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BB’s shooting gallery

Tom watches
I watched each shooter, ready to grab the pistol if they turned with it. This is Larry, a safer shooter.

This report covers:

  • Back story
  • Colt Single Action Army
  • 5 meters
  • Shot high
  • Targets
  • Success story
  • The mechanical bull
  • Lessons learned

Today I will tell you about an adventure I had last Saturday. It was surprising and also somewhat shocking, and it may relate to things some of you want to do.

Back story

The pastor of my church fancies himself a cowboy. Not the organized crime type of cowboy from the gang that Wyatt Earp broke up in the 1880s but the general term that is applied to cowhands who work on horse and cattle ranches. So, at a church staff meeting several months ago, he was blue-skying what sort of event the church could hold for the men in October and a “Roundup” night came up. It was just said in passing, but it grew into an official event. Everybody would come dressed as cowboys. There would be food (of course — get men together and there’s gotta be food) fellowship and fun. The fun was divided into games of cornhole, steer roping (steers made from 2x4s with steer heads on one end), a mechanical bull (more on that in a bit) and a shooting gallery with guess who in charge?

Our previous men’s night event had been axe-throwing. I tell you that for a reason that will become evident in a moment.

So I was asked whether I had any BB guns or pellet guns that looked like cowboy six-shooters. I bet you know the answer to that.

From that point on I took charge of the shooting gallery. I set up two 12-inch by 12-inch boxes of rubber mulch as target backstops on which to place the targets. I used the same boxes and stand that I used when I taught the Royal Rangers to shoot the Daisy 499B, last year. Remember that? I will come back to that in a moment, too.

Colt Single Action Army

I selected the Colt SingleAction Army BB revolver, of which I have three. I only used one revolver on the line but I had 12 cartridges. That gave each shooter a chance to shoot 12 times per turn. I had planned to let each shooter load all 12 BBs for himself, but that would have taken all evening, so I loaded while they shot. But that proved too distracting, so I asked for a volunteer to load for me so I could pay full attention to the shooter. You will note my hand in the first picture is ready to grab the muzzle of the gun if the shooter swings it anywhere but downrange. I had to do that numerous times throughout the event.

Colt Single Action Army BB gun.

5 meters

You know how I always set up BB gun targets at 5 meters for my blog reports? It sounds so close, doesn’t it? It’s only 16 feet 4 inches. Well, it wasn’t close on this night and here comes a lot of my amazement. More than half of the men who came forward to shoot had no idea how to shoot a handgun! And I live in Texas!

I had debated beforehand whether to make them shoot one-handed, but I decided that might not be such a good idea. Duh — you think??? Fully 95 percent of them shot two-handed like they were on the police force. Two of them actually were. One guy shot across the elbow of his folded left arm, with the revolver about 3 inches from his face. My gosh, if he had been shooting a .45 Colt firearm he would have put a divot in his forehead from the front sight when the revolver recoiled. Either that or the hammer would have put out his sighting eye!

Shot high

Fully three quarters of the shooters missed the target box with all their shots — the 12-inch by 12-inch box! At 16 feet! They shot above the target. Why? Well, it took me a long time to figure it out but I finally realized they were holding the whole front sight up in the rear sight notch. I had just told them how to sight the gun but when they started shooting they forgot what I said and did it their way. By the end of the evening I was telling them to shoot at the bottom of the bullseye and that got some of them hitting at the top.

The pastor asked me to put the wooden axe-throwing target behind the BB-gun target boxes, just in case someone missed the box altogether. So they wouldn’t hit the wall. Just in case???? Most of them hit that axe target after missing the rubber mulch target box altogether. AT 5 METERS!

Build a Custom Airgun


I gave each  shooter a 6-inch Shoot-N-C bullseye to shoot and an aluminum soda can. Both were backed by rubber mulch boxes. I will say this. When BBs go through a Shoot-N-C targets at 5 meters they leave a very small yellow mark. I could see it easily enough but half the shooters couldn’t see where they had hit and had to be told.

One man is vain about his appearance and will not wear glasses, even though it’s obvious he needs them. He had safety glasses on but nothing to correct his vision. That man told me that the sights on the gun he shot were off, which is why he missed the target. I showed him the target of another man who had just shot before him and hit inside the 10-ring of the bullseye five times out of six. He then informed me that the sights were still off and the other guy must have aimed elsewhere to hit where he did.

I also gave them an aluminum soda can to shoot and it turned out to be the better target. Once they hit it one time they started concentrating on the sight picture and doing better. It was a fun target for them because it made noise and moved when hit. I’ve got to remember that.

Our targets were in front of our old axe-throwing target. Most of the shots missed the cardboard box altogether and hit that!

Success story

When I set up for the event before the people arrived an 18-year-old young man helped me set up the range. I had taught him how to shoot last year and once he learned how these sixguns work he was hitting the actual bullseye target every time. That way, before the event began I knew the gun was on target. But it was the young man who made me proud. He demonstrated that when you do things right they work as they should.

Speaking of sixguns, I told one fellow that the revolver was a six-shooter and he then asked me how many shots it held. Fortunately I was too far from a wall to bang my head.

The mechanical bull

Remember that mechanical bull? It was set up outside the building where the other events were. The men in my church are in two age groups. Half of us are 60 or older and half of us are under 40. We don’t have many in-between those ages.  Guess how many of the over-60 group rode the bull? That’s right — zero. We have all been there, done that, gotten the t-shirt and wore it out. We know better. We break!

But there were probably 12-15 young guys who didn’t know any better. They were the ones who rode the bull. And a couple of them did pretty good! I think the operator was told not to break anyone, so he mostly just spun people around, rather than bucking them off. The good news was that everyone walked to their car after the event.

Lessons learned

BB learned a valuable lesson from this experience. Most men do not know how to shoot a handgun and they do not listen when they are told what to do. I remember from my years in the Army that men shooting handguns tend to spray shots all over the place and someone has to be standing next to them to grab the gun when they try to swing around with it.

Instead of a shooting event this should have been a training session where BB taught the men how to shoot. Fully three quarters of them needed it. And many of them have their concealed carry permit! Right after I told one guy that he had to cock the revolver’s hammer before each shot he asked me whether the gun was single action or double action. Yeah — and by the way, the bullet comes out of the hole on the end of that long tube.


Why have I told you all of this? I have because you may sometime have to run an airgun shooting event for a group of people and I want you to know what can happen. When it’s people you know you can get used to it pretty quick, but when it’s people you don’t know, or at least don’t know their shooting skills, make no assumptions — other than you’re going to see things you never imagined.

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 “BB’s shooting gallery”

  1. 1) “Most men do not know how to shoot a handgun…” 2) “…and they do not listen when they are told what to do.”
    The second part of that sentence does not surprise me, but the first part surely does!
    It wouldn’t have surprised me if you had done this in some larger Northern city, yet, God help us, you did this in Texas!
    Remember that classic line in “Quigley Down Under,” where he asks Cora if she can shoot, and she says,
    “I am a native-born Texican.”
    I thought everyone in Texas, including women and children, learned to shoot at any early age! LOL 🙂
    Blessings to you,

      • bNb,

        That was my experience. If a shooting test was required to purchase a firearm the streets would be a lot less crowded and there would be a lot more parking spaces! 😉


        • bNb & B.B.,
          In the bad old days when I lived up in the Northeast, I had to pass a written shooting test (safety knowledge), then demonstrate shooting proficiency and safety before I could get the certificate that would allow me to apply for my CCW…which, by the way, also required three letters of reference from upstanding citizens (that was kind of a CYA for the police chief; that way if someone did something stupid with a gun he could say, “Well gosh, I’ve got three letters on file from local upstanding citizens all swearing that he’s not a jack wagon…hence, it’s not my fault).
          Sadly, these days, I would not even be able to get a pistol permit there.
          Thankfully, at this moment in time, the Georgia gun laws, and those applying to airguns, are pretty much of the common sense variety. Although, there are some cases where people have moved down here from cities “up North” and have managed to get the local ordinances here changed to the point where you can’t (legally) shoot an airgun in your own backyard….which is crazy, of course; even in the UK they allow you to shoot airguns in your own garden, just as long as the pellets don’t leave your own property…quite civilized. 🙂
          My solution was to leave that city, and to move to a small town (<5000 people) where my land is outside the city limits. So now I can shoot airguns out in the yard everyday (and I do), thanks be to God. 🙂
          Blessings and happy shooting to you,
          P.S. Technically, I could not even shoot my Hank-special slingshot in my own backyard in my previous city. Even an airsoft gun would not be (legally) allowed, unless you were shooting it in your house…I’m so glad I don’t live there anymore!

  2. B.B. someone on one of the airgun forums asked if you were going to revise or come out with a second edition of the Beeman R1 book. Is that a possibility?
    While I learned a lot from the R1 book I really learn more from this blog. Just this weekend I tuned my new FWB Sporter with the information I found right here.


    • Jayb,

      How does that FWB shoot? I have considered one of those off and on for years, but have never taken the big step.


      I second that suggestion. A revised 2nd edition would be awesome.

      • RR,

        I’m sure that you would appreciate the FWB124 and really like it.

        Mine is calm (with just a “chug” as it shoots) and consistent. The long power stroke provides decent power but needs good form and follow through. The trigger is (just) OK by comparison to the Rekord but you get used to it. The low cocking force (<20 pounds) makes it a pleasant "all day shooter". I think the FWB124 is a great plinker/pester out to 20-25 yards. Used to hunt squirrels and rabbits with mine before I got seduced by the darkside.

        Think the FWB124 is your kinda airgun.


      • RidgeRunner,
        I should have been more clear, my new FWB Sport is the rifle that came out in 2014. BB did an 8 part review (/blog/2014/11/feinwerkbau-sport-air-rifle-part-8/?swcfpc=1). I’ve always been interested in that rifle so now that they’ve been discontinued I thought I would pick one up. Out of the box it desperately needed a lube tune. I also made a new spring guide out of delrin and replaced the piston seal. It’s shooting pretty well now but it will take me some time to see just how well it shoots. So you might guess I can’t give it a hearty recommendation quite yet. On the other hand I’d have no reservations at all about recommending the venerable FWB 124. The one I have is incredibly accurate and shoots very well indeed. There is just so much information about tuning these and (maintenance) parts are readily available. Really a fun gun to have. Jay

        • Those new Sports can still be had NIB, but the price is still pretty high. For an air rifle that just did not quite make the grade… Now a FWB 124 would be kinda nice to have. I will see if one is reasonable at the upcoming NC Show.

  3. BB,

    I’m beginning to question how the ones with a Concealed Carry Permit actually qualified. Agree that this should be a regular event and should begin with basics before letting them pull the trigger. Maybe shooting from a rest before they use two hands?

    PS : Please correct the title to “BB’s shooting gallery” Galley suggests everybody pulling oars.

  4. That was pretty funny. BB, you have had a lot of experience over the years, but you were also a little smarter than the average bear to begin with. That “doesn’t listen” part separates the average from above average, and who improves and who doesn’t.
    I’ve been thinking of hosting an air-Gun-fu day for a local martial arts class, to teach basic gun safety and operation (not that I know either, but hey, it is teaching gym). What I keep going over in my mind is how to idiot proof the event while still enjoying it as much as practical. Small steps, maybe?

    • Berserkeley Mike,

      Start with solid rubber non firing replicas before moving to airsoft then graduating to BB versions held on small groups when actively handling a projectile throwing weapon would be the safest I can think of.


  5. What a lovely tale of humanity Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier). The surprising errors we’re capable of really define our species, don’t they? 🙂

    Who wasn’t amazed the first time they witnessed someone performing a difficult task with apparent ease, or vice versa, ie performing an apparently easy task with obvious difficulty?

    Anybody seen how hard it can be to throw something? Despite my attempts to help her, my girlfriend still can’t.

    However, when she recently bought her first sewing machine, I saw her unpack and set it up, ready to use, without bothering with the Instruction Manual.
    She replied “I watched Mum thread her machine when I was a young girl” – Wow!

    I’ll never forget the day my mother actually tried to instruct me in how to use hers and then me promptly making a big mess of it that almost broke the machine. 🙁

    There are other humiliating examples that have shown me how much more capable I think I am, than I am. 🙂


    I get the impression that all the shooters in today’s article were kept safe and so their fun unspoilt. What a valuable success story!

  6. BB,

    I had some of the same trepidations when I allowed my grandson and his friend to do some air rifle shooting on my range, but they did pretty well. I could actually relax after a bit.

  7. Great blog. My Wife and I have taught groups of Ladies from our church to shoot. We start with classes at our home and after classroom we move to the patio and shoot air soft pistols. We graduate to BB pistols usually M&P knockoffs and “Colt” Defenders. After a few of these sessions the ladies go to our local range in Friendswood
    ,TX where they have a monthly Ladies event, I loan my Ruger Mark series pistols and .22 revolvers or centerfire pistol as needed. The class at the range is ran by Ladies, some who shoot in serious handgun matches and also teach classes in baisc and advanced hand gun .I am proud to say that most of our students have done well.
    In High school in Jackson MS I was on our JROTC rifle team. On our team We had many inner city Females who had never shot any kind of gun. I had the pleasure of teaching them and that was when I learned how easy it is to teach Ladies. Many Ladies have no preconceived notions on firearms and zero Machismo . The ones who want to learn really want to learn and if taught in the right manner are quick studies and easy to teach. Our young ladies on the rifle team became excellent shots with Daisy target rifles. I find that Men over they age of twenty-one are the hardest group to teach. Kudos to you for running this event at your church, I know how difficult it can be.

    • “… I learned how easy it is to teach Ladies. Many Ladies have no preconceived notions on firearms and zero Machismo .”
      singleshotcajun, that has also been my experience when teaching women to shoot pistols. 🙂

  8. BB

    I done a few shooting sessions for friends in the past. Even a bigger one with more than 10 people. My experience was similar… unfortunately. But there is a different story when people have the airgun in the hand first time in their live, then you must really show the basics.
    I learned to not give any handgun to rookies. Rookies = no pistols. Only rifle for the first time, and not a magnum type one. Something like HW30s is a very good startup (when the trigger is set hard). A friend of mine did also one session with, he though so, no rookies. Yeah few guys with some cheap China springers first time saw good equipment like TX and HW. One guy shoot his foot first time holding Weihrauch (don’t know the exact model any more) with record trigger set up right (means pretty light)… After shooting some 4lbs trigger all the time he did not expect the trigger may be like this record. Fortunately, it took his own foot and not somebody’s head.
    One experience I must tell you. We are on the shooting range, and I have a small group of 4 people. Two guys, two ladies. One of the ladies was a good friend of mine at this time. She was a beginner and could not shoot well. Approx 18 yard distance to the target. All rifles open sights. Me going to set up new target (some cans, plinking like stuff), I tried to put a plastic bottle on target holder pretty high, so I raised my hand high with the bottle and then – BAAANG. The bottle flies away off my hand. Yes, she shoots it while I was standing below it and had this bottle in my hand above my head. This was the end of the session for her, and a new lesson learned for me. I could end up in hospital that day, or even end up completely. You know this feeling, it is called disappointment?
    Someone who can really shoot will never do that, even if he knew he will not miss. Someone who does not have a clue yet just do it. At the end I think I overestimated logical thinking capabilities of this group. I should make sure that no one holds a loaded gun when I am going in the front to the target. So actually it was my fault, I should have known better with my experience.
    DO NOT overestimate the intelligence of your students. It is better to be surprised positively than to get shot.

  9. Where is this guy’s cowboy hat? That there’s your problem…mind set. How else can ya’ll shoot like a cowboy without a proper hat!

    Seriously, hats off to you, B.B. for being willing to teach and not getting shot at.

  10. B.B.

    Guess you proved the adage that “you can not teach old dogs new tricks”!
    Next time, you should laugh at their foolhardy attempts, Shame can be a great learning motivator. lol


  11. >>> Speaking of sixguns, I told one fellow that the revolver was a six-shooter and he then asked me how many shots it held. <<<

    BB, I thought that was a legitimate question, in the movies the six-shooters (seem) to be good for about 42 shots between reloads. 😉

    A church get-together is a challenging place/way to introduce newbies to shooting! I always insist on one-on-one sessions with no observers/by standers when giving shooting instruction. Safer and less distractions that way.

    Yeah, amazing that for a newbie a 12×12 box is a challenging target at 5 meters.
    I'm not too surprised as pistols are more difficult to shoot than rifles with two hand, cheek and shoulder support.

    When instructing, I start the first session with a large backstop, tiny target and bench shooting regardless of the shooter's experience. Let's me see how comfortable they are with guns.


  12. When this post started me thinking about B B guns. I went to my book shelves and puttered around. Bingo, I found it. I am going to read it again for probably the 10th time, THE OLD MAN AND THE BOY by ROBERT RUARK. If you are breathing this book will fill your heart and make you smile. If you have read it, share it with your son, grandson , nephew or little friend. Christmas is coming, great gift. Amazon has it.

  13. When I shot 25 yd. Bullseye in N J, our motto was, “there’s no such thing as too much safety”. Even down here in GA, when they shoot competition, they don’t bother to insist everyone have an empty chamber indicator in their pistols, slides back and magazines out during a cold range. The range master who is calling the line, while in NJ they walked the line to inspect everyone’s firearm, I’ve never seen it done here. However, most of the competitors if not all, know what has to be followed when the range is called cold.


  14. “Fully three quarters of them needed it. And many of them have their concealed carry permit!”
    I certainly wouldn’t count on such persons’ abilities to protect themselves or, God forbid, other people’s lives. On the contrary I would ran away from them.
    In any case B.B. It seems that you have a serious task ahead, these people need guidance not only from your pastor.
    Stay safe and God bless you.

  15. Most winters, then the bicycles are hanging sadly on the racks in the garage and the squirrels are hibernating, I shoot in my 10 M basement range. I average, most winters 5,640 aimed shots until the weather warms and the bikes come down. I’ve been an adult shooter since ’89, but learned on my late uncles’ farms back in ’63.

    I am a real believer in gun controls, but am leaning more toward an iron-fisted control on ammo; once the supply dries up, it won’t matter how many pieces one has. Too many wack-a-doodles with too many pieces.

    I got to this opinion as a social worker and drug counselor when it dawned on me that too many folks shouldn’t be trusted with a spoon, let alone a weapon. The capacity for dumbassery is manifest among us quite strongly, it seems.

    I have no problem with citizens of good character and sound minds having all the arms they wish to afford. But, after years in alcohol and drug counseling and social work, it certainly appears that some more sensible controls need to be applied to arms. Indeed, a psychologist friend of mine found a scholarly article recently that was written by a team of psychiatrists/ologists who looked at all the mass shootings in the US since the 1960s. The finding was that nearly all of them point to the shooter being suicidal (and taking others with them). We need some registries that are computer based, I think; marking those who have certain mental health diagnoses, who are on certain medications, those who have had criminal or domestic violence involvement. Such folks just don’t need ammo or arms.

    Would such limitations solve the problem of violence. No, quite frankly they would not “solve” it but the point is that they might ameliorate it significantly. It’s just that some folks shouldn’t be trusted with a spoon….

    • LFranke,

      I’m glad I can cast and build my own from components!

      What country are you proposing your: ” I am a real believer in gun controls, but am leaning more toward an iron-fisted control on ammo; once the supply dries up, it won’t matter how many pieces one has.”

      Iron Fisted anything isn’t my cup of tea!
      Responsible behavior however is…along with a GENTLE application of Selfcontrol!


      • Shootski: As a retired member of the clergy and social worker and drug counselor, I am aware that persuasion is necessary to move folks to rational behavior. However, given the carnage of firearms in our society, perhaps a stern control is needed. Citizens of good character should have no problem with accessing arms and the appurtenances, but folks with “issues” SHOULD have inhibitions and even prohibitions. The latter threaten my winter “hobby” as well as the rights to arms of all responsible shooters. That’s the key, to protect the rights of the citizen shooters of good character, and prohibit those behaviors that interfere with those rights and imperil the public.

  16. Hahah! This was a good one for the levity factor. You’re a patient man B.B., which is why you are an instructor and FM is not, although the few people he’s ever instructed seemed to pay attention to the basic rules of safe handling – (1) assume any gun in sight is loaded; (2) safety “on” if there is one, until ready to shoot; (3) NEVER point to anything you do not mean to shoot. Those are the first ones FM was taught.

    Since we’re close to Halloween, your story conjured up a vision of the Three Stooges’ ghosts flying around your range, “nyuck-nyucking” at the goings-on there. Agree that with newbies, reactive targets probably work better at motivating the shooter to improve accuracy and technique. Why? Because these are “funner” targets than paper ones. When a younger FM and his buddies first started shooting, we had the most fun when killing cans, jugs and similar targets, sometimes watching them fly thru the air when hit. This was 50+ years ago when there were still places where you could shoot outdoors safely and population density much lower in S Florida. We mostly shot with rimfire rifles though occassionally someone would bring a “big boomer” long-gun, a revolver or pistol to the session.

    Part of the motivation for ordering the HW30 is for our next family gathering so FM can get the attendees to have a backyard shooting contest – after suitable instruction for those not familiar with basic shooting rules and how-to. FM will ensure this message will be loud and clear: whoever doesn’t follow the rules, the first one being Safety First, will be banished to perform galley duty.

  17. LFranke,

    “As a retired member of the clergy and social worker and drug counselor, I am aware that persuasion is necessary to move folks to rational behavior. However, given the carnage of firearms in our society, perhaps a stern control is needed.”

    Who gets to decide?

    There are Laws, some good many seriously flawed, that restrict almost every imaginable dysfunctional personality from legally obtaining access to firearms. The EVIL, sly, devious, and cunning are able to circumvent, with the aid of many CRIMINALS, Straw Buyers. Prosecutors, Judges and Politicians; many with armed Protective Details all at the Taxpayer/Citizen’s expense FAIL to enforce these existing Laws all too often.
    The Gun Control Laws, prohibitions, inhibitions however are strictly applied to make it nearly impossible for a peaceable and law abiding citizen to not be ENTRAPPED into a Felony by an action as simply as crossing a street in the “wrong” place in many jurisdictions. Moving geographic boundaries of Gun Free Zones (aka; POSTED [and unposted] SAFE FOR CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES) and worse are growing every day as Politicians make promises of SAFETY for the individual that the police know they are legally not required to provide! Application of punitively applied 1,000% excise TAXES on ammunition and firearms to be borne by Concealed Carry Permit holders, Hunters, and Target Shooters who are typically in fact statistically proven to be the best behaved of humanity!
    No Sir, you can take your Iron Fisted CONTROL of ammunition….your failures to fix or eliminate EVIL are not mine.

    I for one will have none of it!
    Now let us get back to airguns please.


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