A Page From History: BB’s And Air Guns

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posted on November 26, 2017
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From the January 1957 issue of American Rifleman, a letter from a reader who needed assistance with keeping his air gun working properly.

In introducing my very young son to the sport of shooting, I have had much trouble keeping his air gun operating. It is of the inexpensive type with a repeating mechanism, and a large spring-actuated plunger which is released by the trigger, furnishing the air blast to blow the round lead BB out of the barrel.

The shot pellets often hang up in the magazine, necessitating disassembly of the gun to clear. While I realize that too much should not be expected of an inexpensive gun of this type, which my son will soon outgrow, I would like help in getting satisfaction from this gun while he uses it.—A.F.A.

Answer: First check that there is no burr or dent in the magazine tube. Wipe and oil the working parts.

Then check your shot pellets. While they are almost invariably called “BB’s”, and those little air guns are called “BB guns”, real BB shot are not satisfactory in them. The standard diameter of BB shot pellets is 0.18″. However, being lead alloy they are easily deformed and then will be larger than that at some points. There is therefore a special “Air Rifle” shot made for these guns, with pellet diameter of 0.175″ to provide more operating clearance. In addition, most air rifle shot is now made of steel, copper-plated, and its non-deforming properties help still more to insure gun functioning. Make sure you have air rifle shot, not BB’s.

Note well that your son’s spring gun is smoothbored, not rifled. When he grows into one of the excellent compressed-air or CO2 rifles now on the market, these steel pellets should by no means be used, even though they can be loaded into rifles of 0.177″ caliber. In such a rifle the genuine BB shot, of lead, will be found to shoot very well.—E.H.H.

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