Teaching people how to shoot can get complicated. It is easiest when you have a willing adult who is really motivated to learn. Even then, though, they may come in expecting blistering recoil and noise.
If there’s one place where Hollywood underplays the power of traditional firearms, it is sound. No one ever wears hearing protection, and the guns are loud, but not too loud. The reality can take new shooters by surprise.
A few pellet rifles make a distinct crack when fired. If there’s no noise suppression, I tend to wear hearing protection. But the BB guns and pellet pistols made by Umarex are great for teaching, as you can talk while you are teaching and shooting.
Does an Air Pistol Have Recoil?
Some guns kick. Many pistols have serious muzzle-flip. Some small guns (and some of the larger calibers) are hard on the hands.
The benefit of simple BB guns is easy to see. You can go over the fundamentals of gripping the gun, aiming, and even some trigger discipline—all without worrying about the kick.
There’s another level, though, that the more realistic action pistols provide. Umarex makes some exacting copies of real centerfire handguns. They’re spot on reproductions, down to the way their slides cycle. These, like their Walther air pistols, provide a solid introduction to recoil. Shooters get the feel, and even have to reposition their sights, but it is hardly intimidating—and certainly not punishing.
The Benefit of Realism in Air Pistols
If you know someone who wants to learn how to shoot defensive handguns, look at the lineup from Umarex. Their licensing agreements with GLOCK, Smith & Wesson, Walther, and HK allow them to produce the perfect training and practicing tools.
These replica airguns look, feel, and work like their centerfire and rimfire counterparts. They fit in many of the same holsters and have the same basic controls. This is, in my opinion, the best way to teach someone how to draw from a holster. With a BB gun, you can safely work on live-fire drills that may well be dangerous for a beginner.
Cost of Operating an Airgun is Nil
Range time, too, can be less expensive. Where I live, in a small town in Arkansas, I can comfortably shoot BB guns in my backyard. The neighbors sometimes shoot me looks, but they know what I do for a living.
Working on drills—especially holster draws from concealment—might require a more formal range. Or you may have access to someplace more isolated (even indoors) where you can shoot BB guns, but not traditional firearms. This is where airsoft comes in for me. I began practicing in my house with an Elite Force 1911 airsoft pistol.
I often carry a GLOCK 19, though, and the new GLOCK airsoft pistol is even better for my training practices. It works incredibly well and provides a level of realism I wouldn’t get otherwise.
Replica Airgun Safety
BB guns, pellet guns, even airsoft guns—they all pose their own risks. Know your targets, how they deflect projectiles, and what’s behind them. You don’t want a projectile to hit anything that could be damaged. Wear eye protection. Treat all of your guns as if they’re loaded.
Those basics always apply. But one of the most easily understood benefits of teaching and training with air guns is safety. While these guns can cause injury, they are less lethal than traditional firearms.
With an airgun, you can teach safety safely. You can push your skills. Especially when you are teaching youth to shoot, airguns offer a platform for developing lifelong skills.
It might go without saying to many of you, but you must always emphasize that airguns should never be shown in public. Unlike airsoft guns that require an orange muzzle-tip, airguns don’t have that requirement. So it can be difficult to distinguish between an airgun and a firearm. It’s your responsibility to deny immature persons access to airguns and BB guns. Keep them locked up and never let a youth use them without adult supervision. In my opinion, the same goes for Nerf guns.
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.