Bully pulpit and the future of airguns

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Bully pulpit
  • Closed ranks
  • Lead, follow or get out of the way
  • A new dynamic
  • The stalwarts
  • Robert Beeman
  • What I did
  • Edith was the inspiration
  • I pulled the plug
  • The big push!
  • It’s not me

Bully pulpit

According to Wiki, “A bully pulpit is a sufficiently conspicuous position that provides an opportunity to speak out and be listened to.” The phrase was coined by Theodore Roosevelt, who felt the White House was a bully pulpit. In his day, the term bully meant excellent.

Closed ranks

When I started my newsletter — The Airgun Letter — in 1994, it was in response to a lack of literature about airguns. There were only a couple books on the subject at that time, and it seemed as if the serious airgunners wanted to hide their passion. Advanced collectors told me what a shame it is to have a reference like the Blue Book of Airguns, because now everybody can know what they know. In the past, they relied on ignorance to grow their collections at low prices. But when everyone can know that a Winsel CO2 pistol is ultra-rare, they stop selling them for $50, and the price climbs to over $1,000.

Winsel
What’s a Winsel? If you own a Blue Book, you’ll know.

It wasn’t just collectible guns, either. Airgun repair stations were close-mouthed about what they did and how they did it. I guess they figured they had to keep their mouths shut if they wanted to remain in business. They knew there were only a few airgunners and they didn’t want to share them.

Lead, follow or get out of the way

I hated this hush-hush attitude when I first encountered it in 1993. To me, a thing is either growing or it is dying. Stasis is unachievable in the real world. But not all growth is good. No one wants a cancer. Growth has to be healthy to succeed. So, taking my wife’s advice, I set about to grow airgunning by kicking the top off the manure pile and seeing what was underneath. I may not have known that much about airguns, but as a lifelong shooter I certainly knew about shooting. The rest I could pick up as I went.

Once I started writing, things happened fast. It turned out that a lot of people felt the same as me and were looking for more information about airguns. They were starved for it, in fact. Things progressed so fast that the naysayers were quickly bypassed. Airgun shows sprang up and new people began flooding into the hobby — many of them latent airgunners who had been waiting for things to get organized. My subscription list didn’t grow that fast, but it sure put a load on a lot of office copiers!

A new dynamic

This sudden surge of interest changed the dynamic of the hobby. Now the veterans became concerned that the words that were getting out were correct. If they couldn’t stop the flood of information, at least they wanted it to be as right as possible. It was no longer “Mum’s the word,” but rather, “If you’re going to talk about it, get it right.”

The stalwarts

Of course it wasn’t all bad back then. There were those few who had been trying to get the word out all along. Larry Hannusch had been writing informative articles about airguns for many years when I started my newsletter. He is probably the most noted authority in the field, and, fortunately for all of us, he is still a young man. Along with Larry, Jess Galan wrote a lot about airguns. He isn’t writing as much today as he was in the 1990s, but Jess is another of the stalwarts who did his best to spread the word.

Robert Beeman

And I cannot write this piece without recognizing Robert Beeman, whose beautiful color catalogs changed the face of airgunning in the U.S. Many of us got our start from those informative resources. I treasure my collection of Beeman catalogs, and refer to them often.

It is also appropriate to remember the late Robert Law. His black and white catalog was the first U.S. publication that had any useful information about airguns. I have a few of them that I preserve. Yes, both Stoeger’s Shooter’s Bible catalogs and The Gun Digest have earlier mentions of airguns, but, aside from a few informative articles by Ladd Fanta and Jess Galan, there was nothing of any substance.

What I did

My part in all of this was to start a newsletter at a time when there was a desperate need for more information about airguns. It wasn’t that I knew a lot about them. Despite what some people say about me — I am no expert in this field. What I did was stand in the crowd and shout that the emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes! Several people agreed with me and started shouting the same thing. Before long, the emperor had to do something about it.

Edith was the inspiration

I say “I” but really it was “we.” My wife, Edith, coaxed me into starting the newsletter, and then she matched it with The Airgun Forum — a chat forum that was so active it became the pride and joy of our web hosting service. We never could have afforded the bandwidth needed to accommodate the 500 to 1,500 new threads (that’s new threads — not including the responses to these threads) that were put up on that forum every 24 hours, but the web hosting service we used considered it to be their portfolio. If they could handle a forum as active as ours, there was nothing they couldn’t do. To date, no web forum in the shooting sports has approached the level of traffic we had.

Like I said earlier, cancer is also a growth, and our level of visibility attracted a lot of unhealthy attention and jealousy. We were spammed, hacked and in a constant state of siege for over two years when I decided to pull the plug. Edith and I (it was mostly Edith) worked around the clock to keep the bad people in check. Even our hosting service was on call 24/7, to keep things running. We couldn’t go anywhere without dragging the forum with us. In one desperate case, the FBI got involved with some very sophisticated software that most people didn’t know existed. Through them I discovered who was doing a lot of the hacking.

I pulled the plug

So, in early 2002 I pulled the plug on “The Airgun Letter” and The Airgun Forum. And people were mad! I became the guy who was denying everyone their fix of information — the very thing I had set out to rectify! But I did it to keep Edith and I from going over the cliff. We refunded everyone’s subscription money — a move that cost us a bundle. In the end we lost a lot of money. But in the nine years we operated the world of airguns had changed. Instead of a few books on the subject, there were now over a dozen, with my R1 book being one of them. Pyramyd Air was up and running, along with Compasseco and Airgun Express, and the hobby was exploding!

Best of all, more books were coming out all the time. Today were have several good books on Daisy guns, a book on BB machine guns, numerous books about airgun hunting, and lots of general books about other airgun subjects. I contend that these books and online information are what advances this hobby, because they disseminate the word about airguns.

The big push!

But that isn’t all. It turns out that among the millions of American firearms shooters, many are latent airgunners. They are people who just like to shoot, and when they discover airguns they find a hobby that multiplies their shooting opportunities. This fact grows more important daily as the price of firearm ammunition rises and shooting ranges become more crowded.

Twenty years ago when I was asked what the future of airgunning was I responded that I wasn’t sure. It was growing, but the pace was slow. That is no longer true.

Airgunning is exploding! The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back. The future of airgunning is the future of shooting, itself. Or, we can turn that around. The future of shooting is airguns. Airguns will cease being apologetic substitutes for firearms and will take on a strong persona of their own. The guns have become so good that there is no reason to apologize for anything.

It’s not me

It sounds like I think I’m the reason for what has happened. Well, I don’t. I am just writing this as I saw it happen — from my perspective. This move was going to happen whether I came along or not. It might have happened differently, but it was inevitable.

45 thoughts on “Bully pulpit and the future of airguns


  1. Nice recollection and summary. Bully for you!

    In the section Closed ranks last sentence: “The knew there were only a few airgunners and they didn’t want to share them.” Probably should be, “They knew there were only a few airgunners and they didn’t want to share them.”

    In the section about Robert Beeman the last sentence: “I treasure my collection of Beeman catalogs, and refer to often often.” Probably should be, “I treasure my collection of Beeman catalogs, and refer to them often.”


  2. BB,
    I think you might be giving yourself not enough credit. It is impossible to say-I know less than you do, but I started reading your blog daily in 2006. As you say, airgunning has exploded. More people enjoy the sport than ever in my lifetime, but also the products are much improved-as is the information about them. If you were not largely responsible, it is amazing coincidence. I certainly would not have moved much further in the sport without your guidance and the community. I would have relegated myself to Wally guns-and never have known about the products of Germany, the UK, Turkey, Korea, etc.

    I’m just saying, if your column made a difference for me, I’m sure it made a difference for others as well. I hope PA fairly compensated you. Because of your work, I am a daily visitor to their website…and have the purchases to prove it.
    Rob


  3. BB and everybody on the blog is a peice of the puzzle. As well as the manfucturers. The aftermarket and Pyramyd Air and so on.

    All I can say is its a big puzzle and the more pieces there are to the puzzle the bigger and more pretty the airgun picture will turn out.

    Usually when a person starts a hobby or whatever we want to call it they search for knowledge about it. And most of the time they have knowledge to share.

    And then the knowledge a person looks for is unique in itself. Everybody has something different their after. And sometimes finding that is hard. People have to say what their after. That’s how the new products come along. That’s how we have exciting blogs to read and talk about.

    Just like BB said. If everybody keeps quiet like in the older days of air gunning. How will the sport grow. We need to say what we are after. That’s the only way to know. Hard to be a mind reader. But BB does seem to be pretty good at that.

    I see air guns becoming a bigger and bigger thing.

    I was just talking to Buldawg over the weekend about how much .25 caliber air guns have become more popular in the last few years. If I’m remembering right I think there might of been 9 or 10 different .25 caliber choices a couple years ago. Now look and see how many different .25 caliber pellets there are.

    And look at the big bore .30 caliber and up air guns. There were only a few here and there throughout time. Nowdays there is a new one comming out everytime you turn a corner it seems like.

    Nowdays there is just way alot of things to learn about in the air gun world. I like to tinker with stuff. But also I like getting one project at a time right. There’s some places out there to go to. But BB’s blog just seems to be a place where people can talk and learn without what goes on with some of the other forums and such.

    So where do we go next. I’m always watching for what new products come out. I think we are in for some exiting things to come about in the future for airguns.


  4. BB,
    I am one of those “latent airgunners” that has seen the light. Without the help and knowledge and shared experiences of the people here and elsewhere on the internet I would not even have a clue as to what is available or what it( an airgun) is capable of, or where I can buy one! I have even chosen to go over to the” dark side ” and,WOW!, am I ever learning alot in a hurry! One day, I think I know something, and the next I find out that I didn’t finish my research properly. Doing the research is great fun, but I also learned here that you just have to go out and apply what you learn. I finally found a place where I can shoot out to 85 yds. and I am amazed at what my little Discovery can do! In doing some requested “pesting” for the land owner,I took 6 magpies and 4 rabbits in about an hour. Fired 11 shots ,from 51 to 63 yds. The rabbits made a good stew!
    Thanks to all for helping bring joy back into my life.
    Bruce


  5. BB, thank you very much for your years of research and this blog. What I know about air guns is from this blog,
    Finances dictate what our main interests are in the hobby, and lucky for us, you seem to have all the bases covered.For the person that $50 is a big purchase, to our more affluent friends that can afford the best, your tests and comments please us all. I still find it amazing that one day you can test a $40 BB gun and the next day a $1800 gun and find virtue in either. I really like your openness to test BB guns and not have that snob approach of if it is not a pellet, it is trash. BB guns are what many of our younger readers can afford. Not only the price of the gun , but the cost of the ammo. Thank you for doing such a super job.
    Harvey


  6. B.B.,

    I can echo the few comments above and could add (much) more. Instead,…. a very simple and very earnest,.. “Thank You B.B. for jumping in there. Maybe,… more importantly,….and more of a testament directly to you,…. Thank You for staying in there.”

    Chris ( aka: late to the game and trying like heck to make up for it)


  7. Funny thing, before I read this posting I just sent an e mail to Pyramyd Air offering my suggestions on issuing serialized and limited edition collectables as air gunning seem to be moving into that area now. Right up my alley but it seems a little forethought on how to issue them should be undertaken.
    Do you mark every gun 1 of 100 or assign a hundred serial numbers like S/N 01 of 100, The desirability level is now affected and how do you decide who gets S/N 001 ?
    I suggested a bid with funds donated if they go that way, Kinda like with the Magpul Camo Armada. I imagine the desirability and rarity of the specific gun would come into play here.
    Who knows what the desirability of some of these will be in the future ? Especially with the improving quality of Airguns.

    Bob M


  8. I have to throw in my thanks to you as well Tom. It is your blog and the user community here that has made air gunning my main interest and hobby.

    I discovered the blog when I was searching for information on my FWB124. Started reading other posts as was pleasantly amazed at how far airguns had come as to range and accuracy – I couldn’t believe the targets showing half-inch groups at 25 yards as I was used to minute-of-a-popcan accuracy at that range.

    I really believe that its your and Edith’s efforts that have had a major effect on the air gunning world.

    Thanks again!

    Hank


  9. B.B.
    I admire your humility on this one, downplaying your own role, while ensuring to give credit to others.
    I’m sorry for all that you and Miss Edith had to go through that caused you to have to close the Airgun Letter & the Airgun Forum, but I’m happy for all the work you did, and the encouragement you gave to all those airgunners out there. Keep up the good work!
    take care & God bless,
    dave


  10. B.B.

    As a guy who has never seen a beeman catalog, much to my dismay, I would say that this blog and the work you painstakingly do is an evolved and much richer form of informational media. You say you just so happened to be the guy that “took this role” so to speak. What if you hadn’t how much longer would we have had to wait for this excellent info? Maybe a year, maybe years? What if the discovery pcp hadn’t been conceived when it was? We might still be too focused on magnum springers for extra power and dissapointment. (Speaking for myself if noone else) The discovery pcp was a great discovery indeed! I don’t need to repeat its merits.

    Tom, you get a lot of well deserved praise. I don’t know what else I can say to add to that. You took up your sword and shield and stood strong, educating many. Regular guys like me that don’t shoot that well all the way up to the elite marksman can appreciate the information you package together in this fantastic blog. I am very lucky to live in a time where my hobby has always had you writing this blog. I didnt even know you were hiding your identity in the early years at first! I appreciate you so much that I try not to address a lot of “beginner” questions to you because I see the following of readers with strong knowledge that YOU helped create. They can help me. You help me with the awesome blogs that are published without fail. Thank you.

    Best Wishes
    Kevin


    • Kevin,

      Thanks, but I really didn’t do that much. Like I said — I just said the emperor had no clothes and others chimed in. Now the emperor is dressed and watches what he wears. We have a hobby that has passed from the backwater status to become a leader in the shooting sports.

      If I am remembered for anything (besides the Discovery that I am very proud to be a part of) I want it to be my latest series on teaching women to shoot. Because it’s not just about women — it applies to everyone. I used a man/woman relationship because I thought my readers could relate to it easiest, but this series is really about teaching anyone to shoot. Physical size differences and the fear of guns are universal. But when I say we are teaching a woman, most men dial up their considerate side. That’s what is lacking in a lot of firearms instruction today, and that’s what I want to promote.

      I believe that if more people were introduced to shooting my way (with consideration and explanation) more people would stay with the shooting sports. Several times in the recent past I have mentioned the one million-plus kids who compete in 10-meter target shooting in the U.S. every year. How many of them remain shooters? Very few. About as many as the number of kids who play soccer for the rest of their lives — though for children soccer is the most popular sport in this country .

      You and I know that shooting is fun. I want more people to find that out.

      B.B.


      • B.B.
        I had forgot to mention the shooting series! I owe all of my meager handgun skills to that series!

        Truly great men don’t often think they are all that great. 😉 it is not the contribution, it is the impact.

        The ant hill analogy is perfect!


  11. I think you used the wrong name for the pile you kicked over.

    You kicked the top off of an ant hill, and millions of us crawled out!

    Thanks for kicking it!!!



  12. BB,

    a very interesting short history of the evolving of airgun information and literature and reminded me that I need to buy your new book from PA which I’ll do right after posting this. My curiosity was piqued by your statement that the FBI discovered who was doing most of the spamming on the earlier blog. Can you tell us or do you prefer this to remain unknown to the general public?

    By the way, how has the eye responded? I myself just had cataract surgery yesterday and today I can atleast read and drive a car.

    Fred DPRoNJ


    • Fred,

      I won’t say who the person was. He was notified that we were on to him and he stopped. Our problems were cut by 80 percent after that.

      My right eye is now seeing 20/20 in the doctor’s office. But it doesn’t focus on the same image as my left eye. So I don’t see double, but my vision is a confused image. If I use just one eye, things clear up.

      I have now heard of a great many people who have had detached retinas and so far I seem to be the luckiest one. Several have lost their sight forever. I am glad to have what I have.

      B.B.


      • I would think that you would regain binocular vision if your vision in the right eye is that good. I’ve had a similar experience and all as a result of guns! When we were kids, my brother and I were playing around the house with cheap little toy rifles whose muzzles ended in sharp tin edges. I came around a corner, and I still remember the blurred image of him charging forward with his rifle up right before it laid open my cornea. By a fantastic stroke of luck, the eye was saved by a world-class surgeon who was a refugee from the Prague Spring! However, that eye developed as far-sighted while the uninjured eye became extremely near-sighted, almost legally blind. So, I ended up using my eyes separately without being aware of it. One doctor who examined me said that I could only bear it as a result of gradual development over time. Most people would go insane with this condition. Maybe that explains a few things… Anyway, thanks to medical advances, I had some procedures done to make the vision of the eyes comparable, and over time, I gained binocular vision. I can’t really explain what it is like other than a feeling of wholeness and coherence in the vision. Anyway, if my binocular vision recovered after decades, I guess B.B.’s probably will too. 20/20 is very good and much better than what I’m seeing right now. Maybe that explains my poor showing with the M1 at distance.

        Matt61


  13. BB
    Something else you missed in your modesty, BB, is that you have attracted a outstanding number of extremely knowledgable and helpful contributers! Whether they are answering one of my newbie questions or talking about things above my experience, the bloggers here are polite, patient and willing to share their knowledge without any bad language or sarcasm. . And you Are responsible for that! Thank you.
    Fido3030


  14. I’m obviously a believer in the blog, but if anyone had told me I would be following a blog on airguns for so long, I would never have believed. Even many firearms shooters still think of airguns as toys. So, turning them into an ongoing subject of discussion is no small feat.

    That is mighty peculiar that someone would be so antagonistic as to want to hack a chat forum. Usually, the discontented ones take it out in blowing as the saying goes. I wonder why the same hasn’t happened here. There was just one obnoxious person, and he finally quit.

    Thanks for the all the feedback about the resealable targets. It would be ideal to rest my ball target at the base of a berm. As for ricochets, has anyone heard of a dangerous one past 75 yards. For a projectile to rebound in a straight line with killing power at that range seems very unlikely unless you are using a .50 BMG possibly.

    As for the guns to use, I’ve been giving that some thought. The only ones that would hit at that distance are my Savage 10FP sniper rifle in .223, my Mosin sniper rifle in 7.62X54R, my Anschutz with a scope, and possibly my scoped AK in 7.62X39. I also might try B.B.’s trick of trying to shoot that distance with a .38 special.

    Matt61


    • Matt61
      A ricochet at 75 yards or past. Yes it would be dangerous. The question is what if it did hit someone or something.

      When a bullet or pellet does ricochet off of something its shape is now deformed. It could flatten out some. Or could fragment. And other scenerio’s. The projectile could start tumbling which is very dangerous. That’s why you hear that funny wizz sound sometimes when a ricochet happens. I seen projectiles glance off of rocks and such and flatten out and act like frisbee. And I’m not making it up.

      Its what can be hit is the problem. How would or could you know what direction it will fly off at.


  15. B.B., if nothing else you fell prey to the old adage, “if you really want to learn something, teach it”.

    Who knows how much has been a direct or indirect outcome of your efforts? As I look back at the archive you have given us, I know that you have been a butterfly that has not ceased to use your wings to further knowledge and change, both for yourself and for all others. Sure, some folks have been ticked off at you and some of them will go to there grave still ticked off, sadly. Others have entered the conversation and you have learned from them, and you have said so. All of this to say, you have your place in the advancement of airguns and air gunning. You are not the only one, but you are definitely one!

    In the short time I have know you, quite a bit has changed. The Benjamin Rogue may be part of collectable history, but mass produced big bore rifles have gained ground. Perhaps, the Discovery was part of the Butterfly Effect.

    “In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.”

    I know Edith continues to lend her wings to your flight.

    I want to delete everything I have just written, so I will post it now because it is what it is at this moment in time.

    ~ken


  16. BB, I remember how excited I was years ago each time the Airgun Newsletter came in the mail. As with all of us, there were times when life was less savory, but the Newslettter picked me up when it came. I still have them all in boxes in my office. You brought a lot of fun into the lives of a lot of people…and continue to do so.

    I’ve mentioned before that I wandered off from air gunning for a few years. When I returned and found your blog I was elated! I didn’t have to wait for the mail anymore…I could gorge on the ten-plus years of your blogs right here at my fingertips! Heaven!

    I’ve learned a lot about air guns over the years. Some, like you, came from the Beeman catalog. Some came from from experimenting. Some came from hanging around with the few fellow air gunners I could find in the area. But, an awful lot came from your writing over the years. Please accept my heart-felt thanks for your patience, your passion, your humility, and your humanity.

    Looking forward to continuing to read your writings for years to come. Take good care of that eye!

    Motorman
    St. Louis, MO


  17. I’ll add Robert Law and Ladd Fanta to the list of Airgun “stalwarts” that helped launch Airgun popularity in the USA. However, if I hadn’t found B.B. Pelletier’s blog I probably would have never learned about those guys.

    kevin


  18. I read this blog first thing every morning. I don’t comment often, because most of you know far more than I do. But I do remember the Beeman catalogs, and choosing an airgun from the catalog, then going to a gun store in Mountain View, California. My choice was a Webley Tempest, but the clerk showed me a Diana 5, and 6, and 10. I couldn’t afford the recoiless 10, but I bought the 5. That was my first airgun, and for many years, that was my only airgun. I missed out on the Airgun Letter, and when I retired and moved to smaller digs, I gave up my Beeman catalog collection. So it was a real joy to find this blog.

    So I remember a little bit of the history that BB relates in today’s blog. What stands out for me, and I think it will stand out for many years to come, is that BB, and Edith, have created an opus here. Opus, in the sense of a major work, on a large scale. So much information has been brought forth that we will be mining it for years to come. The determination to find the facts, and promote the sport, every day, even on holidays, is so remarkable. And BB has never sunk into the politics or egotism that is so common with other leaders in this sport. Thank you, BB, from the bottom of my heart.


  19. Hi BB,

    I agree with what others have said. Although you don’t know everything about airguns (nor do you claim to) your insight and knowledge has sparked interest in a great many people. If it was not for your blog, the airgun bug would not have bitten me at all. Here in South Africa airguns were every boys’ staple but once you are old enough to get a firearm license, the airguns are forgotten. So basically airguns are seen as kids toys. Recently with the introduction of new firearm legislation, it has become a real PITA to get a firearm (Airguns up to 5.5mm are exempt). More and more people are now realising the joys of airguns. It is growing extremely fast in good and bad ways here (lots of BS doing the rounds), but reading your blog has taught me the right way of doing things. Please continue with your blog, I for one have read almost every entry you have posted (and I’ve only found you last year!) and read it everyday. You truly are the Godfather of Airguns/air-gunning.

    P.S. If you could, please do a review on the Diana/RWS 350 magnum? I have read many of them on the net but I only trust your opinions.


    • Mike,

      Welcome to the blog. And you’re from South Africa! My favorite singing group is Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who I had the pleasure of meeting two years ago.

      The RWS 350 Magnum? (Diana doesn’t want their name to be used with the guns anymore — at least in the U.S.)

      I did a review on that rifle for “The Airgun Letter” years ago. I’ll have to give it some thought. You are welcome to keep after me, if you like. 😉

      B.B.


      • Thanks B.B.

        Ladysmith Black Mambazo is the most well know “export” choir but choir music is quite big here, so there are a bunch more. Also have listen to the Soweto String Quartet if that’s your sort of music.

        Anyway, I recently acquired the Diana 350 Magnum Panther and would like to learn more about it. The reason I said RWS is because you guys in the ‘States know the Dianas as RWS. I didn’t know RWS is not associated with Diana anymore. If you have a link to your airgun letter article I would appreciate it.

        Thanks!
        Marius (MikeTango is phonetic for my initials)


        • MikeTango,

          Roger! Understood.

          I don’t have a link to the article because it was never published online.

          But I’ll see what I can do.

          One of my U.S. readers is Fred from the Peoples’ Republic of New Jersey. Fred read my newsletter article, then ordered a 350 Magnum for himself. He told me after he got used to it, his experience lined up with mine. He formed a love/hate relationship with that rifle.

          B.B.


  20. B.B.,
    Sorry I’m getting to this blog late, but thanks for your contribution to the airgunning world. I was disappointed that we didn’t see more readers’ submissions when you asked some time back “How has the Pyramyd Air Blog changed your life?” but it’s increased my enjoyment, understanding, and proficiency in shooting airguns. I know it’s done the same for thousands of others, and that’s no small accomplishment as you look back.


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