Sometimes necessity really is the source of invention. I think I may have waited so long with airguns simply because finding the time to shoot the "real" ones was never a problem before now (kids, different environment, etc.)...it really was a classic epiphany moment when I first thought, "why not?"
Cost is certainly a plus point for airguns. As of this writing, a tin of 500 (.177) pellets--and quality ones, at that--goes for well under $10; where I'm at even .22 rimfire brick ammo is at least $20 per 500; if you want good stuff it approaches $10 per 100. Centerfires, of course, start almost an order of magnitude above even that, and continue.
Noise is another selling point. Not everyone lives in a place where it's realistic to take two steps out your front door and start hitting steel with a firearm, but airguns give me lots of options.
And I'm intending to try out Airsoft as a "serious" training aid, as well. This breakbarrel springer pellet rifle will be excellent for marksmanship fundamentals, and some basic gunhandling skills (this type of action is so much handier than the tedious multi-pump varieties), but if I'm understanding things correctly, Airsoft can get you authentically there, if you're careful when shopping.
If you can keep your gorge down when watching*, consider this video review of a 1911-clone Airsoft gun. For the whole review, look here:
To go directly to the shooting part where you can see the piece in action, either scroll to about 4:26 or click here to watch it on YouTube. Note that the magazine and pistol should fit any standard leather, and between the low relative cost of Airsoft BBs and the several different gas-charging options available, this may well become a great "everyday" solution between dry-fire and live-fire exercises. I could get up and running with a piece that is functionally identical to the one I carry most of the time, with two or three magazines, gas and a supply of pellets, for under $300...and feeding it thereafter should be cheap. Some (but not all) of the Airsoft guns do appear to be just like the real thing, with the gas not only powering the pellet, but also cycling the action.
And the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that there is an important middle ground between dry-fire and live-fire, that this idea should cover well. For example: training in your own house with live fire is certainly going to be messy, and dry-fire is limiting because you can't realistically engage multiple targets. But the Airsoft option would allow you to do that, either without or even with the plastic BBs, if you have suitable backstops. Others will point out the actual force-on-force options that Airsoft makes possible as well, to train in tactics beyond the square range. It's intriguing.
Thus far, I believe I've found such an Airsoft trainer for both the 1911 pistol and the M14 rifle (other possibles like boltguns, leverguns, revolvers and the Kahr auto haven't been as fully vetted yet), and when I get around to each I'll be sure to post findings here.
* Explanation for that carefully considered statement is at the bottom of this post.
First off, everyone knows that I love to shoot. :) I love to shoot almost everything that won't knock me down (and there are a lot of things that do - so I don't shoot them),
I've talked with, shot with, trained with and even argued with an awful lot of people in the last 30 years or more, and have learned an awful lot in the process - so this is just an expression of my own experience and thinking, not a reflection on anyone else or their experience.
Overall, I find that a great many people simply over train! The old, "no pain - no gain" nonsense. Spending a fortune sending thousands and thousands of rounds downrange, seemingly thinking that sheer volume will do the trick.
Personally, I've discovered that it makes a big difference just what you are training to do... Different goals require different efforts... obviously.
If one is determined to be a champion in competitive sports, extreme accuracy is vital and requires a lot of carefully aimed practice. No question about it. Those who play the game just for fun want to be accurate too, of course, but maybe not spend their entire lives and income in the process.
My single experience with shooting to defend my life demonstrated that my attitude, mind set and the availability of the appropriate tool was the essential part... since I had zero formal training at that point, and had not even handled the gun in a long time. [Here is a link to the whole story for anyone who has not read it. http://www.thepriceofliberty.org/08/09/22/editor.htm ]
At least partly because I had never really dealt with this, I chose to fire the gun over his head instead of center body mass. The fact that he chose then to run away in no measure changes the fact that I made a poor choice and it might easily have cost me my life.
My main purpose in shooting is to enjoy myself and to prepare the best I can to defend myself if it is ever again needful.
I also spend a great deal of effort teaching others, especially women, to empower themselves to take personal responsibility for their lives and safety - and that of their children and community at need. Most of that is a matter of attitude and determination, not hitting bulls eyes on a target, however satisfying they can be.
So, while practice with the weapon - whatever it is - is very valuable in many ways, it's only a small percentage of the overall requirements for effective self defense. And, if a person gives all of their attention to the gun and the gear, they might find themselves unable to actually pull the trigger in the midst of the terror of a real confrontation.
And that would most certainly be a terrible waste. :(
So, my advice to everyone is to determine just what it is you are training for... and instead of a rain of bullets... make every shot count, both on the range and anywhere else.
Hard to disagree with anything there, ML. Jeff Cooper always seemed quite proud to report that, of all the students who reported back to him after having cause to use what he taught them to save their lives, not one failed to mention that it was the mindset that won them the fight. Skill-at-arms was always distinctly secondary, even when it was important--and with some of these students it turned out to be very important. The mindset was just more so.
Your point about "over-training" is well-taken, but I would offer two observations that at least matter to me.
First: I want to know what I'm capable of, in some of the awkward positions that I might well find myself in if I fail to avoid a fight. This is one of the reasons I find the Airsoft concept intriguing--it may present me with options to do that, that are simply impracticable otherwise. (I'm not sure I'd ever get into the "skirmishing" or heavy-duty force-on-force thing that some others like, although I do admit that some of the better-organized tactics challenges would probably be eye-opening. These latter are much less shooting exercises anyway, than problem-solving exercises.)
The other observation is that one dramatic effect of training is confidence, which is so important to mindset. If you know--know--you can make the shot, it is less likely that you'll dally at the moment of truth. It's the same as the pursuit of technique in any discipline; a ludicrously talented guitarist once told me he pursues technique so that if the muse comes calling he can be freed up to listen to what it asks of him, without having to worry about how he might make that request happen.
This is primarily what drives my interest in being able to train more frequently, and more realistically: confidence with fundamentals. Just a few days with the air rifle has done wonders to bring back my confidence on snapshots.
And man, is it fun. :-)
I'm sure that such training is very helpful in a lot of ways, Kevin. No denying any of what you said.
I just always look at it from the perspective of the people - like myself - who are incapable of that kind of physical exercise, for any purpose.
I can't bend well, scramble around on the ground, run or jump. I have very little physical strength or flexibility - so I'm driven to use my brain and senses more than my physical body.
And I'm just too scotch to shoot thousands and thousands of rounds just for the hell of it anyway. LOL Now, if someone wants to endow the perpetual unlimited ammo fund for Mama... I'd be tickled to do a lot more actual shooting than I do. LOL
My caution for students and others is simply to form a well rounded training program for their particular goals and abilities... and not fall for the idea that sheer volume of ammo expended is going to make them better able to reach their goals, whatever they might be.
And, come to think of it, I need to buy more BBs - which are fine for my morning moving target practice on rabbits. The pellet gun isn't nearly as accurate as the 10/22, but it is cheaper to feed. :)
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