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BB guns are a type of air gun
Air gun
An air gun is a rifle , pistol , or shotgun that fires projectiles by means of compressed air or other gas, in contrast to a firearm, which burns a propellant. Most air guns use metallic projectiles as ammunition. Air guns that only use plastic projectiles are classified as airsoft...

 designed to shoot projectiles named BBs after the birdshot pellet of approximately the same size. These projectiles are usually spherical but can also be pointed; those are usually used for bird hunting. Modern day BB guns usually have a smoothbore
Smoothbore
A smoothbore weapon is one which has a barrel without rifling. Smoothbores range from handheld firearms to powerful tank guns and large artillery mortars.-History of firearms and rifling:...

 barrel
Gun barrel
A gun barrel is the tube, usually metal, through which a controlled explosion or rapid expansion of gases are released in order to propel a projectile out of the end at a high velocity....

, with a bore diameter and caliber of 0.177 inches (4.5 mm). BB for modern day BB guns are usually steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

, plated either with zinc
Zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

 or copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 to resist corrosion, and measure 0.171 to 0.173 inches (4.34 mm to 4.39 mm) in diameter. Some manufacturers also still make lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 balls of slightly larger diameter and which are generally intended for use in rifled
Rifling
Rifling is the process of making helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis...

 BB gun barrels, as were formerly used in BB guns. Some Asian companies make plastic BBs for recreation.

One of the most famous BB guns is the Red Ryder BB Gun
Red Ryder BB Gun
The Red Ryder BB Gun is a BB gun made by Daisy Outdoor Products and introduced in 1938 that resembles the Winchester rifle of Western movies...

 by Daisy Outdoor Products
Daisy Outdoor Products
Daisy is a company that makes and sells inexpensive BB guns and other air guns.-History:Daisy was started in 1882 as Plymouth Iron Windmill Company in Plymouth, Michigan. In 1886 the company started to give BB guns with purchases of windmills. The gun was so popular the company started to sell guns...

, modeled after the western Winchester rifle. First introduced in 1938, the BB gun became an iconic American toy, and is still in production today.

History


The term "BB" originated from "ball bearing
Ball bearing
A ball bearing is a type of rolling-element bearing that uses balls to maintain the separation between the bearing races.The purpose of a ball bearing is to reduce rotational friction and support radial and axial loads. It achieves this by using at least two races to contain the balls and transmit...

" or "bullet ball" (if it is made of plastic). BB shot was nominally 0.180 inches (4.57 mm), but tended to vary considerably in size due to the high allowable tolerances for shotgun shell
Shotgun shell
A shotgun shell is a self-contained cartridge loaded with lead shot or shotgun slug designed to be fired from a shotgun....

 use. Around 1900, Daisy
Daisy Outdoor Products
Daisy is a company that makes and sells inexpensive BB guns and other air guns.-History:Daisy was started in 1882 as Plymouth Iron Windmill Company in Plymouth, Michigan. In 1886 the company started to give BB guns with purchases of windmills. The gun was so popular the company started to sell guns...

, one of the earliest makers of BB guns, changed their BB gun bore diameter to .175 inches (4.45 mm), and began to market precision-made lead shot specifically for their BB guns. They called this "air rifle shot", but the "BB" name was already well established, and everyone continued calling the guns "BB guns" and the shot "BB shot" or just "BBs".

Subsequently, the term "BB" became more generic, referring to round shot (and sometimes non-round shot) of various calibers and materials. This included (and still includes) bearing balls, plastic round shot (such as used in airsoft), 0.177 caliber lead and steel shot, marbles, and many others. It should also be noted that the ubiquitous usage of the term "ball bearing" for any steel ball is technically incorrect. A ball bearing is a mechanical bearing
Bearing (mechanical)
A bearing is a device to allow constrained relative motion between two or more parts, typically rotation or linear movement. Bearings may be classified broadly according to the motions they allow and according to their principle of operation as well as by the directions of applied loads they can...

 constructed with a multitude of bearing balls
Ball (bearing)
Bearing balls are special highly spherical and smooth balls, most commonly used in ball bearings. The balls come in many different grades, as defined by the American Bearing Manufacturers Association , which defines the precision of the balls...

.

Operation



BB guns can use any of the operating mechanisms used for air guns; see the powerplant technology section of the air gun
Air gun
An air gun is a rifle , pistol , or shotgun that fires projectiles by means of compressed air or other gas, in contrast to a firearm, which burns a propellant. Most air guns use metallic projectiles as ammunition. Air guns that only use plastic projectiles are classified as airsoft...

 article. However, due to the limited accuracy and range inherent in the BB gun, only the simpler and less expensive mechanisms are generally used.

Since nearly all BBs used today are steel, it is common to find BB guns that use magnet
Magnet
A magnet is a material or object that produces a magnetic field. This magnetic field is invisible but is responsible for the most notable property of a magnet: a force that pulls on other ferromagnetic materials, such as iron, and attracts or repels other magnets.A permanent magnet is an object...

s in their loading mechanisms. Since the BB is too hard to be swage
Swage
Swaging is a forging process in which the dimensions of an item are altered using a die or dies, into which the item is forced. Swaging is usually a cold working process; however, it is sometimes done as a hot working process....

d to the bore size, magnets are often used to hold the BB at the rear of the barrel—otherwise, the BB would simply roll out of the barrel if it were held at a downward angle.

The traditional, and still most common powerplant for BB guns is the spring piston type, usually patterned after a lever action rifle or a pump action shotgun. The lever action rifle was the first type of BB gun, and still dominates the inexpensive youth BB gun market. The Daisy Model 25 BB gun, modeled after a pump action shotgun with a trombone pump action mechanism, dominated the low price, higher performance market for over 50 years. Lever action models generally have very low velocities, around 275 ft/s (83.8 m/s), a result of the weak springs used to keep cocking efforts low for use by youths. The Daisy Model 25 BB gun typically achieved the highest velocities of its day, ranging from 375 ft/s (114.3 m/s) to 450 ft/s (137.2 m/s). Lever action guns often have huge ammunition capacities; one of Daisy's early lever action models held 1000 BBs, in contrast to the Daisy Model 25 which held only 50 BBs. The ammunition in the lever action BB guns is gravity fed, such that the gun must be held at the proper angle when cocked to load the ammunition. The ammunition in the Daisy Model 25, on the other hand, is spring-loaded, and no shift in gun angle is required to reload another BB.

Multi-pump pneumatic guns are also common—many youth oriented pneumatic pellet guns provide the ability to use BBs as a cheaper alternative to lead shot. Some of these guns have rifled barrels, but the hard, slightly undersized BBs don't swage
Swage
Swaging is a forging process in which the dimensions of an item are altered using a die or dies, into which the item is forced. Swaging is usually a cold working process; however, it is sometimes done as a hot working process....

 or obturate
Obturate
Obturate means to block or obstruct. With reference to firearms and airguns, obturation refers to the process of a bullet or pellet, made of soft material and often with a concave base, flaring under the pressure of firing to seal the bore and engage the barrel's rifling...

 to fit the barrel, so the rifling may not impart a significant spin. These are the type of guns that will benefit most from using precision lead BB shot. The pneumatic BB gun attains much higher velocities than the traditional spring piston types. One interesting use of a pneumatic BB gun is in the calibration
Calibration
Calibration is a comparison between measurements – one of known magnitude or correctness made or set with one device and another measurement made in as similar a way as possible with a second device....

 of ballistic gelatin
Ballistic gelatin
Ballistic Gelatin is a testing medium scientifically correlated to swine muscle tissue , in which the effects of bullet wounds can be simulated. It was developed and improved by Martin Fackler and others in the field of wound ballistics. Ballistic gelatin is a solution of gelatin powder in water...

, which is done by measuring the penetration of a steel BB at a velocity of about 600 ft/s (180 m/s).

The last common type of power for BB guns is pre-compressed gas, most commonly the 12 gram CO2 powerlet
Powerlet
A Powerlet cartridge is a small disposable metal container holding of liquid CO2 and often a small quantity of oil, used as a power source for certain air guns, paintball markers, and a few airsoft guns...

. The powerlet, invented by Crosman
Crosman
Crosman Corporation is a leading, worldwide designer, manufacturer and supplier of products for the shooting sports. The company has a long standing presence in airgun design and a proud tradition of producing high quality pellet and BB air rifles and pistols...

, is a disposable bottle containing 12 grams of liquid carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

, which evaporates to form a gas to propel the BB. These are primarily used in pistol
Pistol
When distinguished as a subset of handguns, a pistol is a handgun with a chamber that is integral with the barrel, as opposed to a revolver, wherein the chamber is separate from the barrel as a revolving cylinder. Typically, pistols have an effective range of about 100 feet.-History:The pistol...

 BB guns, and unlike spring-piston or pneumatic types, these are capable of rapid fire. A typical CO2 BB pistol uses a spring-loaded magazine to feed BBs, and a double action trigger mechanism to chamber a BB and cock the hammer. The hammer strikes a valve hooked to the CO2 source, which releases a measured amount of CO2 gas to fire the BB. Velocities of CO2 powered BB pistols are moderate, and drop off as the temperature in the CO2 source drops, due to changes in the vapor pressure
Vapor pressure
Vapor pressure or equilibrium vapor pressure is the pressure of a vapor in thermodynamic equilibrium with its condensed phases in a closed system. All liquids have a tendency to evaporate, and some solids can sublimate into a gaseous form...

. Many CO2 BB guns are patterned after popular firearm
Firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

s, and can be used for training as well as recreation.

Some gas-powered BB guns use a larger source of gas, and provide machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

-like fire. These types, most notably the Shooting Star Tommy Gun
Shooting Star Tommy Gun
The Shooting Star Tommy Gun is a pneumatic machine gun manufactured by Shooting Star Inc. Invented by Feltman in Coney Island, New York. The firm operated there for many years until it then moved to New Jersey and became Shooting Star Inc. The weapon has become popular among fun fair and Arcade...

 (originally known as the Feltman) are commonly found at carnival
Carnival
Carnaval is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February. Carnaval typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party...

s. The MacGlashan BB Gun, was used to train antiaircraft gunners in the United States Army Air Corps
United States Army Air Corps
The United States Army Air Corps was a forerunner of the United States Air Force. Renamed from the Air Service on 2 July 1926, it was part of the United States Army and the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces , established in 1941...

 and United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. A popular commercial model was the Larc M-19, which ran off 1 pound (454 g) canisters of Freon-12
Dichlorodifluoromethane
Dichlorodifluoromethane , is a colorless gas, and usually sold under the brand name Freon-12, is a chlorofluorocarbon halomethane , used as a refrigerant and aerosol spray propellant. Complying with the Montreal Protocol, its manufacture was banned in the United States along with many other...

 refrigerant. These types have very simple operating mechanisms, based on a venturi pump. The gas is released in a constant stream, and this is used to suck the BBs up into the barrel at rates as high as 3600 rounds per minute.

Competition use


It is possible to shoot competitively with a BB gun. The National Rifle Association
National Rifle Association
The National Rifle Association of America is an American non-profit 501 civil rights organization which advocates for the protection of the Second Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights and the promotion of firearm ownership rights as well as marksmanship, firearm safety, and the protection...

 youth shooting program has classifications for smoothbore BB guns, open from ages 14 to own 18 to buy, and these classes are popular with youth groups such as Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with over 4.5 million youth members in its age-related divisions...

 (only using the Red Ryder) and 4H.

Safety


Most commercial BB firing airguns guns can shoot beyond 200 ft/s (61 m/s). The Daisy Red Ryder
Red Ryder BB Gun
The Red Ryder BB Gun is a BB gun made by Daisy Outdoor Products and introduced in 1938 that resembles the Winchester rifle of Western movies...

 was sold in the USA as a toy in the mid 20th century. A storyline in the movie A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story is a 1983 American Christmas comedy film based on the short stories and semi-fictional anecdotes of author and raconteur Jean Shepherd, including material from his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, and Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. It was directed by Bob Clark...

 is that Ralphie wants one of the BB guns for Christmas, but he is told "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"
The toy gun fires about 280 ft/s (85.3 m/s); typical adult airguns are generally in the 300-450 ft/s range.

Some commercial airguns (including BB and/or pellet guns) have the ability to fire considerably faster, even beyond 550 ft/s (167.6 m/s). Although claims are often exaggerated, a few airguns can actually fire a standard 0.177 lead pellet faster than 1000 ft/s (about 680 miles per hour), but these are generally not BB firing guns.

Airsoft guns
Airsoft guns
Airsoft guns are replica firearms that shoot plastic pellets by way of compressed gas or electric and/or spring-driven pistons...

 are a subclass of BB guns, which are usually considerably lower energy and possess far less damage potential to humans and property (though they are subject to similar safety issues). Airsoft guns were developed for several reasons, one of which was to create a safer method of indoor target shooting. Most early Airsoft guns were single action (single pull of the slide, single shot) type that came with "sticky targets" where the plastic bb stuck to the target long enough to determine the accuracy of the shot, then slid down into a catch tray as later shots hit the target. This also facilitated easy reuse of the plastic bb's as they were originally not as easy to find. Airsoft guns were then quickly adopted into paintball type sports as they hurt less than a paintball, and don't make a smelly mess. Airsoft guns are also available in far more shapes, sizes, and models than paintball. Proper safety gear including a full face mask are usually required when engaging in Airsoft shooting sports.

A 0.177 projectile fired above 350 ft/s (106.7 m/s) has skin piercing capability, and the potential can exist for delivering a fatal injury; this potential increases with velocity, but also rapidly decreases with distance. The effective penetrating range of a BB gun with a muzzle velocity of 400-600fps is +/- 60'/ 30mts . A person wearing jeans at this distance would not sustain any serious injury. However even at this distance a BB still might penetrate bare skin, and even if not, could leave a severe and painful bruise. The maximum range of a BB gun in the 400-600fps range is 240-350 yards given the muzzle is elevated to the optimum angle.

As a note, steel BBs are also very prone to ricochet
Ricochet
A ricochet is a rebound, bounce or skip off a surface, particularly in the case of a projectile. The possibility of ricochet is one of the reasons for the common firearms safety rule "Never shoot at a flat, hard surface."-Variables:...

, especially off hard surfaces such as brick, concrete or trees. Eye protection
Eye protection
Eye protection is protective gear for the eyes, which comes in many types depending upon the threat that is to be reduced. The threats can be particles, light, wind blast, heat, sea spray or some type of ball or puck used in sports...

 is essential when shooting BBs, more so than when shooting lead pellets, since a BB bouncing off a hard surface can retain a very large portion of its initial energy (pellets usually flatten and absorb energy), and could easily cause serious eye damage up to and including blindness.

As with rocks, bricks, keys and other items, vandals have sometimes misused BB guns for the wrongful damage of property. The pellets can break windows, or leave distinctive round damage.

The major manufacturers are Crosman and Daisy which are known for their quality. Most pellet gun manufacturing companies have a wide variety although some aren't as popular. Even though people use these pellet guns to play games and sports, it is still dangerous and may cause permanent or serious injuries, including death.

Quick kill training


The U.S. Army trained recruits in Quick Kill techniques using Daisy Model 99 BB guns to improve soldiers using their weapons in the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 from 1967-1973.
The technique was developed for the Army by Bobby Lamar "Lucky" McDaniel and Mike Jennings. The sights were removed from the BB guns for this training.

Skirmish fighting


BB and pellet guns have long been used in a way similar to airsoft or paintball weapons, particularly in rural areas. This seems to have become less prevalent with the introduction of these newer options.

Legal issues


BB guns are regulated in the same manner as air guns. In countries where there is a maximum velocity or muzzle energy at which point an air gun is treated like a firearm
Firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

 (such as in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 or the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

), BB guns are often not powerful enough to be classed as such. See the legal issues section of the air gun
Air gun
An air gun is a rifle , pistol , or shotgun that fires projectiles by means of compressed air or other gas, in contrast to a firearm, which burns a propellant. Most air guns use metallic projectiles as ammunition. Air guns that only use plastic projectiles are classified as airsoft...

 article for more information.

See also

  • Air gun
    Air gun
    An air gun is a rifle , pistol , or shotgun that fires projectiles by means of compressed air or other gas, in contrast to a firearm, which burns a propellant. Most air guns use metallic projectiles as ammunition. Air guns that only use plastic projectiles are classified as airsoft...

  • Airsoft BBs
  • List of air guns
  • Pellet (air gun)
    Pellet (air gun)
    An air gun pellet is, for the most part, a non-spherical projectile designed to be fired from an air gun. But this is not always the case.Pellets differ from bullets used in firearms because of the pressures encountered; firearms operate at pressures of thousands of atmospheres, while airguns...

  • Toy and sport gun safety

External links