A semi-formal data driven analysis of paintball’s leading shaped projectile. Now with 121s!!! Courtesy of scotallen1986.
- Intro and Manufacturing Consistency
- Action Type and Accuracy
Shaped ammo represents the next step in paintball evolution. Will it supplant classical spherical ammunition? Certainly not in the near future. But it is the only advancement to inarguably break the ballistic performance plateau that paintball has experienced in the past decade plus. I’m passionate about paintball, and I’m especially passionate about the possibilities of shaped ammunition. To that end, these tests and arguments are largely to answer my own technical questions about First Strike rounds fired from rifled barrels, and if that kind of thing interests you (you nerd), to put good data out into the community.
Obviously a lot of those questions and data will center around how to improve the performance and understanding of the system. This has twofold benefits. Firstly it improves the existing community. Players will be better equipped to employ the system effectively and to achieve greater success with it. And secondly, the raw performance of the system will inevitably attract more players; the more we can improve the system, the more appealing it will be to the broader paintball community.
And maybe in all that performance pushing I’ll stumble on something I can make a buck off of to help offset these costs. But if not, then it’ll still make a cool resume padder for when I’m out of school and looking for a job in the industry.
TL;DR The mag-fed long ball game is the most exciting thing in paintball. Come to the long side. There are no cookies.
The Why and the Before
Why bother with manufacturing consistency? Because it influences a lot of ballistic processes like accuracy, efficiency, and chrono variations. Additionally, it’s generally useful data for other non-ballistic analyses like equipment or technique choices. In this series we’ll be incorporating the data directly into our accuracy and drag tests. But you might use it to better select bore sizes or to decide if it’s worthwhile to sort your ammo.
Other people have evaluated the FS rounds before – uv_halo, janclage, jjron99, etc. – but this test offers improved currency and sample size even if it’s more limited in depth (especially when compared to uv_halo’s work). For our purposes we’ll focus on size, weight, and any noticeable defects.
Here on Google Docs. The highlighted cells contain noteworthy data.
Methodology and Interpretation
Due to the size of the sample and the ease of the method, I ended up using a hammerhead paintball sizer. It has six size groupings, which were all verified against a digital caliper. All of the sizes were found to be accurate, except for the .693 hole – which consistently read .694 or larger. Therefore, our final size groupings will end up being:
- less than or equal to 0.679
We can roughly narrow the range of possibilities for a given round by observing how easily it passes through it’s grouping sizer. If the round falls through the sizer only when it’s perfectly aligned we can safely assume that it leans towards the larger end of it’s range. Likewise, if the round passes through the hole easily, then we can safely assume that it leans towards the smaller end of it’s range. Basically the larger the round relative to it’s sizer the less room for error. But due to the informal nature of this method, these observations will be included (where appropriate) in the conclusions rather than the hard data.
Weights were measured via a digital powder reloading scale with an advertised accuracy of 0.001g. The scale was tared in a room with no ac or fans to minimize influences on the read. The rounds were allowed to sit on the scale until the display settled and held on a number for a reasonable amount of time. A random sampling of 20 rounds was used for each major size grouping.
Each round was visually inspected for manufacturing defects.
Thoughts on the Data
We got a total of 518 rounds from 5 bulk boxes. Thats 3-4 extra rounds per box with less than one dud each. I’m digging that quality. And when I say dud, I mean a round with a slight but easily removed lump where the skirt joins the cap. So, not even a catastrophic defect.
The rounds exclusively divided into two groups. The 0.687-0.688 group and the 0.689-0.690 group. This was at about a 2:1 ratio for a rough split of 13 “small” rounds and 7 “large” rounds in the average random 20 shot group. This is important in the event that size consistency affects accuracy. The average player doesn’t sort his/her rounds so this ratio will be used to reflect the average unsorted shot group makeup in future tests.
Informally though, the rounds in the 0.687-0.688 group were near uniformly difficult to pass through. The 0.689-0.690 group however, were near uniformly easy to pass through. This suggests that the rounds tend to either be .688 or .689 with more of an emphasis on the former.
The weights fall across a very narrow range and don’t seem to differ significantly between the “small” and “large” groups.
The small size and weight variance don’t add much evidence to the idea that sorted rounds are more accurate than unsorted.
Finally this data is mostly consistent with the previous work on the subject, while the caliber range is noticeably more concentrated. This suggests that the Tiberius and Perfect Circle have been improving their manufacturing process over time, which is not entirely unexpected but still nice to see.
Thoughts on 121 Data
The 121 exist over a wide range of sizes. But it’s a little more complicated than that since nearly every round had some degree of confounding burr on it. The rounds are so spread out over the range of sizes that I didn’t bother calculating the proportions or setting up proportional groups for the test. But at least the weights are more or less consistent.
The defects though… four rounds were punctured on arrival but thankfully, didn’t contaminate the rest of the rounds. These four rounds were likely punctured in transit by the spikes present on over 60% of the 121 rounds. Some rounds had this spike clipped with varying degrees of success. Most didn’t.
Nearly all of the skirts had some degree of pocking where the sprue connected to the skirt. At least eight rounds had some portion of sprue left over. Enough to make them unable to pass through a sizer, let alone be in loaded or fired. This is reflected in the “95+5” total column. 100 rounds total, but 5 that were unsortable out of the box.
Finally two rounds arrived dimpled but were easily rolled around to a clean face.
Also note how lightweight the 121s are when compared to the FS rounds. The FS rounds are nearly twice as heavy. In what little testing we’ve had time for with the 121s, they routinely clocked at 100 fps faster than FS rounds when used at the same regulator settings. We don’t have a full understanding of why yet, but the weight certainly contributes.
All in all, comparatively poor quality. With at least one common defect severe enough to potentially ruin an entire bag. Having said that, I’m withholding any long term condemnation of the round. I recall Tiberius/Perfect Circle had some quality control issues in the early days (though admittedly not this severe) so I’m willing to extend a stay of judgement until a little further into their manufacturing timeline. Lets see how they develop.
If you havent yet, be sure to check out my about page for the thank yous and acknowledgments, it’s worth the jump.
Thank you for reading, and we’ll drop the accuracy and dual chrono data in a week or two data once it happens.
You can find the community discussion of this post at the following forums: