Get your Weedies!

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Bug Buster spawns crabgrass killer
  • Da bomb
  • Weedies
  • A side benefit
  • Safety
  • Dandelions may be possible
  • Summary

Most of you are aware of the UTG Bug Buster line of compact scopes from Leapers. They got their name from the practice in which some airgunners shoot bugs in their yard with pellet rifles. All the Bug Buster scopes parallax adjust (focus) down to 3 yards or nine feet, which makes them perfect for this pastime. Well, now they have spawned a new airgun product — the Weedie!

Bug Buster spawns crabgrass killer

Leapers owner, David Ding, was working in his yard pulling out crabgrass by the roots when it dawned on him that there must be a better way. Could an airgun somehow be converted into a crabgrass eliminator? He already had a line of scopes that was backyard-friendly; could they be used to also get rid of the tenanceous weeds?

David’s wife, Tina, knows quite a few people in local colleges and one of them is a young biochemist graduate student who is working on his PhD research project in herbicides. He is specifically interested in weed tolerance and their resistance to herbicides. More importantly for what is to follow — he is also an airgunner!

Da bomb

What he discovered is the absolute best way to eliminate crabgrass after it emerges is to inject a concentrated solution of of Quinclorac (3,7 dichloro-8-quinolinecarboxylic acid) into the center of the stolons, or tough round runners that give the weed its name. Where they come together is the top of the root of the plant. By breaking through the tough sheath of the stolons at this root, a very small amount of the concentrated Quinclorac will quickly absorb into the root bunch and kill the mature plant before it sends out seeds.

The amount of solution required is smaller than a drop from an eye dropper, and, because the solution has a high surface tension, the drops it forms are very small. The researcher discovered that he could put the right amount of solution into the hollow of a .177-caliber hollowpoint pellet, and just two pellets were all that was needed to kill each crabgrass plant! The process is 100 percent effective and results will be seen in less than 48 hours. The solution is solidified with a bonding agent, so the pellets can be handled safely. Exposure to the liquid in the crabgrass root turns the solution liquid again and the crabgrass root absorbs it readily.

One pellet will kill about 60 percent of all plants. Two pellets are absolutely positive. When hit in the right place with two of these pellets, no plant will survive. Now, you may think that it’s possible to just walk around the yard and shoot the plants at point-blank range, but where’s the fun in that? You can also poke holes in targets with a pencil and use your finger to knock down field targets, but it’s much more fun to do it with an air rifle.

All 2018 the researcher, Roger, killed crabgrass in David Ding’s backyard, and by the end of the year he had perfected his delivery system that consists of a Benjamin Marauder set to deliver the .177 hollowpoint pellets at 650 f.p.s. at the muzzle. Out to 35 yards that delivery system is effective. It does help to get some elevation over the lawn, to get the pellet down into the root bunch, and Roger found that a small stepladder worked well. But a deck is the perfect place from which to shoot.

In 2019 Roger took aim at the crabgrass in David’s front lawn and achieved 100 percent success. The next year the front lawn had less than 10 percent of the crabgrass from the year prior, and that was around the borders — undoubtedly from windblown seeds originating in the lawns of neighbors.

David was impressed by both the performance of the treatment and also by its application. Because some of the shots were very close, Roger mounted a Bug Buster 3-12X32 on his rifle and he let David share in the fun. Crabgrass may not move like an insect, but it is far more difficult to kill. Those pellets have to hit right in the center of all those long arms, which is the top of the root.

When a Weedie kills a crabgrass plant, the entire plant withers and dries out. You can leave it in the ground and it will be replaced by desirable grass or when you see that it’s dry you can pull it out of the ground easily. The root looses its purchase on the ground when the plant dies.

David Ding was so impressed by the success of this treatment and also by the unique application method that he commissioned Roger to hand-make 300 pellets for further trials. He then got three airgunners, including old B.B. Pelletier, to try it last year and each of us had the same results as he and Roger. I don’t know what guns the others used but I used a .177-caliber Diana 27S with open sights that is accurate enough out to 20 yards to deliver the pellets to the center of the crabgrass clumps every time.

Diana 27S
I used a Diana 27S to shoot my Weedies. So a spring-piston air rifle works just as well as a precharged rifle.

Weedies

David was encouraged by our early reports and he convinced a small U.S. pellet importer to make tins of 150 Wheedies that will retail for $15.95. While that sounds expensive (it’s just under 11 cents a pellet), compare it to the cost of commercial crabgrass killers that really work! They sell for a lot of money and usually get results in the 30-50 percent range. Weedies are 100 percent effective when used correctly! Because of the limited supply available, Weedies will be sold exclusively through Pyramyd Air.

A side benefit

While I was playing with my Weedies I discovered that they also kill St. Augustine grass that, in my opinion, is just as much a weed as crabgrass. My neighbor’s yard is St. Augustine and it was creeping over and replacing my Bermuda grass that looks better and which I spend a lot of time and money to keep up. St. Augustine creeps along the top of the ground like a weed and crowds out anything it contacts. As long as you water the heck out of it, it stays green, but the fat leaves look like crabgrass to me. And Weedies get rid of them! Oops!

Safety

Because you are handling a highly concentrated herbicide, each tin comes with the recommendation to wear latex or nitrile gloves when shooting. At the minimum, if you don’t wear gloves, you have to wash your hands with soap and water after each use.

It goes without saying that Weedies are not to be shot at any living animal. Your only target is crabgrass (and St. Augustine). Roger says the pellet delivery system itself is more dangerous to mammals and rodents than the solution in the hollow point, but the solution is so concentrated that it will not do an animal any good.

Dandelions may be possible

Roger found that his formula isn’t as effective on dandelions that also infest yards, but he is working to perfect one that is. However there is a problem with that. So many people eat dandelion plants that he has to make his formula safe for human consumption. Because, if a person ate a dandelion plant after it was treated by a Weedie, the herbicide would be throughout the plant. So the dandelion Weedie may take a while to develop. On the other hand, Weedies for most types of thistles, including Canada thistle, are almost ready for market.

Summary

This report is unique in that an unlikely airgun product, the UTG Bug Buster, served as the foundation for another unlikely airgun product — the Weedie. Will Weedies prosper? That’s difficult to say and only time will tell for certain. I remember Flava Shots .

“Chef de Cuisine Antonio Bologna of the world-knowned Aria Diabolo Pallina game restaurant has created Flava Shots, the first edible pellet. It takes advantage of a new compression technology that creates a dense pellet that will not fall apart or crumble during loading and shooting. It’s so rock hard that it has the same penetration effect as a lead pellet. The Flava Shot pellet dispatches the game and later infuses it with savory herbs and spices during the cooking process.

To maximize the cooking process, Chef Bologna suggests that airgunners lube their airgun barrels with food oils. This reduces friction, delivers a small boost to velocity and brings a delicious flavor to cooked meat. His favorite oil is macadamia nut, but he’s also experimented successfully with plain and roasted sesame oils.”

Today we have learned about Weedies. They could be the next revolution in lawn herbicide treatments. We all laughed when chef Tony Bologna came out with Flava Shots, but who’s laughing now?


The Daisy 35: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Daisy 35
Daisy 35 multi-pump pneumatic

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sight-in
  • RWS Superdomes
  • JSB Exact RS
  • RWS Hobby
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today I test the Daisy 35 multi-pump with a dot sight. Will that sight make the airgun any more accurate? That’s the test. I mounted the UTG Reflex Micro green dot sight.

The test

I shot from the same 10 meters, rested. I used 8 pumps per shot, just as before. I tried to use the same pellets but I couldn’t find the tin of Norma Golden Trophy pellets, so I substituted RWS Superdomes in their place. I have been told that these Norma pellets are equivalent to the RWS line.

I shot 10-shot groups, just as before. The only difference today, other than the pellet substitution was the sight. And I wore my regular glasses — not the reading glasses I wear when  I shoot with open sights.

Sight-in

It was difficult to sight-in the 35. Any airgun that makes 2-inch groups at 10 meters is going to be difficult to sight in. I started at 10 feet and had to adjust the dot down and to the left a lot. When I got two shots that went to the same place I backed up to 20 feet and kept sighting-in. After two shots were good at that distance I backed up to 10 meters and continued the sight-in. 

All things considered, it took about 12 shots to get the gun sighted-in. Then I shot the first group of RWS Superdomes.

RWS Superdomes

It was a fortunate thing that I shot Superdomes today because they gave me the best group of the test. Ten of them went into 1.963-inches at 10 meters. The group is fairly well centered on the bull. It’s just off to the left a little.

Daisy 35 Superdome group
Ten RWS Superdomes went into 1.963-inches at 10 meters. This is the best group of today’s test.

JSB Exact RS

The next pellet I tested was the JSB Exact RS dome. In Part 3 ten of these made a 2.591-inch group. Today with the dot sight ten went into 3.326-inches. Well — that’s no better, is it? Apparently I can shoot just as well with open sights as with a dot — at least this time!

Daisy 35 JSB RS group
Ten JSB RS domes made this 3.326-inch group at 10 meters. The first shot was in the black near the center, which is why I continued with the group without adjusting the sight. Shot two is that large round hole at the upper left. It looks like it was shot with a wadcutter but I saw it form as I shot. This is why a gun that shoots wide is so hard to sight in.

RWS Hobby

The last pellet I shot was the RWS Hobby wadcutter. In Part 3 ten Hobbys made a 2.205-inch group. Today using the dot sight the 35 put ten Hobbys into 2.29-inches at 10 meters. It’s pretty much the same as the last time with open sights.

One thing about this group. It is so spread out that there are two sight-in shots that look like they are in the group. Well, they aren’t. If you look at the edges of their hole you can tell that they were shot with Superdomes that didn’t cut round holes. This group is similar to the group Hobbys made when I shot with open sights.

Daisy 35 Hobby group
Ten RWS Hobbys made a 2.29-inch group at 10 meters. The arrows point to two holes made by Superdomes during the sight-in. They aren’t part of this group.

Discussion

The tightest group shot with open sights in Part 3 of this test measures 2.181-inches between centers. The tightest group of today’s testing measures 1.963-inches between centers. Clearly the Daisy 35 does not become more accurate at 10 meters with a dot sight.

This may look like a short little test, but please remember that each one of those 30 pellet holes was preceeded by 8 pump strokes. Add to that the 12 sight-in shots and I had to pump this airgun 336 times for today’s test. It wasn’t short on my end! But thankfully the Daisy 35 is an easy airgun to pump.

Looking at the groups I see that this Daisy 35 will hit a tin can most of the time out to 30 feet, or so. That’s its strength. It sure isn’t a paper puncher!

Summary

There is one last thing to test and that is the accuracy of the airgun with BBs. Given that it is set to feed BBs with the magnetic bolt tip I don’t see any reason to test it with lead BBs. You can try to talk me out of that, but think about it. Is someone shooting a $35-40 airgun really going to spend $25 for 1,500 BBs?


Let’s have fun!

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Background
  • A powerful breakbarrel rifle
  • A new multi-pumpA hunting pellet
  • Youth target pellet rifle
  • You’re cookin’
  • What’s this?
  • Seen it all before
  • Summary

How about a weekend of fun? I have a game for everyone. It came to me yesterday as I was writing the report about the Norma S-Target Match pellet. It occurred to me that was a long name for a pellet. So, what name would be better?

Background

There is a back story to today’s report. When I went to Fort Lewis, Washington, for ROTC Summer Camp in 1968, I spent several days in Vancouver, British Columbia, before reporting to camp. I was traveling with a buddy and we just wanted to see the sights up there. I remember seeing my first Canadian car — an Acadian Invader! It looked like a Pontiac to me, and when we saw a Beaumont, which was an upscale model, we knew that’s what it was. I have since learned that GM Canada used both Pontiac and Chevrolet platforms for what they made and sold to our northern cousins — eh!

That experience started me on a lifetime of pondering product names, and today I’d like us to generate some product names for airguns and related products. I’ll get you started.

A powerful breakbarrel rifle

Let’s pretend that we are the marketing team responsible to come up with a name for a new .25-caliber breakbarrel hunting rifle our company is about to bring out. It’s large, very powerful and extremely hard to cock. Here are the names the team has come up with so far.

Harvester 30 (for 30 foot-pounds in .25 caliber — from the president of the company)
Super Schuetzen (from old Dan the engineer, who’s been with the company 35 years)
YZP25 (from Carl, who thinks letters and numbers are better than words)
Ulysses 25 (from Donna, who thinks the rifle is too hard to cock)

Can you do better?

A new multi-pump

We have just sourced a new multi-pump air pistol from Taiwan. It’s .177 only and very accurate. It has a good 3-pound trigger and crisp adjustable sights. The manufacturer calls it the Brilliant Light. What should we call it?

A hunting pellet

We just struck a deal with a Brazilian pellet manufacturer. They have a high-tech .22-caliber hollowpoint hunting pellet that expands to twice its diameter at just 500 f.p.s. We have seen it demonstrated and it does work, so we will be selling it in the U.S. It is a domed pellet that has cuts in the hollow dome that open immediately when meeting resistance. It flies like a dome and opens like a hollowpoint. In Brazil they call it the Mako Shark. Here are the team’s suggestions.

Donna wants to call it the Lotus22 because it opens like a flower.
Carl wants to call it the DQP22
The president wants to call it the Meg22
Dan wants to call it the 22 Expander

Oh, on this one the art department is limiting the number of characters in the name to 12, including spaces. That’s because the name has to fit on a label on the tin and be recognizable on a storeroom shelf.

Youth target pellet rifle

The company has just struck a deal to purchase the rights to the Air Venturi Bronco from Mendoza. We want to make the rifle easier to cock (by lengthening the barrel jacket), to slim down the stock considerably and install target-style sights — with a peep sight in the rear and a hooded front sight that takes replaceable inserts. The president of the company likes the Bronco’s two-blade trigger for both its safety and for its smooth release. The straight Bronco would sell to us for $95 if we commit to purchase 1,000. With a Mendoza peep sight, a hooded front sight and an adjustable trigger stop (just a screw through the triggerguard) that we will install until the Mendoza factory gets up to speed, our cost rises to $119.00. We have to add $40 to that cost for modifying the trigger stops in-house on the first 100 rifles, to give Mendoza time to gear up for it, but the decision has been made to amortize that expense across the first 1,000 sales.

The president has told our team that he sees this rifle as an upscale youth target rifle that can compete in the Student Air Rifle program (SAR). He plans on charging $175 to SAR competitors and clubs and $225 to the general public.

He wants a name that conveys quality, excellence and value. What do we call it?

The president also wants a name for the trigger.

You’re cookin’

Okay, that should get your creative juices flowing. Now, name the following products.

A 10-40X60 scope with a 34mm tube that has a mil-dot reticle with illuminated dots that the shooter controls. The shooter determines which dot gets illuminated. This scope is no longer than a 4-16, and just as bright at 40X as the 4-16 is at 16X.

A precharged pneumatic that has a huge air reservoir and a max fill pressure of 1,800 psi. In .177 caliber it fires JSB 10.34-grain domes at 950 f.p.s. and gets 60 shots per fill. The rifle weighs 8 lbs. without a scope, due to a type IV carbon fiber reservoir. There is no regulator but the balanced valve gives all 60 shots with a maximum 18 f.p.s. spread. Twenty-two and twenty-five calibers will follow if the .177 is successful. The projected price will be $1,200.

A new wadcutter pellet with a thin ring of lead around the edge of the nose. Testing has shown it to be hyper accurate in target air rifles that need pellets with heads sized 4.49mm to 4.52mm. It costs about double to produce, so they will be sold in trays of 200.

new pellet
The new pellet with adaptable head sizes.

A bipod whose left leg holds up to 30 pellets and whose right leg detaches and contains a folding knife, Torx wrenches in sizes T6, T7 and T8, a ballpoint pen and scissors.

What’s this?

Now tell us what the following product names apply to.

  • Eagle Claw
  • Civet
  • Torque release
  • Restraint
  • Bombard
  • Momentum
  • Hyperion

Seen it all before

In the late 1990s I became incensed when Crosman applied the name Blue Streak to a breakbarrel rifle in the Benjamin line. In fact today the name is so confused there are people selling Benjamin-Sheridan 397 rifles on eBay. Tell me that isn’t wrong!

Dennis Quackenbush called his kit to make an outside lock air rifle the Amaranth. That one fooled everyone. 

And Walther used the name LGV for their new line of breakbarrel sporting rifles a few years ago when most of us silverbacks knew it as a breakbarrel target rifle from the ’70s.

Summary

I know some of you will enjoy doing this exercise, the point of which is to demonstrate that it isn’t easy coming up with product names that convey a sense of the product. Let’s see what you can do.


Norma S-Target Match pellet

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Norma tin
Today we are looking at the S-Target Match pellet from Norma.

This report covers:

  • A new line of pellets
  • Today’s pellet
  • Consistency
  • Weight
  • Cleanliness
  • How to test
  • FWB 300S
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Norma S-Target Match
  • Beeman R8 Tyrolean
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Norma S-Target Match
  • Another test?
  • Summary

Today I’m doing something that I find difficult to do — introducing a new pellet. Actually I’m introducing a new line of pellets branded by Norma, but today we will look at just one of them — the Norma S-Target Match wadcutter.

This is difficult because you readers are all over the board when it comes to the things you shoot. I show a group of ten pellets in three-quarters of an inch at 25 yards and it’s sacrilege for some of you, and others ask me how that would look on a soda can! So today I’m just gonna do what I’m gonna do and you can watch if you want. Today will be a first look at this pellet — not an all-out test.

A new line of pellets

The S-Target Match isn’t the girl you fell in love with in the first grade and loved all through high school. This is a new girl who just moved into the neighborhood a couple months ago with a large family that we will get to know in the days ahead. There are domes, heavy domes, pointed pellets and wadcutters in both .177 and .22 in the family. I plan to run them into my tests in the coming days, but today is an introduction to the new line and I chose the Norma S-Target Match to intro the line. She has a pretty name, but can she cook? That’s what we will start to learn today.

Today’s pellet

The S-Target Match is an 8.2-grain wadcutter that I slipped into yesterday’s blog for the first time. Didja notice? With the words Target and Match in the name this pellet goes up against some pretty stiff competition and that is how it has to be tested. 

There are 300 pellets in a tin in the .177 caliber and 200 in the .22. I don’t know the retail pricing, so I can’t say how expensive this pellet is. Norma claims a 7mm grouping at 10 meters for the pellets I’m testing today, but they measured from the outside of all the holes, rather than the more common center-to-center. But that is easy enough to correct. To get the group size you subtract one pellet diameter — 4.5mm — from 7mm and you get a group size of 2.5mm or 0.098-inches between centers. That would be a remarkable group! Of course I have no idea of what airgun shot it or if the airgun was hand-held or clamped in a vise, but there aren’t too many air pistols or rifles that can do much better.

Consistency

Question number one — does this pellet come in different head sizes? Not that I can see on the packaging. That’s a little odd for a target pellet. So I got out my Pelletgage and measured 10 of them at random. Seven had heads smaller than 4.49mm. One was 4.49mm. One was 4.495mm and one was 4.51mm.

Since the bulk of the ten I measured were smaller than 4.49mm, I believe that is the intended head size for this pellet. Maybe it’s 4.485mm but my Pelletgage doesn’t go down that small because who uses pellets with heads that small? Unfortunately I have no airguns that prefer head sizes that small (that I know of), but I proceeded with the test regardless.

Weight

We are also concerned with how consistent the weight of these pellets is. So I weighed the 10 whose heads I measured and got 1 that weighed 8.1 grains, 6 that weighed 8.2 grains and 3 that weighed 8.3 grains. For 10-meter competition weight means a lot less than head size, and there is no benefit in being anal and going down to the hundredth of a grain. The gram weight is advertised as 0.53 grams. Weight matters a lot more in field target where you shoot out to 50 meters. At 10 meters it almost doesn’t matter.

Cleanliness

One thing that does matter to both 10-meter shooters and field target competitors is the cleanliness of the pellets in the tin. Back when I competed in field target some people washed their pellets to get rid of small lead chips they called swarf. I hand-sorted my pellets by weight and eyeballed each of them but I never bothered washing them. But then I was only an average field target shooter.

Now, in 10-meter competition where I was more competitive I hand-inspected each pellet — though I never weighed them. I will say that the H&N, RWS and Chinese target pellets that I used back in the 1990s were all very clean and free from swarf. These Norma pellet are also clean and absolutely swarf-free. I cannot see a flake of lead swarf in the tin or in the skirts of any of the pellets — and I looked!

How to test

This is a new pellet, so how do I test it? Well for starters I shoot it in the most accurate .177 air rifles I have and see what it does. As I said in the beginning — this is just an introduction, not an all-out test.

FWB 300S

My most accurate 10-meter target rifle is my FWB 300S. I have shot 5-shot groups as small as 0.078-inches with Qiang Yuan Olympic target pellets, but I decided to use another pellet I have in greater supply today. 

I shot off a sandbag rest, resting the rifle directly on the bag. Because the 300S isolates the barreled action from the stock to allow the action to slide back in recoil, a bag rest is the best way to hold the rifle.

JSB Exact RS

The FWB 300S has put five JSB Exact RS pellets into a 0.111-inch group at 10 meters in the past (Feb 24, 2012). I thought the rifle was still sighted for this pellet and it was. Now, on any given day old BB will be a little better or a little worse, so the first thing I did was shoot a group of five RS pellets off a rest at 10 meters. When the first pellet cut the 10-ring I stopped looking and shot the remaining four. Man — can that 300S shoot! The only thing I don’t like is the rear sight coming back into my eye, but I wear glasses to protect myself.

This time I put five RS pellets into 0.137-inches at 10 meters. That’s larger than back in 2012, but in the same ballpark. That would serve as my baseline.

FWB RS group
The FWB 300S put five JSB Exact RS pellets into as 0.137-inch group at 10 meters.

Norma S-Target Match

Next I loaded an S-Target Match pellet into the FWB and touched it off. I was pleased to see the pellet was not just a 10, but a pinwheel (the pellet hole was centered almost perfectly inside the 9-ring, obliterating the 10-dot completely)! Then I shot the next 4 rounds without looking. At the end I had 5 shots in a hole that measures 0.172-inches between centers at 10 meters. Given the small head size of this pellet, that is excellent performance. If I had a pellet rifle that liked the smaller head sizes this S-Target-Match might do much better. Perhaps I do have something, but I will get to it later.

FWB Norma Target group
The FWB 300S put five Norma S-Target Match pellets into a 0.172-inch group at 10 meters.

Beeman R8 Tyrolean

The other hyper-accurate .177 rifle I own is my Beeman R8 Tyrolean that was a gift when I got out of the hospital in 2010. That one is so accurate that I don’t ever remove the Burris Timberline 4.5-14X32 scope that’s on it. I just shoot it.

R8 Tyrolean
Beeman R8 Tyrolean.

JSB Exact RS

This rifle likes JSB Exact RS pellet, as well, which is another reason I chose it for today’s test. In the past I have put five shots from this rifle and pellet into 0.22-inches at 25 yards — not 10 meters. Today I shot at 10 meters and five went into 0.21-inches between centers. That’s a very nice group, even though it is only 10 meters.

R8 RS
The R8 put five JSB RS pellets in 0.21-inches at 10 meters.

Norma S-Target Match

Now for the Norma S-Target Match pellet. Five went into 0.25-inches exactly. Given the smaller head I think that’s pretty darn good.

R8 Norma
Five Norma S-Target Match pellets went into 0.25-inches at 10 meters.

Another test?

I do own an FWB P44 pistol whose test target group measures 0.018-inches between centers — the smallest test target I have ever seen. I was never able to get groups smaller than 0.242-inches at 10 meters, and that was with Vogel pellets that have 4.50mm heads. So that pistol might be the ideal testbed for this S-Target Match pellet. I’m thinking of testing this pellet again in that pistol, and I would sort my pellet heads for the test.

Summary

That’s a quick look at what promises to be a great new line of lead pellets. Like I mentioned, you will be seeing more of them in the future.


The lowly pellet

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

common pellets
The four common pellet types (shapes) — dome, pointed, wadcutter and hollowpoint. 

This report covers:

  • The common shapes
  • Wadcutter
  • Semi-wadcutter
  • Dome or round-nose
  • Domed differences
  • Pointed pellets
  • Hollowpoints
  • Trick pellets
  • Summary

Recently we looked at all four smallbore pellet calibers — .177. .20, .22 and .25. Today we look at the diabolo pellets that we shoot in them.

The common shapes

I pictured four common pellet shapes above, but there are really only three — the wadcutter, the dome and the pointed pellet. The hollowpoint is based on one of those three shapes and has been made on all three basic shapes. I will explain that in a bit, but for now let’s look at the three basic pellet shapes.

Wadcutter

The wadcutter pellet was perhaps the first shape of the smallbore diabolo (wasp waist and hollow tail) pellet to be created. I temporize with the word “perhaps” because there is still much to be learned about the dawn of the diabolo and we may never know everything. But we see the wadcutter or flat-nosed pellet at the very beginning, sometime just after the turn of the 20th century.

wadcutter pellet
Wadcutter pellet.


wadcutter bullet
Wadcutter bullets.

Wadcutter pellets do the same thing that wadcutter bullets do; they cut perfectly round holes in target paper, which make for easier scoring. As far as bullets go, that is the principal purpose of the wadcutter bullet.

Today there is some talk about using wadcutter bullets for defense because they are slow and won’t shoot through your opponent. And, like wadcutter pellets, they cut large wound channels that don’t close up after the bullet passes through.

Wadcutter pellets, however, do other things. We would never use them for defense, but they are effective on very small game like mice, rats and small pest birds. And, because they are so prevalent, they are perhaps the number one plinking pellet.

Semi-wadcutter

In the bullet world the semi wadcutter is perhaps the number one bullet used in all handguns except semiautomatics used for defense. In revolvers they reign supreme. This bullet retains velocity like a round-nose and cuts a wound channel like a wadcutter. It’s even good for shooting at paper.

semi-wadcutter bullet
Semi-wadcutter bullet.

It’s more difficult to define what a semi-wadcutter pellet is, or should be. Maybe the H&N Hollow Point shown on the right of the first picture of this report is one? It’s harder to say for sure because pellets have to be light enough to fly. Unlike the Keith semi-wadcutter bullet, a pellet can’t be that long and heavy.

Dome or round-nose

The domed pellet is the king of long-range shooting and also of penetration. People will argue that pointed pellets go deeper but testing disproves it. They go as deep but not deeper.

domed pellets
JSB Exact RS on the left and H&N Baracuda on the right. The Baracuda is almost pointed!

Domed pellets are synonymous with round-nosed bullets. They are the best pellet we have for supersonic flight, which, by the way, does not lessen accuracy, as I demonstrated back in 2011.

Domed differences

Domes are pellets with differences. There are tall domes and low domes. The H&N Baracuda has what I would call a tall dome. That gives it a lot of weight forward and also increases the weight of the entire pellet. The JSB Exact RS dome is a low dome that is lightweight but has the aerodynamic properties of the dome. It doesn’t fly true as far as the Baracuda, but it flies far enough to call it a long-range pellet.

Domes are great for hunting, plinking and many sports like field target. The thing they are not so good for is shooting at paper. They leave ragged holes that are difficult to see and score. Special things like taping the target paper is done to improve this, but domes are not for targets.

pointed pellet
The Daisy Pointed Field pellet is a pointed pellet.

The pointed pellet is the least popular of the three main types. Domes can do everything pointed pellets can, and they do much of it better, but pointed pellets do continue to sell. Perhaps their shape is a big reason?

Hollowpoints

I said in the beginning that hollowpoints can be based on any of the three main types. Here’s the proof.

three hollowpoints
These three hollowpoints are based, from left to right, on a wadcutter, a dome and a pointed pellet.

Trick pellets

I define trick pellets as pellets that are not conventional. That’s just my own definition and it is meaningless, but there is a category of pellets that are just a little different. Take the Gamo Rocket, as an example. It’s a semi-dome with a steel ball in the nose. What purpose does that ball serve?

I can see that I need to start testing all of the “trick” pellets for you. Some I know, like the Predator Polymag, are very accurate and consistent. Others with plastic points glued in their tips may not be as accurate. Until I test them I really can’t say. But in my world they are all trick pellets. Even the ultra light pellets that are used to substantiate velocity claims are trick pellets in my book.

trick pellets
Predator Polymags on the left, Gamo Luxor Cu with the pyramid tip in the center and the Tracer Pell that glows in the dark on the right. All trick pellets by my definition.

Summary

I thought this report was going one way, but it changed near the end and gave me several more reports to write. I see I need to test some of what I call trick pellets using an airgun or airguns of proven accuracy, to see what’s wheat and what’s chaff.


Pellet calibers — why .25?: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

diabolo pellet
The diabolo pellet exists in four smallbore calibers.

This report covers:

  • History
  • When I got into airgunning
  • Diana
  • Others abound
  • Springers, too
  • Is it possible?
  • Discussion
  • Summary

This is the final installment of this series. Today we look at the big quarter-inch bore — the .25 caliber pellet. This is the largest of the four smallbore airgun calibers, and for years there was nothing larger. The .25 has occupied a niche of its own.

History

The .25 caliber diabolo pellet came into being a few years after the .177 and .22 — around 1908, or so. Yes, there were smoothbore airguns in the late 1800s in both .22 and .25, with the Gem being one of the most notable. Many dart guns were also made in .25 caliber. But it was George Lincoln Jeffries’ “H. The LINCOLN” air rifle of 1905 that started smallbore airguns in a big way. In a few years BSA, who produced the Jeffries rifles, had taken over, and the BSA rifle that reader RidgeRunner talks about all the time is a direct descendant.

Lincoln Jeffries rifle
H. The LINCOLN underlever spring-piston air rifle was loaded through a rotating tap on top of the receiver.

These early air rifles were spring-piston, which gave the advantage to the lighter .177 caliber. The .25 caliber was introduced as early as 1906, but took several years to catch on. In the early years .25-caliber wasn’t much of a competitor and never caught on in the United States, where .22 caliber soon rose to the top. The .25 went too slow and produced an arched trajectory that was apparently too difficult to deal with. 

The Benjamin Air Rifle company and Crosman could both have taken advantage of their pneumatic powerplants that would have been better suited for the .25 caliber pellets than spring-pistons, but they never did.

When I got into airgunning

As an adult I got into airgunning around 1976 with the purchase of a Diana model 10 pistol. But it was the purchase of Volume 1 of Air Gun Digest, written by Robert Beeman, that started my interest in vintage airguns. Ironically, that happened not too long after I bought the pistol. I was serving in Erlangen, Germany, and in 1977 a copy of the book appeared one day in my Stars and Stripes bookstore on post. I nearly wore that book out (I still have it), reading about a world of airguns that I never knew existed.

In those heady days of the late 1970s the airgun velocity wars had just started. By 1980 I was back in the States and really delving into airguns seriously, but .25 caliber was nowhere to be seen. Dr. Beeman called the .25 caliber “near obsolete” in Airgun Digest and in 1976 when he wrote that, it was. However, it wasn’t quite dead — not yet.

Diana

In 1994 Diana started offering their model 48/52 sidelever rifle in .25 caliber. We airgunners all thought it would be a real powerhouse, but the truth was, it left us flat. The Diana 48 in .177 was a powerhouse, at over 1,100 f.p.s. and the .22 was powerful, as well, but the .25 left us wanting. Apparently there wasn’t enough swept volume in the sliding compression chamber to generate enough compressed air to send the big 6.35mm pellets out at more than around 635 f.p.s., give or take. The BSA Lightning XL breakbarrel did just as well and weighed several pounds less — a tribute to swept volume over the power of the mainspring.

What we didn’t perceive in the 1990s when all this was happening was that precharged pneumatic (PCP) airguns that were on the horizon were about to change everything. They were the “dark side” in 1995, but in 2021 they are mainstream. And pneumatics make all the difference in the world!

Today we have .25-caliber rifles shooting pellets capable of supersonic flight, which means they can also handle very heavy pellets. That is perhaps the biggest advantage they have over the .22 round. The AirForce Escape, for example, lists a velocity of 1,145 f.p.s. in .25 caliber. This is a rifle that’s so powerful that it isn’t even offered in .177, because why would you want one? Sure, you can fit a .177 barrel to an Escape but the valve won’t be optimized for it. The Escape is an all-out PCP for hunting. Plinking with it is like plinking with a .454 Casull Magnum. Sure it can be done, but that wasn’t the reason it was developed.

Others abound

And the Escape isn’t the only game in town. Don’t overlook the Condor. And Hatsan has the AirMax, the Flash, the Hydra, the Hercules Bully and so on. Crosman has numerous incarnations of the Benjamin Marauder and the Kratos. And the beat just goes on and on.

Springers, too

There are also a few spring-piston rifles that at least claim to shoot .25-caliber pellets at or above 900 f.p.s. The springer has never been the powerplant of choice for the quarter-inch bore, but some of today’s spring rifles are capable of good power that, unfortunately comes at a price of hard cocking and violent shot cycles.

To get the power to push heavy .25-caliber pellets a spring-piston rifle needs a long stroke and a fairly wide piston. Unless the rifle is specifically built for that caliber as the Sig ASP20 is specifically built for .22 caliber, the shot cycle of an untuned rifle will be harsh.

Now I own a spring-piston rifle in .25 caliber that produces over 30 foot-pounds and is absolutely dead calm. So it can be done. But my Whiscombe is one of less than 500 rifles ever made by the late John Whiscombe and to buy one you’ll pay four figures.

Is it possible?

Could someone make a dedicated .25-caliber spring-piston air rifle that was smooth, and easy enough to cock? Of course. But it would take a concerted effort from a company willing to invest a large percentage of the time of several engineers over a period of perhaps 18 months. Are there enough potential sales of .25 caliber breakbarrels at the $400+ mark to justify an investment like that? Probably not. You see, it’s not just a matter of a more powerful mainspring. The Hatsan 135 QE Vortex cocks with 57 pounds of effort and still only delivers velocities of 750 f.p.s. in .25 caliber. Compared to the spring guns of yesteryear that’s magnum performance, but so many PCPs leave it behind that there is no comparison.

Discussion

I count 19 different pellets for sale in .25 caliber. Only the .20 caliber offers less choice. The pellets that do exist come from premium manufacturers which means they should all be good, but it also means they won’t be cheap. Don’t envision shooting a .25 only to discover after buying the airgun that you don’t want to pay for the ammo!

The PCP is far better suited to .25 caliber. It has the power to make trajectory concerns a non-issue. Given that, the .25 caliber pellet is the number one smallbore pellet choice for small game hunting.

The market seems to be expanding cautiously for the .25 caliber airgun and pellet. PCPs now dominate .25 caliber with the greatest potential for advancement remaining in the spring-piston arena (because they have so far to go). Only the CO2 powerplant is not a big player as the rising tide lifts most boats.

Summary

The .25 caliber has finally arrived — about a century after its introduction. In the smallbore airgun world it is at the top of the heap. But you must understand that its performance comes at a cost.


Pellet calibers — why .22?: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

diabolo pellet
The diabolo pellet exists in four smallbore calibers.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • History
  • Huge deal!
  • Application
  • Hunting
  • Drawbacks
  • However
  • Summary

The .22 pellet was the most popular caliber in the United States for many decades in the early 20th century. We haven’t looked at this series for a few months, and today we examine the .22 pellet, which is just as important as the .177 — if not as popular.

History

The .22 caliber pellet was brought out and developed about the same time as the .177, which was just after the start of the 20th century. It was called the number 2 load in the United Kingdom, and their airguns from that timeframe are marked that way — not with .22 caliber. It took a little while for the .22 to gain traction in America, but once it did it displaced the .177 until sometime in the late 1960s.

If the BSA spring-piston guns had been as popular in the US as they were in the UK the .22 would have caught on faster, but nobody imported them in any numbers until the 1930s. By then the American pellet gun makers Benjamin and Crosman were solidly on board and the .22 dominated the .177 in all their airguns. The .25 was scarcely ever seen in the U.S., though a few were made here.

From the 1920s until the end of the 1960s the .22 pellet dominated the American airgun scene. There were .177 airguns from all makers, but the sales were low in comparison to the .22. I see 10 Crosman .22-caliber 101 pneumatics for every one .177 model 100. And the model 104 repeater (.177) is as rare as can be, while the 102 (.22) is seen quite often.

Huge deal!

Probably one thing that led to the .22 pellet’s popularity in the United States was that it shared a caliber designation with the .22 rimfire cartridge. Shooters were already very familiar with .22 rimfire and the fact that the .22 caliber pellet sounded the same gave them a lot of confidence. The thing is — the .22 caliber pellet IS NOT a true .22 caliber! It’s really .218 caliber.

This is no big deal because all pellet and airgun manufacturers know that, and everything they make fits. Call these pellets what you want, the industry knows the specifications. Over the years there have been some anomalies, like BSA guns that needed 5.56mm pellets, but some British pellet manufacturers like Eley accommodated them and everything was fine. Until now!

Today it seems that many of the people in the airgun industry do not have shooting backgrounds and mistakes are sometimes made. I have seen airguns made with .22 rimfire barrels. They don’t work! I’ve seen people buy .22 rimfire barrels and turn them down in a lathe to fit in a pellet rifle and then discover there is no accuracy. I’ve seen people try to shoot .22 pellets from .22 rimfire rifles and from AR-15 barrels which is even worse, because they are larger! I have seen people learn some costly lessons.

So yes — knowing the true size of the .22 pellet is a big deal. And then you have to apply it. This is why shooting pellets from special cartridges that allow primers to be used as propellant doesn’t work so well. The bores of the guns they are shot in (like the AR-15) just aren’t sized correctly for the projectile they are trying to shoot.

Application

The .177/4.5mm pellet dominates the airgun world because it is either mandated for some uses like target shooting or it is highly favored for other endeavors like field target and silhouette, not to mention many other competitions for reasons of its size and its velocity.

In contrast, there are no exclusive shooting events for the .22. Unless someone specifies shooting only .22, there is no good reason to do so. However, there is one popular application that the .22 pellet excels at — hunting!

Hunting

In B.B. Pelletier’s opinion, the .22-caliber pellet is the best hunting projectile that exists for airguns. It hits harder than .177 or .20 and it shoots flatter than a .25. Of course in saying all of that a great many different airguns must be taken into account. One airgun can’t do it all.

The thing a .22 does is open up a large wound channel in a game animal. One of the drawbacks of the hyper-velocity .177s is they tend to “acupuncture” their victims. The wound channel left by the pellet will close after the pellet passes through. Domed and pointed pellets cause this the most. Wadcutters and hollowpoints tend to do it less, but as the velocity increases the .177-caliber pellet tends to close the wound channel more with all types of pellets, in my experience.

Now, .22 pellets don’t do that, at least in my experience. So you get a good bleedout, which is the main way that pellets kill, unless there is a brain shot. However, I don’t have that much experience hunting with .22 pellets going faster than 1,000 f.p.s. because they haven’t been able to do that until recently. Today, though, there is no problem getting them going that fast and even faster. I think that gives the hollowpoint pellets a big advantage!

Drawbacks

In a word — lead is the biggest drawback to the .22. Twenty-two caliber pellets use a lot of it and nowadays lead is getting pricy. Of course there is more to it than just the material they are made from, but if you look, you’ll see that lead pellets don’t often come in tins of 500 anymore. Where .177 pellets come in tins of 400 and 500, .22 pellets are offered with half that many in the tin. Oddly (or not) that number, one-half, relates closely to how much lead is in pellets of each caliber.

However

If you are in a quandary of choosing between .22 and .25 consider this. There are a great many more pellets made in .22 caliber, and that fact alone offers you greater choice. For years I have recommended getting the powerful pellet rifle in .22 instead of .25 for that reason, above all others. The .25 is coming into its own and, just because it is a bigger number, it’s attracting a lot of attention. But an accurate .22 pellet in the right airgun will do everything that’s needed from a hunting pellet.

Summary

After the huge writeup I gave the .177 pellet I’m sure you expected equal time for the .22. The truth is, the .22 is the second most popular pellet caliber but .177 is so far ahead that the .22 is in the dust. It is, however, my favorite caliber, all things considered.