Fanner 50 – Part 1
by B.B. Pelletier
This is the story of a boy who loved guns. He really loved airguns, but he wouldn’t find that out for many more years to come. This is a long story, so I’ll make it two parts. Even then, it will seem long. But I know this kind of stuff is right down the alley for many of you more mature airgunners, so no apologies.
When I was a boy, I owned a Benjamin 107 pistol that barely worked and I struggled to buy a B.B. gun against my mother’s fears that I would break all the windows in the house. She also used the phrase, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” but her real concern was based in events that happened a few years before I was born. According to her, our house was terrorized by neighbor boys shooting BB guns. Apparently windows were shot out, or at least windows were threatened. All I know is my mother’s retelling of the experience countless times put me off Windows for the rest of my life.
When I was 12, I got a paper route, and real money started flowing my way. I delivered the Akron Beacon Journal and pocketed close to $10 each month, so life was good. My mother finally relented, and I bought my first real BB gun–a Daisy No. 25 pump that I didn’t know how to oil. In less than a week, the gun wasn’t shooting, so I took it apart, couldn’t fix it and sold the parts for a quarter to a kid whose father got it running again in a few hours.
After that I hated BB guns and decided that, as a man of the world, I needed a “real” airgun. I’d been drooling over the Sheridan Blue Streak for several years. My Boy’s Life ran enticing ads that made me yearn for the powerful pellet rifle the way I yearn to own a Rolex Submariner wristwatch today. But the Blue Streak cost $19.95, as I recall. And I pocketed just under $10 a month. Even at 12 I could do the math and calculate that, at the rate money was coming in, it would take just over two months to accumulate enough to buy that Blue Streak. But there were two problems. The first was that even though money came IN, it never seemed to STAY. By the time the next month rolled around, all of the money was gone, and I was waiting for collection day. Perhaps you know what I mean.
The other problem was that in the 1950s, time moved much slower than it does today. A month in the ’50 is equivalent to half a year in today’s time. I guess it’s due to inflation or something. Anyway, there was no way I was going to wait that long to get what I so desperately wanted! So, I devised a scheme.
After the next collection day, I put aside five dollars that I resolved not to spend. The impact on my life from this bold move was sudden and furious. One week into the new month I could no longer afford to buy Pepsis, comic books or candy bars. I was flat broke. Busted! This is the place in all those sappy boys’ stories we used to read where a wonderful thing is supposed to happen. The hero develops resolve and matures into a young man through a heart-wrenching life struggle that seems bleak for a time but has a happy ending. It takes about 40 pages to read, but the Boxcar Children live happily ever after.
I would love to tell you that at this juncture I set my jaw firmly and made it to the end of that month with five dollars in my pocket, but it isn’t true. I made it with about two dollars and the worst case of Pepsi withdrawal ever seen outside the Betty Ford clinic! And I also inaugurated our nation’s first roadside cleanup campaign by picking up all the deposit bottles along Route 91 in Stow, Ohio. They never gave me credit for that, of course. I guess I should have picked up all the beer cans, too, but cans were made of steel in those days and no one wanted them.
At any rate, I made it to collection day and with the new cash influx was able to put almost $12 together. That was my stake for a real pellet gun. My mom then drove me to a discount store in Cuyahoga Falls. We didn’t have Wal-Mart in those days, and I’m sure the store I visited would be an embarrassment today, but at the time it was like being in a big PX. That’s short for Post Exchange, a store on Army installations where you can buy almost anything, and also slang for a shoppers’ heaven.
There were three pellet guns at that store. Don’t think in today’s terms, where if you don’t find what you want you go somewhere else. In 1958, there was nowhere else to go! At least it seemed that way to me. My choices were a Crosman Single-Action Six for $12.95, a Crosman 600 Rocket Pistol for $19.95 and a Webley Senior for $29.95.
Crosman Single-Action Six was a realistic .22 pellet revolver.
The whole cylinder revolved when the hammer was cocked.
A nice early Crosman 600 in a “rocket box.”
The Webley Senior was all-steel and beautifully made. No one could miss the quality.
If I have properly established the mood for you, you can now appreciate that there was no choice at all. I had only enough money to almost cover the Single-Action Six. My mom graciously agreed to float me the difference and pay the tax, but that was as far as she would go. And then she asked me the stupidest question. “Is this what you really want?”
No, it wasn’t what I really wanted. Even as a 12-year-old punk I could see the quality difference between the SA-6 and the Webley! One gun was painted potmetal with hollow plastic grips and the other was a beautifully blued steel handgun that was made in the same fashion as a fine firearm.
But you don’t tell your mother that you are settling when you have worked for years to get her to say, “Yes.” You don’t open the floor for renegotiation! I may have been 12 and a punk, but I wasn’t completely naive. So I bought the Single-Action Six.
I don’t mean to slight the SA-6. Just because it was forced on me by my impecunious lifestyle doesn’t detract from the gun itself. The SA-6 is a .22-caliber, CO2-powered, single-action revolver that holds 6 pellets in a full-sized rotating cylinder. It’s a life-sized replica of the Colt 1873 Single-Action Army revolver that’s known to the world as the cowboy gun.
The CO2 cartridge is held under the barrel, hidden by a black plastic sleeve that disguises it as a slightly larger cartridge ejector. The pellets are loaded at the front of the cylinder that revolves just like the firearm. Many other single-action pellet and BB guns came after this one, but they mostly avoided this realistic feature that made me love the gun all the more.
Next time, I’ll complete the story and tell you about the “Fanner 50” title.
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