Archive for May 2008

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy competition. I like pitting my shooting skills against others and seeing how well I do. The problem is, it usually costs like a zillion dollars to get the gear you need to be truly competitive.

Not so with air pistol silhouette. You can get involved in challenging, fun, world-class competition for right around $200.

The concept behind silhouette is really simple. You shoot at metal cutouts of chickens, pigs, turkeys, and rams at various distances. If you knock one down, you get a point. If you miss, you get zilch. The person with the most points wins.

Chickens, which measure just 3/4 inch high and 1 inch wide, are shot at 10 yards, pigs at 12.5 yards, turkeys at 15 yards, and rams at 18 yards. A typical match involves shooting at 10 of each animal: 10 chickens, 10 pigs and so forth. In case of ties, additional targets are shot to determine the winner.

IHMSA – the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association — began sponsoring matches for air pistols in 2001. There are six categories of IHMSA air pistol silhouette competition. Three are generally shot from the Creedmoor position (although other positions are allowed). Creedmoor looks pretty strange: competitors typically lie on their backs and brace the pistol against their calf or thigh.

Airgun shooter demonstrating the Creedmore position. Photo courtesy of Steve Ware.

Creedmoor classes include: Production, for open-sight pistols costing $235 or less suggested retail price; Unlimited (open sights only), for pistols with open sights above $235 SRP; and Unlimited Any Sight, for pistols of any price using any type of optical sighting device such as a scope or red dot sight or iron sight. There are also three standing classes: Standing, for $235 (or less SRP) open sight guns, Unlimited Standing for any gun with any sighting device, and Unlimited Standing Iron Sight. In any Standing class, you must shoot from a standing position (Kinda figures, doesn’t it?).

Competitors shooting in the Unlimited Any Sight class tend to shoot with long-eye-relief pistol scopes from the Creedmoor position. By contrast, Unlimited Standing competitors often equip their pistols with rifle scopes, shooting the air pistol close to their faces with one hand on the pistol grip and another on top of the scope.

What really sets IHMSA’s air pistol silhouette apart from similar competition offered by other organizations is the definition of a production class in which the price of the air pistol cannot exceed $235 suggested retail price. This has the effect of leveling the playing field; people with less expensive pistols are not competing head-to-head kilobuck match pistols. (There are, however, many examples of the lower priced pistols beating the expensive pistols in the non-production classes.) In addition, shooters are classed based on their ability, so a beginner isn’t forced to compete against an expert. For more information about IHMSA, visit

Two pistols that qualify for the production class are the Daisy 747, a single-stroke pneumatic, and the Crosman 2300S, which is powered by 12-gram CO2 cartridges. The Daisy has the advantage of being self-contained, but the Crosman has the advantage of the built-in scope rail, which makes it much easier if you want to mount a scope.

I own both of these pistols, and you really can’t go wrong with either one.

Until next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

When I rediscovered airguns nearly ten years ago, a secondary, complementary interest sprang upon me at the same time: long range accuracy. How far can you shoot and reliably hit what you’re aiming at? And what sort of skills does it take to get the job done?

I started poking into the subject of long-range shooting, and before long, I found myself fascinated by the world of snipers. Military and police snipers, in many regards, are the ultimate long-range marksmen. In the right place at the right time, snipers can change the course of history. Just witness Timothy Murphy, who is believed to have shot General Simon Fraser at the battle of Saratoga, October 7, 1777. There are historians who believe this changed the direction of the war for independence. I have also seen a video of a police sniper shooting a pistol from the hand of a man holding a hostage.

Further, snipers frequently operate in an environment where others are shooting at them. In my view, it takes a whole lot of Right Stuff to be a military or police sniper. (For the record, I have NO admiration, whatsoever, for the shooters who take pot shots at unarmed civilians from hiding. The media calls them “snipers,” but I call them what they really are: cowards.)

Having said that, I heard a rumor a while ago that snipers were using air rifles somehow as part of their training. Not long after that, I noticed an article entitled “Evolutionary Steps in Modern Military Sniping” by Steve Adelmann on the Precision Shooting Magazine website. He had just retired after 21 years in the Army, 14 years in special ops, including 12 years as a sniper. This was the guy I wanted to talk to! A couple of phone calls later, I was.

Steve Adelmann at work. Photo courtesy of Steve.

“Are snipers using air rifles as any part of what they do?” I asked.

“Absolutely. In a couple of ways,” Adelmann said.

He then went on to explain that, when you’re in special operations, you spend a lot of time “in the hangar,” waiting to be deployed on sniping and reconnaissance jobs. “To keep our skills sharp, we had some sidecocking air rifles – I think they were Feinwerkbaus, but I’m not sure – that we used for practice. It was sight picture and trigger work – the basics – and sometimes some practicing with non-standard shooting positions, although there are limits to that since the stocks are so different.”

Adelmann’s last assignment with the Army had been heavy involvement in weapons R&D, specializing in sniper weapons. Part of that involved a move toward “Christmas tree” reticles, like the Horus reticle. These reticles, which have much finer graduations than the standard mil-dot reticle, allow snipers to have much greater ability to adjust for holdover, wind-hold, range-finding, and lead for moving targets.

“Once you get the hang of it, it’s a lot faster and easier than twisting elevation and windage knobs,” Adelmann says. “When snipers are presented with critical shots, possibly under fire, missed targets equal mission failure. With the Horus reticle (and he notes that there are other similar reticles), if you or your spotter can spot your first shot on the extended stadia, your second shot has a very high percentage of being right on the money.”

One of the Horus Optics Christmas Tree reticles.

Adelmann says that in some sniper training venues, airguns are being used to teach students how to use the Horus reticle before they use the same reticle on their long-range rifles.

As we chatted, Adelmann (owner of Rifleman Consulting, a firearms training and consulting company) steered me to the Horus Optics website. The reticles there reminded me of something. I navigated to the Airguns of Arizona website, and sure enough, the Horus reticle is very similar to the reticle used in the MTC Viper scopes. If you want to experiment with aiming your airgun the way the next generation of snipers do, you might want to give one of the MTC Viper scopes a try.

The MTC Viper Reticle.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

Just why would anyone mess around with airguns?

The short answer is that they are just plain fun, but that scarcely does them justice. The longer answer is that airguns deliver a wealth of shooting fun in a package that is loaded with advantages that appeal to newcomers and experienced shooters alike.

Wallet friendliness – Airguns can accommodate just about any budget. You can pick up an air pistol capable of bouncing soda cans around the back yard for under $40. For less than $200, you can equip yourself to participate in a world-class international shooting sport, air pistol silhouette with the Daisy 747 or Crosman 2300S. Commendably accurate air rifles can be purchased for $100-$400. If you want the best of the best of the best, you can spend thousands of dollars on the most sophisticated air rifles on the planet. Ultimately, you can spend as little or as much as you like.

Tack-driving accuracy – If you have an itch for ultimate accuracy, you can definitely scratch it with airguns. Olympic match air rifles can literally “shoot the eyes out of a gnat,” delivering 0.04″ center-to-center accuracy at 10 meters; field target airgunners can routinely hit a dime at 50 yards, and hunting air rifles that can outshoot .22 rimfires are commonplace. Some dedicated long-range enthusiasts report shooting astonishing small groups at 100 yards and beyond.

Low shooting expense – Depending upon which pellet your airgun “likes,” you’ll find typical shooting costs on the order of 1-3 cents per shot for ammunition. Some airguns, that use consumable gas, cost a bit more, but still the cost per shot is incredibly low.

Convenience and accessibility – Airguns can be legally shot in many places where it is absolutely forbidden to discharge a firearm. By all means, check with your local authorities, but in many jurisdictions you can shoot an airgun in your backyard, basement or garage without running afoul of the law.

Pest control – Air rifles and air pistols are frequently used to safely and humanely kill vermin in situations where a firearm would be disastrous. Pest control professionals, for example, use airguns to dispatch birds and animals in supermarkets before food is contaminated.

A neighbor-friendly report – Most airguns are quieter than firearms, and there is usually no sonic “crack” caused by the pellet breaking the sound barrier. Bottom line: airguns generally won’t disturb the neighbors with raucous noise, but it is certainly incumbent upon you to be considerate and maintain good neighborly relations.

High quality – If you enjoy the look of astonishment and envy on your buddy’s face when you unveil your latest toy, airguns can do the job. The fit, finish, and precision in some models are absolutely spectacular. They can offer pride of ownership comparable to any custom firearm.

Higher perceived safety – While airguns can easily take small and medium sized game, the power levels of the projectiles are generally a fraction of a .22 rimfire. Unlike a bullet shot from a firearm, it is extremely unlikely that a pellet launched by a high-powered air rifle would travel a mile or more, penetrate the wall of a dwelling and cause serious injury. Nevertheless, you should always – without fail – handle an airgun with the same safety procedures as you would a firearm.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

Pull up a chair and grab a beverage – welcome to the new and (I hope) greatly improved Airguns of Arizona blog.

Once a week – with your help – I plan to write about one of my favorite subjects: airguns.

Here’s a quick sketch of my background: I’ve been a professional writer since 1969. I live in upstate New York with my wife and son, two dachshunds, a cat and a rabbit.

In 1999, I rediscovered the joys of shooting airguns and began writing about them. (My first was a Daisy Pump 25 that I got for Christmas at age 10 and shot until it wore out.) In the past nine years, I’ve written dozens of articles about airguns for US Airgun, Airgun Illustrated, Airgun Hobby, Precision Shooting, The Accurate Rifle, and Addictive Airgunning. I collected the articles for The Accurate Rifle and Precision Shooting in a book called “Elliott on Airguns” that Airguns of Arizona sells. I’ve also written about slingshots, atlatls, blowguns, rimfire rifles, and archery for a variety of publications.

Just because I’m passionate about airguns, and I love writing about them, doesn’t mean I know everything about them. In fact, I’m sure that I don’t. So that’s where you come in: I look forward to your comments and input on this blog.

Now, because I want to keep you – the reader – around for a long, looooong time, here’s some MUST-READ stuff:

The Number One Rule of Airgun Safety is never, ever point your airgun at anything you don’t want to see a hole in. Always keep the airgun pointed in a safe direction, and you will never have cause for regret. That’s because, with the exception of a ricochet, an airgun can only shoot where it is pointed.

Here are some other key points about handling an airgun safely:

· Always treat any airgun as though it is loaded. Even if you are totally, completely, absolutely, positively certain that the airgun is unloaded, still never point it in an unsafe direction.
· Read and follow all instructions in the owner’s manual and know how your airgun works before using it.
· Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you’re ready to shoot. Keep your finger out of the trigger guard while loading the airgun.
· Wear shooting glasses to protect your eyes and make sure others with you are wearing eye protection. (If your reading or prescription glasses are not safety glasses, wear shooting glasses over your regular glasses.)
· Make sure you have a safe backstop or use a pellet trap. Place it in a location that will be safe if the pellet or BB goes through. Don’t use a hard backstop with BBs.
· Look beyond your target. What happens if you miss? Where will your pellet or BB go? Be sure of the answer.
· Check your backstop for wear before and after each use.
· Maintain control of the airgun when it is not being used, including at the beginning and end of each shooting session. Don’t load it and leave it unattended. Store your airgun, unloaded, where it cannot be used by curious youngsters or unauthorized persons. Store the ammunition separately.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott