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Stuff I cannot live without

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Not the big stuff…
  • Let there be light!
  • Tools
  • A magnifier
  • Electronic dial caliper
  • BB trap
  • More light on the subject
  • Are there other things?

Yesterday I used my Benbo 2 tripod for an extreme overhead shot and it brought to mind just how important that piece of equipment is to me. It’s a major part of my work, yet I seldom give it a second thought unless I’m using it. How many things are like that in an airgunner’s life?

Not the big stuff…
I’m not talking about the big obvious stuff today — stuff like chronographs and spotting scopes. Every airgunner needs them and you will too, once you see how well good ones work. The things I will talk about today are the little things — not necessarily cheap things, but things that are probably insignificant on the radar of your life.

Let there be light!
Every time I examine a gun and every time I work on one I have a small powerful flashlight with me. It’s as essential as any other tool. After all the problems with my eyes over the past few years, I find I need more light to see things in general, and airgun things in particular.

Now, Pyramyd AIR has lots of flashlights for sale and these days it’s hard to go wrong with any one of them. I try to avoid the ones that use the CR123A batteries, simply because they are so expensive. I do have a couple, like the UTG Compact Defense LED Light, but that one’s for defense and I don’t think you can get a 400-lumen light that runs on AAA batteries. But you can get a Pelican 1920!

Pelican 1920
My favorite flashlight runs on 2 AAA batteries and has twin power modes — up to 120 lumens!

The Pelican 1920 is so great that I have two around at all times. There are twin power modes — 20 lumens for seeing in the dark and conserving the batteries and 120 lumens for really lighting up your work. It’s the size of a fountain pen (just lost all those readers under the age of 50) and as rugged as you might expect.

I could not get along without my Weaver tool kit. I use it several times each week and every time I dive into another airgun. It isn’t the only such kit I own — I have 5 or 6 that I’ve acquired over the years. The Weaver is just the one that is always on my desk at the ready.

Weaver tool kit
My Weaver tool kit is an essential item on my desk.

To be perfectly honest, there are jobs the tools in this kit cannot handle. Trigger adjustments are one, because the shaft of the screwdriver is too fat to fit through the hole in the triggerguard. And the deep holes in buttstocks that are attached with large screws to the backs of actions are too deep for a set like this. So you keep specialty screwdrivers for those purposes and use this for everything else. Ninety percent of the time, a kit like this is all you need.

A magnifier
I use magnifiers every day! To be sure, my eyes have caused some of this, but even when they were perfect I kept a large magnifying glass, a magnifying headset and a jeweler’s loupe on my desk. There are times when it becomes essential to see whether something is a scratch or a crack in the metal. And, is that another number in the serial number, or just a small nick in the metal? You need to magnify it to see for sure.

This is where a smart phone comes in handy. Several times at gun shows I have used mine to magnify something 10 times so several people could see it at the same time. I recommend that you look into a phone app that magnifies. I may always have my Pelican 1920 at a gun show, but I never had a magnifier, until now.

Electronic dial caliper
Years ago I broke down and bought an electronic dial caliper. I suppose I’ve owned it for about 10 years and I have replaced the battery just one time. Every group I report gets measured that way. And that’s how I measured thos BBs in yesterday’s report. Some of you know what I mean and cannot live without your dial calipers, either. The rest of you need to start looking for one!

Electronic dial caliper
My electronic dial caliber is indispensible!

Yes, mine was made in China! Listen — years ago when these things were analog, that mattered. Today they are electronic and I think all the precision and reliability is there regardless of the name on the box. Okay, I just painted a target on my back — have at it!

BB trap
Yesterday I set up a 5-meter range in my bedroom to test the Stechkin pistol. That was much easier because of the UTG pellet & BB trap. I have several pellet traps, but stopping steel BBs has always been a problem until this trap came along. The ballistic curtains inside stop the BBs from bouncing back out and getting all over the carpet. Sure, a few still escape, but this trap makes my life so much easier!

UTG BB trap
The UTG BB trap makes setting up a BB range quick and clean.

More light on the subject
I’ll finish with another light. This one is a Tota Light. It’s for photography, but I also use it for lighting the chronograph indoors by reflecting off the white ceiling, and for illuminating the target when I shoot indoors. It has a 500 watt halogen bulb

Tota Light barn doors open
Here the reflecting “barn doors” are open, to spread the light as much as possible.

Tota Light barn doors closed
The barn doors are closed to concentrate the light.

Tota Light off ceiling
To get even light on the floor or table for photographing a gun, the Tota Light is reflected off the white ceiling.

The Tota Light is rugged. The U.S. Navy used a bank of them to illuminate the interior of a submarine that was in a nuclear test. They filmed the inside of the sub, which I am told was blown 20 feet sideways when the blast hit. All the Tota Lights survived the blast!

Are there other things?
You bet there are! The binoculars that I use as a spotting scope inside the house is one thing. The ammo box I take to the range is another. There are a lot of things I never give any thought to — until I don’t have them when I need them. They are as much a part of my airgunning adventure as any airgun.

You may not be thrilled to get things like this, but when you need them and have them, they will make your life so much easier.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

48 thoughts on “Stuff I cannot live without”

  1. I am 42 and know the size of a fountain pen 🙂

    My favourite torches (flashlights for you Americans) are known as sipik sk68 clones. All bought for under $2 on ebay. They are single AA and go from zoom to flood but most of mine have the lens removed to give a beautiful 150 degree light. I have more far expensive torches that range from smaller, to more powerful, but my 7 sk68s get more than 7 times the use of any other torch.

    I will admit I tried sk68s from 2 other ebay vendors that were pathetic before I found a dealer with good stocks.

  2. B.B.

    I hope the next article is what you need at the range. This is an excellent summary of what air gunners need!
    I picked up a very strong magnifying glass at a flea market a few years ago and use it all the time.
    Certainly more than my fountain pen…LOL.
    For those of use who may need corrective lenses, be considering Lasik surgery, or needing corneal implants; what is the best way to see 10 meter open sights?
    Thanks for a great article.


    • I always worry when I see people asking about LASIK surgery; mine left me blind for a month, follow up surgery was able to restore most of my vision, but it will never be as good as it was before, when I just used glasses. (I use bifocals now)
      Consider PRK, if you are under 35 or don’t mind bifocals, but LASIK cuts a hole in your cornea and it will always stay a hole in your cornea. PRK just precisely scars the surface. Wish I had known THAT before hand.
      I think the best way to see open sights is aperture lenses, the little ” pinhole thru a dark covering ” you often see target shooters using, generally with a cover for the other eye. You can even get vinyl shooting decals for regular glasses, or just use tape.

      Just my opinion, but I believe BB has a set as well.

      • Qjay,

        Sorry to hear about your troubles.
        I guess what I was getting at was hoping that B.B. would share his unfortunate vision issues in so far as it has to do with shooting with just sights.
        When shooting my target rifle, even when I am wearing my distance glasses, the target is a black fuzzy ball seen through a black fuzzy circle. Help.
        FWIW-10 meters, Williams aperture sight, front HW globe sight with circle insert, 10 degree spot light centered on the bullseye.


        • Yogi,

          I wear progressive bifocals and as for myself do not have trouble with open sights including peep. I guess I automatically adjust where I am looking through my glasses to bring the target in focus. The only issue I have is my glasses do not allow me to use the rubber eye cups.

    • Darn! Siranko (appropriately enough with his blog logo) beat me to it! I use the scissors, knife, screwdriver, and toothpick on my little Victorinox Swiss Army knife almost daily. I’ve even dressed small game with it. It lives on my keychain and is so comfortable there I have to make a special effort to remember to remove it when flying or visiting a government building.

      • Hiveseeker

        Well shucks! Both Siranko and you posted first. I have several Victorinox Swiss Army knives of all sizes but the small one on my key chain gets constant use everyday. Even the tweezers are needed to pluck a stray pellet from a crack between boards on my deck. The scissors are so necessary I am lost when I have to fly without them. But as handy as the key chain sized knive is, I think a sharpened full length pencil is a more dangerous potential weapon. I’m guessing pencils don’t sound scary enough.


  3. BB
    Not sure if jewelers screwdrivers, including fine allen drivers, are one of your kits but I use them all the time. You can keep pressure on the extremely small screws constantly while rotating them because of the rotating pad at the end. Invaluable when I replaced a seal on the Colt Peacemaker and they work very well on recessed screws being long and slender. The fine allen wrenches also make great punches for removing pins without mushrooming them and the ever present Pelgun oil.

    A complete set of allen wrenches also. Should say ‘ two ‘ to cover metrics. I realize the tips are in the kit there but once again they are slender. I’m sure they both come under your other things but I won’t even start on an airgun without them. But then my involvement leans more to modifications, repairs and maintenance with a whole host of must have items like tweezers and magnets.

  4. BB
    Not sure if that light came with a warning label but I have two pole type torch lights that reflect off the ceiling and they only have 300w bulbs and the warning label says do not get closer than two feet to the ceiling or combustible materials. Hard to tell how close you are or how long you leave it on but that 500w bulb probably needs a lot more clearance. Just a heads up in case others want to try it.

  5. Nice article. I will second B.B.’s comment on the calipers. I have a digital set,10$,… a dial set, 35$ and a Pelletgage, the holy grail of precision. All are the same. The digital is nice in that it does mm and inch.

    4″ craft tweezers are great too. Not the conventional ones, but rather the ones that will hold an object if you let go. The blades cross over each other and operate just opposite of regular ones.

    I could go on and on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, you will end up with an amazing array of “goodies” if you have been around airgunning long. Double that if you are the modification type.

    Good Day to one and all,… Chris (my fountain pen is Pelican brand. Perhaps we will hear from an old timer familiar with quill pens?) 😉

    • August,

      Yes, we do!

      Although i must admit that I am cheating.

      My wife is specialized in old 1100-1500 bible manuscripts and once in a while she gives lessons to high school students. A well treasured part is the “Writing your own medieval manuscript” which is naturally with quills.



      • August,

        That would be fun to do/try. I do know that writing with a fountain pen is best done on high quality paper. Paper making is something of an interest as well and have had 2 sister’s play with it to some great degree of success.


    • Chris,
      My first two years at school, age 5 & 6, were spent writing on a slate. The next year the class graduated to ink pots and quill pens ( a metal nib on a pencil sized stick ). Sometime afterwards fountain pens arrived on the scene and by the time we graduated from primary school, ballpoint pens were the writing instrument of choice. After graduating from high school I bought myself a Parker fountain pen in sterling silver- they still make them and you can order one online for $30.
      Visit the website and have a walk down memory lane.

      • Pete,

        I did check it out. Nice. My preference is the really ornate ones. Mine is black and marbled silver with real gold accents and nib. It was 110$ back in the early 90’s. Surprisingly, the matching ball point was 100. Both are very nice. That is another whole hobby I could over board on,… real, real easy. Oh, The ink has to be drawn out of a well/jar with the end that rotates/draws a piston. No cartridge. It even has a 360 degree window to view the ink.

        On the side, my Mom has used fountain pens for years, nothing real nice,… but she said that only the writer/owner should ever write with it due to the way the tip wears into the individual users unique hold.

        Thanks,… Chris

        • Chris
          Your Mom was correct. Even the cheapo’s. I used to buy the Scriptos and another brand that held cartridges when I was in Junior High. That was back when they actually taught and expected us to use cursive – I understand they don’t even teach that any more.
          Larry from Algona now in Dalhart, TX

          • Larry,

            So I hear. I guess that Cursive is something that is special and something that students need to learn in study hall or some other such “off” time. I do believe that there is classes that serve to teach one to only write their name, for instance’s of signing documents. No doubt that one can type on a computer and have it read/appear as Cursive writing.

            I was going to make some wise crack about “back in the day”,… and walking to and from school, “uphill,.. both ways”,…. and fending off dinosaurs along the way. Then, if we were lucky,.. we would get/kill one with big spikes on it’s tail and the we would use those as writing instruments. Despite being obviously fictitious,… I figured it would be lost anyways. 😉


              • Larry,

                As an additional side note,.. my Grand Mother, maternal,.. was able to know a person’s personality and traits through their hand writing. She was quite good. She learned that from her Grand Mother. “Old School” forensics’ if you will. To have her look at letter and have her describe what the shapes and flow, etc. meant was really quite amazing. It pretty much left you speechless.


  6. Ah, well do I remember the Tota Lights from B.B.’s excellent photography series! A (much cheaper) set of studio lights was the most important thing I’ve purchased for tabletop gun photography and shooting indoor videos.

  7. My go-to flashlights are now powered by 18650 rechargeable lithium ion batteries. I have an Armytek and a Skilhunt headlamp that can illuminate something on the table in front of me, or everthing within 50 yards depending on setting (1,000 lumens or so). A single 18650 battery has about the same power output as six AA batteries. These headlamps have plastic TIR elements that produce a wider and more uniform pattern than the typical parabolic reflector. Seems my eyes have slight cataracts, and good lighting makes a big difference in resolution. There are also $20 handheld “tube lights” powered by one 18650 battery with beams about the same max output as an auto headlight.

  8. B.B.,

    An item I use at least once a day on average is a small, round, plastic tape measure. It extends to only five feet, is a limp coated cloth type, has a push-button, spring-powered retraction, and both metric and imperial measurements. I like that they are like a tailor’s tape, not a carpenter’s tape, because I can easily measure circumference.

    You’ve seen these. They are usually blue or white plastic with a white button, and round. They go for around a dollar or so on the big auction site, so when they break, I throw it out and get out the next one. I have one each in my little toolbox, big toolbox, glove box, brief bag, home desk drawer, work desk drawer, and one in our kitchen junk drawer (itself a thing I cannot live without).


      • B.B.,

        Don’t ever pull it out to its absolute maximum — that’s how they break. :^) I always stop a couple inches shy of the max.

        Hey, that’s kinda like putting only 17 BBs into a magazine with a maximum of 18. 18 and it’ll jam. And then there were the early SA revolvers of the 19th century which looked like they were six shots but really were five shots maximum. (Unless the shooter was suicidal.)


  9. I’m surprised no one has mentioned magnets yet. It was the first thing I thought of when BB said some BBs still bounce out of the BB trap. A strong magnet on a stick is very handy for cleaning up spilled BBs and finding those dropped ferrous parts.


      • B.B.,

        I fondly remember when the neodymium market dropped. Rare earth magnets had always been incredibly expensive, but then boom! They became only slightly more expensive than ceramic magnets. Lots of folks have probably had minor injuries by underestimating the strength of neodymium magnets, however. Other downsides, but they can be dealt with, are neodymium’s susceptibility to corrosion, shock, and exposure to high temperatures. That’s why they are always plated or painted. In industry they often are outfitted with their own heat sinks.

        In the guitar world AlNiCo has a special place, and it costs slightly more than ceramic as well, but I suspect that is only due to lower production. And the magnets that sadly just aren’t made anywhere anymore are CuNiFe.

        People are often surprised to learn that different magnets sound differently in guitar pickups and loudspeaker motors.


  10. Well, I still use a fountain pen, have no idea how many flashlights I have but they’re all over the house and car. Have a pencil light in my range kit and travel with a small, handheld that has a red LED for night use (prevents lots of broken toes during those frequent trips to the John). Finally, I traded my Swiss army knife for a Leatherman juice. Roughly the same size but the metal is superior to the Swiss knife and takes and holds an edge light years better than the inexpensive Swiss knives. No toothpick or scissors but a dandy needle nose pliers. It is pricy.

  11. I made my life easier with the use of a good, sturdy tripod when working with my ProChrono. Don’t overlook the Good will store for one of these. I got lucky and found a Dynex DX-TRP60 60″ tripod for $14. Of course it can also be used for photography work. A “nice to have item”.

  12. I’ve used Tota-Lites for 25 years now (in my photography) and they are great.
    I’ve recently switched over to one of the new LED panel lights because they do not generate the heat of the Tota, and the bulbs don’t burn out.
    But boy…do they get hot. I remember once I was photographing a model and was using a Tota as a background light. It was on a boom stand just above the model. I had gaffer taped a piece of cardstock to the light to block any spill on the model. At one point I luckily looked up just before a big glob of melted tape was about to drip on the model shoulder.
    That would have been a hefty lawsuit I imagine.

  13. 1) on the list; Variations on our old friend, the Hemostat. Comes in a vast selection of odd- shaped but intensely useful shapes and sizes. Just the thing in the world of locking miniature pliers for recovery of lost microscopic nuts, bolts, washers, adjustment of arterial bleeding, and removal of imbedded foxtails from the terriers (0r your own nose.
    It occurs to me many living elsewhere than the Western US have not been exposed to the true evil of the foxtail.. This being a pseudo-living creature somewhat disguised to resemble a simple grain of wheat.
    Do not be fooled. This is something expressly designed to torture canines, and you and keep Vets in business (blessedly so.)

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