Dust in the Wind…
By Tom McHale
New Dust Devil BBs from Air Venturi are designed to shatter on impact. We checked them out with this Sig Sauer Spartan CO2 BB Pistol.

Recently, I’ve been tinkering with a somewhat new product on the market – frangible BBs. For years, frangible ammunition has been the rage in the centerfire world. Frangible projectiles offer increased safety when shooting hard targets from close range due to the overall reduced risk of ricochet. Now, the folks at Air Venturi have released frangible BBs.

The new Air Venturi Dust Devils are lead-free, .177-caliber BBs designed to shatter on contact with hard surfaces, thereby reducing ricochet risk. The key here is “reduce.” Using Dust Devils isn’t an excuse to ditch the safety glasses; it’s still important to wear those when flinging BBs at tin cans of opportunity. Except for death, taxes, and condescending lectures at awards shows, nothing is certain in this life. That applies to the probablbility of every single BB imploding to dust when it hits a target too. Dust Devils aren’t designed to explode into talcum powder on contact with any surface harder than a wet Kleenex. They simply allow more shooting scenarios while adding an additional margin of safety. 

Thankfully, Dust Devils perforate tin cans just fine.

Dust Devils are lighter than standard BBs. I have a pile of Crosman Copperheads handy; each of those weighs 5.1 grains. The Dust Devils weigh in at 4.35 grains. That doesn’t sound like much, but it's almost a 15 percent weight reduction. The translation is that when you shoot them, there is an increase in speed. Air Venturi claims that Dust Devils are 10% faster than steel BBs. To see how much difference it made from the Sig Sauer Spartan, I set up my well-worn (and shot only a few times by accident) Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph about five feet in front of the muzzle to measure some velocities from my test pistol. 

Velocity Comparison
Daisy Copperhead .177 BB 5.1 grain 282.8 fps
Dust Devil .177 BB 4.35 grain 346.4 fps

 

That’s a 22% increase – not too shabby!

Assuming that it’s probably harder to make perfectly balanced and concentric BB spheres from mashed together material, I did some quick and dirty accuracy testing and compared the Dust Devils to the same Crosman Copperhead BBs. 

While accuracy wasn't quite as good as traditional steel BBs, it was perfectly adequate for hard target plinking.

From a distance of five yards (that’s from my dining room table, out the kitchen door, and onto a target mounted on my back deck), I shot some five-shot groups using the Sig Sauer Spartan .177 BB Pistol. This smoothbore is a CO2-powered pistol so I took my time between shots to avoid any velocity issues related to the gas cartridge cooling down. Using Crosman Copperheads as a comparison, I measured an average group size of 1.4 inches for those more traditional BBs from this particular pistol. The Dust Devils impacted the target just a bit higher, most likely due to the weight difference and resulting higher velocity, and the average group size was 1.7 inches. 

Every Dust Devil BB disintegrated on this steel target - just as designed.

As with frangible centerfire ammunition, Dust Devils are designed to walk a tightrope between staying together and breaking apart. If they disintegrate too easily, they won’t survive the violence of being fired or hitting targets like paper, cardboard, clay pigeons, and reactive targets like those nifty Umarex Big Blast plastic bottles. If the BBs are too hard, then they aren’t really frangible at all, are they? I decided to shoot a few random household items (when my wife was away) to experiment with the shatter point for these BBs.

I set up a couple of soda cans about five yards down range to see what the Dust Devils would do when impacting paper-thin aluminum. 

Disclaimer: No actual Diet Coke was harmed during the production of this experiment and all action scenes involving Diet Coke were performed under the direct supervision of a Certified Carbonated Beverage Dietitian. 

As expected, and hoped for, the Dust Devils made classic entrance holes and exit carnage in the back of the cans. This is good because none of us wants to sacrifice the joys of can perforation in return for complete frangibility. So, Dust Devils (thankfully) won’t disintegrate when impacting a soda can.

This laminated wood wasn't brittle enough to annihilate the Dust Devil BBs.

Next up, I wanted to try something with a little more backbone. I figured that wood might be too pliable to shatter the BBs, so I made a compromise and shot at a piece of laminated wood shelving. The laminate surface is fairly brittle, at least compared to wood, so I figured it made a good “middle of the road” test. The Dust Devils made indentations in the laminate and bounced back or off in different directions. I guess that material isn’t quite brittle enough. I kind of expected that result since the Dust Devils are designed to shatter on hard, not firm, surfaces, but I figured it was worth a try in the name of serious science. 

I saved the good stuff for last. Just for you guys, I sprayed a fresh coat of white paint on one of my steel CTS Targets. While the 3/8” AR500 steel is a bit of overkill for BBs, it’s what I had handy. More practically speaking, the results should be the same for any steel target. I’m thinking about all those pellet traps with metal swinger targets and the like. Anyway, when I shot my steel plate from close range (wearing safety glasses of course) the Dust Devils… dusted. If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see little piles of Devil dust at each impact site. At the base of the target, I found a sprinkling of dark gray dust too. That’s where all the rest of the BB material went. 

 
Note the little globs of dust left on the target. The rest is on the ground below.

It’s these kinds of innovations that are making airgunning soar in popularity. By reducing the traditional bounce “right back at ya” element inherent to shooting steel BBs, these Dust Devil BBs open new possibilities for safer backyard and garage ranges. I think it’s time to expand my metal silhouette shooting gallery target collection.

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