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
Stock and forearm
Trigger and safety
Metal parts 
Overall dimensions
My plans

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. read more

Daisy 1894 Western Carbine: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Daisy 1894
Daisy’s 1894 Western Carbine is a classic BB gun. This one is an NRA Centennial model.

This report covers:

• Daisy Premium BBs
• Hornady Black Diamond BBs
• Avanti Precision Ground Shot
• Crosman Copperhead BBs
• Conclusions

Today, we’ll see if the Daisy 1894 can shoot. I know that a lot of you have been waiting for this report for a long time. I haven’t been waiting nearly as long as some of you, but I am just as excited. As I’ve said more than once while testing this BB gun, I like the way this 1894 feels when I hold it!

I shot the gun at 5 meters (16 feet, 4 inches) from a UTG Monopod rest. I loaded only one type of BB at a time, so the BBs didn’t mix. I shot at larger bulls this time, because the Daisy has open sights that aren’t too fine.

None of the targets below seem to have the correct number of holes. That’s because BBs tear ragged holes and sometimes they land together. Don’t make anything of it.

Daisy Premium BBs
First to be tested were Daisy Premium Grade BBs. Ten of them went into 1.334 inches at 5 meters. That’s not great, but at least they’re all in the same general area.

Daisy BBs
The Daisy 1894 put 10 Daisy BBs into a 1.334-inch group at 5 meters.

Hornady Black Diamond BBs
Next up were 10 Hornady Black Diamond BBs. Nine of ten went into 1.394 inches at 5 meters, which was just a little bigger than the Daisy group. Shot 10 missed the BB trap altogether and hit the backer board I had up to protect the wall behind. This one came straight back at me! So this group isn’t officially 10 shots. It’s just as close as we’re going to get with this BB, because I’m not shooting any more of them. read more

Daisy 1894 Western Carbine: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Daisy 1894
Daisy’s 1894 Western Carbine is a classic BB gun. This one is an NRA Centennial model.

This report covers:

• Preparation for firing
• Daisy Premium Grade BBs
• Crosman Copperhead BBs
• Hornady Black Diamond BBs
• Trigger-pull
• How is the gun?

Let’s look at the velocity of my Daisy model 1894 BB gun. Several of you said you were glad to see this report, and I’m happy to do it for you. The 1894 is a BB gun I simply overlooked when it was available. All of you knew how nice it was, but until now I never had a clue.

Daisy advertised the 1894 as a 300 f.p.s. BB gun. That’s not too hot, but also not on the bottom. It’s a nice place to be if accuracy is all you’re concerned with, because 300 f.p.s. is enough to do everything you need.

I also mentioned this in Part 1, but it bears repeating. The 1894 lever is light enough to work while the gun remains on your shoulder. It cocks in both directions, which offsets the effort a little, I guess. Once cocked, though, the hammer has to be thumbed back manually to fire the gun.

The BB magazine is spring-loaded. You can cock the gun in almost any orientation, and it will still feed reliably. In fact, I have become entranced by watching the external follower lever pop back one BB every time the lever is returned home!

Preparation for firing
After the gun arrived, the first thing I did was oil it through the oil hole. I could see that there was fresh oil there already, so the seller must have done it, also. I haven’t oiled the gun since then, but there’s still a mist of oil with each shot. So, the plunger (piston head) is still well-oiled.

Before shooting this test, I shot the gun 3 times to “wake up” the piston head. That gives it a chance to start sealing as well as it can. I do that with other spring-piston pellet guns, too.

Daisy Premium Grade BBs
The first BB I tried was the Daisy Premium Grade BB. They averaged 292 f.p.s. with a velocity spread from 289 to 297 f.p.s. That’s very close to Daisy’s published velocity for the 1894.

Crosman Copperhead BBs
Next, I tried 10 Crosman Copperhead BBs. They averaged 298 f.p.s. with a spread from 295 to 301 f.p.s. Copperheads have always measured a little smaller than most premium BBs and therefore shoot just a little faster because they weigh a little less.

Hornady Black Diamond BBs
The final BB I tested was the new Hornady Black Diamond. These surprised me by averaging 304 f.p.s., with a low of 281 and a high of 306 f.p.s. There were 2 failures to feed with this BB, while the other 2 BBs fed fine.

How is the gun?
Based on these velocities, I think my 1894 is performing well. It may not be as fast as it was when new, but it is acceptibly close. I found a lot of talk on the internet about this model drying up and hardening over the years until it had to be rebuilt, but that is not what I found with this one. read more

Daisy 1894 Western Carbine: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Daisy 1894
Daisy’s 1894 Western Carbine is a classic BB gun. This one is an NRA Centennial model.

This report covers:

• History
• The rifle
• First impressions

I received a Daisy 1894 for Christmas this year, allowing me to test and write about a BB gun with which I have no experience. Every time the subject of the 1894 comes up, we get comments from many readers who fondly remember the gun from their youth. I never had one, so those weren’t my memories; but when I first saw the gift, I vowed to use it to set the record straight.

Actually, the gun I received wasn’t working. It was a used gun that came without any guarantees. Though it does cock and fire, no BB comes out. But seeing it was the motivation I needed to reach out and get one that worked. The gun I got is an NRA Centennial model. They were sold in sets that included a model 179 BB pistol and the rifle — both in presentation boxes. The rifle box could be taken apart and made onto a rifle stand for display.

Receiver side
As you see, the side of the receiver shows a lot of wear. The former owner’s social security number clinches the deal, making this just a shooter.

NRA Centennial models are worth $250-300 if unfired; but once they’re used, all collector value goes away. To make absolutely certain of that status, the former owner of this one engraved his social security number on the receiver! This is a shooter and nothing more. I got just the rifle and no box.

Daisy’s 1894 was the very first Spittin’ Image BB gun the company made. They started producing them in 1961 and continued through 1986. Besides the standard model, there were quite a few commemorative guns like this one. They hold a premium only as long as they’re in their original box and haven’t been fired. Once any wear shows, the gun drops in value, depending on its condition.

Daisy did revisit the 1894 design for one year in 1994, when they made a special Commemorative Limited Edition. That gun has a manual safety and is not loaded through the loading gate like the rifle I’m testing. Plus, it also holds only 15 BBs.

The rifle
The 1894 looks very similar to a Winchester 1894 lever-action rifle. The exterior is mostly sheet metal with a hollow plastic stock and forearm. The model I’m testing for you has metal bands holding the “rifle” barrel to the “cartridge” tube (really these are just external sheet metal tubes for cosmetics), but there are variations — like the model made for Sears that doesn’t have these bands.

This is a repeater that has an internal spring-fed 40-shot BB magazine. It loads through the spring-loaded loading gate in the receiver, the same as the firearm it copies. Loading is easy once the magazine spring is compressed and out of the way. There’s a thumb piece that you pull forward to compress the magazine follower spring, and there’s no catch — so this piece must be held while loading the BBs.

Thumb piece
This thumb piece is pushed forward (right) to allow BBs to enter the magazine.

Loading gate pushed down
Pushing in or down on the loading gate opens the rear of the magazine for BBs to be loaded.

Cocking the gun is as different as it gets. Those who’ve never owned a Daisy Buzz Barton BB gun may not remember there were ever BB guns that had to be cocked in both directions. When you cock a Red Ryder lever, you pull it open as far as it’ll go until the trigger catches the sear. Then, the lever is under no more tension. It easily swings back to the stored position. That’s not how the 1894 cocks. The lever offers resistance going down and forward, but also coming back and up to the stored position. And even though the gun may be cocked, it still isn’t ready to fire. You must manually cock the hammer before the gun will fire.

lever cocked open
Moving the lever down and forward is the first half of the cocking stroke. There’s resistance as the lever returns home, too.

The part about cocking the hammer seems like a safety provision to me. The later version of the gun actually has a manual safety, but the model I’m testing doesn’t. That extra step of cocking the hammer can be used to make the shooter pause before firing. There’s no possibility of rapid fire with the 1894.

Hammer back
After cocking the gun, thumb the hammer back to make it ready to fire. read more

Erma ELG 10 air rifle

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

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

Pyramyd Air Big Shot of the Week

Brett Latimer is the Big Shot of the Week on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.

Today’s report was influenced by blog reader Kevin, who suggested that I use some of the old articles I’ve written in the past. Well, I’m always open to something that makes my life easier, plus I’ve had access to some of the most unusual airguns in the world over the years. So, today, we’ll take a look at one of them.

I wrote this article in 1999, and I’m not changing anything in it — apart from making some corrections to spelling, grammar and punctuation. It was originally published in Airgun Revue 4.

Someone said they wanted to see how Tom wrote in the old days. Well, here we go!

Erma ELG 10
Erma’s ELG 10 was a single-shot underlever spring gun, though it looked like a western repeater.

There are never enough models to satisfy the curiosity of collectors of very finely made airguns. They struggle along, first discovering 10-meter guns, then German sporting models and finally coming to rest with the finer British guns like the Webley Mark III or the BSA Improved Model D underlever. And that’s where many believe the road ends. Unless they want to branch out into tinplate and cast iron toy guns, they think they’ve seen it all. But they have not yet turned over all the rocks. Not until they own an Erma ELG 10 will their collections be complete.

To look at it, the Erma is a curiosity. You find yourself looking for the plastic parts or where to put the CO2 powerlet. Your eye tells you the gun is solidly built, but your doubting airgunner’s mind tells you it can’t be as nice as it seems. It looks too much like a Daisy model 1894. You keep waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under you, and it never is. The ELG 10 is exactly what it looks like — an extremely high-grade spring air rifle built from all wood and metal, in the best Winchester tradition. In fact, the Winchesters of today should be made so well!

The gun came to the United States in the late 1970s through the Beeman company, where they were sold for a short time. Their retail price of over $300 was what killed them, coming as it did at a time when R1 rifles sold for the same money. The ELG 10 is a low-powered plinking rifle, and few people were willing to shell out big bucks to buy something that couldn’t even keep up with a Diana model 27. Never mind the fact that they produced the same power as the FWB 300 target rifle, which was selling for twice as much. The Erma simply looked too much like a toy; and until you hold one in your hands and realize what it is, there’s no sale.

There was an article in American Airgunner in 1991 about the Erma that spawned some desire for the gun. After that, people were placing ads to buy one in Airgun Ads and elsewhere. I even had the strategy of watching the Gun List ads for Erma firearms, hoping that one would mistakenly pop up. It’s a habit I haven’t shaken to this day.

My first ELG 10 came from Airgun Ads, and I paid plenty for it — $550, as I recall. It came with a Beeman box and was in pristine cosmetic condition, but the power seemed low. The gun was shooting lightweight Hobby pellets only in the low 400s. Knowing that Erma is not primarily an airgun maker, I reasoned that the gun might well have leather seals; so, I lubricated mine with Beeman’s Chamber Oil and saw the velocity jump up to the mid-600s…where it belonged. Despite what the article in American Airgunner said about the gun growing tired over time, all it usually takes to rejuvenate one is a little oil on the seal. I still don’t know if the seal is leather or not, but the gun responds to oil as though it is.

As luck would have it, after paying so much for that first one, I stumbled across a SECOND Erma just two weeks later. This one was in a local gun store, where they were asking $175. I bought it, figuring I could average the cost of the two guns and realize two good bargains. It, too, was shooting in the 400s until a shot of chamber oil fixed things.

Although the rifle is short, at just 37.75 inches, it’s a handful. It weighs six full pounds, and never does your hand touch anything except wood and metal. It’s as accurate at 10 meters as a Diana model 27, which validates the integral scope rails machined into the top of the receiver. Although the iron sights are quite nice, the Erma is the perfect gun on which to mount a small scope, like Beeman’s SS3 or SS1.

Firing behavior is a quick forward jump with a small but noticeable spring vibration. It comes at the end of a 6 lb., 12 oz. trigger-pull that’s crisp but definitely not light. Part of that extra weight is safety engineering, no doubt, because this rifle is loaded with it.
The gun is cocked by swinging the finger lever all the way forward. Although it looks like a lever-action firearm, the cocking lever is really much longer than just the finger lever because it has to provide some mechanical advantage.

Erma ELG 10 cocking lever forward
The finger lever is part of a longer underlever that retracts a sliding compression chamber, opening the way for loading the breech.

This is not a gun you hold up to your shoulder and just flick the lever with one hand. No, indeed. You dismount it and work the lever with one hand while restraining the rifle with the other hand and your leg. Not that it is hard to cock, for it isn’t. It cocks with about the same 17 lbs. of effort as the FWB 124 breakbarrel rifle, but it’s not a job for one hand, alone.

As the gun is cocked, the sliding compression chamber retracts, just like on a TX 200 or HW 77. As it retracts, a clicking ratchet catches the chamber at intervals, so there is little possibility of an accident should your cocking hand slip.

When the chamber is all the way to the rear, there’s access to the rear of the barrel for a pellet to be inserted. It’s a tight fit, but elevating the muzzle helps you balance the pellet on your thumb until you make contact with the barrel. All the while, the sliding chamber is retained by an anti-beartrap mechanism to keep you from chopping off your digits.

Erma ELG 10 compression chamber retracted
The compression chamber is retracted, leaving lots of room to load the gun. The slot at the bottom is for clearance for the cocking linkage.

The cocking cycle is completed by returning the lever to the starting position. To shoot, upward pressure must be maintained on the finger lever, just like so many lever-action firearms. There’s also a safety behind the receiver, profiled to look something like the hammer on a firearm. It’s not automatic, but you can put it on at any time. The way it functions is very strange. Instead of blocking or disconnecting the trigger, it simply pushes a steel bar straight down through the bottom tang, where it props the finger lever from being squeezed closed. Thus, they use one safety device to force engagement of a second device. It works fine, which says a lot for the Erma engineers’ confidence in their design.

So, the gun is bristling with safeties! That means you cannot decock it. Once cocked, a pellet must be fired. Also, it means that a slot had to be cut in the bottom of the outer receiver to allow for travel of the link that connects the sliding compression chamber to the cocking lever. Unfortunately, the slot looks exactly like the ones in the cheap Chinese sidelevers that were formed from stamped sheet metal stock. Nothing on the ELG is cheap, but this one feature does give that impression.

Erma ELG 10 safety
The manual safety looks a little like the hammer. All it does is block the lever from closing completely — so the gun cannot fire.

Erma ELG 10 safety up
The gun is cocked and the safety is off. read more

Daisy’s Red Ryder: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Kyle Ioffrida 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 Kyle Ioffrida shows off his home shootin’ range…much of it built with recycled materials.

Part 1
Part 2

Daisy’s Red Ryder is the best-known airgun of all time. This one is from the 1940s.

I must love you guys — I really must. Otherwise how could you explain me going to the trouble of mounting a Daisy model 300 telescope on my Red Ryder just for this test? I can’t explain it any other way.

Was it hard?
No — adjusting the valves on a V-12 Ferrari is hard. This went beyond hard.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, but it wasn’t easy switching over the scope from my 1936-model Daisy No. 25 pump gun to the Red Ryder. After I did, though, I realized that the mount on the No. 25 has always been wrong. It was really a Red Ryder mount — based on there being two screw holes in the mount base instead of just one. The No. 25 doesn’t have a screw hole at the top of the receiver like the Red Ryder.

But crying time is over.  What have we got with the 300 telescope? Well, for starters, I think we need to consider the history of the scope. When the model 300 was first brought to market, rifle scopes looked a lot different than they do today. And the 300 attempts to follow the lines of the day, being long and slender, as well as having its adjustments built into the mounts rather than the scope.

The gun looks sophisticated with the scope mounted. How can you miss with something like this?

It clamps tight to the “barrel” (the sheetmetal outer tube of the gun) in front, and has the facility of angling both up and down on a trunnion contained in the front mount. That is needed because the rear mount is a cam that adjusts the scope’s elevation. No windage adjustment is possible, though the whole scope can be shifted slightly right or left on the gun, then clamped down again.

The front mount clamps to the outer tube of the BB gun and has a trunnion built in, so the scope is free to pivot up and down without straining the tube.

It’s not a scope!
Technically, the model 300 is a tube sight rather than a scope, but I’m sure Daisy didn’t intend little boys to think of it that way. It has only one plastic “lens” in front, where the objective bell is, and nothing at the eyepiece. There’s no magnification, but inside the tube is a post for sighting. You sight in so the BB strikes the point where the top of the post rests on the target. As long as the scope is on left and right, you should do at least as well as with the open sights. Having used a thin post front sight recently with great success, I have high hopes for this one.

I have owned two others of this model scope, and on one of them I had a reproduction of the original rubber eyepiece that really makes the scope look right. Someone reproduced a couple hundred of those rubber eyepieces a few decades ago, and they’re now valuable additions to the scopes that have them. But it’s still easy to use the scope without the eyepiece.

The scope is 18 inches long and has a tube diameter of 0.984 inches, so call it one inch. The tube is made of folded sheet steel — the same as the gun, and it’s blued in the same way. It adjusts only for elevation, using a clever captive cam arrangement on the rear mount that raises and lowers the rear of the scope. As mentioned previously, the front mount has a trunnion, so moving the scope up and down doesn’t put a strain on the tube.

In this view, the scope is adjusted down as low as it goes.

The scope has been adjust up about halfway by rotating the cam. This is a very subtle and precise way to adjust a scope. I see from the photo that the rear base screw needs to be tightened some more. read more

Daisy’s Red Ryder: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Chris LeGate 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 Chris LeGate holding his .22-cal. Benjamin Marauder mounted with a Leapers 3-9x40AO scope with illuminated reticle. He also got a tin of JSB TEST Sampler pellets and an Air Venturi hand pump.

Part 1

Daisy’s Red Ryder is the best-known airgun of all time. This one is from the 1940s.

I’m going to combine velocity and accuracy testing for the Daisy Red Ryder, because I want to do a third report with the Daisy model 300 scope mounted. After examining the mount on my 1936 No. 25 that has that scope, I see it has the same base as the Red Ryder. So, the switch should be easy.

My Red Ryder hasn’t been shot in a great many months — perhaps over a year, so I expected to find the leather piston seal dry. But it wasn’t. I got that telltale wisp of smoke that told me the seal is still full of oil. However, I wanted to test the gun both before and after oiling, so that’s what I did.

I used the pellet/BB trap that was given to me by Jim Contos at last year’s Malverne airgun show (don’t forget, it’s coming up next month on April 27 and 28). It’s full of duct seal; but because I would be shooting BBs at low velocity and didn’t want any to bounce back off the lead already in the trap, I put a half-pound smear of fresh duct seal over what was already in the trap. I’ve now got between 5,000 and 10,000 shots on this trap, and it’s holding up fine. For those who need to build an inexpensive yet rugged trap for both BBs and pellets, click here for instructions on how to make one.

Before oiling
I shot Daisy zinc-plated BBs for all tests you’ll read today. Before the gun was oiled, it gave an average of 302 f.p.s. The spread went from a low of 290 to a high of 306 f.p.s. At the average velocity, the 5.1-grain BBs produced 1.03 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

I removed the shot tube and dumped out all the BBs. Newer BB guns have a hole on the side of the barrel jacket for oil, but older ones like this one don’t. You must remove the shot tube and drop the oil straight down the open end of the barrel jacket, where it can soak into the leather piston seal.

I used 3-in-One oil for this job. At the low velocity the Red Ryder generates, common household oil is fine for oiling the piston seal. There’s no danger of a detonation, and you can use enough oil to really soak that seal. I used 12 drops just to see what would happen.

After oiling
After the gun was oiled, the velocity was no higher than before. The average now was just 300 f.p.s., but the total velocity spread tightened just a bit, from 16 f.p.s. before oiling to 11 f.p.s. after. The spread went from 293 to 304 f.p.s.

So oiling made little difference. As I noted, the presence of a wisp of smoke after every shot alerted me to the fact that the gun had all the oil it required.

I set up a 15-foot range, because that’s the standard distance for guns like this Red Ryder. The aim point was a Shoot-N-C black paster, peeled off a 3-inch bullseye card. It’s ever-so-slightly larger than a U.S. nickel coin, and I wanted to follow Mel Gibson’s advice from the movie The Patriot, “Aim small. Miss small.”

I shot offhand, and the first group is larger than it should be because I didn’t apply myself on every shot. I didn’t expect much accuracy from this BB gun, so I let a couple shots wander more than they should. The resulting 10-shot group measures 1.597 inches between centers. But within that group, there’s a cluster of five holes that measures 0.453 inches between centers. That encouraged me to knuckle down and give it my best effort on a second try.

The first group measures 1.597 inches across for 10 shots at 15 feet, but look at where five of those shots went. That hole measures 0.453 inches across.

The second group measures 1.483 inches between centers, so not a lot better than the first. It looks better because the shots seem to all be in a big cluster, but the measurements tell a different story.

Target two looks better than the first, but it isn’t by much. Ten shots went into this group measuring 1.483 inches between centers. Four of those shots made a much smaller 0.371-inch group. read more