Can an airgun solve the 'dragged outside' generation dilemma?
PUBLISHED: 16:24 01 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:24 01 August 2017
I'm so enthusiastic about the Ultra JSR, and more so now I've seen what it can do, and the effect it has on people as a starting point into our sport
Statistics should be benign and harmless measurements of recorded events and patterns. In reality, though, as many of us know, they are used routinely as alarming, dangerous, threatening gospels, especially in the hands of the mainstream press. Headline-grabbing factoids such as, ‘Reported burglaries rise by 33%’ are designed to grab our attention and cause us to worry, whilst the background to this one statistic is based on a rise from only four to six events in an area.
Not good in itself, but if the area has 1000 inhabitants, then the chances of it happening to you are remote, and if the thieves are targeting tools in vans and you own a family hatchback, the risk of you being a victim diminishes further. Terrible for those involved, but certainly not a figure that should cause anything more alarmist than sympathy to the victims and a check that your car doors are locked.
Get ‘em outdoors
One statistic-based headline that comes round regularly at about this time of year in the press and owes as much to slow news weeks as it does to the sad, worrying content, is the apparent dramatic fall in the amount of time that kids between 5 and 14 spend outdoors, compared to 30 years ago. In 2016, The Guardian reported that, ‘Children only spend half the time their parents did outdoors’, and more worryingly, ‘Three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates’. The Daily Mail and Telegraph also reported the findings, with similar stories in both March and July, again last year.
If this is a true trend, then it gives us, in the wonderful world of airguns, not only the opportunity to fire kids imaginations and teach them valuable life and social skills by getting them out to outdoor ranges and on to our permissions to experience first-hand the joy of what we do, but also gives us the chance to secure the safe continuation of our sport, and the security of it in the hands of potential future politicians.
Having said all that, unlike many our age, my wife and I don’t have kids. A blessing when it comes to booking holidays, restaurants, late nights, lie-ins, and the option to go hunting almost at will, but also occasionally sad because I’d like to pass on my passion for field sports to the next generation.
I was reminded of the lack of sampling branches further down my trunk of the family tree with the launch of BSA’s Ultra JSR, an airgun specifically designed to be an introduction to our wonderful life-style for kids – and in my mind, visionary in the idea’s simplicity.
BSA have taken the extremely highly regarded, full-sized Ultra SE action and put it into a stock designed with a kid’s measurements in mind, based on one of the Director’s own children’s measurements, I believe. As you can see, though, BSA haven’t scrimped by simply chopping off a bit of the old stock, or plonking the action in an odd bit of B&Q kitchen counter top, cut-away as a make-do. They have created a very attractive beech stock, laser stippled around the grip and at the fore end, with a rubber butt pad that combined is equally as eye-catching as the full-sized Ultra SE stock.
Apart from the stock, everything is the same. Same cold-hammer-forged barrel, excellent two-stage adjustable trigger, 10-shot multishot action, quality bluing, pressure gauge and fill port, same half-inch UNF at the muzzle for addition of a moderator … In fact, the only thing different is the power, but this is a thought-through bonus. The power has been restricted to 6 ft lbs, boosting the shot count to over 120 in either .177 or .22, and making it an ideal garden plinker. I imagine that’s where this gun will see most of its use, as Junior drags a nagged-down parent outside to sit through yet another demonstration of how an Extra Strong Mint can be decimated.
It’s all very well for me to blow on about how great I think the JSR is, but I’m not the one it was designed for so I needed help in putting it through it’s true paces. I press-ganged one of the farm shoot’s syndicate members, his 12-year-old son and one of his friends, to put the Ultra JSR (and R10 for Dad), through their paces.
I’ve known all three of the guys for a while and have seen them all in action on pigeons with shotguns, the boys taking some text book stunners with a 410. However, none of them have had much experience with airguns, bar a few shots with a break-barrel springer, so I was keen to see what the boys and Dad would make of the JSR, having only been told it was designed to fit younger people.
First impressions were utter brilliance. The boys were won over to the JSR simply because it fitted them; they could both reach the trigger without over-stretching, and instead of their heads being placed far back on the stock and arms outstretched, the stock fitted perfectly, giving an excellent, full view through the scope.
Targets were set out to as far as 27 yards, and the boys set about decimating them with relish. During the afternoon, we covered safety in depth; skimmed fieldcraft, why some species have to be controlled, ethical shot placement, what rabbit tastes like, the difference between shotgun shooting and airgun hunting, and all manner of other subjects connected with our sport, each part creating a real drive for more information from the boys. For me, it was just brilliant to see to 12-year-olds becoming more and more immersed in airgun hunting, and seeing what had originally fired my passion come out in them.
Over 900ish shots – or about seven refills on my Hill’s pump – the guys’ groups tightened, armies of Extra Strong mints where destroyed, and real, lasting enthusiasm embedded. Dad was deftly deflecting demands for immediate purchase with a practised skill I remember from my own father – time-honoured clichés such as, ‘We’d have to ask your Mum’ and ‘Put it on your Christmas list’.
I’m so enthusiastic about this little airgun, and more so now I’ve seen what it can do, and the effect it has on people as a starting point into our sport. It hooks and engages kids without gimmicks; there is no hint of a ‘sniper rifle’ look, or Tru-Glo sights, or anything used to grab kids in, portraying airguns as only interesting to those with para-military fantasies, for example. This is a true sporting air rifle, scaled down to suit a smaller person. It’s the same as Mum’s or Dad’s, but fits the kids and you can even swap stocks over when ‘the Olds’ want to have a go at garden plinking. From here, kids can upgrade and go any way they want – FT, HFT, like me into woods hunting, or any number of other ways, but mainly outside and all because of this little pocket rocket!