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My first shooting experience

Before I turn today over to Josh, I have two announcements. First, I’m traveling to Phoenix today, to attend the NRA Annual Meetings. You can read the particulars on their website. Will you veterans please take over answering comments for me? I’ll be home next Tuesday. Of course, Edith will monitor the comments.

The second thing is a reminder that the Pyramyd AIR moving sale will be held at their location at 26800 Fargo Ave, Unit L, Bedford Heights, OH, on Saturday, May 30. Click for full details about local hotels, a map and more. I’ll be there to meet anyone who can come, and remember, this isn’t just a yearly garage sale. This is a once-in-a-lifetime moving sale! They gotta get rid of the extra stuff so their move goes smoothly.

Now, let’s hear from Josh.

by Joshua Ungier

My first hands-on experience with a firearm was shortly after I turned six. A MIG-15 pilot, Vitalii, a tall young man with a great smile, shared a house with my family for a few months until he moved into the barracks permanently. He lived on the first floor, and we had the second floor. My family adopted the young lieutenant.
Mother had a little food stand at the market where she sold vegetables gleaned from the fields after the pickers went through. My dad was a photographer. His photos appeared in the local newspapers and magazines. He photographed high schools, military parades and other festivities.  Occasionally, he candidly photographed people. When he found time, he photographed beautiful vistas surrounding my town. I still have those photos. 
As I recall, the time was the middle of summer. School was out and there was nothing left to do but read. My friends were all away with their parents on summer vacations, and they weren’t coming back any time soon. My dad used to take me on his IZH 49 motorbike. He took me on short trips for his photo shoots. For longer rides, he mounted a sidecar. I loved that.


IZH 49 motorcycle.

One day, the lieutenant saw me sitting on the steps and called me over.  “How would you like to go target shooting with me?”  he asked.

“Yes!” I remember yelling. “Yes!” 
He had a Mauser rifle. Eto devianosto vosem. “It’s a ’98,” he said. His father captured the “souvenir” after dealing with its owner. I remember the rifle vaguely. It was a bit shorter than I was. I wasn’t tall at that age, so it must have been a K model–probably a 98K.  


Mauser K98 rifle. Its 8mm cartridge is slightly more powerful than the American .30-06. The recoil is heavy for an adult man. Punishing for a 6-year-old kid!

At the military range, he spread a green blanket on the ground, took out a bunch of ammo from his side pouch, loaded the rifle and BAAAM! Bolt back and forth and BAAAAM! BAAAAAM! I was in heaven!! Then, he said, “Lie down. I will teach you to shoot from the prone position.” And with that he handed me the rifle. I lay down, chambered the round as he instructed and BAAAAM! I felt like my whole body was hit with a 100 ton sledge.

“How about one more time?” he asked. 

“Uh-huh!” I said, despite the pain…BAAAM! I’d enough.
We got home in the evening in time for dinner. There was actually meat on the table. Very rare occasion. 

Apparently, Vitalii “borrowed” some meat from the field kitchen and smuggled it out to us. We were very grateful to have something to eat.
In the morning, my mother woke me up for breakfast. She was visibly upset.
“Yuri!” she said, “the whole right side of your body is black and blue.  What did you do to yourself?”
I lied and said I fell off the bike into a ditch. If I’d told her the truth, I didn’t think I would live long enough to write this story.
“Did you find this in the ditch also?” she asked, holding up a spent 8mm casing. I did not answer.

My father looked at me, shook his head and smirked. He must have talked to Vitalii.

I’m coming to the story of how Pyramyd AIR was started, but I wanted to tell you a little about my shooting background first. I’m a life member of the National Rifle Association and I urge all you U.S. readers to join that organization. They were founded in 1872 to teach basic rifle marksmanship skills to American boys and men, but for more than half a century they have been defending our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Given the current political situation, they have become our best defense against total gun confiscation.

If firearms go, airguns will soon follow. You can see that happening all over the world, so you know it’s planned for America, as well.

If these stories of mine are of no interest to you, please tell us and I will get right to the creation of Pyramyd AIR.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

34 thoughts on “My first shooting experience”

  1. Josh,don’t stop now!
    That’s one of the great things about
    this blog,we all have different experiences that led us to common
    ground.Can’t wait to hear more!


  2. Like your stories. I too, am a life member of the NRA. Funny, my friends and family will buy guns without hesitation but just try and get them to part with even enough for an annual NRA membership. They will be sorry, soon I fear.

  3. Of no interest? Hardly the case. Since your first story, I’ve been agressively watching the blog for your next posting, and I’ll be waitiing for your next appearance in the same manner. JP

  4. It’s wonderful to hear stories like this and it’s told so well. I didn’t realize it at first but as I’m reading about your life as a youth I’m also seeing it in my mind at the same time.

    Keep it up!

    Ben B

  5. Josh,

    Not a chance!! Keep those stories coming. They bring back the memories of my grandfather’s stories of when he was in the infantry during WWI in France. He was actually MIA for 3 weeks in the Argon Forrest with 2 other soldiers from his division. Most of the time was spent avoiding German troops since they could not use their rifles because they had used all of their ammo before they were seperated. Glad they came out of that one or I probably would not be here to write this!


  6. Josh,

    Sir, do not change a thing!! The story was great! I agree with what was said by another reader, you should write a book. Thank you for taking the time to share with us!


  7. Mr Ungier –

    I love airguns, I love your website, and it is fascinating to hear how this all came together, even the details from your childhood. Looking forward to the next installment….


  8. Everyone,

    Here’s a valuable perspective from someone with a worldly view that is encouraging everyone to join the NRA for the primary reason of protecting our gun rights. Sometimes a view from “outside the forest” is clearer than the view from inside. Please heed his advice. The effective lobbying efforts of the NRA are well known and well documented. If you’re not already an NRA member please join. If you are an NRA member thank you and please consider becoming a lifetime member.

    Mr. Joshua Ungier,

    I cast one more vote of encouragement for you to continue your highly informative and highly motivational story.


  9. Josh,

    Keep the stories coming. I love the account of the Mauser 98, one of my favorites. The recoil sounds fierce. When shooting my M1 last weekend, I felt my teeth rattle. B.B. says a bolt-action 30-.06 is much more powerful than a Garand and the Mauser is more powerful than that. However, I think I was limpwristing the gun a bit from my shooting of spring rifles. Anyway, perhaps the Mauser one day. I bet that IZH motorcycle was terrific. 🙂

    What does this mean: “Eto devianosto vosem”?


  10. Thanks Josh,

    You can learn a lot about the world on the internet. Sometimes the best and most interesting things I read come from online conversations.

    As for air guns and firearms, we in the US can count ourselves lucky we have the freedom we enjoy now. That freedom came at a high cost and would be hard to replace if lost.

    But with such freedoms, comes responsibility…… hopefully airguns will remain a good tool in itself and for safe weaponry training.


  11. Mr Ungier,

    Thank you for sharing your “story” with us. You are an example of what this country is all about. Too many Americans take this wonderful nation of ours for granted.

    Please continue, anxiously awaiting the next installment.

    Mr B.

  12. Mr Ungier,

    From another life member, thank you for your support of the NRA on this Blog.

    Your story is an inspiration to us that were raised in this country of so many freedoms, which are now threatened by some politicians. Please continue the story of your early life.


  13. This reminds me of the first time I ever shot a firearm. It was a 10 gauge over and under. Up until that point I had only ever shot air guns, none very powerful. I remember the first shot, BAM, I was swearing a fair bit after that shot, saying how powerful it was, my Grandfather burst into laughter. I took about 10 or 15 shots with it. Then I tried a .222. It suited my liking a bit more. The stories of how we grew up with firearms really warms my heart.

  14. Josh,
    I find your life stories very interesting and it looks to me like there is a community of airgunners who would like to see more. Me included. You have rock star or movie star status in our airgunning eyes, you know. Give us more.


  15. Great story thanks.

    The view from Australia is that guns will never go.
    They just become harder to get.
    I need a full license to own an air -rifle and a different one to own a pistol of any kind.
    But unless you are insane or have a criminal record involving violence you will get the license no probs.
    Having said that I still think everyone should join the NRA.
    I envy the freedom you guys have. Yes you get the occasional nutter but lets put things into perspective here. More people die from peanut poisoning a year than from nutter shootings. (That doesn’t include all firearm deaths obviously)

  16. BB,
    If you’re peeking in once in a while, I’m planning to be at the AZ show around 11-12 Friday morning. I hope you will be available then. I’m pretty sure you’re not there to just stand around and be worshiped by us neophytes. You must have some kind of time demand purpose or else Edith wouldn’t let you go.

  17. Damn…now I want a Mauser.
    My dad had one that he got in a pawnship 30 years ago. Took it all apart, refinished the stock, but keeping it original…and had it re-blued.
    I never got to shoot it, but after reading this one it goes on my list of things I want (though probably don’t need).
    CowBoyStar Dad

  18. CowBoyStar Dad,

    You want a Mauser but you don’t NEED one? Are you barking mad? Of course you need a Mauser! Every man needs one. (See how well B.B. has trained me?)

    Edith (Mrs. B.B.)

  19. CowBoyStar Dad,

    Now you’ve got it! A man without a Mauser is like a woman without shoes. Oh, sure, she can go barefoot, but does that really make good sense? Of course not! By the same token, you could go on living without a Mauser, but does that make good sense? (I feel silly even asking that question!)

    Edith (Mrs. B.B.)

  20. Josh,
    Great story. I like the motorcycle and the NRA, not so fond of your introductory c/f:).

    If I NEED a surplus 8mm Mauser to be a man, then I better take up shopping for shoes and worrying about color coordination:). That is one rifle I could live without ever shooting again and I generally like recoil — a .30-06 feels like a gentle tap to me. Josh’s description of shooting it prone is spot on, and he’s lucky not to have broken something at that age: I suppose his bones were still somewhat elastic:). I suppose I’ll have to start signing “Ms. BG_Farmer”:).

    If you think a Garand makes your teeth rattle, you’re in for a treat with one of the 8mm’s; just make sure it has the Reichspezial wedge-shaped iron buttplate.

  21. Josh,

    Yes keep the stories coming!

    I guess the young soldier thought he was funny, letting you shoot in the prone position… but I'm not surprised your folks didn't throw him out, with him bringing home some good food!!

    Don't leave out any small details on how you grew the company so fast.. and how an online company is so very different from the old "brick and mortar" model.. (with the "garage sale" events your bridging the gap!)

    That will be very interesting to me for sure!!

    Ashland Air Rifle Range
    & naturalyards.com

  22. BG_Farmer,

    I think you misunderstood what I was saying. Nothing says you have to shoot a gun!

    I gave B.B. a Mitchell's Mauser for Xmas several years ago. He shot it only a few times because he liked the idea of keeping his teeth. It would be nice if he could shoot it more often, but that's not a requirement for enjoyment & pleasure. He has several Mausers, in fact, and I don't care if he shoots any of them. He enjoys holding them while we watch TV at night. In fact, we call that "petting the gun." (And, no, that's not a euphemism!)

    When he brings out a gun, he stands it on its butt, rotates it a bit and then looks at me. That's my queue to guess what he's holding. You'd be surprised how often I get it right! Sometimes, he'll bring out several guns, and we'll go through the same routine with all of them. If we're watching a show that has guns in it and we own models that are on the show, he'll get ours and sit with them next to him. Yes, petting guns. It's a fun family pastime at our house!

    Edith (Mrs. B.B.)

  23. Josh,

    you’ve touched on all three of my likes – air rifles and pistols, firearms and motorcycles. That IZH 49 got me running to my library. Interestingly, a book by one Erwin Tragatsch – World Encyclopedia of Motorcycles, lists your bike as an ISH – made at the oldest Russian factory at Izevsk. Obviously, he’s in error regarding the name – I’ll go with the person that actually owned and rode the bike. I believe this is a 347 to 348cc two stroke and depending on year, rated somewhere between 18 to 25 bhp. Is that photo one your father took or one you found on the internet?


  24. Thank you Josh,

    I have read this blog for over a year and never entered a message until now.

    Please continue with your historical perspective regarding your homeland and your past. The blog has always been about more than the guns. You provide a portion of history that deserves to be heard and preserved, if only here.

    A doctor here in Paducah, KY owned a restored MIG 17 and I was offered an up close viewing one day. It was odd to see a gleaming MIG 17 on our runway and even somewhat disconcerting to see it fly low over our town. For those of us that experienced the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crises, up close and personal information on eastern Europe would be of interest.

    Thanks for your time.


  25. Edith,

    That “petting guns” pasttime is a new one. I do not believe there are many women who would go in for that. However, it does suggest a way to enjoy the guns without being tied to the range which I’m always looking for.

    I’ve seen the ad for the Mitchell’s Mausers but the word on the internet seems to be that they are no good. What’s the story? Are they only good for petting and knocking out teeth?

    BG_Farmer, maybe a better idea than the Mauser is one of the CZ rimfires which is supposed to be a mini-Mauser. 🙂 However, I don’t know how faithful the action is to the original. I think we may have a cultural truth here. The best memoir of WWII that I’ve ever read (I’ve read many) is called The Forgotten Soldier by a German veteran of the Eastern Front. It inspired a comment on Amazon: “Please tell me that someone didn’t have to go through this.” In the midst of a truly surreal narrative, it becomes clear, as he says, that the German army treated its own soldiers as badly as the enemy. The Mauser recoil would be consistent with that. I’ve also heard the Russian Moisin Nagant, the opposite number, described as being as much fun to shoot as getting one’s hands slammed in a car door. One gets the impression that this part of the world was not a fun place to be–although the Mig 15 pilot sounds like he was a nice guy.


  26. Matt: I have several Mauser rifles and can tell you that they are not bad to shoot. In fact, the American factory 8MM load is quite mild. Loaded down to be safe in rifles which may not be in the best of condition. I also have a real Mauser rimfire sporter and it is one of my most prized rimfires. It is faithful to the Mauser design right down to the extractor, except in minature. It is very cool! It has sights and stock similar to the Diana 34 air rifles, except the front sight is removeable from the ramp base ,via a small button. The butt plate is also metal and says Mauser on it. The reciever is also grooved. The Nagants are also great fun to shoot and mine range from the horrible, (Chinese carbine) to the the Finnish 39 (superb!). Robert

  27. Mr. Ungier,
    Please continue. Don’t be dissuaded if the number of comments do not reach triple digit. While we may all have opinions to share on controversial or simple topics, we read your life saga with the interest and respect that does not call for superfluous commentary.

  28. Mr. Ungier,

    Please continue with your history up to today! It’s fascinating to me to look through the eyes of someone who lived during those times. All of my childhood was spent being taught that the “bad guys” behind the iron curtain were out to get us, and perhaps because I studied the Russian language in school, I have more interest than some in your experiences. Yes, I realize there is a difference between Ukrainian and Russian (my wife is Russian, hope you don’t dislike them too much…), but all of the countries that were pretty much cut off from us while I was growing up hold my interest. It amazes me how different things were from what we were taught! I spent about 15 months living in Russia as an adult, so your memories are very interesting to me.

    I have 2 old 8mm Mausers and 2 7.62 Mosins (91-30 and M44) that I enjoy reloading for and shooting.

    Thanks again for your stories! Looking forward to the next installment!

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