pellet to try is the H&N Excite Econ II. And others like the H&N Sport Pellets. Of course, it all depends if one’s particular rifle likes them.

      I never got good precision with the Crosman Premier Wadcutters 7.4 grain in the milk carton. The H&N Excite Econ IIs were much more precise in my Umarex Embark and my Beeman R7 and were slightly cheaper (per pellet) back when I purchased them. I still try them one in a while. I tried them last night in a Crosman Mark II that I recently purchased. They made a 1″ pattern at 10 yards. But the Econ IIs were not much better, in that pistol. The 8.26 gr. Simply pellets were better, and the JSB Match S100 in 8.26 gr was one of the best in that pistol.

      Someday, I’ll get into sorting, but I’m not quite there yet.

  10. BB,

    How did the standard airgun twist rate of one turn in 16 inches come about? Was it determined by trial and error to be the optimum for sub-12 ft-lb air rifles, or did it originate as a legacy setting carried over from firearms’ manufacturing?

    Do short-barreled springers, such as the Air Arms Prosport, have faster twist rates to compensate for the shorter distance that the pellet is in contact with the rifling?

    • There are quite a few pellets that have that. I was wondering that too. It must be part of the swaging process, but as to the specific reason for what looks like threads, maybe the threads help to twist the pellet off or out of the swaging die. I’m speculating.

  11. This is a very cool conversation, looking past todays topic of pellets,
    i am noticing everyone’s individual suggestions in testing platforms, from a $400 gun, all the way up to guns selling for $2500.

    Choice, choices, choices!

    BB will spin the wheel, where will it land?

    Ian.

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