John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun with scope: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Lil Duke and scope
John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun with scope.

This report covers:

What is it?
Folded metal
Loading the old way
Lever
Sights
Scope
Stock and forearm
Trigger and safety
Metal parts 
Overall dimensions
Cocking
Power
My plans
Summary

Today I’m starting a new report on an interesting BB gun — the John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun with scope. This is a licensed John Wayne BB gun made exclusively for Air Venturi, and I selected the one that comes bundled with a scope to test for you. Let’s get right into it.

What is it?

In the world of spring-piston BB guns there is not much that’s new under the sun. Unlike breakbarrel spring rifles that are pushing the boundaries of design these days, spring-piston BB guns don’t innovate that much. The Daisy lever action gun design type is nearly exclusive worldwide. There have been a few different BB gun designs over the years — guns like the ones made by Parris many decades ago. They appear quite odd and foreign to our “Red Ryder” eyes. And El Gamo made a unique BB gun around 1930. There have been a few others like the Pioneer underlever in 1976, but BB guns of a style unlike the Red Ryder are not common.

So the Lil’ Duke is pretty unique. I will try to describe it for you.

Folded metal

The Lil’ Duke is a folded-metal gun that’s made with a solid tube rather than a welded one. Daisy took great pride in 1913/14 when they learned how to weld thin sheet steel without burning it away. That released them from the onerous task of soldering a patch over the outer tube to seal the air inside the compression tube. Since that time almost all BB guns have been made this way. But not this Lil Duke. It has a solid tube instead of a welded one. I have a 1906 Columbian BB gun that also has a solid tube, but it’s a separate part. This one isn’t.

The Lil’ Duke’s tube is part of the receiver that is formed by folding metal — made by a process I don’t understand. There is a deep swage halfway up the outer tube (at the end of the forearm) that obviously holds the end of the compression chamber in place.

Lil Duke tube
A Daisy BB gun tube is welded and has a join line (arrow) like this 499. The Lil’ Duke tube on the right has no weld.

The Lil’ Duke receiver is what I will call a thin-body. That’s in contrast to several Daisys like their 499 that have wider bodies.

Lil Duke thin and wide body
The Daisy 499 on the left has a wide receiver. The Lil’ Duke receiver is thin in comparison.

Loading the old way

The BBs are loaded in the same way that Daisy used to use. The shot tube is turned to either side, opening a hole in the underside of the outer barrel sleeve through which up to 550 BBs are poured. Daisy changed over to a spring-loaded plastic window near the muzzle years ago and I have never gotten used to it. So this Lil Duke harkens back to the old days — something a silverback like me appreciates.

Lil Duke loading port closed
The Lil’ Duke loading port is under the outer barrel. Here it is closed to hold the BBs in.

Lil Duke loading port open
Rotate the knurled muzzle and the port opens for loading.

The shot tube does not unscrew from the gun the way a Daisy shot tube used to. Consider the tube in the Lil’ Duke to be a permanent part of the gun that isn’t coming out.

Lever

The gun is cocked via a lever, but this one is shaped like the lever on the Duke’s Winchester 92 he used in several movies — the most famous of which was his charge at the end of the movie, True Grit. “Fill yer hand…!” That special lever allowed Wayne to twirl the rifle, cocking it as he did, so he could fire more rapidly than a normal lever would permit. The small model ’92 action that fires pistol calibers is far smoother than the larger ’94 action that shoots rifle calibers. More people are familiar with the rifle caliber gun, but it is much stiffer and cannot be handled the same as the smaller pistol caliber rifle.

The Lil’ Duke lever itself is made of a dense plastic that feels slightly cold — something I have never felt before. Usually plastic parts are warm to the touch, which is how you know they are plastic and not metal.

When the gun is cocked the lever is incrementally caught by a catch to keep from slamming back on fingers if the hand slips. The catch is silent, so the only way to tell it’s there is to relax tension on the lever at some point and see that it stays open. This means if you start cocking the action you have to go through with the task. Once the lever is caught it has to go all the way to cocked before it returns home.

Lil Duke lever open
As the lever is cocked, a silent latch grabs it until the gun is completely cocked. This is for safety.

Sights

The front sight is a fixed post on a folded metal sleeve that’s spot-welded to the outer barrel. It can only be removed by cutting or grinding it off.

The rear sight is a leaf that adjusts for elevation by a sliding elevator. It has 4 steps. The elevator can be removed to allow mounting the 3/8-inch dovetail scope base that’s included with the model I’m testing. There is no provision for adjusting the rear sight for windage.

Scope

The gun I am testing comes with a 4X15 scope that’s packaged separately. I will test it for you at the end of this series, so I’ll wait to show it to you until then.

Stock and forearm

Both the buttstock and forearm are made of hardwood that has a fine grain like beech. John Wayne’s image is branded on either side of the buttstock and ‘lil’ duke is on either side of the forearm. The length of pull is just under 13-inches.

Trigger and safety

The trigger is plastic and the crossbolt safety fits into it, just behind the blade. The safety is manual, as it should be and very easy to engage and disengage.

Metal parts 

The metal parts are all finished in an even matte black color. I don’t think it’s paint. It looks more like black oxide. Whatever it is, it’s very even and makes a nice background for John Wayne’s signature on the right side of the receiver.

Overall dimensions

The gun is 34-inches long and weighs 2 lbs. 10 oz. Obviously it will weigh a little more when fully loaded. Is it sized okay for a kid? Well kids come in all sizes, too, so that question really depends more on them than it does the airgun, but the Lil’ Duke is a very light and compact BB gun. 

Cocking

The gun cocks with 16 pounds of effort. I will check that for you when I get to Part 2. But in just handling it for this report I will say that it will challenge the real small kids. For an adult it is easy enough.

Power

I am surprised to read that the gun shoots BBs at up to 350 f.p.s. I would have expected 100 f.p.s. less. No doubt that’s with the lightest BB on the market, which is the Dust Devil, and I will test it for you in Part 2.

My plans

I will test the gun in the usual fashion. I’ve already confirmed that it loads reliably, so I can switch from one BB to another with confidence when I test velocity.

I will test it for accuracy at the same 5 meters that I test all BB guns, but if we see great accuracy I will consider backing up for another test. The scope test will probably be a report of its own, but I’ll know better when we get there.

Summary

The John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun is unique and different, yet it has the flavor of the good old days. Don’t overlook it as a child’s first BB gun. Or yours, for that matter!

73 thoughts on “John Wayne Lil’ Duke BB gun with scope: Part 1

  1. BB,

    This is obviously marketed toward the grandparents for Christmas or birthdays. Most young’uns these days do not even know what a western is, more or less anything about “The Duke”.

    The large loop on the lever will make it easier for big paws like mine to cock it. If I did not have my 99 this would be something to consider. As far as my grandson is concerned, he has a Buck and a Red Ryder and is mostly moving on to his Weihrauch. Maybe when he is old and crotchety like me he will come back to these things. I will have to keep the 99 going for him.



    • RidgeRunner,

      This does have a Western look to it that the Daisy 99 lacks, but in this case it would be Western China, right? ;^) Well, some of the greatest Westerns (movies) were made by Italians in Spain, so that wouldn’t bother me. I might get one of these to shoot and perhaps mod, as I have a few ideas.

      Michael


      • Michael,

        Ahh, the spaghetti westerns. I cannot say they were the greatest, but I sure did enjoy them. IMMHO, the greatest western of all time was “The Shootest” starring “The Duke”. He truly put himself into that role.

        I have enjoyed quite a few of “The Duke” movies.

        As for this Western Chinese bb gun, I have my 99. ‘Nuf said.


        • RidgeRunner,

          My favorite John Wayne Western of them all is probably Stagecoach, the movie in which he spin-cocks a Winchester for the very first time onscreen.

          I rank Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once upon a Time in the West among the greatest Westerns of all time. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and 3:10 to Yuma (the original) are also among my favorites. Among somewhat avant garde takes on the genre, I hold the following in high esteem: McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Dead Man, and one of the greatest westerns of all time, Bad Day at Black Rock, which is a traditional Western set in the 1950s!

          Michael


        • RR,

          No question The Shootist was a fitting final movie for The Duke. Was a shame that it was his final movie since I thought Ron Howard and John Wayne brought great chemistry to the screen and hoped there was time for them to make another movie together. To fully appreciate the nuances and references throughout The Shootist you had to have seen many other of The Duke’s movies. Big Jake (another great movie) comes to mind.

          Feel sorry for today’s generation of kids that only have animated comic book heroes to look up to on the silver screen.


  2. B.B.

    RR hit the nail right on the head. Kid’s do not care about BB guns today. Maybe Air Venuri should have a shootem up game as the lead marketing tool? I’m afraid that this gun is 80 years to late to the party! The world is a changin…
    Did you know that last year more people bought electric cars than cars with manual transmissions in the US? So driving shoes are just about as worthless…

    -Y


  3. I hope this thing shoots groups so small you have to use your smallest coin. I doubt it will, but one can only hope. I think RR is right though.Grandpas will buy for grand kids.


  4. Yup, Grandpa buying for eldest Grandson. Also a CO2 blow back handgun and a 760 pumper, actually two of those, one for Grandpa too.

    Working on a decent backstop now since Grandson lives in a development with houses nearby. When he visits us we don’t have the same concerns at our rural home. 12 acres and lots of woods.

    Probably the 499 will be next on the list when I’ve saved a few pennies. Grandson is quite capable of handling a more powerful spring gun, but the parents will be happier with something that looks more like his Red Ryder.

    Dan


  5. B.B.’
    “The onerous task” of soldering? Whoa nelly.! Hold on there pilgrim, soldering is good work, if you can get it!
    Seriously, if it was Ice Tees’ picture on the box, maybe cut the stock down, Daisy might get a little more traction
    at the sales counter. If I cut little short lengths of the right diameter brazing rod, those are kind of like slugs.
    Don’t forget to clean your tack when you get back from the range, or the stalls.
    Best,
    Rob


    • Rob,

      Thanks for taking the bait! 🙂

      Soldering is not onerous. Crosman has soldered multi-pump barrels to pump tubes for decades. Don’t know if they still do — gotta test their new synthetic multi-pump one of these days.

      Daisy found soldering onerous because in 1913 it involved a skilled worker, where the welding was reduced to a fixture and went faster. Welding dropped the cost to produce and also made a better-finished job.

      I wanted to put that in the report, but thought I’d have some fun with it.

      B.B.


  6. If Air Venturi could get some of their gun designs into video games, they would expand their sales in the real world.

    Take the game Fortnite, they could get this BB gun in into the game as a lever action sniper rifle, and sales would skyrocket.

    Nerf has already marketed Fortnite models and they are selling well.
    The kids can use the gun in the game, and in their backyard when mom and dad say no electronics today..

    Ian.


  7. I have a different experience and i see kids see BB guns and express interest in the store. I know i have heard quite a few of the air gun crowd complain about Wally world and other box stores, but they provide important exposure. Now a little off the point currently cable providers providing OTA channels as a channel filler for numbers count and kids of cord cutters get these same channels and they show kids westerns all of the ones i got and more and by today’s standards they are G rated and on all the time during the day and afternoon. You might be amazed the number of the tweens that have no idea of who the Beatles are or Journey, or even DMC or the Beastie boys who have seen the Lone Ranger and Bonanza and The Rifleman among others. It is culturally a very strange time.

    I know the people at Pyramyd and others see the box stores as a drain on income, but i think we need it every bit of it and need desperately for them to have a complete PCP starter set or two. In the long run this exposure is going to grow the customer base better and cheaper than any number of add campaigns.


  8. B.B.,
    Your link to the Pioneer brings me here:
    https://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2019/05/pioneer-model-bb76-bb-gun-part-2/
    And while that report mentions that there will be accuracy testing in part 3, I could not find part 3 (I searched the PA blog site, and also did a google search). Did I miss it somehow? Both part 1 and part 2 show up multiple times.
    Thank you.
    Take care & God bless,
    dave
    P.S. I like old-style bb guns like this…I’m still shooting my Daisy li’l Buck that I finally got…55 years late! =>


  9. B.B.,

    ” — made by a process I don’t understand.”

    Well it must be major Magic then…, Lol!

    This is probably the process used:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metal_injection_molding

    This is also why Ken’s Marauder Trigger Group is having problems. Progress in MIM (Metal Injection Molding) is advancing so quickly that even Wikipedia can’t hope to keep up with it. A quick Google search of the full named it will show results of what I mean by that breakneck progress in Fabrications.

    shootski


  10. B.B.,

    I just received an order from SIG of two tins of .177 lead wadcutter pellets along with a Picatinny rail base for a ROMEO 1 Dot Sight; the package rattled as I picked it up. The shipping department at SIG needs some schooling on how to pack pellets! The box looked great on the outside but one of the very nice screw on lid (with internal foam pad) pellet tins had actually blown out of the blister pack! A single crumpled sheet of brown craft paper is just not going to cut it at holding Lead Pellet tins from severe internal impacts as the shipping goons do their best work to destroy all contents.
    This is provided for you and your readership’s information and also for someone at SIG AIR to run some checks on better pellet survivability packing methods by the Shipping Department! It is of no use to specify and manufacture quality products if they don’t make it to the buyer without damage.

    shootski


    • I had the same exact issue with Amazon. I ordered some H&N FTT pellets and they arrived in box ten times larger than needed…with NO packing whatsoever. The tin was actually dented on the edge. I didn’t even open the tin, I just sent them back and admonished them for not knowing how to pack fragile pellets. I received the replacement tin and it survived the still poor packaging. Won’t be ordering any more pellets from Amazon until they figure out how to pack them.


  11. B.B.,

    What is the length-of-pull on the Lil Duke? If you find it has the velocity claimed and is relatively accurate, I might get one to modify. I bought an adult-sized Red Ryder and therefore now have a spare Chief A.J. long stock. I might cut the pistol grip off of it and stick it on the end of a Lil Duke if they are good shooters.

    Michael


  12. BB,

    Well, this is an odd one. The oversized cocking lever/loop looks ridiculous on the small bb gun.

    So,.. was there ever a firearm version of this actually ever made?

    If yes, what was the purpose of the over sized loop?

    Whatever I think,… hope it shoots well in your testing,……….. Chris


    • Chris,
      Yes, there was, so that you could spin the gun and look cool. =>
      Here’s the gun: http://www.winchesterguns.com/products/rifles/model-1892/model-1892-current-products/model-1892-large-loop-carbine.html
      And here’s “The Rifleman” (Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain) using it:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IVCwYPjFXc
      And Mike’s nice demo of the Rifleman:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ppXe5q88Dk
      And, for the most classic scene of all, here is “The Duke,” John Wayne in True Grit (the original):
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-cPWheNyaA
      Enjoy! =>


    • ChrisUSA,

      “The oversized cocking lever/loop looks ridiculous on the small bb gun.

      So,.. was there ever a firearm version of this actually ever made?

      If yes, what was the purpose of the over sized loop?”

      Hey Chris you must have missed the LEVER section of B.B.’s report! He ‘splained it was so JOHN WAYNE could look cool in the movies!

      The gun is cocked via a lever, but this one is shaped like the lever on the Duke’s Winchester 92 he used in several movies — the most famous of which was his charge at the end of the movie, True Grit. “Fill yer hand…!” That special lever allowed Wayne to twirl the rifle, cocking it as he did, so he could fire more rapidly than a normal lever would permit.”
      JW was no doubt Hollywood accurate doing that with those Blanks he was shooting!

      So has someone turned a firearm into a Spit’n Image for their collection…I hope not!

      shootski



      • Shootski,

        The Spit’n Image was my first bb gun,…. LOL!

        I (do) see that some modern lever action firearms/rifles do in fact have a larger loop. In hindsight,… that larger loop may be (very) useful with un-insulated or insulated leather gloves. I will leave the theatrics to the actors. I want ergonomic and useful in anything that I buy. For a gloved hand,… that could be the ticket.

        Chris


        • ChrisUSA,

          WOW Chris! You must have some really big mitts! Or have you not found the wonders of Thinsulate®??? As a liner that stuff comes in various temperature ranges (Insulating Power) and with an Over Mitt or Glove it works in really COLD temperatures. They even have them where you can peel back thumb and trigger finger and it stows out of the way on the back of the digit for the shot and reload cycle.

          shootski


          • Shootski,

            I had 0% doubt that you would comment on leather. I am aware of the (general) finer points of modern insulation materials,… but have not yet pursued it in a serious manner. I have pursued leather outer/Thinsulate inner and have not been impressed.

            Activity level (no doubt) plays a part in insulation needs. Should I ever find myself in a situation where I need to consider serious cold weather (hand/foot) gear,…. you will be the first person I ask for advice.

            Quite oddly,… thin brown “jersey” gloves as an inner,… do quite well. A few years ago, we had to load 4 units in -20F temps. No issues for 8+ hours. Go figure? 80% on activity, 20% off.

            Chris

            EDIT: Yes,.. big mitts. XL are a bit tight. Custom cut and curved are well worth the mobility. In general though,… I do not care for gloves.


            • Chris,

              Where do you get custom gloves? I wear a size 4XL, but really 5XL would be better. But I haven’t seen ’em anywhere. Everyone says I have hands like catcher’s mitts.

              Michael


              • Michel,

                Wow, those are big hands. When I said custom, I did not mean made to suit. Rather,… if going to a store with a large selection,… the more expensive gloves are more supple with pre-curved fingers. I have rarely seen anything beyond XL size.

                As for the best insulation type glove, I would turn to ski or hunting gear. I have seen some different mitten configurations, which I always heard were warmer than gloves. As for 5XL and so on,… I would imagine that someone makes them,… just like very large shoes that can be ordered on line.

                Chris



                  • Michael,

                    I did a quick search before posting and found quite a few sites offering 5XL. Like you, I do not order much on line. Really though,.. for a man in your position,… you might find quite a few products that would improve life quality.

                    I wear a 13 shoe,… which I know is not that uncommon. I have 2 nephews,.. one is 6’6″+ and the other 6’9″+,..not sure. They are BIG! I remember my sister having to order shoes for them online. They are just getting out on their own now.

                    I am 6’4″ myself,… but pretty sure I am “settling” a bit,….? Now,… if I can just get a bit of unintended shrinking of the ol’ mid section! 😉 LOL!

                    Chris


                    • Chris,

                      I will check online, thanks. Yep, I’m a 13 shoe as well. Believe it or not, I found a good source for sandals and shoes in 13 in Wally World. The shoes are pretty hard-soled, but I just throw in extra cushioned insoles to take care of that.

                      Michael


                • Chris,
                  When I was young and did a lot of rabbit hunting with my beagles, my hands would always be the first thing to get cold, my feet the second. When it was very cold I would wear Korean mittens, remember those? I wore the white Air Force Korean boots, as those were the only thing that would keep my feet from freezing. It was difficult to run in them. 😉
                  Geo


                  • Geo,

                    I do not remember “Korean mittens”. I do remember the rubber boots with metal latches up the front. Yellow rain coats. Layered up when waiting for the bus. I mean, like really,… when you are sent to school with 48 individual pieces of outer wear,… like she really expected that they would all come back home at the end of the day???? 😉 Mom used to put old plastic bread bags on our feet, on top of socks 1?2?3? socks, to keep our feet dry when sledding. Today, that would be thought of like putting yourself in a sweat box,… as opposed to the current day breathable materials.

                    Whatever was used, by whoever, whenever,… I think the higher metabolism rate of a kid played in our favor back then.

                    Chris




                • Shootski,

                  I’m built like Phelps (but with a huge gut): long arms, broad shoulders, wide hips, long torso, short legs, big feet, and big hands. I’m six-foot instead of six-foot-four-inches, but otherwise, yeah. I also have a barrel chest.

                  My fingers are only slightly longer than average for my height, but they are as thick as fire hydrants. And my palms are both long and especially wide. I can squeeze XXXL gloves up to the knuckles but then they stop. Across the knuckles and palms my hands are about 4 1/2 inches.

                  Michael



          • Shootski,

            I should warn you,…. that BB guy talks about shoveling sunshine?,… or (not) shoveling it?,… I am not sure which. Either way,… I would not trust him to weigh in on the pros and cons of modern insulating materials. Well,… he might have an opinion on how to keep something,.. cold! 😉

            Chris 🙂



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