My mother called me into the kitchen and alerted me to the presence of the culprit. “Mark, look, he’s in the garden!” she whispered. “I see him,” I whispered back, quietly retrieving my rifle from the closet. Despite both of us being inside our home and looking out the kitchen window in broad daylight at an intruder who seemed oblivious to our keen observance, we continued whispering. “I don’t want him doing any damage,” she said. Looking with concern at my rifle, she asked, “Can you hit him from here?” Eyes locked on the intruder, I nodded. At 15 years old I was a very good shot — steady, consistent, deadly accurate. My rifle — a Crosman Powermaster 66 pellet gun I had received for Christmas — proved its mettle many times, having seen action against numerous birds, squirrels, and raccoons like the one that was now assaulting our rows of corn.
I left my mother standing in the kitchen. Walking through the house to the garage where I could exit through a side door and set up for a clean shot, I loaded a BB and pumped the air rifle 10 times. With stealthy movements and trigger finger up on the side of the rifle, I was the envy of Special Forces teams everywhere as I patiently and quietly opened the side door to exit the garage. I could see the degenerate raccoon, munching away at the corn, unaware that judgment was about to fall.
Leaning against the house, I slowly brought the air rifle up to my shoulder and leveled off for a shot. The sniper in me made the final calculations. Conditions were ideal: It was morning on a perfect summer day in Michigan. Temperature: 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Distance to target: About 75 feet although it always seemed longer. Wind: None.
Mouth full of corn, the raccoon chewed away, providing a broadside profile at which I could aim. I lined up the Crosman’s iron sights — the front sight was actually made of plastic — and aimed for center mass on the masked bandit.
The Powermaster 66 could fire .177 caliber BB’s or pellets up to 700+ feet per second, providing I pumped it 10 times. Sometimes the rebel in me pumped it 11 or even 12 times, despite the warnings of the owner’s manual not to do so. I would have loaded with a pellet, which would have been a more effective projectile, except I couldn’t find any. A BB would have to do.
The Crosman offered a trigger guard mounted safety, which I used religiously. As for ammunition capacity, the rifle could store about 200 BB’s on board which then had to be shaken into a final loading chute where they would be escorted into the chamber with a magnetic-tipped bolt. Pumping the Crosman for maximum power was embarrassing at best and sounded like a construction worker hitting a board with a hammer. As such, it had to be done inside, well out of earshot of any target that could hear.
A burst of compressed air would send the projectile through the rifled barrel to the target. Other BB guns could be cocked and loaded much faster. Few, however, were as accurate as the Powermaster 66. I practiced with it enough that I knew its capabilities inside and out, especially at distances from the side of the garage to the garden.
Carefully disengaging the safety, I gently placed my finger on the trigger, held my breath, and fired. The familiar snap of air being ejected from the barrel sounded as the Crosman launched the BB at its target. At precisely that moment, the raccoon took a step forward. As a result, the BB cracked against a corn stalk behind it. Shooter and target considered what had just happened. Looking over at me with a smirk and seemingly knowing how long it would take me to reload, the raccoon turned away and ambled through the garden toward the woods, out of sight.
I went back in the house and returned the rifle to its place in the closet. “Well, did you get him?” my mother asked, still whispering.
“I let him go with a warning shot.”
Almost three decades later, the Crosman Powermaster 66 still does varmint duty at my parents’ home. Over the years I’ve had to fasten the front sight in place with electrical tape, deal with rust, a few lost pieces, and a reduction in overall power, but it’ll still send a BB or pellet virtually anywhere it is aimed with very good accuracy. Now, in fact, my 15 year old likes to shoot from the side of the garage toward what was once the garden area.
As for the raccoons, they don’t come around much anymore.
— Mark Kakkuri
What weaponry has stood the test of time since your childhood?