Off the Porch: Grandsons and airsoft guns

Jan. 03, 2014 @ 04:58 PM

My favorite Christmas movie is A Christmas Story. It portrays the trials of Ralphie, a young man who desperately needs a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. After a lot of attempts and being sure he’s failed, the object of his dreams somehow ends up in his hands, only to cause him injury with the first shot. I remember my first BB gun, I don’t remember the year, but it was a Christmas present Daddy got me in opposition of Mama, who was worried about the potential for danger. I can distinctly remember hearing the phrase, “you’ll shoot your eye out” more than once.
Neither I, nor any of my friends actually shot our eyes out, in spite of the fact that every boy I grew up with at some time owned a BB gun. I do remember some very poor gun handling habits and a couple of accidental discharges, but I can’t remember a single instance of permanent disfigurement.
This year, at the Midway USA/Bianchi Cup, I talked to some Japanese shooters who were competing. I asked how they learned to shoot pistols while living in Japan, where private ownership of handguns is against the law. They patiently explained they practice shooting with air soft guns and then transition to the real thing when they come to the United States. I was amazed at how well they shot, having developed their shooting skills with air soft guns, and began looking at what airsoft has to offer.
Air soft guns are similar to BB guns except they have a much shorter range. Airsoft projectiles are larger than BBs measuring .24” instead of .18”. Instead of steel, airsoft BBs are made of plastic, allowing them to lose velocity much faster than steel BBs. As a result, they’re much more suitable to indoor practice.
I recently decided my grandsons, Charlie and Parker, needed some sort of gun for Christmas because they’re getting old enough to enjoy them and learn about the responsibility of handling firearms. Charlie got his first .22 last Christmas, but it isn’t something he can shoot at home or in the basement. Charlie also has a BB gun, but it is neither accurate, nor easy to shoot. He recently spent a day with me and, under highly watchful and supervised conditions, I let him shoot a .22 pistol. He loved it and talked about it every time I saw him afterwards. That same day, both Charlie and Parker shot my little Colt AR 15 .22 rimfire. It’s an exact copy of the real thing except it shoots the quieter 22 rimfire round with zero recoil. Parker was sporadically hitting a six inch plate at 50 yards when shooting from a rest, and Charlie could hit it every time. They love shooting. This obviously makes me happy, and it also made me realize there’s no better time for me to instill safe gun handling and shooting skills than now.
For Christmas, I bought them both an airsoft gun. For Charlie, I chose a WE Hi-Cap 1911. This is an airsoft copy of the 1911 double stack pistol similar to the Para 18/9 I shot the 2011 Bianchi Cup with. It has a working slide and hammer. The magazine holds the BBs and gas to run the gun, and the magazine changes just like a real 1911, with the magazine release in the same place. The thumb safety and grip safety also function just like the real gun.
When the Hi Cap is fired, the slide cycles just like a real gun and the amount of jump is similar to shooting a .22 rimfire. The weight is similar to a real gun and every component works like a real 1911. It’s a perfect training tool. It’s also economical to operate because the BBs can be fired over and over again, The gun runs on regular small bottles of propane gas and is charged with an adapter that’s sold as an accessory. You can also buy spare 30 round magazines that feel just like a loaded 1911 magazine in your hand.
Parker’s gun was an Armalite M15A4 Carbine made by JG. It uses a detachable 300 round box magazine that feels just like the real thing. The magazine release works, the safety works and it has a pretty good trigger, similar to a service grade AR15. It has a six position adjustable stock, a removable A2 rear sight/carry handle on a Picatinny rail, and front and rear sling mounts. It fires BBs at 330 feet per second from a metal gearbox that runs off a rechargeable battery. Both guns are semi automatic, firing a shot for every pull of the trigger without cocking.
While neither of these guns is as accurate as the guns they replicate, they both handle and operate just like the real thing. This allows quality gun handling instruction while being fun to shoot, due to the fact they work and look just like the real thing. One of the things I remember about BB guns is that they required a lot of effort to cock, and therefore couldn’t be operated like a real rifle or pistol. You could buy CO2 powered guns, but that added to the expense and often gave trouble. Since these guns so closely resemble the real thing, both guns come with a blaze orange muzzle to indicate they’re toys, and not real guns.
I picked the boys up one night this past week and we spent some time together. They spent the night with us and chose Tommy’s Barbeque as our breakfast location. Charlie and Parker made me proud in the restaurant; they ordered for themselves and were polite and thoughtful to our waitress. It occurred to me that I wanted them to have the same manners and discipline when handling firearms as they were showing in the restaurant and the airsoft guns they’d received for Christmas were the perfect way to achieve this.
We spent the rest of the morning shooting and working on proper gun handling skills. As one should always do, we wore eye protection. The guns are quiet enough that hearing protection isn’t needed. I taught both boys how to properly operate the rifle, as I would teach a student in a class to handle and operate a real rifle. I did the same with Charlie and his pistol, including proper grip and stance to teach him the right shooting habits from the beginning. To keep Parker in the loop, I let him shoot the pistol while I helped him to support it and keep it pointed in a safe direction. We shot and practiced until their enthusiasm began to flag and called it off for a lunch of hot dogs cooked on sticks around a fire down at the pond. That afternoon, they helped me and watched, as I built a curtain backstop that will allow them to shoot in the basement at home.
I’m now an airsoft convert. These quality guns will allow my grandsons to continue to build shooting and gun handling skills at home in the basement with their mom and dad. I just wish we could have had such great toys when I was a kid.
To learn more about airsoft guns and their features, you can go to
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several NC newspapers as well as national magazines and websites.  If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at or