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Airguns: A Great Gateway to Introduce Newbies to Shooting

Lead photo: Katy helping Naghmeh zero-in on her first shot ever with a gun. The Umarex .22 cal. Synergis airgun was a great gun for her to learn on.

By: Tom Claycomb

I dare say that all of us have someone(s) that we’d like to get into shooting or hunting. Whether it is a new girlfriend, a daughter, a son, a grandkid, co-worker, or maybe a friend. My wife Katy and I just took our buddy Naghmeh Panahi and her son Jacob shooting last week. It was the first time that either one of them had ever shot a gun.

I can’t even remember what the first gun was that I ever shot, but I was dove hunting at seven years old. I couldn’t even reach the trigger. I had to hold the butt under my arm like granny on the Beverly Hillbillies. Dad would only let me load one shell at a time. I started deer hunting at about nine years old, and by 13 was shooting a 30-06 with the old standby Remington 180 gr. Core-Lokt bullets that kicked like a mule. It’s a wonder that I didn’t flip out of a tree.

The above is all good and worked for me, but what if you have skinny little daughters that you want to get into shooting with you? There might be a better option than starting them off with your elk hunting .338 Win. Mag.

As hunters, we get a lot of co-workers and friends into shooting. Just because they’re adults doesn’t mean that they’re used to heavy recoil and ear cracking reports. Remember to take it easy on them, too. Why not start both kids and adults out on shooting airguns?

They’re quiet, there’s no recoil, and the newbie can totally focus on the basics: controlled breathing, trigger squeeze and proper technique. I think airguns are a great gateway to introduce newbies into shooting and hunting.

I conduct Airgun 101 seminars a few times a year, and last year, while conducting two Airgun 101 seminars at the Safari Club International Convention in Reno, it hit me. Airguns are a great way to introduce your grandkids and kids into shooting/hunting. And I billed the seminars as such.

If you do it right, hopefully your kids will love hunting and shooting as much as you do. Start off slow and gentle. This applies for getting your wife into shooting/hunting, too. Same principles.

Ok, I hate to break it to you, but guys, most of you are mental midgets. Your wife may go with you when you’re dating, but if you’re too rough on her, she’s done. She’s doing it because she loves you and wants to be with you. Save the eating pickled pigs feet and Rambo stuff for when you’re out with your buddies. Same with your kids. Do your Bataan Death March stuff for when you’re by yourself.

If you’re the daddy of daughters, they may never want to kill stuff. Don’t panic. Just take them shooting. Sig Sauer makes a ton of cool airgun targets. Air Pyramid makes some exploding golf balls (actually, they’re a plastic ball filled with something resembling baby powder). Get some Birchwood Casey Shoot NC targets. I’m the daddy of all daughters, and I don’t think they’ll ever hunt with me. Who cares, we have a blast shooting together.

As a kid, all we had to shoot were glass bottle thrown into a creek, old TVs or headlights out of old cars thrown in the gully.

It is easier now than ever to introduce a newbie into shooting. You can get a decent break barrel airgun for under $200 now. But, a break barrel may take too much strength for little kid to cock. so you may have to get them a CO2 airgun to start off. I don’t want to say that the modern CO2 airgun is a toy, but they are a less dangerous than a .22 and won’t travel as far. But make no mistake, the modern airgun is not Little Ralphie’s Red Ryder. I got shot through the finger with a .22 airgun, and it blew straight through the finger and out the fingernail. That was a fun experience…

Everyone is on a budget. If you don’t have enough money to buy some of the cool Sig Sauer targets, then use water filled plastic bottles.

Another BIG deal about starting out newbies on airguns is ammo availability and cost savings. Right now, to take someone shooting is almost impossible due to no ammo being available. But there’s no shortage of pellets, so you can shoot to your heart’s content. Due to the ammo shortage, you may literally not be able to take a newbie out with your normal firearm. The other day, I attended the Shooting Sports Showcase in Talladega, Alabama, and a couple of companies couldn’t do their displays because of the ammo crisis.

I’m big time into airguns and love my Umarex .25 cal. Gauntlet, but for taking newbies, you probably want to think about something like the Umarex Synergis. And if you’re taking little kids that aren’t strong enough to cock the Synergis, then start them off on a Sig CO2.

Jacob hit the bullseye on his 2nd shot ever using the Umarex .22 cal. Synergis airgun.

One good thing about using a lower-powered CO2 is that you can set up a shooting range in your basement or garage. That way your kid can practice no matter what the weather is doing outside.

So as we come to a close, I’d strongly urge you to consider using airguns as a means to introduce newbies into your shooting world – whether they be an adult or a kid. I think Sig was smart. Their CO2s all mimic their real firearms and have all of the same features.

Don’t make the same mistakes that I did. My girlfriend didn’t come from a hunting family. It was all new to her. I was way too rough on her and acted like she was one of my hunting buddies. Remember, she’s most likely going along just to be with you. Slow down and make it fun for her. Some women are the almighty huntresses, but most of them are going along just to be with you.

I remember my wife once told me that she and her school teaching buddies had signed up for a shooting class. I was shocked. I’m an outdoor writer – Why didn’t you have me teach y’all? “Because you just yell at me.” Don’t be like that.

Luckily, 37 years later, I’ve learned to slow down a little and be gentler, and my old girlfriend is now my wife and owns more guns than most men and enjoys shooting. Be gentle and mess it up. We want our wife going with us and doing the stuff we love with us, don’t we? Airguns may just be the gateway to make that happen.

Tom Claycomb III is a product tester for outdoor manufacturers, hunter, and outdoor writer, writing from Idaho.

 
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