The BB Gun Years
The BB gun years start for thousands of youngsters who wake up Christmas morning and find a Daisy Red Ryder next to their stockings. The author grew up just 19 miles from Hammond, Indiana, the site of A Christmas Story (1936-1941) and the tale of Ralphie’s quest for a Daisy Red Ryder Carbine.
I don’t know how prominent a role “A Christmas Story” has played in elevating Daisy BB gun sales over the years, but I suspect it has been significant. I’m sure young people today watch that movie and wonder. Was it ever like that for a kid growing up in America?
Well, I’m here to tell you that it was EXACTLY like that. When Daisy was manufacturing their famous Red Ryder and Model 25 BB guns in Plymouth, Michigan during the 1940s, youngsters growing up in northern Indiana were longing to get their hands on a carbine like Ralphie’s “Old Blue”.
I was one of those youngsters yearning to explore the wonders of our great outdoors with a Daisy Red Ryder Carbine. Mine didn’t have a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time, but it was identical in every other respect. This is the story of my BB gun years.
A part of what made those years so special was the promise that anything was possible in America. I grew up during A Christmas Story era (1936-1941) in Crown Point, Indiana, just 19 miles from Ralphie’s Hammond.
My Mom struggled with a wringer washer. The ice box was in constant demand of more refrigerant. Dad struggled valiantly with the Pocahontas clinkers clogging our stoker furnace and our milk froze on the front porch, pushing the cap above the bottles with solidified cream.
Life was simple, but we always knew that there was a special world out there for any of us who were inspired to pursue our dreams. I feel blessed to have been part of that America.
In today’s world, consumed by digital technology and communications reduced to stilted phrases, it’s nice to know that even today in America there is a special world out there for youngsters with ambitious dreams. And a passion for America’s great outdoors. Fulfilling those dreams is as simple as letting the imagination of youth explore the tremendous life lessons which can be learned at very minimal cost.
Above. A third generation Daisy shooter, Erin Sherwood cradles the family Daisy “Buck” model wingshooting trainer while wistfully dreaming of days in the marsh with her 50’s era Herters RedHead decoys. She’s the Grand Niece of the author Ronnie “Buck” Jones.
It takes some effort on the part of the parent to get their youngster off to a safe start, but it served me well during World War II. No, not as a combatant. I was a 3rd grader more intent on ridding the world of sparrows invading our back forty than on stopping military intervention by misguided nations half a world away.
I’m not saying that you should pattern your youngsters introduction to guns exactly as my parents did during the war – most likely in 1944. But I will say that either by design, or by accident, their simple teaching methods coupled with unfailing safety supervision has resulted in a lifetime of enjoyment with firearms for me.
My parents didn’t pay for my first Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. I had the responsibility of mowing our lawn near Goshen, Indiana on a weekly basis and I was paid the princely sum of $1.00 per mowing with a reel mower. And when Saturday arrived, Mom showed me the dollar…but then promptly applied it to savings dedicated to the purchase of a $25.00 U.S. Savings Bond.
I can still recall the amount, $18.75, required to purchase a Twenty Five dollar bond. But of course, you had to keep the bond for 10 years, at the prevailing interest rate, for the bond to mature to the face value. As you might imagine, mine never made it that far!
When I was mature enough to be trusted with the responsibility of an air rifle, Mom allowed me to cash in the bond and make the purchase. Looking back, that turned out to be a decision that kept little Ronnie focused. For the rest of my life.
I went on to parlay Gilbert Chemistry sets and toy microscopes into a career in Pharmacy. But when the rigors of earning a living and raising a family gave way to spare moments to myself, those Daisy BB gun years evolved into a world of shooting and hunting with shotguns which has given me great joy over the decades.
And here, I’m suggesting that the same positive outcome can result for any youngster allowed to explore our wonderful world of BB gun ownership at a responsible age.
From a utility point of view, most BB guns are plinkers. Certainly you could take exception to that statement, pointing to Daisy’s Avanti 499 which demonstrates remarkable accuracy. But my experience with a Daisy Buck, two Red Ryders, two Model 25s and a Daisy 118 Target pistol has been that these guns show the greatest promise when the target is reasonably close, as large as a Campbell’s soup can….and a score is registered when the BB rings the target.
Above. BB guns are Plinkers. Tin cans that go “plink” are the perfect target outdoors, although paper targets with an appropriate and safe backstop are required indoors. But low power air rifles have utility as an instructional aid far beyond their usefulness as Plinkers. In addition to teaching firearms responsibility, safety, respect for game laws and the property rights of others, they are perfect for teaching the fundamentals of shooting.
I love the auditory response to a successful shot. When the tin can goes “Plink”, the shooter registers a score. Nobody counts the misses.
That being said, the Daisy BB Gun line has tremendous utility as an instructional aid far beyond its usefulness as a Plinker. Their light weight, durability, simplicity of operation, excellent safety profile and limited range position them as the perfect gun for the purpose of introducing youngsters to firearms.
Young sportsmen and women need early instruction in firearms responsibility, safety, respect for game laws and the property rights of others. Beyond that, they are the perfect gun to teach the fundamentals of shooting.
And here, I would suggest that they are almost as useful in teaching the fundamentals of “shooting flying” as they are in teaching marksmanship skills with a rifle.
As a shotgun shooter, I have been particularly sensitive to the utility of BB guns in teaching “instinctive shooting” theory. As a kid growing up in Indiana, there was little edible game to hunt. But that didn’t keep us from keeping the pesky sparrow population to a manageable size.
Above. Ron states that his personal Daisy BB gun experience as a youngster growing up in rural Indiana evolved into a world of shooting and hunting with shotguns. The experience has given him great joy over the decades.
And what I remember about those years is that most of us did NOT use acceptable rifle technique to harvest our game. We learned to shoot our guns by looking intently at the sparrow with both eyes wide open, and following the flight of the BB in our peripheral vision as it sped to its destination.
If we missed, we made the necessary correction.
We may have had a vague notion that there were sights on the gun, but we had shot so many thousands of rounds through the gun at relatively short range that we knew “instinctively” where the BB was going. It was as easy as “pointing our finger”.
In essence, we learned the fundamentals of instinctive shooting without any formal instruction.
I’m sure none of us had eye dominance issues, or we could not have mastered the technique. So when I was introduced to shotguns near the end of high school, shooting moving objects using instinctive technique just came natural.
We later learned to use the sights on our rifles when precision shooting was important. But when we were plinking at the Campbell soup can in the back yard with “Old Blue”, or intercepting a sparrow as he perched momentarily on the garden fence. The eyes were on the sparrow and the subconscious brain did the rest.
So regardless of whether your area of interest lies with rifles or shotguns, you can count on a Daisy BB gun to help your youngster through the learning process and start their own BB Gun Years.