Instinct shooting with a BB gun – Part 2

Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Yesterday, I told you about the instinct shooting program started by Lucky McDaniel in 1954. Today, I want to show you how well that program works and who has taken it over the years.

The technique
What the training does is teach you how to mount a BB gun (put it up to your shoulder and cheek) the same way every time. This takes some time to learn, but you immediately start shooting at targets tossed in the air. The way you hold the gun and the way you lean into the shot are important. You learn to ignore the front of the gun and to look, instead, at the moving target. You’re supposed to look above the target when you shoot, and both eyes are kept open. There’s no squeezing of the trigger, either. You pull it deliberately when the shot is lined up.

Size doesn’t matter
The teacher stands next to the student and the targets are thrown out from the student and up to a 75-degree angle from the horizontal. The first target is a 3″ aluminum disk. When the student consistently hits this target, they go to a 2″ disk, then a 1″ disk and on down in size until the student is hitting Alka Seltzer tablets on every throw. The time it takes to get to that point varies with each person, but it ranges from one hour to an hour and a half. If you want to continue, you’ll move on to shooting aspirins…and, finally, BBs! According to Lucky, the size of the target doesn’t matter.

Moving on
There’s also a moving ground target and some stationary targets. The student can progress to .22 rimfire and shotgun if desired. Lucky also taught instinct shooting with handguns. Once the student was shooting by instinct with a BB gun, he could quickly adapt to any new gun and target situation. According to Lucky, the fact that the student could see the BB in flight made the the BB gun the best instinct trainer.

Lucky trained over 100,000 shooters, including those at Fort Benning, but a list of his celebrity students is very revealing. There isn’t room for a complete list, but it includes former President Eisenhower, Mickey Mantle, Audie Murphy, Mark Trail cartoonist Ed Dodd, Edsel and Henry Ford II, John Wayne, Grizzly Adams, members of the British Royal Family, the entire Chicago White Sox team (1959) and the entire Cincinnati Reds team (1961). But there was one celebrity student who stood out from even these notables.

Lucky trained World Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson to shoot his way. A major part of Mike Jennings’ book (Instinct Shooting) is devoted to the training of this one student, whom Lucky considered to be one of his best. A skilled athlete, Patterson had perfect coordination and quick reflexes that made him a natural shooter. In return, Patterson said that he felt the training helped him focus on his target better than ever. Shortly after this training, Patterson met Amateur World Heavyweight Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Pete Rademacher and dropped him in round six. Rademacher later came out with an instinct shooting set that featured Parris BB guns and a trap that threw plastic “clay” pigeons. The set didn’t sell well, but Crosman’s 1100 Trapmaster trap is an exact copy! So, somehow, Rademacher must have seen something of benefit in the training, as well.

Since Lucky passed away in the 1990s, a number of other instinct shooting trainers have come onto the scene. Exhibition shooter Chief AJ is perhaps the most notable today, even having Daisy make special BB guns with longer stocks and his name on them. This is a fascinating niche within airguns, and a wealth of material and history await the serious collector.

11 thoughts on “Instinct shooting with a BB gun – Part 2

  1. B.B.

    As a right handed, one eyed shooter forced to shoot left handed, I find this very interesting. Where can you find literature and what do you use for a firearm? Can you modify a pellet/bb gun combo to do this? Or would you recommend one of the guns with the Chief’s name on it


    Bill D.

  2. Sorry off topic..
    I just got a B20 for my son but the ft sight is broken off. Any idea how I can get the fiber optic sight set as shown on the B26 you’r testing??
    Thank you very much,

  3. Bill D.,

    I have no information about your question, but here’s what I recommend. You should contact Chief AJ through his website and ask him. I bet he has had this come up before.

    Also, you might contact Dave Baskin, the head of NRA Disabled Shooters Services. Dave deals with all sorts of disabilitiues and may have some helpful information for you. And I’m sure he would like to know what you are doing about this.

    Contact him at [email protected]


  4. BB,(or anybody else with a honest opinion)
    I have $100 dollar gift card at Bass Pro shops. I’m a experienced shooter but I don’t have much experience except with the rifles I own. On $100 budget, I can get a Gamo 850 combo or Gamo Carbine combo, Winchester 800x, or Crosman Quest or phantom or even a Remmington Airmaster. I’m looking for the least hold sensitve (springer) and most accurate rifle of the bunch.
    Keep up the Excelent Blog

  5. Well, all the rifles you’ve selected are very hold sensitive except the Remington, which is a multi-pump. I’d avoid the Winchester because they are made in Turkey and the barrels I have tested are not too accurate. I’d say the Crosman Quest or Phantom.


  6. I experienced the Quick Kill program in 1969, which consisted mostly of the TAC officers standing behind the line and shooting anyone they didn’t like in the butt as we tried to hit the flying targets. There seemed to be little respect for the program, and I doubt if any of us got much out of it.

    As a kid, I had noticed that I could watch the BB’s trajectory if I sighted down the left side of my Daisy pumpgun. So I cut off the sights and got pretty good at shooting this way. I once wowed a group of friends by shooting a flying wasp out of the air.


  7. Yup…OCS it was. I think the main problem may have been the unit’s commander, an ex-LRRP who had lost his marbles on too many tours. Of course the prevailing belief back then was that you couldn’t /be/ a LRRP unless you’d first lost your marbles.


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