Tim Finley recommends washing pellets to eliminate one aspect of zero shift
When you find that you still have problems zeroing after looking at the rifle and the scope and are sure that there is not a fault with either, then the last option is to look more deeply at the pellets you are using. You will never be able to zero a gun with poor pellets, so check the skirts and heads for damage, and I don’t mean to sound patronising, but always use the same tin of pellets. Don’t chop and change tins, or even types of pellets, when you are attempting to set up a gun. If in doubt, weigh some pellets beforehand and sort into batches to ensure that they are out of the equation, and not a factor if you do have any problems getting the gun to shoot in the same place. Pellet damage will cause a loss of zero, something that we tend to overlook in this day and age of magazine-fed rifles.
WEIGH A SELECTION
Loading pellets singly allows the shooter to inspect the heads and skirts of the pellets before they are anywhere near the gun, but magazines tend to be filled back at home, and as quickly as possible, so you can get out shooting. Slow down this process to ensure that each pellet is okay before you put it in the magazine – and when you are fitting the magazine to the gun watch that there isn’t any misalignment which can damage the pellets.
If you are having problem with groups opening up, or you’re not being able to zero, it may be a bad batch of pellets, so weigh a good selection of them – I always do a minimum of 50 – to see if there are any major changes in the weight. Manufacturers do sometimes have production problems, and we have seen pellets in the same tin varying by as much as 3 grains. They often also change the specification of a pellet without telling the customer, altering the skirt thickness or head profile in the same make of pellet. I keep a reference batch of pellets so that I can see if there have been any changes to the latest ones.
WASH YOUR PELLETS
Do you shoot your pellets straight from the tin or box? Top FT and HFT shooters don’t do this; they wash pellets, as a bare minimum, and then re-lubricate. Pellets come with a coating because the manufacturing process requires some form of lubrication, but they come with tiny flecks of lead or alloy on them
as well, and this all needs to be removed. Think about it – if you weigh the pellets without washing them, you won’t get their true weight because of all the surplus material and lubricant.
You need a sealable plastic food container with a lid and preferably a rounded bottom. The pellets go in the bottom with a dash of washing-up detergent to remove the factory-applied lubrication. This is not designed to make the pellet more accurate when fired through a barrel; primarily, it has been designed to facilitate the actual manufacturing process of the pellets. Cover the pellets with some hot water from the tap – not boiling – then put the lid on, and swirl the container around gently for a few minutes. Pour the contents into a sieve, and run clean, cold water over the pellets as they are swirled around inside the sieve.
I have found that a metal mesh sieve is better at removing the loose particles so you don’t want too fine a sieve mesh. Do not to go through this process over the kitchen sink; lead is a toxic substance and it should never be allowed to contaminate food preparation surfaces. Once washed, it’s time to dry them, so I tip the pellets out onto a pile of disposable kitchen towel, envelop it in my cupped hands, and give it a shake to remove excess water. I then tip the pellets out onto a fresh pile of kitchen roll placed on a tray, and then spread them out. The tray is placed next to a radiator to air-dry the pellets, and then, once dry, the next part of the process is sorting and grading.
However, if the pellets are not the issue, then it must be the gun/ scope. Please do not forget to blame yourself; sometimes you just can’t hit a barn door from inside the barn! If you feel off it, then stop, pack up, clean the gun, lock it up and try again tomorrow.
Finally, there are also environmental factors throughout the year that can affect your zero shifting; the colder, denser air in winter will cause your pellets to drop lower than in summer. There is always a solution to zero problems. It’s just a case of working through all aspects of the gun/scope/pellets scenario ¬– and indeed yourself – until you find it.
The kit you need for washing.
This pellet weighs 7.9 grains.
Pellets go in the tub.
You need to re-lubricate after washing.
Rinse off the detergent in a metal sieve.
Add a little oil.
Back into the box.
Tip into a pile of kitchen towels.