Spent a marvelous day absorbing the curriculum for the 4-H "intro to rifle" program, which I will be deliriously happy to make available in Homer once all the pencil pushing gets sorted out. It's a basic program, covering just safety, core marksmanship, and simple positions, but within those limits it's all there.
The use of well-thought out pellet rifles strikes me as inspired genius. Low noise, cheap to shoot, and adaptable to a huge range of possible venues; we actually shot live-fire in a church gymnasium, into pellet traps in front of a portable Kevlar backing blanket. Nice!
The rifle (Daisy Avanti Medalist) was new to me, and other than the trigger being spongy and the system not being purely ambidextrous, it seems like a great choice.
The powerplant is CO2, which surprised me a bit (CO2 would seem to be at a considerable disadvantage in Alaska, because its performance drops off rapidly in the cold), but when I asked about this the team all smiled and said that this intro course is almost always done indoors, much like we did today. Very well then! At any rate, I can immediately see that the pre-charged operation is definitely the way to go with first-timers on a square-range, cold-line-driven course; with either a breakbarrel springer or a multi-pump by comparison, simply working the action can invite bad muzzle discipline from someone who doesn't have that practice metaphysically embedded yet, and this course experience is designed to make it easy to get your feet under you before introducing complexities or distractions. (This is something the curriculum seems to do well, at least at first glance.) The hardest gunhandling manipulation is certainly getting those tiny pellets into the breech with the skirt oriented the right way (nothing beats a breakbarrel springer for ease of manually single-loading pellets), but theoretically that problem will be worst for the adults and less so for the kids, with proportionally smaller hands. Other than that, it strikes me as a great rifle to learn on.
Personally, I somewhat deliberately stacked the deck against myself today, using a set of tinted shooting glasses with a prescription that is several years out of date. Things were distinctly fuzzy even at the meager distance of 10m. My eyes are also absolutely not accustomed to using a target aperture for a rear sight, and between the glasses' tinting, indoor lighting, fuzzy prescription and low light transmission from the pinhole aperture, it took some willful effort to aquire the right sight picture. (My psychological need for peripheral vision is apparently very strong.) Add to that the lack of a shooting sling, two shooting positions that are only relevant on the target range (true standing and unbraced kneeling), and a spongy trigger, and you don't exactly have the environment I'm most familiar with. Nonetheless, I was happy with my consistency; even with a called flyer on each of standing and kneeling, my composite group (total of 30 shots) was right at 1", and without the two flyers it was a hair under 3/4", with sitting being the best of the bunch (even better than bench, which always pleases me) at just under 7/16". That's just about as well as I can see, even with the right prescription. Now...my understanding is that this is pretty pedestrian by serious airgunner standards, but on rough glance it would have scored a comfortable second place today, among ten. (Top score would unquestionably have gone to our one woman, a fairly common outcome and one that always makes me smile.) Not bad for a rifle I hadn't met before today.
I'm most happy to say that the curriculum seems solid, well thought out, and very adaptable to plugging in additional items. It will be easy to make this fun and build on success quickly. And with a solid understanding of handling safety, core marksmanship and basic positions, progressing to lots of other things (e.g., shooting slings, alternate sight arrangements, compressed surprise breaks, snapshots, etc.) will be a logical step rather than a giant leap. And the idea mill is now in business.
Man, I need more days like this. :-)