I love airguns, I truly honestly do. Like a lot of people, my first exposure to shooting was over the barrel of an airgun, in my case the Crossman 760 Pumpmaster. That rifle took a devastating toll on the aluminum can population of my hometown, as well as a few birds (they were ruining the apple trees) and two jackrabbits. Actually, the jackrabbits were the hardest of the two, because you had to hit them just right for the pellet to do the trick.

For a while I stopped shooting airguns, because without the noise and flash, they sort of lost the interest of a teenager. It makes sense, because nailing cans at 10-25 yards had become easy; plus I got my first real rifle (which I still have to this day). Everything changed when I went to the Academy. I joined the pistol team, and shot NRA collegiate pistol; where I was re-introduced to airguns. This time though, these weren’t the $40 Wal-mart specials, my airgun was a precision Hammerli that would literally shoot three pellets into a group .177 inches in diameter. At first, the new shooters on the team didn’t want to shoot air pistol, because it wasn’t nearly as cool as Standard Pistol, or even Free Pistol.

This lasted until I figured out that shooting more air pistol made me that much better at the other disciplines, especially Free pistol. If you’ve never shot Free Pistol, it is one of the most challenging marksmanship events out there. It’s actually quite similar to Air pistol in that you shoot 60 shots over the course of a couple of hours at teeny little targets. The benefit of Air pistol was that because there’s almost no noise with the airguns, and no felt recoil, it allowed me focus entirely on my trigger squeeze and sight picture. So, I started shooting more air pistol, and lo and behold I got a lot better at shooting Free pistol, and even Standard pistol.

For a while after the Academy, I got away from Airguns for quite some time. I (once again) was only interested in the smoke and noise that came with “real guns”. That was up until about this year when my wife and I bought our house, and I switched careers to something that allows me a little bit more time to focus on shooting. The extra time I’ve been spending at the range has once again rekindled my interest in airguns as a training tool for marksmanship. That is coupled with the fact that floor plan of my house is totally large enough to accommodate a 10 meter air pistol set up (don’t tell my wife). Just set a pellet trap at one end with a target clip, and let the fun begin. It’s really, really cold in central Indiana right now, and that limits my range choices rather significantly. Since it’s too damn cold to shoot outside on the farmland; and a lot of the indoor ranges frankly suck, shooting air indoors allows me to practice what I enjoy doing without a)Freezing my tuckus off and b)spending a tonne of money on range fees.

Don’t dismiss air pistols/rifles because they’re not as “cool” or whatever. Sight picture and trigger control don’t change, no matter what you’re shooting. If you can’t make it to the range but you’re interested in improving your overall marksmanship skills, look into air guns.

Here’s a drill I used to do when I was shooting competitively. When I got done practicing Air pistol for the sake of competition, I’d do a drill that would help me practice for Rapid fire in Standard pistol. This would work with a target air pistol, or one of the fun blasters that’s set up to look like a real gun.

Start with the pistol held out at a 45 degree angle from your body, or if you’re using a two handed grip, start at low ready. Bring the pistol up and acquire your sight picture. As the sights align, prrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssss the trigger; don’t slap it, spank it, jerk it, or do any of the other vaguely wrong sounding things that you can do to a trigger. Just press it until the shot breaks. Go back down to low ready, (reload if necessary), and repeat for a total of 10 reps. I would start at 10 feet, 10 shots, then move back to 20 feet, 10 shots, than 30 feet, 10 shots. This drill really helped me when it came to the Timed Fire and Rapid Fire portions of Standard pistol, as I was used to acquiring and excellent sight picture in a “relaxed hurry” and pressing out the shot.

Have fun, and if you’re indoors please buy (or build) a pellet trap. Your wife does not want you shooting airgun holes into the drywall.

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