Collecting airguns: Scarcity 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Success!
  • Reality
  • How rare is rare?
  • Second gun
  • The big one
  • A defective design
  • USMR
  • History is the point
  • Scarce gun number 2
  • The difference
  • Celebrity association
  • Moral?
  • Is it real?
  • Sow’s ear
  • Don’t fall for it
  • Market-driven scarcity
  • Summary

Success!

This history section of the daily blog is a big success. Many readers are interested in collecting and learning about vintage airguns, so I am starting a series on collecting. There will be some things that you have seen before, but I hope to put it in a new light. And I have some new things to share, as well. I have already identified several topics for reports, so this promises to be a long one! I won’t run it consecutively, though. I’ll weave in in amongst the reports on historical items of interest. In the end I may turn it into a feature for “Firearms News”.

read more


The Gallagher steam trebouchet

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • An airgun from the American Civil War
  • Modernizing the trebouchet
  • Using horsepower for weight
  • Lighter, faster and more powerful
  • President Lincoln
  • Success in the field
  • Steam trebouchet lives on
  • Steam, not air
  • Final thought

An airgun from the American Civil War

Today we will learn about an airgun that no longer exists, yet was, for a brief moment in history, considered to be an ultra modern and deadly weapon of war. During the American Civil War both sides pressed for the latest technology, in the hopes of overcoming their enemy and bringing a swift end to the war. The South sought ways to make large quantities of arms cheaper yet just as good as those made by Colt and the Springfield Armory, while the North looked for technology to overcome their early shortfall in trained foot soldiers who could shoot. Both sides were keen to try anything new if they thought it stood a chance of succeeding.

read more


The influence of shooting galleries

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

  • The 15th century
  • Why?
  • Gallery guns were weak
  • Airguns and galleries
  • Different ammo
  • Repeaters
  • What killed the airgun?
  • Feltman

Shooting galleries have been a major influence in the shooting sports for close to a century and a half, and airguns have had their day in galleries. Reb, our most outspoken reader, once ran a traveling shooting gallery that featured the popular “Shoot out the Red Star” game. I’ll discuss that at the end of the report, but right now I’m going back to the beginning of shooting galleries.

The 15th century

And, who can really say when that was? We know from documents and from tapestries that shooting events were popular in Europe in the 1400s. But those were sporting events that came and went — they weren’t the galleries I am discussing today. The crossbows and guns that were used at those events belonged to the shooters. They were not rented by the gallery to the general public.

read more


The rise of the BB gun: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The history of airguns

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Return to normalcy
  • Modern production methods
  • Daisy changes manufacturing processes
  • The age of repeaters
  • Quick Kill
  • Two major BB guns
  • BBs get better through competition
  • Are we finished?

Return to normalcy

In Part 1 we ended our look at the progress of the BB gun just after World War II. I had mentioned that the war stopped the production of BB guns so the manufacturers could make wartime items. When the war was over, there was still a period of time when raw materials were hard to come by. They had been stockpiled for the war and were not in the general channels of distribution for over a year. The government sold most of its stockpiles, but these sales took many years to complete and the materials were often not located where they were needed the most. So a lot of time passed while things returned to normal.

read more


Changing from lead shot to steel

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The first lead BB
  • Size matters
  • Advantages of air rifle shot
  • The dawn of steel shot
  • How lead shot tubes work
  • How steel shot tubes work
  • This information is worth millions

The first lead BB

When BB guns were new in the 1880s, they shot lead shotgun shot in the size BB. That’s where the name BB gun comes from. BBs were nominally 0.180-inches in diameter. Nominally means that they were supposed to be about that size and they were sorted by screens to ensure they were all close to that size, but let’s be honest — does it really matter whether a single piece of birdshot in actually 0.180-inches or 0.182-inches? Not to a shotgunner, it doesn’t. Maybe uniform shot gives a more uniform pattern, but there are other factors to consider, as well, and shot uniformity is only one of many things.

read more


The rise of the BB gun: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The history of airguns

Part 2

This report covers:

  • The first BB gun
  • Plymouth Iron Windmill Co.
  • The BB becomes air rifle shot
  • Quality control problems
  • You’ll shoot your eye out
  • World War II
  • After the war

The first BB gun

This is a comprehensive report of the early history of the BB gun. The first successful BB gun is thought to be the Markham. It was made in 1886 in Plymouth, Michigan by the Markham Air Rifle Company. The gun was mostly wood with just a few metal parts where they were absolutely needed — such as the mainspring, trigger, barrel, barrel hinge and other assorted small parts. It looked a little like a gun overall, but the shape was fatter all around because of the wooden parts.

Markham BB gun
Markham BB gun was made of wood with a few metal parts. This is a later 1888 model, but the early guns looked similar.

read more