When I was four we moved into a house in Leesburg, Florida that had an orange tree in the front yard. I climbed the orange tree while my parents were settling in and found a weathered Red Ryder BB gun in it’s branches. It was cocked and I somehow managed to pull the trigger and drop the gun, which attracted my dad’s attention. Since I was only four, he rightfully decided I was too young for such a toy, took it and hid it.
I was introduced to real guns only three years later, and since I had plenty of opportunities to shoot .22s and .410s as a youngster and later pretty much anything I could get my hands on, I never really developed much of an interest in airguns. My dad was always very watchful of neighborhood kids shooting them at songbirds and he let it be known that was something I would never do or I’d regret it.
I’m now approaching Medicare age and have rediscovered how much fun air guns can be, partially because of my grandchildren and partly because I live in the city limits where firing my real guns in my own backyard is frowned upon.
We’ve used soft air guns in some of our training classes for a couple of years and they’re a lot of fun. But copper and steel BBs bounce around too much and pellets tend to put holes in things you don’t want holes in. However, recently I’ve discovered some really cool air guns and have figured out ways to shoot them safely at home and even inside.
The first affordable air gun that really sparked my interest was this PX-4 Storm marketed under the Beretta name. It operates on CO2 and has real blow-back operation reminiscent of my 9mm PX-4. I’ve taken this gun to work and shot it in the parking lot with coworkers. We dug some soft drink cans out of the garbage and had a blast. Some of these folks were non-shooters who had so much fun the next stop is the real gun range.
Because of how realistic the Beretta’s operation is we sometimes use it in our Concealed Handgun License classes to help new shooters master the basics of stance, grip, aiming, breathing, trigger control and follow through and to emphasize the importance of not crossing your thumbs on a semi-automatic pistol. When the CO2 cartridge is fresh, this pistol is very accurate and it will send drink cans flying across the ground or room. It uses magazines that allow you to load 8 pellets on one end and 8 on the other. You shoot the first 8 then turn the magazine around for 8 more. I have several magazines so you can load up and have a blast for a while.
Close behind the Beretta for fun is this Crossman replica of a 357 magnum revolver. This air gun feels very similar to a real 357 magnum, without the kick of course. It uses a circular 10-round magazine that is inserted right ahead of the cylinder. You can shoot it in single-action or double-action mode.
I found a 22 caliber bullet trap at Walmart with a target hanger that allows you to shoot either of these handguns inside.
With Hunter’s Education coming up, I wanted to find a more realistic way to do the indoor shooting exercise than the Air Soft AR-15s we’ve been using. They’re a pain to get to work right. Bass Pro has a number of air rifles in .17 and .22 caliber, some with “silencers”. There are all degrees of sophistication, but wanting something simple I got a single-shot Ruger that you have to cock to build air pressure. It shoots pellets at 1,000 feet per second and is very accurate. The bullet trap does a great job of capturing those pellets and preventing them from bouncing back and hitting someone in the eye.
Here’s what the air rifle looks like:
One of my grandsons brought a Daisy Red Ryder over one weekend and we set up some drink cans and proceeded to splatter them all over the yard. Oh my gosh, I’d forgotten how much fun plinkin’ in your backyard can be. The next time I was in Academy Sports they had Red Ryder Daisies on sale for $22. I bought one. You can load about 100 BBs in that magazine and shoot until you get tired. You can send cans flying end-over-end with that Daisy.
It has a wooden stock and is made of metal. The only drawback is it’s made in China! Can you believe that! The Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun, an American icon still alive since the 1930s, is now made in China! That’s a shame but it is still a lot of fun to shoot.
Now, when I want to take out my frustrations on a few inanimate objects or punch holes in paper, I don’t have to pay to go to the gun range or spend a bunch of money on ammo. CO2, pellets and BBs are cheap and I can shoot them at home.
UPDATE MAY 2016:
Since writing the above article I’ve discovered people all over enjoy air gun shooting so much there are competitions, air-gun hunting and a tremendous variety of airguns that are replicas of the real thing, more coming all the time.
I now have a S&W M&P pellet gun, a John Wayne Colt .45 SAA pellet gun, a Sig Sauer P226 pellet gun, a Luger BB Gun (it’s very realistic and likely the only way I’ll ever get to shoot real Luger P08), and an M&P BB gun. Some of these have blow-back that emulates the real thing and all have the look and feel of their real-gun counterparts.