by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This is the continuation of a fictional guest blog about a man teaching a woman how to shoot a gun. Our writer is reader, Jack Cooper. Take it away, Jack.

Teach me to shoot

by Jack Cooper

This report covers:

  • Getting serious
  • Don’t rush it
  • More stuff
  • Surprise!
  • Range setup
  • Three in one!
  • She can shoot
  • Which pistol?

Getting serious

I called Jill on Monday evening to see how things were going and was surprised to hear how much she was looking forward to our next session. She had been holding the Daisy 499 I left with her and looking through the sights, wondering how it’s going to go for her. Of course she doesn’t have a target yet, but she looked up the target specs online and drew a circle on a white piece of paper, just so she could get the feel for how it should look. That made me realize just how seriously she was taking this training!

On Wednesday when I arrived at the bible study she was already there and had saved me a seat. I gave her an official 5-meter BB gun target to replace the one she had made. Now she would be ready for our next session.

Don’t rush it

The bible study held our attention for the next hour, but when the refreshment break came she was talking about shooting again. I could see she was champing at the bit to get going, so I suggested we move the session to Friday evening, just to get started a little sooner. She agreed and we were set — or so I thought.

When we walked to her car after the study was over she asked if we could also have a session on Saturday evening. I told her she would have to earn it by shooting a score of 45 out of 50 for 5 shots at the end of Friday’s session. I’m all for an eager pupil, but rushing through the training is not the way to succeed. She agreed, and the bet was on!

More stuff

Friday evening I arrived at her place with a couple bags of equipment. The most important thing I brought was a Leapers UTG Pellet/BB trap. I showed her how the ballistic curtains inside the trap slow the BB down and prevent it from bouncing back out after it hits the steel back plate — or at least that’s the theory. In reality about 5 percent of the BBs do bounce back out, which is why I also brought a large magnet on a long string — to sweep BBs up off the carpet afterwards. I set that trap inside a cardboard box lid with a low lip to catch any BBs that rolled back out after being stopped.

I also brought a plywood backboard to put behind the trap, in case she missed it. Because we would be shooting from just 16 feet away I didn’t think we needed it, but it’s a safety measure you don’t overlook. Normally I would use one as large as I could find, but since I was bringing this one into a fancy apartment I restricted it to 18 by 24 inches. It was 3/4-inch plywood and nothing we were going to shoot could penetrate it.

I had a pair of safety glasses for each of us. Any time you shoot pellets or BBs, everyone in the vicinity has to wear these.

And I brought two packs of 5-meter targets. There are 100 targets in each pack. I would leave them with Jill, because I figured she was going to do a lot of shooting after I left. The last thing I brought was a full package of Avanti Precision Ground Shot. After seeing her enthusiasm on Wednesday, I knew she was going to blow through all 1,050 rounds in no time!

Surprise!

Jill met me at her front door with a warm smile and a small glass of red wine in her left hand. She said she noticed how much I enjoyed the wine we had for dinner the previous Saturday and she wanted me to taste this. I was stunned! After telling her that alcohol and shooting don’t mix I now had to tell her the evening’s session was off. I wasn’t going to let her shoot if she had been drinking wine. When I told her that she said okay and quickly dumped the wine in the sink without a fuss. She told me she hadn’t had any. That sounded a little fishy, so I asked if it had been a test. She looked at me sideways kind of funny and said, “Don’t worry. You passed.” Holy cow! My “student” was now testing me!

Range setup

We set up the trap and backstop in a place she had prepared at the end of a hallway. I noticed she had elevated the tabletop so the trap and target would be about at eye level! When I mentioned that she said she had been reading about shooting on the internet and learned this was the best way to set up. She also had a bright desk lamp directed toward the target so the bull would be easier to see.

I showed her how to tape the paper target to the cardboard backer on the front of the UTG trap. I explained how this cardboard backer would make the BB holes more distinct by not allowing the target paper to tear, as long as it was tight against the cardboard. Of course the cardboard backer has to be replaced when it starts getting large holes of its own.

We were now ready to shoot. First I demonstrated how the Daisy 499 works — how to cock it, where the manual safety button is located and how it works. Then she said, “But you never want to trust a gun’s safety, so when would I ever use it?”

My gosh! She was getting this all on the first try! We discussed the use of the safety and decided that, in the end, no responsible shooter would ever leave a gun cocked and loaded, trusting on the safety alone. Now it was time to load the gun and shoot.

I showed her how to hold the gun upright and drop a BB into the muzzle, listening to it roll down the barrel (ear away from the muzzle, please!) until it clicks against the magnet at the bottom. Then she shouldered the gun and I helped her get into a good firing position. The location and orientation of your feet (toes pointing in or out) determines where your body wants to be when it’s at rest, and that makes a very stable shooting platform. Many boys learn about this foot placement when they learn how to pitch a baseball, but most girls don’t. And, yes, this was the place in the session where, according to Hitch, the Touch Barrier was broken.

Then she shot. She hit the 8-ring at 9 o’clock and I thought of what she had said about this being too easy the week before. Eights look good, but in competition you will wind up at the bottom of the pack if you only shoot 8s!

Of course I didn’t say any of  that to her. I praised her shot, because it was next to the bullseye. You always want to build the confidence of a new shooter.

5 meter target

An 8 is a good score, but it won’t win a match.

 

Three in one!

She loaded and shot again and it was another 8 in the same hole as the first one. When her third shot went to the same place I thought, oh, oh! This woman can shoot!

I asked her to stop shooting long enough to allow me adjust the rear sight for her. Three clicks to the right to take up the slop in the gears of the plastic mechanism (standard practice for all shooters who use the less-expensive plastic rear sights that come on the 499) and five more clicks to actually move the strike of the round to the right. This rear sight is actually made for 10-meter youth rifles, so you may need to adjust it farther than you expect, since we are only shooting at half the distance.

She can shoot

After the sights were adjusted, her first shot on a clean target was a 10, followed by a 9, another 9 and she finished with two more 10s. Her first 5-shot score after adjusting the sights was a 48 out of 50. “We’re definitely doing this tomorrow,” she insisted with a sinister smile. She then shot five more 5-shot targets and got scores between 44 and 49. By that point she was feeling tired from all the concentration, so I suggested we stop.

She asked me why it had been necessary to adjust the sights. Wasn’t the gun already sighted in for me? I told her it was. Well, she wondered, don’t the sights work the same for everybody? In an ideal world they do, but in reality there are small variations between shooters that have to be checked and possibly compensated for with small sight corrections.

Later on I would be covering the effects of parallax and the need for a good repeatable spot weld (also called cheek weld) on the stock. That’s very important, but it’s a little overwhelming for the first-time shooter.  Now, it was time for dinner.

She had told me when we spoke at the bible study that this dinner would be on her, because she didn’t want me spending all my money on meals. Good thing, too, because it would have been fast food if I was paying. But now I learned that she is also a gourmet cook. Turns out she spends much of her free time watching the Food Network.

So I sat on the far side of the kitchen island and kibitzed while she worked. Watching a surgeon prepare a meal is like watching a Samurai warrior carve a turkey — very fast and no wasted movements. A few flashes of steel and the proteins and veggies all fall flat on the cutting board in perfect dress right dress.

The dinner was wonderful (I would have eaten asphalt if this lady made it, but this really was good) and while we ate we made plans for the next-day’s training session. I told her things were moving so fast that after the next session with the 499 she would graduate from long guns to handguns. This pleased her because handguns were her original goal.

I said I would leave the 499 with her so she could practice on her own, and she told me she planned to buy one for herself. Would I help her pick out everything she needed? After dinner we sat at her computer and ordered from Pyramyd Air everything for her own 499 shooting gallery.

Which pistol?

We would be shooting an air pistol during the next phase, so she would be using the same relatively safe range we had already created. We would just swap my target trap for her new one when it arrived. The same pellet/BB trap and backboard would also work for that session, as long as I chose the air pistol wisely.

Now I was thinking about which air pistol we should use. Jill is a good shot, so whatever I choose has to be very accurate. But she has a delicate build, so the gun can not be heavy, nor can it be hard to cock. And her hands are small, though her fingers are long. So I have to pay particular attention to the size of the grip. When you put all those requirements together, a lot of air pistols are eliminated.

For example, I would like to use the single-stroke Beeman P3. It’s light, accurate and has a wonderful trigger. But it takes about 27 pounds of force to pump the gun at loading! That’s too much for a trainer! I have no doubt she could pump it, but every shot would be an effort, and that can quickly sour a training session. The Beeman P1 pistol is also very accurate and has a wonderfully crisp adjustable trigger, but it’s too large and heavy for her, plus it takes too much effort to cock.

I want the air pistol I choose to be a single shot. I know single shots aren’t popular today, but in a training situation they force the student to slow down and think before taking each shot. I want that, to give me time to critique her form (shut up — you know what I mean) and to get her into the best possible shooting position. B.B. has taught us that the stance a pistol shooter assumes is good for an extra 10 percent of their total score.

Do you see the problem? I need an air pistol that’s lightweight, has a good trigger, is easy to cock and is very accurate. I bet you can’t guess which one I chose.

End of the session

At the end of the evening I talked to Jill about her shooting. I told her she had surprised me, both by her dedication and also by the level of her shooting. I told her she was one of the best natural shots I had ever seen, and I thought she was going to make a fine shooter.

Then she confessed what she had done at the start of the evening. The wine test was to find out if I was serious about all the stuff I had been telling her. She said a lot of guys have a really good line, but it breaks down under pressure. Now that she was sure I meant what I said, she promised to give this training her undivided attention.

My gosh — if what she had been doing thus far was not 100 percent, I wondered what that would look like. I guess I would find out!