Recently I shot around a competition with someone who was going high on every target over 45yds. Everything else seemed to be fine so he couldn’t have been a turn out on his scope. It was all a bit of a mystery and I could see he was getting incredibly frustrated at missing yet another at 47yds.
After a quick chat about what he’d changed on his set up, he said he’d changed nothing, the gun was fine over the chronograph and the grouping was good. Then I asked if he’d changed his pellets, “Yes but why would that make a difference? The last lot were great and these new ones group really well at 25yds”.
Well, all pellets are not the same. Even though they may be the same brand, head size and weight, that doesn’t mean they will actually be the same or will do the same thing my Field Target Ninjas!
Let me explain a little bit about pellets, batches and runs, plus why it’s important to Field Target shooters. In a perfect world, all pellets would be equal and they’d all would work in your gun perfectly, but they don’t.
Some guns are very pellet fussy and some aren’t. I’ve owned an Air Arms EV2 MKIV that would shoot anything without the barrel being cleaned. It wasn’t fussy about anything you put down the barrel. My new gun, a Feinwerkbau 800, is incredibly sensitive to the type of pellet and needs cleaning after every 200 shots. Even with the perfect pellet, if I don’t clean the barrel then my groups at 50yds start to open up from a 15mm group to a 40mm group, which is no help to a Field Target shooter.
Finding the perfect pellet can be a costly and time-consuming process but it’s worth putting the effort in for the peace of mind it brings. Let’s look at the data on the back of each tin and explain what it means.
On JSB’s you’ll see a label like this on the back of each tin
First Number: 34070016
Second Number: 0
Third Number: 4.52
Let’s break down that first big number:
34 = The number of the pressing die that was used to make the pellets.
07 = Personal number of the employee in Production.
00 = Personal number of the employee in Quality Control.
16 = The year of production, which is 2016.
Now the Second Number: 0 = Manufacturing batch run number.
Third Number: 4.52 = Pellet’s head size.
On Air Arms Pellets you’ll see a label like this on the back of each tin.
First Number 2
Second Number 17.2.2016
Third Number 4.52
Fourth Number S1
Fifth Number 38
OK, let’s break down these numbers.
2 = The number of the pressing die that was used to make the pellets.
17.2.2016 = Date of production
4.52 = Pellet’s head size.
S1 = Manufacturing batch run number.
38 = Personal number of the employee in Quality Control.
What I look for (I use JSB’s) is the number of the pressing die and the manufacturing batch number, so in this case 34 and 0. Usually, when I’m running low on pellets I’ll contact my supplier and ask for a list of dies and batches he has in. I’ll buy single tins of different ones and test them all in my gun, I usually buy at least 10 different tins.
I work my way through each tin, testing 30 to 40 pellets at 50 to 55yds to see how they group. Testing at a lower range isn’t really worthwhile as the biggest changes will always occur at greater distances. I’ve had pellets that grouped brilliantly at 45yds but shockingly at 50yds, so I don’t bother testing at the lower ranges anymore.
Once I find a die and batch that suit my gun and give me small enough groups, I buy at least 1yrs worth. That’s about 100 tins to be exact (see what I did there?) because the last thing I want to be doing is searching for pellets every 6 months. If I could afford to buy more then I would, it’s just another job off the list for me.
If you are using Air Arms pellets, the important numbers to look for are again the Die, Batch and Manufacturing Run numbers.
If you have a gun that isn’t fussy then you’re lucky because mine only likes certain dies and batches. I wish I knew what the exact variations were in the manufacturing process but I’ll be honest and tell you that I don’t. However I do know that I wouldn’t risk a competition with a fresh tin straight from the shop.
Some people go further and like to wash, resize, lube and weight their pellets. This takes a lot of time and while it’s something I’ve done in the past I don’t bother anymore. I’ve found a good batch for now but my old EV2 did seem to like lubed pellets! If you want to go through that whole ritual it’s really up to you. I’m not 100% convinced it’s a good use of time but I do know lots of people who do and it keeps them off the streets I guess!
I know all of the above sounds quite complex and perhaps even unnecessary but if you want to be consistent then you need to look beyond just yourself and the gun, your pellets are also important. It’s worth putting the effort into researching your pellets and buying a good supply if you can afford it. I know people on the circuit that are still shooting pellets from 2010. That should give you an idea of how much stock people will buy when they find that mega batch.
Don’t forget, if you ignore this advice when you change pellets, you may also have to change your scopes clicks, otherwise you could end up shooting too high or low, and your groups could be the size of a dustbin lid. You have been warned!