by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
Daisy Number 12 model 29 single shot BB gun.
A history of airguns
This report covers:
- The gun
- Hough front sight
- The BB changed from lead to steel
- Getting 0.175-inch lead shot
- Darts, too!
Sometimes we like things for reasons that make no sense to others, though we know why. Today’s report focuses on a BB gun that I have liked for many years, after discovering late in life that it existed at all.
Daisy’s Number 12 Model 29 is a lever action BB gun with a difference. It looks older than it is. It resembles a Daisy model H that was made from 1913 to 1923. The strangest thing about the model H is the cocking lever, which catches your eye immediately. In many respects these guns look similar to the more common BB guns we know today, but that cocking lever seems strange. I have not read an explanation for why it looks like it does, so allow me to posit a guess — leverage.
BB guns of this era have powerful mainsprings compared to the guns of today, and they are much harder to cock. I am guessing the designers at Daisy decided to do something about it. Most adults will not be able to get all 4 of their fingers through the smaller loop, but when you put the first three through, your thumb then pushes against the straight section ahead of the loop, making the lever much easier to cock. I may be completely wrong about the reason for the design, but that’s the way it works.
This is as far as the cocking lever moves when the gun is cocked.
In 1924 the H model morphed into the numbers 11 (350-shot repeater) and 12 (single shot) model 24. And, in 1929, the model 29 replaced the model 24, in both numbers 11 (repeater) and 12 (single shot). The gun we are looking at is the number 12 single shot.
This model 29 was made from 1929 until 1942, when Daisy stopped making all BB guns to make war materiel. After the war this model was not resumed — probably because it shot a BB that was growing increasingly obsolete.
Hough front sight
This gun has a barrel that quickly removes so a dart can be loaded in its breech. To take the barrel out the front sight is spring-loaded in a bayonet notch. Push back the sight and rotate slightly and the tube comes free. Edward C. Hough patented this feature in 1908, and for some reason his name has been associated with it ever since.
The Hough front sight is spring-loaded to keep the shot tube in the gun. Push it back and rotate to release the tube.
Shot tube removed.
How was a single shot BB gun loaded? At the risk of not being politically correct, let me tell you that little boys with single shot BB guns went around with several BB shot in their mouth! That’s right — lead BB shot, or Air Rifle Shot, to use the correct title. When it came time to load their guns they expertly spit a single BB down the muzzle. Mothers of America unite! I can see a whole career of gun safety lectures, right here!
The muzzle of single shot guns was often shaped like a funnel, to help with the loading process. This continues today on Daisy’s 499 Champion BB gun.
The muzzle is funnel-shaped to expedite loading.
The thing is — it works. Or, at least dropping a BB down the muzzle works. There is no magnet in the breech. You’d need a lead magnet anyway, since this gun is caliber .175 instead of the caliber .173 of a gun made to shoot steel BBs. The shot tube does not taper near the breech to hold the BB tight, so I have no idea how Daisy did this, but it does work. After loading, I held the muzzle straight down and shook the gun. The BB stayed put. [Aside — NOW can you see my frustration when a manufacturer labels their BB gun as .177 caliber/4.5mm? It might not matter to those who buy from discount stores, but in my world it makes a big difference.]
The BB changed from lead to steel
In the late 1920s the BB changed from lead to steel and got smaller by two thousandths of an inch. Read about the history of the BB in this report, How BBs are made. This was also the time when the BB gun changed from shooting lead Air Rifle Shot (sized 0.175-inches) to steel shot (sized 0.171 to 0.173-inches), and that forced some changes in the guns. Today’s gun is an old school gun that was made for lead shot. That fact is even confirmed in the Blue Book of Airguns. I therefore want to use the right ammunition for this test.
Getting 0.175-inch lead shot
I went through this same thing very recently when I discovered that, according to Benjamin, the Benjamin 700 uses 0.175-inch steel Air Rifle Shot. Well, I found a full tin of vintage Benjamin steel Air Rifle Shot and it measures between 0.171 and 0.173-inches in diameter. It has two flats on opposite sides of each BB that were put there during the forming process, so the Benjamin catalog is incorrect. Benjamin steel Air Rifle Shot is not 0.175 like they claim! This clears up a lot and allows me to continue to test the Benjamin 700 as well as this one.
They talk a good game on their tin, but each BB inside has two pronounced flat spots. You can see a couple of them here.
Pardon me for using a handheld macro shot that had to be enhanced a lot. While setting up this photo I dropped this shot on the hard floor. It rolled a few inches then stopped on the flat spot opposite the one seen here. Every BB in the tin has two of these flats. At least they were consistent.