From BB guns of old to the air rifles of today

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, February 3, 2016

I’ve been trying to think of an affordable way to do some shooting that my little girl would enjoy since the .22 caliber ammo shortage. I don’t reckon it matters if its a government conspiracy (isn’t everything these days?) or out of date manufacturing facilities, etc., the end result is affordable rim-fire bullets are hard to come by.

There seems to be plenty of center fire ammo, but the guns that shoot those are rather loud for kids and after all, the noise is the scary part to youngsters. So what’s left? Air rifles.

They were called BB guns when I was a kid, and just about everybody had one. I put many a bird, cat, stray dog, and small game on the run with my lever action Daisy. The accuracy of that gun was not so great, and especially after I poured Johnson & Johnson baby oil down the barrel.

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I was just following my dad’s directions, everything got oiled, and the J&J was the go to for most things. But even though I almost never killed anything with the Daisy — only two birds in my life, and man, did I receive a verbal reprimand from my WWII Navy sailor dad! — the fun of plinking with a BB gun was something I will remember for quite a while.

So I took my daughter out on the porch and held a CO2 charged BB pistol for her to pull the trigger on. When she hit the target, which was the door of our tractor shed, her eyes lit up she said “Can I do it again daddy?” I knew then I would soon be making a trip for a BB gun.

Wow it’s amazing how much “BB” guns have changed in 30 years! Now they are called air rifles, and with the exception of the ole Daisy, and a small pellet rifle or two, most are leaps and bounds beyond what I grew up with. Synthetic stocks, rifled barrels, muzzle breaks, adjustable triggers, .177 and .22 calibers, and yes, even scopes.

I caught myself spending quite a bit of time in decision, and was amazed at the muzzle velocity of a .177 caliber pellet to be in the 1,000-1,400 feet per second range, comparable to a rim-fire .22 long rifle averaging in the 1,250 FPS range. Of course the .22 caliber rifle will have much higher energy with the much heavier bullet.

The big draw for me was affordable shooting. 250 pellets run about $4, 2,500 BB’s run about $3 to $4. Needless to say, an air rifle came home, and it’s a great starting point for responsibility with firearms.
And don’t worry. We won’t be shooting birds for fun, I learned my lesson years ago.