Using airsoft guns to teach shooting
by B.B. Pelletier
Before we move on to today's guest blog, I have 2 announcements. First, Paul Capello has a new Airgun Reporter video posted. It's about the Gamo CFX, which has been a very popular rifle. Also, a new article has been posted. It's about the winning entry in the Physics & Astronomy section of the 2008 California Science & Engineering Fair. This was conducted by two eighth-grade students, and it'll be of interest to all airgunners!
Joe B. on Maui took some time to teach his friends about his love of airgunning. Passion is what drives most of us to shoot airguns...and it shows when we share it with others.
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Using airsoft guns to teach shooting
by Joe B. on Maui
I recently got around to teaching an airsoft program to my wife's unconditional love class. (Basically, unconditional loving means that you have no enemies, and that, in a society dedicated to saying NO, you strive to say YES as often as you can, both to yourself and to others.) So, love and guns...strange combination, eh? It worked, and the participants (ages 16-68) had a great time.
I taught airsoft while my co-instructor taught archery. When we first asked who would be interested, almost every hand went up for the archery but only a few for the airsoft pistol shooting. Most had been poisoned against guns by the press. By the time the class rolled around, I had the same number of students (14) as the archery class.
An informal backstop
My shooting set-up was the parking area outside our garage. I hung a sheet backed up by an old blanket from a 12' 2x8 set on two folding ladders. From this I hung 5 sticky targets. I set up two shooting lines, the first at 10' and the second at 20, with a folding table set at the 20' line to hold the pistols and for reloading. I had 8 shooters in the first group and 6 in the second. The first group shot for an hour and then switched with the archers. I communicated with the archery teacher by cell phone, as they were some distance away, in a lower meadow. This way we knew how each group was going and when to switch groups.
If I'd had it to do over, I'd have supplied the same airsoft make and model to everyone, as it was hard work watching the line for safety, showing each person how a different pistol worked and how to reload it. To my embarrassment, several of my spring guns malfunctioned from lack of lubrication and from sitting around unused for months (even though I tried out each gun right before the class). Due to a design flaw, a new UHC 937 springer revolver broke, refusing to hold full-cock position and had to be retired prematurely. Because I’d spent the past two years buying new airsoft toys, there were still enough guns for everyone.
I began with a basic safety talk, condensing 10 rules of safe gun handling into two: never point the muzzle at anything but a safe target and the only reliable safety was between their ears. Everyone wore eye protection. Because this was airsoft and because the shooting area was fronted by trees, nearby neighbors were totally unaware that a gun handling class was happening within 75' of them. Also, because this was airsoft and because I was busy on so many fronts, I let some safety violations go that I couldn't have if we'd been shooting BB/pellet guns or firearms. A few people on the line swept their muzzles past other shooters when reloading, and not everyone remembered to keep their fingers off the trigger until they were on target. Fortunately, I was helped out in each group by at least one other person with military and/or NRA instructor experience.
My archery co-instructor limited her shooters to three at a time so she could keep a more careful eye on them. I would have similarly cut my shooters down to 1 or 2, had I been instructing with firearms or anything similarly lethal. But I couldn't have taught shooting in my densely packed neighborhood using loud firearms!
You should have seen their faces! Pure joy once they started shooting. From the beginning, I'd strived to keep talk to a minimum and to get them shooting as quickly as possible. This worked out great. The women especially got into the shooting. Not only did they surprise me by how accurately they shot, but some also said things like, "Make my day, perp!" and "You talkin' to ME?" Their self-confidence was quickly building.
The most fun was had with an inexpensive, clear battery-operated machine gun and with an AEG Thompson submachine gun. I placed several soft drink cans on the ground in front of the backdrop, and the shooters were absolutely delighted rolling the cans around (the more powerful Thompson tore holes through the soft cans and made them jump dramatically).
Breakthroughs on several fronts
People who were initially frightened of guns were talking about buying their own airsoft guns, BB/pellet guns and/or even real firearms. They were pro-gun and quite excited about shooting. Except for one accidental let-off, which thankfully went harmlessly into the trees at the side of the range, no one got shot with a plastic BB. Although two shooters were hit by ricochets, the BBs were not traveling fast enough to do anything more than startle them. It was a positive experience for all 14 shooters, except…
…due to the nature of the sensitivity required by an unconditional loving class, three women burst into tears during the discussion group following and summing up the archery/airsoft programs. Each remembered a time when they felt like they had totally failed to please their fathers when being shown how to shoot. The fathers had lacked confidence in themselves and had blown it by attempting to use a gun with too much recoil or had lost their tempers at their daughters' nervousness. It took several hours of holding and reassurance to get them calm and happy again. This is not something you'd normally associate with a shooting session, and so readers are cautioned not to try this at home unless they've had sensitivity training! As it turned out, an idea that I'd been toying with for months worked beautifully when put into action.