And now the main points once again

Monday, November 26, 2012

Years ago, your humble correspondent wrote for a number of radio related publications. As a shortwave listening enthusiast, I would often tune in to the BBC news service beamed to North America. At the end their broadcasts, the BBC news readers (as the Beeb called them) would often launch into a reiteration of the headlines with the following phrase: “And now, the main points once again.”

Well, this is one of those “main points once again” moments. As we roll into the holiday gift-giving season, I know that some of your reading this blog will receive an air rifle or air pistol as a present. Others know family members who will receive an airgun. Still others know family members who will be making a present of an airgun to an adult or a youngster. Given that, and recognizing that some of the people who are receiving the gift of an airgun will be handling a gun for the first time, it seems high time to review the main points of airgun safety.

Let’s start with the basics: any air rifle or air pistol has the potential to destroy property, injure people or animals, or even cause death if handled improperly. Note that well: if handled improperly. Got that? Good!

Now, because the readers of this blog are pretty smart folks, I bet you are inquiring: “So what is proper handling of an airgun?”

I’m glad you asked. Proper handling of an airgun consists of two parts. Part one: know where the muzzle of the airgun is pointing at all – repeat ALL – times. Any time the airgun is in your hands or in your control (such as when you have taken it out of its storage place and you have set it down for a moment), you need to know – not guess, but know with certainty – where it is pointing.

Part two of proper airgun handling is this: never, ever, point an airgun at anything you don’t want to see broken or destroyed. I am dead serious about this; don’t point your airgun at another person or animal or property for even an instant (unless, of course, if you are hunting). If you don’t want to see a hole in it, don’t point at it, it’s just that simple. Why am I going on like a maniac about this? Because an airgun can only shoot where it is pointed. Put another way, the secret of airgun safety is to make sure that it is always pointed in a safe direction including when you are taking aim at a target.

Now, I’m sure that my sharp-eyed readers will have realized by now that making sure your gun is pointed in a safe direction at all times places a special burden on parents, because as youngsters are learning to shoot, whether it is a BB gun or a pellet gun, they need to be supervised. From a practical standpoint this means that parents must be close enough to redirect the muzzle of the gun to a safe direction if that becomes necessary. It’s no good watching the kids play with the BB gun through the kitchen window; parents have to be close enough to take control of the gun if it is pointed in an unsafe direction.

Every airgun manufacturer I can think of packs useful information in with their guns. Take the time to read it. Make sure that you have a safe backstop on your shooting range. Be certain that everyone on the firing line is wearing eye protection. Don’t shoot BBs against hard targets, they will ricochet.

For some addition thoughts on airgun safety, check this out:

My wish for you is that your Holidays are safe, that Santa brings you something wonderful, and that you can spend many happy hours enjoying airgunning with folks you love.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

One Comment

  1. Bob Todrick says:

    You just cannot overstate this enough Jock.
    Our foray into first airguns (and this year powderburners) began 6 years ago after watching ‘A Christmas Story’. That year there were two Red Ryders under the tree for my (then) 4 and 6 year old sons.
    I was pretty brutal…there were a couple of instances where one of them would sweep the gun across the room…and that gun went away for a week, while the other child would be allowed to continue shooting.
    It only happened a couple of times…they really hated to lose the privilege of shooting.
    But it paid off. This past summer we were at the range with their new Marlin .22’s. A young person (I’d say 25yrs) was there teaching his girlfriend/wife how to shoot and at one point he actually pointed the gun down the shooting line trying to show something to the young lady.
    My now 12 year old quite confidently told him that what he just did was not acceptable and that if he did it again he would be reported to the range officer. (the young man was actually quite mortified when he realized what he had done and offered a sincere apology to everyone on the line).
    But I was one proud dad, realizing that all my safety rules had taken hold.

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