Baracuda pellets then and now: Part 1
This report covers:
- Baracuda history
- Which guns can shoot the heavy Baracuda?
- Baracudas are pure lead, too!
- H&N Baracuda 15
- How to test
Today we set the world of airguns aside to look at a pellet — one that has helped to define our hobby.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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