by B.B. Pelletier

I was in a friend’s gun room last Friday, having a conversation with a mutual friend we shoot with a lot when he said this, “I need an air gun. What should I get?”

Well, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you can imagine the questions that followed.

What kind of shooting do you want to do? How much do you want to spend? Etc.

Turns out he wanted to keep the pest birds (boat-tailed grackles, which are larger than most small birds but not as big as crows) out of his bird feeder, squirrels out of his attic and generally have something to shoot when he couldn’t get to the range.

There’s an amusing conversation in the movie, Roxanne, in which something like the following question is asked, “What can you sit on, brush your teeth with and drink out of?” When no one can guess, the person who asked the question gives the answer, “A chair, a toothbrush and a glass. Sometimes there isn’t one answer for everything.”

And that’s the first part of our lesson for today. Sometimes, one air gun just can’t do everything, and you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment by looking for one that can.

Cost destroys reason
After I hear his answers to my questions, I have a short list of guns to recommend; but when the question of cost is addressed, the list fragments and disintegrates. Cost is often the destroyer of reason.

I’ve watched the comments to this blog over just the past couple weeks and cost is always the ugly monster that’s used to tear reason apart. We want an air gun that can do thus and such, but we never want to pay more than this much — and everybody knows you can’t buy what we want for what we want to pay. But let’s get back to my discussion last week.

I recommend a Crosman Titan GP Nitro Piston – Lower Velocity air rifle, and of course the question came back, “Why would I want the lower velocity rifle? Why not the one that has the most velocity?” Well, the rifle I suggested is accurate, powerful enough for hunting at close range, comes with a scope and is one of the really great bargains in all of airgun-dom. But the name sounds bad.

I blame Crosman for that! That name may have made perfect sense in their conference room, when everyone was gathered around coming up with something to call this new rifle, but tacking on the qualifier “Lower Velocity” was akin to saying the rifle was somehow deficient. Sure, everyone in the room knew they meant that it had lower velocity than the Titan GP (that now no longer exists), but what they did was paint a fine new product with the brush of doubt.

It’s like trying to sell a car called Nova in a country where that name means “No go”!

If you are curious about this rifle you can read about it here.

Back to the discussion. So, my other friend drags out a Diana RWS 48 sidelever that he has had for about two years. He’s never fired the thing — he just took it on a trade involving several guns. I then observe that it would make the perfect air gun for this guy. It’s a .22, has more power than he needs to dispatch his pests and it certainly is a nice rifle for general shooting. But then for reasons I don’t understand I added, “But this is an expensive rifle! Without the scope it costs over $400 new.”

Why did I say that? If I had kept my big trap shut, these two guys would have probably made some sort of deal; and the guy who wanted the airgun would have gone home happy. But thanks to me, the owner of the gun that he never shoots now thinks it’s valuable and the buyer thinks it’s too expensive for him!

We had not mentioned money up to this point! This deal could have happened as a trade where no cash would have changed hands. Both parties would have gotten something they wanted, and everyone would have been happy. But no. I had to spoil it all by saying the airgun was expensive.

Forget the cost!
And that’s the other part of today’s little lesson. Forget the cost. The thing to do is to figure out what you want. Don’t allow cost to be a part of that process. The reason you don’t want to let cost be involved is because cost, by itself, is meaningless. It doesn’t add or detract from value. Cost doesn’t make an air gun more accurate, nor does it make it more powerful. It doesn’t even make it look better, though there are many who would argue with that! Cost is an artificial factor that people make up when goods and services are bartered.

When I deal in air guns, I would much rather trade than sell or buy. The reason is simple. If someone sees value in what I have and I see value in what they have, it’s much easier to deal with just that than if money enters the discussion. A Sheridan Supergrade may well bring $1,400 on the open market, but if someone takes a fancy to a TX200 and wants to trade straight across, what’s the harm?

The harm comes when a “scorekeeper” enters the picture (always uninvited) and announces the relative prices of each item, to make it obvious that the deal is lopsided. Some people just have to keep score for the rest of us that way. Last Friday, I was the scorekeeper and I stopped any chance of a deal with my careless remarks. And the pity is that the owner of the 48 sidelever wasn’t the least bit interested in it. He would have been much better off getting a gun he could use or even some money he could spend. He hadn’t paid the new price for the airgun anyway, so what business did I have saying anything?

Concentrate on what you want
I smile when you guys talk about kung fu lessons, because this is one of them. Forget price and concentrate on what you want. That’s how to pick a new house, a career or an airgun. I know how easy it is to poke holes in that sentiment, such as everybody would want a mansion that few could ever afford; but if you free yourself of the cost consideration and think about other things, you might discover that a mansion is not what you really want. Mansions require upkeep and an investment of time (and money), and many people would not want that millstone tied around their necks!

Back to airguns
Some people wonder why I get rid of so many airguns. When I talk about guns I’ve owned, they think I’m crazy for letting go of the one(s) they would enjoy so much. For example, a lot of people think I was crazy to ever let Mrs. Beeman’s FWB 124 go. It has such gorgeous wood, and it was custom-made for the wife of Robert Beeman — how could I ever have let a gun like that get away? Read about the Queen Bee here.

Easy! I didn’t want to “covet” it for the rest of my life. I don’t have a museum with guns on display, and that gun belongs on display — not out shooting boat-tailed grackles. I let it go because I couldn’t give it the devotion most people probably feel it deserves. It was sitting around, not being treasured, and I felt that a gun that nice deserved to be loved. So, I sold it back to the person I bought it from, and today it has increased in price six times what I sold it for.

If you’re a person who has to own the finest of things, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strive for that. Get what you want, but do so for the right reasons — and the cost of something is never a good reason, unless you stand to make money from it.

And if what you want is an air rifle for hunting grackles — get one! Don’t hope that your Crosman 760 can do the job because that’s all you have. Stop shooting grackles! Nothing in life forces you to shoot grackles, does it? Stop convincing yourself that you “must” do something and then worrying that you aren’t equipped to do it. But if grackles are really a problem for you — then get something to deal with them. Something appropriate — not something you can afford.

No kidding — this really happened!
Last true story — just to demonstrate that I’ve already made all of these mistakes that qualify me to warn you what not to do. This story is about deer hunting. It’s not about real deer hunting, but the kind of deer hunting that’s done with the wallet.

Decades ago, I was stationed at Fort Bliss and was invited to go deer hunting. I went out and bought a rifle; and, because I was a young married man with a family, I couldn’t afford much. So, I bought a Remington model 788 and put a scope on it (because everybody knows a gun has to have a scope to kill a deer). But I was out of money at that point. Fortunately, I’d thought about that, so the rifle I bought was in .308 Winchester caliber and the current U.S. M60 machine gun used 7.62x51mm rounds — which are also known as Winchester .308 rounds.

I managed to obtain about 40 rounds of machine gun ammo. After removing the steel links and discarding the tracer rounds, I had the cartridges I needed except for one thing. The bullets in these cartridges had full metal jackets, so I spent several evenings filing cross slots into the pointed tips of the bullets to expose the lead cores. In short, I made Dum-Dum bullets!

All my preparation time meant that I had only a short session at the range to sight the rifle in before the hunt. But that was no problem. What I brought to the field gave me precious little chance of ever doing anything other than embarrassing myself.

And I did it all within a tight budget!