Posts Tagged ‘safety’

It was my wife who interrupted my train of thought. “Did you see this thing on the news? A boy got shot in Cleveland, and they say he had a pellet gun.”

“Oh boy,” I thought. “This sucks.”

The facts of the case, as reported by the Associated Press on Nov. 26, appear to be as follows: “Tamir Rice was shot Saturday (Nov. 22, 2014) by an officer responding to a call about someone with a gun near a playground. Police say the boy’s airsoft gun looked like a real firearm and was missing an orange safety indicator. Police say Tamir pulled it from his waistband after being told to raise his hands.”

A couple of Crosman airsoft pistols showing the orange indicator tip.

A couple of Crosman airsoft pistols showing the orange indicator tip.

What was originally reported to be a pellet gun turned out to be an airsoft pistol. Airsoft rifles and pistols are replicas of firearms that shoot 6 mm plastic BBs. Airsoft guns are considered to be non-lethal and, for the most part, non-injurious (eye protection is required and the only other airsoft injury that I have heard of is a chipped tooth), and they are used for target shooting, scenario play, firearms practice, and force-on-force training by various government agencies. By law, all airsoft pistols and rifles sold in the United States are equipped with an orange safety tip that indicates that they are not actual firearms. A Wikipedia report on the shooting says that the orange safety tip on Rice’s airsoft pistol was “removed.”

This is a lamentable situation; any way you play it, it is a tragedy for everyone involved: for Tamir Rice, his family, and for the officers involved in the shooting.

My daughter, a grown woman with a career of her own, said emphatically, “He (meaning Tamir Rice) shouldn’t be dead.”

I spoke with a friend who is a gun-carrying sworn officer to find out some of the basics of police training. Police are trained to regard any situation with a firearm as serious and to regard any report of a weapon as a real weapon until proven otherwise. They are also trained to consider “context.” A person with a gun in the woods may have a reason to be there (he’s hunting), whereas a person with a gun outside a grocery store or on a playground is a far different situation.

“Perception is incredibly important,” my friend said. “If you point an airsoft gun out a window and someone sees it and thinks it is a real gun, people are going to treat you like it is a real gun. It doesn’t matter what you intended, what matters is what the other person perceives.”

Further, police are trained to address the threat – that’s their job. If someone reports “a person with a gun,” the police have to deal with it. To do otherwise, is to risk that the “person with a gun” may kill or injure others.

If the police perceive that they are under threat of deadly physical force – for example, by a person reaching for a gun or pointing a gun at them – they are trained to respond to the threat of deadly physical force with deadly physical force to defend themselves or someone else. Further, they are trained to shoot until the threat is neutralized. A kid who is taking an airsoft gun to a place where it may be perceived as a real weapon is putting himself in harm’s way, and you can’t hit reset afterwards and play the game again.

So what does that mean for the readers of this blog? First, don’t walk around in public areas with an airsoft gun, air rifle or air pistol. Don’t show it and don’t point it at people you don’t know. Keep it on private property (or other areas where it is proper to have it, like a gun range), and don’t leave the property with it. If traveling in a car, make sure that it can’t be seen. And don’t remove, cover, paint or tape over the orange safety tip on airsoft pistols and rifles; it could make a misunderstanding over whether an airsoft “weapon” is real even more dangerous.

If you are a parent, drill these principles into your kid’s heads. Make sure that they understand that’s it is not what they intend, but what others perceive, that can make the difference between fun and tragedy in handling airsoft guns and pellet and BB guns.

Further, if you will be shooting on your property, and there is the possibility that the neighbor may see “a person with a gun,” talk to them ahead of time, and make sure they understand what you are doing, and that you are concerned for everyone’s safety.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott


Some years ago, two teenage boys were fooling around with a Daisy pump-up air rifle. At some point in their interaction, they pumped the gun, shot it, and nothing came out. They did this a few more times, with the same result: nothing came out. Then one of the boys decided that he would pump the gun, point it at his friend’s head, and pull the trigger to poof his friend’s hair. This time, something did come out, and the victim suffered brain damage.

A lawsuit ensued, and in 2001 the case made its way to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, propelled by the idea that the design of the gun was somehow defective. A settlement was proposed, and comments were solicited from the general public.

While doing some research on the Internet, I accidentally stumbled upon the comments I submitted to CPSC. It struck me that they are as applicable today as they were over a decade ago.

Below are my comments in their entirety.

“CPSC settlement comment

As a fulltime writer who has tested and written extensively about airguns over the past several years, I find the CPSC/Daisy settlement (indeed, the entire action) an affront to human reason and a travesty of what the CPSC is supposed to do. This settlement flies in the face of common sense, personal responsibility and the fundamental issues of product safety.

1.      Common sense. No one would argue for even a moment that it is a tragedy that a young man has been disabled for life. But the root cause for the injury was not that the airgun malfunctioned. The airgun did exactly what it is supposed to do: launch a projectile. The root cause of this misfortune is that the other individual involved violated the first law of gun safety: never point a gun (airgun or otherwise) at anything that you don’t want perforated, broken or destroyed. (The second law of gun safety is that all guns are loaded. The third: even unloaded guns are loaded.) This individual not only pointed the gun in an unsafe direction (at his friend), but further chose to pull the trigger when doing so. His intent – to make a joke by “poofing” his friend’s hair – is irrelevant. He performed a wantonly unsafe act. He should not be surprised by the results.

To assert that “. . . Children will be children. They grow up pointing toy guns at each other. To expect them not to point BB guns at each other when they believe they are empty of BB’s is to expect too much” raises four key issues. First, airguns are, emphatically, not toys. They are guns and should be treated with all the respect due any firearm. Children who do not understand the difference should not be allowed to use them. That brings us to the second point, responsible parents, guardians or caretakers will assess their children’s ability to understand and deal with the responsibility of properly handling airguns. Very often adult supervision is necessary to make sure that a child understands and observes proper gun safety. Daisy is specific in its age recommendations for its products. Third, (see above) the rules of gun safety dictate that all guns are to be treated as if they are loaded, even when everyone “knows” that a gun is unloaded. There are no exceptions. If a child or teenager doesn’t understand this, it would be inappropriate to allow them to use an airgun. Fourth, let’s apply this same line of reasoning to another type of product. Have you ever watched teenaged boys playing automobile-related video games? Spectacular crashes and reckless driving are common. Is it too much to expect them to do otherwise when they get their driver’s licenses? I think not.

2.      Personal responsibility. The proper use of products is the responsibility of the individual using them. People who wish to drive automobiles are expected to learn how – through various means such as parents, driving schools, or driver’s education. If you choose to run over your spouse, as a woman in New York did, it is scarcely the fault of the automobile manufacturer. It is a blatant misuse of the product. Pointing a gun at someone whom you do not intend to injure is likewise a blatant misuse of the product.

3.      The fundamental issues of product safety. According to its website, “The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction.” The key word is unreasonable. An airgun is a projectile launcher. If you point it at someone and pull the trigger, you should expect that a projectile will be launched at that person. Serious injury or death may result. It is completely unreasonable to expect that anything else will happen. Protecting against this sort of incident – in which the product functioned properly but was unconscionably misused – is not within the purview of the CPSC. Further, it is a waste of the Commission’s scarce resources and the taxpayer’s money.

Respectfully submitted,

Jock (John) Elliott”

As airgunners, let’s strive always to handle our air rifles and air pistols with utmost safety to teach our children, friends, and relatives to always do the same.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

— Jock Elliott

To the readers of this blog: this marks the beginning of a new series that focuses on the basic stuff that every new shooter wants to know about or should know about. The site administrator at tells me that they will find a way to make this stuff readily available at the top of the blog so it will be readily available for new shooters and old hands who want a refresher. Now, to this week’s posting!

This is the most important thing you will read in this blog – read it carefully!

Make no mistake about it: you can, indeed, shoot your eye out with an airgun. You can also maim and kill people and animals and destroy property. So get this straight, once and for all: Airguns are not toys. Airguns are real air rifles and air pistols and can bring tragedy to your door if not handled with respect. Fortunately, virtually all airgun accidents can be prevented if you follow the Number One Rule of airgun safety.

And here it is: the Number One Rule of Airgun Safety is never, ever point your airgun at anything you don’t want to see a hole in. It’s really that easy. If you always observe Rule One – and always keep the airgun pointed in a safe direction – you should never have cause for regret. After all, with the exception of a ricochet, an airgun can only shoot where it is pointed.

This is the muzzle end of an air pistol. The muzzle of an air pistol or air rifle or BB gun should never be pointed in an unsafe direction.

This is the muzzle end of an air pistol. The muzzle of an air pistol or air rifle or BB gun should never be pointed in an unsafe direction.

Here are some other key things you need to know about handling an airgun (or any gun for that matter) safely:

  • Always treat any airgun as though it is loaded and with the same respect you would a firearm. Never point any airgun in an unsafe direction. 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 the airgun pointed in a safe direction until you are ready to shoot.
  • 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.)
  • Use only the correct BBs or pellets specified for your airgun. Never reuse ammunition.
  • Do not shoot at hard surfaces or the surface of water. BBs and pellets can bounce or ricochet.
  • Use a pellet trap or other backstop. Place it in a location that will be safe if the pellet or BB goes through. Do not 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. Replace your backstop if the surface is worn or damaged or if a ricochet occurs.
  • 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.

A Word about Parental Control

Special Note to Parents: if you have any doubt at all that your children will observe the Number One Rule of Airgun Safety, you need to supervise your children while they are shooting. You know your children and their level of responsibility and maturity. If you are not positive that they will always handle the airgun safely, supervise them, no matter how old they are.

Supervision means being close enough to control or redirect the airgun if it is pointed in an unsafe direction. It only takes a moment for a child to turn while squeezing the trigger. Be close enough to prevent that from happening – no more than an arm’s length away.

Now, that may seem like a lot of stuff to remember, but it really boils down to this: keep the gun pointed in a safe direction; know where your shot is going, even if you miss; protect your eyes; and supervise the kids.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

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

Recently, I received a response to this blog from a woman who identified herself as Dotti Workman.

Here’s what she said:

“Jack. My son was swimming in the back yard while visiting my sister in TN. The boy next door was shooting and my son turned his head to look and was struck in the eye. What I see as a problem is not enough warnings or accountability. I think it starts with the Mfg’s and dealers. Ex: I called Walmart and said “My 8 yr old son wants a BB gun, what do you recommend?” The sales clerk said “Well you can start him off with a Daisy but he will want something more powerful pretty quickly” No warnings at all. I went to the store and you can buy them right off the shelf. The only warning is on the box saying “This is not a Toy” As a parent I had no idea that at 250 fps they can penetrate skin, at 400 fps it can crack bone. There is a little girl right a few months ago shot in the eye and can no longer, walk, talk or feed herself. Kids get guns they think are toys and like to aim them at each other and shoot. 30,000 children per year are admitted to the ER with these injuries. And I use BB gun, because I’m not familiar with the difference. I’m trying to get my voice out there to push for stiffer warnings and penalties, even to the parents. The little girl I was referring to was in her grandmothers house with lots of people around and her cousin pulled it out of the closet. If they are suppose to be treated like handguns then why aren’t they sold like them. What suggestions for change do you suggest.

Also, not sure exactly what gun it was. it’s still under investigation. I was told it was a Crossman. It was a pump gun. I’m also not sure what it fired. BB’s, Pelletts. I don’t know. And I really don’t understand the comment of the other Blogger who said “If her son truly is Blinded” That is not something any parent would want to lie about.”

Well, Dotti, I have several reactions to your comments.

The first is that it is always a tragedy when someone is hurt unintentionally with an airgun. My sympathy goes out to those who are injured.

You say, “What I see as a problem is not enough warnings or accountability.

When it comes to warnings, I disagree with you. On a recent trip to a large discount store, I checked out the packaging for one of the most popular airguns sold today. Prominently displayed on the box is the following:

“WARNING. Not a toy. Adult supervision required. Misuse or careless use may cause serious injury or death. May be dangers up to 500 yards (457mM).

Important: This airgun is intended for those 16 years of age and older.

You and others with you should always wear shooting glasses to protect your eyes.

Read all instructions before using. Buyer and user have the duty to obey all laws about the use and ownership of this airgun.”

Further, the opening section of the manual contains six separate boldly highlighted warning blocks, and the ninth section of the manual contains a 15-point safety review, all in red type.

Virtually every airgun box I saw at the discount store had warning and age-appropriateness information on the outside of the package. So, honestly, I don’t see lack of warnings as a problem.

But when it comes to accountability, I agree with you. That accountability, however, doesn’t fall on the manufacturers and the dealers. It falls instead on the shooter and (in the case of underage shooters) the shooter’s parents.

Here’s why: Rule One of gun safety is this – never, ever, point your gun at anything you don’t want to see a hole in. The responsibility of where the gun is pointing falls on the shooter. Parental supervision is mandatory for younger shooters, but if a parent is not 100% certain that his or her child – regardless of age – will observe Rule One at all times, then that parent needs to supervise the shooting. By supervise, I mean the parent has to stand close enough to re-direct the muzzle of the gun to a safe direction if that becomes necessary.

So, Dotti, if it was your son that was injured by the boy shooting next door while you were visiting your sister in TN, you need to have a chat with the parents of that boy and ask them why they were not supervising their son.

I suggest you check out: and

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott