Maybe as a matter of curiosity, or maybe because you have heard that lead pellets are not allowed in your area, you might be wondering, “What are pellets made of?”
The vast majority of airgun pellets are made of lead, which is often mixed with other minerals like antimony to make a more rigid alloy, keeping its shape better. Because lead is not good for the environment, some pellets are made of entirely different materials considered that are considered safe.
So, what are nuances of what airgun pellets are made of?
Lead is the primary choice for almost any projectile, whether it be pellet or bullet. Its properties make it almost the perfect material for shooting, mostly because of how dense the material is, because with a much greater mass, it is able to hold onto any energy it gets from the gun better as it flies through the air.
It has a low melting point, making it easy to melt and cast into shape.
The softness of the lead also comes with two advantages: it is easy to work with, so easy in fact, that you don’t even need to melt it down to work with it, some people who work with the material just put it in a specially shaped press, and that does the trick.
Its softness also allows the pellet to deform when it hits its target, usually expanding as it does so. By expanding, the pellet is able to dump more energy into its target quicker, which does more damage and results in a more efficient kill. This also makes target shooting safer, as when the energy is dumped into a target, there is not as much risk for a dangerous ricochet.
Lead will also often be mixed with antimony, a mineral that makes the lead harder, which keeps it shape better, with more antimony meaning harder pellets. This harder pellet is useful in some situations, but not all.
When Will You See Non Lead Pellets?
The downside to lead is its toxicity, which is widely considered to be bad. Because of this, some locales ban lead pellets, forcing you to use less toxic alternatives.
There are a ton of different materials used to make these non lead alternatives. These different options often do not work as well as lead, but that is a generalization. There are some types of lead free pellets that have similar densities, with a similar hardness.
Some of the harder materials are not ideal for the barrel, and can score and scratch it, so if you need to find a non lead alternative for your airgun, be sure you look into what you are getting. Baracuda Green, made by H&N, is an example of a non lead pellet that should work well.
These pellets are made of tin, which is much less dense than lead is, but has a similar softness. A springer though will actually get hot enough for a split second to oxidize the tin, which may mean that you need to clean your gun more often.
Each pellet is different and behaves differently in different guns, so test the pellets available to you and figure out which ones are best for you and your gun.