“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” As the film “A Christmas Story” (1983) so emphatically warned children and parents, the gift of a BB gun or air rifle comes with great responsibility. It is up to parents to properly convey safety messages to their kids: the new, proud, and sometimes reckless owners air rifles.
With some gun safety tips and greater understanding of gun handling, your child can grasp the value of air rifle ownership and the responsibility required to use one. Here are some suggestions for safety to explain to your child.
Air Rifle 101
Air rifles are non-lethal, low-velocity guns, but they can still cause some damage. An air rifle has on average about a 350 muzzle velocity and a 400 shot load, so it’s important to understand the functions and safety recommendations before handing one over to your teen.
Originating in Japan, the first air rifles shot compressed air in bursts through a tube connected to the muzzle. Later, the BB gun emerged. Some BB guns are actually lethal when fired at close range, so air rifles tend to be more popular for younger generations.
As a rule, any weapon should be treated as if it is loaded; do not ever assume that it is not. Whether you know that it is loaded or not, never point an air rifle at anyone. Once this fundamental rule is understood, your child may be ready to venture out to practice. Before leaving your home, make sure your kid is properly dressed. He or she should practice shooting in full clothing, in pants, gloves, and long sleeve shirts. Through clothes, BBs or close range air shots will just leave a red spot, but when bare skin is hit in very close range or with a high-velocity gun, it could bleed or blister.
What to Know before You Go
It’s best to practice at a shooting range, in a controlled environment, before setting out on one’s own. Until you are aware of every aspect of your environment, do not fire at a target. If there is any possibility that someone or something is behind or to either side of your target, don’t shoot. You would think this would go without saying, but be sure to remind your little shooter to never, ever look down the barrel and to always use protective eyewear. As our friend Ralphie learned in his Christmas tale, failing to do so could cost you an eye, or at least a pair of glasses.
Until you are ready to fire, don’t place your finger on the trigger. Place it outside the trigger guard until you actually take aim. Be aware that BBs often ricochet, so know what kind of surface you are aiming at. Certain composites reflect BBs more readily, like hard surfaces or flat surfaces, and also, it’s best not to shoot the target at an angle.
When carrying the air rifle, point the muzzle in a safe direction, and do not cock or load the air rifle or BB gun until you are in position. When you have fired your last shot, be sure to set the gun to half-cock and ground it.
Ready, Aim, Fire!
Armed with the proper information and understanding, owning an air rifle or BB gun can be a great experience. Not only does it teach tactical skills but responsibility, as long as the owner takes the right precautions. If you are planning to play Santa this year and surprise your child with a air rifle or BB gun, Red Rider or not, remember the warning Santa gave Ralphie. Avoid a Christmas trip to the emergency room and instead, create fun and lasting memories of your kids first air gun experience.