Experts in gun safety give public pellet gun advice

Nearly everyone is familiar with the BB gun that shoots a round metal projectile, the pellet gun that shoots a larger cylindrical metal projectile or the Airsoft guns that fire a plastic BB. But perhaps the most important aspect of owning or shooting one of these guns deals with the safety precautions that should always be followed.

The BB gun has been around for years as has the pellet gun. Both come in handgun and rifle models and can be either spring-powered or gas-powered. The relative new kids on the block are the Airsoft guns that are replicas of real firearms but propel a plastic pellet and are available in versions that include automatic electric guns and those that are either gas-powered or spring-powered. Whether as handguns or rifles, each type comes in a variety of models.

As with any gun, safety is of upmost importance. That is due in large part to the velocity of the projectiles. The potential danger involving handguns, rifles and shotguns is obvious and well-known. Perhaps not so well-understood is the potential danger of BBs, pellets or Airsoft ammunition. Though data pertaining to the makes and models from numerous manufacturers varies significantly, the velocity of a BB is approximately 280-450 feet per second (fps) while Airsoft guns shoot at 250-550 fps and pellets can travel 750-1,000 fps. In comparison, the velocity of the significantly larger .22 caliber bullet can range from 600-1,750 fps.

So where can a parent or child learn more about gun safety?

The Fayette County 4-H Rifle Club at the Ole Mill Range Complex in Griffin is one of the local organizations providing training and a safe place to shoot. Fayette 4-H participates in Project S.A.F.E. (Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education), providing training on firearm safety, proper shooting techniques, good sportsmanship and team work. The team of coaches provide instruction in the disciplines of BB, air rifle, air pistol, rimfire sporter and small-bore guns several nights a week.

The Ole Mill Range Complex conforms to International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF/International Olympic governing body) specifications for target height, distance, and target illumination. The organization on its rifle club website, at http://www.caes.uga.edu/extension/fayette/4H/RifleClub.html, stresses that the foremost consideration is safety.

Boy Scouts, too, provide training relating to the handling and use of firearms. Flint River Council Scout Executive Chuck Brasfeild said the 8-county organization has provided gun safety training on all types of guns to approximately 2,000 scouts. Brasfeild noted that the Boy Scouts of America uses the National Rifle Association (NRA) standards and training model when conducting gun safety training.

The national website, www.scouting.org, provides a detailed review of its gun safety program, stressing that the training program provides beginning shooters with the knowledge, skills and attitude necessary to shoot a gun safely under the direction of a NRA-certified instructor.

The training stresses three maxims: always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction, always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot and always keep your gun unloaded until ready to use.

The Boy Scout training covers areas such as a firearm description, shooting fundamentals, safety precautions at a firing range and supervised firing.

Common Sense About Kids and Guns (www.kidsandguns.org) also notes a number of precautions for parents who own a gun. Those include:

• Unload it and lock it up

• Lock and store ammunition separately

• Hide keys where children cannot find them

Offering statistics from organizations such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Centers for Disease Control, the website said that in 2005, there were 16,298 kids injured by a firearm and an additional 14,052 kids were injured from BB or pellet guns. And in terms of deaths, three children on average died every day in non-homicide firearm incidents from 2000-2005 and, since 1990, more then 5,000 children have been killed in firearm accidents.

The safety rules provided at www.theairsoftgun.net website also apply to virtually any firearm. Those include:

• Never point a airsoft gun at anything you don’t want to shoot

• Unload the Airsoft gun when not in use

• Keep the orange tip on the Airsoft gun

• Don’t look directly down the muzzle

• Follow directions when cleaning

• Disconnect electronics when not in use

• Use only recommended BB’s

• Keep out of the reach of children

• Supervise children who use Airsoft guns

• Wear safety gear

The website also notes that one of the greatest risks of an Airsoft gun is when it is mistaken for a real gun and law enforcement or others use real guns because they feel they must defend themselves against a deadly threat. Airsoft safety should always include keeping the orange tip on the gun when transporting or when used where it could be mistaken for a real gun.