Posts Tagged ‘shooting’

We’re still not there!

by B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report is a little different, but I hope it will be informative as well as eye-opening. I plan to address several topics, but the principal theme is that not everyone understands the technology of shooting. Not even the majority!

Single shots
What brought this out was a casual remark made to Edith and me at the SHOT Show a few weeks ago. We were in a gun manufacturer’s booth being shown their products and the salesman remarked that the rifle we were looking at was a single shot. I asked him how that could be since he had just shown us the rifle’s magazine.

He replied, “Well, it fires only one shot every time the bolt is worked and the trigger is pulled.” Oh, my gosh! I informed him that a rifle that has a bolt to feed ammunition from a magazine is most definitely NOT a single shot. It is what is known as a repeater.

Edith then launched in on the definition of a true single shot, using an 1874 Sharps falling block breechloader as her example — a Quigley-type rifle. I think the salesman felt the Sharps was not able to be categorized! In other words, a design so archaic as to almost defy description in modern terms.

In the salesman’s eyes, if the gun fired once when the trigger was pulled and the shooter had to do something before pulling the trigger again, it was a single shot. That begs the question of what constitutes a repeater? In the salesman’s own words, “Repeaters are guns that continue to fire each time the trigger is pulled.” To my way of thinking that could either be a double-action revolver or pistol, or a semiautomatic anything. But I guess the salesman hadn’t thought about it that much. He did tell us that the rifle in question was called a single shot in the owner’s manual that his company had just produced!

When I told Edith I was writing this blog, she told me this is a common theme in customer reviews submitted to Pyramyd Air’s website. In fact, just recently a customer submitted feedback to Pyramyd Air that he found an error on a product page, where a gun was listed as a repeater when it was really a single-shot. Apparently, some people think semiauto = repeater and don’t realize a gun can be a repeater without being semiauto.

I recently read where a gun writer described a certain revolver as having a single-action trigger because, again using his words, “…the gun fires every time the trigger is pulled. It only takes a single action to fire the gun.” Ooops! Good guess, but wrong!

A single-action gun is one where the trigger performs only a single action — releasing the sear. A double-action gun is one in which the trigger not only releases the sear, but also cocks the hammer and advances the gun’s mechanism to a fresh cartridge — two actions. Cocking and releasing the hammer (1) and loading another cartridge (2). Double-action. Get it?

Yes, they cry, but what about an M1911A1 pistol? The trigger fires the gun each time it’s pulled, and you don’t need to do anything else. Yet, it’s called a single-action. Why?

To answer that question, pick up a loaded M1911A1 that has a cartridge in its chamber. With the hammer down (i.e., not cocked) you can squeeze the trigger all day and the gun will never fire. The hammer has to be cocked first.

When an M1911A1 fires, the slide is driven back by the recoil of the exploding cartridge. As it passes over the hammer, it rocks it back to the cocked position, where the sear catches and holds it. So, it’s the action of the slide and not the action of the trigger that cocks the gun.

I have a Micro Desert Eagle pistol whose hammer doesn’t remain back in the cocked position when it fires. The slide does push it back, just like the M1911A1 slide, but my pistol is designed so the sear doesn’t catch the hammer. It follows the slide when it goes forward again. You have to cock the hammer by pulling the trigger each time you want to fire the pistol. It makes the trigger harder to pull, which makes the pistol safer to carry in your pocket. My pistol is called — get this — a double-action-only (DAO) pistol.

Micro Desert Eagle
This Micro Desert Eagle is double-action-only for safety while carrying.

Single-action mechanisms have much lighter and crisper triggers than double-action mechanisms. I use the term “mechanism” (or action) because some air rifles are also double-action-only — like the Crosman 1077. Each pull of the trigger both cocks (and releases) the hammer and advances the clip to the next pellet. That explains why those guns have such long, heavy trigger pulls, where single-action guns like the M1911A1 have very light and extremely crisp pulls.

Incidentaly, the description on the Pyramyd Air website says the 1077 has a semiautomatic action. They do that because Crosman says it, and they want to conform to what the manufacturer is saying about their guns. But the truth is that it takes the action of pulling the trigger to cock the hammer and advance the rotary clip, and that makes it a double-action mechanism, by definition.

Why bother?
I’m sure there are people who think I’m a lecturing old dotard for insisting on the accurate use of definitions and terms this way. Well, those people never read 1984, or if they did, they missed the point of the novel. If you take away the precision of language, you dumb down the population until people no longer have the words to express complex thoughts. Every young person who calls me “dude” or “man” or even “brother-man” is doing this without knowing it.

There’s a line in the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in which Captain Kirk asks Spock if they can’t just mimic the sounds the alien probe is sending to earth that are ionizing the atmosphere so it sounds like the whales that have gone extinct. Spock replies, “We can imitate the sounds, but we would be responding in jibberish.” That’s exactly what some gun dealers, writers and even manufacturers sound like to me when they bend definitions and even invent new ones to describe things they know nothing about!

Calling loaded cartridges “bullets,” then discovering there is now no name for what comes out of the “bullets,” they label them “bullet tips” “bullet heads” and “bullet noses.” Calling pellet rifles “BB guns” and calling BB guns “rifles” simply extends the abuse.

When I write, I’m explaining things to people who aren’t familiar with the terminology or the technology. If I get sloppy, how many people will be confused? Lord knows, I’m sloppy enough without meaning to be. I at least have to try to be precise.

A second danger with language is to substitute emotion-charged terms for the correct terms. The nightly news is a stunning example of this. If police break into a home and find 5 rifles and 100 rounds of ammo in a closet, how they describe that find on the news depends on who’s doing the talking. On the NBS Nightly News, it’s an arsenal. On CNN, it’s a weapons cache. And on Fox News, it’s a gun collection.

The terms and definitions do matter. They matter a lot, as it turns out.

Things we can learn from shooting firearms

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

I’ve written about firearms in this blog from time to time. Even though it’s about airguns, there are so many lessons we can learn from firearms that it’s a shame to turn our backs on them — as if by using explosive gas instead of compressed air they’re somehow different. Once the projectile gets out of the barrel, it acts the same regardless of what starts it on its way.

Many of you understand why I do this. Blog readers Kevin and BG_Farmer, for example, know that a precharged gun acts the same as a black powder arm, in that they both require a long barrel for optimum performance. The longer the barrel, the greater the velocity you can expect — all other things remaining equal. That was demonstrated clearly in the test of the Talon SS, when I switched from a 12-inch barrel to a 24-inch barrel. Velocity increased dramatically and the shot count remained the same — proving that a longer barrel gives greater performance in a PCP.

Today, I want to discuss another similarity I’ve discovered. I didn’t really “discover” it. I more or less tripped over it, cursed a bit; then, as I was picking myself up and brushing myself off, I happened to reflect on what had happened and was enlightened.

The idea first crossed my path in the book Yours Truly, Harvey Donaldson, by the author of the same name. He noticed that some of the shells he reloaded grouped their bullets very well, while others that had the same headstamp and were purchased at the same time, threw their shots wide of the mark. That phenomenon is so common in my experience that I thought it was the way things always were, but old Harvey had a different idea. He started setting aside the cartridge cases that threw the wild shots, keeping only those that tended to group their shots together. In time he was left with a smaller batch of shells that all wanted to put their bullets into the same hole — as long as everything else (powder type and weight, bullet weight, seating depth, primer type, etc.) stayed the same.

In the end, Donaldson wound up with a batch of shells he could count on to group their shots together and others that couldn’t. He then shot groups with cartridges made from the good shells and from those that were not as good and demonstrated that the good shells grouped much better.

My shooting buddy, with whom I recently commiserated about the lack of success we were having with some firearms, pointed out that we were both shooting cartridges with mixed headstamps, and we weren’t paying attention to the things that were staring us in the face. That was a wakeup call for me!

So, I’ve just begun doing the same thing as Donaldson with a couple of my firearms — but I don’t have any real results to show, yet. However, the initial examination does look promising. I say that because within any group of 10 shots with certain rifles there’s usually a smaller group that hints that there may be a difference between the shells, since everything else is exactly the same.

Shot group within a group 250 Savage
Ten shots from a 250-3000 Savage at 100 yards. If you were sorting these shells for reloading, which three would you exclude from the good pile? The x-ring is 0.90 inches in diameter.

Shot group within a group 22 Hornet
Ten shots from a .22 Hornet at 50 yards. Can you tell which 6 cartridges are of interest?

But how can this information help me as an airgunner? Edith pointed out that once the trigger is pulled, the pellet goes downrange and there is nothing left to be sorted for the next time.

But what if I could sort BEFORE the shot? And, of course I can! If I weigh and visually inspect each pellet, I’ll have the most uniform group of pellets possible. I can then shoot them against a random selection of pellets straight from the tin and also against a group of pellets that were specifically rejected during the selection process. There should be a noticeable difference between those three groups — no?

Oh, I can hear the gears turning, now! In your analytical minds, you’re creating universes in which all pellets go in the same hole at a ridiculously long distance. Well, cut it out! It often doesn’t work as simply as that. It may sound good when you read it in print; but when you attempt to test it, the results may not be what you expected. There are many reasons for this.

The gun
If you’re doing this with an accurate airgun, there’s a chance you’ll succeed. But if you’re doing it with a gun that vibrates like a jackhammer and kicks like a mule, any difference in accuracy may be overwhelmed by the slop of the test instrument (the gun).

Your shooting technique
I was at the range last week and observed a man who couldn’t hit a 12-inch paper plate at 100 yards every time with an M1 Garand. Was that the rifle’s fault? No, it wasn’t. The guy closed his non-sighting eye by squinting and refused to try holding it open. So, the round peep hole his sighting eye looked through was scrunched up into a deformed hole that nobody could hope to sight through. He could not be convinced to try holding both eyes open, and I bet this is a person who blames “old eyes” on his inaccuracy when it is nothing more than technique. If you don’t have good shooting technique, you’ll never be able to see subtle differences in accuracy in a test like this.

Range conditions
I’ve seen shooters complain because their rifles were not giving them one-inch groups at 100 yards. But they were shooting on a windy day and disregarding the wind entirely. As if a bullet isn’t affected by wind! Granted, bullets shot from firearms buck the wind much better than pellets — but, even so, there are limits. And a 15-mile-per-hour crosswind is not the time to be expecting one-hole groups. On a day like that, you either wait out the wind and shoot during the quiet times, or you do something else. But don’t expect to set records.

You need to shoot at a distance at which the groups start to open. I like small groups like everyone, but you don’t learn anything from them in a test like this. So, the 22-foot range in your basement is out. You need to get some distance between you and the target. For me, that distance is 50 yards. That’s where I have to do all of the things mentioned above correctly on every shot, and any mistake I make gets magnified greatly, to my embarrassment.

And why do you need open groups? What you really need is to clearly see the smallest deviations your pellets are making. The farther you shoot, the more visible they become.

So, Grasshopper, before you can benefit from today’s lesson, you must first prove that you can shoot tight groups to begin with. This is the reason I push so hard for new shooters to acquire certain models of airguns — because I know those models will give them a modicum of accuracy. What kind of Formula One racer would you be if all your driving experience was on a tractor?

I have done this test — once
I actually did do this test one time — twice if you count once with target sights and once with a scope. Some of you may remember that I was goaded into shooting groups at 50 yards with an FWB 300S target rifle. I did get better results from weight-sorted pellets than from random pellets taken straight from a tin. None of the groups were especially small, but those shot with weight-sorted pellets were the smallest in both the test with open sights and again with a scope.

But I haven’t done a test specifically to evaluate the benefits of sorting the pellets. That would be new.

I’m going to do it, so please give me your thoughts.

What do you tell a new airgunner?

by B.B. Pelletier

This question keeps coming up for me. How do I tell a new airgunner what he or she should buy as a first airgun? They come to me with their questions, and they don’t always ask them the same way; but they do all want to know the same thing. What gun should I buy?

It was easier for me. When I was growing up, we didn’t have the internet. As far as airguns are concerned, if they didn’t advertise in the backs of comic books and Boy’s Life and maybe Popular Mechanics, I didn’t know they existed. I went more on what my friends had than on anything else, and I certainly didn’t ask the advice of an adult.

That latter remark is probably still very true today, though the internet has blurred identities to the point that a teenager and an octagenarian can converse without knowing it.

Back to the question. What do you tell a prospective new airgunner when one comes to you looking for advice? Do you steer him toward your favorite airgun, regardless of everything else (money, intended purpose, availability of places to shoot, physical size of the person, etc)? Or do you have some pre-recorded tape you put on that goes through many questions in hopes of discovering what he wants to do with the airgun? Perhaps you play the roll of the non-directive therapist and let him talk about his desires until you both have a clear idea of what he wants.

The challenge
This website attracts airgunners from around the world. It also attracts those who think they may have an interest in airgunning but aren’t sure. A couple dozen of them work up the courage to make a comment on some blog report, but 99.99 percent never say anything. They just watch, read the reports and the comments people make about them. They probably also visit several of the airgun forums and do pretty much the same thing; except that over there they may feel more threatened by the jargon and slang everyone seems to use. What’s a P-rod, and if you tell me that it’s a Benjamin Marauder pistol, why do they call it that? What’s dieseling, valve bounce, ballistic coefficient, lock time, etc.?

They also run into a crowd of discontents who have plenty to say about airguns they don’t own. The person who lingers long enough will get a bead on whose remarks can be trusted and whose should be ignored. But that still doesn’t answer his fundamental question about which airgun he should get.

If you could talk to these budding new airgunners, what would you tell them? Would you want their first airgunning experiences to be positive or should they be forced to earn their stripes the same way you did? If you vote for the positive experience, how do you ensure they get that through your writings on the internet?

Are we all the same?
I guess it boils down to this question, “Do we all want the same thing?” Is the primary goal of an airgun to hit its intended target, or is it something else? Should it be the most powerful gun in its class, regardless of the potential for accuracy? Or do you believe that just because a tester wasn’t able to get the best accuracy out of a gun doesn’t mean that you can’t?

If power is supreme over everything else, should you buy the fastest advertised airgun and spend the time to learn how to shoot it accurately? Or are there such things as inaccurate airguns that cannot hit what they’re aimed at, no matter what you do? Or is there a good aftermarket tune that can be done to improve the accuracy of almost anything?

Or maybe cost is the most important thing. Can you calculate the relative power of all guns and compare them to one another to find the least expensive airgun that has the greatest power? And, if you toss accuracy into that mix, what does that do to the results?

Or are you looking for something much better and more refined than the average airgunner? Are the finish of the metal and the grade of wood on the gun of paramount importance to you? If they are, do the photos of airguns online look like the guns that are actually shipped, or do the dealers cherry-pick a gun from all the guns in their warehouse to use as the example? Should you wait to buy a gun because you have to see it and hold it before you can know for sure that it’s as beautiful as you hope?

Who can you trust?
Do airgun testers tell the truth about the guns they test, or are they all sold out to the industry? Can you trust someone who’s given a gun to test and doesn’t have to pay for it?

Can you trust a dealer who has test reports on his website? Why would he ever show you a bad report?

Or do owners lie about their own guns because they bought them and now cannot face the reality that the gun they bought is no good? Is it like The Emperor’s New Clothes, where everyone walks around knowing the emperor is naked but nobody wants to admit it publicly?

What do YOU tell a new airgunner?
I’m asking you again. What do you tell a new airgunner? How do you lead him into this hobby in the best possible way?

I met a man…
I met a man who bought the most powerful car he could afford. He was walking because the car cost too much to keep running and he had no money for fuel and maintenance.

I met a man who calculated the cost of everything and bought the cheapest car he could find that met his minimum performance requirements. He was walking because the car he bought was a Yugo.

I met a man who bought the finest car he could afford. It had lustrous paint, a rich leather interior and a finely crafted motor that ran in absolute silence. He was walking because he didn’t want to risk damaging his fine car.

I met a man who bought a car that everyone else said was a dog. He got it at a great price because the store was blowing them out in a fantastic sale. He was walking because his car broke and there were no parts to repair it.

I met a man who didn’t buy a car. He was walking because he was worried that he wouldn’t buy the right car or that he might buy the right car but get a lemon.

I met a man who had watched all the other men. He was driving a taxicab.

What kind of airgunner are you?

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Andy Huggins is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card.

Here’s what Andy says about his submission: Found this in the garage, it’s my dad’s old BB gun he got when he was 9. It needed a little work; but within an hour, I had it shooting good as new! It’s a Daisy model 30-30 Buffalo Bill Scout.

One of our blog readers mentioned the excellent book Yours Truly, Harvey Donaldson, and I purchased it. It’s a compendium of articles that Donaldson wrote for Handloader magazine, a few special articles he wrote for American Rifleman back in the 1930s and some correspondence he had with various notable shooting magazine editors. I found the book so interesting that I’ve already given two copies as presents to other shooters.

For those not familiar with the name, Harvey Donaldson is well known as a shooter, writer and developer of many wildcat cartridges — including his best-known .219 Donaldson Wasp. He was able to get 12,000+ rounds from a .220 Swift with each delivering in excess of 4,000 f.p.s. –and still group five shots inside a nickel at 100 yards. Today’s handloaders don’t have a clue or have forgotten about the knowledge men like this have given us.

Among the hundreds of treasures in this book, Donaldson makes the casual comment in one of his letters that Dr. F.W. Mann, who authored The Bullet’s Flight From Powder to Target, wasn’t a very good shooter. He also wasn’t a very good reloader. That’s why (according to Donaldson) Mann had to resort to his Shooting Gibralter concrete pier gun rest that weighed in excess of 3,000 lbs. and was sunk permanently in the ground. Donaldson says any good benchrest shooter could outshoot the groups Mann got using his rest.

That got me thinking. I have always thought of Dr. Mann as the penultimate shooter, and here is Harvey Donaldson, whose shooting credentials are impeccable, saying Mann wasn’t a shooter at all. He was a scientist.

Then it dawned on me. Some people like to shoot to see how well they can do, while others, like me, like to shoot to see how well the gun can do. Mann was obsessed with the quest to discover why all bullets do not fly to the exact same point of impact. He never discovered the reason, but along the way he did discover many things that we now take for granted:

1. Uniformity of the bullet’s base is extremely important to accuracy.

2. A bullet’s nose can be grossly deformed without affecting accuracy one bit.

3. The orientation of the rifle’s action must be consistent from shot to shot for the best accuracy.

4. A bullet can stray from the boreline in any direction on its way to the target and still hit the target exactly in the center.

Mann was an experimenter whose focus was on the gun and ammunition, rather than his own abilities. Not all shooters are like that.

Olympic and world-class target shooters tend to focus on their own abilities, to the point that they seem to assume the rifle or pistol they use is capable of perfect accuracy. Of course, they do test ammunition; but once they find what works, they buy it in quantity and concentrate on their own skills.

On the other hand, I tend to shoot from a bench more often than not. I want to see what the gun can do, and I’m not overly concerned about my own shooting skills.

In fact, I am just an average shot. If you were to plink with me, you’d soon discover that I can’t shoot any better than you and perhaps a lot worse than many of you. When I test an airgun for this blog, you don’t care how well I shoot. You want to know how well you can expect that gun to shoot. The benchrest takes as much of me out of the equation as possible and gives you a more objective picture of the gun’s performance.

Of course, you have to know how to shoot from a bench, and I have had lots of practice at that. Maybe I might seem like a good shooter to some people, but that’s only when I am as far removed from the shooting as possible. In truth, I am really a lot more like Dr. Mann, in that I’m more interested in the performance of the airguns than in my own ability to shoot.

But there are many shooters who are the opposite. They want to know how well they can shoot, and the rifle is just what they use to measure it. Of course, they’re aware that all guns are not perfectly accurate; and, yes, they do go through the same sort of search to find one that suits them best. Once they find it, all focus shifts back to their ability to shoot rather than whether or not that rifle can be made to shoot any better.

These shooters are not all shooting offhand, either. Some shoot from the prone position, others from the sitting position and many will take a rest wherever they can find it. Some of them even use crossed sticks as a portable steady rest in the field.

Let’s compare these people to our American 2x Gold Medalist Olympic champion rifle shooter — Gary Anderson. They first want a gun and ammunition they can trust; and after that, it’s all up to them and their skills with the gun.

Let me give you a couple variations on this theme to better illustrate what I’m saying. There’s the guy who receives his airgun and plops down in front of a chrongraph with a tin of pellets, first thing. For him, life is complete. He’ll sit there shooting thousands of rounds across the skyscreens as he inputs the results into endless spreadsheets of data to discuss on his favorite forum. He’s like Dr. Mann. He’s interested in one aspect of performance to the near-exclusion of all others.

The next guy buys the very same airgun and starts shooting it at targets immediately. He’s the guy who puts 80,000 shots on a gun and can talk about longevity issues that the rest of us will never live long enough to see. Where some of us live in the hopes of a good tuneup on our airguns, this guy has already performed four on his and has the parts on hand for the next two. To him, a tuneup is unavoidable downtime when he would rather be out shooting. He’s like Gary Anderson. He’s a shooter.

Another guy buys the same airgun and never shoots the first shot out of it. He tears it down and modifies it in ways that have either been recommended to him on the internet or that seem like the best way to go. Some of these guys have the rifle shipped to a certain airgun tuner and let him apply his magic before they ever set eyes upon their gun for the first time.

Then, there’s the guy why buys the same gun, sights it in with a good pellet and immediately starts hunting everything within sight. His gun is a tool, like his game caller and his rangefinder. He, too, is a shooter, but he doesn’t collect his shooting experiences as scores on targets, pictures of groups or numbers on a graph. Rather, he has an endless supply of memories of this hunt and that, what went right and what went wrong.

Does that explain it?
Does that, perhaps, explain why one shooter can be delighted with a rifle that shoots a certain pellet at 1,050 f.p.s. into a one-inch group at 30 yards and another cannot be satisfied until the same model rifle is tuned down to 850 f.p.s. and can put them all into a dime at 50 yards? Does it explain why a twangy firing cycle is so disturbing to one shooter, yet another can brush it off because the rifle puts them all where he wants them to go?

We’re complex
I am not saying that any of this is all one way and none of the other. But people do exhibit certain tendencies. Lloyd Sykes worked for years on the dynamics of an electronically controlled air valve, and now the world enjoys the Benjamin Rogue. Lloyd is a definite Dr. Mann. On the other hand, blog reader CowboyStar Dad tells us how many tens of thousands of shots he has on each of his guns. He wears out the mainspring in his IZH 61. He is a Gary Anderson-type shooter.

Knowing that these types of people exist may help us understand where someone is coming from when they ask a “simple” question…

Hi. I’m new to airgunning, and I would like to try out one of these new air rifles I keep reading about. I don’t want to spend too much money until I know that airgunning is for me, so can you make some recommendations of guns that cost under $300?

Yes, I can recommend some guns, but what do you want to do with one?

Person 1. I want to shoot tin cans and other targets around the manure pile. I have been shooting a .22; but there are some houses going in down the road, and I want to throttle back for safety.

Person 2. I’m fascinated by the thought of plain old air pushing a pellet to 1,400 f.p.s. I want to see what’s possible.

Person 3. My yard is infested with tree rats that I want to eradicate. After that, I plan on taking my show on the road and cleaning out the whole woods.

Person 4. I used to shoot target rifle on the ROTC team, and I’d like to get back into it but still be able to shoot at home because I don’t have a rifle range.

Leigh Wilcox, the founder of Airgun Express, used to say that airgun targets had to bleed, break or fall. Maybe they did for him, but I’m not ready to shoot at targets just yet. I’m still concerned why there is a twang upon firing and why my velocity is only 761 f.p.s. when others report over 840 f.p.s. from the same gun shooting the same pellet.

Terminology is important!

by B.B.Pelletier

Yesterday’s blog really struck a sensitive spot with many readers. I was concerned that it would be too far off the topic of airguns, but it clearly wasn’t! So, today I’ll continue in the same vein with a discussion of proper airgun terminology. You might look at this post as Tom’s pet peeves.

Let’s begin with the term “bullet.” Many people, including writers and shooters, refer to firearm ammunition as bullets. The proper term is “cartridge.” If you’ve seen the movie National Treasure 2, you’ll see an FBI agent, presumably a forensics person, pick up a bunch of spent firearm cases and tell another FBI agent that they have the bullets of the shooter.

If the entire cartridge is a bullet, then you have to come up with a name for the thing at the end of the cartridge that gets shot out of the gun. I’ve heard these referred to as bullet heads, bullet tips and bullet noses. None of these are precise or proper. It doesn’t necessarily promote confusion unless you’re trying to do something like order things for reloading. Then, you have to ask for a box of bullet tips. And that gets confusing when the supplier knows them only as bullets.

Another pet peeve is referring to airsoft ammunition as BBs. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. When an unknowing person tries to purchase an airsoft gun as a gift, they know that it requires ammunition; but if they ask a clerk who also doesn’t understand the difference between airsoft and true BB guns that shoot steel BBs, they could easily sell them a box of Daisy steel BBs. That would ruin the gift, plus it might damage the airsoft gun if the recipient tried to use them.

An apparently confusing term is single-shot versus repeater. I’ve seen young sales people call a repeater a single-shot because it fired only one time when you pulled the trigger. They thought that if it wasn’t full-auto, it was a single-shot. Others understood that it fired only once per trigger-pull; but if it wasn’t loading the next round automatically, they thought it was a single-shot. To them, any work the shooter might have to do such as cocking the hammer or working a loading bolt made the gun a single-shot.

Calling a breakbarrel spring-piston gun a one-pump gun. That’s confusing because there’s no pumping of a spring-piston airgun. A one-pump gun is properly called a single-stroke pneumatic. The act of compressing a mainspring and holding it in a compressed state is properly referred to as “cocking.”

Many shooters refer to the tank that stores compressed air as a reserve or a reserver. That just slows down everyone else as they try to decode what the person intended to say.

Airsoft vs. soft air is a big pet peeve of mine. Soft air is a trademarked term used by the Daisy company for the 6mm guns they began importing in the early 1980s. Airsoft is a generic term that refers to that class of guns made by all makers. If you doubt what I’m saying, do a Google search on airsoft and “soft air” (use the quotes) and see how many hits you get on each term. We got 16 million hits for airsoft and only 837,000 for “soft air.” Your Google results may vary as Google has more than one search engine and not all agree. But the results should be approximately the same proportionally.

How about a cocking knob? That’s what some people call a the bolt on a bolt-action gun. I guess the round knob on the end of the bolt handle might be the reason that term came into use. Nevertheless, it’s incorrect.

Single-action/double-action. These two terms confuse a lot of people, including gun writers. If we say that a single-action is a gun that requires its hammer to be cocked before it can be fired, and a double-action is a gun that can be fired with each pull of the trigger, then what does that make a Colt M1911A1, where you have to cock the hammer for the first shot but after that you can fire with each pull of the trigger? It makes it both single- and double-action. The first shot is always single-action, and each succeeding shot is double-action. But what about the gun whose slide was in the rear position before the shooter loaded the next magazine? Is that a single-action shot or a double-action shot? It’s a single-action shot because the hammer was cocked (by the slide) before the first shot, just not by the shooter. As you can see, I was confused when I wrote the forgoing that has now been crossed out. The 1911 is a single-action pistol that remains single-action regardless of what cocks the hammer.

What’s a dovetail? Besides its use in furniture making, it’s a mounting platform for optics. But what size is it? It can be a Weaver, 3/8″, 11mm or any other size you like. But they’re all dovetails. I recall a blog comment made several years ago by a reader who asked about the right height rings for his dovetail. He assumed that all dovetails were the same size. They’re not. Airgun dovetails that are not Weaver vary from just under 9.5mm to over 13.5mm. The variation in size means that there are specific mounts for some guns and not a lot of options are available for them.

So, here’s a scenario. A new shooter walks into a large outdoor sporting goods store and asks to buy a one-pump BB gun. He doesn’t want a single-shot, so he rejects a number of bolt-actions out of hand. Can you see the confusion with the improper use of terminology?

Airgunning is a relatively small sport when compared to golf, football and softball. We need less confusion, not more.

Teaching someone to shoot an air rifle

by B.B. Pelletier

Update on Tom/B.B.: Tom is charting new territory: the doctor has ordered him to eat a lot of calorie-dense foods. Tom’s new to this type of thinking and is actually having a hard time adapting! His bloating/swelling has decreased markedly, and it appears that his pancreas is functioning quite nicely.

B.B. wrote this blog.

This report is similar to one I did about teaching someone to shoot an air pistol, but I’ve thrown in some differences. The differences, however, are practical, especially if the rifle is a spring rifle.

Distance or target size?
With the air pistol, I started my subject at 5 feet from the target. I left the target the same size throughout the entire lesson and backed up the shooter when I felt they were ready for the next stage. Air rifles, however, are different in that they’re often harder to shoot accurately. So, we’re not going to worry about the artillery hold or anything else in this lesson. We’re just going to get out there and teach someone to shoot.

You probably could have guessed that I’d pick the Air Venturi Bronco as a great gun for teaching someone how to shoot an air rifle.

Instead of changing the distance, we’re going to start by changing the target size. With everyone wearing safety glasses, let’s shoot at something that’s hard to miss…a soda can. And, let’s use a rifle that can be shot all day long without getting tired. No mega-magnums are needed for this. The Air Venturi Bronco is an ideal gun (you knew I was going to say that) but so are the Hammerli 490 Express, Ruger Explorer, Gamo Delta and Stoeger X5.

Let’s start at a distance at which our student can hit the target at least 75% of the time. For most new shooters, 15-20 feet will be no problem. Be sure of your backstop and the safety range behind it.

Once you have the shooter hitting the target all the time, it’s time to make the target smaller. So, let’s go to a tuna fish can or a small box. One benefit of this kind of shooting is that both the shooter and the instructor will the see the results from the way the target moves. Don’t let the target get so shot up that the shooter starts shooting through his own holes.

Get smaller
When your shooter can hit the smaller can or box with near certainty, it’s time to get small. We’re still shooting at 15-20 feet. If your shooter is so good that he doesn’t miss, you can accelerate through these stages.

The next target is a plastic bottle top from a two-liter bottle. Your gun will put these into orbit, so have extras on hand. If you don’t like chasing your target, the ever-popular Necco wafer is a perfect biodegradable target.

Next, back up
When the shooter can reliably hit the smaller target, it’s time to backup. Back up double the distance, and go back to the next-largest target, which was a tuna fish can or small box. The shooter will probably miss until he gets the right sight picture; then, to everyone’s surprise, he won’t miss again. Believe it or not, you can have a new shooter hitting bottle caps at 50 feet in a one-day session if you choose the right rifle and the right set of circumstances.

Low pressure, low-key
Many of you have asked me for instructions to teach kids to shoot. This is probably the best way to get them started with a rifle. You’ll notice that we haven’t fussed with the artillery hold once. Let the shooter find a natural hold that does well for him. You can offer suggestions if he needs it.

This is so low pressure and low key, a person can be turned on to shooting simply because he has success in his very first session. Oh, yes, it IS also possible to hit an aspirin at ranges you probably won’t believe.

I’d like to hear your experiences using this method, because I’m sure many of you already use it. If not, give it try and let me know how it works out.

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