Pellets vs BBs; Which is Best? A Comprehensive Review

Navigating the world of air gun ammunition can be a complex journey, particularly when deciding between pellets and BBs.

Both types of ammunition are staples in air gun shooting but serve distinct purposes, catering to different shooting disciplines.

Pellets are known for their precision and variety, designed to meet the demands of competitive shooting and hunting with their unique shapes and weights.

BBs, characterized by their uniform spherical form, offer a more casual shooting experience, perfect for plinking and recreational use.

The choice between pellets vs BBs hinges on understanding their differences in shape, size, weight, material, and intended use.

This introduction aims to shed light on these key distinctions, guiding enthusiasts to make informed decisions tailored to their specific air gun shooting needs.

Pellets vs BBs: Comparison 

BBs and air gun pellets are so similar yet so different. The guns that fire them have a lot in common as well.

The guns even look similar. BBs and air gun pellets might look very similar to you but, in reality, are completely different.

What factors determine two ammunitions to be different from one another? Where exactly are they contrasting?

BBs and air gun pellets are very different ammunitions in terms of:

  • Shape
  • Size
  • Weight
  • Material
  • Behavior
  • Magazine fit
  • Price

If you are new to the world of air guns, things might initially be a tad bit dizzy. Don’t worry; we have everything covered.

This piece will cover the differences between BBs and air gun pellets.

On reaching the end of the article, you can figure out what is best for you- a BB gun or an air rifle.

Exploring the Basics: Pellets vs BBs

At first glance, pellets and BBs may appear similar—both are small, round and used as ammunition in air guns. However, their similarities end there.

These two types of ammunition are designed for different purposes and are distinguished by their shape, size, weight, material, behavior upon firing, magazine compatibility, and cost.

Let’s explore these differences in detail.

shooting contests and target shooting

Shape: A Critical Distinction

Pellets are crafted in various shapes to serve specific shooting objectives. Here’s a closer look:

  • With their distinct flat head, Wadcutter pellets are designed for target shooting, creating neat, round holes in paper targets for easy scoring.
  • Domed or round nose pellets boast superior aerodynamics, making them ideal for hunting and long-range shooting, thanks to their ability to retain velocity over distance.
  • Pointed pellets feature a sharp tip for better penetration, suited for hunting small game where precision is key.
  • Hollow point pellets are engineered to expand upon impact, transferring more energy to the target, which is crucial for hunting applications.
  • Slug pellets mirror the shape of traditional bullets and are valued for their long-distance accuracy and performance.
  • Diabolo pellets have a unique wasp-waisted shape and a hollow tail, enhancing their stability in flight and making them versatile for various shooting disciplines.

BBs, on the other hand, are consistently spherical. This simplicity in shape restricts their aerodynamic efficiency but is perfect for plinking and recreational shooting, where precision is less critical.

Size and Weight: Influencing Performance

The caliber of pellets and BBs, indicating their diameter, varies, with pellets available from 0.177 to 0.50 inches to match different air gun designs and shooting practices. BBs are generally in the 0.177-inch size, suited for specific BB gun models.

Some of the standard sizes of air gun pellets are:

  • 50 inches
  • 45 inches
  • 357 inches ( or 9 millimeters)
  • 30 inches ( or 7.62 millimeters)
  • 25 inches ( or 6.35 millimeters)
  • 22 inches ( or 5.5 millimeters)
  • 20 inches ( or 5 millimeters)

Heavier pellets offer stability and energy upon impact, enhancing their hunting and precision shooting performance. BBs, being lighter, are more affected by wind, which can decrease their accuracy at longer distances.

Material Considerations: Impact and Environment

Pellets are predominantly made from lead or lead-alternative materials, addressing environmental and health concerns. Innovations include biodegradable pellets, aligning with eco-friendly shooting practices.

BBs have transitioned from lead to primarily steel, coated to prevent corrosion, with biodegradable options for those conscious of their environmental impact.

BB Gun With 8 Rounds

Behavior in Flight: Safety and Accuracy

Pellets, with their aerodynamic design, excel in accuracy and range, making them the preferred choice for precision activities like hunting and competitive shooting.

BBs, due to their round shape, are more prone to ricochet, which necessitates careful consideration of the shooting environment to minimize safety risks.

Magazine Compatibility: Loading Efficiency

The design of BB guns often includes magazines capable of holding numerous BBs, facilitating quick reloads and continuous firing. In contrast, air rifles for pellets may feature rotary magazines or single-shot mechanisms, influencing the reloading speed and shot capacity.

Price Considerations: Affordability vs. Quality

Pellets, given their variety in design and material, can range in price, with higher-quality options commanding a premium, especially for competitive shooting or hunting. BBs, generally more affordable and sold in bulk, offer a cost-effective solution for casual shooting and practice.

BB Gun: A Detailed Glance

Airsoft BBs

Since times immemorial, lead has been used to produce weapons. In this case, also, lead was used to manufacture BB gun ammunition for a long time in history.

You can still find them online if you look hard enough. Having said that, lead is no longer used in the industry as it was earlier. It is barely used.

If you want to use an air gun to shoot the BBs, you should use steel BBs.

They do not look like fine, shining silver. They have more of a sepia tinge. A brownish, coppery texture.

This is due to the BB ammunition being covered in copper. Copper prevents the pellets from being corrupted, a common phenomenon in steel pellets.

Apart from metal, you can choose the airsoft BBs. Do not be misled by the ‘soft’ in their name.

Airsoft BBs can cause more than substantial damage to people, property, and objects.

The only difference is they weigh a lot less. If you want to go for the airsoft BBs, there are two options: biodegradable ones and non-biodegradable pellets.

Built to be more environmentally friendly, biodegradable BBs decompose in about 45 to 47 days if mixed with carbon dioxide and water.

This varies due to climate, region, and soil. This may take as long as 90 days under certain circumstances as well.

Ideally, they should be kept in a recycling facility. These can be kept indoors as well. The bullets can take more than 90 days to disintegrate if they are left outdoors.

The non-biodegradable ones will not dissolve no matter what condition you place them in, hence their name. The compound ABS (or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is not environment-friendly and thus does not disintegrate in nature.


In the diverse world of air gunning, the choice between pellets and BBs is pivotal, each catering to different aspects of the sport.

Pellets, with their varied shapes and weights, offer precision and adaptability for those engaged in hunting or competitive shooting.

Their design allows for enhanced accuracy and specific targeting, making them the preferred choice for shooters looking to maximize their impact.

On the flip side, BBs appeal to those seeking leisure and simplicity in their shooting activities.

Ideal for plinking and casual practice, BBs provide a straightforward option with their uniform spherical shape, though at the expense of the precision and range offered by pellets.

Making an informed decision between pellets vs BBs hinges on understanding these nuances, ensuring that your air gunning experience aligns with your objectives, whether they lean towards serious precision or relaxed fun.

Nathan Walker

Nathan Walker, an alumnus of Stanford University with a degree in Physics, has remarkably made fame in technological innovation clubbed with precision machinery for two decades. He became part of our team in 2016, specializing in analyzing mechanical systems. Nathan is also a licensed pilot and enjoys combining his love for mechanics with aviation. His articles often reflect a blend of technical acumen and hands-on experience. Nathan is also a history buff, often linking technological advances to historical contexts. In his spare time, he enjoys clay shooting and mentoring young engineers.

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