I consider myself to be a stalwart defender of the Second Amendment. After experiencing a violent crime when I was in my twenties, I decided to learn everything I could about protecting myself. As part of that mission, I carry a gun every day.
I don’t get to the range every day. While I wish I had an unlimited ammunition budget and enough land for live-fire exercises, I don’t.
Before I got married and had kids, I practiced dry-fire skills with my carry guns. It was easier when I was the only one home. Practicing like this has risks, though. I wanted a way to keep practicing, and I needed a way to do it with less potential risk.
One incredibly cost effective method, and one that is reliably easy to use, is what I’ll call the “airgun equivalent.” If your handgun of choice has an air gun model, too, you should own it. Here’s why:
I even capture BBs at the target and reuse them.
You can shoot indoors. My wife wasn’t so hip on this at first, but my garage range is completely safe. I set up a large wooden box with multiple layers of padding behind the target to absorb the energy that typically leads to ricochets. I also wear safety glasses. Most BB pistols run at modest speeds.
Holster work. If you are going to wear a holster, you have to practice with it. And an accident with a BB gun is much less damaging than an accident with a 9mm or a .45 ACP. Practice draws. Practice timed drills from concealment. And practice the mundane and less glamorous skills (but the ones you will use every time you carry) like holstering the gun.
Practice accuracy. I do two types of drills for accuracy. The first relies on the sights and tight shot placement. This is common enough. I prefer pellet guns for these exercises.
The second is far less common for most shooters, and that’s defensive shooting. For this, I’d recommend airsoft guns. You can use BBs, but why not be as safe as possible? Get in close to the target (contact distances). Practice moving and shooting. Shoot while shielding another person.
For this last one, I’m again going to recommend an airsoft pistol. Of all the methods of training I’ve mentioned, this one may be the most illuminating. Almost all of the gun owners I know say they own guns to defend their homes. Yet few of those people have walked their houses, gun in hand, and actually experienced the challenges and blind spots that their houses or apartments present.
Doing this with a partner who is willing to wear protective gear and take an airsoft round will show you just how complicated clearing a house can be. The addition of adrenaline will help make the exercise more realistic.
Here’s the last word on training with these types of air guns. They look real. They feel real. The whole point of most of them is to replicate the real thing. And BBs and pellets, even airsoft… they can cause damage to you and your belongings. Be careful.
Be careful, too, that you keep your guns separate and well-marked during any training. Unload any rimfire or centerfire pistols or rifles. I’d go so far as to advise you to lock them up while you’re training with their air gun twins. I’ve yet to mistake one for the other, but I can see just how easy it would be to do so.
Be safe. Be smart. And take your training seriously.
David Higginbotham is a writer and educator who lives in Arkansas. After years of writing and consulting in the firearms industry, he's coming back to his roots with air guns.
Check out this segment from American Airgunner where Rossi Morreale uses the Walther PPQ Airsoft & Air Pistols to help introduce his wife to shooting firearms.