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Back when I was a boy, we amused ourselves in a number of ways. Weekends, afternoons, and most of the summer was whiled away outside. We played, explored, fought, and sometimes got into trouble ---we were, after all, boys. We did all have toys, of course; but some toys were more admired than others. The top toys were slot racing sets, and model railroads; but there were some items that seemed to transcend toys. One such item was the bicycle. We loved our bikes. They were, as cars would latter become for us, transportation, freedom, status symbols, social lives, and recreational vehicles. They were also, for must of us, the most valuable things we owned. The worst fate to befall a kid, would be the theft of his beloved bike. The worst thing that a boy could become, in the eyes of the other boys, was a bicycle thief. Most of us had bikes, but there were some other very desirable items which were rarely seen, their rarity making them that much more desirable. Two such items in particular, were gas engine airplanes, and BB guns (known to adults as air guns). A boy who had one, or perhaps even both(!!), of these esteemed items was certainly the envy of all of the boys in the neighborhood. Only a real gun, or a go-cart were more highly thought of; but these were almost unheard of in the city. Country boys might aspire to such things; but they were unusable in the city, and any boy caught trying to shoot a real gun, or drive a go-cart in the street would be certain to go home in a police car.
Anyone who has seen the classic movie, A Christmas Story, will understand perfectly, or will be reminded of their own childhood. Every boy wanted a BB gun, and every mother dearly wished that her son would get his mind off of this subject, and stop asking. There was also the classic, "You'll shoot your eye out." argument. Most fathers probably saw little harm; but did not consider the matter important enough to justify the inevitable arguments. So most boys went without. It wasn't so much that mothers distrusted their sons. They just couldn't understand how any wholesome, non-destructive fun could be had with a BB gun. Sadly, they were not too far from the truth. Animals, the other boys in the neighborhood, windows, and even the occasional passing car, would probably not have been safe, had we all been armed.
Well, I never did get that BB gun; but years latter, I would amass quite a gun collection, sell it off, and then some years after that, amass another. As an adult I am, of course, immune to the charms of the model railroad, slot car, gas engine airplane, and the humble BB gun. On the other hand, the most extensive model railroad layouts are owned and operated (I won't say played with) by grown men, who also run the most serious slot car competitions, and tend to own a number of rather expensive radio controlled aircraft, boats, and cars. In my own case, I was walking down the aisle of a local Gander Mountain store, and shook my head over the variety of air guns available to today's young shooter. I spotted a display of CO2 pistols, and was surprised to see a model usually selling for around $45 - $50, carrying a tag of only $20. How could I resist?
There are essentially three classes of air guns today. The beginning class is for children over ten, and usually peaks out around 200 fps velocity. these are the classic BB guns, like the Red Rider. Getting shot with one of these will sting; but will not really do much damage. The medium class is a bit more powerful, and can reach velocities of up to 750 fps or so. These guns are also able to shoot lead pellets and are generally recommended for youths of at least sixteen years of age. Daisy calls their own series in this group, the Powerline series. Finally, there is the adult group. Adult air guns fire .177 pellets, or .22 pellets at 800- 1200 fps. This is right around the lower limit of the power of an actual firearm, and these are considered to be pretty dangerous.
This particular model is a Powerline 15XK, and is rated at 480 fps. It takes standard CO2 cartridges, as do all pistols of any power, and uses BB's only. Darts, and pellets can not be fired in this gun. The XK15 is pretty closely modeled upon the classic M1911 handgun. In particular, it seems to be of about the same dimensions as the Officer's model, with the shorter barrel. Though the Daisy is of plastic construction, and is pretty light, it does approximate the feel and handling of the actual M1911. A number of controls, slide stop, safety, hammer, and slide serrations, are molded in; but none are functional. The actual safety is where the magazine release would be, on a real M1911. These guns are blister packed, in sets, including shooting glasses, a tube of 350 BB's, and three CO2 cartridges. It is interesting to note that BB's are still packed in cardboard tubes, as they were in my youth, and have been since the thirties. The tube somewhat resembles a shotgun shell, even to the crimp at the top.
Ordinarily, when I get a new gun, I can not wait to get it out to the range; but wait, this is an air gun. Compared to an actual firearm, an air gun is quiet, generates no smoke, and has no recoil. With a proper backstop, or pellet trap, there is no reason an air gun can not be fired in the basement of the house. I actually do own a 22 bullet trap, so it was off to the basement.
Though there is no bang, a CO2 gun does make some noise. The sound is somewhere between that of a cap gun, and a silenced pistol in television or the movies. It is a sort of a dull crack, almost like a high pitched thump. This may not be a coincidence. Perhaps air guns are what sound effects people use to generate silencer sounds. At any rate, hearing protection is not required, though eye protection is generally recommended (you wouldn't want to shoot your eye out, would you?). At about fifteen feet, I could pretty easily get all of the shots to go into about an inch. I don't know if this is any good or not, as I am not real familiar with BB guns. I do know that with a real gun, I can get all the shots into one ragged hole, at the same range. Still, this is quite a bit of fun, and gives me the option of playing, or as I call it - practicing, at home. It is, I must admit, everything I had thought it would be, when I was ten years old.
The two major problems with guns like this are that they are often given to children, who are more than capable of acting like fools, and that they strongly resemble genuine firearms. There are a number of occasions on which police officers have shot, or very nearly shot, children playing with air pistols. Non-firing toys have a mandated orange cap on their barrels; but since these guns actually do fire projectiles, the orange cap is not used. It is possible to kill small animals with such a gun, and people do hunt with them, and use them for pest control.
When compared to regular firearms, or even to pellets, BB's do not pack much of a punch. A BB might weight a couple of grains, while a pellet will weight perhaps five or six grains. Even the lightest 22 rounds are around 34 grains, while the little 17 rim-fire generally comes in at 17 grains. A 38 Special fires a 158 grain slug, while that of a 44 magnum weighs 240 grains. The muzzle velocity of my little CO2 gun, is not to far behind that of the 38 Special, though the BB only weights one or two percent of the 38 slug. Some of the air rifles out there, at over 1200fps, actually have a higher velocity than many firearms; but again, the projectile is considerably lighter. So these little guns can be dangerous; but are rarely deadly to humans. The photo to the right shows a 30-30, 357 Magnum, 9mm, and 22 L.R. along side a 17 caliber pellet, and a BB. In the back are a 12 gauge shot shell, and a tube of BB's.
All in all, this kind of thing is quite a bit of fun, and at one time was a part of the childhood of many boys, and of a few select girls. Sadly, times change, and often not for the better. Air guns are not considered to be serious arms, and are therefore not protected under the Second Amendment. Because of this, there are laws, in many places, forbidding their possession and use. Too bad, really, because a good air gun is a great introduction, and good training for future adult firearms ownership. Most kids ride bikes for years, before they are old enough to drive a car. They thus already have some familiarity with the rules of the road, safety, awareness of surroundings, and courtesy. For many of today's younger gun owners, their first experience with any kind of gun will be when they purchase their first home defense pistol, or first hunting rifle. What might be a silly mistake, and a learning experience with an air gun, could be a tragedy with an actual firearm.
At any rate, the Powerline 15XK is the most fun I have had with $20 in recent memory. Even at it's more normal $50 price, it is not too bad a deal. For the price of a box or two of ammunition, I can go down in the basement and shoot all I like. The little 17 caliber hole, in the middle of the simulated 45 caliber muzzle is hilarious. They even mold in some simulated rifling groves.