In Part 1 we ended our look at the progress of the BB gun just after World War II. I had mentioned that the war stopped the production of BB guns so the manufacturers could make wartime items. When the war was over, there was still a period of time when raw materials were hard to come by. They had been stockpiled for the war and were not in the general channels of distribution for over a year. The government sold most of its stockpiles, but these sales took many years to complete and the materials were often not located where they were needed the most. So a lot of time passed while things returned to normal.
Collectors of anything know there are more things in the world than all the books acknowledge. That’s one of the things that makes collecting so much fun — the joy of discovering something other people knew nothing about.
I don’t consider myself to be a collector. I suppose that’s because I am willing to let go of almost anything. Most collectors have a vault from which nothing escapes while they live. I realized that I could never own all the things I was interested in at the same time, so I buy and sell as my interest changes.
Saw it at my first airgun show
That’s how I came to own today’s collectible BB gun — the Parris Kadet 500 Trainer. In 1994 I was at the very first airgun show I ever attended, which turned out to be the second show ever held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. That show migrated to Roanoke, Virginia several years later and then it moved on to Salem, Virginia and the Moose Lodge, where it was held for several years before ending. My point is — I have been attending airgun shows almost from the beginning.
We last looked at a military airgun on Monday, when the U.S.S. Vesuvius dynamite cruiser was examined. Today I will get more personal and look at some of the trainers the military has employed to train new recruits. This subject is huge, and will become its own special section of the airgun history project.
Two different directions
When we speak of military trainers there are two very distinct paths. One leads to the training devices used by the military to train their personnel. The other path is a private one, though no less real and important. Those are the trainers that were built to order, one at a time.
Pyramyd Air was the sponsor of the 2015 Texas airgun show, and we put their banner at the entrance to the show. The entrance had to be outdoors this year, because both buildings were full.
Pyramyd Air donated a raffle prize of a Sam Yang Light Hunter .45, plus safety classes for the public range and gift bags for everyone who attended. Crosman couldn’t attend, but they generously donated the grand prize of a Benjamin Bulldog for the LASSO big bore match.
Big bore match
Last time I reported on the LASSO big bore match I apparently didn’t say enough. Unfortunately the competitors were all allowed to fill out their own data sheets, so some of the information I have on the guns that were used is lacking.
When we think of airguns we think of quiet, low-powered guns that are safer than firearms because of their limited range and reduced tendency to ricochet. But that’s not the whole story. Over a century ago there was a special type of airgun that was used on the battlefield and the high seas to do major damage. I’m referring to the so-called dynamite guns of the late 1890s.
More stable than nitroglycerin
Dynamite was invented in 1866 by Swedish inventor, Alfred Nobel. He took nitroglycerin, another recent invention (1846) and stabilized it by combining it with silica to turn the sensitive liquid into a malleable paste he called dynamite. He discharged the dynamite with one of his blasting caps, originally perfected in 1863 to discharge nitroglycerin with shock rather than heat.
The Texas airgun show is a one-day event. Everyone knows they have to get in quick, set up quick and get everything accomplished in one short day. The Parker County Sportsman Club that hosted the event provided dozens of volunteers to run the ranges, park cars, sell tickets, prepare and serve food and drinks, and generally help anyone who needed it. As a result, the event was set up and running smooth when the doors opened to the public at 9 am. But, unlike last year, there was no line at the door. The tickets were sold at a gate outside the compound because we had vendors in two different buildings this year. Even so I was surprised and a little disappointed when I didn’t see the immediate crush of people at 9.
The history of airguns is fascinating to those who enjoy applied creativity. But sometimes when creativity is carried too far it becomes a liability. And that’s the case with today’s guns.
Rocky Mountain Arms Corporation
In the 1970s the Rocky Mountain Arms Corporation (RMAC) created a little gun for kids who wanted to shoot with their fathers. They referred to it as a .22 caliber, though it shot a number 4 buckshot that is really 0.24 inches rather than 0.223 inches in diameter. That didn’t matter because a 5-pound bag number 4 buckshot was available for a few dollars. For that you got thousands of shots. Nobody worried about the size of the ball that much.