by B.B. Pelletier
This blog started in 2005 on the suggestion of Edith. She knew I missed writing The Airgun Letter and she thought a weblog would be a nice way to replace it. She also felt it was a better way to address airgun issues than with articles, because a blog has a way for the readers to make comments. I’d already been writing articles for the Pyramyd Air website for many years when the idea of the blog first surfaced. Josh Ungier, the owner of Pyramyd Air agreed and the blog kicked off on the first of March 2005. The first report was called Hunt with the Sheridan Blue Streak air rifle.
The idea of the blog was that it would provide a way for people to ask me questions about the material in the report or about airguns in general. But I had some misgivings about that. When we published The Airgun Letter, we had a chat forum called the Airgun Forum. We identified it as belonging to The Airgun Letter and I assumed people would ask questions and talk about airguns there, too. Maybe then they would stop calling my house at 12 a.m. on Christmas morning to ask a “quick question.” To this day, I still wince at that phrase. But, boy, was I mistaken.
Instead, what we had was a continuous food fight/frat party with name-calling, hacking and the worst sort of behavior. It had Edith and I working 24 hours a day, every day, just to try to keep it civil. We actually took turns getting up at night all night long and looking at the forum. We had a lot of well-behaved readers, but a core of miscreants was determined to spray-paint their inferiority-complex-driven problems all over our wall.
The forum grew larger than any I have ever seen. We were getting 1500 comments every 24 hours. Our ISP used the enormity of our website to convince large clients they they could handle any load.
After putting up with this situation for too many years and watching the harmful affects on our lives, I finally decided to pull the plug, and to keep the hackers off-balance, I did it suddenly and without warning. Edith didn’t agree with the way I wanted to do it, but she did allow me to have my way in the end. Many readers felt betrayed by my actions and some still hold a grudge to this day. In retrospect, I may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater, because out of thousands of devoted readers we probably only had 50-100 real problem children.
As an amusing aside, after we shut down, several people tried to buy the forum from us, but we refused to sell. I warned them that running a forum was a thankless job, but they didn’t believe me. In fact, the Yellow Forum was born out of our forum, adopting the yellow background. Two months later, then-owner James Kitching told us that we were right about how much trouble it could be. His original plan was to have no moderation…it would be open to all comers. He finally told Edith that he couldn’t believe how some people were trying to destroy the forum, so he decided that critters who fouled their own nests would be banned from posting.
Back to this blog
I told Pyramyd Air that I would not use my real name in conjunction with this blog, because I didn’t want all the bad feelings that were associated with it. We structured the blog so I could see all the comments people were making; and on March first of 2005, we launched it.
And the crickets chirped! It took almost three years for the first comment to be posted to that first blog report. Of course as I continued to write more reports, the search engines started taking notice and the first actual comment was posted to a report that was made a little later than that first one. But as Matt61 noted, the early blog was a relatively quiet place.
A minor revolt
We did have a spot of trouble along the way. Disgruntled members of the old Talon Owner’s Group (ill-named, since all they ever did was complain about AirForce Airguns) tried to start a shouting contest on the blog and we shut down the comments for a day. Then, I wrote a blog titled How this blog works that explained the rules, and we opened up the comments once more. After that we found that registration was necessary for the old blog; but it isn’t for the current one, because the controls we now have are far more effective.
The man behind the curtain
If there is one thing that seems to hold true for all airgunners it’s curiosity. Within the first year, people started debating who B.B. Pelletier might be. Some thought it was me because of the writing style, but others argued that it couldn’t be because I wouldn’t dare show my face in public after the Airgun Forum debacle. I kept quiet on the subject. Dennis Quackenbush knew and so did Mac, but not too many others.
But the controversy grew and finally at the Daisy Get Together in August of 2007 Don Raitzer, an airgun collector I have known for many years, asked me outright if I was B.B. Pelletier. I answered him, “Gee, Lois, I’d have to be Superman to do that!” From the look on my face, he knew he’d discovered the truth. So, in a special blog titled Who am I? on October 18, 2007, I revealed that B.B. Pelletier is Tom Gaylord. If you read that report, you’ll see that I explained the reasoning behind the disguise pretty much as I have here.
By that time, the comments were starting to pick up. Some of the older reports already had over 100 comments and a couple went past 200. Back then, we had a different crew of readers such as Andreas from Cypress, Savagesam from California, Hernan from Puerto Rico, who I christened the CF-X guy, and .22 multi-shot from I don’t know where.
About that time, several of our current veterans joined us — like J-F, Derrick, Kevin Lentz and Wacky Wayne, who I don’t hear from as much as I’d like to. Somewhere in the mix, I lost track of Turtle and a few others. What does the term BFF really mean?
I got sick
Things perked along steadily until March 29, 2010, when I went into the emergency room with terrible stomach pain and vomiting. That started a long series of stays in four different hospitals, numerous operations and me not eating for three and a half months, all of which culminated in the removal of my gallbladder, spleen and a third of my pancreas. Oh, and I lost roughly 100 pounds. That’s what I remember.
What you remember is this blog soldiered on day after day. While I was out of my head, reading the acoustic tiles above my bed and watching ants crawl down the walls, Edith put out a daily blog from recycled Airgun Letter material, spit and polish. And my best friend, Mac, drove all the way out from Maryland (1,250 miles one way) to test guns, weigh pellets and take photos that kept us in fresh blog material for weeks.
So Edith and Mac worked; and when I came home from the hospital, I was given gifts. I always thought that was how life was supposed to be, except for the hospital part, of course.
I was finally able to start writing new reports on the blog again in June 2010, and by August I was almost back to normal — except that Mac was testing all the spring-piston rifles for me because I couldn’t cock them. The number of readers was still climbing, though we lost one or two when we refused to force those who commented to stay on topic. Apparently that bothers some people a lot, and a couple said they were leaving the blog because of it.
What I’ve found is that people like to talk to their friends about all sorts of things; and as long as they keep it clean, we have no problem with the topic. The comments are under the daily report that keeps us on track as much as we need to be. At least that’s my opinion. We may have lost a few readers, but I bet we got a lot more because this is the friendliest place on the internet to follow a hobby.
I said we started in 2005 and that things were pretty slow back then. All that has changed today, and I think this is the largest and most active blog that’s dedicated to the shooting sports. We started out wanting to answer people’s questions about airguns; and though it has taken a while, I think we’re doing that today. Sometimes, we raise more questions than we answer, and that’s what keeps us going strong.
Several years ago, I allowed firearms to appear briefly in some of the reports, and I think that’s also progressing nicely. Firearms can teach us many things, as well as providing interesting contrasts with airguns. For example, in a firearm, the ammunition supplies the power behind the bullet, while in an airgun, it’s the gun that supplies the power.
Was Edith right that the blog would replace the articles in The Airgun Letter? She sure was, because I now write as much in three or four days as I used to write in an entire month. I feel so sorry for those guys who used to subscribe to the newsletter but think they’re too old to be on a computer, because I know how much they’re missing. And many of them are younger than me, but they just won’t do computers. So they miss the boat.
But for those who are with us, that’s a quick look at how this blog came to be. Maybe in another six or seven years, I will be fortunate enough to take another look at our growth.