by B.B. Pelletier

The Kadet Trainer BB gun from Parris is a strange-looking bird!

Let’s take a look at an intriguing BB gun that’s not a Daisy. Back at the turn of the 20th century, there were dozens of BB gun makers in the United States. One by one, they passed by the wayside, and the last one went in the early 1930s, I believe. But in 1960, something very strange happened. Parris, a toy gun manufacturer, began making BB guns that look like they were developed from toy cork-shooters, rather than being designed as BB guns from the start.

They catch your eye!
The first Parris gun I saw was in the mid ’90s at the old Winston-Salem airgun show. What caught my eye was the cocking lever and trigger that were made from stamped metal plate! To keep from cutting flesh, the lever was dipped in a rubber coating similar to the type you put on hand tools! The lever isn’t bolted to the cocking mechanism. It’s riveted! Just those two details tell me this is a gun made on the cheap.

Cocking lever and trigger are made from one piece of stamped steelplate.

Get out your Blue Book!
The Blue Book of Airguns, Fifth Edition, has a short section on the Parris Manufacturing Company. It lists five different models and gives as much information as was available at the time of publication, but this is a line of airguns that has not yet been fully researched. The model shown here is the Kadet 500. It’s a 50-shot repeater that stores the BBs in the swelling at the muzzle. Before each shot, you have to twist the front sight housing so a BB can drop down onto a magnetic shot seat! To fill the BB reservoir, the front sight slides straight back, opening a port for the BBs.

Push back the front sight to fill the BB reservoir.
Twist the front sight assembly to load the gun with a BB.

The paper label on the butt provides the only information to be found on the gun!

The stock is full, rather than the common Daisy practice of a separate butt and forearm. That gives the gun a solid look that is, unfortunately, unwarranted. When you cock it, the lever snaps into place with a sharp crack. When the gun fires, it buzzes like an angry hornet. After five decades of shooting Daisys, I didn’t like this feeling one bit! The power is high compared to today’s Red Ryder, but about where a BB gun of 1960 ought to be (300 f.p.s., plus or minus).

To the Internet!
A long search on ebay turned up several Parris cork shooters with similar characteristics. I won’t go into every little detail, but the stamped lever and trigger are found on many Parris guns.

From Blue Book, I learned that Parris started making toy guns in Iowa in 1943. They moved to Savannah, TN, in 1953 and made the BB guns from 1960 to approximately 1970. It appears that the BB gun grew out of the toy gun mechanism. This has happened before. In the 1920s, the All Metal Products Company made a line of BB guns called Wyandotte – named for the Michigan town in which they were made. They had been making toy cork guns and wondered if there was some money to be made in BB guns.

The problem was that, as a toymaker, their adherence to specifications was loose. Today, you find their pop and cork guns in antique shops and very often the metal has split open around the compression chamber. When they made their BB guns the same way, the sealed their own fate. They didn’t last through the Great Depression as a BB gun maker.

Parris did not suffer the same fate. Although they ceased making BB guns around 1970, they continue to sell toy guns to large sporting goods stores such as Bass Pro and Cabela’s. Many of these guns are entirely non-functional, but a few pop guns and cork guns are still being made. I note that most of today’s guns are made in China, where the toy level of quality is well understood!

Are they collectible?
Well, they are certainly not common. Due to the lower quality, I suspect there are very few who collect Parris BB guns, though there must be some who do. They can turn up anywhere today because they aren’t that old, so keep your eyes peeled for one of the strangest BB guns ever made! If you own a Parris gun or know something about them, I would like to hear about it.