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Education / Training Daisy 20th Century Cast Iron BB gun: Part 1

Daisy 20th Century Cast Iron BB gun: Part 1

Daisy 20th Century Cast Iron gun
Daisy 20th Century Cast Iron Frame BB gun.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • History
  • Fragile
  • Construction
  • Shot tube
  • Description
  • Markings
  • Last cast iron BB gun
  • BB shot?
  • Summary

It is my sad duty to inform you readers that Robert David Beeman, PhD. passed away on August 25. He was on this earth from March 23, 1932 until his passing and he changed the horizon of airgunning around the world. Much of what we have today is because of what he did.

When I became an airgunner as an adult I was influenced most by his writings, both in the first edition of the Airgun Digest, and also in the pages of his many colorful catalogs. I visited his store in Santa Rosa and I met him and talked with both him and his wife, Toshiko, many times at the SHOT Show. He was always a bit larger than life, as such personalities often are.

This day had to come, for in life this is the inevitable end, but it leaves those who are left behind with a hole in their hearts. My thoughts are with the Beeman family, as they cope with their loss. Robert — you left us a legacy and made the world a better place for those who enjoy shooting with just air. Your name will live on in our thoughts and our hearts. Rest in peace, Doc.

Today I have a real oldie for you. It’s a Daisy 20th Century BB gun with a cast iron frame.


Daisy made two different models that they called the 20th Century. The first was a cast iron frame model that came in four different variations as a single-shot and in two variations as a repeater. All of these are scarce, but the repeaters are the scarcest and command the highest money when sold. The gun I will be showing you in this series is a 4th variation single shot that I am rating as 60 percent condition. It works, which attests to the rugged but simple design that has lasted for well over a century. All variations of this model were made from 1898 through 1902. A gun in the same condition as the one I’m reporting on sold at auction for $750 in 2006.

In 1903 Daisy dropped the cast iron frame model and replaced it with a folded sheet metal frame, but they kept the name 20th Century. That must have been a big deal in those days.

That sheet metal gun exists in seven variations as a single shot and four variations as a repeater. Both of the sheet metal versions were produced from 1903 until 1910. And these date are approximations from data like catalog entries. No doubt there was some offset from the precise dates expressed.

The sheet metal frame gun looks significantly different than the cast iron gun, though it operates exactly the same. All the 20th Century guns are cocked by pushing down on the buttstock, which pulls two wire rods that connect to the plunger, which is what the piston is called in a BB gun. And Yogi — just for you I have included the angle for the cocked gun on cardboard.

Daisy 20th Century gun cockedry-of-airguns/
There you go, Yogi. The gun is cocked over two 90 degree lines.

Folded sheet metal was the future for Daisy. It did away with the iron castings that were both difficult to cast and fragile to operate. Folded metal was the future of BB guns.


Say cast iron to people and fragile isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But it can be very fragile. Drop a folded metal gun on concrete and it will scratch and possibly dent. Cast iron can fracture. So, of the number of guns that were produced, and the attrition over the years from leaving them outdoor, moms throwing them out, etc, there are far fewer BB guns of any kind today. Add the fragility of cast iron and the number decreases again. If you search for them on the internet you’ll find some with cracked frames.


The cast iron 20th Century BB gun came with either a wire stock or a wood stock. My fourth variant has a wood stock. The sights are fixed, front and rear, but they bear some consideration. The rear sight is a peep sight! The peephole is large and the sight doesn’t move, but how strange that Daisy knew to do that at the turn of the 20th century.

Daisy 20th Century rear sight
The rear sight is a peep that’s not adjustable.

The front sight is attached to the removable shot tube. It is low and wide and more than that I can’t say until I try to shoot the gun for accuracy.

1Daisy 20th Century front sight
The front sight is attached to the shot tube.

Shot tube

The shot tube removes to clear jams. Remember, these guns are meant to shoot BB shot, which is nominally 0.180-inches in diameter.

Daisy 20th Century shot tube
The brass shot tube comes out like this. This is for clearing jams.

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The gun is 30.25-inches long and weighs 1 lb. 15.4 oz. The length of pull is 12.5 inches. The wood butt is deeply scalloped for the shoulder and when you hold the gun you get a sense that it was made for youngsters.


The word DAISY is cast into the left side of the grip. On the first variant, there is a bullseye on either side of the name.The right side of the pistol grip says 20TH CENTURY. Daisy has also impressed their mark on the left side of the buttstock.

Daisy 20th Century left grip
The left grip has DAISY in raised letters. Note the beginnings of folded sheet metal on the front of the frame. The trigger and triggerguard are cast iron.

Daisy 20th Century right grip
The right grip says 20TH CENTURY in raised letters.

Daisy 20th Century buttstock marks
The buttstock says DAISY MANFG Co, Patented, DAISY, May 6, 90 July (something) 91, PLYMOUTH MICH U.S.A.

Last cast iron BB gun

The 20th Century is the last cast iron BB gun Daisy made. From this point forward they used folded sheet metal to form their BB guns. It is also one of the last to shoot real BBs. Within a few years Daisy made a smaller (0.175-inch) lead ball they called Air Rifle Shot, and in the mid-to-late 1920s they switched over to steel BBs, again reducing the size of the ball.

BB shot?

I thought I had a tin or two of real 0.180 BB shot on hand. I may not, but I will look. Lead BB shot is unavailable online unless I want to pay over sixty dollars, which I don’t. The good news is those oversized Marksman BBs (0.176) do fit loosely. They work, though they aren’t very powerful.


Because of the age of the gun and the ammo problem I will combine parts 2 and 3 in the next report. This short series will be a chance to see a BB gun that many of you will never see again. This is what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers played with when they were little boys.

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.

57 thoughts on “Daisy 20th Century Cast Iron BB gun: Part 1”

    • Yogi,

      “However, many people have said that he was not the nicest fellow…”

      I can’t let that go without comment!

      He had a sense of humor. It could be acerbic at times and he could be said to not suffer Fools gladly.

      But he was a fine Gentleman in every dealing I had with him. We shared both a love of airguns and the Alpine Schwabenland (Shwabia) southern Baden Württemberg, Western Bavaria, Northern Switzerland, and the Alsace.

      Gute gemacht!


    • Yogi,

      I owe you an apology.
      All weekend long I have been trying to figure out how best to do it. I know you meant no disrespect to Dr. Beeman nor did you share any information that wasn’t already repeated many times in the past. I should have made it a separate post to the blog and not a reply to you.

      I apologize.


  1. BB,

    May the Lord’s perpetual light shine upon Dr. Beeman. Amen.

    Cast iron is hard and brittle. What did Daisy do to minimize rust in their early sheet metal guns?


  2. Sad news that Doc Beeman has passed. The work he did indeed brought airgunning significant advances. Before Beeman was Robert Law of Air rifle headquarters-he was the individual that greatly influenced my interest in air guns in the early 1970’s. Although some don’t respect the work of Mr. Law, he laid the foundation that the Beemans built upon.

    • arbiter,
      I remember my first Air Rifle Headquarters catalogue; it had a picture of, I believe, grease, that had been formed in a bucket and left to solidify; it was perhaps 4 inches thick, and it was shot with a rifle that put out 800 fps in .177 caliber; there was a tiny hole going in, and a huge hole exiting…after that, I read everything I could from both Robert Law and Doc Beeman regarding airguns. =>
      Take care,

  3. One of the early giants of airgunning is gone.

    I do so wish I had one of the wire stock Daisys. I frequently go to airgun shows and see many of these early bb guns, most all of them on display by older gentlemen with large Daisy collections. Unfortunately, their prices are well beyond my abilities to purchase. Maybe if I had a grand to play with, I could get into some serious dickering with them. Alas, I can do no more than admire and drool.

  4. BB,

    By the way, with the new format their are links to past blogs. You never did get back to the Beeman 900 and the FWB P44.


    I’m not finished with the Beeman 900. I know it must shoot better than it has and I just need to find the right pellet to do it.
    Shooting the FWB P44 was a blast, as well. That pistol has lapsed into history and been replaced by the FWB P8X target pistol. That makes the P44 an historical airgun as well! Goody!


  5. “This day had to come, for in life this is the inevitable end…”
    I hear you on that; but my stock answer (when asked by students in my Bible study classes) of how I’d like to leave this world is “to be Raptured out of it.” 🙂
    As for Doc Beeman, I pray he is absent from the body and present with the Lord; he will be sorely missed; I voraciously read every word in his catalogs; I couldn’t wait for the new one to come out. I ordered my first air pistol, the Beeman/Webley Tempest from his catalogue, and later, my Beeman R7 (.177).
    Now regarding this Daisy 20th Century Cast Iron BB gun…well, it will be nice if it has any accuracy (if you can find some .180 lead balls), but either way, this thing just exudes cool…and I love the pic on the cardboard.
    Eagerly awaiting the follow-on reports,

    • Dave,

      The Rapture? Yes, please! I would like a seat on that bus. I would even ride in the cargo hold! 😉

      I hope this little BB gun surprises all of us!


      • BB
        You just never know.

        You just might be in the front row.

        My mom had a picture of the Rapture that was painted by someone hanging in the living room on the farm when I was a kid.

        It showed all our normal life’s doing for the day and people’s spirits rising to be with God. All the cars and planes was crashing and hitting buildings and stores and people after the dead was above rising to God and then the living that believed.

        I have imagined that moment all my life wondering what would be if it happened when I was alive. I believe but that day will be something else in many ways.

        That day I will be sad and crying and happy at the same time.

        I was going to delete this comment but decided not to.

        • Gunfun1,
          It’s a good comment; I’m glad you left it.
          You reminded me of that book “Left Behind” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
          I read the whole series (great books), but the first book was really interesting because it was made into (IMHO) a very poor movie. Cloud Ten did a great job with their own stuff, so Tim LaHaye trusted them to do right by the book; sadly, they did not; in the movie, the gospel is severely watered down; the book was MUCH better. At my last job, one of our guys was told he had to catch a plane one short notice; he had nothing to read on the flight, and no time to stop at a store, so he grabbed a copy of the book, “Left Behind,” off a co-worker’s desk, as he knew the guy (who was not around at the time) had finished it, and wouldn’t mind. He read the book on the plane, and got saved, which is way cool; and I have not heard of anything similar about the movie. Sometimes, the book is just better. 🙂
          God’s blessings to you,

  6. B.B.,

    This is the first I have heard about Dr. Beeman’s death. To salute him for his immeasurable contribution to air-gunning, sometime this weekend I will go into my backyard and shoot 21 times my San Anselmo engraved, Beeman imported, Feinwerkbau 27.


  7. B.B. and Readership,

    I responded to Yogi’s post at the top of the comments section about an often repeated criticism of Dr. Beeman: “However, many people have said that he was not the nicest fellow…”

    As I told Yogi above, I can’t let that stand without comment!

    He could be acerbic and he did not suffer Fools gladly! *

    I wish him only Fair Winds and Following Seas!


    * Suffer fools gladly is a well-known phrase in contemporary use, first coined by Saint Paul in his second letter to the Church at Corinth (chapter 11). … There is an apostolic injunction to suffer fools gladly. We always lay the stress on the word “suffer”, and interpret the passage as one urging resignation.

    • Shootski
      I bet if you think more. Alot of us are like what Yogi said he heard about Dr.Beeman.

      Why is that something that bothers you.

      Maybe that’s a characteristic that made the Doc who he was.

      Is that a bad thing? To me I don’t give a you know what somebody says I’m like. Been that way all my life. Like me or hate me. It is what it is.

      • Gunfun1,

        Reputation and RESPECT for it.
        If it is a reputation based on first-hand knowledge then so be it. But a reputation that is grounded on hearsay is a false reputation. False reputations all too often keep good folks from getting together and doing great and small things that can bring them joy and fine achievements.
        It isn’t a matter of my caring what other people think of me; but whatever they do think of me should be based on firsthand knowledge not hearsay. Hearsay repeated often enough becomes the gospel for too many folks.

        You and I are lucky enough to have the strength of Character to not need to care what other’s opinions (good or bad)are about us; consider yourself Blessed.
        I know I do.


        • Shootski
          I hear everything your saying.

          Maybe Doc was like that when need be. And in my book I have no problem with that at all.

          Usually those are the people that can make happen what they want. (the Doc)

          And I never knew him personally to know if what was said about him was true or not. So for me any talk about that means nothing to me. For me he was a alright guy. I can’t judge anything about him cause I didn’t know him. And even ifi did I couldn’t judge him. That’s not for me to do.

          All that stuff means nothing to me. I know what I think about the Doc and to say all good from what I see. Heck with the rest. Forget them. You know what I mean.

  8. There was a Catholic priest, Fr. Corapi, who in one of his YouTube videos defined death as “the transition from Time into Eternity.” May Dr. Beeman have a beautiful transition into God’s Eternity.

    As for that Tin Can Bandit blog, that’s another one for FM’s Blog Bucket to go down yet into another fun rabbit hole. Thanks for the share, shootski.

  9. Ridgerunner, I just received 3 TruGlo front sights in the mail. It’s cool to adjust the brightness by turning the shade, but for the brightest setting, gently pull the shade off so you get 360 degrees of light on the fiber optic filament! I will try to shoot with it tonight! Maybe a side by side comparison with the HW Fiber optic sight.

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