How I Prepare My Pellets for Competition - Tony Fouracres

2 Comments17 July 2020  |  Air Arms

Tony Fouracres talks us through the process of how he washes, weighs and prepares his pellets ready for Field Target Competitions…

If shooting an Airgun for fun and you are a Hunter or just a ‘Plinker’ then there may be very little point washing and weighing pellets trying to gain additional accuracy. Just find a pellet straight from a tin that suits your barrel, buy as many tins as you can afford and enjoy your time spent shooting them!

However, if like me you are a Field Target Competition Shooter and every shot counts towards points, then in my experience there is some benefit in preparing your ammo by washing and weighing your pellets to achieve optimum accuracy and performance out of your gun.

A lot of people believe that pellets are pre-lubed by the manufacturer as you may feel a slight lubrication on them when taken straight out of the tin. This actually is not lube but a special mould releasing agent that the manufacturer uses to stop the pellets sticking in the dies as the lead is pressed into them. This is one of the reasons I wash them, to get this stuff off as over time it can cause accuracy to be lost. The second reason to wash them is to remove any debris or lead that may be lodged inside the skirt of the pellet, thus causing a flier!

Warning, because lead is very poisonous only use a dedicated saucepan and sieve that can be kept just for washing pellets. Do NOT use equipment that will later be used for cooking purposes. A plastic sieve with a very fine mesh is recommended and much better than a wire one as it shouldn’t damage the pellets so much in the washing and drying process.

Firstly, get prepared with the equipment required, washing up liquid, kitchen roll, hair dryer, saucepan, sieve and the pellets. I only wash two tins of pellets at a time as that normally lasts me a month or two. Keep any remaining tins still sealed up tight as the pellets seem to stay in better condition with less oxidation occurring that way.

Next, put a small amount of washing up liquid into a saucepan half full of water and mix until you have lots of bubbles. Heat the water on a stove until it is fairly hot about 70°C, but NOT boiling. Empty a tin of pellets into the sieve and gently lower up and down several times in the water. Then leave for a minute or two with the sieve resting on the side of the saucepan out of the water but pellets still covered in the bubbles. Repeat this process a couple of times, but don’t leave the pellets directly in water for too long. Better to let the soap bubbles do the cleaning. Be careful and do not agitate the pellets too much as this can damage the skirts.

Take the sieve full of washed pellets over to the sink and give them a good rinse under a HOT running water tap. Do not use cold water. When thoroughly rinsed, gently pour them onto a few sheets of kitchen roll and very gently dab them to take off excess water. Put them back in the sieve and dry with a hair dryer on a low heat setting. Some people prefer to spread them out on a metal tray and dry in the oven for a short while. I prefer the hair dryer method as you want to get them dry again as quickly as possible. Put them back into their tin and when cooled down apply the lid and tape to keep then sealed again.

When practicing, I use pellets that have only been previously washed. If a competition is forthcoming I will spend a little more time on them by weighing and sorting them for the match.

If weighing, don’t get too paranoid about individual pellet weights, I just try and weed out the very light or very heavy pellets, like the pellet shown on scales in photo weighing just 8.15 grains. That one is very light and I would discard it, together with any at 8.60 or higher. Usually I group all the 8.40-8.45 together and that would become my match pellets. Also any 8.50 I would still use for match conditions, but say on a windier day. All the others, 8.25, 8.30 8.35 and 8.55 will go into my practice tin as they are perfectly good for just practice days. Beware of buying very cheap weighing scales as they tend to be inconsistent and can give varying results for the same pellet being weighed. The ones I use are the GemPro 50 which I purchased back in 2005 and are still going strong.

After washing and weighing the match pellets, you may like to try sizing the skirts slightly to see if group sizes can be improved further. My preferred sizer was made by Neil Gennard, and is a lovely piece of kit. I have various size interchangeable dies. I made the wooden die holder and keep everything together in an old glasses case. Having spent time on the zero range, I know exactly what size die to use for each of my rifles and I will then size pellets accordingly.

Having got match pellets ready for competition, you need to keep them safe and away from possible damage, so I use a Custom Targets Pellet Keeper. It’s a lovely hinged tin containing two layers of laser cut neoprene each holding 108 pellets in 0.177 size and a further thin piece of neoprene above, below and between layers for additional protection.

Finally, just a quick mention about Pellet Lube. I have tried all sorts over the years and I’m afraid the Jury is out on this one. Some of my guns prefer shooting dry pellets, others very slightly lubed with Napier Pellet Lube. However, the one thing I will say is less lube is definitely better! Put just two drops of lube into a sealable plastic bag and rub sides together. Empty tin of pellets into bag and very gently move pellets around inside bag, job done!

Diego Villegas
25 July 2020  |  12:22

Thanks for Sharing your knowledge,
Greetings from Colombia

David Stevenson
05 September 2021  |  20:39

Another really, really good scale is the Kern EMB 100-3 clocking in at 230 pounds (inc VAT). I tried two cheaper scales and both died shortly after purchase. This model Kern scale is designed to weigh at the accuracies we need. Very highly recommended though pricey. Question: how much difference does a little oxidation make? Thanks for your excellent article.