by B.B. Pelletier
Just a note. Tomorrow and the next day, I will turn this blog over to Tom Gaylord, who is helping me with a report on tuning an inexpensive Chinese airgun. I will be out of town until next Monday, but everything here should keep rolling along. If you see a question you can answer, I'd appreciate your help, because it's more difficult to do all the answers when I'm on the road.
When I reported about the Marksman 1010 pistol last November, several readers commented on other air pistols they owned in their youth. One of these was a man who remembered his Daisy model 179 pistol less than fondly. The 179 is a copy of the Colt Single-Action Army revolver. It holds 12 steel BBs under spring tension and feeds them one at a time when the hammer is cocked.
Daisy's 179 was one of the first Spittin' Image guns made.
His biggest complaint was that the front sight is so tall that the gun shot very low, even at 10 feet! I had never really done any shooting with a 179, so that was news to me; but I've owned and shot a lot of Colt Single-Action Army revolvers. In the early years of their production, they had the same too-tall front sight problem, and Colt always assumed the owners would file down the front sight to regulate the pistol.
This discussion of the sights drove me to examine my own late-model 179. Lo and behold, my gun has a different problem. When the hammer is cocked, as it must be to shoot the gun, it obscures the sights altogether! The problem is that the hammer doesn't stay all the way back after the gun is cocked. It rotates up and into the sight line before coming to rest. This is not a big problem, because I don't plan on shooting targets with this gun, but I never would have paid any attention had the reader not directed me to the sights.
Another thing our reader mentioned was the low power of the gun. It seems he always coveted a Marksman 1010 until he read my report. He thought he had owned the world's weakest air pistol and was glad to learn that he had company. The 179 is actually a catapult gun. It uses the power of the mainspring alone to propel the BB. That means it has to be slow, which it most certainly is. The velocity on my like-new example runs from 150 to 159 f.p.s. Believe it or not, though, that is the highest velocity I have ever recorded from a catapult BB gun. But, there aren't too many to choose from!
The 179 was first offered in 1960 as one of Daisy's earliest Spittin' Image airguns. It came out at a time when American boys were interested in one of two things: space and cowboys. We were leaving the frontier era of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone and entering the world of Wyatt Earp, Paladin and Gunsmoke. The airguns we played with had to keep pace.
This most curious of all Daisy pistols continued in production to 1981, when sales must have dictated an end. But, it wouldn't die! In 1992, production resumed, only this one has a crossbolt trigger-blocking safety. This second run was much shorter, ending in 1996, so the model with the safety should be the one that's hardest to find. However, collectors seem to place a rather nice premium on the first model without the safety.
In 2004, Daisy found a box of parts in their warehouse that had been returned from an overseas customer who had been assembling the 179 in-country. They made up 700 of these final second-model guns and packaged them in a special vintage-looking box with a certificate of authenticity signed by Orin Ribar, curator of the Daisy Airgun Museum. They were sold by the museum, and the final few went in early 2006. In the future, these guns will probably be the most desirable 179s of all - except for the 22 handmade salesmen's samples Daisy had made up in solid brass. Those are not valid production models, yet they captivate all Daisy collectors because there are so few. Expect to pay over $1,000 if you are ever fortunate enough to find one for sale.
Vintage box, together with signed certificate of authenticity, is the only proof of Daisy's special edition 179, sold in 2005.
Expect to pay about $100 for a nice first-model 179 and perhaps $80 for a second model. A gun with a box will add $25. The special edition currently runs $115-125, but expect that to climb.