Airgun safety

by B.B. Pelletier

I’m finally back home, so all those questions I’ve asked you to hold can now be sent. While I was on the road, I had to ask several of you to send me your questions after I returned home, so now is the time for that, as well.

There will be more on the SHOT Show, as well as lots more photos. My laptop that I travel with doesn’t have Photoshop loaded (yet!) so I had difficulty dealing with pictures on the road. Live and learn!

Speaking of learning, today’s post was generated by a remorseful reader who posted this comment back on January 18.

I have a forest behind my home separated by a brook. The Deer are eating everything in sight on the home side of the brook. I have been using at Gamo Whisper (.177) to plink them in their butt at about 50 to 75 yards with a Beeman Trophy pellet (other side of the brook) and they really feel it.

This week while I was taking shots at beyond the brook one full-grown deer bolted out from nowhere across my yard at about 20 yards intercepting one of my shots. It hit the deer just behind the shoulder. At first the deer jumped forward and went on its way. I was very upset as I am not a hunter and my objective has always been to sting them so as to have them stay away from my home plantings.

Whenever they were close to my home I would plink them in the butt with a Beretta A-9000 pistol and this would get them off the property. Shortly after I observed this deer on the other side of the brook sitting on the ground. After a while it tried to get up several times and move but it was obviously badly wounded. With-in a half hour it was dead.

I am sick over this. I lost sleep and I am so disturbed that I may stop using the rifle altogether. I am writing this as a warning to those who think that an air rifle is only affective on small animals.

I have often warned new shooters to not use airguns to “discipline” animals, and this is the reason why I say it. Granted, this is an extreme case and probably happens less than one percent of the time, but we don’t even want it to happen that often, do we?

When I was much younger and in the Army in Germany, I would never have thought that a .22 long rifle could take a deer. Then, I met a poacher who not only hunted deer with the .22LR, he used a rifled barrel insert in a shotgun barrel, so his gun was almost silent, yet completely legal. Of course, what he did with it wasn’t legal, but that didn’t bother him. He got plenty of deer without paying for the priviledge.

I returned to the U.S. in 1978 and was surprised to read about California airgunners killing Catalina goats with .177 FWB 124s. They even published articles about it in an American airgun magazine!

The point is this: airguns today are much more powerful than many people think. Many of the “accidents” in which kids kill other kids with airguns are probably really intentional shootings, because the kids don’t believe the guns they have are that powerful. Why should they? Their fathers and grandfathers don’t believe it, either.

I’m no saint. Believe me, my house has pellet holes in places where they shouldn’t be and I have made almost every mistake that can be made. But doing so has converted me into a zealot who preaches airgun safety above all. In other words, don’t do as I did, do as I wish I had done.

If you want to motivate animals use an airsoft gun instead of a pellet gun. Airsoft will deliver the sting you want, without the risk of an accidental death or maiming injury.

47 thoughts on “Airgun safety

  1. Hi BB! Welcome back!

    Man… bad advice to shoot animals with airsoft! I know it won`t really hurt the flesh of the animal, but if you hit its eye by mistake, the injury will be extensive and painful (shi* happens all the time… we shouldn`t give it a chance). And NEVER shoot pets with any kind of gun (airsoft, rubber band…). They should respect you, not fear you.

    The best advice (that you already gave to us) is to only shoot at stuff that you`re really wanting to kill.

    Really waiting for your pics from Shot Show!!!!
    Rafael


  2. I understand that Gamo has already contacted Remorseful Reader to make a promotional film for the deer killing power of their .177 air rifles. The rumor is that they want him to shoot again, only this time using Raptors. Anybody heard anything about this? – Dr. G.


  3. Dr. G… that has to be the funniest stuff I’ve read on this board in a while…! By the time the marketers at Gamo get hold of it, the quarry will likely be a bull elephant.

    BB.. I tend to agree with Rafael on this one. Outside the playing field, Airsoft shouldnt be used to shoot at others. It’s this flippant disregard for a ‘gun’ that causes the attitude that ‘it’s ok to shoot at something you dont intend to kill’…. My opinion of course. Sure, airsoft and paintball can be fun but I think it’s given many youth the wrong impression that it’s just ok to go around shooting at people.

    Rob in NC


  4. I found a possible source for .22 lead balls. A site called Sunshine Airguns and Collectibles advertises Lobo .22 lead balls, 250 for $5.00. I have not tried them yet.



  5. BB -

    A couple of weeks ago, I made some comments on your blog about the way that practice with airguns has helped my marksmanship with firearms. Safety has even more application. The time to learn safe gun handling is in the beginning… not after you’ve done permanent and regrettable damage. For thousand of shooters, that means airguns.

    Preach, brother.

    - Jim in KS


  6. BB is right – sometimes it is appropriate to sting animals. When it comes to unkown strays, there is no issue of “respect” vs. “fear”. They just need to be taught to stay away.

    I know it’s possible to accidentally injure an eye. Obviously, one should take care not to do so – but yes, sometimes it is permissible to take that risk.


  7. I agree with most of the comments made but I also feel we probably should treat airguns almost exactly as we do firearms. One of the four prime laws of safe shooting is “never point your gun at something you are not willing to destroy”. When I shoot at an animal I intend to kill it as humanely and quickly as possible. That’s why I train to be as accurate as possible.
    CWI


  8. BB,

    i have an uncle who got a license to take care of 5 deer on his property. He took care of them and then another two. A total of 7 deer with a .22.

    I have 2 big dogs outside 23/7 so the deer don’t give me any problems.

    Except this one time…
    A few years ago a another relative bought his son a paintable gun for christmas and they came over to my house, he brought the gun. There was a deer outside about 40 yards away and he is jumpy to test his new gun… He drilled the deer in the rear three times! The deer must be Ok because he shot me and I’m still hear.

    -sumo


  9. The technique is called hazing by professionals…wildlife officers and forstry managment usualy use report or whistle rounds rather than anything that contacts the animal for good reason.

    Paintball guns are deadly too. Here in MA, Boston police killed a young girl caught up in a mob after a ballgame…hit the poor thing in her eye with a pepper ball. crushed her eye socket and sent frags into her brain. They have eliminated them as “nonlethal” crowd control.

    Pellet/platic BB/or paintball, they are all potentialy deadly. No one comment is gonna cover all circumstances…If you absolutly have to use any of them make your target area as safe as you can. Preaching saftey and common sense is never a waste of time.

    I hope he called someone to harvest the venison.

    turtle


  10. Wow. Having the deer expire in that lingering fashion really is a worst-case scenario.

    I had wondered myself about the value of airsoft as a stinging weapon. My reservation was not so much about hitting the eyes of the animal as B.B.’s point that anything over 200 fps (or was it 300?) can break the skin and cause an infection that will kill or torture the animal. Does this apply to airsoft projectiles or only pellets? Eye damage seems like a small risk although a real one–especially since the accuracy of my Super 9 sniper rifle seems to have tanked recently. I’m not a hunter and would like to say that I would never shoot at an animal for any reason, but if some were eating their way through thousands of dollars worth of my wiring and property, I don’t know if there’s a better way to deal with them than airsoft. Perhaps the blank guns from PA could scare them away although that could create issues of noise and the animals would probably figure it out anyway.

    Welcome back, B.B.

    Matt61


  11. Also on the subject of airgun power: I have recently moved to the sunny anti-gunning land of California. And what do I find but my available indoor range at the new place is even smaller than the old place! By taking the diagonal of the guest room, I’ll get something like 15 feet. Augh! I’ll be the master of 15 foot shooting! On top of this, the townhouse community is silent as the grave. I wanted a quiet place but this is ridiculous.

    So, I’m setting up with my pellet trap loaded with duct seal. Backing will be two 1 foot thick futons. Walls will be covered with flattened moving cartons, and I’ll be shooting through one of them for sound suppression–and making sure all windows and doors are closed. If anyone has further advice about creating a super-quiet and secure indoor shooting range let me know. Fortunately, there is a shooting range a few miles away that I can go to.

    Matt61


  12. Turtle,

    the deer was fine. If i can take it then he can too.

    Would it make you more comfortable if it shoot him with a bow next time? I doubt the gun that the deer and MYSELF were shot by is nearly as powerful as the police pepper ball. As i said, it was hit in the rear. NOT THE EYE!

    He cant be too upset, as he came back the next day.

    -sumo



  13. I’ve been taught to treat all airguns as potentially leathal weapons. I would never use an airgun to scare away an animal, yet really suprised at what happened. Well I’ve heard the live and learn comment on uploading pics on the road……I think this one would another true lesson in life.

    Thanks for the .22 lead ball lead. As always, I will check PA first before I buy, since they’ve done so well in the past. Although lately there have been so many delayed orders. Centerline scopes, AA domed .22 and JSB exact .22 jumbo pellets especially.




  14. Turtle,

    Those police pepperball guns are actually called “less lethal” because they do occasionally cause fatalities. They shoot at nearly double the energy of a paintball and can injure at 100 yards.

    B.B.





  15. Hi squirrelkiller. Yes indeed I picked up the B30. Resistance was hanging by a thread. Then when PA announced that quantities were limited my willpower collapsed. The B40 had mysteriously disappeared from the website so I was afraid that both lines were getting cancelled. Now the B40 has reappeared and the B30 is on backorder, so it seems that the problem was too much interest rather than too little.

    My impressions of the B30 are as follows. The stock has a beautiful, clear grain and the fitting to the metal looks flawless. The only blemish is that the red dot at the back of the receiver indicating the safety status is inked in and a little offset–kind of crude-looking but it doesn’t affect the gun’s function in any way. The blueing and engraving on the metal look very good to me. Okay, I’m getting into the mystique of wood and metal.

    The only real problem with the gun was the sights. The fiber optic sights actually made for a great sight picture (the metal sights of the IZH 61 are crude by comparison). But the sights were misaligned. With the windage cranked all the way left, I was about an inch to the right at 20 feet. There was also something wrong with the elevation even with changing the elevation of the front sight. With my face mashed down into the stock, I couldn’t quite get a sight picture. I’m normally proportioned without an excessively long neck or anything like that, so I was thinking that this might be a separate problem from the windage. Or maybe the comb of the Monte Carlo stock is too high for me. Did you have any problem with the sights? Or maybe this is just a feature of the windage problem since if you have to line up directly over the stock, the fit won’t be right.

    Another issue was the trigger pull. The first stage was very crisp. But the factory adjustment for the second stage felt like about 10 pounds; my hand was shaking on the stock to apply enough pressure. After adjusting the trigger screw until it looked like it was about to fall out, it got down to what felt like about 7 pounds which I got used to.

    The weight, after the IZH 61 and Crosman 1077, was a surprise. I thought my arm would be shaking with fatigue, but it wasn’t. Actually, the weight helped to dampen the slight trembling of the gun and gave me the steadiest sight picture I have ever seen. For a target rifle which I what I want, the weight is probably a plus.

    These shortcomings actually threw into relief the amazing shooting characteristics of this gun. Even with my face mashed into the stock and my glasses misting, I was still shooting good groups and dropping numbers of pellets into the same hole from a sitting position. Recoil was solid but not overwhelming with no buzz or twang. The noise inside with tissue paper in the ears was not particularly loud. Sorry this has gone on so long. Can you tell I like this gun?

    The plan now is to get a replacement from PA which will hopefully have the sights aligned correctly. In any case, I will probably also send it to Charliedatuna after reading a report about his tuning of this rifle that can be found easily enough by Googling “BAM B30.” Charlie says there is a lot of rust and crap inside which is typical of Chinese airguns. In addition to cleaning this up, he can reduce torque and recoil which are not that significant and, best of all, reduce the trigger to about 4 pounds which would be almost ideal. For $100, this seems like a good deal.

    The bottom line is that I think I had some bad luck, but this gun looks to be even better than I had hoped. The accuracy seems almost indistinguishable from an IZH 61. Let me know if you had a similar problem with the sights.

    B.B. I would love to see a review of this gun. It’s never too late….

    Matt61


  16. MCA

    Yes, I also got hold of the 747 based on this blog and it’s just what you say, probably the only gun I can shoot in my new place without special measures. Doing a decent job with this match pistol shooting is something else….

    Matt61


  17. Hey Matt61,

    I’ve never been adept at shooting with open-sights. I may shoot a handful of rounds just to make sure the gun functions. Most guns I order generally have a scope on order at the same time that I am quick to attach.

    I’ll have to keep in mind the tuning potential of the gun. Thanks for sharing that info. Glad that the shortcommings were not overwhelming, and that you were pleased overall.



  18. BB,

    You should no better than to print a story such as this. Pyramyd Air also!!! This is the type of press the anti’s use.

    The lesson could of been conveyed with out the sad story.

    The horror story of cruelty told above has nothing to do with AIRGUNS. Yes, in this case the torturer chose to use an airgun to implement his designs. His intent was to physically harass the game mamal. A crime anywhere in the 50 States!

    I bet the literature that came with the airgun in question instructed the “user” never to aim the rifle at living things. He made a choice! The crime should be the focus not the criminal’s chosen tool!

    When people hurt other’s with knives does the culinary world look bad???

    I must confess myself disappointed with this blog and it’s sponser.

    Jason


  19. Jason,

    yes, a knifing DOES hurt the culinary world. You can no longer carry autos or butterfly knives in most states. I think many many towns don’t allow more than a 3 and 1/2 inch blades.

    >>>>PS i cary an auto with a 4 inch blade

    It seems that the most devastating snipers use ARs and like guns. Its getting exceedingly difficult to obtain such fire power because of this. If they used something else the restrictions would shift to that weapon. The looking glass is on the ARs so its not to hard to get a shotgun.

    Airguns are NOT under the glass and i hope to keep it that way.

    -sumo


  20. Jason,
    I think The purpose of the article was to make people aware of just how dangerous airguns can be. The person who wrote the story felt great remorse for what he did. After all, if we dont learn from the mistakes of others, we are destined to repeat them.

    Nate in Mass


  21. BB,

    This post is a Pandora’s box. My grandfather probably thought anything under .30 caliber was really a toy, but he didn’t point his .22 at anything he wasn’t trying to put down. Given how many people see their pellets go through steel cans and pine boards, we need to realize that air rifles are not toys and treat them w/respect. I fear that, given the race for higher velocities and heavier projectiles in air rifles as well as the number of people who are uneducated or immature in the use of “guns”, we’ll see a lot more of this type of “accident”.

    The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. If air rifle users continue to do stuff like this not to mention essentially and intentionally poaching in congested, developed areas as a pasttime, air rifles will be classified as firearms. Yuppies who get upset about a deer chewing on their shrubbery will be a lot more upset when a pellet wings their kid playing in the woods or behind a fence.

    BB, you’re doing the right thing by making us think about our actions before we’re coerced by law.


  22. For now, with lead balls at around 8gr in .177 and 16gr in .22, I will just stick with the 10.5gr .177 crosman ultramags and 21.14gr H&N Baracuda….they’re like round ball ammo with a guiding tail. But I do love to experiment.


  23. Uh, to you folks getting all into a twist over Airsoft guns being used to discourage invading critters, consider the following.
    The faster Airsoft guns go at barely above 300fps, but that is with a very lightweight plastic projectile that has a very low density, completely unlike the lead or steel projectiles of airguns.
    Even striking at identical velocity as a lead pellet, the Airsoft plastic ball’s considerably greater frontal area-to-density ratio would make it several times less likely to break the skin.
    Also, that low density projectile loses its velocity considerably faster than the conventional airgun projectiles.
    Further, we are talking about nothing more than plinking a plastic ball into the rump of an unwelcome pest, NOT aiming deliberately for the eye.
    However, even with an unintentional eye strike, as long as the range is beyond 30 feet or thereabouts, the likelihood of permanent injury should be nearly zero.
    No one is advocating intentionally injuring animals here, but attempting to keep wild animals away from our property, or discouraging neighbor’s pets or feral animals.
    Keeping wild animals fearful of humans also keeps them alive.
    Keeping encroaching neighboring or feral animals away protects property and prevents them harming our own pets or wildlife.
    In short, folks, get a grip here.


  24. BB,

    that uncle of mine that killed 7 deer with a .22 just emailed me a picture taken from a game camera out in montana. It shows a large deer WALKING and a mountain lion about 2 feet behind it. The deer has no idea he is there! He’s funny because the subject of the email was “dead deer walking”.

    -sumo


  25. B.B.,

    I asked you about two weeks ago for you to review the UTG Master Sniper GEN 3 version. Since you’re now back home, can you review it? For me, it is not accurate enough out of the box, but my standards are too high for airsoft, so I’d like to see how you think of the improved version.

    Thanks,
    Jack


  26. B.B,, Scott 298 reporting in. While you were at rhe shot show did you happen to speak to Umarex? When I sent my rws 350 back again for repair I had several telephone and e-mail contacts with them—NO ONE TOLD ME MY GUN WOULD SIT THERE FOR OVER A WEEK BECAUDE THEY WERE ALL AT THE SHOT SHOW. i EXPECTED THAT SINCE THIS WAS THE 2ND TIME THE GUN HAD TO GO BACK-the 1st time the gun went back they replaced many internal parts and now that the gun was broken again I assumed they would of sent me a new one In time for my shooting trip which I had planned and had taken a week off of work. The refused tosend out a new gun and said they made the necessary repairs. Well my vacation has come and gone and I still do not have my 350. In addition I asked if the gun had to go in for repair a third time would they then send out a new rifle and they said it depends. How can one have any faith in a company that doesn’t have or has poor quality service. Due to my experience I will never buy a product that they are responsible for and I think Diana made a poor choice in having them represent them in the US. RWS are great guns too bad they don’t have a good company behind them.


  27. I didn’t read all the comments, but perhaps (if nobody else has stated it), here’s how I’d get ‘em out of there. Pyramydair sells blank firing pistols, or (my favorite), go to the [state's] department of conservation and point out the trouble and ask for a special hunting permit: take ‘em out of your garden and invite them in for dinner…..At the least, the Conservation Department could do something for him if they can’t issue a hunting permit anyway. JP


  28. Hi squirrelkiller. Actually, I’m planning to scope the B30 but for $150 I wanted the open sights to work too. I didn’t make an exhaustive test of pellets–actually just two Crosman Premier Lights and Beeman Field Target Specials (8.8 grains). Crosman Premiers did not impress but the Beemans were great.

    Matt61



  29. Hia BB and Company

    Anytime we can learn from an unfortunate mistake it’s a blessing in our favor.

    As a youngster I was taught not to point any gun at anything you dont intend to shoot and/or kill (targets/game animals). Now as a dad I teach my daughter and son the same basic rule of respect and safty. So much so I would not allow them to even play with cap guns and other toy guns. When my son was 5 he had a hard time with this, because other young boys ran around their house with toys and he could not. Now that he is 8 and smart enough to shoot 22′s; pellets and BB’s with me. he understands this better. He graduated to real guns, and other boys his age still disrespect their toys. (IMHO – parents fault sorry). When all these boys grow older, who has the greater chance of having those unfortunate accidents. I believe it’s our resposilbility as gun owners to always teach what we believe and believe in what we teach.

    On a side note – A few deer seasons ago we harvested a NYS buck. While my brother and I were butchering we noticed lots of healed over small holes. We then determined this animal was shot in the hind quarters, butt towards gun, with #6 birdshot. We were picking pellets from the meat as far forward as the inside front shoulders. Just the other day I cooked a backstrap, and was reminded of the situation when I chomped down on a #6 lead shot.

    Thank you as always

    JoeG from Jersey


  30. BB

    its interesting that the US army suggest that a projectile travelling at 300fps will break the skin. This really isnt accurate without specifying the projectile shape and weight. A sharp arrow will penetrate at around 20fps, whereas a doughnut would need a huge speed and even then, would disintergrate before breaking skin. A .177 pointed airgun pellet would do far more damage at half the speed than a large, round and semi soft paintball ball. I think a simple number like 300fps is very misleading



  31. Jack,

    I will still review the generation III Master Sniper, but if you already own it, what are you waiting for? Corroboration of what you already know?

    My guess is that the Gen III is about as accurate as the Gen I, which is minute of bad guy at 50 yards. I’m guessing that’s not what you are looking for,

    I don’t expect to find a tighter barrel, but an improved powerplant may mean we can shoot 0.25 gram BBs instead of 0.20, and that may make some difference.

    B.B.


  32. SUMO, BB and anyone else,

    Wasn’t trying to make any accusations about anyones actions here guys, Sorry if it came off that way…

    I’m fully aware that the open market paintball guns arn’t at their full capabilitys and that the police issue are maxed.

    As I said…
    “no one comment is gonna cover all circumstances.” … A deer munching the wiring on my house is called dinner. (yup, it’ll be a bow shot)

    you wanna use a paint ball…all I said was “make your target area as safe as you can.”…go for it. sounds like your marker can do the job. 99.9999999% of the time there will never a problem (maybe 100% w/ your gun). It’s not even a problem the other .0000001% to me if ya eat the result.

    And I gotta stick by saying…”Preaching saftey and common sense is never a waste of time.”.. But I’m gonna add that many new shooters of all types of air powered guns are sent here to this BB all the time. Teaching saftey is very often (almost always) accomplished thru worst case scenareos…the girls story was only that.

    Best regards,
    Turtle


  33. Matt61,

    Nice report on the B30! Do you think that the sights are off due to something being bent? Or can you align them yourself? It’ll be intersting to see which pellets it likes if you can keep it. If it were me, I would try to keep that one if I could fix it, because I wouldn’t have to take a chance on getting another with a “lesser” barrel.

    FWIW, I’ll keep shooting bears with my paintball gun when the occasion arises.

    /Shooter


  34. Like most here… sorry to hear about the waste of a deer. Hopefully we all got a reminder about safety.

    Not to mention it is most likely not legal to harass the deer in this manor.

    I’ve used something called bird bombs. They are effective. It is a big firecracker shot from a standard shotgun – mine were 12GA. Took a bit to learn to lob them just right. Was about like using a grenade launcher. No harm to the animal just makes a big boom right near them.


  35. Made the same mistake with my .177 R7. Shot a yearling doe in the forehead with a wadcutter from 18 yds, dropped like a stone, dead in 5 minutes. Had no idea that a deer’s skull was so fragile. Live and learn.

    BTW, I don’t believe the scenario in the story. The deer ran in front of the gun and was killed by a perfectly placed shot? Tell the truth, man — I just did.


  36. HI guys i have a quetsion i hope u might answer ..i have a diana 35 mod airgun and i was wondering , can i modded it so it can take more pellets instead of one ???Thanks in advance, E-mail ur answers to … (nikos-kom@hotmail.com)



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