The Red Ryder – Parts 2 and 3
by B.B. Pelletier
This is an early (1947) model of the first BB gun that Daisy sold as the Red Ryder.
Well, we’re back with our favorite BB gun. Do you know that your comments set a record on part 1? More responses in 24 hours than any other report.
Today, I’ll test both accuracy and velocity, and the latter I will do in two ways, one of them quite authentic from the period of this gun.
Private individuals didn’t have access to chronographs in the 1950s. A chronograph was a room full of expensive electronic test equipment that had several full-time employees on staff to operate it. And as high-falutin’ as it was, it had only one-tenth the accuracy of today’s models that you can buy for under $100.
So, we used other things. For BB guns, the standard test medium was a tin can. Not an aluminum can that’s eggshell-thin and easy to punch through. I’m talking about a real tin can, which had very little tin in it, because it was made from thin steel plate. The tin was used to solder the joint where the side of the can body was made. Those cans were very tough, so the test was to see if your gun would shoot through one side. We became experts in evaluating the depth of the dents left by BB guns. Powerful guns would tear out a crack at the bottom of the dent, as the metal was starting to part. More powerful guns would tear completely through one side of the can, leaving a long open hole. Of course, safety glasses are a must when shooting at any hard object!
As the power increased even more, the gun started denting the other side of the can, on its way through. A real magnum BB gun, and I can’t say that I ever saw one, was supposed to be able to punch through both sides of the can. Can you imagine what was said when Benjamin started advertising their new 3030 BB gun that would shoot through BOTH sides of a five-gallon steel bucket? But I digress.
It matters how close to the can you are when you shoot. I stood 10 feet fback for both shots, but I’m sure I would have put the muzzle next to the can back in the day. It also matters what kind of can you shoot at, and the one I used wasn’t anything like the ones we had in the 1950s. They had seams and this one doesn’t. It appears lighter than the old cans, but very strong.
I had been conditioning the gun’s piston seal ever since the last report by lubing it with oil every couple of days. Before this test, I removed the shot tube and put in 10 drops of 3-in-One oil, then shot the gun a half-dozen times (with BBs, of course). I believe I had the gun shooting at its absolute maximum.
The gun dented the can deeply on the side and not as deep on the bottom. It looks powerful, but not overly so. You may recall that I said I guessed the Red Ryder would be between 325 f.p.s. and 350.
This is a deep dent, but there’s no tearing of metal. I’d say this looks like an average BB gun of the 1940s.
This dent is shallower than the one in the side. This is the bottom of the can.
The chronograph says the gun pushes Daisy zinc BBs out the spout at an average velocity of 312 f.p.s. That’s just a little slower than predicted. The spread went from 307 to 317, so not much variation.
I found this stuck in the fabric of my BB trap. The plating appears to be coming off. This isn’t a common thing, but I found it so interesting that I took this photo.
Joe B. out on Maui asked me to also test the Red Ryder with Daisy Avanti Precision Ground Shot, just for fun and I said I would. I didn’t expect to see a difference, but I’m darned if it didn’t happen. The average velocity was 320 f.p.s. and it ranged from 313 f.p.s. to 326. That was a surprise to me, and it indicates this shot is a little larger. Thanks for the suggestion, Joe!
On to accuracy
For accuracy, I shot the gun at 5 meters offhand. I used a 6 o’clock hold with a fine bead. That means the tip of the front sight was held down in the rear notch as deep as it goes while still remaining visible.
This is about average accuracy for a BB gun at 16 feet. Remember in Part 1 that I mentioned BB guns usually shoot to one side or the other? Here’s a classic illustration. The bull is the size of an American quarter and was shot with 10 Daisy zinc BBs, though it looks like only 8. There are two holes in the black. One is close to nine o’clock inside the bull and the second is on the edge at about 7.
Daisy Avanti Precision Ground Shot was clearly better in the Red Ryder.
There you have it. The Daisy Red Ryder, and a classic one at that. Now I’m ready for Christmas and watching little Ralphie get his Daisy Red Ryder 200-shot range-model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.