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Air guns -- a great way to introduce youth to shooting

When you were a kid, you probably had a BB gun. Mine was a Buck Jones special, made by Daisy Manufacturing Company of Rogers, Ark. Daisy is no little outfit. It is huge, and owns patents on a full range of shooting products. Daisy air rifles spewed out a pellet, which is midway in size between #2 and #4 shot. Originally lead with a bit of antimony for hardness, Daisy began washing the pellets with liquefied copper, so they're a beautiful gold color. BB guns were sold by all rural hardware stores, and that's where you bought BBs.

BB guns were generally single shots. You poured a quantity of the pellets out of the cardboard tube, but you needed to work a lever action to put a pellet into the firing chamber. The propulsion was compressed air, and it drove the pellet with considerable velocity. We shot sparrows in the winter, flickers and other ground dwelling birds in the summer.

Air guns were first used in Europe about 1500, and by the 1700s, were used by the U.S. Army. Lewis and Clark had air rifles on their trek from Missouri to Oregon. Armies have trained marksmen in shooting skills with air guns. Air guns were entered into the Olympics in 1984. These arms are full scale and weight, so they look and feel like centerfire rifles.

Brand names expanded the choices. Continuing with Daisy, we now have the extensive Crossman line, plus Beeman, Benjamin, Sheridan, Gamo, Walther and RWS. Beeman began importing air rifles into its facility at Huntington Beach in California. They import and market just about all of the brands.

Airguns are spring loaded pump guns with moderate velocity. Pre-charged pneumatics propel the pellets at about 600 feet per second. Co2 powered models can expel a pellet at 1,200 fps, or more.

About 20 years ago, there was a major change in air guns. An elongated pellet with a diameter of .177mm came on the scene. This changed everything in a hurry. Hunters and pest-control shooters continued to opt for 20 and 22 caliber arms. Many are of a type that compresses a spring-loaded propulsion system, activated by grasping the barrel, breaking it smartly at its hinge midway up the barrel. Now there is a considerable amount of compressed air behind the .177mm dart, which has a conical base. 1,000 fps is reached by a large number of the available brands. A Spanish arms maker, named Gamo, makes a very popular model with this type of action. They sell for $125 to $350 or more, and are generally equipped with a 4X rifle scope. Some fine shooting can very easily be made with a Gamo rifle.

The recoil of an air gun is the reverse of a cartridge containing a bullet and gunpowder. The recoil is forward, toward the muzzle. Most standard riflescopes are designed and cushioned to accommodate a rearward thrust. So rifle scopes for air guns are made differently. Using a standard rifle scope on an air gun will render it useless, and inaccurate. Usually, the lens upon which the cross hairs are etched will fall out of position.

Many men, boys and girls too, are enjoying marksmanship in their basement game room using air guns at short range. Under the closed in situations as a basement at home, eye and ear protection should be used.

About 90 percent of the air guns are long guns, with scopes. The other ten percent are handguns -- and there are some dandies. There is quite a sharp report, of course, but there's little up kick so recovery is easy. Air guns are an easy way to introduce a young person to shooting.

Air guns are definitely not toys. Some have a range up to 300 yards, and they can inflict a serious wound at any range, so be careful. Have good range rules and follow them explicitly.

Air guns are not covered by the firearms acquisition act. The sporting goods dealer will not ask you to fill out the six-page Form 4477, which is required by the BATF agency of the Federal government. Of course, you must be 18 years of age to make the purchase.

Indoor and outdoor competition, plinking at beer cans, hunting or knocking off a crow or magpie is great fun with a powerful air gun that will deliver that .177mm pellet with velocity and accuracy.

Now that you're an adult, it is the time for you to relive those care free days of your youth when you had a Red Ryder or a Buck Jones BB gun!

Ladies too, are often quite taken by air guns when husbands have been instructing their kids in air gun shooting. Many users assert that air guns are even more enjoyable than conventional firearms. Well, I enjoy two Gamo guns, both .177mm, but I'm not giving up my 20 gauge or my .270 either!

Fishing trip for area kids

The Cormorant Lakes Sportsmen's Club announces that they're prepared to take thirty youths, ages 12 to 15 on a fishing trip to Mille Lacs Lake. The date is Saturday, June 20. The bus will depart from Orton's in Audubon at 5 a.m. and will return at 5 p.m.

All fishing poles, bait and tackle will be furnished. The young people should dress for the weather, which can be hot, chilly, wet or something else. To sign up for this youth fishing trip, please call 439-6210. We intend to run this message in this column again, next week, so that others who've missed this one can respond.