usby Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Been awhile
  • New airgunners
  • A better way
  • Doing what works
  • The point
  • Sharpening straight razors

Been awhile

Part 1 of this report was written way back in the beginning of February. I think the reason it’s taken me so long to get back to it is I titled it wrong. I will discuss that as we go, but first let me define who “they” are. In the words of comedian, Red Green, “They” are everybody who is not us. Now that that’s clear we can continue.

Part 1 was a treatise on twist rates and how they affect accuracy. As many of you are aware, I use this blog to school both new airgunners and also airgun manufacturers — who are often as ignorant of the facts as new airgunners, but cannot or will not admit it. No engineer who has just been hired by an airgun company is going to admit there is something he doesn’t know about guns! Heaven forbid! And neither is any CEO or owner of a company, because in their minds they are in a position of authority and should therefore know!

So I write these blogs and they read them and they learn, just as you do. And, let me set the record straight — I don’t know everything, either. When it comes to collectibles I turn to guys like Mike Driskill and Larry Hannusch. When I need to know about manufacturing I turn to John McCaslin and others. Yes I know a lot about airguns. When you are interested in something and exposed to it for a long time, things soak in. But there is also a lot that I don’t know.

But I do know about rifling twist rates and how they relate to bullets and pellets. That was what made Part 1 so good. I suggest you read it so I don’t have to cover the same ground today. I ground that axe down all the way in Part 1, so today we will look at something else — what every new airgunner needs to know. Hey — that’s not a bad title!

New airgunners

I noticed that both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s reports this week were aimed at newer airgunners, so I thought I would just continue in the same vein today. We always ask new airgunners what they intend doing with their airguns when we are trying to help them decide on what gun to get. I think that’s wrong. If there is anyone who doesn’t know much about airguns and what can be done with them it’s the new guy, so how can they predict what they will do with one? It’s like asking 5-year-olds what they want to be when they grow up. And it forces many people into thinking they have to decide how they plan to use the airgun before they get it. That leads to a lot of couch time and time on the web, where they try to envision something they can only barely describe. And they then think they need to make their choice based upon this incomplete notion they’ve dreamed up.

A better way

Wouldn’t it be better to just put a nice airgun in their hands and let them experience it for themselves? Here is the new person who is all hyped up from reading about velocity and shooting tiny groups at impossible distances, and you hand him a CZ 631 breakbarrel to plink at plastic bottlecaps on the far bank of a stream 30 feet away while he tells you about the benefits of going hypersonic with a .177. After a hundred shots he turns to you and asks about the rifle he’s shooting because it seems like so much fun.

Maybe he will get that mega-magnum one day, but after experiencing the sweet little breakbarrel (or a Benjamin Discovery or a Diana Stormrider) he learns that there is more to shooting a pellet gun than just numbers. Maybe a better title for this report would have been, There is a better way.

Doing what works

I remember a .458 Winchester Magnum rifle I once owned. That’s an elephant rifle caliber, but the fellow who sold it to me also sold me the dies to reload it, about 100 cartridge cases and the bullet mold for a 558-grain round nosed lead bullet. Most importantly he gave me his loading information and told me if I followed it exactly the rifle would put bullet after bullet through the same hole at 100 yards. That just happens to be what I am interested in doing, so I did as he said and, sure enough, the rifle worked as advertised.

Even though it was an elephant rifle caliber the soft load made the recoil very light because the bullet moved so slowly. I didn’t own a chronograph back then but my guess would be the bullet left the muzzle at no more than 1,200 f.p.s., and probably not even that. If I had ever known the velocity I probably would have been dissatisfied, but all I saw was bullet after bullet going into an incredibly small group at 100 yards. I was very happy!

I was happy because of the results — the small groups in the targets — not because of numbers on paper. I was happy because I knew whatever I shot at, if it was 100 yards or closer, I was going to connect! Maybe the title should have been, Doing what works.

The point

Why am I telling you this? Well, if you are new to airguns, or if you want to get into precharged pneumatics but have been afraid to take the plunge because you have read about all the possible expenses, then the last two day’s reports were for you. You don’t need the mostest-powerfulest airgun on the planet to start having fun, and shooting 1,600 f.p.s. with pellets is a myth. It’s a science experiment with a tank of helium tethered to a hopped-up air rifle, but it’s not for the average shooter — any more than an AA fuel dragster is for trips to the grocery store.

What it boils down to is this — why are you interested in airguns? What has caught your fancy? I don’t care what you think you want to shoot — why are you interested? Would you like to shoot at things and hit them? Does being able to drop a pest humanely with one shot sound attractive? Or, is there a shooting sport like field target, silhouette or 10-meter (bullseye) that intrigues you?

For some of these things the airgun is nothing more than a tool — a means to an end. The pest shooter doesn’t need to love his airgun. It just has to work for him. The bullseye shooter is the same. He or she doesn’t have to fall in love with their target gun. They just want to use it to poke holes in paper as close to the center of the bull as humanly possible.

On the other hand, the field target shooter has to learn a lot about his or her equipment. They will be shooting at different unknown distances, over different terrain that forces them to use different holds. Even the elevation (both positive and negative) of the targets drives equipment needs (inclinometers). Their scopes will be greatly affected by changes in temperature, and nothing in their sport will be static. Even the way they fill their airgun with air (assuming it’s a PCP) will drive a need for other ancillary equipment. For a sport that seems so organized and simple (hit targets at unknown distances between 10 and 50 meters), field target is actually a complex endeavor with ever-evolving equipment.

You, the new airgunner, have all of this and a thousand times more ahead of you. Don’t think you have to choose exactly what you need for every possible situation. Just make a choice to get into the hobby quickly so you can discover what’s there for you.

Sharpening straight razors

As you know, I have been writing a blog series titled, How to sharpen a straight razor. Initially I thought it would be fairly straightforward to learn to do that and I would be exposed to what it feels like to be the new guy. Well, I definitely found that out! It’s been three months since I started and I now have several new hobbies — sharpening straight razors, shaving with straight razors, using advanced waterstones to sharpen things, collecting straight razors, collecting safety razors, collecting the equipment to sharpen double-edged safety razor blades….

I wish there had been someplace for me to go to learn some of this stuff without actually doing all of it, and not so many blind alleys to walk down (or invest in!). I’m still a newbie with straight razors but now I’m a dangerous newbie who knows just enough to get himself in trouble. I am trying in this blog to spare you from a similar experience with airguns.