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Teach me to shoot: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

This is the next installment of a fictional guest report about a man teaching a woman how to shoot. Jack Cooper is teaching a woman he met in a bible study group to shoot because she felt she could learn better with airguns. Jill has learned rapidly, which you can read about in Parts 1 and 2, linked above. Today she puts what she has learned to the test. Take it away, Jack.

Teach me to shoot

by Jack Cooper

This report covers:

  • Getting cocky
  • The first review
  • Unsafe moves!
  • What has she learned so far?
  • More to learn
  • A new sight picture
  • Which pistol?

Jill and I had our second training session with the Daisy 499 the next evening, and she shot nothing below a 48 out of 50 possible points in 7 attempts. One of our readers asked if she is doing this offhand, and I am pleased to report that she is. That’s what is so astonishing.

Getting cocky

As her impressive results accrued on this second evening, she started getting cocky and challenged me to a 5-shot match. I told her I would enjoy that, but I had adjusted the sights for her and they would now be off for me. The truth is I knew she could beat me most of the time. But it wasn’t a contest — which is what every trainer says whenever the student surpasses them. This was a good place to stop and review what we had done until now.

The first review

I quizzed her on the rules of safety by asking questions that would challenge veteran shooters. For example, a Cease Fire has just been called as she is about to fire a shot. Should she:

1. Stop shooting and immediately unload the gun?
2. Stop shooting, take her finger off the trigger and keep pointing the muzzle at the target?
3. Squeeze off the shot immediately and then stop shooting?

The correct answer is number 2, but here is how she answered it. “Answer number 3 is unacceptable. No shots are to be fired after a Cease Fire has been called. But number 1 is a trick answer because it is impossible to unload a Daisy 499. The BB is held in the breech by a powerful magnet and, once loaded, must be shot out of the gun. So answer number 2 is the only answer than can possibly be correct.”

I was really proud that she picked up on how the design of the 499 affected the answer to the question. That shows maturity and depth of understanding that some shooters never achieve. I think that comes from her personality — not from the training. It’s what makes her a good surgeon and also a fantastic cook.

In all, she answered about ten safety questions that were worded similarly. With each of them she used thoughtful reasoning. When we were finished I knew she had internalized the rules of safe gun handling.

Unsafe moves!

I had also made some careless moves with the 499 during this second session that included swinging the muzzle of the gun around until it almost pointed at her. She instinctively grabbed the muzzle and held it downrange when I did this, which was the correct thing to do. I also tried to get her to start shooting before I put on my safety glasses, but she caught me and told me to put my glasses on. I think she knew I was testing her, but her actions were so automatic that they confirmed she understood the safety procedures.

You have to test a new shooter several different ways. Some people are good at memorizing lists of rules, but they don’t act on them when the situation calls for it. Shooters not only have to know the rules, they have to apply them! This was how I was taught to shoot by the NRA and I found it to be a valid way to train Jill.

What has she learned so far?

That marked the end of the first part of her training. I asked Jill to tell me what she thought she had learned in this first part. She said she now knew there were a set of safety conventions and rules that applied to every shooter — whether the shooter acknowledged them or not. If they did not acknowledge and follow these conventions, the person and therefore the situation was unsafe and she should probably leave the area.

She also talked about what I had called gun-handling etiquette. That includes things like asking permission before touching a gun that isn’t yours. She was unaware gun-handling etiquette even existed, but she was glad to know that it did. I told her that many younger male shooters probably do not know the proper etiquette, or they don’t apply it if they do. Women shooters are usually taught as least the basics of gun-handling etiquette because they receive formal training more often than men. Many men are just expected to know certain things about guns because of their gender. That’s not right, but it is how our society operates.

The last thing she told me was how thrilled she was with the way she was now shooting. She had thought this training would be more like learning to play a musical instrument — that it would take months to master, but I had shown her the basics of shooting in just three short sessions.

More to learn

To that I replied that we were not done with our training. There were still many important things for her to learn. However — now we could proceed because I knew she would be safe while handling guns.

Then I gave her a taste of what was to come. I had brought two air pistols with me because I wanted her to try both of them. I was looking for the ideal weight of a handgun for her, the best trigger, a good sharp sight picture and, of course, accuracy.

Before we got to the pistols, though, there were some new things to learn. The first was the different sight picture she would be seeing with these pistols. Their open sights are very different than the target sights on the Daisy 499.

A new sight picture

I told her that she would have to learn a new type of sight picture to shoot with the target pistols we were about to use. I also told her that when we got to defense pistols there would be a different range of sight types to choose from, but we weren’t going to worry about them now. If she would learn what I was about to teach her, almost all of it would carry over to the defense pistol, and the part that was different would make sense when she experienced it.

She said she trusted me to guide her through this process, and she could now see there was a lot more to shooting than she ever imagined. I told her that’s why she was lucky to have an expert guiding her, and to my utter surprise, she kissed me! She said this was exactly what she had wanted to learn and I was explaining it very well. I had meant it as a joke, but I wasn’t going to say that now!

pistol sight elements
These are the elements that make up the sight picture for a target pistol.

pistol sight picture
This is what you should see when sighting a target pistol.

I told her this is where it starts getting hard. While my drawing of the correct sight picture looks very clear and straightforward on paper, achieveing it with a pistol held in one hand is the hard part. The pistol is in your hand that is extended in front of you as far as it will go, and the gun wobbles around side-to-side and up and down as you try to achieve the ideal sight picture. And that’s just the beginning!

There are entire forums online where nationally-ranked pistol shooters hotly debate whether you should leave a thin sliver of light between the top of the front sight blade and the bottom of the target, or rest the target directly on top of the sight like I show in my picture. They obsess over this one detail and nothing ever gets resolved. If one of them does well in a match, it becomes proof that their way is the right way.

I told her this and then I told her what really matters. “Jill, I doubt you will ever shoot 10-meter pistol competitively in the Olympics. So you don’t need to be concerned about details this small. Just rest the bottom of the bull on the top of the front sight post, and center the front sight in the rear notch and everything will be fine. I told you about this controversy in case you encounter it in your reading or someone says something to you in the future. I want you to know why you are doing what you are doing, so you can get good results. I don’t want to turn you into a world-class pistol shooter.

“When you look at the sight picture I want you to focus on the front sight post. The rear notch will be a little blurry and so will the bullseye. Your eye can only focus on something at one distance and I want that to be the front sight post. Is that clear?”

Which pistol?

She said it was and now it was time to try each of the two air pistols I had brought. Several readers on this blog thought I would pick a Daisy Avanti 747 Triumph Match pistol for her. They are certainly very accurate and they are relatively easy to pump (single stroke pneumatics), but there is a downside. The 747 is very muzzle-heavy and that will cause it to pull Jill’s hand down and twist her wrist as she shoots. Also, the 747 grip is on the large side and Jill has small hands.

Instead I chose a Crosman 2240 for her. It’s nearly a half-pound lighter than the 747, and isn’t as long, so it isn’t muzzle heavy. The trigger isn’t great, but it’s no worse than a 747 trigger. Both triggers can be smoothed and lightened a bit. I had her hold the pistol in her right hand as I positioned her to shoot. She saw right away that sighting the pistol was going to be more difficult than the 499 had been. But I promised her she would be hitting an American quarter-sized bullseye by the end of our first session.

As an aside, the 2240 is a .22 caliber pellet pistol. I would have rather used a .177 pistol, but there is nothing like the 2240 in .177. The 2240 is powered by CO2, which makes it a bit louder, though we still won’t need to wear hearing protection. Because the pistol uses CO2 gas to power the pellet, the effort required to cock the gun is relatively low — we aren’t cocking a powerful mainspring. If you recall, ease of cocking was one of the principal features I wanted in an air pistol for Jill.

Crosman 2240
Crosman’s 2240 air pistol is being made today.It represents possibly the best buy for a target air pistol that’s ideally sized for a woman.

Then I handed her a vintage Crosman Mark I Target pistol. Right away she saw how much more ergonomic it was. And the sights were sharper. And it seemed to be lighter. It really isn’t, but the weight distribution is almost ideal for a woman. “This is what your boyfriend in college didn’t know. He thought shooting is all about noise and recoil. He was never shown how the right equipment makes everything click. This is a wonderful air pistol that I think you’re going to like very much, but it’s a vintage gun and has to be bought used. That 2240 is a modern gun that’s available today.

Crosman Mark I
This Crosman Mark I has a pair of custom laminated wood grips that are shaped like the plastic factory grips, but are more attractive. This vintage single-shot is one of the finest air pistols for informal target shooting.

The Mark I is also a .22 caliber single shot pellet pistol. There is a .177 caliber Mark II that looks and feels identical, but I don’t own one. Since we were already using .22 caliber pellets with the 2240, I figured it would be best to stick wit the same caliber for both pistols.

In our next session she would be shooting both these pistols, to get used to them and also to see which one she liked the best.

author avatar
B.B. Pelletier
Tom Gaylord is known as The Godfather of Airguns™ and has been an airgunner for over a half-century, but it was the Beeman company in the 1970s that awoke a serious interest in airguns. Until then, all he knew were the inexpensive American airguns. Through the pages of the Beeman catalog, he learned about adult airguns for the first time. In 1994, Tom started The Airgun Letter with his wife, Edith. This monthly newsletter was designed to bring serious reports about airguns to the American public. The newsletter and Airgun Revue, a sister magazine about collectible airguns, was published from 1994 until 2002, when Tom started Airgun Illustrated -- the first American newsstand magazine about airguns. Tom worked for three years as technical director at AirForce Airguns, the makers of the Talon, Condor, and Escape precharged air rifles. Today, he writes about airguns and firearms for various publications and websites. He also makes videos, and you'll find short clips embedded in some of his artices on Pyramyd AIR's website. Tom is a consultant to Pyramyd AIR and writes under the name of B.B. Pelletier.

39 thoughts on “Teach me to shoot: Part 3”

  1. Well what will be interesting next time out when she gets to shoot both pistols is…. hearing her as a beginner tell what kind of differences she notices.

    Sometimes a beginner picks up on things a seasoned shooter takes for granted when they shoot.

    So maybe Jill will get to teach Jack a thing or two about teaching.

    And speaking of teaching. I was wondering who was going to be the first to sneak in a kiss. Good for Jill. Sometimes there are still some shy guys out there that drag their feet on that kind of stuff you know.

  2. I bet that Jill knows the wheel bearing specifications and model number for her Mercedes car. Front and rear!
    Either that or she is a pregnant Korean lady who won the women’s 10M 2012 Olympic gold medal…..

    This reminds me of the letters to Penthouse when I was young enough to care.


    • Yogi,

      If, by the “Penthouse” remark, you mean that this series is enticing, then thank you. If you are implying that it is smut (and I don’t think you are, but comparing it to Penthouse stories makes me wonder), then I may have to stop writing it. This blog is supposed to be suitable for families, and I want it to remain that way.

      I take no offense from your remarks, but I do want to be sure of what you are trying to say.


      • My Penthouse comment was only to draw the parallel about how much I enjoy your blog!
        Reading It is either the first thing I do when I wake up, or the last thing I do when I go to bed; sorry wife….

        Whatever happened to Crystal Ackley? She sure could shoot well!


        • A quick search reveals Crystal is in LA working in the entertainment industry. I recently watched those early Paul Capetto Airgun Reporter season 2 episodes on Youtube that featured Crystal. She is very impressive both in shooting skills, product facts delivery speaking skills, and overall Babe-ness. I’m left wondering if she really had a genuine interest in airguns or if she adapted quickly to be who they wanted her to be to get the job, then moved on. In any case, she was exceptional in this hobby and I can see how the woman in this story was based on her.

  3. B.B.,
    Excellent tutorial. Noticed that the first two parts are under the category “learning to shoot”.
    When you are finished, will these blogs be in a category of their own.??
    Would love to see them in a booklet in all the gun stores and online. Something that PA should include with every air gun sold.


    • Pete,

      THANK YOU! You are the first person to see a potential booklet, here. I didn’t intend to write a book when I started, but after reading the first part of this report I saw that it might be possible.

      My vision for this training goes beyond airguns. We start there because I think it’s logical to do so, but my plan is for Jack to take Jill into firearms and finally to help her select and start training with a defense sidearm that is ideal for her in all ways. If I can do that, I will have done something that has never been done in writing, as far as I know — take a non-shooter from start to finish and leave them with a full understanding and appreciation of the shooting sports.

      If I can do all that and if it still appeals to readers at the end, then a booklet seems possible.


  4. B.B.,

    Jack probably already knows this, but even if he did have a .177 Crosman Mark II available, the Mark I would still be the better choice as the Mark I has a smoothbore barrel. Yes, the 499 is smoothbore as well, but it sounds like Jill is ready for the experience of shooting lead through rifling. ;^)


  5. Good one. Let’s just hope that Jack does not fall down and breaks his crown. Is Jack nobility and wears a crown? Or are we talking about the crown on his tooth? Me thinks the original poem was actually neither???


  6. B.B.!! First of all I want to say that this definitely is G for all ages! In today’s standard! Second? Maybe that many of us may read into it through your story? It is very good! No doubt in my mind you have talent! It maybe another way to get others in the door and doing it safely with interest! There are humans that will come into the air gun or gun world! Which many get involved with guns period by reading about them with interest! And their are many that get into guns where they may write about them or a scene in a script or a part in a book! Authors that are good writers don’t write about what they know nothing about! They experiment with different tools! Guns or airguns maybe those tool in prep for a part in a script or a book! By the way all us did not or do not chime in on key every time you write! And to be honest I had a bid of doubt in some of your writings? Till! You wrote this Jack Cooper script! Now I can really appreciate what you are doing and another way to bring people into guns safely and change others minds about something they don’t know anything about! MOST don’t have any idea how many writers or authors are competing in the business now that we have self publishing! You have an audience! Most don’t! And you don’t know what many of us do or have done for a living! Take it for what it is worth! I think you’re very good! Semper fi!

    • Desertdweller,

      Just saw that for the first time recently. Was it 4 or 5 shots that sent the pail out of sight? Loved it. New gun, new cartridge. “Tuners” go way back, ehh?

  7. Jack Cooper has it easy. He should have taught safety to my Dad as a boot camp recruit in the 1960s. The story is that my Dad was standing with a locked and loaded M1 Garand at his hip on the firing line. The range officer addressed him, so he wheeled smoothly with his whole body as one unit, just like they teach in tactical shooting (although it was all unconscious) to end up pointing the rifle at the range officer. Oh well, education is a slow process, and here I am decades later as a great fan of this rifle.

    For the next installment, I vote for a shoot-off between Jill and the incomparable Crystal Ackley.

    Punching Holes, I’m a fan of progressive training, and you could take it a lot easier on yourself than low light, long distance shooting in high wind. Still, it looks like you are seeing the effects of airgun training compared to firearms. My own experience is that ye shall know your airgunner at the range by the prodigious quantity of ammunition he shoots off and his comparative accuracy. It all comes down to dollars and cents. A firearms shooter would have to be a millionaire to equal the output of an ordinary airgun shooter. You just have to put in the time. What happens at the smaller scale of airguns is directly translatable.

    You might see if you can create an indoor range; the Benjamin 392 can certainly accommodate it. One of my temptations to buy it was that the multiple pumps offered variable power like a poor man’s Air Force rifle. But I can see the attraction to springers which is what I use almost exclusively. I’m afraid the times have passed me by in terms of specific advice for starter springers. I would have suggested the IZH 61. No springer will put rounds downrange faster and with good accuracy while also training you to shoot an AK 47. But the rifle is no longer sold. I would also have suggested the Bronco for around $100 but that has been discontinued as well. The B30 is a cheap knockoff of the RWS 48 and proclaimed by famous airgun tuner, Charlie Da Tuna, as the single best deal in all of airgunning, but that has been discontinued too. I know that for the longest time, B.B. recommended the Diana 34 as the best starter spring gun, but I haven’t seen that name for awhile. Just ask around for advice and enjoy reading the reviews on PA.


    • Matt61

      I appreciate the thought! I am so aprecciative of all this awesome info I’ve been offered!

      I have had a revolutionary day today. I went back to same store again and picked up the Diana 45… I couldn’t resist! It was manufactured to the month 1 year before I was born haha. 3/86 and compliments my Diana 36 well for my needs. The 36 is 2 years newer 8/88.
      U wanna talk about blown away!!!! I will never under buy again. I’m set for rifles for awhile. (Its easy to say that now haha) These rifles fit me as well as my 392 but they are all different so that’s ultimate lol. A high quality underlever is a couple years off but a target pistol has worked it’s way up my short list.

      The pellets are getting low already! 50 shots used to leave me dissapointed with my hatsan 95 and my brothers abandoned crosman venom nitro. Those things drive a guy like me nuts!!! Always guessing on my hold and form etc. I would put 5 in my thumbnail and shotgun blast the other 5. It was to the point where I swore off paper. The 392 peep sight seems impractical for targets as of now. But I will return to it later. My wife drinks mango-ritos in the small cans and I have found they are a fun challenge and that I aim for the heart (letters haha) it was so much fun that I went in that direction. My definition of fun is probably not typical (said the pot to my fellow kettles)

      I’m making headway in leaps and bounds now. My brother is very interested in the German quality I was able to show him today. I keep the distance longer 25-40yds and experiment with dif pellets. I know the results he wants to see to commit to AGing.The jsbs are doing well for now but need more! We got into rimfires when I was old enough to move out and keep them with me.

      A bittersweet teaching experience was absorbed completely today… Pesting is not for me I don’t think. Long story short I eliminated a pest today with great remorse… I was asked to do it… it was 19-20yds with the 45. Everything was perfect the shot was on target the prey barely moved after hit and was completely dead in an instant it seemed. I am not a hunter and almost feel bad about filleting fish (almost). From this day forward you can bet on what I’m not punchin holes in. Unless I’m starving with McDonald’s extinct or we’re fighting off an intergalactic threat (lol I know I’m ridiculous)

  8. This just might be the most cringingly patronising, patriachal, thing I’ve ever read lol
    It must be a cultural thing, not certain this translates well to us generally godless Brits 🙂

    • Dom,

      I too prefer the rather “dry” and “cheeky” humor of the Brit’s.. “Are You Being Served?” comes to mind. I never could do Monty Python though. I never could do “slap stick”, be it Brit. or American.

      • Downright hostile to each other, rather than cheeky…..we’re only polite to people we don’t care for, and everything, and I mean everything, is treated with a dry, gallows humour, I read a book called “Watching The English” by the Anthropologist Kate Fox (whom I imagine would take some issue with the patronisation of our heroine here lol) that really opened my eyes about our strange little ways, the book applies equally to Scots, Welsh and Irish too, going into queuing culture, both visible and invisible, even solo, our unwritten rules that I had never realised I had conformed so strictly to, an excellent read for anyone coming here and a must for every Brit
        We really are divided by a common language in many ways, certainly you’d take a fairly wide course around anyone going to Bible studies, it would be seen as a slightly bizarre thing to do, and mark you as a touch untrustworthy, if someone tried to make us sing the national anthem outside of a multinational sporting event we’d flat refuse, you rarely see the union flag displayed, why would we, we live here, we don’t need it constantly reinforced, we know we’re Brits, but then, I guess, when you can trace your forbears back through 30 generations or so of getting rained on it’s somehow a bit less important,
        Dick Van Dyke has an awful lot to answer for in the US perception of the UK lower classes and Downtown Abbey has taken care of the rest, the truth is we are nothing like any of that on the whole.
        You must come over sometime, I’ll buy you a few pints of Real Ale, see how well you cope lol

        • Dom,

          Wow!,….. I can hold my own,…. I’ll take you up on that pint +++. I would enjoy the experience, should I ever get that way. The darker and richer, the better. No problem with Bible studies,….. it is just not everyone’s “cup of tea”. Both parents are very avid church goers.

  9. Redrafter—Thanks for the info re the Gletcher 1944. I ordered one this morning. I will want to compare my results with yours. How does it group with the bayonet –extended–folded? Are the sights on for windage, or do you have to use “Kentucky” windage? Can you load pellets into the chamber, ( single shot) instead of BB,s? If so, how do they group? I hope that BB tests this “gun” (its a smoothbore”) but I dont want to nag him. He still has not tested the Burris signature rings! Ed

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