Winter is a time of year that I like to spend time on a few projects that lend themselves to staying indoors. I've always heard good things about the Air Arms brand of pellets. It's pretty well known that they are manufactured by JSB for AA, but is that all there is to it? Well actually no, it's a bit more involved than that. JSB does label their pellets for other companies. I have some here that were private labeled for BSA, and use to have some that were private labeled for FX.
JSB does in fact manufacture Air Arm's pellets, but the difference is, they do it on dies that are made to Air Arms specs, and are owned by the folks at Air Arms for the exclusive production of the Air Arms branded pellets. Air Arms pellets have a reputation for excellent accuracy. Some folks claim that they are even more accurate than the equivalent JSB pellet. Which is saying a lot, because in my experience, the JSB's are a superbly accurate pellet, and can be difficult to beat.
I have a lot of patience, and thought a fun winter project would be to do a side by side comparison of the two brands of pellets. With that in mind, I ordered two tins each of the two brands, 250 count, 18 grain .22 caliber pellets. They were ordered at the same time from Pyramyd Air, and were shipped together in the same carton. I did this so that I would have pellets from both companies that were from recent manufacturing runs, and I like the way that Pyramyd Air packages the pellets for shipping.
The plan was to inspect both brands, with my Speedy Pellet Inspector, (SPI) and then sort them all by head size, using my PelletGage, followed by weight sorting into batches separated by .1 grain. Ultimately, the goal is to then do a side by side accuracy comparison, in several of my .22 caliber PCP's, to see if there is a noticeable difference in accuracy in any of my guns.
In conjunction with the Speedy Pellet Inspector, I also wear an OptiVISOR, with 2.5x magnification lenses to help while examining the skirts and dome heads for any defects. Not everything went as planned, but more about that in a bit.
First up were the Air Arms pellets. Using the SPI, I was able to inspect all 500 pellet skirts, and dome heads in just a matter of minutes. I found no reason to reject any of the pellets. They were all pristine without any flaws that I could find.
Next up, using my PelletGage, I sorted them by head size. This was very interesting actually. The head size on the tins said 5.52mm. They sorted as follows.
5.51mm = 40 pieces
5.52mm = 435 pieces
5.53mm = 25 pieces
In my experience, this is just about unheard of. Up until now, I have never had tins of lead pellets where the majority of the pellets in the tin are actually of the head size printed on the tin. A big thumbs up to Air Arms.
I took the largest batch of 435 pellets, and then sorted them by weight. The smaller batches I set aside to use as plinkers or to use when I'm doing a rough sight in after mounting a scope.
The 435 pellets sorted into four groups as follows:
18 grn = 91 pieces
18.1 grn = 106 pieces
18.2 grn = 122 pieces
18.3 grn = 116 pieces
These all have the 5.52mm head diameter, and will be shot in the four different weight batches.
The JSB's were up next, but this is where things went a bit off track. I opened the first tin, and immediately could see a major problem. Even though the tins were perfect, the pellets inside were seriously abused. Probably 90% of the pellets in this first tin had moderate to severe skirt damage. I opened the second tin, and found the same thing. Here's a picture of some of the skirts from the first tin and there were some that were a lot worse than these.
Damaged JSB skirts
There is no way that the pellets leave the factory in this condition. It would be interesting to see just what a shipment of pellets goes through from the time it leaves the factory, in the CZECH REPUBLIC, until it reaches my doorstep. It would be interesting to know how many times a shipment is touched from the source to the final destination. Every time it's touched, is an opportunity for damage to occur.
In all of the years I've been buying JSB pellets, this is the first time I have experienced this. I have heard of other people receiving damaged pellets, but this is a first for me. The damage didn't happen on the trip from PyramydAir to me, or the Air Arms pellets would have suffered the same fate. It happened at some point along the way from the factory to the importer, or from the importer to PyramydAir. The tins look mint. There is no visible damage to the tins at all. Time to go to plan "B".
I have about 15,000 JSB 18 grain pellets left from the 20,000 that I purchased when they first came out in 2008. I'll use some of those for this comparison.
I recently sorted a tin of these so I'll just use the data from that session. The specified head size is 5.52mm. They sorted as follows:
5.52mm = 13 pieces
5.53mm = 398 pieces
5.54mm = 64 pieces.
In my experience, this is more typical of how a tin of pellets sorts by head size. The majority is rarely of the size printed on the tin. Again I only weight sorted the largest group, and by the time I got around to doing that I had used some of them for another project, so there were 306 left to sort by weight. They grouped as follows:
18 grn = 74 pieces
18.1 grn = 125 pieces
18.2 grn = 107 pieces
This is pretty typical for weight distribution. Most tins will sort into three or four groups a tenth of a grain apart.
Now that the grunt work is finished, I just need to wait for things to warm up around here to be able to get out into the forest and do some serious accuracy testing. With a foot and a half of snow on the ground, that will be awhile, but it gives me something to look forward to. My three main test rifles are going to be my HW100, Kalibrgun Cricket Carbine, and my Air Arms 510 SL TC. They are all very, very accurate with the 18 grain JSB's, so it'll be interesting to see if any of them shoot the Air Arms pellet even better than the JSB's.
I'm going to do some experimenting with the damaged JSB's. The plan is to sort them into groups by degree of damage. Then I'm going to do my usual sorting by head size and weight. The plan is to shoot them for group size, and see if damaged skirts really make a huge difference in accuracy down range. When I say damaged skirts, I'm talking about various degrees of distortion from being bent, not from having pieces missing. I'm curious to see how they perform compared to pellets with unmolested skirts. Should be interesting.
Until next time, thanks for reading.