Airgun Ammo Face-Off: Pellets or BBs – Which Reigns Supreme?

When it comes to airgun shooting, selecting the right ammunition is the major aspect of achieving accuracy and desired results. Two popular options in the world of airguns are pellets and BBs. While both types of ammunition have their merits, understanding their differences and applications is essential for making an informed choice. In my blog post, I will conduct a comprehensive comparison of pellets and BBs, examining factors such as construction, performance, target suitability, and more. Whether you’re a seasoned airgun enthusiast or just getting started, my guide will help you make an educated decision regarding your ammunition preference.

Pellet Ammo

Pellet ammo, also known simply as pellets, refers to small cylindrical projectiles used in airguns for shooting purposes. These projectiles are typically made of lead, although alternative materials such as alloy or plastic can also be used. Pellets are designed to be fired from airguns that utilize compressed air or CO2 as a propellant.

Types of Pellets

    1. Diabolo Pellets: Diabolo pellets are the most common type of pellet ammunition. They feature a distinct design characterized by a waist in the middle and a hollow skirt at the base. This design contributes to stability, accuracy, and improved aerodynamics during flight. Diabolo pellets are suitable for a wide range of shooting applications, including target shooting, hunting, and competitions.
    2. Hollow Point Pellets: Hollow Point pellets are designed with a concave or hollowed-out tip. This design allows for controlled expansion upon impact, making them ideal for hunting small game. The expansion helps transfer energy to the target, increasing the effectiveness of the shot.
    3. Pointed Pellets: Pointed pellets have a sharp, pointed tip which enhances their penetration capabilities. They are commonly used for hunting or shooting activities that require deeper penetration such as pest control or hunting larger game.
    4. Wadcutter Pellets: Wadcutter pellets have a flat, wide front face. This design results in a clean and distinct hole when striking paper targets. These qualities make them popular for target shooting and competitions that require precise scoring.

Construction Material

Traditionally, pellets are made of lead due to their density, malleability, and ability to provide consistent performance. However, there are also alternative materials available in the market.

  • Alloy pellets, made of a mixture of lead and other metals, are often used to increase velocity and energy transfer.
  • Plastic pellets are another alternative that is lighter. It can be a safer option for shooting at close ranges.

Different Sizes, Shots, and Shapes Pellet

Pellets come in various sizes, measured in calibers. The most common calibers for airgun pellets are .177 (4.5mm), .22 (5.5mm), and .25 (6.35mm). The choice of caliber depends on the type of airgun and shooting application.

Regarding the shape, pellets primarily have a cylindrical shape with a skirt at the base. The skirt is designed to engage with the rifling in the airgun’s barrel. So it is imparting spin for improved stability and accuracy during flight. The head of the pellet can vary in shape with options such as flat, pointed, or hollow point tips, depending on the intended use.

BB Ammo

“BB” stands for “ball bearing” and BB ammo, also known as BBs, refers to small spherical projectiles used in airguns for shooting purposes. BBs are typically made of steel or copper-coated steel. They are commonly used in airguns that utilize compressed air or CO2 as a propellant. The original BB guns used the BB-sized lead shotgun shot, midway between B and BBB size.

Types of BBs

    1. Steel BBs: Steel BBs are the most common type of BB ammunition. They are made of solid steel and have a smooth surface. Steel BBs are widely used for plinking, target practice, and recreational shooting. They are available in various sizes.
    2. Copper-Coated BBs: Copper-coated BBs are steel BBs coated with a thin layer of copper. The copper coating helps reduce friction and improve smoothness during flight. These BBs are often used for improved accuracy and performance.

Construction Material

BBs are primarily made of steel or copper-coated steel. Steel is used for its durability and affordability. The material provides consistent performance and reliable shooting. Copper coating is sometimes applied to improve the BB’s surface properties and reduce friction during flight.

Sizes and Shapes of BBs

BBs typically come in a standard size of 4.5mm or .177 caliber. This is the most common size used in airguns. As for shape, BBs are spherical, with a smooth and uniform surface. The spherical shape simplifies manufacturing and ensures consistent weight distribution.

Well, BBs do not have as many variations in terms of shape or options due to their spherical shape and standardized size compared to pellets. The focus is primarily on the size and material of the BB for optimal performance.

Pellets or BBs: Which Reigns Supreme?

The Basics: Pellets and BBs

  • Pellets are small cylindrical projectiles typically made of lead, although alternative materials like alloy or plastic can also be used.
  • On the other hand, BBs are spherical projectiles generally made of steel or copper-coated steel.
  • Both pellets and BBs come in various sizes, typically ranging from .177 caliber to .25 caliber.

Construction and Design Differences

One of the key differences between pellets and BBs lies in their construction and design.

  • Pellets feature a diabolo shape, characterized by a waist in the middle and a hollow skirt at the base. This design is intended to improve stability and accuracy during flight.
  • BBs, on the other hand, have a spherical shape, which simplifies manufacturing and provides consistent weight distribution.
  • However, the spherical design of BBs can result in decreased accuracy compared to pellets, especially over longer distances.

Performance Comparison

When it comes to performance, several factors set pellets and BBs apart.

  • Pellets typically offer greater penetration power due to their shape and materials. They also tend to have higher velocity and energy transfer. It makes them suitable for hunting and precision shooting.
  • BBs, on the other hand, are known for their lower velocity and energy transfer. It makes them more appropriate for plinking and short-range shooting activities.
  • But the diabolo shape of pellets contributes to improved aerodynamics, leading to better range and accuracy compared to BBs.

Target Suitability and Safety

The choice between pellets and BBs also depends on the intended targets and safety considerations.

  • Pellets are ideal for precision shooting and accuracy. It is suitable for target practice, competitions, and small game hunting. Their superior penetration power allows for a clean hunt.
  • BBs, on the other hand, are better suited for plinking, tin can shooting, and close-range target practice.
  • When using BBs, it’s important to consider the backstop and ensure that there is a safe shooting environment to prevent ricochets and potential accidents.

Cost and Availability

Another aspect to consider when choosing between pellets and BBs is the cost and availability.

  • In general, BBs tend to be more affordable and widely available compared to pellets. This accessibility makes BBs a popular choice for beginners and casual shooters.
  • Pellets, on the other hand, may have a higher price point, especially for premium or specialized options.

A Short Comparison Chart: Pellets vs. BBs

Aspect Pellet Ammo BB Ammo
Construction Cylindrical shape with a diabolo design; made of lead, alloy, or plastic Spherical shape; made of steel or copper-coated steel
Accuracy Excellent accuracy due to diabolo shape and rifling engagement Lower accuracy compared to pellets, especially over longer distances
Performance High penetration power, velocity, and energy transfer Lower penetration power, velocity, and energy transfer
Range Longer effective range and better flight stability More suitable for short-range shooting and plinking
Target Suitability Ideal for precision shooting, competitions, and hunting small game Suitable for plinking, tin can shooting, and close-range target practice
Backstop Consideration Require proper backstop due to penetration power Require a safe shooting environment to prevent ricochets
Cost and Availability May have a higher price point; availability varies based on the caliber More affordable and widely available

What Are the Different Kinds of Pellet Shots?

The term “pellet shots” typically refers to the different weights of individual pellet projectiles. Pellet shots are often categorized based on their weight, with different weight classes available to cater to various shooting needs and preferences. Here are some common weight classes for pellet shots.

Lightweight Pellets: Lightweight pellets generally weigh around 5 grains or less.

  • These pellets are designed to maximize velocity and are often used for target shooting, plinking, and shooting at shorter distances.
  • They can offer flat trajectories and higher velocities but may have reduced penetration power compared to heavier pellets.

Standard Weight Pellets: Standard weight pellets typically range from 7 to 10 grains. 

  • These pellets strike a balance between velocity and energy transfer. It makes them versatile for various shooting applications.
  • They are suitable for target shooting, hunting small game, and general-purpose airgun use.

Heavy Pellets: Heavy pellets have a higher weight compared to standard pellets, often ranging from 10 to 18 grains or even more.

  • These pellets are known for their increased stability, energy retention, and penetration power.
  • They are commonly used for long-range shooting, hunting larger games, and situations that require higher kinetic energy.

Magnum Pellets: Magnum pellets are characterized by their significantly higher weight, often exceeding 18 grains.

  • These pellets are designed to deliver maximum power and energy transfer.
  • They are favored for long-range shooting, hunting large game, and situations where significant penetration is necessary.

What Are the Different Types of BB Shots?

In the context of BB ammunition, the term “BB shots” typically refers to the weight of the individual BB projectile. BB shots are often categorized based on their weight, with different weight classes. The most common weight classes for BB shots are-

Standard BBs: Standard BBs are typically around 5.1 grains in weight.

  • These are the most widely used BBs.
  • They are suitable for general plinking, target practice, and recreational shooting.

Heavy BBs: Heavy BBs have a higher weight compared to standard BBs, typically ranging from 8 to 9 grains.

  • The increased weight of heavy BBs can provide better stability, improved accuracy, and enhanced energy transfer upon impact.
  • They are often preferred for shooting at longer distances or in situations where accuracy is crucial.

Lightweight BBs: Lightweight BBs are lighter than standard BBs. They can range from around 4 grains or lower.

  • These BBs are sometimes used for specific purposes such as maximizing velocity or reducing the potential for damage when shooting at close ranges.
  • But using extremely lightweight BBs may impact accuracy and consistency.

General Size Chart of Airgun Ammos, Pellets, and BBs

Caliber (inches) Caliber (millimeters) Pellet Sizes (Common) BB Size (Common)
0.177 4.5 .177, 4.5mm 4.5mm
0.20 5.0 .20, 5.0mm
0.22 5.5 .22, 5.5mm
0.25 6.35 .25, 6.35mm
0.30 7.62 .30, 7.62mm
0.357 9.0 .357, 9.0mm
0.45 11.43 .45, 11.43mm

Factors to Consider When Choosing Airgun Ammo

To make the right decision between pellets and BBs, several factors should be taken into account.

  • Firstly, consider the purpose and goals of your shooting activities. If you prioritize precision and accuracy, pellets are likely the better option.
  • Secondly, consider the type and power of your airgun. Some airguns are specifically designed for use with pellets, while others can accommodate both pellets and BBs.
  • Lastly, personal preference and shooting style play a role. Some shooters may enjoy the challenge and precision of pellets, while others prefer the simplicity and accessibility of BBs.

Which Airguns Are Specially Designed for Pellet?

Many airguns are specifically designed to shoot pellets as their primary ammunition. These airguns feature mechanisms and barrel configurations optimized for pellet use. Here are some examples of airguns specially designed for pellets.

  1. Break Barrel Airguns: Break barrel airguns are among the most common types of airguns designed for shooting pellets. They utilize a hinged barrel that is manually cocked and loaded by breaking it open, which compresses a spring or gas piston. Break barrel airguns typically have rifled barrels that impart spin to the pellet for improved accuracy.
  2. Precharged Pneumatic (PCP) Airguns: PCP airguns are powered by compressed air stored in an onboard reservoir. They are known for their high power, accuracy, and consistency. PCP airguns often have specially designed barrels with rifling optimized for shooting pellets.
  3. Underlever Airguns: Underlever airguns feature a lever located under the barrel that is cocked by pulling it downward. These airguns often have dedicated pellet chambers and precision rifling to maximize the performance of pellets.
  4. Sidelever Airguns: Sidelever airguns have a lever located on the side of the gun that is used to cock the mechanism. Similar to underlever airguns, they typically have dedicated pellet chambers and rifled barrels for pellet shooting.
  5. Bolt-Action Airguns: Bolt-action airguns have a bolt mechanism that is manually operated to chamber a pellet. These airguns are designed for precise pellet feeding and are commonly used in target shooting and hunting applications.

Popular Airgun Models: Specially Designed for Pellet Ammo

  1. Crosman Benjamin Marauder: It is a highly regarded PCP air rifle known for its accuracy, power, and reliability. It features a regulated system, an adjustable trigger, and a rifled barrel designed for shooting pellets.
  2. Gamo Swarm Magnum: It is a break-barrel air rifle that incorporates a 10-shot rotary magazine system. It offers high velocity, and accuracy, and features Gamo’s Smooth Action Trigger. The barrel is optimized for shooting pellets.
  3. FX Impact: The FX Impact is a high-end PCP air rifle that provides exceptional versatility and customization options. It features a smooth side-lever action, adjustable power settings, and a precision rifled barrel for optimum pellet performance.
  4. Air Arms TX200: The Air Arms TX200 is a popular underlever air rifle renowned for its craftsmanship and accuracy. It features a two-stage adjustable trigger, a fixed barrel, and a meticulously rifled barrel designed for pellet shooting.
  5. Hatsan Model 95: The Hatsan Model 95 is a break barrel air rifle available in various calibers. It offers a traditional design, high muzzle energy, and a precision rifled barrel for improved accuracy with pellets.
  6. Weihrauch HW100: The Weihrauch HW100 is a top-tier PCP air rifle known for its exceptional build quality and accuracy. It features a side lever action, adjustable power settings, and a match-grade barrel optimized for pellet shooting.

Which Airguns Are Specially Designed for BBs?

Airguns that are specifically designed for shooting BBs often feature mechanisms and design elements optimized for BB use. While BBs can be fired from various types of airguns, certain models are specially designed for BB ammunition. Here are some examples of airguns that are specifically designed for BBs.

  1. CO2-Powered BB Pistols: Many CO2-powered air pistols are designed specifically for shooting BBs. These pistols often have a built-in magazine or rotary clip that holds multiple BBs and provides semi-automatic or full-automatic firing. They are typically compact, lightweight, and offer a realistic shooting experience.
  2. CO2-Powered BB Rifles: Some CO2-powered air rifles are designed for shooting BBs. These rifles often have a larger capacity for BBs and may offer semi-automatic or full-automatic firing modes. They are commonly used for plinking, target shooting, and recreational shooting.
  3. Airsoft Guns: Airsoft guns are designed to shoot plastic BBs and are widely used in competitive gameplay. These guns use compressed air or CO2 as a propellant and are typically modeled after real firearms. Airsoft guns are available in various styles, including pistols, rifles, and shotguns.
  4. Lever Action BB Rifles: Lever action BB rifles are designed to replicate the classic lever action firearms but shoot BBs instead of bullets. They feature a lever mechanism for cocking and loading BBs into the gun’s magazine or tube. These rifles offer a nostalgic shooting experience with the convenience of using BB ammunition.

Famous Airgun Models: Specially Designed for BBs

  1. Umarex Legends MP40: It is a CO2-powered BB airgun that replicates the iconic submachine gun used during World War II. It features a full-metal construction, blowback action, and a high-capacity magazine that holds multiple BBs.
  2. Crosman DPMS SBR: It is a fully automatic CO2-powered BB air rifle that emulates the look and feel of an AR-style rifle. It has a tactical design, adjustable stock, and a large-capacity magazine for BBs.
  3. Daisy Red Ryder: The Daisy Red Ryder is a classic lever action BB rifle that has been a favorite among shooters for generations. It features a wooden stock, a lever cocking mechanism, and a smoothbore barrel designed for shooting BBs.
  4. Umarex Steel Storm: The Umarex Steel Storm is a CO2-powered BB gun that offers both semi-automatic and full-automatic firing modes. It has a compact design, a high-capacity magazine, and a tactical appearance.
  5. Gletcher TT-A: It is a CO2-powered BB pistol modeled after the Soviet TT-33 pistol. It features a full-metal construction, blowback action, and a removable magazine for BBs.
  6. Sig Sauer P320: The Sig Sauer P320 is a CO2-powered BB pistol that replicates the popular Sig Sauer firearm. It has a polymer frame, blowback action, and a drop-free magazine for BBs.

Important Note

Many airguns also offer compatibility with both types of ammunition pellets and BBs or darts. You can get rid of this puzzle by considering the two quick notes that are said below.

  • Always refer to the manufacturer’s specifications and recommendations to determine the suitable ammunition for your specific airgun model.
  • Be sure to follow all safety guidelines and consider the appropriate shooting environment when using any type of ammunition between pellet or BB.

Conclusion: Which Is Better?

The choice between pellets and BBs depends on various factors such as construction, performance, target suitability, and personal preferences.

  • Pellets excel in terms of accuracy, penetration power, and range. These make them ideal for precision shooting and hunting.
  • On the other hand, BBs are more suitable for plinking and short-range shooting activities. They offer affordability and accessibility.

After reading my today’s in-depth writing regarding the ammunition: Pellet or BB and considering your shooting goals, airgun type, and personal preferences, now you should make an educated decision that best suits your needs. So, take aim, choose wisely, and enjoy your shooting experience with the perfect projectiles!