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26 May, 2009

Lead free Pellets - Are They Any Good?

Great claims are made for lead-free pellets. Crosman claims their lead-free pellets have ultra-high velocity. Gamo says that their Raptor Power Pellets increase the power and velocity of your airgun up to 25%. But do they?

In this post we’ll see what happened when I tested four pellets through the same air rifle.

The air rifle used was a factory-spec QB78 in .177 caliber - the first one I pulled from the rack. I gassed-up the gun, sighted it in with a red dot scope and then shot four strings of 5 shots each from a rest in one session at 64 degrees F to ensure consistency, with the following types of pellets:
- “The Peak” lead wadcutters with an average weight of 8.65 Grains
- Crosman Premier Light lead domes weighing 7.96 Grains on average
- Gamo “Raptor Power Pellets” lead free, pointed and weighing 5.04 Grains on average
- Crosman “Silver Eagle” lead free wadcutters, average weight 4.40 Grains

I didn’t select the gun or the pellets. All were shot “just as they were” to make a real world comparison.

The results? Well sadly, the lead free pellets don’t perform well at all.

Compared to the slowest lead pellets - The Peak wadcutters - the Gamo Raptors were a pathetic 6% faster - in spite of the claims of “25% increased velocity” emblazoned on the packaging. Another claim on the Gamo packaging is that “If your gun shoots 600fps, velocity will increase up to 750fps. Nope, not with this gun, they don’t. Crosman is less extravagant in its claims, but the Crosman Silver Eagle wadcutters did improve muzzle velocity by 16%

Also note that the slowest pellets - The Peak wadcutters - actually had the greatest muzzle energy, while the Gamo Raptors (which again claim to increase the power of your airgun by up to 25%) actually generated 35% LESS muzzle energy than those slow old lead wadcutters. Hunters require muzzle energy for a clean kill, lead free pellets obviously don’t deliver.

Gamo also claims their “Performance Ballistic Alloy” improves accuracy by 25%. Not true, I’d say, based on the results of this test. Accuracy of the lead free pellets was between 2 and 3 times worse than the lead pellets.

As you can see, the Crosman Premier Light lead pellets were very accurate in this gun - a great choice. I use The Peak lead wadcutters for Archer Airguns “Gold Service” testing and have good luck with them: again we have an excellent group, but with one flyer half an inch from the main group. The Crosman lead free wadcutters made a ragged open group. As for the Gamo pellets - well we can see only four holes, so two pellets must have gone in exactly the same place, but then we have a flyer a full 1 1/2-inches away from the group. The lead free pellets tend to shoot to the right of the lead pellets.

Here’s the numbers, the test targets are below:
The Peak wadcutters 8.65 Grains weight, 577.7 fps muzzle velocity, 6.4 ft/lbs muzzle energy
Crosman Premier Light domes 7.96 Grains weight, 598.8 fps muzzle velocity, 6.3 ft/lbs muzzle energy
Gamo Raptor lead free pointed, 5.04 Grains weight, 614.2 fps muzzle velocity, 4.2 ft/lbs muzzle energy
Crosman Silver Eagle lead free, 4.40 Grains weight, 670.5 fps muzzle velocity, 4.4 ft/lbs muzzle energy

For those who must have the highest muzzle velocity, the Crosman Silver Eagle wadcutters increase the performance of this QB78 by nearly 100 fps. But is it worth the compromise?

Take a look at the test targets. What do you think?


Anonymous,  Saturday, 30 May, 2009  

Wow great group from the CPLs, is that typical for the accuracy of these guns?

Stephen Archer Saturday, 30 May, 2009  

Yes, the lead pellet groups are a typical representation for the accuracy of these guns. The gun I tested was selected entirely at random.

Anonymous,  Tuesday, 15 September, 2009  

I would love to see you test the Prometheus Dynamic lead free... Any chance???

Anonymous,  Friday, 12 February, 2010  

MR. Archer,
Have you or will you test some sabot pellets. RWS offers them in both .177 and .22. I use them in my black powder .22 and .50 cal rifles and just love them. Any information you can offer on balistics and shot groups would be great.
Tim Pardee
Gunwood Specialties

Stephen Archer Saturday, 13 February, 2010  


Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I'll add sabot pellets to my list of blog projects for the future :-)

Stephen Archer

grant,  Friday, 10 June, 2011  

Hi Stephen, do you suppose the .22 caliber lead free pellets would fly any straighter than the .177 lead frees?

Stephen Archer Friday, 10 June, 2011  

Great question, Grant. I need to try this soon, but I'm not holding-out too many hopes...

About This Blog

This blog shares information, ideas and knowledge about air rifles. It compliments the information Stephen publishes on the Archer Airguns website, on YouTube and the Chinese Airgun Forum.

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