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Air Guns Oh, boy!

Oh, boy!

This report covers:

  • Remember…
  • Back to the present
  • Teach me to shoot
  • Pinewood Derby
  • What is it?
  • Track
  • However
  • Men’s Pinewood Derby
  • BB’s car?
  • Denny’s car
  • More
  • Why

The other day in the report titled, “Thank you” I told you that I get as much from this blog as any of you. Today I’m gonna prove it.


You veteran readers will remember that in 2017-2018 BB wrote 7 reports titled, “How to sharpen a straight razor.” Let’s look at the beginning of Part 1 of that report, because it tells you about today’s message.

Note to readers: This report was written over time and I was learning as I went. Parts 1 through 3 were written before I had done enough research to know what is right and, more importantly, what isn’t. Read them for enjoyment, but begin with Part 4 for the serious information on sharpening straight razors.

Don’t be fooled by the title of this report. I will indeed show you how to sharpen a straight razor, but that’s not what the report series is about. It’s about me getting into something new and fascinating, like airguns, but something I know nothing about, and wondering what I don’t know. It’s about learning something new. It’s also about wondering what is true and what is either misleading or an outright lie, when you are unfamiliar with the subject.

I’m writing this series for all the newer airgunners, some of whom are also new to the shooting sports. There is so much to absorb and comprehend! Where do you start? Many of you started in the wrong place, as did I. You acquired an airgun and immediately began seeing that it didn’t live up to your expectations. It didn’t do the things other people said it should. Was it the gun, or was it you? Or, were you just being steered wrong by people who talk a lot, yet have very little to say?

Back to the present

That’s what I said in 2017, updated after I learned a few things. Man, did I learn a lot about sharpening things from that report and from the comments left by you readers!

tank razors
After learning a few things about straight razors, BB designed these two beauties and had a local knifemaker make them.

Teach me to shoot

Remember last year that I told you about teaching kids to shoot with the Daisy 499B for the Royal Rangers? Well, my kids did learn to be safe with a gun — airgun and firearm both, and some of them even learned how to shoot, but old BB was the one who learned the most. Gonna do it again this year with a new crop of kids.

Royal Ranger small
Some of my students were smaller than the average bear. This fellow in the yellow shirt turned 6 as were were shooting.

One final comment on this. The kid’s pastor asked me if I could take the kids to the next level and teach them how to shoot 10-meter target rifles. Sure I can. Give me two assistant coaches and each kid has to spend three hours every week in training for six months, as well as shooting practice matches on Saturdays. And I want the parents to attend the first three sessions.

Oh, well, he didn’t know that it took that much time to learn to shoot targets. It doesn’t. It takes ten times longer. That was just to get them to the point where they knew how to shoot in a match!

Pinewood Derby

Okay, dads and grandpas — have I got your attention? A guy on the internet talking about the Pinewood Derby said dads and grandpas like building the cars because when they were kids their dads and grandpas built their cars and pretended that the kids built them. So BB opened his rememberer and, sure enough, the guy was right. When my son Tom was in the Pinewood Derby, I remember doing a lot of the work for him. I think I let him paint it. Tom turns 50 at the end of this month. A whole lot of water has flown under that bridge.

Stock Up on Shooting Gear

What is it?

The Cub Scouts have been building and racing Pinewood Derby cars since 1953. An estimated 100 million cars have been built. The purpose is to foster a better father-son relationship.

A Pinewood Derby racer is an individually built race car that operates on a gravity track. It’s like the Soap Box Derby, but on a much smaller and more affordable scale.


The track is scaled for human use. It fits inside a larger room and has a lever to release all the cars at the same time.

The cars accelerate down the track, pulled by gravity.

The cars are built from an official kit that includes a block of wood, 4 axels and wheels.

Pinewood Derby kit
An official Pinewood Derby kit. The slots in the wood are for the axels.

The kits are cheap, at less than $5 each. A dollar of that goes to the Boy Scouts. Cheaper kits are available, but the Boy Scouts don’t benefit.


There’s always a “however” when BB is involved — right? The official Boy Scout wheels are wide and it’s not allowed to thin them in any way. There are wheels that are narrower because it was learned years ago that thinning the wheels reduces friction and allows the car to go faster. Now the thinner wheels aren’t officially sanctioned, but — wouldn’t you know it — there is an “outlaw” class where they are.

Our Royal Ranger unit bought both official kits and outlaw kits, and I am leading up to something. Our Royal Rangers are having a Pinewood Derby race this week! But the men of the church remembered what fun it was when they built them with their sons, AND SO…

Men’s Pinewood Derby

This Saturday the men of my church are having a men’s Pinewood Derby. We are following many of the rules, such as the car must not weigh more than 5 ounces when it races, but there are a whole lotta thin wheels on campus. Including on BB’s car.

BB’s car?

Yes, BB Pelletier, the great wood butcher whose work looks like the output of a rabid beaver has made a car to race. Hey — someone’s gotta come in last, and I find it so easy to do.

Pinewood Derby BBs car
BB’s car has the outlaw wheels and of course for weight — bullets. What else?

Denny’s car

So I invited my next door neighbor, Denny, to come and race with us. And of course he knows how to work wood. So he built a fine-looking car. Denny made Pinewood Derby cars with his boys years ago and he remembers just like BB.

Pinewood Derby Dennys car
Now, my neighbor, Denny, made his car to win. To each his own, I say.


No doubt many of you know a lot more about the Pinewood Derby than BB. There are leagues that race frequently. The National Pinewood Derby Racing League is perhaps the best example. There are outlaw classes with all sorts of cool tricks to speed cars up. I have seen You Tube races where the cars weigh several pounds!


Why did I write this? It’s not about airguns. But it is about doing something new and trying to learn as you go. We have a lot of new readers who are doing just that, and I want them to know that we have all been where they are now. I try not to write my reports using too much jargon, but occasionally I slip. You readers who comment seem to try to do that too, and I thank you for that.

The shooting sports are booming (pun intended) these days and airguns have become so capable that they are surging to the forefront. I can’t keep up with all the advances — a fact some of you point out from time to time.

We have a great sport and interest area. Let’s see how many new folks we can introduce to our hobby !

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.

49 thoughts on “Oh, boy!”

  1. Cool, I remember my dad teaching me to make run on 3 wheels instead of 4.

    The 4th wheel is there, it just rides about 1mm above the ground.

    That’s how we got more speed with the fat tires..


  2. BB
    It’s pretty obvious that air gunners have a lot more in common with each other and anything you come up with will probably be interesting to us.
    My balsa wood 50’s style race car was a radicle departure from yours. It used a CO2 cartridge slipped into a rear compartment and it was punctured by a small aluminum cylinder with a spring loaded pin inside that fit over the cartridge.
    It reacted the same as that guy who strapped a C-130 Aircraft short takeoff JATO bottle to his car. The car got air borne and crashed into a mountain. Left skid marks all the way from the time he stomped on the brakes till all the tires blew.
    As far as keeping up with all the new stuff, it looks like a lot of stuff is simply being repackaged. The HK 416 has a lot in common with the Steel Force and some look like they just swapped out CO2, Pumper and PCP parts. Not bad but not all that new. Now full auto was new and big bore hunters are as well, not to mention all the fully adjustable ones.

    I have an example of most everything and thought I was satisfied when the Armada came out but my SAM AR topped that and we are awash in AR styled air guns now. No more Airsoft conversions necessary. Wish they all came out ten or so years ago.
    Bob M

    • Bob
      I had one of those Co2 cars and a plane that resembled a jet.

      The plane had a eyelet on top of the plane front and back. We would take some kite string and tie one end to a tree say 100 yards away. We would thread the string through the eyelets and tie that end of the string to a stick and stick it in the ground. Then open the piercing cap. It actually flew down the string good and was pretty darn fast.

      Pretty much the same thing with the Co2 car only the eyelets were under the car.

      And I remember hearing about that guy that flew his car into the mountain. Now that was some silly stuff there.

      • Gunfun1,

        I have one of those antique metal CO2 cars sitting on a shelf in the next room. I’ve never tried it. How do you pierce the cartridge with it sitting on the ground? Or, does it expend CO2 slowly enough to pierce it and then set it on the ground?


        • Michael
          I can’t remember exactly right now. But it was a metal cap that went over the end of the Co2 cartridge where it gets pierced. Then you would close a flip open lid that pierced the cartridge. Then you flipped it open. It clipped shut some way when you closed it to pierce the cartridge till you was ready to fire it. And from what I remember it released the Co2 violently. No big deal when we was kids though. When we held firecrackers inbetween our finger and thumb and ignited them the Co2 release was nothing. The good old days. 🙂

          • Gunfun1,

            Heh, heh. I remember holding the end (the VERY end) of firecrackers as they blew up. And to think my friends and I as adults have been trusted to drive large vehicles at high speeds on the road! 8^0

            I believe the little car I have is complete, but it lacks the feature you describe. I think it must have been a matter of sitting on the ground, holding the car down and piercng the cap manually with a nail sticking out of a small board or something of that sort. All the CO2 would blast out in a few seconds, I imagine.


        • Michael
          My car and plane I had was complete ready to run out of the box. It might of been Estes or Mattel or even Revell made them and sold them in the big box stores. I’m thinking that was probably back in the early, early 70’s when I had them. Back when Kmart was the go to big box store at the time.

          That piercing cap from what I remember was cast metal and probably aluminum. And also the plane and car used that same piercing cap.

          If somebody has what we are talking about or had similar or a link I would like to know about it .

          And what I remember too also about the plane is you trimmed out the control surfaces to make the plane fly level hands off. Just like a full size plane or RC plane. Shootski will for sure know what I mean about that. I’m sure that is fighter pilot 101.

          • Gunfun1,

            My toy is sheet metal, 7 3/8 inches long, and inside it says, “A PENCO PRODUCT LOS ANGELES CALIF USA PAT APPL’D FOR GAD-JET RACER” after that is a copyright symbol and 1947.

            Below is one just like mine, although the paint scheme is different.


  3. B.B.,

    I remember when I was a kid I used to race down a hill with my friends on our bicycles. Mine was a 10-speed with very skinny tires, and I was much bigger than any of my friends, so I could coast slightly faster than they could move pedaling! That was one of the few athletic things I could do better than my friends, albeit through no skill or hard word on my part.


  4. While the fine details of our lives are markedly different….. Thank you Tom. You have an uncanny ability to speak to our common denominators. The pinewood Derby is something I haven’t thought about in decades. You have jogged memories of my adopted father carefully crafting two cars. One was my older brother’s. We placed first and second. The final race was the two cars he built. My car lost that race to my brother. But then again it was actually my dad racing against my dad! I recall him concealing split shot inside holes he filled with wood putty. Sometimes you lead by negative example? I do recall it’s striking me funny….. In the final both cars were almost equal . all my dad really learned was the better of two cheating methods.
    I did grow up with a strong sense of fair play…… So there you have it.
    What a great trip down memory lane….. Or drag strip.

    • Frank,
      You recalled the one sad thing about my Derby; the kid who won had a car that weighed 0.3 ounces over the limit; but his Dad was good buds with one of the judges, and that guy allowed the win even though the car should have been disqualified for being overweight.
      “I did grow up with a strong sense of fair play”
      Yes, you learned the right lesson here, as did I.
      Back to airguns, I’m still shooting your old Haenel model 1 and loving it; it hangs on the wall in a place of honor…right over the plaque I got for helping the Israeli Air Force and right next to the cat tower…even the cats think it’s a pretty cool rifle. 🙂
      Take care & thanks again,

      • To the Davemeister… I can think of nothing that makes me happier than hooking someone up with a great air gun. It really takes the sting out of having to sell one. I am doing my level best to reserve the other caliber Haenel model 1 in case you ever want to reunite the pair. Enable enable enable LOL

        • “I am doing my level best to reserve the other caliber Haenel model 1 in case you ever want to reunite the pair.”
          Frank, I appreciate that, but don’t pass up a good deal if you should get one; it might be good to spread more of these old shooters around so more people can appreciate them. 🙂

  5. B.B.,
    Thanks for the memories; I hadn’t thought about the Pinewood Derby in decades! And as you said, it was my Dad who did most of the work in his basement workshop; I did get to paint it, though. My Dad used some concealed weights, placed in holes drilled on the bottom of the car and then epoxied in place, to make weight, the bullets you used look much cooler. 🙂
    And I love the two straight razors you designed.
    Take care & God bless,

  6. Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional 🙂

    Think I made more snow-forts and snowmen with my granddaughter than I did in my own childhood. LOL!

    Seems that I’m always getting into new things. This year it’s airbrushing and homemade fishing lures. There’s quite an art/science to getting a wooden lure to swim the way you want and painting them is a whole new skill set. Can see that keeping me entertained for quite a while 🙂

    The Pinewood Derby is an excellent idea, anything that gets a parent and child working together is good. I’m not aware if there is anything similar in Canada but then I’m more into airplanes and boats. …hmmm, what about putting a thin o-ring on the wheel to work as a narrow tire?

    Bonding with youngsters is important. I came to know a freelance instructor while attending a few of his software courses. Being away from home a lot he lost contact with his teenage son who started getting into trouble and he didn’t know how to bridge the gap. I gave him a set of kayak plans and suggested buying enough materials for two kayaks, one for him to build and one for his son. Got an email from him 8 months later saying that things were much improved; the building/bonding went well and they go paddling regularly.

    Three hours a week for six months to get started …can see that for competitive shooting. The Maximum Effective Range and Instinctive Shooting approach that I use takes less time (usually 10 or so half hour sessions with a shooter with some previous experience) to get to the point that they know how to practice on their own.


    • “I gave him a set of kayak plans and suggested buying enough materials for two kayaks, one for him to build and one for his son. Got an email from him 8 months later saying that things were much improved; the building/bonding went well and they go paddling regularly.”
      Hank, that’s awesome; I’m so glad you did that and that it worked out so well! 🙂

  7. My son got into the traditional contest at school for cars wich made the longest distance on their own. Fire and electrical propulsions were forbidden. This car did run around 50 yard, but keeping this in a straight line was a problem and hose grammaphone springs were a bit hard to handle.



    • August
      Pretty cool. If you would of put a little toe out on the rear wheels and some negative camber I bet it would of tracked straight. Kind of like when they do a front wheel alignment at a shop for regular vehicles. A positive or negative camber will reduce drag but toe in or toe out will increase drag. In your case with your car only going straight it would be the balance of the two to get the car to track right with the least amount of drag. Oh and fill the front tire pressure higher than the rear tires also in your case. Again less friction on the front and some grip on the rear to track straight.

      There is more to it but I think that would of been the answer.

  8. Tom I completely forgot to mention in my first comment, but wow those are remarkable straight razors you designed! Seriously what aren’t you good at!?!
    You can take a spark of interest in a topic and in no time create a forest fire! That derby car is a far cry from that bronco stock. Kudos
    I love your idea for a kydex honing guide for the spine of a new razor.
    Sharpening certain straight razors with unique profiles is far more challenging than cutting edges that are just a straight line.
    One last point if anyone rereads part 5 of sharpening a straight razor…… How brave was Tom to shave his face with a steak knife I sent him. It should be mentioned that steak knife started off life serrated!!!!!!!

    • Frank
      That’s some work there. Turning a serrated steak knife into a straight razor.

      I got my fish fileting knife from years ago when I was a kid. It’s so sharp that if you hold the knife a couple inches from your finger and drop it it’s probably going not half way through but you would be needing stitches. Yep definitely has some stone work through the years. It’s probably better now then when I bought it new.

      • Hold on now….. I’m just the guy that bought six steak knives at a flea market and decided the steel was good enough to remove the serrations. For me it was about exploring the potential of the metallurgy.
        Tom on the other hand is the one crazy enough to test the result on his face. That takes stones and I don’t mean sharpening stones!!!
        Good to talk to you Gunfun1, been a long time.

        • Frank
          You are right. Tom is a brave man. My face would have so many gouges in it that if someone seen me they would of been calling 911 and sending me to the emergency room.

          And metallurgy is something I have dealt with at work for many years in a different way. What I have found is you learn about it but will trick you when your not paying attention at that time when you really need to.

          And thanks good to talk to you too.

  9. FM never was introduced to the joys of woodworking – wish it had been otherwise, but fondly remember being initiated into the craft of model building by my father. If dimming memory serves right, the first build was a US Coast Guard icebreaker cutter-type ship from Revell; over time little FM became more skilled through bumbling practice and learning from mistakes.

    Now having too much fun learning airgunnery to leave sufficient time in order to take on woodworking. May we all live long and prosper in our pursuits.

    • Fawlty Manuel,

      As a child I built one of those USCG cutters by Revell, along with a Navy destroyer! Wow. Thanks for stirring up the happy memories of making that with my dad (who as a young man served on a couple USCG ships).


  10. FM
    I biult too many model cars when I was a kid. Bought them with my grass cutting jobs as a kid plus if I got any (A’s) on my report cards in school I got a model car. Note Gunfun1 didn’t get many model cars from my report card but I did try harder.

    And Gunfun1 never liked making things out of wood. Give me a piece of metal and some machine shop machines and such and I can pretty well make something. Might take a bit longer than these modern machine shop machines do but I can do it.

    And what’s funny is my dad made the Italian and Czechoslovakian guitars and played what they now call the old folk music by ear. Could play right along with any of those songs back then. He would tape the Croatian hour on every Sunday and BBQ regardless of the weather. Now those are some of my favorite memories.

  11. To all

    I enjoy your comments. My dad was my best friend thanks in large part to stream fly fishing in the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. I’m too old for slick rocks now but memories are still quite vivid. Dad’s casting motion was sheer poetry.


    • Deck

      My dad was a big fly rod fisher. He loved all kinds of hunting and fishing.

      I still have my dad’s old wind up fly rod. Probably the string is ready to just disintegrate from the age now. I tried probably 20 or so years ago to use it. I can throw and point and retrieve it. But my dad could place that fly on a silver dollar out at 25 yards and sometimes farther. And that was even slipping it under the fallen tree and branches in the water where he wanted the fly to land. If you want to see some cool stuff watch a seasoned fly fisher work a rod. Definitely a art.

  12. Speaking of cool airguns, the Mrs. and I have been binge watching Sherlock Holmes. In one issue, the assassin who worked for Professor Moriarty used an air rifle. He took both ends off his cane for the barrel. Under his coat was a rig holding the action and stock. He loaded a bullet in the front of the action, then screwed on the barrel. He then took a fancy looking crank and cranked the action back. There was a slim brass scope mounted on the action. It was really a beautiful air rifle.

    I did have an issue with the dude shooting about a thousand yards with it. Oh well, they had to make it seem as if Holmes and Dr. Watson were in danger. Though there was a slight exaggeration concerning the effective range of the air rifle, I would really like to have it. I could see where something like that would be fun to shoot.

    • RidgeRunner,

      Why would you not believe the thousand yard shot?
      The record is up to 1,400 yards (1280 meters) with the Altaros M24.
      “Toy” gun record.

    • RR,

      As a teenager I had a chance to checkout a couple of air-canes.

      A friend’s father had a collection of air-canes and sword-canes. I got to repair one that was around .45 caliber that needed a new leather piston seal. Took a lot of pumps to charge the thing and the muzzle blast was LOUD.

      Those things were powerful! Didn’t see it happen but saw the damage after his father tested the air-cane by shooting it into the fireplace. The shot blew all the ashes into the room and turned several firebricks into gravel.

      Would love to have one of those old air-canes, I’ve often thought of making one.


  13. Speaking of crank air rifles, whatever happened to this?


    Did Dennis ever make those volute springs for it? Did you ever get it going?

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