Posts Tagged ‘Daisy No. 25’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today, we have a guest blog written by Steve Daugherty. He submitted this piece some time ago, and it fell through the cracks. My apologies to jim for the delay.
If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email us.
One more piece of the early Daisy No. 25 puzzle
by Steve Daugherty
When I bought my new Chinese Daisy No. 25, I remembered that the No. 25 I had as a kid seemed to have had a lot more power and was built much better. So, earlier this year, I began looking for an early ’60s gun and soon found one in pristine condition on Jim Manning’s website. He gave me a great deal on that gun — which was exactly like the one I got for Christmas 1963 — and he got me interested in the older No. 25 guns by selling me a Variant 3 from his personal collection. In a short time, I’d acquired some very nice wood-stocked 25s, including the subject gun.
This very early No. 25 came to light recently in a classified online St. Louis ad that had been listed for a few weeks. Though the ad photos were poor, I enlarged the image and could see that the front sight was adjustable. I didn’t have a gun made that early. It didn’t shoot and wasn’t in the greatest condition, but it was a Variant 2 “straight stock” Variation 5 that I didn’t have. (See the Daisy King website for clarification). For less than $100 with shipping, I couldn’t go wrong. When the gun arrived, I saw that all of the parts were original, though the gun had seen a lot of use.
Someone long ago had tried to stretch the worn-out shot tube follower spring, and the tube now had a slight bend and some tool marks. When I broke down the gun, I noticed that they’d also tried and failed to remove the plunger assembly, but they didn’t get the mainspring back in place properly. Since someone had already begun to take it apart, I figured that I might as well try to disassemble the gun and check out the seals.
The plunger assembly was pretty much frozen in place. I had to dump a lot of 3-in-1 oil around it to get it to slowly budge. While working on freeing the plunger, I noticed that the 3-in-1 was seeping out of the underside of the barrel, which would have normally been weld-sealed. Finally, the plunger assembly came out — but it didn’t look as complicated as photos of other assemblies I’d seen. The simplified plunger assembly eliminates the air tube of the standard No. 25 plunger assembly, which was probably the Achilles heel of this design. Though I may never know for sure unless I reseal and shoot the gun, it was, most likely, a relatively weak shooter. Regardless, I’m not reassembling the gun for now. I’m mounting it in a display case, as-is.
Compare the simple mainspring/plunger assembly of my gun to the one in the diagram of a normal No. 25. Among other parts, my plunger is missing the air tube — the “solid-rocket-booster” — of the No. 25. The lack of an air tube had to decrease the gun’s power. [Editor's note: The air tube Steve refers to projects up from the head of the piston. When the gun fires, it pushes the BB off its seat and accelerates it to an initial 50-80 f.p.s. before the compressed-air blast from the piston shoots through the hollow air tube, boosting the velocity up over 300 f.p.s.]
Also, there appeared to be a brass sleeve that was also moving out of the barrel behind the plunger. I spent a good while carefully working it out of the barrel.
When I got the brass sleeve removed, I noticed that it has a female threaded fitting on the end that the shot tube directly screws into. This gun didn’t have a welded-barrel air chamber like every other No. 25 — it had a separate internal air chamber! The shot tube screws into the 6-inch brass air chamber’s end-fitting instead of the normal threaded abutment that’s supposed to be permanently located in the barrel. One worn-out seal was on the end of the plunger; the other was friction-fit inside the brass tube, behind the screw fitting.
I was more than a little stunned by finding all of this. In addition to the abnormal inner mechanism, the gun has an oak stock that was a very unusual feature for the No. 25 airguns. They were normally stocked with black walnut. For more info on vintage Daisy No. 25 wood stocks, go here.
The oak stock of this Variant 2 No. 25 is on top. My Variant 3 is below. Both are pretty unusual, as most straight stocks were black walnut. Could the non-standard oak indicate that this gun was a special build?
Over the next few days, I wrote Dr. Robert Beeman, co-author of the Blue Book of Airguns, who remarked that it was rare, but couldn’t tell me much else. He referred me to Gary Garber, author of An Encyclopedia of Plymouth Daisy Airguns. It also stumped him, so he hooked me up with Bill Johnson, author of Bailey and Columbian Air Rifles — and the ultimate authority on No. 25 guns. He was confused at first by the photos of unfamiliar parts, but quickly realized that it was made at the Plymouth factory. He told me, “I’m pretty convinced this is a factory experimental piece.”
The obvious question at this point: Where did the original air chamber abutment go? The sleeve you see in the barrel is part of the abutment and is factory spot-welded in place. The only conclusion is that the abutment was never there! I believe it has to be factory. As I believe you said, this was an experiment to avoid the tedious butt-welding of the barrel seam.
This gun is either a prototype, an experiment or a very short-lived transition model — perhaps made between the time when Daisy quit soldering the barrel seam and started butt-welding it — which was necessary if they were to blue the barrels (bluing won’t stick to solder). They may have wanted to see if a separate air chamber would be easier and/or cheaper than welding the barrel seam, which was very difficult with such thin steel in the early days of arc welding. As seen in the photo (from the muzzle-end down the barrel), the spot-welded abutment tube is there — but the welded-in abutment itself (that the shot tube normally would thread into) is not. The edges of the brass air tube’s fitting rested on the end of the spot-welded abutment tube.
Dennis Baker also saw my gun photos and replied, “I wonder if it’s a factory prototype or a ‘home brew’? It might be one of the improvements/inventions that Lewis Hough encouraged employees to bring in to him.”
Reknowned Michigan airgun expert and avid Daisy collector Wes Powers commented, too: “What an odd piece. I can’t say I have ever seen one of these. I think it was a short run production gun and not a prototype or a tool-room gun. It is a very rare variation gun. It looks like the only way to tell what this gun is from the outside is if the air chamber has no patch and also is not welded.”
If you happen to have an old No. 25 with an adjustable front sight, there’s one sure way to tell if it has the same inner mechanism as this rare gun: it won’t have an air tube. Shine a light down the barrel, and you should see the tube. It makes shot tube installation a pain at times — a situation that was corrected, by the way, on the new Chinese guns. I haven’t seen any photographic evidence that any other Daisy No. 25 like this exists. Since there are no differentiating external features from other No. 25s of that era, there may be other examples out there — perhaps in your own collection! If you know of any similar No. 25, by all means, post your info here!
I know that disassembling old guns is a collector’s mortal sin, but I’m glad that I took this one apart. As someone relatively new to collecting, I’d say that a find like this proves that one can still find his/her holy grail out there…but some disassembly may be required!
by B.B. Pelletier
Adrian Cataldo Beltran is the BSOTW.
This is the second time I’ve used this title for a blog. The last time was a blog I did back in July 2007, almost five years ago. In that report, I was mostly addressing the expectations of accuracy that new airgunners have and how they relate to reality. Today, I want to look at something different.
Today I want to look at our secret hopes — those unspoken agendas that push us and direct us toward gun purchases that can sometimes disappoint us. I had one of these happen to me just this week.
When I was a boy back in the 1950s, I loved the Winchester model 61 slide-action .22 repeater — what we kids called a pump gun in those days. I loved it because every time I got to shoot one, which wasn’t that often, the rifle spoke to me. It was just the right size, with a slick action that seemed to bespeak rapid-fire accuracy. Since I never shot at anything smaller than a soup can, I don’t suppose that real accuracy ever came into question, but that gun just SEEMED accurate to me.
As a young adult in the middle 1970s, I had the opportunity to buy a 98 percent model 61 that had been produced in 1953. It still had the original box and cost the exorbitant price of $250, but I knew it was worth every penny. I didn’t actually shoot it that much, but I shot it enough to know that my childhood imagination had amplified the rifle’s true capabilities. It was accurate enough for what it was, but it was no tack-driver. Anyhow, the day finally came when I was forced to sell it before I apparently fulfilled my fascination for the gun — because a couple years ago I had a chance to buy another one in very good shape (call it a 75-percent gun) for just $550. This time I could afford the gun, but I didn’t act quick enough and the opportunity passed.
Last week I passed the pawn shop where I had seen the model 61 for sale, and once more the same childish thoughts flashed through my mind. And here’s the point of what I’m telling you. I now own a Marlin model 39A that is even slicker than the Winchester, and a Remington model 37 target rifle whose accuracy can embarrass almost every other .22 on earth. So why does my heart still yearn for the old pump gun that I know can’t compete with the guns I have? I think it’s that eternal desire to return to my childhood!
I had the exact same experience with a Daisy No. 25 slide-action BB gun, only this time I actually acquired nine of the things — all in beautiful, collectible condition. Owning them for over two decades allowed me to purge the demons from my past; and a couple years ago, I started quietly selling off that collection. The void in my heart had been filled.
At one time, I had the itch for a Colt Woodsman .22 pistol, because as a youngster I shot my uncle’s gun and did very well with it at 25 yards. From the prone position with a two-hand hold, that pistol grouped like a fine .22 rifle! But I’ve owned several Woodsman pistols over the years, and the experience has filled that pothole in my character. I know now that a Ruger Mark II can be just as accurate and just as reliable for one-quarter the price.
The longest itch I ever had was for the M1 Carbine, because I still have it even though I own one! I have owned several, and all have been good shooters — if not terribly accurate. But something about the little semiautomatic action that’s still impossible for gunmakers to build (no semiautomatic rifle has ever been made that was as light and powerful as the M1 Carbine) turns me on! I cannot pass one by. It’s as though I need to own them all, even though I have whittled my own “collection” down to just one good gun.
The strangest itch I ever had was for one specific gun. Years ago, I acquired a Trapdoor Springfield rifle that was in NRA antique good condition. It wasn’t anything to look at; but the bore was great, and it was fun to shoot. But I tired of that hard-kicking rifle after many years and eventually traded it away. Then, seller’s remorse set in. A year later, when I saw it up for sale, I bought it back. And I had it for several more years until I traded it away a second time. Then, a couple months later, I learned that the new owner intended selling it because the barrel was too long for him, so I traded for it, again. I also own a really accurate scoped .45-70 rolling block that I shoot all the time, but apparently I cannot stand to not also own this tired-looking old Trapdoor. Like a prized horse that’s been put out to pasture, I guess this one will remain with me until my estate sells it!
The point of this report
What I’m driving at today is that all shooters carry some baggage. For me, it’s the Winchester 61 and the others I’ve mentioned; but for you, a Browning Auto 5 may light your fire, or perhaps you find Lugers fascinating! I know that Mac has a soft spot for any shotgun in .410 caliber. Somewhere on the path of life, we have an experience or even just a fascination, and it starts the pot inside us brewing with lust.
Old B.B. Pelletier still has a couple voids left in his soul besides the Winchester. One would be a beautiful blue H&R model 999 Sportsman .22 revolver. There’s just something mystical about that break-open design that fascinates me! I have the good sense to know that I couldn’t possibly shoot it any better than any other top-quality revolver, but something about it still haunts me. I have never even fired one shot from a 999, so of course the thing is really buried deeply under my saddle! I fantasize about breaking open the action and watching those nine empty cases extract from the cylinder, as if by magic. It’s not a healthy wish, but this one’s on my bucket list.
For some asinine reason, I’m fascinated by the Johnson semiautomatic battle rifle of World War II. They’re all selling for way over $2,000 these days, and good ones go for much more; so this is an itch I don’t ever expect to scratch — but it’s still there. I would probably be underwhelmed by one if I shot it, because I’ve shot the Garand (another itch that has been satisfied many times!), but I guess you want most the things you can’t have.
Oh, and for some dumb reason, I find I cannot look away from an 8mm Hakim battle rifle. I know it’s because I’ve owned so many of the air rifle trainers, but the phrase “the poor man’s Garand” has sunk its hook firmly into my lips. I’ve come very close to pulling the trigger on several fine-looking Hakims in the past but was always put off by their poor bores that resulted from firing corrosive 8mm military ammunition.
In airguns, my secret desire is to own another Sheridan Supergrade multi-pump pneumatic. I owned one years ago and learned that it was no more powerful nor more accurate than a simple Blue Streak, but something about the robust styling of the gun still attracts me. Years ago, I was forced to sell the one I had for economic reasons, so the fascination was never completely satisfied. And I sold it just after the prices began to rise. I told myself I would buy another one when I could, and then I encountered the super-inflationary price increases of recent years.
A couple years back, I had the chance to buy a nice Supergrade at the Roanoke airgun show and I even (momentarily) had the money to buy it! But something inside stopped me from forking over the cash. And that was two weeks before I made the landmark trade for my Ballard rifle — so I guess the still small voice I listened to was the voice of reason that time! I had to use the cash to buy several things that were used in that trade, so it was either the Ballard or the Supergrade.
To quote Minnie Pearl, “I’m done playin’ now!” I want to spend the rest of this weekend reading about what turns YOUR crank!
by B.B. Pelletier
BSOTW winner Jedediah Strong Smith.
Firearms shooters get a new book or two every month or so. But airgunners are lucky to get a new one every year. Today, we’re going to look at the latest airgun book from Daisy. It was written by Joe Murfin, Daisy’s vice president of marketing and chairman of the board for the Rogers Daisy Airgun Museum.
New Daisy book brings the history of the company up to date.
Daisy collectors all know that Cass S. Hough wrote a book called It’s A Daisy that documents the beginnings of the company up through the time when he served as its president. Hough was the grandson of one of Daisy’s founders and also a test pilot in World War II. He is credited with being one of the first men to fly faster than the speed of sound. It was in a power-dive in a P38 Lightning fighter over England in 1943, while he was testing a problem with the aircraft’s control surfaces. Chuck Yeager is better-known for being the first man to break the sound barrier in level flight in 1947, but Hough and perhaps some others broke it much earlier during dives.
The new book, titled, Daisy/It All Starts Here is not exactly a follow-on to Hough’s It’s A Daisy, but it does fill in the blanks from the time the earlier book left off. The new book begins with a brief history of the company that will be of interest to Daisy fans as well as the general public, because it presents facts, literature and insights not previously published. It even explains why Daisy dates its beginnings to 1886, which collectors realize was several years before the first Daisy guns were made. I won’t spoil the story for you — get the book.
The next chapter completes the history to the current period, so this book isn’t just a history of the company. But I learned a lot of facts about Daisy that no one other than an employee would know. For example, just ask me how the Marine Corps has Daisy test their M1903 drill rifles. (What?)
How BBs are made
In chapter four, the author looks at the manufacture of BBs — the ubiquitous ammunition that defines the guns and even the entire Daisy company! There have been long articles about BBs in the past. Cass Hough wrote a chapter on them and the late Ladd Fanta did a very nice article many years ago for Gun Digest. I’ve even written a short report about the steel spheroid in this blog. But, again, Murfin manages to give us facts and data that I’ve never seen in any other source. With the files of the Daisy Museum at his fingertips, he had wonderful resources to draw upon.
First, they were a penny, then a nickel a pack. Daisy BBs were sold in small plastic packages like these that were wound onto a giant belt. Storekeepers tore off only what the customer wanted.
The author hides nothing from the reader, who gets a fly-on-the-wall view of how BBs are made and distributed today. To say that this particular chapter is an eye-opener is an understatement.
Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle
Another chapter documents all that’s wrong and right about that iconic Christmas movie, A Christmas Story. Jean Shepherd had his main character, little Ralphie Parker, desire a BB gun that never existed. Then, when the movie was made, Daisy cooperated with MGM by building a few of the special guns for the film, and that got spun off into a special Christmas Story Red Ryder gun that never existed before the movie was made. Today, that gun is a major collectible in its own right, and there have been other Christmas Story Red Ryders made at later dates to commemorate the first one! Talk about life imitating art!
Daisy was not about to ignore the vast advertising potential of a movie that often gets shown 24 hours straight during the holiday season, so they also started marketing special tie-in branded items, including a working replica of the famous leg lamp that was made from a cast of Joe Murfin’s leg! If the Red Ryder was already the most famous airgun in the world, the movie turned it into an object recognized by millions who aren’t even aware that airguns exist!
Happy Daisy Boy
In 2005, Daisy was contacted by Tom Reaume, who said his father had been the Happy Daisy Boy. In his book, Cass Hough had identified George Rockford as the Happy Daisy Boy of 1913-1920′s company advertising, but Tom Reaume stepped forward with a 1913 ad showing his father, Rockford A. Reaume, holding the new Daisy No. 25 slide-action BB gun. That ad has hung in the Reaume family living room for decades.
Rockford A. Reaume (a.k.a. George Rockford) was the Happy Daisy Boy from 1913 into the 1920s. His image appeared on a lot of early advertising.
I happened to be visiting Daisy when this took place and was honored that they allowed me to publish the story in Shotgun News, along with about 20 of the vintage photographs. It turned out that Tom Reaume was aware of the one ad, plus he had a small portfolio of photos of his father and several other boys, all posing with Daisy BB guns. But he did not know that his father had been a professional model. He presented copies of all the photos to the Daisy Museum.
Every 120 years
While I was with Murfin in 2005, I asked if he knew that someone had made a small run of the first model of Daisy BB gun several years before. They mounted it in a wooden display frame to hang on a wall. It was incredibly realistic, but non-functional. He was surprised to learn that these non-working copies were fetching $400 from collectors who didn’t have the deeper pockets to buy the real thing.
We fantasized about Daisy making a reissue of the old wire stock model as airgun enthusiasts will do, but that was the last I heard of it until late in 2009, when I got wind that Daisy was coming out with a re-issue of the first model. I reported on that gun in this blog in January 2010.
Daisy handmade these BB guns as a labor of love, right in their Rogers Arkansas plant. Everywhere possible, they used original materials — such as a hand-wrapped piston seal made from candlewicking soaked in beeswax! I knew this was a special gun when I got mine, but I had no idea what went into it. This book has opened my eyes to a process of airgun making that many would say is a lost art
Some of you know that Daisy made .22-caliber rimfire rifles for a time and also .22 rifles that used caseless cartridges. There’s a lot of controversy over these guns because the caseless guns are actually airguns that ignite the gunpowder by means of hot air generated by the piston. It’s an airgun that’s also a firearm. Only 25,000 were made.
The Legacy bolt-action .22 rimfire is a much more conventional firearm. It came as a single-shot, a bolt-action repeater and as a semiautomatic repeater. But the Daisy name was not known to the firearms world, and these rifles had some non-ferrous parts that soured the buying public’s opinion. They pop up at gun shows all the time these days, and the price ranges from $100 to $1,500, because sellers and buyers both still don’t know what to make of them.
The book gives insight into what was happening behind the scenes when these guns were being made and sold. And the Wally World connection pops into the discussion. If you want to know the real story, it’s all down in black and white, and the author pulls no punches.
The rest of 124-page $30 full-color hardbound book is loaded with more Daisy history from recent times. And the author was there to watch a lot of it as it happened. If you’re an airgun collector or just a Daisy fan, you must have this book in your library. It’s available only directly from the Daisy Museum in Rogers, AR.
by B.B. Pelletier
BSOTW winner Kyle Ioffrida shows off his home shootin’ range…much of it built with recycled materials.
I must love you guys — I really must. Otherwise how could you explain me going to the trouble of mounting a Daisy model 300 telescope on my Red Ryder just for this test? I can’t explain it any other way.
Was it hard?
No — adjusting the valves on a V-12 Ferrari is hard. This went beyond hard.
Okay, I’m exaggerating, but it wasn’t easy switching over the scope from my 1936-model Daisy No. 25 pump gun to the Red Ryder. After I did, though, I realized that the mount on the No. 25 has always been wrong. It was really a Red Ryder mount — based on there being two screw holes in the mount base instead of just one. The No. 25 doesn’t have a screw hole at the top of the receiver like the Red Ryder.
But crying time is over. What have we got with the 300 telescope? Well, for starters, I think we need to consider the history of the scope. When the model 300 was first brought to market, rifle scopes looked a lot different than they do today. And the 300 attempts to follow the lines of the day, being long and slender, as well as having its adjustments built into the mounts rather than the scope.
It clamps tight to the “barrel” (the sheetmetal outer tube of the gun) in front, and has the facility of angling both up and down on a trunnion contained in the front mount. That is needed because the rear mount is a cam that adjusts the scope’s elevation. No windage adjustment is possible, though the whole scope can be shifted slightly right or left on the gun, then clamped down again.
It’s not a scope!
Technically, the model 300 is a tube sight rather than a scope, but I’m sure Daisy didn’t intend little boys to think of it that way. It has only one plastic “lens” in front, where the objective bell is, and nothing at the eyepiece. There’s no magnification, but inside the tube is a post for sighting. You sight in so the BB strikes the point where the top of the post rests on the target. As long as the scope is on left and right, you should do at least as well as with the open sights. Having used a thin post front sight recently with great success, I have high hopes for this one.
I have owned two others of this model scope, and on one of them I had a reproduction of the original rubber eyepiece that really makes the scope look right. Someone reproduced a couple hundred of those rubber eyepieces a few decades ago, and they’re now valuable additions to the scopes that have them. But it’s still easy to use the scope without the eyepiece.
The scope is 18 inches long and has a tube diameter of 0.984 inches, so call it one inch. The tube is made of folded sheet steel — the same as the gun, and it’s blued in the same way. It adjusts only for elevation, using a clever captive cam arrangement on the rear mount that raises and lowers the rear of the scope. As mentioned previously, the front mount has a trunnion, so moving the scope up and down doesn’t put a strain on the tube.
And how does it work?
I shot the same course as the first time, but using the scope instead of the open sights. It looked like I was getting more precision this way, but the results on the target don’t bear that out. Out of five 10-shot targets, the best I was able to do at 15 feet was 10 into a group measuring 1.163 inches between centers. That was offhand.
The average group was closer to 1.30 inches this time. That would make the scope about equal to the open sights. The only advantage I can see is a clearer sight picture.
I wondered how well I was shooting this day, so I brought out my Daisy Avanti 499 Champion to use as a check against the Red Ryder. But I used the same Daisy zinc-plated BBs instead of the Avanti Precision Ground shot that’s made especially for the 499. So both BB guns were on an equal footing.
The 499′s trigger is very long and creepy, but it’s much lighter than the Red Ryder trigger, and the gun felt easier to shoot, as a result. This time, 10 BBs went into 0.429 inches, which will easily fit inside a dime.
Daisy’s Red Ryder is certainly an iconic BB gun. It has been in existence since 1939 and is still Daisy’s strongest seller. It’s not a target gun by any means, but a shooter can bond with it like few other airguns.
by B.B. Pelletier
BSOTW winner Chris LeGate holding his .22-cal. Benjamin Marauder mounted with a Leapers 3-9x40AO scope with illuminated reticle. He also got a tin of JSB TEST Sampler pellets and an Air Venturi hand pump.
I’m going to combine velocity and accuracy testing for the Daisy Red Ryder, because I want to do a third report with the Daisy model 300 scope mounted. After examining the mount on my 1936 No. 25 that has that scope, I see it has the same base as the Red Ryder. So, the switch should be easy.
My Red Ryder hasn’t been shot in a great many months — perhaps over a year, so I expected to find the leather piston seal dry. But it wasn’t. I got that telltale wisp of smoke that told me the seal is still full of oil. However, I wanted to test the gun both before and after oiling, so that’s what I did.
I used the pellet/BB trap that was given to me by Jim Contos at last year’s Malverne airgun show (don’t forget, it’s coming up next month on April 27 and 28). It’s full of duct seal; but because I would be shooting BBs at low velocity and didn’t want any to bounce back off the lead already in the trap, I put a half-pound smear of fresh duct seal over what was already in the trap. I’ve now got between 5,000 and 10,000 shots on this trap, and it’s holding up fine. For those who need to build an inexpensive yet rugged trap for both BBs and pellets, click here for instructions on how to make one.
I shot Daisy zinc-plated BBs for all tests you’ll read today. Before the gun was oiled, it gave an average of 302 f.p.s. The spread went from a low of 290 to a high of 306 f.p.s. At the average velocity, the 5.1-grain BBs produced 1.03 foot-pounds at the muzzle.
I removed the shot tube and dumped out all the BBs. Newer BB guns have a hole on the side of the barrel jacket for oil, but older ones like this one don’t. You must remove the shot tube and drop the oil straight down the open end of the barrel jacket, where it can soak into the leather piston seal.
I used 3-in-One oil for this job. At the low velocity the Red Ryder generates, common household oil is fine for oiling the piston seal. There’s no danger of a detonation, and you can use enough oil to really soak that seal. I used 12 drops just to see what would happen.
After the gun was oiled, the velocity was no higher than before. The average now was just 300 f.p.s., but the total velocity spread tightened just a bit, from 16 f.p.s. before oiling to 11 f.p.s. after. The spread went from 293 to 304 f.p.s.
So oiling made little difference. As I noted, the presence of a wisp of smoke after every shot alerted me to the fact that the gun had all the oil it required.
I set up a 15-foot range, because that’s the standard distance for guns like this Red Ryder. The aim point was a Shoot-N-C black paster, peeled off a 3-inch bullseye card. It’s ever-so-slightly larger than a U.S. nickel coin, and I wanted to follow Mel Gibson’s advice from the movie The Patriot, “Aim small. Miss small.”
I shot offhand, and the first group is larger than it should be because I didn’t apply myself on every shot. I didn’t expect much accuracy from this BB gun, so I let a couple shots wander more than they should. The resulting 10-shot group measures 1.597 inches between centers. But within that group, there’s a cluster of five holes that measures 0.453 inches between centers. That encouraged me to knuckle down and give it my best effort on a second try.
The second group measures 1.483 inches between centers, so not a lot better than the first. It looks better because the shots seem to all be in a big cluster, but the measurements tell a different story.
Notice, though, that the BBs seem to go to the same place in both groups. This gun wants to shoot slightly above and to the left of the aim point with the 6 o’clock hold I’m using. Remember these sights are not adjustable, but I can use Kentucky windage to move the point of impact around a little. I think this gun is the kind that a little boy would soon learn to shoot, and before long he would be doing impossible things with it at close range.
This test turned out differently than expected. I thought the Red Ryder might get up as fast as 350 f.p.s. after a good oiling, but that didn’t happen. And I thought the accuracy would be a lot worse than what you see here.
We’re not done yet, because in the next installment I’ll mount the Daisy model 300 scope and shoot some more groups for you. I’ll also give you photos of this unique scope and mount that seems to copy the old buffalo hunter scopes of the 19th century. Til then!
by B.B. Pelletier
BSOTW winner Adrian Cataldo Beltrán shoots his .22-caliber Benjamin in his backyard.
“Between the dark and the daylight,
As the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the children’s hour.”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Sit back and enjoy your hot cocoa, kiddies, because this is it! This is the airgun that probably started it all for many of you, and darned near all of you ought to know it by name — I don’t care where you’re from. Coke, Levis and the Daisy Red Ryder are the DNA of America.
We’re older and sadder now — having matured through some of the same flaws and foibles that older societies had to endure. But the name Red Ryder still rings a happy bell in the backs of our minds. It reminds us of the poem that promises “…somewhere the sun is shining.”
What is a Red Ryder?
Asking what a Red Ryder is, is like asking which Elvis you liked best — skinny or fat. The truth is, there wasn’t just one Red Ryder — there were many. The first gun (and it’s a gun for certain, because it isn’t rifled) was Daisy’s No. 111, Model 40 — first made in 1939. It had a copper-plated “golden” band around the front of the wooden forearm and the barrel, a saddle ring on the left side with a genuine leather thong tied through it and a Red Ryder brand burned into the left side of the stock. There are numerous variations of this early model, and the very first one also had a cast-iron cocking lever.
If you’re an old guy like me, you can still remember that those early Red Ryders were very difficult to cock, because they still used the heavy wire mainsprings from the earlier guns. Over the years, the gauge of the wire was thinned to help kids cock their guns and also to slow down those steel BBs that really could put your eye out. So, if the cocking on your gun seems stiff, it’s an early one.
World War II
Daisy played a large and patriotic part in World War II, including the grandson of the founder becoming one of the first pilots to break the speed of sound during a test flight of a P38 Lightning over England (in a steep dive). So, production of the Red Ryder halted in 1942 and resumed again in 1946.
My Red Ryder is a variation from 1947. It has a blued steel finish and a plastic forearm, with a wooden buttstock that carries the Red Ryder brand. The cocking lever is cast aluminum and painted black. Within a few more years, Daisy would start electrostatically painting the entire gun, so I feel fortunate to have the model I do. I know my gun is from 1947 because it came in the Model 311 Red Ryder set, which also included a scope, a cork tube and a steel target holder — all packed in a large brown cardboard box. There’s a later gun that has all the same features as this one; but since the set stopped being produced in 1950 and the later gun didn’t begin production until 1952, I know I have what the Blue Book of Airguns calls Variant 5.
The sights are fixed. Even though the No. 25 slide-action (pump) gun had adjustable front and rear sights in 1913, the Red Ryder lasted for more than a decade before it got them. You just had to learn where to hold to hit your target.
In 1955, Daisy introduced an interim Red Ryder based on the Model 94. It was a painted gun with plastic stock and forearm and painted logos on the frame. Of course, the plastic stock couldn’t be branded with a hot die (branding iron), so the logo was cut into the mold and the resulting lines were painted gold on the stock. It had a leather buttpad called a boot that was removable, and I believe this is the only leather buttpad on any Red Ryder. This model was short-lived and died out in 1962. As far as I can tell, the No. 111 Model 40 was produced right alongside this one; so for a time, Daisy actually had two Red Ryders in their lineup.
In 1972, the Red Ryder model changed to the Model 1938. It was very similar to the earlier gun, but there were manufacturing changes made to speed up production and adaptations to new ways of building BB guns. Plastic buttstocks that had been on the guns since the 1950s were applied interchangeably with wood stocks and even walnut stocks from time to time.
The Lightning Loader ends
The Lightning Loader is the separate tube under what looks like the barrel. It’s where the BBs are loaded. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch Ralphie load his new Red Ryder on Christmas morning in the classic movie A Christmas Story. But in the movie, Ralphie has to “cheat” the loading scene, because his Red Ryder is really a model 1938B, which doesn’t have a real Lightning Loader. Instead, it has a plastic door that’s opened to dump BBs into the outer tube — what looks like the barrel to most folks. The tube under the barrel is entirely cosmetic.
The 1938B is the Red Ryder of today, and the look has changed a little. We’re back to a wood stock and forearm, and the Red Ryder brand is back on the stock. It’s easy to burn in a brand when the stock is wood, and wood is what the customers want, so Daisy’s accommodating them. Blued steel comes back from time to time, but I don’t think we’ll see it on anything more than a special commemorative gun in the future. The electrostatic paint Daisy uses is far more durable than chemical bluing anyway. If you take care of the gun, the finish will outlast the original owner.
The BB gun I’ll be testing for you is my 1947 model — not the current gun. If you’re interested in the current model, we have an excellent two-part review by our own BG_Farmer for you to read. He compared a 1938 model with today’s 1938B, so this look at a No. 111 Model 40 is actually a test of a different airgun.
Yes, they had plastic in 1947. It wasn’t as good as it is today, and many of these old pieces such as this forearm have warped over time. This one is still good, but it looks incongruous with the wood butt.
In fact, the gun I’m showing here is really different from any other Red Ryder, because this one was made specially for the model 311 Red Ryder set mentioned earlier. What sets this gun apart from all others is the presence of the permanent rear mount for the long Daisy Model 300 telescopic sight. That mount attaches with two wood screws. If I remove it from the gun, I have a hole in the comb of the stock where the back of the tang was and the forward screw doesn’t run all the way down to the receiver. In other words, this gun was made this way at the factory. Like it or not, that rear scope mount has to remain in place or I have to seriously bubba the gun to eliminate its presence. Doing that would be like converting the gullwing doors on a Mercedes 300 SL to open to the side! So, this Red Ryder will always look different than the others.
The rear scope mount is built into the BB gun and can’t be removed without making the gun look incomplete. Other Red Ryders don’t have the backstrap seen here, and removing this mount leaves a deep hole in the wood. This is a rare gun since the set it came in was made for only a few years.
One final comment before I end this report. While photographing the BB gun, I noticed that the finish really does look blue — not the black oxide color seen on today’s firearms. It’s well-polished and looks very classy after seeing nothing but modern airguns for a long time. I can see why kids were so outraged when Daisy stopped bluing their BB guns and went to electrostatic paining.
Next time, I’ll check velocity, accuracy and cover a maintenance tip or two.
by B.B. Pelletier
Rick’s shooting his Crosman Quest spring-piston breakbarrel rifle. Since this photo was taken, Rick says he’s replaced it with an RWS 34 springer and says it’s a much better gun.
Today, Vince takes us through a test between a vintage Daisy No. 25 pump-action BB gun and its modern equivalent. In his usual distinctive way, Vince shows us how much has changed through the years, as well as what’s remained the same.
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Now, take it away, Vince!
The Daisy 25 pump BB gun, despite the endeavors of the popular-but-technically-flawed movie, A Christmas Story, remains in many ways the iconic Daisy. In my mind, it’s forever thus enshrined. I can still remember one sitting in my uncle’s basement gun cabinet — and that somehow, in comparison, my cousin’s Red Ryder and my own Daisy model 1894 looked distinctly toy-ish. Maybe it was the wooden pump handle and way the really long cocking arm blended into the front of the triggerguard. Perhaps it was the duck hunting scene pictured on the action. WOW — you could hunt DUCKS with that thing!
I never got to try out that particular gun, and it wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I finally got my hands on a used No. 25 from Gunbroker — which was promptly returned to the seller. “Good working order” is not an accurate description when the shot tube is missing.
The NEXT one I got was a plastic-stocked gun from the mid-50s, I think, and I FINALLY got to shoot one. It was all over the place. And I mean ALL OVER THE PLACE. Accuracy was poor, even by BB gun standards. Off it went to its next appreciative owner.
A short time later, I was meandering through a local sporting goods store and saw — GASP! — a brand new No. 25 on the shelf. The price was under $40, so I bit.
I got it home, and even though the gun followed the design of the No. 25 rather faithfully, somehow it didn’t quite seem right. Don’t know if was the Chinese paint, the Chinese metalwork, the Chinese wood or the Chinese plastic trigger with safety or just the fact that it said “MADE IN CHINA” on the gun. But it didn’t seem to be a real No. 25; and, even though it didn’t shoot badly, it never seemed much different than a contemporary Red Ryder.
So this latest version of the venerable No. 25 went quickly back to sitting on a shelf. A while later, however, ANOTHER No. 25 came into my hands. This one was a very early one, this — an Alpha to compliment the Omega I already had. Well, not QUITE the Alpha, but darned close – manufacturing details seem to place this gun between 1916 and 1924.
Gee. Now I’ve got a pair of No. 25 BB guns at the extreme ends of the manufacturing spectrum, their births being separated by something like 90 years and 12,000 miles. It sure sounds like a comparison test has been decreed by the Fates, and far be it from me to oppose those irresistible cosmic forces.
What is it with the Chinese and that orange-colored wood? They’re virtually identical in length at 37 inches. Oddly enough, the newer one is heaviest at 3.50 lbs., with the old one coming in 7 oz. lighter. That extra length in the cocking arm has something to do with it. The old one is blued, while the newer one is painted.
Given their disparity in origin there are going to be some detail differences. A couple show up in the top rear view of the actions.
The old one has a ramp-adjutable rear sight that sits a bit further away from the shooter’s eye, which makes it easier to focus. The new one is screw-adjustable, and it flips to present either a notch or a peep sight to the shooter. Another obvious addition is the additional strap extanding from the rear of the action to the top of the stock’s pistol grip. I imagine Daisy had some cracking issues to handle. [Editor's note: This strap was added to the 1930 version of the gun that was just prior to the engraved 1936 version. Once added, Daisy never removed the strap again, despite there being 20 years before plastic stocks replaced wooden ones.]
Speaking of handles
The handle on the newer gun is further forward. This was done when they lengthened the cocking arm (in the 1920s, I believe) to reduce cocking effort. On our examples, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference. Other detail differences include the mounting of the front pump handle guide and the shape of the fixed front sight.
Although I’m not planning to do a teardown as part of this writeup, I can show you the shot tubes, since they’re regularly removed anyway. The shot tubes are the true barrels of the No. 25. They screw into the outer sheetmetal housing that most people refer to as the barrel.
They load the same and work the same, but obviously are made a bit differently and certainly don’t look interchangeable — there’s a cast metal breech base on the newer one.
Finally, we can see what the plain actions looked like before Daisy started decorating them. Details in the triggerguard and trigger construction are pretty obvious, especially the addition of that ungainly safety on the newer one.
Let’s start shooting
OK, tour’s over. If I’m gonna shoot these things, I need to shoot something through them — and they do have different appetites. The old one is strictly for lead shot only. If I load it, steel shot will probably come out the other end — but the feed and holding mechanism relies on the softness of the lead, and using steel shot will likely booger things up. Specifically, this rifle was made for the old .175″ air rifle shot that Daisy used to market.
Key phrase being “used to.” Daisy doesn’t make it anymore, and it was suggested to me that the closest thing we have today seems to be Beeman Perfect Rounds, which just happen to measure .0.175″ across. Picking food for the modern one is easy — it’s a Daisy, so it gets Daisy zinc-plated BBs. Tom has found them to be the better ones these days, and I’m generally finding the same thing myself.
I’m using the normal 15 foot BB-gun distance, and firing three groups of 5 shots each:
Two sets of groups — the vintage 25 on the left and the new gun on the right. Vintage gun groups measure 1.41 inches, 1.41 inches and 1 inch. New gun groups measure 0.70 inches, 1.28 inches and 1.38 inches.
Not too much difference, really, other than the lead BB’s are easier to score. In fact, it’s the newer gun that averages slightly better. That’s a bit of a surprise, as the older gun certainly shows a nicer sight picture to my eye because the rear leaf is further away — and I really think that the Beeman Perfect Rounds are more uniform than Daisy BBs. For these reasons, I would have expected more consistent grouping from grandpa.
One nice thing about the newer Daisy is the way the rear sight flips from a leaf to a peep. Will that tighten the groups?
The peep sight doesn’t really make things better. In fact, they’re slightly worse than the groups shot with the rear notch sight. The notch is the best to use for me.
Now, let’s skip back to those lead BBs in the older gun. As I said, I was expecting them to be more accurate. Heck, they sure oughta be, given their price. And how much more expensive are they? I have no idea, because they seem to be discontinued. They ARE available direct from H&N, however — but they’re $16 per 500. Crazy indeed, because you can still buy .22LR ammo for that price. [Editor's note: Gamo .177-caliber round lead balls are still available for a lot less than the H&N balls.]
This leaves me with one more thing I gotta try. Let’s say you have a vintage 25 just like I have, and you want to shoot it with some sort of frequency. Or you let your grandson try it, who then lets the can of round lead balls slip out of his hand and empties your 3-cents-a-shot ammo into the grass. There’s no doubt about it — if you’re gonna use a BB gun the way BB guns were intended to be used, you’re gonna go broke unless you have stock in the lead forming industry. So, why not just use steel BB’s?
As Tom explained it, the old shot tubes have a “pinch” in the tube near the breech that would keep the shot from rolling out when the muzzle is pointed down. If we switched to steel ammo, it would probably work for a while, but eventually we’d run the risk of that pinch being worn down. Do we REALLY want to risk an irreplaceable part on an antique BB gun, just so we can temporarily save a few bucks on BBs?
But there’s another solution, because neither Daisy nor the Chinese really have a vested interest in altering things just for the heck of it. Obviously, the shot tube assemblies from each gun LOOKS different, and some construction details have changed. But what happens when you actually try to screw the tube from the newest gun into the old one?
You get what’s called “a perfect fit.” Yup…100 years apart in design, and not even the 7/16″ National Coarse thread at the bottom of the tube has changed. Time to see how this works.
As you can see, it’s slightly worse than the newer gun with this same tube, but so close as to be virtually identical. And it’s still slightly better than the original tube with Beeman ammo. Best of all, the gun fed and fired flawlessly.
I did a chrony comparison of these guns and found that that the early model seems to have lost some of its zing. Shooting it with the lead balls gave me the following numbers:
The new one (shooting much lighter steel BBs) is better, but still under the advertised velocity of 350 fps:
So, exageration is hardly unique to air rifle manufacturers! Lastly I tried the old gun with the new shot tube:
In both strings with the old gun, we see a very definite downward curve in velocity the more it’s shot. Not sure why that is; and given the gun’s age, I’m not entirely surprised. Could be the seal or the spring — but it matters little, as it won’t be seeing too much use.
So, there you have it. The old gun, firing precision ammunition a gazillion times more expensive than cheap BBs is no more accurate than a new one. The old gun, with an old spring and an old seal, might not have the power of the new one. The old gun can be updated with new parts to shoot cheap BBs, but it won’t shoot much different from a new one when you do that.
From all this, you can draw your own conclusions. It’d be easy to say “Wow! Home run for Daisy!” and pat them on the back for bringing this model back to life. And, from a cursory glance at the innards, it’s obvious that this really IS a genuine Model 25, with an internal design substantially unchanged in almost a century. If shootin’ fun is what you’re after, this one gives away nothing to the vintage model.
But is there more to it than that? For me, I can say that it’s pretty obvious that the new gun has certainly succumbed to some serious homogenization. Compared to, say, a contemporary Red Ryder, there’s just no personality to differentiate it…not even a cosmetic one, really. The metalwork, the cheesy wood finish (cheddar, specifically) and price are all in the same ballpark. Couldn’t they stain the wood a nice, dark brown? Or up the power a bit? Or SOMETHING? I know there has to be a lot of commonality among products like this, but come on — whatever happened to the virtues of “diversity”?
But this is getting a bit off-topic. The new Model 25 is a decent BB gun, and functionally gives away nothing to the old one. If you can get past the compromises that seem to be imposed by the current manufacturing climate, there’s no reason not to enjoy it.
[Editor's note: One thing strikes me about the velocities Vince got. The vintage Daisy No. 25 seems to be performing like it's lacking oil. Or at least that's how an old gun behaves when it needs to be oiled. No doubt, it's a bit tired after all those years, but Vince: Did you oil the gun before testing?]