Reducing Ricochet Danger With BB Guns
Oleg Volk 02.24.18
At 2017 Pyramid Air Cup, a vendor was giving out samples of lead BBs. Lacking a BB gun of my own, I grabbed a tin just in case. In theory, lead BBs are much softer than steel, reducing the probability of a ricochet off a rock or some other hard surface. Between careful selection of backstops and proper shooting glasses, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid” doesn’t have to be reality for anyone…but who knows what eventualities might conspire to put a rock where one wasn’t expected.
On the outside, these BBs look the same as plated steel, though they are slightly heavier.
Having recently acquired a .177 Webley BB gun, I was able to test them. The target was an old scratched-up wok dug into the ground by the handle, with a sturdy cardboard shipping box set up at an angle to it for catching bouncing BBs. Shooting the 400fps revolver from about five steps, I bounced a couple steel BBs into the box, predictably penetrating it front and back. Unfortunately, the softer lead BBs performed identically. Either the velocity wasn’t enough to flatten them, or the flattened shape cut cardboard even more efficiently than the sphere, but the backstop was shot through and through.
Fortunately, a sample of Air Venturi Dust Devil frangible BBs just arrived and I tried them in the Webley.
The test target showed surface speckling with the BB fragments but none of them penetrated even the first layer of cardboard.
Helpfully for suburban plinking, the sound of the impact on the metal target was much duller and didn’t carry as far. Accuracy was about the same between all three types of BBs — at 15 yards, I can reliably hit a heavy gauge tin can suspended from a branch. While steel and lead BBs punctured one or both layers of the corrugated aluminum with right angle impacts, they bounced in unpredictable directions when hit were oblique. Dust Devil BBs broke up consistently, making the target swing without damaging it.
Given the similarity of accuracy and the drastic difference in penetration, I plan on using Dust Devil BBs for all target shooting. They should work adequately on small rodents, especially in attics and other indoor spaces where excessive penetration would be unwelcome. Unlike lead pellets, they also work in guns that employ magnetic feed.