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July 03, 2007

So Just What is a "BB"?

So just what is a BB?

<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]-->The airgun projectiles that we commonly call a ‘BB’ have an interesting history. Over the years, the ‘BB’ has undergone several refinements and adjustments in size, but it originally started life as actual lead shot for shotgun shells and was designated as sized BB. If you put a caliper to it, it came out to about 0.180-inches in diameter. It makes sense that inventors of early BB guns used a commonly available round for their guns, freeing them up from having to make the projectile for themselves. <!--[endif]-->

Tom Gaylord wrote an interesting article for the Shotgun News that traced the development of the modern-day BB, and I am borrowing freely from that article. According to Mr. Gaylord, it was early in the 20th<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> century before Daisy started making their own shot, partly for quality control, but also in order to develop more sales. They down-sized the shot to around 0.175-inches which allowed them some advantages in making their guns easier to cock, yet still capable of higher velocities. Since Daisy was the predominant manufacturer of airguns, other makers went along with the size change in order to maintain sales. <!--[endif]-->

<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]-->Since boys will be boys, enterprising youngsters started trying to find other projectiles to use in their airguns, and steel ball bearings started showing up as ammo. However, due to the size differences, the airguns were beginning to break down and the Daisy company took notice of the returned guns with steel bearing stuck in them. They further investigated the problem, which lead to the deal made with the American Ball Company, a manufacturer of steel ball bearings to produce a standardized steel ball to be used as ammo in the Daisy airgun. Eventually, Daisy ended up purchasing the company to bring them into the Daisy fold, thus assuring additional control and profits. <!--[endif]-->

<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]-->Time went on, WW II came along, and lots of different ideas were tried, from aluminum BB’s to different airgun designs that assisted with holding a steel BB in place versus the lead BB shot of the past. Competitions started that boosted the cause of accuracy in BB guns, and even the BB itself underwent design changes to assure the utmost accuracy possible from a round projectile. Competition BB’s were ground to a uniform finish instead of being pinched off of steel wire as in the past. And Daisy introduced competition-quality BB guns to make the most of the budding competitive shooting arena for kids and youth groups of all kinds. Even today, my children in our local Boy Scout troop enjoy shooting the BB gun, and it is as popular with them as it was with me when I was a young boy.

The history behind much of our enjoyment with airguns can be a fascinating study. With the advent of the internet, there is an incredible amount of information available for the airgun enthusiast who is interested in the development of the airguns and projectiles that form the basis of our great hobby. So take some time if you are so inclined, and learn a little more about how your particular airgun or favorite ammo came to be.