Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Squirrel boy - part 1

by Tom Gaylord

BB guns? No, I never had much use for them. I always had a soft spot in my heart for the really powerful air rifles from Benjamin and Crosman. You know the ones—you pumped them up and they shot like a .22. Well, almost as hard.

I had a few traditional BB guns as a young kid, but they were never of much interest to me because the darn things were so weak. Most of them could only dent a tin can at close range, and even the more powerful ones weren’t all that strong. But there was one exception.

My first Benjamin was one of the old types that had the pump rod in the front of the gun. You pulled it out and then pushed down on the whole gun with the pump handle resting against something hard. Don’t use tree roots, though; they’re too slippery. You’ll get almost down and the doggone handle will slip and you’ll have to do the whole thing over. After a few pumps the lead BB was dropped down the muzzle and it would jam in the barrel until you shot.

I think I got that gun around 1919 or so. The war was over in Europe and people were back to their normal lives once again. I hawked newspapers in downtown Akron every day after school, so I always had some dough to spend. When I saw that gun in the sporting goods department at O’Neil’s, I just knew I had to have it. The salesman told me I could control the power by the number of pumps I put in. Three was good enough for most shooting, but four was for really long shots, or for bigger game. The guy said that five pumps were even possible, but it took a whole lot of strength and if the gun was pumped that many times, it would shoot like a .22. That’s what sold me. I wanted a gun that shot like a .22 but didn’t cost a fortune for bullets. With a .22, you paid fifteen cents for about 25 shots, or so.

In those days, lead BBs cost five cents for a huge bag that lasted for weeks. Because my gun needed to be pumped up each time it was shot, I went through the bag even slower than a kid with a regular BB gun would have. I was in hog heaven, shooting for a fraction of the price a regular .22 rifle would have cost. That’s always good when a guy has to come up with the money himself.

I bought that gun, but I had to keep it out of sight at home because we lived in the city and my folks would have pitched a fit if they knew I had it. BB guns were okay, but a gun that was, in essence, a .22, was an entirely different matter. They would have been worried about me shooting through walls and stuff like that, so I just kept mum about the whole thing.



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