As a competitive shooter, I wash and sort my pellets. But, is there a reason to wash them if you’re not a competition shooter? I say, YES!
Air rifles can be picky about which pellets they like. Whether you’re a competitive shooter, hunter, plinker, or just out to hone your skills with an air rifle, you want to feed your rifle what it likes in order to get the best accuracy downrange. JSB’s, RWS, Crosman’s, Diana, H&N, Daystate, Benjamin…. The list goes on and on. Then, there’s the different weights to consider, which almost always comes with a slightly different shape. There’s no telling what a rifle will like without trying different brands. Research has shown that two rifles of the same brand and type can even like different pellets. Although, that scenario is getting a little more rare these days with the advancements in manufacturing.
As a beginner shooter, where should you start in your pellet selection process? If I were to give you advise, I’d say to start with JSB’s. They’ve consistency given me two things…
1) The best accuracy
2) A consistent starting point to measure other brands against.
Next is to consider what weight to try. I think that depends on what your expected shooting distance is, or what your purpose is. Hunting pellets would be an obvious choice for hunting. When it comes to target shooting there’s more to consider. A lighter pellet will have a flatter flight path and a heavier pellet will buck the wind better. I’d say that if your shooting short range, a lighter pellet will serve you well. For longer range or more knock down power, a heavier pellet would do well.
Personally, I buy JSB’s almost exclusively. I have found them to be very consistent in performance and accuracy. I prefer to buy my pellets through Airguns of Arizona because AoA gets them with head size and lot numbers’s on each tin. Matching head sizes and lot numbers means that the pellets are more consistent from tin to tin and should shoot with greater consistency overall. It also means you can try different head sizes to see if your rifle likes them a little thinner or a little thicker.
Washing pellets is the first step in sorting pellets. Sorting pellets can be as simple as washing alone or as complex as you want to make it. A FULL sorting process for me includes washing, drying, inspecting, weighing, head measuring, rolling, a personal top secret step, and possibly lubing (hyperlinks are for my how-to videos!). The full sorting process is a very long one that I only use for competition pellets. But for the rest of my pellets, I wash! Through all of this sorting, and inspecting, and weighing, and rolling, etc… I have found that washing alone makes the biggest difference in accuracy, even with premium pellets.
What does washing do? Through the process of manufacturing, little microscopic bits of lead are left over and stick to the pellets. Those little bits can cause the tiniest variation in the way a pellet travels down a barrel and cause a shot to be missed. Imagine if one of those little bits gets stuck in your rifling or turns into a lead fouling down the inside of your barrel. Not only will it affect one shot, but it could affect every shot until you clean it out.
Washing is easy! I like to use Dawn dish soap because it works very well at getting the leftover manufacturing lubrication off and, as a bonus, it’s safe to use on animals (remember the BP oil spill?). In a dedicated NON-FOOD container, mix a few drops of soap with some warm water. Then gently pour your pellets in and start swishing them around with your fingers. Not too fast, just enough to get them moving through the soapy water and to knock the little bits of lead off without damaging the pellets. Next is rinsing. I like to use a plastic dedicated NON-FOOD mesh strainer and warm water. Gently pour them into the strainer and move them around under the running water to get all of the soap off. For drying, I lay them out in a single layer on a towel. I leave them overnight with a fan running to keep the air moving around them. In the morning, I look inside a few skirts to see if there’s any leftover droplets. If not, then I’m all done and ready to shoot!
If you’re unsure whether or not this will help with your own accuracy, try it out with just a handful. I’d love to hear about your results! Thanks for reading, and Happy Shooting!