Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Knowledge is never a bad thing.

Yesterday, I was looking for some reviews of an air rifle I want to buy when I discovered a video review on youtube.

Less than five minutes later I was convinced that firearm use and safety classes are something that should be compulsory in schools from a relatively young age.

Firstly, the kid doing the review (who looked like he was in his mid to late teens) was deliberately 'dieseling' his air rifle. In case you don't know what this is, 'dieseling' an air rifle is where you deliberately put oil into the skirt of the pellet so the oil vapor ignites when the gun is fired. This, of course, ramps up the pressure and the speed of the pellet…but it's also incredibly dangerous and can seriously damage the gun. Best case, you wreck your spring and breach seal. Worst case, the gun explodes in your face.

Secondly, he talked about how dieseling throws the accuracy off (which is hardly surprising considering the pellet was breaking the sound barrier) and then said:

"Yeah, it's not as accurate, but if you're shooting at something bigger than a coke can, like a rabbit, you're still going to hit it and it's definitely going to kill it because the pellet's traveling so fast."

This is absolutely untrue. I cannot be too clear on this. This is complete and total bullshit.

If you're shooting at any animal with any weapon, you have to be absolutely certain that you're going to hit it in the head or heart/lung area because that's the only way to guarantee a quick and humane kill. However, this is especially true with an air rifle.

For example, I've shot plenty of groundhogs and squirrels, but I've also let plenty go because I couldn't guarantee a head shot…and that's with a .22LR that delivers approximately 116 ft-lbs of energy to the target. Hitting a groundhog in the gut with a .22LR means that groundhog is going to bleed to death over the course of a few hours, and a leg shot is only going to kill the groundhog a day or so later when the wound gets infected.

Compare this to the kid's air rifle, which only delivers twelve ft-lbs of energy to the target. This is enough for a legal and humane kill on small game like rabbits, but only if you shoot them in the head.

Basically, this kid has watched far too much TV and thinks just putting a hole in something will always kill it…and worse yet he knows almost nothing about his gun and treats it with no respect whatsoever. Even though his gun was 'just' an air rifle, it's a rifle capable of sending a 12 grain projectile down range a around 1000 feet per second…enough to cause some fairly serious damage…and if he's deliberately misusing it by dieseling it and showing absolutely zero respect for what it's capable of…what's going to happen when this kid grows up some more and decides he wants a 12 gauge or a hunting rifle?

If this kid will happily diesel an air rifle, exactly how bothered do you think he'll be when he discovers a 3" shotgun shell will fit into the barrel of a 2"3/4 only shotgun? How likely is he to take his finger off the trigger because the buck's too far away and he can't guarantee a kill shot? How likely is he to maintain it and make sure it's stored properly?

The problem is we treat gun education in exactly the same way we treat sex education. We don't want little Timmy going anywhere near firearms so the last thing we want to do is to teach him how to use one.

The saddest part is that as soon as you think of that logically, we're trying to make our kids safer around firearms by making sure they know absolutely nothing about them or how to handle them safely. It's like protecting kids from car crashes by doing away with drivers ed and learners permits and just letting them get behind the wheel whenever they like.

My advice?

Buy your kid an airsoft pistol when he's old enough to ask for one, and use it to drill into him basic firearms safety and the consequences of playing with guns. Take him to the shooting range and show him what a 30.06 round can do to a watermelon, which is fun and guaranteed to get his attention…but can also give a graphic example of what hat same round can also do to a human head. If you own a firearm, let him know he can see it and handle it whenever he likes as long as it's under your direct supervision.

Basically, a kid who's grown up around firearms and knows how they work and what they're capable of will treat them with the care and respect they deserve. A kid who's taught nothing about firearms and was never allowed near them is the kid who's going to find his dad's pistol and spin it around his finger like a cowboy without checking to see if it's loaded.

Knowledge is never a bad thing.

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