For someone who is beginning to appreciate the air rifle market, the first thing you need to decide is whether or not you want to shoot BBs, pellets or both. There is a big difference between the two. In order to find the right air rifle for your needs, you may want to check the difference between BB and pellets.
Quick BB Background
BB is the term used for a ball bearing projectile (BB is the abbreviation of Ball Bearing). During the 1900s, the popularity of using BBs in guns was on the rise. Daisy is often the brand credited for the first mass production of a gun meant to fire a single BB. They called them “round shot” guns, but the term BB was already popular and the name BB Gun stuck.
BBs are typically made of steel. BBs are often coated with either zinc or copper to prevent corrosion and rusting. The coating of zinc or copper on the BB doesn’t affect performance. Choosing one or the other comes down to a preference in what you want your BB to look like.
Modern BBs are designed for 4.5 mm in diameter or .177 inch/caliber gun barrels. By design, the BBs are very slightly smaller than that to ensure they travel smoothly down the barrel of the pistol or rifle they are being fired out of. The standard BB typically weighs between 5.1 to 5.4 grams.
Quick Pellet Background
Pellets grew in popularity out of desire to increase the accuracy of the typical BB gun. Most credit their most significant rise in demand to creation of competition shooting clubs. These clubs wanted to test their accuracy and precision without the requirement to own a traditional firearm. Pellet guns offered a legal alternative to traditional gun powder weapons that aren’t legally allowed to be shot in many places and situations.
Unlike BBs, pellets come in are variety of designs and are most popular in two different sizes (.177 caliber and .22 caliber).
Although the loading mechanism is slightly different, pellets share the same diameter as a BB for .177 caliber rifles and pistols. For .22 caliber pellet, they are slightly larger and designed to fit a slightly larger barrel.
Pellets are typically made of lead or lead alloy. Some non-lead alternatives exist (mainly tin and occasionally plastic).
You will typically see that the pellet in pointed, round, or even flat in shape. The shape of the air rifle pellet can have different uses. There are those designed to maximize the penetration of the pellet, which is preferred during hunting, while there are other air rifle pellets designed to increase knocking power.
Differences Between BBs and Pellets
- Accuracy – Pellets are designed to be able to take advantage of the rifling of a rifle or pistol barrel. Because of this, pellets have a much higher potential for accurate longer range shooting.
- Material – The typical BB is made of steel and the typical Pellet is made of lead.
- Size – Both BBs are Pellets are made in the 4.5 mm size (.177″). Pellets also come in a .22″ size as well.
- Shape – BBs are always perfectly round by design. On the other hand, pellets come in multiple shapes depending on the purpose. Here is a link to an article about the different types of pellets.
- Capacity – Air rifles firing BB guns often have a much larger magazine. Some BB guns can fire 100 rounds without reloading, while the typical pellet gun maxes out around 10-12 pellets.
- Safety Concerns – BBs have a tendency to ricochet a bit more than pellets. Pellets typically penetrated deeper into their target than BBs.
Closing Thoughts – Shooting BBs or Pellets
One of the things you need to remember when using BBs is that you want to make sure that you are using the BB air rifle in a safe place. Given the tendency of the BB to ricochet, you can’t take the risk of hitting pets or unwanted individuals. Next, when using your pellets, you need to understand the characteristics of each. Is it for hunting or simply for plinking? As a rule of thumb, if you want stability with your shots, you should stick with heavier air rifle pellets which can give you a more stable shot.
If you shoot both pellets and BBs, you might as well get an air rifle that shoots both. For many situations, it is better if you can fire both pellets and BBs.