In which Mr. Murphy and I do a dance, and I invent a new game

Monday, January 30, 2012

It all started innocently enough. My wife noticed me staring into space with a distant look in my eye and asked what I was doing.

“Well, I’m trying to come up with a topic for the next blog,” I said.

She replied, “Why don’t you go for something that is just pure fun?”

I looked out at the growing twilight. January in upstate New York and still no snow on the ground . . . hmmm . . . I know: a BB gun, some BBs and some tin cans! Tomorrow I’ll go outside and see how much fun it is to bounce some cans around the yard. With steel BBs, I don’t have to be concerned about capturing lead pellets. I bet it will be a blast!

At this point, if I had been listening carefully, I could have heard Mr. Murphy sniggering in the background. Who’s Mr. Murphy? Why, the owner and originator of Murphy’s Law. Murphy’s Law was explained to me some years ago in a concise volume entitled The Official Explanation. Published by the Murphy Institute for the Codification of Human Behavior, it explains, in pithy aphorisms, why things so often turn out so badly.

Here’s what you need to know. Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will. Murphy’s Law 1st Corollary: Even if nothing can go wrong, it still will. Murphy’s Law 2nd Corollary: When it goes wrong, it will do so at the worst possible time and place. There are a lot of other corollaries, but those are the basics.

So by now I rather imagine you are ahead of me. Do you know what awaited me the following morning when I went out to knock some cans around with a BB gun? Of course you do. Snow, about an inch of it. Murphy clearly had me in his sights. Undeterred, I set up the cans and a margarine tub as you see them below.

I then shot at them with two different BB guns: a Daisy Model 25 Pump Gun and a Model 105 Buck. I chose those two BB guns because there is a substantial velocity difference between the two (the Model 25 launches BBs at around 350 fps and the Model 105 manages a more sedate 275 fps), and I wasn’t sure which one would work better to get good “action” out of the cans.

The cans (and margarine tub) ready to be "danced" around the yard.

The answer, it turns out, was . . . neither. Try as I might with either gun, I could not get the cans to dance merrily about the yard. In fact, it was a bit of a struggle to even knock them over, a task at which the Model 25 did better than the Model 105. Both guns punched holes in the margarine tub but it wouldn’t dance or bounce around at all.

The cans, resolutely refusing to dance.

Okay, I said to myself, what I need is a lighter, more responsive target . . . I need to go shopping! So I took myself to the local big box store and wandered the aisles with a wild gleam in my eye, looking for Things to Shoot. Ten minutes into the mission I found it: a mesh wire basket containing 48 foam practice golf balls. They were even brightly colored so they would show up against the snow. I bet these would dance when given the Daisy treatment! With a fiendish chuckle, I headed for the checkout line.

My purchase.

The gray haired gentleman at the register greeted me. “You’ve got the right idea,” he said.

“Whaddya mean?” I asked.

“Golf practice,” he said, “I can’t wait.”

Glancing furtively about, I said, “You know what I’m going to do with these? Shoot ‘em . . . with a BB gun.” “I’m a writer,” I added, as if that explained something.

He gave me a dubious look and rang up my bucket of balls. Still eying me somewhat suspiciously, he handed me my purchase. “Your targets, sir,” he said.

I raced home, tore open the package, and a thought occurred: I would spread some of the practice balls on the ground, lay the empty bucket on its side, and try to shoot the balls so that they would bounce into the bucket. What a great idea! I could call the resulting game “BB Gun Golf.”

Well, the theory might have been great, but the execution was not. No matter what the angle, hitting the practice golf balls with BBs did little more than drive the practice balls deep into the snow where they burrowed like groundhogs waiting for spring. I said several of the more interesting short words. Clearly Mr. Murphy was still hot on my trail.

Shooting the foam practice golf balls on the snow covered grass only drove them into hibernation.

Maybe my idea would work on snowy concrete front walk at El Rancho Elliott . . . and it did. The practice balls would indeed leap into the air when struck by a BB. I even managed to bounce one into the bucket.

On the snow-covered sidewalk, I managed to pop one of the balls into the bucket.

Even better, a couple of days later what little snow we had melted, and I found the balls were even more responsive when there was no snow to restrain them.

It worked even better without the snow.

So I give you, for your earnest and prayerful consideration: BB gun golf. Get yourself some practice golf balls, a bucket, and see if you can knock the balls into the bucket by shooting them with BBs. Make sure everyone involved wears eye protection because the BBs can bounce at crazy angles. For that same reason, you probably shouldn’t play next to your uncle’s newly restored vintage Ferrari.

Here's what you need for BB gun golf. Enjoy!

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott


  1. dean says:

    i thought that you were going to say that you shot your window out.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Thanks! (I hope to avoid shooting out windows at least for a little while.)

  2. Chris says:

    I thought there would have been a “You’ll shoot your eye out” comment, but maybe it’s been done too much. 😉

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Shooting my eye out certainly would have been a Murphy-approved misfortune, but I managed to avoid it. That’s also why I advise folks (and bystanders) to wear eye protection whenever they are shooting airguns.

  3. Chris T says:

    Mr. Elliott, O’Tool’s Law, “Mr. Murphy was an Optimist”. ( I think I spelled that correctly)

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      How right you are: Murphy was indeed an optimist.

  4. George says:

    Save the corks from wine bottles. Lighter, less likely to ricochet the BBs. You can paint them a bright color if you need to. They make an excellent air gun target, and are surprisingly durable, even with a pellet gun. Real cork lasts a long time. The synthetic corks are almost indestructible.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      I’ll have to give that a try!

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