Color me soooo surprised!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Anybody who has been observing the airgun scene for a little while will have noticed that an increasing number of companies are coming out with non-lead pellets. A while back, I did some shooting with some of Dynamic’s non-lead pellets, and I found that they were pretty good.

Check out this and this for additional information I think that one of the reasons these pellets work so well is that they are pretty close in weight to traditional lead pellets.

I have experimented with the very light (5.4 grain) Gamo .177 PBA pellets, and I found that they did fine at close range (no more than 15-20 yards — in fact I used a PBA pellet to terminate a squirrel at 7 yards with a P1 pistol), but accuracy went to blazes at longer ranges.

So when a package arrived from Airguns of Arizona the other day with some new pellets from H&N, including some very light non-lead pellets, I figured the non-lead pellets would be good for strictly short-range work. As it turns out, I was wrong.

The package contained a tin each of H&N Sport Barracuda Hunter (10.34 gr.) pellets, H&N Sport Field Target Trophy Green (5.56 gr.) pellets, and H&N Sport Barracuda Green (6.48 gr.) pellets. “Green,” in case you haven’t figured it out, is apparently a code word for non-lead pellets.

I started thinking about testing these pellets, and pretty quick I realized I had a problem. Of the .177 guns in house, I had a magnum springer (RWS54), magnum PCP (Marauder), a low-power springer (tuned R7) and a recoilless springer match rifle (FWB150). I eliminated the magnum guns because I didn’t want the ultra-light pellets to go supersonic and have trans-sonic turbulence screw up accuracy. I eliminated the R7 because accuracy in recoiling springers depends a lot on shooter technique, and I wanted to eliminate that variable.

So that left me with the FWB150, an air rifle with trustworthy accuracy that I have successfully shot in field target competition. Twice I have knocked down one-inch targets at 50 yards with that rifle.

Bear in mind, though, this one hard-and-fast rule about airgun accuracy: you let the gun choose the ammo. It doesn’t matter what your buddy shoots, or what the guys on the forum say, or even what the national field target champion shoots, you run tests with different kinds of ammo in your gun and then shoot the one that delivers the best accuracy.

Now, back to our story. I started by shooting the pellets through my Oehler chronograph. I checked the velocity on Daystate 8.44 gr. pellets and found they were zipping through the screens at 653 fps average, about 7.99 foot-pounds of energy that the muzzle. The H&N Sport Barracuda Hunter Pellets averaged 550 fps, for 6.94 foot-pounds.  The H&N Sport Field Target Trophy Green pellets blew through the traps at 804 fps average with less than 4 fps variation from high to low, working out to 7.98 fp. Finally, the H&N Sport Barracuda Green registered 695 average, 6.95 fpe. Just for fun, I also shot some Gamo Raptor PBA (5.4 gr.), they clocked 762 average, 6.96 fp.

I started shooting the various pellets in 5-shot groups at 20 yards and took edge-to-edge measurements on the groups. The Gamo PBA and Barracuda Hunter both delivered ¾” groups. The Daystate produced a half-inch group, as did the Field Target Trophy Green pellets. The Barracuda Green pellets printed a 5/8 inch group.  The overall winner was a pellet I had not chronographed, JSB Exact Express pellets, which delivered a 3/8 inch group. The bottom line is that all of these pellets would be suitable for defending the bird feeder at 20 yards.

After that I took the winning non-lead pellet, the H&N Sport Field Target Trophy Green, and the winning lead pellet, the JSB Exact Express shot them at 35 yards. The FT Trophy Green produced a group that measured 7/8 inch edge to edge, and the JSB produced a ¾ inch group. While I have shot better groups at that range with pre-charged rifles, that’s still respectable accuracy, and I was amazed that the very light non-lead pellets did so well at that range.

Yes, I thought, but what kind of penetration are those pellets delivering at that range? Maybe those super-light pellets had bled off all their energy by the time they got to out there. To find the answer, I set up two metal soup cans at 35 yards and shot them. The JSB Exact Express pellets plowed through both sides of the can, tearing ragged holes in the metal. The FT Green pellet also penetrated both sides of the can, punching neat holes on entry and exit. Color me soooo surprised.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott


  1. Conor says:

    Hello Mr. Elliott,

    That was a good article. When time allows, could you do a Part 2 or something like this for those of us who use .22 pellets?


    p.s. I have a RWS 34p Striker Combo that I got in March for my B-day. Since then, it has slowed down in fps greatly (it is shooting @ roughly 650 fps in .22 cal), but still it works great in bird hunting around our house (blackbird size birds). Anyways, with 5 Crosman Premier Hollowpoint .22 pellets, I have shot and killed 3 “blackbird sized birds” @ 115 yards, 93 yards, and 105 yards! I was SHOCKED when the first one fell off the telephone wire he was sitting on and when I got to where he fell, he was D.O.A.!

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Thanks for the kind words. I’ll see what I can do about a similar article on .22. It could be quite a while, though, winter is knocking on the door here where I live!

      That’s excellent shooting at long range.

  2. BigAl says:

    Just like everything else, PBA ammo will be found to have some negative effect on the environment some years down the road. As for me, I will stick with lead. It comes from the earth and I put plenty of it back. I refuse to get caught up in the Al Gore “the sky is falling” state of mind.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      I can’t wait to find out that oat bran “causes” something!

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