How technology helps and hurts
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- When I was a boy
- Golf drivers
- Better golf balls
- New cars
- Hand(s) guns
- Today’s message
I’m departing from my usual test reporting today because I want to address a topic that I believe affects all shooters. The topic is technology. Technology has changed the way we shoot, though a lot of people who are new to shooting aren’t aware of it. Like kids with cell phones have no clue what telephones were like before, so new shooters lack all grasp of the fundamentals.
When I was a boy
When I was a kid in the 1950s the world seemed to move too slow. There never seemed to be any new advances in anything. Cars were the same; television was the same — things were what they had always had been. That observation was incorrect, of course, but my limited experience didn’t allow me to see the big picture.
But the 1950s were actually a time when things moved at a slower pace than they do today. I remember when Dr. Salk perfected his vaccine for polio — it was all anyone was talking about for months. I remember seeing people, especially kids, stricken by polio. They would have to live in iron lung machines for the rest of their lives and I remember thinking what a wonderful thing Dr. Salk had done for mankind. But, if something similar were to happen today we would get over it in a week and start looking for version 2.0 — the improved vaccine that also cures cancer. Technology is on the fast track today, and it certainly ripples over into our hobbies.
Let’s start with the game of golf. I’m not a golfer, so I can comment as an outsider. I see discussions all the time about the new mega-drivers that allow even poor golfers to smash their balls hundreds of yards farther than ever before. They talk about hybrid drivers with larger faces, centers of gravity that have been moved for improved drive angle and different face treatments to put the ideal spin on the ball for a longer straighter flight. I also see that the ads for golf clubs target all the duffers — playing on their beliefs that longer drives will somehow improve their overall game. That seems to equate to airgunners and f.p.s. to me. What do you think?
Better golf balls
What about those new golf balls? They are talking about hard balls that offer improved flight versus softer balls that give you more “bite” on the green. It seems there is a tradeoff between the ball flying farther and still having optimum control when it’s on the ground. Man, that is exactly the same thing as talking about pellets! Airgunners discuss the benefits of domed pellets versus hollowpoints all day long. “This hollowpoint turns inside-out within the first 5 inches of penetration.” “Yes, but if you can’t hit the target, the expansion doesn’t matter!” And so on…
I was talking to my brother-in-law, Bob, about this technology phenomenon and he brought up new cars. How their technology helps drivers do better. I remember when a manual transmission was favored over an automatic because it gave the driver more control over the car. But today there are 6-speed automatics that can out-perform most good drivers with a manual shift. New cars also have improved vision (backup video in the dash); collision avoidance radar; even the ability to parallel park on some top models. But at the end of the day, a new car with all its fancy gizmos does not turn the driver into Bob Bondurant. You still have to learn to drive — just as you still have to learn to shoot.
When I was at Media Day at the SHOT Show last week, I noticed that I was alone, out of hundreds of shooters, because I held the handguns I shot with just one hand. Every man I watched that day would pick up a handgun and immediately go into a two-hand stance. Let’s add women shooters into the mix as well, because all of them did the same thing. I, alone, held the handguns with just one hand. Yet I outshot most of the other shooters. At one range the S&W representative who was helping me remarked that he thought I really knew how to shoot. All the other shooters on that range had been blasting with a new S&W .22 target pistol at a 12-inch Shoot-N-C bull positioned about 10 yards away. When I came to the line I told the rep. I was going to shoot at one of the one-inch pasters that were scattered around the outside of the target, so I could see where my shots went. My first shot went a little high and to the left, but the next four removed the paster. The other shooters seemed pleased just to hit anywhere on the 14-inch by 14-inch target paper.
Don’t think I’m tooting my own horn here. I am doing that, but only to illustrate a point. That point is that all the fancy sights, light triggers and free-floated barrels in the world cannot take you past a certain fundamental level of proficiency. The isosceles triangle you assume with two hands may make the gun hold steadier for you, but if you never progress beyond that point you will never master the handgun. For you it will always be a hands-gun — meaning two hands rather than one! Mind you I am talking about shooting a target pistol now, not a defense weapon.
This is why I never answer straight when people ask me how much a lightweight trigger adds to the accuracy potential of a certain airgun. For me the trigger doesn’t affect the accuracy until it becomes so harsh that it causes me to throw my shots wide.
What about our penchant to scope every long gun and even many of the handguns we shoot? People just don’t seem to respect open sights today. And yet the number one complaint I read about airgun technology today has something to do with optical sights. They are too hard to mount. They don’t hold their zero. Why are there two aim points when I use a scope and so on. The one thing most people seem to have trouble with (a scope) is the very thing they think is the universal answer to better shooting. If that isn’t irony, I don’t know what is!
Here is my message today. Yes, technology has made vast improvements in airguns over the past few decades, but in the end it still comes down to whether or not you can shoot. You will never learn to shoot well if you use technology as a crutch.
You are in a pastime that allows you nearly unlimited private time with your airguns. It’s not like golf, where there are green fees and tee times and putting foursomes together. Take the time you have to become better acquainted with these airguns that we all enjoy so much!