Air Gun Fun!

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.

PX4 Air GunThe 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.

Crossman RevolverClose 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:

It came with a scope, but I’ve been lazy and haven’t yet mounted it. At the ranges we’re shooting inside our classroom, the iron sights work fine.

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.

Enjoying Cowboy Style Single Actions

I grew up playing Cowboys and Indians, watching Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey movies on TV and viewing westerns at the theater with stars like John Wayne, Randolph Scott and later Clint Eastwood. It’s natural for me to be attracted to old cowboy guns like the Colt 45 Single Action Army and it’s variants. Colt knows people like their guns and they’re priced accordingly. A genuine Colt SAA is way out of range of my gun budget.Ruger Blackhawk - 357 Maximum

That doesn’t meant I have to do without, however. In a previous article I’ve described my Ruger Blackhawk 357 Maximum. This is a gun I honestly purchased because of the way it looked and the price. It was $300. I didn’t know at the time that Ruger had recalled and discontinued it’s line of 357 Maximums, supposedly because of top-strap burning due to the heavy loads of the 357 Maximum cartridge. Evidence later emerged that the only incidents of the top-strap buring were the result of reloaders loading excessive charges. My gun  has absolutely no evidence of any damage whatsoever. In fact, it’s nearly pristine.

Even with the Ruger, I’ve had a hankering for a true SAA clone for sometime and last year decided on a beautiful stainless steel Beretta Stampede. I was debating between a Ruger Vaquero and the Stampede and settled on the Stampede for two reasons:  I’ve already got a Ruger revolver and the Stampede was available for less money than the particular Vaquero I would have wanted. It turns out the Stampede is made by the Italian Company Uberti, known for its authentic clones of Old West guns. The action was smoothed at the factory and this is one pistol I’m proud to own.

You’d think I’d have been satisfied, and I guess I was until cruising by the gun counter at Outdoor World and seeing an under $300 price tag on a new Uberti Hombre in 45 Colt. In fact, with a little inquiry I learned that I could apply a discount and get this particualar 45 Colt Cowboy pistol for $270. So I did. Then I went shooting.

It was a fun day at the range with a box of 45 Colt cartridges from Black Hills ammo and some Winchester 38 Specials for the Ruger Blackhawk. First I shot the Uberti. I’m going to show you the targets below, but I’ll be honest, this gun really surprised me. I had the targets out about 15 feet. I took a steady aim and the first shot went almost dead center of the target. I fired another one that touched the first one, and honestly the third shot went into one of the first two holes so that I was three shots in with only two holes in the target. I was impressed. The action was smooth, the gun well balanced. Nothing wrong with the workmanship. Wow. I fired a couple of cylinders full, then put up another target for the Beretta.

The Beretta Stampede grouped well, but slighlty left of point of aim. Recoil on either of these two guns was minimal. I found myself curling my right pinky under the grip for support. I didn’t think much about it, until later at another gun range I heard an old Cowboy Action Shooter tell his buddy that was his secret for shooting Cowboy guns accurately. Interesting. I’d just stumbled across something that worked for me and later found out it’s a secret of the experts.

I had recently adjusted the sights on the Blackhawk and boresighted it at the office. This was its first trip to the range after that adjustment. I fired part of a box of 38 specials and was pleased with the results. Experience has proven the Blackhawk is just as accurate with 357 or 357 Maximums as with the 38 Specials, just a lot louder.

Here are the targets for all three guns. You can see for yourself, the old Six Shooters are pretty darn accurate, even with their minimal iron sights.

Time constraints and bum knees may prevent me from it, but I’m getting a hankering for some Cowboy Action Shooting as sponsored by the Single Action Shooters Society (SSAS.org). Even if I don’t do the SASS thing, I’ll enjoy plinking with these guns and someday they’ll get passed along to the kids and/or grandkids. I’ll probably add a couple of .22 caliber models to the collection within the next year. Both Ruger and Uberti are making 10 shot 22’s. Ubertis can be converted to 22 Magnum. Now that’s really cool!

Powerful Little Backup Gun

ITaurus 327 Magnm‘ve been watching the hype about the 327 Federal Magnum cartridge and wondering where it might fit in my personal defense strategy. I like to have backup guns in strategic locations – my truck console, my laptop case, even the pocket of my jeans. Last year I had a Taurus Ultralite revolver in .22 magnum.  It was just the right size and I figured .22 magnum would at least get someone’s attention, especially since it carried 8 rounds, but I didn’t like the heavy double-action trigger pull on that particular gun. A trade opportunity came along and I took advantage of it. That left a small revolver gap in my defense arsenal.

Cheaper Than Dirt in Fort Worth ran a Taurus sale one week and the advertised price for the little 327 Federal Magnum revolver was just too low to pass up. The cartridge is similar in size to the .30 caliber rounds I carried in the M2 Carbine I kept on the back of the seat in my helicopter in Vietnam. I read the specs and found the cartridge is loaded to around 40,000 psi pressure, making it have more impact velocity than even a 357 Magnum.

It’s a pretty gun – mine’s stainless steel – and fairly lightweight. It holds 6 rounds. I took it to the range and not surprisingly, it’s loud and it ‘s got a fair amount of recoil. It is not painful to shoot, but you wouldn’t want to shoot it all day. From approximately 10 feet away I put most of my rounds somewhere near the center of the target.

I find the gun is easy to hide and I expect it to be totally reliable. When you pull the trigger on a revolver you can usually count on it to go “bang.” This one will do that six times. If I place my shots carefully and make them count I have no doubt the 327 magnum bullets will stop somebody in their tracks!

Personal Security for Ordinary People

By David Freeman

Guns are great equalizers. You don’t have to be big, physically fit or trained in the Marshall Arts to defend yourself  when you have a gun.

So much of the training I see about personal defense features young, physically fit, police or personal security-type individuals. You know what I mean, the ones with the ripped abs that run 10 miles before breakfast, rappel off the side of mountains and eat rattlesnakes for breakfast.

I’m not like that, but I can defend myself. I legally carry a concealed handgun and I’m relatively proficient with it. So while I’m not looking for a fight, if one comes my way I have a good chance of prevailing.

With a gun, a small woman can defend herself against a man the size of a defensive linebacker. An old guy like me can defend himself against a young, agressive street thug. A person in a wheelchair with a gun is no longer the easy victim an assailant might plan to rob.

While carrying a gun doesn’t require Olympic-like training, there are some things  you should do to insure you’re prepared to use one effectively to defend yourself:

  1. Be mentally prepared. This involves always being aware of your surroundings and recognizing potential threats early enough to do something about it should the potential threat become an actual threat.
  2. Have the right gun. The gun should fit you, it should be reliable and comfortable for you to shoot. It should also be of a large enough caliber to actually stop an attacker.
  3. Have your gun accessible. It must be concealed, but if it’s hidden away where you can’t get to it quickly, it’s of no use.
  4. Be proficient with your gun.
  5. Practice, practice, practice!
  6. Mentally rehearse possible scenarios, including how you would react.
  7. Get involved in the gun community – read the magazines, participate in shooting sports, train when you can.

Bottom line:  guns are great equalizers, but only if you know how to use them

SigPro SP2022

Sig Pro 2022The price was unbelievable. A Sig Sauer for $399? Something must be wrong with it. There were a few rumors on the net about a new Pistol, the SP250, coming out as a replacement for the SP2022. Wrong! They’re both stil in Sig’s lineup. Maybe it was a police buy that got caught up in politics. Who knows, but Cheaper Than Dirt had ten at this unbelievable price and they were sure to go fast.

I didn’t need another pistol, especially not another 9mm, but what the heck. It was a Sig and I could always get my money back. When I got to looking closer, I discovered the gun had a few add-ons that would normally jack the price up. It has Tijicon night sights and a double action only (DAO) trigger.

The gun feels good in the hand. It hold 15 + 1 and magazines are readily available. I bought one at the Fort Worth Gun Show and a couple more from CDNN Sports in Abilene. The gun came with two. There’s no question that it’s a Sig with the quality typical of the brand.

At the range I found it frustrating at first. The trigger pull is just over 10 pounds and it’s a long pull. I found myself tiring while waiting for it happen. More than once I did the shooter’s equivalent of stepping out of the batter’s box on my first shot. After a while I got used to it and my shots didn’t suffer. Here’s a target from my third or fourth trip to the range. This was shot at 15 yards.

Sig Pro Target

I made one adjustment to the gun that doesn’t seem to make much difference in either shootability or accuracy. I replaced the stock trigger with a short pull trigger, a $9.95 mod. This didn’t change the weight of the pull, but was supposed to shorten the length of pull. I honesty can’t feel any difference.

The SP2022 spent a few months as my daily carry weapon. Although it has no external safety, the heavy double action trigger makes it a very safe IWB carry weapon. Had I needed the gun, the trigger pull would have been a non-issue. Now, it’s my upstairs household gun and with it’s Trijicon sights and excellent accuracy, it is comforting to have around.

Follow Up – April 2011

It’s now a year after I wrote the original blog entry and I still have an SP2022, but it’s not the original DAO pistol. I advertised the original one for sale on TexasGunTrader.com and it found a new home. A couple of months later Academy Sports put the Sig Sauer SP2022 on sale for $399 and this one was a DA/SA pistol. I bought one. It doesn’t have the night sights the original one had, but it sure shoots easier. I often take it to our CHL classes to let people who have not yet decided on the gun they want to carry shoot it for their proficiencey test. This one I’ll probablykeep.

Update May 2016:

I’m now surrounded by Sigs. The second 9mm, the one written about in the April 2011 follow-up is one of the loaners we use at Texas Gun Pros for our License to Carry Class. After 5,000 to 6,000 rounds the slide got to where it wouldn’t lock back after the last round was fired, no matter what magazine was in it. A quick trip back to Sig with a very small repair charge and it’s back at work again.

I got a replacement for the house, one with night sights and it’s now my wife’s upstairs comfort gun. She has an M&P 9mm by her side of the bed. One thing that continues to intrigue me about the SP2022 is the quality for the money. I have a couple of P226s and a couple of P229s that are $900 to $1200 pistols. The SP2022 is almost exactly the same size as the very popular PP229. The slide operation is easier, or seems so to me, and the slide lock is definitely easier to operate. There is not $500 difference in those guns. The SP2022 is one of the best values on the market for a good 9mm or .40 ACP handgun.

Taurus 24/7 DS – 45 ACP

By David Freeman

Taurus 24/7 45 ACPI grew up shooting revolvers. The first semi-automatic hangun I owned was a Stoeger Cougar 8000 in 9mm. It was a sweet handling and shooting gun. My son liked it and I had been eyeing a Taurus 24/7, so I sold him the Cougar (at least it’s still in the family) and picked up a 9mm Taurus 24/7 at Academy Sports.

The gun was winner from day one. No jams, no misfires and right on target. Plus the trigger was nice and smooth and easy. Since I was getting the gun bug, I soon bought a Sig Sauer SP2022 (it’s a Sig, right?) on sale at Cheaper Than Dirt for a really great price. You can read about that gun elsewhere in my blog, as well as the Beretta PX-4 Storm. Here I was with three 9mm semi-automatics (one to carry, one for the truck and one for the upstairs bedroom was my argument). I carried the Storm, kept the Taurus in the truck and the Sig upstairs. But on range day, I carried all three. Even though the Taurus was the least expensive of the three and the one from the company that has to fight against a bad rap from years gone by, it was the most fun to shoot and at least as accurate as the other, two, if not more so.

Because I had so much invested in 9mm pistols and had good supply of ammunition, I tended to resist the magazine articles and instructor admonitions that for defensive carry, a 45 is better. It was while attending the NRA Handgun Instructor Course that it finally dawned on me. It wasn’t that I couldn’t effectively stop a bad guy with my 9mm. It was more about who else I might endanger while doing so. The instructor explained quite graphically, that even with hollow point ammunition, because of it’s muzzle velocity, a 9mm will shoot through things, including people and possibly hit innocents, even if they’re behind a wall.

I sold the 9mm Taurus 24/7 and bought the 45 ACP version of what I thought was the same gun. It looks the same. It feels the same, even weighs about the same. It carries well. I loaded it up with some 230 grain hollow point ammunition and felt safe. Until I went to the range. Bang – jam. Bang – jam. Over and over.  I took the gun home, cleaned it really well and tried it again. I got as much as a bang, bang jam out of it this time. I tried different ammo and discovered I could shoot FMJ (full metal jacket, also known as “ball”) ammo through it without jamming.

It seemed at first it was a magazine problem. Taurus offered to send me a new one if I sent in the bad one, but I felt a little more testing was in order. I tried three different brands of 225-230 grain hollow point ammo:  Winchester Supreme Elite, MagTech Gold and Remington Golden Sabre. None of them fed without jamming. They did what gun people call “nosediving” where the nose of the cartridge doesn’t slide up the ramp into the chamber like it’s supposed to.

Most gun guys caution that it takes from 300 to 500 rounds to “break in” a new semi-automatic handgun. That wasn’t true with my 9mm Taurus. It was perfect right out of the box. But I after shooting 300 or so expensive rounds through the Taurus 45, it wasn’t getting any better.

I made another stop at Cheaper Than Dirt and picked up two types of 185 grain JHP (jacketed hollow point) — Black Hills and Speer Gold Dot. Problem solved. I may try some other brands later, but for now, I’m satisified that my 45 will perform when and if called upon in a defensive situation.

Oh, and it is pretty accurate. What misses is my fault, not the gun’s. Here’s an example:

Targets 04172010

UPDATE MAY 2016:

One of my mentors suggested trying Winchester Silvertip 185 Grain jacketed hollow points in the Taurus 45. After shooting two boxes of that ammunition with no failures I discovered that for this particular gun the break-in rule appeared to be real. It shoots anything and everything I feed it now with no problems whatsoever. Now that I’ve discovered the Ruger/Polycase ARX rounds, this .45 ACP Taurus 24/7 makes a nice addition to my carry gun rotation. I know many people opt for carrying the same gun all the time, but I like to vary my carry guns to justify having a “collection of them” (just kidding). The real reason is so that I have a broad experience from which to provide advice and guidance to the many students that come through our classes.