by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Well, the first part of this report generated real interest in this gun. That includes one person who could not understand why a “piece of crap gun” was worth so much money. I tried to address his question, which I think was really rhetorical, but I promised myself I’d have a second go at it when the subject came up again. So, it here goes.

First, I’m assuming he meant the original gun and not this one when he complained about the cost. If I’m wrong about that, then this answer doesn’t work. But why should a toy BB gun from the late 1880s be worth over $10,000? And I call it a toy because, when it was made, that was the view people had. Yes, it shot something, but people in those days didn’t have the same outlook that they do today. Young children were given BB guns and steam engines to play with. They carried sharp pocket knives to school and were allowed to have and use fireworks. The times have changed vastly from then to now.

So, why, then, is an 1888 toy worth a lot of money? To answer that I have to get all political for a moment. You see, not everybody has the same taste. It’s true in food, in friends, mates, cars, etc. It’s what keeps our world turning on its axis and it’s one of the reasons that we don’t all wear silver jumpsuits and eat in the same cafeteria–yet.

Personally, I cannot see the fascination with the feces of another human being. But London’s Tate Museum apparently can, which is why in 2002 they paid $33,450 for a can of Italian artist Piero Manzoni’s doo-doo, one of 90 such exhibits he canned in 1961, if it matters. They called it art.

Okie-dokie. But that’s not for me. My taste doesn’t run that way. See how it works?

So, a small BB gun made in 1888, of which fewer than 20 are known to exist, has a value of only about one-third that of used food from a mid 20th-century Italian artist. Believe it or not, there are fewer collectors of fine BB guns than there are fine art afficionados in the world. But as few as there are, there are many more than 20, and therefore there are not enough Iron Windmill guns to go around. These collectors do not share their things worth a darn, so when there aren’t enough of something to go around, they sometimes offer a lot of money to clinch the deal on the one that is for sale, so that another wealthy collector doesn’t have a chance to get the item first.

Okay, that’s off my chest. On to the test.

Remember that I said I didn’t want to shoot this gun a lot. The piston seal is made of candle wicking. Although Daisy recommends oiling it periodically, they cannot tell me what oil to use, so I dropped four drops of a light machine oil down the muzzle and stood the gun on its butt to let the oil run down the bore.

The gun is loaded by dropping a BB down the muzzle. It rolls down to a magnet at the rear, where it’s held until it’s fired. You can hear a BB rolling down a barrel, but I could not hear this one, so I took a brass .177 cleaning rod and rammed it down the bore. The BB was stopped by some excess nickel plating built up about three inches from the muzzle and again two inches later. The rod rammed it through the obstructions and it hit the magnetic seat.

Shooting was next, and all it took was a pull on the trigger. My trigger releases with between 15 and 20 lbs. of effort. I’m not really sure, nor do I care since this is probably the last time I’ll shoot this gun. My experience with the Swivel Machine Corp. air rifle trigger taught me about heavy triggers, though this one is narrower and hurts more to pull.

Daisy’s Randy Brown told me he’d had reports of guns shooting anywhere from 150 f.p.s. to 350. I expected 250 because that’s what the 499 does. With Daisy zinc-plated BBs, this gun averaged 253 f.p.s. It ranged from a low of 249 to a high of 256.

With Avanti Precision Ground Shot, the average climbed to 260 f.p.s. and the range was from 253 to 266. I think the rough spots in the barrel were getting smoother with each BB that was fired, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the velocity inclease with use.

What the heck; after shooting a couple groups, I tested it again with Avanti shot and got an average of 253 f.p.s., so it’s settled back. The BB was now rolling easily down the barrel at loading, so the obstructions were gone. And the trigger-pull was closer to 15 lbs. than 20.

Okay, you’re pulling the cocking lever straight up and you know that the rear sight is cast into the front of the lever. How accurate does that sound to you?

I started at 10 feet and wondered if I’d hit the target paper. First shot was right on horizontally and just above my aim point, so I stepped back to 15 feet and finished the group. I used a 6 o’clock hold, and I’ll be darned if the gun didn’t shoot to the center of the target, just a little high.

The first BB from 10 feet back struck just under the 3. The rest were from 15 feet back. Magnified a lot for visibility. The group is about 1-3/8″.

Final opinion
This was never about how well the gun shot. It was a chance for me to own a piece of history at an affordable price. When the hundred or so remaining guns are sold in a month or so, the price will begin to rise on this replica BB gun. It may never be as valuable as the original, but it may surprise a lot of people how quickly it rises.

I could care less about the value. I know what it’s like to hold and shoot one of these vintage guns. That’s enough for me. That and perhaps looking at it on my office wall in the years to come. After all, I may never be able to afford one of Piero Manzoni’s doo-doo cans!