The first guns I ever shot were air guns. I have vivid memories of an aluminum pie-plate hanging from a clothesline behind my grandmother’s house in western Alabama. My father and I would sit on the back steps and poke holes in the tin with a CO2 powered pistol. It was quality time with my dad. My mom even got into it a couple of times.
When I look back on those moments now, I realize how much I learned. I had no idea at the time that I was learning, which is likely what made the lessons stick.
- Shooting skills build self-confidence
I’ve taught many kids how to shoot. In what seems like a former life, I taught Boy Scouts how to shoot .50 caliber muzzle loaders. It wasn’t easy. Working with Cub Scouts and BB guns is far less intimidating, but no less daunting.
The kids expect to step to the line and poke holes in the bull’s-eye. It rarely happens that way. After some hard work on the fundamentals, though, you get those breakthrough moments where a seven year old smacks that target with a BB. Shooting air guns is a great way to teach cause and effect.
Those small round holes build confidence and pride. You don’t have to ask if it’s working, you can see it in their faces.
- Air guns teach bigger lessons, too.
I had the good fortune to review one of Umarex’s Legends guns recently: the Legends MP. With its full-auto feature, this was one rocking fun BB gun. I took it out with my son, too, for what I’d hoped would be another teachable moment, but we spent most of the afternoon mowing down old shotgun shells.
We came back that night, though, and broke out all of the old history books. We looked at all of the black and white images of MP 40s we could find. He learned more about history in that one afternoon than he had in the last ten years.
- Air guns are less intimidating.
There’s something to be said for noise suppression. I tried for years to get my wife interested in shooting sports, but the noise of a firearm—even a rimfire—was too much for her. She wouldn’t have any part of it. It wasn’t until I bought a rimfire suppressor that I was able to get her on the range. And then she discovered she liked to shoot.
Noise suppression devices on air guns are even quieter. Umarex makes several rifles (and some pistols) with the SilenceAir system. The integrally suppressed rifles (like the new Gauntlet) are almost silent.
This allows you to talk freely and communicate safely in a way that you can’t with rimfire or centerfire, which is a useful safety tool, too. And there’s nothing scary about the noise.
- Air guns teach pride of ownership
When I became a parent, I saw air guns in a new light. I bought my son his first BB gun (an Umarex Steel Force) when he was 8. After he mastered the fundamentals, and after I safely secured all of the CO2 and BBs, it was his to care for.
It was hardly an expensive gift, yet he treasures it. He treats it with much more care and respect than he does most of his other possessions.
And we’ve had numerous opportunities to break it out and run it dry. We can shoot all afternoon, inventing ever more ludicrous practical challenges, without breaking the bank.
- Everyone needs to know how to use a gun.
This last point on my list is really the most important. I can preach a solid sermon on this topic. It is the most important reason to get the entire family shooting. Especially the ones who don’t think they need to know how to shoot a gun.
This goes way beyond dispelling the Hollywood myths. In this instance I’m talking about a basic preparedness. We live in a chaotic and sometimes dangerous world. Everyone needs to know how a gun functions. Just as important is how to ensure a gun won’t work.
We preach safety. We lock up our guns. And we wish that everyone else would, too. They don’t. Children find guns at their friends’ houses. Knowing the basics of gun safety, which can be easily taught with any air gun, might make the difference. And demystifying guns can take away that taboo fascination that has too-often ended in tragedy.