Friday, August 11, 2006

By the book – part 3

By the book - part 1
By the book - part 2

by Tom Gaylord

I showed my find to my grandmother and she seemed to recall that the gun had belonged to one of my older uncles. "I doubt if he even remembers having it," she said. "Why don't you keep it?"

She must have known how much I wanted that old BB gun, it being one of the few real guns I had ever seen outside a picture. I knew absolutely nothing about how a gun worked, but Grandma did! She unscrewed the barrel—what I now know to be the shot tube—and dropped several drops of oil down the outer tube with the gun standing upright on its butt. "They need to be oiled a lot. Don't forget that, or it won't shoot hard for you."

From another box in the basement, she produced several tubes of lead BBs. She told me these were the kind the guns used to shoot before the war, and that my gun would only work well with them. "I don't think they still sell lead BB shot, but I have a friend who owns a gun store, so we'll find more for you when these run out. As I recall, the newer steel BBs are too small and hard to work well in these older guns. Plus, they bounce back pretty severely and have been known to put a boy's eye out."

That was the first time anyone had ever explained to me the universal fear all mothers seemed to have about BB guns putting out eyes. I had always thought everyone was afraid kids would intentionally shoot each other in the eyes with their guns, but that was not the case—or at least that's not how it got started. It seems that before the 1920s, all BB guns shot lead shot that didn't ricochet much at all. Then, in about 1925 or so, the BB guns makers began selling steel shot, and that's when the trouble began. A generation of boys used to using lead shot were suddenly getting maimed by the bounceback of the newer steel shot.

Nobody explained this to the public at the time, of course, and before long the mothers of America had banded together in a grass roots movement to keep the dangerous guns out of their son's hands. After another generation had passed, the phrase, "You'll shoot your eye out" was ingrained in everyone's mind, while the actual cause for it had faded into obscurity. In a single moment, my Grandmother had made all this crystal clear to me, as well as reinforcing the point that lead shot was all I should shoot in my new-old gun.

But the surprises were just beginning. Next, she took me over to another dusty corner where she got a stool to climb up to reach a box on top of some window frames. She brought it down and handed it to me, saying, "Go ahead—open it!"


Post a Comment

<< Home