New Daisy book!

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Jedediah Strong Smith is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card. Congratulations!

BSOTW winner Jedediah Strong Smith.

Firearms shooters get a new book or two every month or so. But airgunners are lucky to get a new one every year. Today, we’re going to look at the latest airgun book from Daisy. It was written by Joe Murfin, Daisy’s vice president of marketing and chairman of the board for the Rogers Daisy Airgun Museum.


New Daisy book brings the history of the company up to date.

Daisy collectors all know that Cass S. Hough wrote a book called It’s A Daisy that documents the beginnings of the company up through the time when he served as its president. Hough was the grandson of one of Daisy’s founders and also a test pilot in World War II. He is credited with being one of the first men to fly faster than the speed of sound. It was in a power-dive in a P38 Lightning fighter over England in 1943, while he was testing a problem with the aircraft’s control surfaces. Chuck Yeager is better-known for being the first man to break the sound barrier in level flight in 1947, but Hough and perhaps some others broke it much earlier during dives.

The new book, titled, Daisy/It All Starts Here is not exactly a follow-on to Hough’s It’s A Daisy, but it does fill in the blanks from the time the earlier book left off. The new book begins with a brief history of the company that will be of interest to Daisy fans as well as the general public, because it presents facts, literature and insights not previously published. It even explains why Daisy dates its beginnings to 1886, which collectors realize was several years before the first Daisy guns were made. I won’t spoil the story for you — get the book.

The next chapter completes the history to the current period, so this book isn’t just a history of the company. But I learned a lot of facts about Daisy that no one other than an employee would know. For example, just ask me how the Marine Corps has Daisy test their M1903 drill rifles. (What?)

How BBs are made
In chapter four, the author looks at the manufacture of BBs — the ubiquitous ammunition that defines the guns and even the entire Daisy company! There have been long articles about BBs in the past. Cass Hough wrote a chapter on them and the late Ladd Fanta did a very nice article many years ago for Gun Digest. I’ve even written a short report about the steel spheroid in this blog. But, again, Murfin manages to give us facts and data that I’ve never seen in any other source. With the files of the Daisy Museum at his fingertips, he had wonderful resources to draw upon.


First, they were a penny, then a nickel a pack. Daisy BBs were sold in small plastic packages like these that were wound onto a giant belt. Storekeepers tore off only what the customer wanted.

The author hides nothing from the reader, who gets a fly-on-the-wall view of how BBs are made and distributed today. To say that this particular chapter is an eye-opener is an understatement.

Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle
Another chapter documents all that’s wrong and right about that iconic Christmas movie, A Christmas Story. Jean Shepherd had his main character, little Ralphie Parker, desire a BB gun that never existed. Then, when the movie was made, Daisy cooperated with MGM by building a few of the special guns for the film, and that got spun off into a special Christmas Story Red Ryder gun that never existed before the movie was made. Today, that gun is a major collectible in its own right, and there have been other Christmas Story Red Ryders made at later dates to commemorate the first one! Talk about life imitating art!

Daisy was not about to ignore the vast advertising potential of a movie that often gets shown 24 hours straight during the holiday season, so they also started marketing special tie-in branded items, including a working replica of the famous leg lamp that was made from a cast of Joe Murfin’s leg! If the Red Ryder was already the most famous airgun in the world, the movie turned it into an object recognized by millions who aren’t even aware that airguns exist!

Happy Daisy Boy
In 2005, Daisy was contacted by Tom Reaume, who said his father had been the Happy Daisy Boy. In his book, Cass Hough had identified George Rockford as the Happy Daisy Boy of 1913-1920’s company advertising, but Tom Reaume stepped forward with a 1913 ad showing his father, Rockford A. Reaume, holding the new Daisy No. 25 slide-action BB gun. That ad has hung in the Reaume family living room for decades.


Rockford A. Reaume (a.k.a. George Rockford) was the Happy Daisy Boy from 1913 into the 1920s. His image appeared on a lot of early advertising.

I happened to be visiting Daisy when this took place and was honored that they allowed me to publish the story in Shotgun News, along with about 20 of the vintage photographs. It turned out that Tom Reaume was aware of the one ad, plus he had a small portfolio of photos of his father and several other boys, all posing with Daisy BB guns. But he did not know that his father had been a professional model. He presented copies of all the photos to the Daisy Museum.

Every 120 years
While I was with Murfin in 2005, I asked if he knew that someone had made a small run of the first model of Daisy BB gun several years before. They mounted it in a wooden display frame to hang on a wall. It was incredibly realistic, but non-functional. He was surprised to learn that these non-working copies were fetching $400 from collectors who didn’t have the deeper pockets to buy the real thing.

We fantasized about Daisy making a reissue of the old wire stock model as airgun enthusiasts will do, but that was the last I heard of it until late in 2009, when I got wind that Daisy was coming out with a re-issue of the first model. I reported on that gun in this blog in January 2010.


Daisy’s wire stock first model was lovingly hand-made at the factory in 2009. In 100 years, will it be as famous as the original that came out a century earlier?

Daisy handmade these BB guns as a labor of love, right in their Rogers Arkansas plant. Everywhere possible, they used original materials — such as a hand-wrapped piston seal made from candlewicking soaked in beeswax! I knew this was a special gun when I got mine, but I had no idea what went into it. This book has opened my eyes to a process of airgun making that many would say is a lost art

Daisy firearms
Some of you know that Daisy made .22-caliber rimfire rifles for a time and also .22 rifles that used caseless cartridges. There’s a lot of controversy over these guns because the caseless guns are actually airguns that ignite the gunpowder by means of hot air generated by the piston. It’s an airgun that’s also a firearm. Only 25,000 were made.

The Legacy bolt-action .22 rimfire is a much more conventional firearm. It came as a single-shot, a bolt-action repeater and as a semiautomatic repeater. But the Daisy name was not known to the firearms world, and these rifles had some non-ferrous parts that soured the buying public’s opinion. They pop up at gun shows all the time these days, and the price ranges from $100 to $1,500, because sellers and buyers both still don’t know what to make of them.

The book gives insight into what was happening behind the scenes when these guns were being made and sold. And the Wally World connection pops into the discussion. If you want to know the real story, it’s all down in black and white, and the author pulls no punches.

The rest of 124-page $30 full-color hardbound book is loaded with more Daisy history from recent times. And the author was there to watch a lot of it as it happened. If you’re an airgun collector or just a Daisy fan, you must have this book in your library. It’s available only directly from the Daisy Museum in Rogers, AR.


Building an airgun library

by B.B. Pelletier

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog about the Roanoke Airgun Expo, this year there was more time to sit and talk, and we all did a lot of it! I chatted with Jay in VA about a number of things that will become blogs in the future, but something that was said as an aside turned out to be the most important thing of all. Someone asked a question about something — I can’t remember what — but it prompted me to answer that such-and-such a book was the best place to get the answer. It might even have been Jay who mentioned it, and the topic might have been firearms-related and not airgun, but it started us talking about an airgunners library. Jay suggested that I write a paragraph of description about the books I think every serious airgunner needs to have.

I’ve done this before, I know, but this time I’ll be doing it from a different and more personal angle. I have recently been helped by some old books that almost nobody even knows about, thanks mostly to recommendations from Kevin and Robert from Arcade. So, let’s get right to it.

Yours Truly by Harvey Donaldson
Yours Truly by Harvey Donaldson is a compendium of the written works of Harvey Donaldson, the man best-known as the inventor of the .219 Donaldson Wasp cartridge. In the book, Donaldson is revealed not as a wildcatter of the 1920s, but as a thoughtful benchrest and varmint hunter who was always searching for accuracy. He knew all the greats such as Pope, Neidner and Whelen; and he even schooled a few of them — notably Whelen. He drove a Corvette and was honored in his ’80s by GM as the oldest sports car enthusiast in the world, so the man was in touch with reality, too. From his book, I learned a loading technique that promises to advance my accuracy with the old Ballard rifle by an order of magnitude. Search Amazon for used copies of this book.


This is the book that started my current quest for “new” gun books. It’s a marvelous read.

The Muzzle-Loading Cap Lock Rifle
Ned Roberts, the inventor of the .257 Roberts cartridge, is the author of The Muzzle-Loading Cap Lock Rifle. Roberts wrote the book in 1940; yet, when I tried his ideas in a Schmidt-Rubin target rifle a couple weeks ago, I found them fresh and applicable. For the first time in my life, I shot a 100-yard group smaller than one inch with cast lead bullets. True, it was only a 5-shot group, but I’m just getting started. Oddly enough, this book had very little to say about cartridge arms, yet the info is quite germane to accuracy. It was the impetus for the overbore blog I wrote last week, and it helped me formulate several ideas about accuracy. If you’re serious about shooting and hitting what you aim at, read this book! Find it on Amazon or at one of the used book dealers you get with a Google search.


This old book is a prize for shooters who want to put them all in the same hole!

But they’re not about airguns!
I know that many readers will look at the two books mentioned already and wonder what they have to do with airguns. Both are about firearms with not a mention of an airgun. Yet, the principles of accuracy still apply. I find that when something works in one world, it probably carries over to the other. And let’s face it — a good universal airgun book doesn’t exist. I will recommend a couple books I find to be most helpful, but I have to admit that the airgun world is lacking in anything as universally applicable as can be found in the world of firearms.

Powder to Target/Trigger to Target
Here are two books of fundamentals that every serious airgunner needs to own. The first is The Bullet’s Flight from Powder to Target, written by Dr. Franklin W. Mann in 1909. It has tests that Mann conducted to try to identify the components of accuracy. Not much has changed in a century, has it? Mann spend considerable time (37 years) and money testing everything he could think of to try to identify why some guns shot more accurately than others. He called fliers the X factor. And 30 years later, Roberts called them “outliers.” But both men were interested in why some bullets did not go where the shooter intended. Mann even made a range protected from the wind, by stretching a canvas tunnel 18 inches in diameter down the 100 yards of his test range. The tunnel was curved to allow for bullet drop! Can you imagine the skill it took to construct such a thing — and the anal personality it took to actually build it? Mann would have been one of those guys who carries around a thick notebook full of targets and spreadsheets, and if you saw him coming you would turn around and walk away. You would do so because the first time you met him you had a pleasant five-hour conversation about the effects of precession induced by crosswinds coming from various angles. You said, “Hello” when the conversation started and “Goodbye” when it thankfully ended. He did the rest of the talking.


Both books are about the things we want to know but don’t have the time or resources to test ourselves. These are fundamental references that a shooter cannot afford to do without.

So — not a crowd-pleaser, but a milestone experimenter when it comes to accuracy. It reads like stereo instructions written by Shakespeare, so it’s not a page-turner; but I can say the same about a lot of other valuable references. Buy the book off Amazon or from the used book dealers and buy only a reprint, as an original costs about what an HW55 costs!

In the 1970s, a father-son team of G.V. Cardew and G.M. Cardew wrote The Airgun from Trigger to Muzzle. It was updated in 1995 to The Airgun from Trigger to Target, when they added material. I have both books and the later one is the better one to get.

The Cardews were just as curious about airguns as Mann was about accuracy. They carried out numerous experiments to answer those questions that always come up whenever airgunners get together — only they actually tested their theories.

Want to know how dieseling differs from detonations? They cover it. How long does a spring gun barrel need to be for maximum velocity? They were the first to publish the results and today they are quoted by people who don’t even know they exist. Their book is a seminal work, and though it is sometimes hard to follow, I recommend it to everyone. This one will be hard to find, as it goes in and out of print. Just buy it if you ever see it.

It’s a Daisy
It’s a Daisy is a book about the birth and growth of Daisy — the most iconic American airgun company. The author is Cass S. Hough, the grandson of the founder of the company, and a character in his own right. Hough was the test pilot who inadvertently broke the sound barrier in 1943 in a dive over an airfield in England while trying to rectify the handling problems of the P38 Lightning fighter. He worked for Daisy both before and after the war, and was finally president of the company. He gives a deep insight into the workings of the company during its first 50 years.

The first printing of this book had skyrocketed to $100 on the used market a few years ago. Then, Daisy reprinted it. You can’t buy one directly from them, but it’s available here.


If you want to learn the history of BB guns in America, this is the place to start.

The Blue Book of Airguns
Twenty years ago when I got back into airgunning the biggest complain about airgun books was there were no reliable price guides. Today the biggest complaint is that the Blue Book of Airguns exists, and who do they think they are? Their prices are often so different from what you really pay for the same guns.


This is the best reference for what’s out there. It gets better with each new edition. This one is number nine.

Well, surprise, surprise! The Kelly Blue Book of automobile values works the same way. Thery may say that a 1998 Ford F-150 is worth X, but you might see one in great shape for half that if the owner lost his job and can’t keep up with the payments. Or you might see one listed for 2X if it was last owned by a famous personality (Remember John Voight’s Chrysler LeBaron on Seinfeld?). Just deal with it. The thing about the Blue Book is not the prices — it’s the other information on guns many of us have never seen or even knew existed. I have made a lot of money by owning and consulting a Blue Book.

Wrap up
So there you have it. My short list of airgunner must-haves. Even if you are not a reader, these books can make you a better-informed airgunner, and shooter in general.

One last thing
I wasn’t going to mention this, but there has been some talk among you readers, so I will post it here. My best buy at this show turned out not to be an airgun at all! While looking at the tables I saw and bought a slingshot that has both a red dot sight and a laser designator for Edith. She was really keen on getting one after seeing it online, so I bought it for her. It’s a cool device and I may find a way to work it into a posting sometime, but that wasn’t my best deal.

At the same table I spotted a 1918 trench knife that I assumed to be a replica. I assumed that because this is a rare variation of the more common 1917 model made by LF&C. I had seen the 1918 version on Pawn Stars, so I had some sense of what a real one would be worth, and the asking price was well within my budget, so I bought it.


A chance find at an airgun show! The 1918 trench knife is rare.

Long story short, this isn’t a replica. It’s the real deal from World War I. Most of these were used and abused, so mine, which I would rate as very good, is even rarer. I didn’t expect to find one of these at an airgun show, but because I knew what it was I bought it the moment I saw it. The fact that it turned out to be real is a plus, because I paid for what I thought was a very good replica.

The old salesman’s adage applies here. If you want to make the sales you have to make the calls. Or better yet — the time to buy them is when you see them.