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Practical, Affordable Firearms Training With Airguns
There are several important reasons for utilizing airguns as firearm training tools. Airguns are inexpensive to purchase and use, may be readily and safely used even in the home, and are exempt from most state and Federal firearms Laws.
The matter of cost is, of course, the most obvious benefit to their use. Attaining (and maintaining) even basic shooting skills with firearms demands a great deal of regular practice. And ammunition — even rimfire ammo — isn’t exactly cheap. Just a few boxes of factory ammo for an afternoon’s shooting session can amount to a tidy sum.
Add to that the expense of driving to a suitable firing range — gasoline is not cheap these days, either — plus range fees and other incidental expenses, and the tab throws your budget into a deep dive real fast. The fact that most airguns can be used safely in or around the home, as well as in other places where firearms would be totally unacceptable to use due to safety concerns, is another key reason for their steadily growing use as training tools.
Used By Uncle Sam
It is not generally well known that airguns have a long and interesting history as substitute firearm trainers here in America, as well as in other nations.
Our armed forces have made use of unique and/or modified airguns at different times of pressing need in order to train combat troops quickly and inexpensively. One such episode took place during the early stages of our involvement in World War II, when training resources were stretched to the limit.
Basic aerial gunnery, for example, was taught with the assistance of full-auto air-powered BB guns resembling the venerable Browning .30 and .50 caliber machine guns in service at the time. Manufactured mainly by the MacGlashan company in California, and powered by compressed air, these guns did a splendid job of training thousands of our fighting men in the basics of aerial gunnery.
The Vietnam era also saw a need to draft airguns as firearm training tools. Experiences in jungle fighting motivated the U.S. Army to adopt modified Daisy BB guns to teach recruits the complexities of snap-shooting. The goal was to prepare troops to engage quick moving targets at short range, without relying on the sights of their M-16 rifles. The Daisy BB guns used in this program were furnished without sights.
Outstanding results were obtained using this relatively inexpensive and extremely safe training method, even with recruits who had never fired a gun before joining the service. The system, incidentally, was dubbed “Quick Kill” and was eventually marketed commercially by Daisy Manufacturing Co. as a complete shooting program, including the sightless gun, safety glasses, BBs and targets with the name “Quick Skill.”
Some of our former adversaries also relied upon airguns to train new troops. One example of this takes us back to the early years of the Third Reich in Germany. when Nazi youth and other paramilitary groups employed the Haenel Model 33 air rifle and some of its clones as a first step in teaching safety and marksmanship. The aforementioned air rifles were designed as faithful replicas of the Mauser Kar. 98 bolt action rifle then in general use by the Wehrmacht, Waffen SS, and other branches of the German military.
The law enforcement sector has also recognized the value of “powerless” training in recent years. SWAT teams and other high-risk hostage rescue and anti-terrorist units have frequently used airguns in the training role. Paintball guns, in particular, have played an important part in the type of highly realistic training conducted by these special units. C[O.sub.2] powered repeating paintball guns have been found to be nearly ideal for this training.
They enhance motivation in training exercises, because getting splattered with a .68 caliber paintball fired by a live “adversary” adds a realism that a paper target could never offer. Needless to say, all participants in these training exercises wear special head and body protection. Despite this, getting hit by a paintball can be a jarring reality check for an officer in training.
For example, even an inexpensive youth-oriented BB gun will serve for teaching youngsters — as well as older folks — the rudiments of gun handling, safety and marksmanship. Keep in mind that countless generations of American kids learned those basics through the use of BB guns.
Selecting The Substitute
The benefits of airgun training are not limited to the police and military. The fact is that airguns use can truly enhance and increase the time we set aside for gun training, be it general gun handling skills or marksmanship practice. Clearly, the first thing we have to decide is exactly what type of shooting discipline and firearm in which we intend to become proficient. Once that question is answered, it’s time to pick the right airgun that achieves the training goal. There are air rifles and air pistols available nowadays for just about every conceivable training application.
For general handgun training with double duty as pure plinking instruments, C[O.sub.2] powered Airsoft pistols are the hands down choice. There exists a great variety of C[O.sub.2] repeating pistols — both BB firing and pellet firing — that are nearly exact replicas of popular center fire handguns.
The trend to produce these firearm look-alikes has picked up lots of steam in recent years, with all major C[O.sub.2] gun producers offering models of this type. To give you a brief rundown of the preceding, we now have pellet firing clones of such hugely popular center fire autoloaders as the Colt Govt. Model, Walther models P88 and P99, Beretta 92FS, Sig-Sauer P225, and others.
Among pellet firing wheel guns, we have clones of the Colt Python, Smith & Wesson models 586 and 686, and others. Perhaps the most astonishing firearm clone of all at this time is the BB firing copy of the Walther PPK/S produced by Umarex in Germany. This C[O.sub.2] powered pistol is so realistic it even incorporates a reciprocating slide mechanism.
Look-alikes of well known center fire pistols are also being produced in Russia by several manufacturers. One of the most stunning is a superb BB firing replica of the famous Makarov pistol. The ANICS company also produces several C[O.sub.2] BB pistols that duplicate the generic looks and feel of a variety of mid-size autoloaders. The latest offering from ANICS, although not a replica of any specific center fire autoloader, is a terrific 28 pellet C[O.sub.2] powered repeater dubbed the SKIF A-3000.
The Spanish firm Gamo, long renown for their excellent adult air rifles and air pistols, offers several stunning auto pistol look-alikes. The first, introduced a few years ago, is the Model P-23, a pellet or BB repeater that’s almost an exact clone of the popular Sig Sauer P-230. This year, Gamo stole the show with the introduction of their model PT-80, an 8 shot pellet repeater that’s a spitting’ image of the famous Beretta Cougar semi auto.
All of the above C[O.sub.2] powered repeaters are useful in training for the street by duplicating the heft and overall feel of popular side arms used in law enforcement and for personal defense.
There is yet another type of airgun that’s ideal for firearm training applications — the Airsoft gun. The latter originated in Japan, as a result of their draconian anti-firearm laws, but are currently produced in China and Korea. Airsoft guns are, for the most part, exact look-alikes of a huge variety of popular firearms — handguns, rifles, shotguns and even submachine guns — that fire 6mm plastic BBs at muzzle velocities of approximately 150 to 350 fps. As a result, their danger potential is extremely low, even compared to regular airguns firing metallic projectiles.
I have personally used Airsoft guns, along with regular airguns from time to time in firearms training applications. Some of these Airsoft models are so real looking it’s practically impossible to distinguish them from the real thing except by picking them up, as the weight difference is usually a giveaway.
Most Airsoft handguns employ a spring-piston power plant that must be manually cocked — like pulling the slide back in semi auto models — for each shot, adding to the realism of any training scenario. There arc handgun models that operate semi-automatically — reciprocating slides and all — powered by what is now dubbed green gas” in the Airsoft industry. This gas comes in large canisters, with one usually lasting through several thousand shots. Then, there is the new plus ultra of Airsoft guns — the battery powered models. These generally include sub gun and assault rifle clones. Their motorized spring-piston power plants are powered by a rechargeable Ni-Cad battery that yields hundreds of shots between recharges.
For training value as well as pure plinking fun on the patio, in the backyard, or even inside the house, Airsoft guns rank way up there on my list of firearm training tools. Their effective range, incidentally, runs to approximately 45 feet, although some selected models can reach nearly twice this distance with credible accuracy.
For short range, self defense training scenarios, Airsoft guns truly shine. Ditto for the aforementioned pellet and BB-firing C[O.sub.2] pistols and revolvers. All of these handguns can, in fact, be used with the holsters that normally carry the real thing. Thus, it is possible to devise a home training program involving holster work as well as shoot/don’t-shoot scenarios, speed drills, and a host of other exercises limited only by the imagination. Full size combat silhouette targets can be used, or reduced scale targets may be made up to simulate employment at greater distances.
As far as rifle shooting goes, air rifles also offer valuable assistance in the training area. In fact, the popular discipline of metallic silhouette has been scaled down to air rifle distances, with the ram targets (the farthest) placed at 50 meters from the firing line.
There is no doubt that airguns can contribute a great deal to firearms training. Shooters of all ages seeking to improve their prowess with firearms would do well to look into the many facets of the modern airguns.
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Originally posted 2016-05-28 20:14:25.