by B.B. Pelletier

Today, I’m giving the floor to my wife, Edith. Over the years, we’ve noticed that many blog readers don’t always have the support of their spouses when it comes to buying airguns or even shooting in the house. How you introduce someone to shooting is very important. If you’ve done it wrong, initially, all may not be lost. Here’s Edith’s take on it.

Sharing airguns with your spouse

by Edith Gaylord

How many of you have a spouse who doesn’t want to touch your guns, may be afraid of your guns and possibly even suspects that your guns could cause harm even if no one’s holding/using/touching them?

Let’s see if we can turn this around for you.

The wrong way
Around 1970 (20+ years before I met Tom/B.B.), I was with a date at the dump in Orlando, Florida, holding a Ruger Mark 1 and shooting at a big pile of trash. The gun was simply put in my hand, and I was told to pull the trigger while pointing the gun at the garbage. While a rimfire pistol is relatively tame, it won’t seem that way to the shooter if it’s the only gun they’ve ever held and shot, they don’t know there will be even the slightest amount of recoil, and the report is sudden enough (not necessarily that loud) that it can startle the shooter. Because of this, I never picked up another gun until the early 1980s. I had no desire because my first experience was not one I wanted to repeat. There was nothing fun or even useful about it. (Most of you have also picked up on the other obvious problem–I was with someone who thought a day at the dump was a great way to impress his date!)

The next time I picked up a gun was when Tom taught me how to shoot with the Sheridan Blue Streak after we discovered we had mice in our house in Maryland. I wrote about that here.

Putting an airgun into the hands of a non-shooter should be preceded with a short discussion about what they should expect to feel or experience. Even if they’ve heard or seen others shoot, the lessons should be totally non-threatening and not loud, startling or sudden.

When Tom and I were first married, his young boys (who had shot airguns before) came out for a visit. We took them to an indoor firing range to pop off a few quick rounds. Standing in the store, outside the range and separated by several doors and lots of very thick glass, the youngest boy started crying because he could feel the reverberations of the report going through his body. It was terrifying because he didn’t know what was happening and wasn’t told what to expect. I took him outside the store so he’d feel safe.

So, what about you? Are you shooting your airguns inside, where every round you pop off makes a noise that punctures the still, silent air with an audible exclamation point that leaves an indelible, negative impression in the psyche of your spouse? If so, time to rethink — if you want your spouse to be supportive, instead of combative, about your shooting.

The right way
Let me start by saying that there is no one right way. Just like there is no one wrong way. I cited one way earlier. Both lists are endless. You have to know what’s holding back your spouse.

Did you spend a lot of money on guns and ignore the budget? Is the report from your guns loud enough or do they reverberate enough that it’s like having someone stand next to your spouse and yell in their ear every few seconds? It’s hard to concentrate on anything else when that happens.

People who’ve had terribly negative opinions about guns have done a 180 because someone took the time to figure out where things went awry. Think of yourself as a plumber looking for the clog that’s blocking the pipes. Dislodge the plug so your spouse can enjoy shooting as much as you do.

If you have a BB or pellet pistol that’s easy to cock, does not recoil, does not have blowback and is not loud, then start with that. It has to be so quiet that it doesn’t sound offensive or threatening. Anything that reverberates or shows force or power is likely to reinforce the negative point of view already held.

Single-stroke pneumatics, such as the Daisy 953, are a good choice. There are some spring guns, such as the IZH 61, that would also be quiet. While accuracy is important, it’s not our No. 1 concern right now. To a non-shooter, accuracy is a given. They will expect every gun to be accurate. If you can’t afford the finest single-stroke made, then start at the low end and be up front about the lack of accuracy. Explain that accuracy comes with practice, use and better guns. You can’t expect to get champagne flavor from a beer.

Paper targets=boredom
Punching holes in paper is not exciting or interesting to an unindoctrinated shooter. I have a paper punch in my desk drawer that punches holes. How is making holes with a gun any different, better or more exciting? Boooooorrrrinnng!

Shooting at things that deliver an immediate reward and instant recognition that you’ve hit the target are fun. While interest in paper targets may come, that’s not our primary object…which is to soften your spouse so they will not begrudge the time you spend shooting. You want your spouse to actually become interested in shooting or (at the very least) not roll their eyes every time you want to buy a gun, go to an airgun show or shoot a few rounds in the basement.

Whatever you use, do NOT shoot at things that require cleanup. Puhlease! If what you’re shooting is messy, you’ve just given your spouse another reason to dislike guns.

If you’re shooting at balloons with talc in them, either do it outside or put the balloons in a box that catches the talc. Or, you clean up the talc when the shootin’ is over. Spinners are fun and so are Necco wafers. Much depends on how accurate your gun is. If it’s way off, then you’ll want to opt for bigger targets so there’s some positive action from shooting the gun.

The train is in motion…don’t derail it
Once you’ve gotten past that awkward stage and your spouse’s attitude is starting to soften, don’t think you can skate to the finish line. Regular invitations to join you for a shooting episode would be good, but keep them short. Not because it’s boring but because you should always leave them wanting more.

Slowly, you can introduce guns with louder reports and more recoil, but don’t force the issue since each session may have to start off reacclimating your spouse to what’s about to happen. Ask if they want to continue to shoot the first gun. If they want to stay with that forever, at the very least you’ve changed your spouse from negative to positive. If they want to move on to something more powerful or more accurate, you should take it up in small steps. A child that takes its first steps today does not hike up the Washington Monument tomorrow.

Make it fun, non-threatening and something they’ll want to do again, and you just might hear less — or even no — complaints the next time you shoot because your spouse is right there with you. Obviously, it can be done because my initial bad experience was turned around by someone who knew how to do it right.