What’s wrong with solid “pellets”?

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Diabolo pellet
  • The couch coach solution
  • Tradeoffs
  • Summary

Today’s report was engendered by yesterday’s report about the AirForce Texan big bore air rifle. Many of you have been discussing the advantages of solid pellets over diabolos

Today I’d like to look at this question a little closer. For starters, let’s call solid pellets what they really are, which is bullets.

pellet bullet
A diabolo pellet on the left and a bullet on the right. Let’s call them what they are!

In the 1880s pellets were either solid lead or they were lead with felt glued onto their bottom. In flight the felt caught the air and slowed the slugs down, keeping their nose pointed  forward. Just after the turn of the 20th century the invention of the diabolo pellet changed pellets forever. read more


The Webley Hurricane: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Hurricane
Webley Hurricane

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Remember
  • The test
  • H&N Finale Match Light
  • Sig Match Ballistic Alloy 
  • Air Arms Falcon
  • Firing behavior
  • RWS R10 Match Pistol
  • Gamo Match
  • H&N Baracuda with 4.50mm head
  • Summary

Today we see the accuracy of the Webley Hurricane. I have to tell you, this has never been a particularly accurate airgun in the past, so I’m not looking for much today. I will do my best though.

Remember…

No — I am not carrying Mr. Spock’s katra — Star Trek III, The Search for Spock. I want you to remember what I am trying to do with this report.

One thing I’m especially interested in with the Hurricane is how well the Extreme Weapons Grease performs. I used it on all the places where there was galling of the metal. You can read about that in Part 3. Normally I would have used moly grease, but I had a small tube of this stuff that was given to me at some SHOT Show and I decided to see if it was really up to the task. So I’m watching how smoothly the pistol cocks. read more


Air Venturi Dust Devil Mk2 Frangible BB: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Dust Devil
Dust Devil Mk2.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Daisy 499 shooting Crosman Black Widows
  • Daisy 499 shooting Precision Ground Shot
  • Daisy 499 shooting Dust Devils
  • M1 Carbine shooting Crosman Black Widows
  • M1 Carbine shooting  Precision Ground Shot
  • M1 Carbine shooting  Dust Devils
  • The verdict?
  • Summary

Today we look at the accuracy of the new Air Venturi Dust Devil Mark 2 BB. From this point on I will just refer to them as Dust Devils.

The test

I shot from 5 meters, using the UTG Monopod as a rest. I was seated, and using the monopod is almost as stable as a sandbag rest.

I only shot 5-shot groups today, so I could test more BBs. I decided to test accuracy with the two most accurate BB guns I have — the Daisy 499 Champion and the Springfield Armory M1 Carbine. When you see the results I think you will understand why I picked them.

I shot three BBs today. The first was a conventional premium BB, and I selected the new Crosman Black Widow for that. The next was the Avanti Match Grade Precision Ground Shot that’s made exclusively for the 499. You guys always want to see how they do in tests, so I almost always include them. And finally I shot the new Air Venturi Dust Devil Mark 2 BB — the one this report centers on.  read more


The remarkable diabolo pellet

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

diabolo pellet

This report covers:

  • Not a diablo
  • Accuracy
  • What does stability mean?
  • Conical bullet stability
  • So what?
  • The other hand
  • Why are some diabolos unstable?
  • Mechanical destabilization
  • Gas turbulence
  • BUT!!!!!
  • Overstabilization problems
  • My main point
  • The take-away

As airgunners we shoot diabolo pellets without giving much thought to their design, but if it weren’t for that design our entire shooting experience would be different. The diabolo shape is what makes the accurate pellet rifle and pistol possible.

Not a diablo

Let’s start by defining the name. diabolo is pronounced de-Ah-bo-lo. It is not the same word as diablo, which is the Spanish word for devil. Diabolo refers to a toy by the same name that’s sometimes used in juggling acts. When it spins fast its two flared ends act like flywheels, keeping the device balanced on a string passing under its center shaft. read more


Considering the calibers

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • BB’s gun wall
  • .177 caliber
  • Are steel BBs 4.5mm/.177 caliber?
  • Can you hunt with .177 caliber?
  • More good pellets
  • Higher velocity means flatter shooting
  • Twenty caliber
  • Twenty-two caliber
  • Hard-hitting
  • Cost
  • Target shooting
  • Twenty-two caliber
  • Hunting
  • The big .25
  • Expensive pellets
  • Fewer pellets to choose from
  • Big hole!
  • Only one good handgun
  • .30 caliber
  • What does BB recommend?
  • .30 caliber
  • HOWEVER
  • Summary
  • read more


    The basics of shooting: Part 4

    by Tom Gaylord
    Writing as B.B. Pelletier

    Part 1
    Part 2
    Part 3

    This report covers:

    • When the target is close, things change
    • Not about the snake
    • Trajectory — part one
    • What it looks like to you
    • Relationship of the sights to the bore
    • Sight-in at 10-12 feet
    • How I sight in a scope
    • Remember the snake
    • Different ammo
    • Discount store pellets
    • The deal
    • New pellets
    • Fishing sinker larvae
    • How much influence is the pellet?
    • Summary

    Before we start let me tell you that I wanted to finish my report on the IZH MP532 rear sights today. The reason I didn’t is because as time passes I learn more and more about them. I want to make certain that I have explored everything I can when I write that report. It will also have at least one video.

    For today I thought I would return to this subject that many readers seem to enjoy. Please understand that B.B. Pelletier isn’t the world’s authority on shooting. I do know some things, though, and I enjoy writing about them. If what I know can help anybody, then I have done my job.

    When the target is close, things change

    Let’s start with a fact that seems to escape people until it’s too late. You sight in your deer rifle for 100 yards, knowing that you will probably encounter a deer anywhere from 50 to 125 yards where you hunt. If it’s greater than 125 yards you probably won’t take the shot.

    Then, while you are walking to where the hunt starts, you encounter a copperhead snake on the trail. He is 15 feet away and he must be cold because copperheads are aggressive and they are known to attack, similar to water moccasins, though not quite as aggressive.

    All you have is your deer rifle. You can barely see the snake through your 6-power scope. So — where do you aim? You don’t have a backup gun (put that on the list), so it’s either the deer rifle you’re carrying or time to start backing up. The trail you are on is cut into the side of a steep hill and it’s 3 feet wide. Kill the copperhead or go back!

    Not about the snake

    This is not about the snake. This is about suddenly realizing that all your planning for this hunt while you were sitting in your comfy recliner at home has not prepared you for a shot like this. You are prepared for shooting at 50 to 125 yards. Where will your bullet be at 15 feet from the muzzle?

    Now, there is a secret to successfully shooting snakes, and for an extra 10 percent (each) over what you normally pay me, I will divulge it. But it’s not why we’re here. We are talking about the basics of shooting and this brings us to our first teaching point. Bullets and pellets do not travel in a straight line. The instant they emerge from the barrel, gravity starts to act on them and they fall to the ground just as fast as if you dropped them from your hand — assuming the barrel is level and the muzzle and hand are at the same height.

    Trajectory — part one

    You adjust the open sights or the scope to look DOWN through the trajectory of the falling pellet as it travels downrange. The adjustments are subtle, but I will exaggerate them to illustrate. And, from this point on I will be talking about a scope.

    Trajectory 1
    This is what happens with your pellet gun and sights. The down angles are exaggerated to fit on this page.

    In the drawing above the scope is adjusted to just touch the pellet at one place in its trajectory. The rifle would then be sighted in for that one distance. Notice that the line of sight and the trajectory stay together for some distance. You are actually sighted-in for all those distances. But that might only be 5-10 feet, because as the pellet falls it also gains speed. The downward curve gets steeper.

    What it looks like to you

    The drawing above is correct, but we don’t see it that way. When we hold the rifle and sight through the scope it looks like this.

    Trajectory 2
    We hold the rifle level, so the line of sight both appears and actually is level. The trajectory, which we know is always falling down from the muzzle now looks like this.

    Drawing number two is the reason why some people think that a bullet or pellet rises after it leaves the muzzle. The truth is — the angle of the scope only makes it look that way.

    Relationship of the sights to the bore

    The sights are mounted above the axis of the bore. In the case of a scope, they are probably 1.5 inches or more above the center of the bore. If you were to touch a paper target with the muzzle of your rifle and shoot, and if you could look through the scope and see the same target paper, the difference between where you were looking and where the pellet hit the paper would be the same distance that the scope is above the bore.

    Sight-in at 10-12 feet

    This is why I begun sighting in my scopes in at 12 feet. I would do it at 10 feet, but the door jamb I use to steady the rifle is 12 feet from my pellet trap. Over such a short distance I don’t expect the pellet to “rise” very much. If the center of the scope is 2.2 inches above the center of the bore I expect the pellet to hit the target about 2.2-inches below the aim point. If it does and if the pellet is pretty close to the centerline left and right, I feel confident to back up to 10 meters (11 yards or about 33 feet).

    If the scope is sighted to angle down correctly, I expect the pellet to strike the target about one inch below the aim point when I shoot at 10 meters. If it does, or after I adjust the scope I can get it to that point, I know I can back up to 25 yards and the pellet will be pretty close to right on target. Now let’s see why.

    How I sight in a scope

    For an air rifle shooting a pellet of any caliber at 825 f.p.s. (which is slightly over 12 foot-pounds for an 8-grain .177-caliber pellet) I sight in for 20 yards. You may have read about the first and second impact points. I will explain them now. First, look at the drawing.

    Trajectory 3
    In this drawing we have zoomed in for more detail. The line of sight has been adjusted to pass through the trajectory at 20 yards, meaning it is sighted-in at that distance. Then, as the pellet goes farther, it appears to rise just a bit above the line of sight. Then, at around 28 to 30 yards, the trajectory brings it back down to the line of sight again. read more


    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 read more