Grandpa guns

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Things to consider first
  • Red Ryder
  • Start with open sights
  • Fun!
  • Other grandpa airguns
  • Crosman 760
  • Daisy 880
  • Daisy 35
  • Lawyer triggers
  • Breakbarrels
  • BB — what about CO2? What about a repeater?
  • Over to you

Today’s report will be near and dear to many of you. What airguns does a grandpa need, so when the grandkids come over he has something fun to do with them?

When I was a boy, both my grandfathers were so much older that they didn’t really play with me at all — at least not that I remember. But watching guys these days, I see a big difference. Grandpas are fun guys! Well, airguns are fun and every kid wants to shoot — the girls just as much as the boys. So, what airguns can grandpa have that will be fun for the grands when they come bye?

Things to consider first

Long guns are the best way to begin. They are safer because grandpa can watch the muzzle easier and stop the kids from making dangerous mistakes. 

Some kids want to keep their fingers on the trigger all the time. Grandpa has to discourage this by taking the gun from them and explaining how dangerous it is. Each kid is different and grandpa should know how far to trust each one.

Single shot rifles are the best way to start a kid. That way you can coax the “spray and pray” mentality out of them before it becomes ingrained. Video games often do just the opposite, rewarding the fast trigger finger, so you have to battle that. If the kids will listen to you, get them started talking about making good shots.

When I trained junior marksmen the key was to get the kids to focus on hitting the exact center of the bull, rather than just pulling the trigger and hoping the shot was somewhere in the black. Each kid is different and you have to learn right away whether they are listening to you or not. In marksmanship training we used to not let them touch the gun until they could explain a good sight picture and respond to basic safety commands such as “cease fire.”

Grandpa shouldn’t be a safety Nazi, but he should insist on safe gun-handling practices before allowing the shooting to continue. This is an important responsibility — especially when one or both parents are impulsive and careless. Do it right and the kids will soon be correcting the adults.

Red Ryder

If I don’t put the Red Ryder down I’ll hear from you readers. Yes it is a good gun to use with grandkids, but being a BB gun you need to take some extra safety precautions. A BB gun in this class is shot at very close range and those BBs have a way of bouncing back and hitting the shooter. So — eye protection for everyone in the vicinity.

The good thing about the Red Ryder is it’s lightweight and relatively easy to cock. It’s a repeater, so the little guys and gals won’t get frustrated too soon. Shoot at targets that react for the greatest enjoyment. Balloons are a lot of fun, and the common tin can is the number one target of choice, with the feral aluminum soda can being the current high-tech favorite. Plastic army men are another good choice to sharpen the eye!

I said it’s relatively easy to cock, because for a small kid cocking a Red Ryder can be a challenge. This is where Grandpa steps in and shows the youngster the right way and the safe way to cock the gun. It is also self-limiting. The youngster will tire more quickly if he or she does the work, which is as it should be.

Start with open sights

Unless the child has a serious vision problem that precludes it, start them with open sights. Don’t graduate to a scope until they are proficient with opens.

I will put in a plug for the Daisy 499B here. It is a wonderful training tool that teaches the use of non-optical sights and may bring out a young William Tell or Annie Oakley.

499 sight picture
The Daisy 499 is a natural to teach a proper sight picture.

499 target
Yes, there are 10 shots in this 5-meter target. When youngsters apply themselves they can learn to do this offhand with a 499B in a few years.


Okay, BB got away from today’s topic just a little. This is supposed to be about fun — not work! Sorry, but I have seen too many kids who had the potential to become great shooters after just a few hours of instruction! But we’re interested in grandpa-fun today.

Other grandpa airguns

I’m not listing these in any order of preference. But I will mention the benefits of each gun as we go.

Crosman 760

Crosman 760

Crosman 760 Pumpmaster.

The Crosman 760 is a single-shot multi-pump gun that shoots either pellets or BBs. When it shoots BBs it is a repeater. For pellets it’s a single-shot.

This airgun is a smoothbore, so the accuracy isn’t going to be good at long range. I did get one good group of H&N Finale Match Light pellets, but I’m betting grandpa isn’t going to spring for pellets that cost $17 a tin. I did find the 760 accurate with RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets, as well, but the price is the same. It did okay with Hobbys, too, so either start with them or with Crosman wadcutters.

The 760 also did its best with H&N Smart Shot lead BBs at 5 meters. That’s a blessing because Smart Shot BBs are lead and don’t bounce back like steel BBs.

The 760 is reasonably lightweight and it also pumps fairly easy, so it’s a great airgun for older kids. It’s not for the youngest ones, but when they start growing, this is one to consider.

Daisy 880

Okay, we have now heard from Pepsi — what about Coke? Daisy’s 880 is another fine gun for grandpa. It too shoots both BBs and pellets. With BBs it’s a repeater and with pellets, a single shot. I did even better at 10 meters with the 880, shooting Hobbys and some obsolete Daisy Superior Match Grade wadcutters. And the 880 is rifled!

Daisy 880
Daisy’s 880 has a rifled barrel!

I did test the 880 with BBs, and Daisy also sent the target they shot that showed 5 Daisy BBs in 0.65-inches at 5 meters. It’s no 499 but it’s pretty good! I put ten Daisy BBs into 0.624-inches at 5 meters. So, grandpa, the 880 is a great little gun for the kids.

Unlike the Crosman 760, the 880 has a rifled barrel. That’s why it’s a little more accurate 10 meters. It’s also lightweight and easy to pump. There are several related air rifles when you search on the 880. Many are kits that have additional items besides just the rifle. These kits come and go too fast for me to address, but at their heart is the 880 rifle.

Daisy 35

Daisy’s model 35 is another good grandpa gun. It’s a multi-pump that shoots both BBs and pellets. So, how does it differ from the 880. Well, the pump handle is a short stroke instead of the 880’s longer stroke. In other words, it’s more like the Crosman 760. It’s also a smoothbore that shoots both BBs (as a repeater) and pellets (as a single shot.

Daisy 35
Daisy 35.

The 35 I tested back in 2012 and ’13 did not-so-good with BBs and very good with pellets. I liked it so much that I ordered another one for another test in the near future.

Like all the airguns we’ve seen so far the Daisy 35 is lightweight and easy to pump. But is does have one drawback that all the other airguns I’ve mentioned share.

Lawyer triggers

For some reason airgun manufacturers cannot put out a youth airgun with a decent trigger. I think the reason is simple. These guns all compete on price. They sell them in the big discount stores where most people shop by price and not features. All these airguns have variations of direct sear triggers. Putting a killer trigger on a $35 air rifle would add $5 to the price and make 300 sales to informed customers, while loosing 30,000 sales to moms and dads who only look at the price tag. So the lawyers have their day and I have to agree with that logic. Unless there is a caring grandpa or grandma who is willing to spend the time to train little Bobby and Susie on the right steps of gun handling, give them their lawyer triggers!


Now let’s take a big step up to the next level of kids airguns. I’ll start with the Ruger Explorer. Many of you can tell that it is a less-expensive version of the Umarex Embark. Both are breakbarrel spring-piston air rifles that are reasonably lightweight and cock easily. They are well-suited to children that are old enough to hold them offhand and cock them while standing up. I’m not giving ages now because boys and girls develop at their own rates over time. I wrote a 5-part report on the Embark and got superior accuracy from it at 10 meters. I’m guessing the Ruger can do just as good. Gramps — this one will make you a hero!

The Ruger Explorer
The Ruger Explorer.

BB — what about CO2? What about a repeater?

Well, sure. Repeaters can be great fun and CO2 is an inexpensive way to get one. My pick in this category is the Crosman 1077. And, I see that Crosman has brought back something that we have been asking for for years — the 1077W with a wood stock!

Now, you can get a regular 1077 for $40 less than the one with the wood stock. You’ll still be a hero if you do. But the wood one is the one you personally will be proud to own.

Crosman 1077 walnut
The 1077 wood!

All right you tire-kickers! Off the couch and get online to buy that rifle you all said you wished Crosman would bring back. Because — here it is — the 1077 with a wood stock! Grandpa — what beautiful airguns you have!

There is one drawback for a 1077. It’s certainly light enough for anyone, but that trigger that operates both the clip advancement and the hammer cocking has a pull that’s too heavy for the little ones. After it breaks in with a few hundred shots it does become smoother and easier to pull, but at first the trigger pull is an obstacle for younger kids.

Over to you

Okay, Gramps, now you have your say. You know what works and what doesn’t. Tell the world!

What do YOU want?: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

This report covers:

  • In a handgun
  • A target BB pistol
  • What it’s for
  • A hunting handgun
  • Any holes?
  • Get real!
  • Over to you
  • Summary

This is a continuation of your opportunity to affect the world of airguns. I told you last time that airgun manufacturers all over the world read this blog daily. Of course there are exceptions to that from time to time. Sometimes a personnel change at a company diverts the attention of its people to other things and we loose them for awhile, but then someone in the company has a question about something airgun-related and they go online to research it. That usually brings them to this blog and they bring the others in their company back with them.

In a handgun

What do you want to see in an air handgun? It can be anything from a simple BB gun to a big bore airgun capable of taking big game. I’ll get you started and then turn the discussion over to you.

A target BB pistol

Something I have long wanted to see is a target air pistol that’s lightweight and easy to cock. It must be inexpensive yet deadly accurate — BUT!

Okay — right up to the BUT what I’m asking for sounds like what a lot of folks say they want. But there is a difference. I have a way of getting what I want that most people don’t. I give a manufacturer a solid and inexpensive way of doing what I am asking.

I want a target BB pistol that’s made along the lines of the Daisy Match Grade Avanti Champion 499 BB gun. Because of how the powerplant of a BB gun works, the shot tube/barrel on this pistol can be shorter than the one on the 499. It can be made from the same tubing as the shot tube in the long gun. Give me an overlever cocking mechanism that is essentially the 499 spring and piston with the lever on top of the spring tube and in front of where it is now, rather than in the rear. Give me a good Patridge front sight whose width is well-matched to the notch in the rear.

Patridge sight
The Patridge front sight (named for E.S. Patridge)  is usually undercut at the back to eliminate reflection. Some are slanted slightly to the front.

For the rear sight give me a good adjustable one with a square notch and fine clicks for both windage and elevation. Put it as far back on the top as feasible, for a longer sight radius.

Give me good grips like the ones on the Daisy Targeteer that shot BBs. They don’t have to be expensive. They do have to be good. Think Crosman Marks I and 2.

Targeteer 177
Daisy’s Targeteer 177 wasn’t expensive, but it did have nice hand-filling grips.

What it’s for

An air pistol like this is ideal for teaching someone how to shoot with a handgun. Until you train shooters, you can’t fathom all the differences there are between teaching somerone to shoot a long gun and a handgun.

This pistol doesn’t need to be accurate to a great distance — 5 meters is fine. A velocity of 240-250 f.p.s. is also fine. So it should be obvious that I’m talking about a BB gun.

The overlever cocking means almost anyone can cock it. The lever runs from the front sight along the top of the gun to the rear of the gun, and it pivots there to pull a lightweight spring and piston back to the cocked position. The light weight makes the pistol easy to hold in one hand, so the basics of handgun marksmanship can be learned by almost anyone.

A pistol like this could expand the Daisy International BB gun championships. It could be an ideal tool for teaching new shooters how to shoot a handgun. There is no good air handgun for training new shooters. Women and youngsters, especially, would be glad to have a light accurate target pistol. This could be the one to do all of that.

A hunting handgun

We already have several wonderful hunting air handguns. In the lower end of power I just reviewed the Ataman AP16, and don’t forget that October is the month when I will pick a winner of the pistol I reported on from the US readers of this blog. 

In the same power range as the Ataman is the Benjamin Marauder pistol. It’s less expensive and just as accurate, with a trigger we all talk about.

To step up in power you can move to the TalonP by AirForce Airguns. It’s very affordable, yet delivers the best power of any commercial air pistol today. A host of factory accessories can turn it into a handy carbine very quickly. Add a longer barrel and boost the power dramatically!

Any holes?

So we do have good hunting air pistols today. But are there any gaps?

Yes, there are no hunting air pistols in the 25-40 foot-pound range. Is that even a valid thing to consider? Well, any gun that’s built for that power range has to be wary of the TalonP, so watch the price, the overall length, the accuracy and perhaps the flexibility, too.

Some people want a lot more power than air pistols give them and they want it in a package that fits conveniently into a holster. Oh, and it would be okay if the maker charged as much as $300 for such an airgun!

Get real!

For starters, if you are a reader of this blog for very long you know why such an air pistol is impossible. And I’m not talking about the price. To get power from a precharged airgun in any caliber requires a longer barrel. You can’t get there with higher air pressure alone — just ask those guys who have built 4,500 psi airguns, only to see them eclipsed by guns that fill to a much lower pressure but have longer barrels! The laws of physics cannot be broken.

And, speaking about price, let’s get real. When a company comes out with the next great thing they are going to charge for it. They know that there are those who will pay a lot to get the latest technology. If they are the only ones selling it, they would be fools not to capitalize on their situation. How many of you ever turned down a raise at work because it was not in your company’s best interest?

The time always comes when the demand goes down and prices have to be slashed. If the bottom line is your main concern, be prepared to wait.

Over to you

There you go. I have given you a few thoughts to get you started, now you take over and tell the world what you want in an air pistol. I liked my summary to Part 1 so well that I decided to just use it again.


Want to affect the world of airguns? Then stop tipping over the porta-potties and help us empty the garbage cans!

Be glad you’re an airgunner

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • We had fun
  • Ammo shortage?
  • Prepper
  • Why am I telling you this?
  • An historical aside
  • The point
  • What’s more
  • One last remark

A week ago Friday and again last Friday I took my neighbor Denny to the range to shoot his new 9mm carry pistol. I took seveal of my own 9mm pistols too, just for fun. 

We had fun!

I have not been to my gun range in 18 months! I was so rusty and out of practice at shooting a firearm that it was good to get back in the saddle. But while we were at the range Denny told me he had to go to the sporting goods store the minute they opened and he stood in a line to get his 9MM ammo. He was limited to just 300 rounds of 9mm and it cost him nearly $60!!!

I was flabbergasted. You see — I don’t listen to the news. Never have. I don’t like being lied to, and 40 years ago I discovered that was all they were doing, so I quit watching. Whenever I catch a snippet of a broadcast these days I can see that they run nothing else but grossly slanted lies.

I am aware of the riots in our big cities — the ones that have ironically talked about defunding their police departments (ha ha), but I was unaware that most of the rest of the population has finally figured it out. If you want to be protected, it’s up to you and nobody else!

Ammo shortage?

So I went online to see for myself. Sure enough the bulk ammunition sellers are all out of stock and even MidwayUSA has nothing. They have plenty of 9mm ammo listed on their website but they have none to sell. They had to invent terms to describe the fact that none of it is available — temporarily unavailable, out of stock, out of stock no backorder, out of stock, backorder okay, etc.

Okay, default to Gun Broker. This is where the guys who bought up all the toilet paper back in March reside.  One guy wants $145 for 50 rounds of 9mm! There are bids as high as $665.00 for 750 rounds with three days left on the clock! Ain’t no way!


My late wife, Edith, was a prepper. As a result we bought hundreds of rounds (thousands?) of 9mm loaded ammo when the price was low. I remember when $185 would get you 1,000 rounds of Winchester 9mm ammunition.

I didn’t buy .45 ACP ammo back then because I have a Dillon Square Deal B progressive reloading press that can make 250-300 rounds an hour. I have a half-ton of lead, tin and Linotype metal that I have collected over the years. And I have two lead pots and plenty of 6-gang bullet molds that can turn out bullets by the thousands.

I have several 8-pound containers of the correct gunpowder and thousands of primers. Can’t get most of that anymore, either.

When I got the Square Deal B progressive press I only wanted it for .45 ACP because that was what Edith and I shot by the thousands. But for a small investment I can convert it to load 9mm Luger ammo, as well. And the conversion kit is backordered two weeks, so even the reloaders in this nation are starting to wake up. But I have a single-stage press and dies for 9mm, so I can do it one at a time the old-fashioned way until my new stuff arrives.

Why am I telling you this?

Because we are airgunners! I hadn’t busted a cap in many, many months and I was rusty when first at the range, but because I shoot airguns all the time I quickly remembered how to do it. I started shooting the center out of the 50-foot bull at 15 yards, once my airgunning skills took over. I had been flinching and pulling the trigger quickly, which you can always spot when a right-hander starts throwing bullets low and to the left. But when I began squeezing the trigger correctly my Sig P365 tore the 10-ring out of the bull, followed closely by the P320 M17.

An historical aside

I had visited Otho Henderson, my gun buddy, the day before going to the range last Friday and he asked if I would like to shoot the 9mm P38 pistol his wife’s father had brought back from World War II. I agreed and he gave it to me.

His wife’s father was a Major in the Army Air Corps in WW II and one of his last duties was to fly the war correspondents to the Nazi prison camps as the allies liberated them. General Eisenhower wanted full documentation of the horrors of each camp, so people could never say that it didn’t happen. Even so, and with all the Army films of each camp’s liberation, I have met younger people who say just that!

I’ve even read a snippet of a letter he wrote about going into the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and what he saw. It tore him apart and it left me in tears! After seeing thast he said the loss of so many lives was well worth it, to stop that from happening.

While he was in the camp he went into commandant Josef Kramer’s office and liberated a nickel-plated Walther P38 from the desk. I got to shoot that pistol, along with Denny and reader Cloud Nine. The gun is heavily buffed and poorly plated — an obvious showy job that would appeal only to a non-shooter. But the pistol still functions as it did when new and it’s pretty accurate, too. Cloud Nine did particularly well with it.

A Walther P38 taken from the desk of the commandant of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April of 1945.

The point

The point of today’s report is twofold. First, I do things beside shoot airguns. And second, and most importantly, I shoot more as an airgunner than I ever did as a firearm shooter. And shooting of any kind keeps me sharp. We talk about this all the time, but here is the proof of the pudding.

What’s more

The current ammo shortage isn’t just affecting handgun shooters. Almost every round of firearm ammunition I can think of is in short supply. Even .22 rimfire is getting hard to find and is severely rationed when available. Younger shooters whose principal weapon is the AR-15 are really in a fix, because almost none of them reload. They couldn’t be bothered before the ammo shortage and now there is no way to start — all the tools and supplies are either in short supply or gone.

But airgunners have no shortage of pellets. Sometimes the most popular brands and calibers are sold out, but more arrive promptly to replace them. There ain’t no shortage caused by a general population running amuck.

One last remark

Today’s report was supposed to be an accuracy test of the Springfield Armory XD-M BB pistol. When I tried to install a fresh CO2 cartridge in the test pistol the end cap stripped out the aluminum threads of the magazine. It was my fault because I allowed the end cap to cross-thread. But Pyramyd Air is sending me a fresh magazine and I will test the pistol when I get it.

Peep sights: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • First encounter
  • The front sight
  • HOWEVER!!!
  • Irony
  • The deal
  • Problems with the post sight
  • Other front sights
  • Contrarians
  • Dial-a-sight
  • The best front sight insert
  • The clear aperture front sight
  • Summary

Today we will look at the front sight that works with the peep sight. Remember, the whole purpose of the peep sight is to eliminate the rear sight from the equation. So the front sight is of extreme importance.

First encounter

The first peep sight I even looked through was on a Winchester model 52 target rifle in an NRA-run course that taught me how to shoot. While other boys my age (10) were interested in baseball and football,  I was only interested in shooting. So I listened to every word the instructors said and I tried to do what they told me, to the best of my ability.

Winchester 52 rear sight
The Marble target sight on the Winchester 52 seemed remarkable to a 10-year-old boy!

There were also Springfield 1922 M2 target rifles available in this course. I tried one once and found I could not shoot it as well as I could the Winchester. Its peep sight seemed more primitive (it really wasn’t) and the front sight was just a naked post, where the Winchester had a globe with inserts. I also felt the trigger was not as responsive and the entire rifle that weighed only around 9 pounds, seemed too light. In later years I owned a 1922 Springfield and found it to be extremely accurate, but at age ten I wasn’t as accustomed to target rifles, and the heavier Winchester seemed to be the better choice.

The front sight

I shot the sights that they had and never had a chance to compare front sights. The Winchester 52 I shot had a narrow post front sight that looked as wide as the bullseye at 50 feet. I think that post sights were all they had available in that course, because that was how they taught us to see the sight picture.

sight picture
The sight picture.


And this is where my schooling began! One instructor told us to just touch the bottom of the bull with the top of the front post, while another instructor told us if our eyes were really sharp we should leave the smallest sliver of light between the bottom of the bull and the top of the front post. Which one was right?

The two competing sight pictures we were told were correct.


The irony was, both were right! Two different sight pictures that were both correct. But which one was really right?

As it turned out, they were two different sight pictures, either one of which worked well, as long as the shooter applied it consistently. But the instructors didn’t say that. One said one thing and another said the other and I floundered with it for many, many years.

The deal

As penance for all my enabling I will now explain how both sight pictures can be correct. It turns out that the sight picture where the top of the front post touches the bottom of the bull is the easier of the two sight pictures for most shooters to achieve and it is the one that I believe should be taught to everyone. It is the sight picture you have always read in my writing.

But some people have better eyes! The problem with the first sight picture is it’s difficult to tell how MUCH of the front post is actually touching the bottom of the bull. Some will barely touch it while others will flatten the bottom of the bull just a bit. And even that isn’t bad, as long as it’s done consistently. But it’s hard to do consistently. And when you vary you get vertical stringing, or in matches where each bull is shot separately — a lower score. 

Worse still is when the shooter does it while sighting in before the match. Then they just shoot a lower score than they should have and it is extremely difficult to figure out why.

If you have really sharp eyes it may be possible for you to control how much of a sliver of light you leave between the front post and the bull. I have played with that sight picture off and on for the past 50 years and finally decided my eyes have never been good enough to sight that way.

Problems with the post sight

All of the discussion above is the reason why the post front sight is not preferred today. In fact it has been out of vogue for many decades.

front posts
Three front post inserts — the right one obviously from a different globe. They illustrate the range of post sizes that are available.

I favor a narrow front post that is no wider than the bull, if I can get it. But other shooters like the wider posts and like to center the bull on them.

Other front sights

Before we look at the front sight that is widely regarded as the best, there are other front sights to consider. A peep sight allows for any kind of front sight, including types that cannot be used with an open rear notch.

Zimmer front sight
A Zimmerstutzen front sight is a tiny bead on a super-fine post. The bead goes over the target where you want the bullet to strike. Zimmers shoot at 49-50 feet (15 meters), so this is a game where good vision is a plus!

sporting front sights
These sporting sights can also be used with a peep sight. They are sometimes used with bullseye targets, but usually only when a post or aperture is unavailable.

4 points
What the…? I have never understood why a front sight insert like this exists. Is it for shooting Klingon warbirds?

Lyman sight inserts
This card of inserts for the Lyman 17 globe front sight has some strange ones on the upper and lower right.


And then there are those contrarian shooters who prefer to have their inserts appear to be hanging, rather than standing in the front globe. This happens most often with the front aperture insert. Since the aperture is simply a circle that’s centered inside another circle, and since the goal is to put a third circle, the bullseye, inside that, it makes no difference whether the aperture is standing or hanging.


Finally, there have been a great many rimfire rifles whose front sight has several possible inserts, all contained in a unit that’s part of the rifle. Mossberg was famous for it!

Mossberg 46M
The front sight on this Mossberg 46M (a) has any of four possible front sight inserts, all contained within the front sight base!

The best front sight insert

For target shooting there is one front insert that stands above all others.  It is an aperture, just like the peep sight in the rear, only this one cooperates with the round shape of a bullseye to define the target with more precision than any other insert.

front aperture
The front aperture is the most consistent insert in the game.

Aperture front sights came in vogue after World War II and have remained there ever since. They are nearly as intuitive as the peep sight itself for aligning a bullseye. Only one thing remained — to get rid of the thick solid ring around the hole so target shooters wouldn’t get confused and shoot at the wrong bull. Because if they do they either lose the shot, or, if two bullets land on the same bull, only the lower score counts.

The clear aperture front sight

When the clear or transparent aperture front sight inserts came out they displaced all other inserts, leveling the playing field in the target shooting game. A shooter using a post front insert has no chance against them and too many shooters have shot the wrong bull to ignore the value of a less obstructed view of the target.

clear aperture
The clear aperture. As you can see, the holes come in sizes to suit the shooter. This one is 3.3mm. When light enters from the front (target), the beveled cut becomes a black ring.

In competition conditions with proper lighting, the beveled hole in the clear insert becomes black, but it is much thinner than the circle of the older steel inserts. The thickness of the black ring is controlled to some extent by the angle of the beveled cut. And it encircles and centers the bullseye perfectly. I doubt there is any world-class competitor today who does not use clear inserts.


This series was a look at peep sights, with the focus on how they help those who shoot with iron sights. In Parts one through three we looked at the peeps themselves, and today we looked at the front sight they interact with.

The peep sight is one of the most misunderstood pieces of the shooting world. It is far more important than many believe and yet it is overlooked and avoided by those who think it is difficult to use.

John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun with scope: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Lil Duke and scope
John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun with scope.

This report covers:

What is it?
Folded metal
Loading the old way
Stock and forearm
Trigger and safety
Metal parts 
Overall dimensions
My plans

Today I’m starting a new report on an interesting BB gun — the John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun with scope. This is a licensed John Wayne BB gun made exclusively for Air Venturi, and I selected the one that comes bundled with a scope to test for you. Let’s get right into it.

What is it?

In the world of spring-piston BB guns there is not much that’s new under the sun. Unlike breakbarrel spring rifles that are pushing the boundaries of design these days, spring-piston BB guns don’t innovate that much. The Daisy lever action gun design type is nearly exclusive worldwide. There have been a few different BB gun designs over the years — guns like the ones made by Parris many decades ago. They appear quite odd and foreign to our “Red Ryder” eyes. And El Gamo made a unique BB gun around 1930. There have been a few others like the Pioneer underlever in 1976, but BB guns of a style unlike the Red Ryder are not common.

So the Lil’ Duke is pretty unique. I will try to describe it for you.

Folded metal

The Lil’ Duke is a folded-metal gun that’s made with a solid tube rather than a welded one. Daisy took great pride in 1913/14 when they learned how to weld thin sheet steel without burning it away. That released them from the onerous task of soldering a patch over the outer tube to seal the air inside the compression tube. Since that time almost all BB guns have been made this way. But not this Lil Duke. It has a solid tube instead of a welded one. I have a 1906 Columbian BB gun that also has a solid tube, but it’s a separate part. This one isn’t.

The Lil’ Duke’s tube is part of the receiver that is formed by folding metal — made by a process I don’t understand. There is a deep swage halfway up the outer tube (at the end of the forearm) that obviously holds the end of the compression chamber in place.

Lil Duke tube
A Daisy BB gun tube is welded and has a join line (arrow) like this 499. The Lil’ Duke tube on the right has no weld.

The Lil’ Duke receiver is what I will call a thin-body. That’s in contrast to several Daisys like their 499 that have wider bodies.

Lil Duke thin and wide body
The Daisy 499 on the left has a wide receiver. The Lil’ Duke receiver is thin in comparison.

Loading the old way

The BBs are loaded in the same way that Daisy used to use. The shot tube is turned to either side, opening a hole in the underside of the outer barrel sleeve through which up to 550 BBs are poured. Daisy changed over to a spring-loaded plastic window near the muzzle years ago and I have never gotten used to it. So this Lil Duke harkens back to the old days — something a silverback like me appreciates.

Lil Duke loading port closed
The Lil’ Duke loading port is under the outer barrel. Here it is closed to hold the BBs in.

Lil Duke loading port open
Rotate the knurled muzzle and the port opens for loading.

The shot tube does not unscrew from the gun the way a Daisy shot tube used to. Consider the tube in the Lil’ Duke to be a permanent part of the gun that isn’t coming out.


The gun is cocked via a lever, but this one is shaped like the lever on the Duke’s Winchester 92 he used in several movies — the most famous of which was his charge at the end of the movie, True Grit. “Fill yer hand…!” That special lever allowed Wayne to twirl the rifle, cocking it as he did, so he could fire more rapidly than a normal lever would permit. The small model ’92 action that fires pistol calibers is far smoother than the larger ’94 action that shoots rifle calibers. More people are familiar with the rifle caliber gun, but it is much stiffer and cannot be handled the same as the smaller pistol caliber rifle.

The Lil’ Duke lever itself is made of a dense plastic that feels slightly cold — something I have never felt before. Usually plastic parts are warm to the touch, which is how you know they are plastic and not metal.

When the gun is cocked the lever is incrementally caught by a catch to keep from slamming back on fingers if the hand slips. The catch is silent, so the only way to tell it’s there is to relax tension on the lever at some point and see that it stays open. This means if you start cocking the action you have to go through with the task. Once the lever is caught it has to go all the way to cocked before it returns home.

Lil Duke lever open
As the lever is cocked, a silent latch grabs it until the gun is completely cocked. This is for safety.


The front sight is a fixed post on a folded metal sleeve that’s spot-welded to the outer barrel. It can only be removed by cutting or grinding it off.

The rear sight is a leaf that adjusts for elevation by a sliding elevator. It has 4 steps. The elevator can be removed to allow mounting the 3/8-inch dovetail scope base that’s included with the model I’m testing. There is no provision for adjusting the rear sight for windage.


The gun I am testing comes with a 4X15 scope that’s packaged separately. I will test it for you at the end of this series, so I’ll wait to show it to you until then.

Stock and forearm

Both the buttstock and forearm are made of hardwood that has a fine grain like beech. John Wayne’s image is branded on either side of the buttstock and ‘lil’ duke is on either side of the forearm. The length of pull is just under 13-inches.

Trigger and safety

The trigger is plastic and the crossbolt safety fits into it, just behind the blade. The safety is manual, as it should be and very easy to engage and disengage.

Metal parts 

The metal parts are all finished in an even matte black color. I don’t think it’s paint. It looks more like black oxide. Whatever it is, it’s very even and makes a nice background for John Wayne’s signature on the right side of the receiver.

Overall dimensions

The gun is 34-inches long and weighs 2 lbs. 10 oz. Obviously it will weigh a little more when fully loaded. Is it sized okay for a kid? Well kids come in all sizes, too, so that question really depends more on them than it does the airgun, but the Lil’ Duke is a very light and compact BB gun. 


The gun cocks with 16 pounds of effort. I will check that for you when I get to Part 2. But in just handling it for this report I will say that it will challenge the real small kids. For an adult it is easy enough.


I am surprised to read that the gun shoots BBs at up to 350 f.p.s. I would have expected 100 f.p.s. less. No doubt that’s with the lightest BB on the market, which is the Dust Devil, and I will test it for you in Part 2.

My plans

I will test the gun in the usual fashion. I’ve already confirmed that it loads reliably, so I can switch from one BB to another with confidence when I test velocity.

I will test it for accuracy at the same 5 meters that I test all BB guns, but if we see great accuracy I will consider backing up for another test. The scope test will probably be a report of its own, but I’ll know better when we get there.


The John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun is unique and different, yet it has the flavor of the good old days. Don’t overlook it as a child’s first BB gun. Or yours, for that matter!

What about dry-firing?

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • History
  • Luger
  • Soviet SKS
  • One more common problem
  • Designed to be dry-fired
  • Airguns
  • BB — get real!
  • Sillyiess
  • And the others?
  • Under The Gun
  • An aside that is pertinent
  • Pneumatics and gas guns
  • BB’s rule of thumb
  • Summary

Time for another basic report. We discuss dry-firing airguns a lot and things get out of control pretty quick, but I guess that’s the nature of the Internet. My wife, Edith, used to have a little saying about it. She said people would post:

“I have an HW77 that I enjoy.”

“Yes, Weihrauch airguns all nice, aren’t they?”

“I shoot my Gamo Expomatic in the basement every day.”

“I like ice cream!”

I’ll come back to that, but today I thought I would dive into the subject of dry-firing a little deeper, since it’s one that seems to affect all of us to some extent. I think I’ll start with firearms.


I’m going to begin with guns that have firing pins, though the subject of dry-firing does go back much farther than that. Older guns are usually not made to endure much dry-firing, if any. Their metal parts are hardened to withstand a lot of use without wearing, but hardness does tend to make metal brittle. The better guns have firing pins made from tool steel that can be both hard and also resistant to breakage from impact, but gun makers didn’t always do that because dry-firing was considered a no-no a century ago.


The German Luger, for example, had parts that were heat-treated (hardened) and then tempered (treated with heat for ductility) to a medium straw yellow color. The maker wanted the firing pin to work without wear, and also to not deform the parts with which it interacted. But the metallurgy of Luger parts was less complex 100 years ago than it is today and it is not recommended that you dry-fire a German Luger — especially if it is one from history. It can be done if the gun needs to be uncocked, but you run the risk of breaking the pin and other parts in the firing mechanism.

Legends P08 Erfurt Luger
The Legends P08 pistol with blowback is shown beneath a 1914 Luger made at the Royal Arsenal at Erfurt. This century-old pistol should not be dry-fired.

Soviet SKS

The Soviet semiautomatic rifle we call the SKS is another example of a gun that should not be dry-fired — though not because of the metallurgy.

This Soviet SKS was manufactured at the Tula Arsenal in 1953.

The reason you should not dry-fire an SKS is the tapered firing pin can get stuck inside the bolt in the fired position — protruding from the bolt. If that happens the gun can fire every cartridge it chambers. It’s essentially firing from the open bolt, which it is not timed correctly to do. It will shoot full auto until it runs out of cartridges and the action can blow up if a cartridge case lets go before it is fully chambered and the action is locked shut (that’s the timing). This is a common fault with the SKS and owners are cautioned to keep their bolts and firing pins clean and to not dry-fire their rifle. A firing pin return spring was installed in the earliest SKS bolts and can be retrofitted into guns without it to protect against this.

One more common problem

So, breaking parts and sticking parts are two of the most common reasons why dry-firing firearms is not recommended. And there is one more common reason. Many rimfires are designed so their firing pins will make contact with the edge of the chamber if there is no cartridge rim there to cushion them. This makes them fire more reliably. However, if guns like these are fired a lot with no cartridge in the chamber a groove or depression will form in the rim of the chamber and the gun will no longer fire reliably because there is nothing backing up the cartridge rim. Therefore the cartridge rim will not be crushed reliably to set off the priming compound and the guns either start to misfire a lot or they quit working altogether. It’s a real problem with older rimfires made before about 1960, and even some of the less expensive ones that are made today still have the problem. But many do not.

I’ll use the Ruger 10/22 as an example of a rimfire that can be safely dry-fired. The Ruger website even has a video that says so. And so can the Ruger Mark pistols. Their firing pins are purposely designed to stop a tiny fraction of an inch away from the rim of the chamber. You readers who understand manufacturing know how difficult it is to maintain those kind of dimensions across multiple parts so it always works out right after assembly!

I only use Ruger as an example. Many rimfires are designed this way today. But don’t take my word for it. Find out if YOUR rimfire is so-designed before you start dry-firing!

Designed to be dry-fired

Then there are the firearms that are purposely designed to be dry-fired. I’ll use a free pistol for my example. Because bullseye target shooters shoot many times more shots dry than with ammunition to train their eye-hand coordination, their guns have to be designed for it.

Hammerli 100 right
This Hammerli free pistol is a .22 rimfire pistol used in 50-meter bullseye competition.

The Hammerli 100 was produced from the late 1940s until the middle 1950s, when the model 101 superseded it. It has a lever on the left side of the receiver that cocks the trigger but not the firing pin. It allows you to practice with the trigger all day long without ever chambering a live round or cocking the gun.

Hammerli 100 dry-fire
That lever cocks the trigger of the pistol. It works regardless of the action being cocked.


Let’s now turn our attention to airguns. I will begin with the target guns that have dry-fire devices to allow practice for the same reasons as the free pistols just mentioned. The top 10-meter rifles and pistols all have them, but so do the informal airguns (mostly pistols) that are designed for informal target practice. Take the Beeman P1 for example. If you lift the top strap, but not far enough to cock the pistol, you set the trigger and you can dry-fire it in the same way as a more expensive target pistol. The trigger feels exactly the same as when the pistol is fully cocked, but no pellet is shot when the trigger falls.

BB — get real!

All of that is nice to know, but it doesn’t answer the question that is in your mind, does it? You want to know about spring-piston air rifles, don’t you?


Remember what I told you at the start of this report about conversations on the Internet quickly getting silly? It happens here sometimes, too. I mentioned a few weeks ago that Gamo at one time advertised that their spring-piston air rifles could withstand 10,000 dry-fires without damage and they had even tested for it. Well, that statement morphed into Gamo testing all (as in each and every one) of their spring-piston air rifles by dry-firing them 10,000 times! No — they don’t. If you think about it, they really couldn’t. That would add so much cost to each gun (the time spent putting them all into the cocking/firing fixtures then waiting for them to be cocked and fired 10,000 times, not to mention the vast number of fixtures they would need for a 40,000-piece model run) that a $200 air rifle would have to cost $400 or more.

Gamo doesn’t do that and they never did. But maybe the person who said that only meant that Gamo tests each type of gun (one test per model type — not each and every gun) with 10,000 dry-fires. They don’t do that any longer, either — or at least it’s no longer a part of their advertising campaign. Maybe they still test them that way — but they don’t talk about it as much. I said what I said in an historical context in my report titled, Does dry-firing damage airguns?. In that report a reader mentioned that Gamo addresses dry-firing in their frequently asked questions on their GamoUSA website. I went there to check and they no longer address it.

So, Gamo isn’t telling customers they can dry-fire their spring-piston guns. Except that I did find in the manual for the Swarm Fusion 10X they said that one way to safely test whether the rifle has a pellet in the barrel after it has been cocked is to fire it in a safe direction. If there is no pellet that would constitute a dry-fire, so they are okay with that.

And the others?

What about the rest of the spring-piston airgun makers? Are their rifles and pistols proofed against damage from dry-fires? Yes and no. Yes because of the materials being used today and because of the changes in design that lend themselves to more reliable performance, and no — because in a lot of instances this hasn’t been deliberate. I will illustrate with a scope analogy.

Under The Gun

Spring airguns break scopes. We have known that for a long time. But in 1998, when Leapers learned that was the case, they set out to design airgun scopes that could not be broken that way! They even designed test fixtures to test scope designs over the long term. During the same timeframe they added the name Under The Gun (UTG) to their scope line. Hence today UTG scopes are pretty much bulletproof. They are designed with Smart Spherical Structure (SSS) — a scope body that’s inherently stronger than other bodies because it addresses the interaction between the inner and outer scope tubes.

Now along come all the other scope manufacturers in the world — from the biggies like Leupold, Burris and Hawke to the little guys that make scopes for cheap. The biggies watch the scope market closely and, when some bozo named B.B. Pelletier starts waving his pom-poms, they purchase a couple of the UTG scopes he is raving about and examine them — CLOSELY. They discover that, indeed, there are some design features that are quite worthy and they find their own ways of emulating them. Next thing you know ten years have passed and all of the brand-name scopes are spring-rifle proof or, as in the case of Hawke, they know that certain ones in their lineup aren’t and they tell buyers up front. This migration doesn’t just happen through copying, either. Engineers change jobs and the word spreads.

Last to change are the cheapies, but they do change, because at the same time the manufacturers were getting smarter — so were the buyers. Maybe a full two decades have to pass before there are no more scope problems with spring-gun recoil, but it does happen.

An aside that is pertinent

Back to dry-firing. When major airgun manufacturers like Feinwerkbau, Diana and Walther used piston seals that are made of a synthetic that dry-rotted over time, they all got a black eye when the ship hit the sand. Quick as a bunny and with ZERO fanfare they all switched their formulas for their synthetic piston seals! What else could they do — advertise that their airguns now come with piston seals that DON’T dry-rot?

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why dry-firing should not hurt a spring gun today — but don’t do it regularly. Now — what about the other powerplants?

Pneumatics and gas guns

I will address both pneumatic and gas guns together. When you dry fire these, unless they are purposely built for it like target guns, you exhaust either air or gas. Nothing in the conventional design of these guns should be adversely affected — HOWEVER! As the corporate lawyer points out, it doesn’t have to be a pellet or a BB that comes out of the gun. Anything stuffed down the barrel can become a projectile when the gun fires. So, for that reason more than for the safety of the gun’s mechanism, dry-firing is not recommended.

BB’s rule of thumb

Here is how I approach the subject of dry-firing airguns that aren’t made for it. Pneumatic and gas guns I don’t worry about. As long as I know the barrel is clear — such as immediately following a shooting session — I can dry-fire without worry. Spring-piston guns are a different matter.

If possible I try to uncock the spring-piston gun without firing. When that isn’t possible, I load a pellet and shoot the gun. This is why I never cock an airgun at a gun show without asking if I can, and can the gun be uncocked without firing? But if I make a mistake, such as “loading” a .22-caliber Beeman R1 with a .177-caliber pellet, which results in an unintentional dry-fire, I don’t worry about it. I haven’t wrecked the airgun (in all probability), but it’s time to wake up and start paying attention.


The dry-fire fear is very similar to the scope breakage fear and it serves as a marker to the continual improvement of the technology of airguns and their related equipment. Couch commandos the world over now sing the praises of side-focus scopes — completely ignorant that they were brought to them through airguns and more specifically the sport of field target.

Remember when velocity alone sold airguns? That day is over, though it will take more time before the word gets out to everyone.

Here is prediction from BB. At some time in the not-too-distant future shooters are going to realize that muzzle energy in a big bore airgun is pointless, once 500 foot-pounds is surpassed. We are currently in a race to produce more and more energy but it’s meaningless, since the bullets fired from these guns are passing through the bodies of American bison and elk.

Automobile speedometers in cars that can barely make it to 90 no longer come with top limits of 120 m.p.h. Things change with the passage of time.

The basics of shooting: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This report covers:

  • I can’t use open sights — my eyes are bad!
  • Bad eyes
  • The point
  • Fire Direction Center
  • So what?
  • Eye dominance
  • Sight with either eye
  • What can YOU do?
  • Exercise
  • What’s the point?
  • Pistols and scoped rifles — not such a problem
  • If you really can’t see, use a scope
  • Effect on accuracy?
  • Summary

Today we look at the subject of eyes and eyesight as it relates to the basics of shooting. This is a tough subject and I’m sure there is a lot more than I will address. I’m not an eye doctor, so everything I say today is based on my experience, or on the little research I’ve done.

I can’t use open sights — my eyes are bad!

Yes there are people who absolutely cannot use open sights. I estimate that of those who make this complaint perhaps 5-10 percent of them are correct. Today I want to talk about the others — the ones who just won’t try because they think it’s too difficult.

Bad eyes

In 2010 I was in the hospital for 3-1/2 months with acute pancreatitis. I coded once — a code blue with a crash cart and lots of doctors and other people. My blood pressure was 35 over 25 and they said they were loosing me. I said to somebody there (my eyes were closed and I couldn’t see anyone) that 35 over 25 was pretty low and he responded, “Hey! You shouldn’t be conscious!” Then I was out for three days and when I woke up I hallucinated for the next two weeks. Then they sent me to a different hospital.

At the different hospital I had a young doctor who refused to give me a transfusion when my hemoglobin dipped below 7.0. I told my wife I couldn’t see anything, nor could I concentrate on anything. She found out about the low hemoglobin and the doctor holding back (a nurse told her) and demanded I be given a transfusion. I immediately had two units, followed by a unit per day for the next two days. I also got a different doctor. I was in a teaching hospital and saw 6 young doctors every day, but nobody did much of anything for me. I was fed through a tube in my arm. Reader Kevin knew how bad it was but most readers were kept in the dark.

When I was discharged from that hospital I went home with a feeding tube still in my arm. It remained there for another two months.

The point

My point in telling you all of this is, when I went home, I still could not see very well. My eyes had dehydrated and took six to eight months for them to return to normal. How could I continue writing this blog? My friend Mac helped me a lot in those days but I had to get back to shooting again quick.

I used powerful reading glasses to see the front sight. When I did I was able to shoot again. I might not have been at my peak, but I was certainly okay.

Fortunately I knew something that the people who won’t use open sights apparently don’t believe. You don’t have to see the target very well to hit it! All you need to see clearly is the front sight. Please bear with me on this because there is more to explain before I tie it together for you.

I am aware of this sighting situation more than most folks because I was a 4.2-inch (107mm) mortar platoon leader in the Army. My guns shot at targets 3,000-5,000 meters away — targets the guys at at the guns never saw. Our fire was directed by forward observers (FOs) who watched the target through binoculars that had a mil-reticle in them. They were excellent at determining their range to the target and measuring how far left and right of it (in mils) the mortar shells impacted. And, let me tell you — when a 4.2-inch mortar round explodes, there is no problem seeing it!

Fire Direction Center

My Fire Direction Center (FDC) knew where the FOs were. They also knew where the guns (mortar tubes) were, so when the corrections were called in to the FDC from the FOs, they calculated them from the FOs’ viewpoint, and then shifted their calculations around to the gun’s viewpoint. They then calculated what kind of elevation and windage changes each tube needed to make (each was unique) to hit the target.

Each gun (number one gun through number four gun) would make the traverse and elevation corrections, though only one tube was firing at the time. Once the corrections were made to their gun sights, the gunners looked through their sights and aligned them with their aiming posts that were about 40 feet in front of them. There were lights on the aiming posts for night operations, so they made their vertical crosshair split the light lenses in their centers. Then they leveled their guns until the bubble in the level on the gun’s sight was centered again.

When that tube (the one that was firing) got on target, and that happened within three shots at the max, we conducted a fire mission (we fired for effect) with 2 to 4 tubes — depending on the target. A fire mission is a certain number of shots fired from a certain number of guns. Downrange it is called a barrage. If you are in the place where the shells are landing it looks and feels like the world is blowing up.

One time during a fire mission we dropped a shell down the tank commander’s hatch (we shot at obsolete but real US tanks on the ranges at Grafenwoehr, Germany) and blew the turret off the tank! The division commander, a two-star general, was watching this with my forward observers and was highly pleased.

So what?

Hey, BB, I’m not a mortar tube! Why tell me how they adjust their sights? I shoot pellet guns.

I told you this because you adjust your sights in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reasons, whether you know it or not. The mortar tube’s aiming post is their front sight and it’s about 40 feet away from the gun. Their target may be 5 kilometers away and the gunners can’t even see it. Yet they can hit it consistently because they don’t worry about it. They concentrate on the aiming post. That aiming post is their front sight.

Your eyes are your forward observers and your brain is your fire direction center. It tells your hands how to adjust the front sight (by adjusting the rifle or pistol) to hit the target that SHOULD LOOK BLURRY to you. Nobody can focus on both the front sight and the target. The front sight is where you should focus.

I have taught dozens of people to shoot this way and it ALWAYS works. My best students are women and children who have no prior experience with shooting. That’s because they listen to everything I say, then they try to do it the way I tell them from the start. My worst students are 20 to 40-year-old men who come to me already “knowing” how to shoot. They have so much to unlearn!

Eye dominance

Okay, the front sight issue is out of the way. Now, which is your dominant eye? Keeping both eyes open, look at a spot about 10-15 feet from you. A spot on the wall is good for this. Looking at that spot, hold your hand at arm’s length and stick up your thumb to cover that spot.

Now, wink one eye closed or cover one eye with paper and watch to see whether the thumb seems to move away from the spot. It doesn’t matter which eye you cover. If the spot remains in the same place, uncover that eye and then cover the other eye to see whether your thumb seems to move.

For me the thumb covers the spot when I cover my left eye. But when I cover my right eye the thumb moves to the right. It moves about as far as my eyes are apart. That means my right eye is dominant. If it moves the other way — well, you figure it out.

What if the thumb doesn’t move regardless of which eye is covered? That means both eyes are dominant, and I guess that person can sight with either eye. I seldom encounter that situation, though I know it does exist.

Sight with either eye

While I am right-eye dominant, I can sight with my left eye. It doesn’t feel comfortable, but I can do it. However, there are people who find that incredibly difficult to do. My wife, Edith was one who couldn’t do it. So airgun maker Gary Barnes made a special offset scope mount that allowed her to shoot a Barnes Ranger precharged pneumatic.

barnes ranger
Gary Barnes made this special offset scope mount so Edith could sight with her left eye while shooting right-handed.Those two outriggers adjust independently and the scope rings swivel to align with the scope tube in any orientation.

Besides the trajectory correction she also had to make a correction for the sideways offset of the scope. So, shooting at different ranges was a challenge. But BRV was a bullseye game that was always shot at the same distance, so that’s where she competed.

edith shooting
Edith competed in BRV with a .177 Barnes Ranger PCP rifle.

What can YOU do?

You have options if you are what is colloquially known as odd-eyed dominant — a right-handed person with left-eye dominance and vice-versa. First, you might be able to learn to shoot with the other eye. I can do it, though I don’t like it. But when my left or non-dominant eye looks at sights I find it best to cover the dominant eye somehow. And I said cover — not close the eye by winking. I have an exercise to show you why winking your non-sighting eye doesn’t work.


Poke a hole through a piece of stiff paper or card stock. Let’s make it around 1/4-inch or 6.35 millimeters in diameter. That’s roughly. Don’t sweat the measurements! I used the awl on my Swiss Army knife to poke the hole and it’s not very round.

hole in card
The hole doesn’t have to be precise. Even something as rough as this will work.

Now, keep both eyes open and cover your non-sighting eye. Bring the hole in the card up to your other eye about 3/4-inches away and the hole will appear to remain fully open. Then, close your other eye by winking and watch the hole shrink in size. The edges become blurry and you notice them closing in. The more you wink the smaller the hole becomes. That is what happens when you sight with one eye and close the other one by winking! Don’t do it because it makes the light through the peephole or through the rear sight notch decrease dramatically. Use an eye patch if you must, but keep both eyes open.

What’s the point?

The point is — don’t close your other eye when sighting. Train yourself to leave it open, because closing it by winking or squinting just reduces the amount of light that comes through your sighting eye.

Okay, that was option one — use the other eye. Option two is to shoot from the other side, i.e. a right-handed person shooting left-handed. I find it easier to do that with a rifle than a pistol. Some folks have no trouble doing it either way with both rifles and pistols. Those folks have already figured all of this out and they are waiting for the rest of us to catch up.

The last thing I recommend is getting a special gunstock or sights or a trick scope mount like I show above. They are just as difficult to live with as the problem they are designed to correct.

Pistols and scoped rifles — not such a problem

With pistols or when shooting rifles with scopes this is far less of a problem. Close (I say cover up) the eye not being used and just use the other one. Action pistol champion Rob Leatham demonstrates this. However, notice when he switched to sighting with his non-dominant left eye it took him longer to get on target.

Shotguns are a different matter because they are not shot with sights when wingshooting. Fortunately for me this is an airgun blog and I don’t have to go there.

If you really can’t see, use a scope

I have written this report for the shooters who use poor vision as an excuse for using scopes all the time. But I do recognize there are folks who have to use scopes because they really can’t see the sights. For them there are very few options. Fortunately scopes today have reached a high level of refinement while their prices have dropped to reasonable levels.

Effect on accuracy?

This is the second part of today’s question. How does eye dominance play into accuracy. The answer is simple. It plays to the extent that the shooter allows it to. In other words, a determined shooter can shoot well with either eye. With practice comes familiarity and with familiarity comes skill. However, if the shooter constantly fights it, the problem will become an exercise in developing excuses for why he can’t shoot.


There — five parts of a report I initially thought would be over in one. Reader Bill, see what you made me do?