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Education / Training Fanner 50 – Part 2

Fanner 50 – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

You learned how I came by my Crosman Single-Six pellet pistol in part 1. Today, I’ll tell you about the gun, and some more about the boy who owned it.

The SA-6 is a CO2 revolver from the late 1950s. At the time it came out, Crosman was stuck by a patent that prevented them from producing Powerlets the way they wanted, so instead, they were capping them with a unique bottlecap-type top that (unfortunately) leaked. In a pack of five cartridges, you could count on at least one being empty and sometimes two! That was bad news for a shooter who counted his pennies! I not only had to buy pellets, but also these cartridge things that were a crapshoot. Without them, I was dead in the water! The concept of a spring-powered airgun would have been crystal clear to me after a week of ownership, but I couldn’t afford the $30 for a Webley Senior.

So, I shot carefully.

Yeah, right! It’s the late 1950s, cowboy shows are No. 1 on TV and I own a cowboy six-shooter…and you want me to be careful? I didn’t own a holster, but your front jeans pocket is almost as good. At least it is until you snag the front sight on the hem of the pocket as the gun is coming out during a fast-draw and you touch one off inside your pocket!

I learned to shoot carefully.

I also learned to sew jeans pockets in one quick afternoon, so my mom never found out what I had done. A week later, all I had was a nasty long scab on my thigh that I got when my bike skidded off the road (wink, wink).

My friend’s name was not Weird Ted Barnhart, the name I’ve been using in my stories for years, but it was close to that and he was weird. Anyhow, Weird Ted talked me into going on safari in the woods behind Isley’s ice cream shop on West Kent road in Stow. The creek that ran through the woods was probably as polluted as the Cuyahoga River tributary into which it emptied, and that river is the one that burned out of control for three days in the early 1950s.

Weird and I suited up with a proper kit of stuff that sort of resembled camping gear. By “sort of,” I mean that neither he nor I owned anything authentic or ourdoorsy. I had a Nazi cartridge belt and a Kabar sheath knife with a broken handle, and Ted had a combination hatchet and claw nail-puller. We each had a flashlight, but neither of us had any batteries. Besides, we were going in the middle of the day. I had to be home by 4:30 to deliver my papers.

Weird had a Daisy model 177 BB pistol that he carried cocked all the time, so the velocity was something under 100 f.p.s., if the BB came out at all. That made my .22 caliber SA-6 the Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum of our partnership, as my gun could leave a deep dent in the soft pine clapboard siding of a garage–don’t ask me how I know.

On a warm July morning, the intrepid pathfinders melted seamlessly into the verdant marge of shagbark hickory, elm and crabapples that had probably never before felt the tread of western man. The day ripened into humidity with an overture of cicadas as we clanked along the stream (our backpacks were too large for the meager gear and canned food we toted).

After about an hour, which is four days in the world of imaginary explorers, we came upon a strange array of mounds. I climbed up on one to survey the landscape and encountered an unusual rusty round plate the size of a manhole cover. There were raised characters in a strange foreign tongue on the outside of the plate, but the rust was too thick to make any sense of them. And then it happened.

A rabbit darted out of the weeds on the other side of the six-foot-high mounded ridge! I could actually see it from where I stood, but Ted was still on the ground on the wrong side of the ridge, so he saw nothing.

At first, I was flustered beyond action, but a few seconds after the rabbit disappeared I drew my piece (carefully!) and quickly fanned six pellets in the last direction I had seen that rabbit go. “Did you get him?” Weird asked, after the din of firing died away.

“No. I didn’t get him,” I answered blissfully.

And then Weird exploded in a huge guffaw that lasted for minutes, “You sounded like an anti-aircraft gun on a battleship! How could you have shot so much and not gotten him? Yer a regular Fanner 50!” He said that in reference to the Mattel cap gun that was popular at that time.


It was still ten years before Vietnam would burst into the news, and we would learn about statistics like the number of rounds per casualty inflicted. I think I still had a couple thousand to go before the odds favored me for a kill, but in the late 1950s nobody knew that. The cowboys ALWAYS got their man–especially when fanning. In the immortal words of Mr. Miyagi to the Karate Kid, “No can defense!”


Ten minutes later, Weird was still laughing when we stumbled on the reason for the ridge-like mounds. They were sewer pipes and the rusty plate I had seen was in fact a manhole cover. And they all lead to the sewage treatment plant, whose fragrant aroma made identification fast and easy. The stink shut up Weird for a long time; and I thought I’d heard the last of it, it resurfaced once we were back in breathable air.

We had many other adventures along the Cuyahoga river, but my friend never let me live down the Fanner 50 incident. Ten years later, when I was an outlaw at Frontier Village in San Jose, California, I revived my fanning to cover a glacier-slow fast draw. They called me other names then, but I always thought of myself as Fanner 50 and the Crosman Single-Six that started it all.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

36 thoughts on “Fanner 50 – Part 2”

  1. Good morning B.B.,

    Fanner 50, I had a holster that my CSS inherited from a cap gun. Fit perfictly and never got my leg. Got rid of the CSS cause of the CO2 expense.

    I'll save someone else from looking up marge, midddle French 1540's for margin.

    I had an old farm to prowl around with my trusty Daisy 25 while my friends all used Red Riders. Lots of arguments on which was better. I didn't like the gravity feed in the RR's and just knew that the 25 hit harder. However, both guns sure killed alot of pigons in the hay barn. Our best day was 25 confirmed kills.

    Again, you've got my three functioning brain cells all walking down memory lane together through the cat tails in Dismal Swamp the thorn bushes of the Veld.

    Mr B.

    PS I'd like to hear from the .25 shooters. Come on guys convince me to order a barrel, bottle and valve for my Talon SS in .25.

    Mr B.

  2. BB,

    "Fanner 50" is a GREAT "handle". Actually, I can just imagine Jean Shepherd telling this story on his radio show back in the 60's.


    word verification: askugst as in ask, you guess?

  3. B.B. did not draw the cartoon. Mark Pie, a cartoonist from Pittsburgh, did that drawing & several others for us when we published our newsletters & Revues.

    Mark is very talented & has done work for others in the airgun industry. His book, Clay Pots, is temporarily out of stock on Amazon. His last name, which has a diacritical mark over the "e" (doesn't come across on web pages), is pronounced like the initials of the state in which he lives: P A


  4. BB:

    This is a great piece of writing and has much to remind readers of Jean Shepherd, but I was thinking more of Patrick McManus. If your blog fans have never sampled his outdoor stories of childhood (and his adulthood, as well)they are missing a treat.


  5. PurcHawk – I couldn't agree more. I read (re-read I should say)2-3 McManus books every year while I'm sitting in my deer blind. I reccommend everybody give McManus a read, he is hilarious!!


  6. CJr,

    What a wonderful trip you got to take. I'm happy for you. How much time were you able to spend on the trip?

    What's the scoop on the Governor and her resignation?

    Mr B.

  7. B.B.

    Great story.. made me smile from ear to ear!

    And as I think of the times we all had as children, and the places the children of today have to play.. I get a little sad.

    Sure there are some places left.. but not enough… and not enough in a close to home situation where parents can feel somewhat safe letting their kids be "out" for the day.

    What a kid learns for themselves in the "woods" is something that can't be learned in any other way…
    Our cities really need a few "wild places" close to every neighborhood. Should be a law!!

    Thanks for sharing such a great story of youth.. I'm sure it touches all of us in a good way!


  8. B.B.

    This is terrific. It reminds me of the movie Stand By Me in which a gun, a 1911 ends up playing a starring role. The imagination is a powerful thing. I wonder if there are any situations in which fanning really worked. I believe that John Wesley Hardin was very much in favor of taking an extra fraction of a second to aim in a gunfight, and Elmer Keith said that fanning really wears down a pistol.

    All, I've been trying to come up with a list of iconic calibers to go with my list of guns. Preliminary results are

    .22LR – quintessential youth and all-around caliber

    30-06 – American military caliber for the first half of the 20th century and still the most versatile hunting caliber.

    30-30 – cartridge for the most popular hunting rifle of all time, the Winchester 94.

    .45 acp – caliber of the most influential pistol design in history or at least for the last century.

    9 mm – caliber of the Luger and universal pistol caliber outside of the U.S.

    .357 magnum – one of the original pistol magnums and the quintessential police revolver caliber

    I don't know that any of the other very useful calibers would displace these, and the others are really known only to gun owners and enthusiasts. I haven't mentioned the many European calibers because I don't know enough about them.

    The David Tubb book offers an interesting insight into the mind of the shooter. He writes: "When I'm mounting the rifle, I'm thinking 'good shot.' As the rifle is coming on target, I'm thinking 'good shot.' Right before pressing the trigger, I'm thinking 'good shot.' And no surprise, it's a good shot."

    My equivalent is something like. "Seven shots down and only three to go for a good group. Don't screw this up! Crosshairs poised above target. Inhale and release half and take up the trigger slack. Now move on to the target. Hold it! You're shaking. Stick with the procedure. Sights on target! PULL THE TRIGGER NOW and great glory will be yours!…."

    I suppose therein lies part of the difference. 🙂


  9. Frontier Village! That was my favorite place when I was a kid – maybe I even saw you there.

    I own one of the antique cars from Frontier Village now that I'm renovating so that it can drive without the help of an electrified track.

    There's still a group of ex-Frontier Village folks who do outlaw train robbery shows at a nearby steam train place. What a small world.

  10. BB,

    I think that old Isley's is now a Strickland's. If you were in the area long enough, you may remember Stricklands first location is across from the Akron Municipal Airport. Nice to get a waffle cone and watch the planes taking off and landing.


  11. "Do you feel lucky, punk?"

    Come on, Matt61, Dirty Harry and the 44 cal magnum, "The most powerful handgun in the world". I was unfortunate enough to fire an S & W 44 mag with the long barrel. The recoil nearly split my head open as the gun and my hands came back at me! What a useless handgun!


  12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXui3FqBk8w&feature=PlayList&p=82F08DF3690D3052&index=0

    Is that it?

    I like the SS


    We had the broken garage sale special cap guns that used those paper rolls of caps….nothing strikes the fear in your enemy than "hold still!!!" *tick tick tick tick bang tick tick bang bang tick tick tick*.

    I did treasure my plastic gray machine gun that didn't do anything but made noise when you pulled the handle…which sounded more like a growl than anything.

  13. Kevin/BG_Farmer/Wayne,
    I was reading some of your comments from yesterday and have a question. I'm going deer hunting for the first time with my brother in law (who is an experienced hunter – but not into airguns) this fall and am trying to prepare without the benefit of a close by shooting range to practice with the actual rifles. Are air rifles a good practice tool for firearm rifles? I'm assuming yes, but Kevin's comment about being startled at the recoil of a larger caliber got me thinking. Would an air rifle with a more pronounced recoil be good to practice with – I'm thinking an IZH 513. I've read that they are very accurate, but also harsh in the firing cycle. My thinking is that harshness may be a good training stimulous. What do you think?

  14. Fused,

    Air rifles are great practice for firearm shooting. The same principles apply to both (except a loose artillery hold on a magnum centerfire). Follow through, squeezing the trigger not slapping it, eliminating flinching, etc. are all traits to be a good shot whether it's firearms or airguns.

    In my opinion, there isn't an airgun that will prepare you for the recoil of a shotgun with slugs or a magnum centerfire. You need to shoot the firearm and get used to the sound and recoil in order to overcome flinching.

    Just my opinion.


  15. I enjoyed the .22 vs .25 article yesterday because it distilled the whole "which calibre" discussion down to a very pragmatic level.

    The column focused on the available accuracy in .177, .22 and .25 calibre pellets, so I'll ask if the main point – that true match grade pellets are only available in .177 – also applies to .20 calibre. I think I know the answer (no match grade in .20), but since this calibre has more of a following outside of the US, I just wanted to confirm.

    Too bad if that's the case, but if so, I have an excuse for not being able to shoot my R7 perfectly – blame the pellets! 😉


  16. Fused, I think that (in general) spring airgunning is considered good training for firearms because they tend to be harder to shoot.

    Regardless of the greater felt recoil of the cartridge gun, much (if not most) of that recoil happens after the bullet leaves the barrel and thus has no effect on the trajectory. But with a springer, virtually ALL the recoil – both normal and reverse – is experienced BEFORE the pellet exits the muzzle, which means that it CAN affect the shot.

    Add to the the fact that the much greater lock time of a springer (time between trigger pull and discharge) gives the shooter more time to let the gun drift off target.

    If you're talking about the mere EXPERIENCE of shooting a cartridge gun and getting used to that – accuracy aside – well, even an MP513 ain't gonna get ya ready for, say, an M1 Garrand.

    And if you're just looking for an excuse to buy another gun, well, disregard everything I just said!

  17. Vince,
    You saw right through me! But seriously, it's good to know that all my practice at home won't go to waste out in the real world. I'll have to schedule some time and find a shooting range with a long range field to get used to the experience.

  18. BB,
    I guess I'm getting old, because these stories are some of my favorites. My brothers and I went on many hunting and trapping trips into the big woods and were back for lunch:).

    Kevin and Vince gave you good advice. Dealing with the recoil from a springer will help you technically, but its no substitute for the c/f experience, where I find that it is as much the sound (which no hearing protection can eliminate completely) as the actual force that discombobulates, at least on moderately powered rifles.

    When you fire, you won't keep the gun from moving, just try to keep your eyes open and looking at the target as long as possible while letting recoil push you back — that's one way the springer can carry over, in my opinion, practice at "aggravated followthrough".

    Several states now allow .223 (any c/f in fact), which is not enough, but starting at .243 or so, there are many choices that don't require having your teeth chipped and will not handicap you at all in many common whitetail hunting scenarios, especially in the Southeast. If you pick a .308 or .30-06, etc., there are managed recoil rounds that people report success with up to 200 yards, as well.

    Given the low barrel time,etc., you'll find c/f rifles are easy to shoot accurately if you can keep a handle on the basics in the midst of the uproar. A flinch and the trigger slap that usually develops with it is deadly to accuracy.

    Finally, shoot your rifle at every effective range for the caliber, know its MPBR and any holdover if you think its wise, scout your hunting site(s) both for game and safety concerns, and practice estimating ranges both in open clearings and thick woods. In my woods, I'm as likely to step on a deer as see one past 50 yards, so that kind of thing counts also:).

    I thoroughly enjoyed last night's discussion and, as always, learned a lot from you.

  19. BG_Farmer,

    Right back at ya.

    B.B.'s articles and people like you are what attract me to this site.

    Back in the day I'm sure I would have enjoyed spending some time in camp and the field with you while we were hunting.


  20. Kevin,
    It's mostly "back in the day" for me too, now; I hit 40 and the bottom seems to have dropped out. Guess I should have listened to the grown-ups:).

    I loved your internal monologue, and its exactly why I am the world's worst target/group shooter. I need to try "good shot"!

    Make my day. I actually liked the pistol my uncle tried to teach me on, a .32 "lady's pocketbook special":). I'm sure it was underpowered for self-defence, but I might actually hit something with it:).

  21. BG_Farmer,

    I read up on Prvi Partizan ammunition. It gets rave reviews! Those Serbs seem to know a thing or two about ammo, and it's very cheap. It might be my 30-30 ammo of choice now, and I might even order the .223 if Black Hills delays for another 6 months.

    Fred, the .44 magnum did come to mind but my disqualifiers were as follows. Apparently it was never the most powerful handgun in the world even when the slogan came out. It certainly is not now with the .500 SW. Prior to the movie it was really the purview of handgun hunting specialists. After the movie, sales shot up, but no one knows how or if those guns were really used. And much as I like Dirty Harry, I have to agree with one writer who said about the SW 27, "I'd rather honor the real heroes than make-believe…" A bit harsh, but in one of the movies Clint sticks his hand around a corner and fires the gun one-handed with a bent wrist. So actual use is limited and while the cultural exposure is broad it is largely fictional. Regretfully had to disqualify.

    Fused, regarding the conversion from airguns to firearms, I have to respectfully differ a little with your tribunal by virtue of my lack of experience. My only exposure to centerfire as a kid was shooting the family Winchester 94 under the supervision of an utterly irresponsible family acquaintance. He just said support the forearm and don't rest it directly on the wood. The next thing I knew the barrel pointed 45 degrees upward and my universe had turned upside down. My ears were ringing like mad for hours afterwards. You can't get a cleaner slate than this one.

    After shooting a lot of airgun rounds, springer and CO2, I have fired an M1, .223 bolt action, 30-30 lever action, and 45 ACP with somewhat erratic but okay results, and I attribute it to my airgun shooting.

    Some have said that airguns can improve your firearm shooting more than direct practice with firearms because of the longer dwell time of the pellet in the barrel. It forces you to develop good follow-through. I suspect that springers are better than pcps because there is a recoil to contend with although in some ways the technique diverges as with the loose hold. However, I think that most of the jump from airguns to even high power can be made with one simple concept that was told to me by High Master Clint Fowler. He said that shooting high power is like getting socked in the shoulder by a large man. You want to minimize the distance he has to hit you to smother the punch. So, you not only want to hold the centerfire rifle firmly but as hard into your shoulder as you can without shaking. With that advice the centerfire rifles have not been a problem. It will take a few shots to get used to it, but within a shooting session, I suspect you could make the transition pretty completely. All of the other elements of airgun shooting apply.


  22. Wait!? You mean those CO2 cartridges don't leak anymore? I had a CO2 rifle that I loved, it was a semi-auto with a huge BB reservoir and a spring fed system to ensure the BB's fed fast enough. I got so fed up with the pre-drained CO2 cartridges that I gave up on them and never looked back. Perhaps I should consider them something other than… I better not write that here. Maybe that CP99 would be ok after all.

  23. BB,

    I enjoyed the story also. While it may not generate high comments, it was tops in smiles. I read once the reason time seems to move quicker as an adult is that each unit is such a small amount in of your total brain’s memory. Conversely, a month to a ten year old is big chunk of the total pie.

    Bg farmer and Kevin,
    You guys are both great contributors, however sometimes it is okay to agree to disagree. While others read Sports Illustrated I spent my youth with Outdoor Life and Hunting magazine. I seem to recall some writers loved .270’s while others favored big bores and so on. It’s Ok. : )


  24. Volvo,

    It's more than OK… IT'S FANTASTIC!!!

    The two of them bring an incredible wealth to the treasure pot Tom and Edith have amassed!!

    as well as many others too many to name..

    Nothing like the real life experience stories..

    Thanks to ya all..

    Wacky Wayne

  25. Matt61,

    I agree with your reasoning. The end of my story was I shot that .44 two more times, hit what I was aiming at the first round, missed the next two, and then put it down. My hand was beet red. The fellow who allowed me to shoot it was going to use it as a back-up to his Ruger semi-auto when he went bear hunting. Never saw him again, lost all trust in Clint and in fact, Clint and that movie cost me "paradise by the dashboard light" with Adrienne J. at a drive-in movie, all because I wanted to watch the movie but you guys don't want to hear about that…

  26. Volvo,

    Always good to hear from you.

    Hope you've been finding time to shoot. With what has been going on in my personal life and business life (I'm a salesman too) shooting has helped salvage the little sanity I have left.

    Hope all is well with you and the family.


  27. All,
    I'm still reading this blog at least once a week and loving it. Just do not have the time to join in the discussion much lately.

    But… any Red Green fans out there? I found a use for the foam pellet packing from PA.

    Stack them up and drive a nail through them to hold them together or you could use duct tape. Need four or so depending on your glass.

    Yes it makes a great one can or glass cooler. It will keep a 12 oz glass of iced soda cold for hours sitting on my desk.

    Yep… redneck to the bone.


  28. Kevin,
    My trigger time has been close to nil, but I hope to gain some semblance of a normal schedule soon. Unfortunately though, I don’t foresee the opportunity to have access to the blog the way I did previously. I do try and catch up even if I can’t contribute.

    I saw the Marauder’s on the yellow also. Glad to hear you enjoyed them. I think diversifying your collection with even more firearms will be very satisfying. Hope your having a nice summer.

  29. Fused,

    You won't 'hear' the gun go off when hunting, because you'll be so focused on the animal you're trying to hit. Not so when target shooting, where you need earplugs of some sort, and because you'll be firing more rounds.

    I taught my kids to love shooting my S&W 629. I started them with .44 Specials and then we worked up to 300 grain heavy handloads with no problem. This lasted until they grew up and discovered soap operas. I'm sure the heavier, full-length underlug helped with recoil.

    I remember reading somewhere that Dirty Harry fired .44 Specials in his .44 magnum handgun. Less recoil and less over-penetration concerns.

  30. Brian,

    Yes, .20 caliber pellets fall in with .22 and .25. No target guns made in that caliber mean no true target pellets. In fact, .20 is only a little more popular that .25, but there are some good pellets made for it.


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