by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Some basic truths
  • What am I saying?
  • What many do wrong
  • Ready, fire, aim!
  • Back to airgunners
  • Use the sights!
  • The end

Homework assignment. You need to watch the movie, “Karate Kid.” The moral of the movie is to slow down, concentrate and focus power! At least that’s what Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel-san.

Another phrase from WWII is, “Straighten up and fly right.” It pretty much means the same thing.

I almost titled this report, “Why I shoot muzzle loaders,” but I thought that would turn off the very people I was reaching out to today.

Some basic truths

1. When shooting lead bullets in a big borte airgun, always size the bullet at least one-thousandth of an inch larger than the bore. This is the principal reason 9mm big bore airguns are not accurate when shot with 9mm bullets (0.356-inches) but tighten right up when shot with 0.357-inch and even 0.358-inch bullets.

2. The longer the bullet or pellet in a given caliber, the faster it has to spin to stabilize. Anyone who has ever thrown an American football in a spiral pass knows this.

By the way, there are two different ways of getting the spin faster. Decrease the twist rate ratio or drive the bullet faster.

3. Overloading a black powder arm beyond a certain point does not increase its power. An airgun corollary to this is the fact that an impact type air valve (i.e., knock open) has a pressure limit, above which it will degrade in power.

I learned all this stuff and a lot more by shooting muzzle loading firearms. They forced me to slow down and contemplate what I was doing.

What am I saying?

Do you need to shoot muzzle loaders? Of course not! What I’m saying is if you want to enjoy airgunning to its fullest you need to learn at least the basics of firearms performance, so you can apply them to your hobby.

What many do wrong

Daniel-san wanted to learn karate very quickly. Mr. Miyagi had him wash and wax all his cars. Then he had him sand the extensive deck that covered almost the entire backyard of Miyagi’s home. Finally he had him paint the fence that ran around the perimeter of the property. When the boy finally rebelled at all the work, his trainer showed him that what he was really doing was developing muscle memory and reflexes.

Ready, fire, aim!

Many new airgunners buy an air rifle, scope it and then discover they can’t hit anything. Was the gun they bought accurate? Was the scope proper for the gun? Was it properly mounted? Is it adjusted outside the range and is the reticle floating? Is the shooter familiar with the special hold we call the artillery hold? What we often see is they just finished watching a Jason Bourne movie and they want to shoot like him. Here is the deal — even Jason Bourne can’t shoot like Jason Bourne!

Like young Daniel-san, these new airgunners want to start shooting at the expert level. But if they lack the basics, they can never rise that high.

Here is an example of what I am saying. Yesterday a young woman called her mother because her car “broke down.” What was wrong? Well, It didn’t “go” when she put it in gear.

Obviously the transmission was broken.

Or, was it?

Automatic transmissions work by using hydraulic pressure to move the parts that on manual transmissions have to be moved by people. In an automatic transmission, a fluid that resembles oil is used to generate and transmit the hydraulic pressure to the parts that need it. It is called automatic transmission fluid. Don’t get hung up on the fact that I called ATF oil. I know it has loads of additives and is vastly different from motor oil. I’m just making a simple point. Without ATF, an automatic transmission will not work.

In fact, if the automatic transmission is low on ATF, it acts just like it is broken. Add ATF to the correct level and the transmission just might start working again!

But, since adding ATF is not something you can do with a smart phone app, a younger person might not even be aware that is has to be done. That’s not a slur against young people. It’s just the way our world works these days. How can they know what they haven’t been exposed to?

Back to airgunners

How does this apply to airguns? Well, I run into new shooters who buy a gun and can’t mount the scope. The gun has open sights, but since they have never used open sights, they sit around thinking their new airgun will not work. Think I’m exaggerating?

Use the sights!

What about this one — a guy has an airgun that’s getting 4-inch groups at 10 yards and he’s blaming the cheap scope that came with the gun. Why not take that scope off and try shooting with the open sights? Then you would know whether it is the scope or the gun. “Well,” he says, “I’m 48 years old and these tired eyes just can’t see well enough to shoot with open sights any more.”

Poor you! I’m a little older (69), and my sighting eye that went blind last April has a repaired retina, a serious cataract, astigmatism and sees 20/100 before correction, but I have continued to use open sights.

The difference is, I learned many years ago how to put wax on and take wax off.

That’s the lesson today. Learn more about how to shoot. I’ve done it through a lot of reading and by shooting muzzle loading firearms that put me in contact with the lowest levels of gun operation. To get any more basic than shooting a flintlock I would have to make the gunpowder myself, which I also know how to do.

The end

I know I’m preaching to the choir today. The people who bring me their shooting problems — the Daniel-sans of the airgun world — usually haven’t got the time to listen to my answers. They just want to shoot!