by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

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

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Thanks!
  • Stagecoach
  • Another thing
  • And finally
  • Back to our regular program
  • Dust Devils
  • Daisy Premium Grade BBs
  • Smart Shot
  • Cocking effort
  • It can be uncocked
  • Summary

Okay, today is the day we discover whether the Lil’ Duke can really shoot 350 f.p.s. or not.

Thanks!

Thanks to all the killjoy comments (RidgeRunner, Kenholmz, and Yogi) that said kids today don’t know who John Wayne is and essentially wouldn’t care to see him in a movie. The fact that you are right doesn’t lessen the pain! And thanks, Mike Ogden, for trying to stick up for the American Dream!

Stagecoach

And Michael, Wayne didn’t say, “Hodad” when he spin-cocked his rifle in the movie. He said, “Hold it!” to stop the stagecoach so he could board. I had never seen the movie Stagecoach, so that was my assignment last Friday evening! While it was good, especially for a 1939 movie, I didn’t think it was great. Wayne was a lot thinner in those days — but weren’t we all?

By the by, Michael, not that you asked, but hodad refers to people who frequent surfing beaches but do not surf. In California in the 1960s, calling someone a hodad was an insult! It was the ’60s California slang for a greaser — which at that time and place meant someone with slicked-back ducktail hair, pegged (tight) pants without cuffs and a comb in one of their rear pockets that was frequently drawn out like a knife to fix the locks! A Fonzie!

Another thing

The other thing that popped out of the comments was Cobalt327’s comment that the Lil’ Duke’s shot tube is keyed at the breech to unlock without threads. I said in the report that it didn’t seem to unscrew. I tried pulling but I didn’t pull hard enough. He is so right about how it comes out! Even though he showed great pix with his comment, I thought I should show it again today.

Lil Duke breech detail
Here is the keyed breech of the shot tube that connects it tight inside the gun.

If you pull the shot tube out, when you try to put it back make sure all the BBs are out of the outer barrel jacket. I did that and could not put it back until the last 6-7 BBs poured out.

And finally

Okay, I finally asked my next door neighbor, Denny, to help me insert the pin into the Diana 27S trigger assembly. Once I showed him what needed to be done as I put downward pressure on the trigger to align the pin holes, the job was finished in less than 10 seconds. To all of you who told me so — you were right. I was just too stubborn to ask for help. I am, after all, the Godfather of Airguns! Doesn’t that mean anything?

Shop Benjamin Rifles

Back to our regular program

This is velocity day. The Lil’ Duke is advertised to shoot 350 f.p.s., so let’s see what it does.

Dust Devils

We know that, at 4.35-grains, Air Venturi Dust Devils are the lightest BB, so let’s give the gun a running start by testing them first. Dust Devils averaged 363 f.p.s. in the Lil’ Duke. I wasn’t surprised — I was shocked! How a little BB gun like this manages to be so powerful is incredible. This harkens back to the 1920s, when BB guns really were BB guns!

The low for the string was 345 and the high was 373 f.p.s. — a difference of 28 f.p.s. That’s a wide spread for a BB gun and could be due to the newness of the action. At the average velocity the Dust Devil generates 1.27 foot-pounds.

Daisy Premium Grade BBs

Okay, we got the speed demons out of the way. How fast does the Lil’ Duke shoot with ordinary steel BBs? I picked Daisy Premium Grade BBs for this test. To my utter astonishment ten of them averaged the same 363 f.p.s. as the Dust Devils! The low was 358 and the high was 366 f.p.s., so the difference was only 8 f.p.s., which is more like it. At the average velocity Daisy BBs generate 1.49 foot-pounds.

I did not anticipate regular BBs going this fast. This is something a vintage 1940’s Red Ryder in perfect condition might do. The springs in all BB guns have been weakened over the years to both make the guns easier to cock and also to slow them down a little. So, the Lil’ Duke is hot!

Smart Shot

You knew this was coming. I had to test the gun with lead Smart Shot from H&N. If I hadn’t there would have been complaints. Besides — I want to know, too!

Smart Shot averaged 316 f.p.s. in the Lil’ Duke. The low was 315 and the high was 320 f.p.s., so a spread of 5 f.p.s. Wow! At the average velocity Smart Shot generated 1.65 foot-pounds of energy, making it the most powerful. I feel strongly that if I had some depleted uranium BBs that weigh 9 grains this gun would be even more powerful. Of course paying $17 per BB might put off a few stingy buyers! That and the stuff in your BB trap would then come under regulation by the Waste Management and Radiation Control Board.

Cocking effort

Uncharacteristically I measured the cocking effort for you in Part 1. It was 16 pounds for the gun I am testing. That’s quite stout for a youngster, though in my experience if you give a kid a BB gun they will find a way to make it work. Just don’t think your 7-year-old fairy princess is going to adapt to it. She’ll like the light weight, but the cocking? Not so much.

I said I would check the effort to cock again in Part 2, so I did. This time it registered 15 pounds, so perhaps a pound has gone away as the gun broke in, or perhaps my measuring is off a little. I do think it will get a little lighter than it is now as the parts wear in, but we are probably looking at just another pound or two. That mainspring is pretty strong.

It can be uncocked

I learned this time that the gun can be uncocked by pulling the trigger as you restrain the cocking lever. The lever will try to come back sharply and get caught on the ratchet, so hold onto it and ease it back down. You may have to keep pulling the trigger as you go.

Accuracy?

Accuracy will depend on the size of the bore, relative to the BBs we shoot in it. I sure hope it’s accurate because at this power level it gives you a BB gun that hasn’t existed for many decades. 

Summary

This may seem like a short report, but it was long enough to catch my attention. I am starting to take special notice of this Lil’ Duke. It isn’t at all what I thought it would be. Instead it’s more powerful and made better than I anticipated. I sure hope it’s accurate!

And, lest we forget — there is a scope coming. So after the first accuracy test I’ll mount the scope and go at it again.