by B.B. Pelletier
It started when, at the age of 9, I “inherited” my recently deceased father’s Benjamin 107 air pistol. There was no formal ceremony, nor was I named in his will. Indeed, my lawyer father had no will for himself. I simply came into possession of the front-pumper pneumatic because neither my mother nor my two sisters cared about it, and I did. It was all brass, covered with silver nickel and had wooden grips. My mother probably figured that since she couldn’t pump it there was no chance that her 9-year-old son would be able to. But I could! I could get at least three pump strokes into the pistol, which was enough to send a metal dart out the muzzle with enough force to stick in a dart board 15 ft away.
Alas, I wasn’t satisfied with the 107. As nice as it was, it didn’t seem real to me. I wanted a Daisy BB gun; and from the first moment I saw one and knew what it was, I specifically wanted a Daisy No. 25 pump gun with blued steel and a wooden stock.
And I got one! From a boy who wanted to impress my older sister, and sold me his No. 25 for $5. But he forgot to tell me to oil it; and when it lost power a few days later, I tried to fix it — creating an instant basket case. I sold that mess for 25 cents just to get it out of my sight. The kid who bought it broughi it back a few days later after his dad had fixed it for him. That act turned me into a No. 25 collector; and, yes, I realize that I said last week that I didn’t collect anything, but apparently I misspoke…at least about Daisy No. 25s.
My mother then took pity on me and bought me a Kruger cap-firing BB pistol. It propelled a BB when a toy cap was fired at the breech. I used roll caps that had about a 40% operational rate. When the barrel was clean and the cap did fire, the BBs came out at almost 50 fps.
The final air rifle of my youth was a Slavia of some sort. It was a .177 and not that powerful. I was in high school and by now far more interested in firearms than airguns, so it made a very small impression on my life.
Fast forward to my college years. I needed a job and a girl I knew at San Jose State told me about Frontier Village — a Western amusement park in San Jose. She said they were hiring. I applied and got hired.
I was a ride operator for 6 months, but I befriended the outlaw, a bad guy named Dakota, who introduced me to the world of Colt single-actions. That lead to my learning to reload, because my first single-aciton was a .38 Special. And nobody had any blanks to fit it. So, I rolled my own.
To condense the story, I owned 3 genuine Colt SAAs during the time that I worked at the Village. And I acquired 6 more when I went into the Army. I only mention that to say that this was not my airgun era. The Army afforded me the opportunity to shoot many different weapons — to the point that I filled my quota of interest for full-auto guns. I wasn’t allowed to spray and pray when I shot them. I was always being evaluated for score. So, it was like work, a situation that I had developed a strong aversion to.
But in my free time, I could go out to any open range and run it for myself and my friends. That greatly reinforced my interest in firearms.
Then, in Germany, I happened to buy a book called Airgun Digest, written and edited by Robert Beeman. Up to that point, I didn’t know what was going on in the airgun world. And, in the biggest irony, I lived almost 4 years in Erlangen, the home of the BSF airgun factory.
One day, while walking through the walled city of Rottenberg, I happened upon the first and only gun store I saw in Germany. I went in and encountered world-class airguns for the very first time. The Walther LGV and LGR target rifles, both were too expensive for a young family man, but the Diana model 10 pistol was just my size. I bought it and began an adult love affair with airguns that continues to this day!
Why I remain an airgunner
First of all, this isn’t an either/or choice. You can shoot both firearms and airguns, which is what I do. I just shoot airguns about 100x more than I do firearms. It’s too easy to shoot airguns all the time. When there’s no place shoot my .45/70 Trapdoor Springfield, I can often shoot my Quackenbush .458, which uses the same bullet and has about a third the power.
The build quality of selected airguns puts most affordable firearms to shame. Try to find a firearm that can hold a candle to a TX200 some time. Even a Weatherby Mark V falls short in my opinion. And the TX sells for a fraction of what the Kimber costs.
So, I’ll remain an airgunner. I will also remain a firearm shooter. And I will use one discipline to reinforce the other. For me, the airguns make shooting firearms all the more satisfying.