Every year around this time the 1983 classic movie “A Christmas Story” will be shown multiple times on a cable TV channel. It tells the story of Ralphie Parker (born in NYC on April 16, 1971) who wants a Daisy “Red Ryder” BB gun for Christmas. Every time he asked for one, he’d get the same famous reply: “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Does that bring back memories? I had the same situation some 73 years ago when I was 10. My mother didn’t like guns, even a BB gun, and didn’t want one in our house. But her brother, my uncle, who lived in Auburn, New York, took me to a department store there during a pre-Christmas visit with him and his family, and bought me my first Daisy Red Ryder BB gun (Daisy.com). A rifle I still have today albeit with a wooden stock rather than a plastic stock that it came with. The reason for that was after so many rounds of BB’s going through it, the firing spring got so weak BB’s would merely dribble out the barrel. When it was sent to Daisy for repair, they put in a new spring and replaced my cracked plastic stock (I presume they no longer made plastic stocks) with a better wooden stock. And they replaced both free of charge.
I hate to admit but during my formative years that Red Ryder popped a lot of starlings, often considered nuisance birds. My one grandfather would pay me a nickel for every one I shot out of his beloved backyard black cherry tree. I even took it small game hunting with my uncle George and other grandfather, but only to walk along to learn safe gun handling and how to hunt pheasants and rabbits.
Since that time airguns, as they’re appropriately called, have come a long way. When my young son was growing up I bought him a Daisy Powerline Model 880 BB/pellet pump-up rifle that I still have. And I most recently acquired a high-powered Gamo Adult Precision Airgun (gamousa.com).
Since airguns are illegal to use for hunting in Pennsylvania, many other states allow them. The Gamo was strictly for inexpensive target shooting practice in my basement, although at 1250 fps, the Gamo is capable of taking down a variety of varmints and small game like squirrels, rabbits, crows even groundhogs with well placed shots. In fact champion pro handgun shooter and friend Doug Koenig from Hamburg, recently took down a 250-pound hog with a 15 yard head shot from a Gamo Whisper rifle shooting a 1.77 Gamo PBA pellet for one of his Sportsman’s Channel TV outdoor shows.
When selecting an air gun for a youngster, there’s no need to buy an expensive pneumatic rifle as Daisy and Crossman offer starter air rifles for under $50. And along with them, special metal target housings for indoor shooting in a basement or garage.
My old Red Ryder carbine (current model is a 105 Buck for $29.99) single-stroke, single shot, cocks by pulling a lever, similar to that on a lever action centerfire deer carbine.
On the newer Daisy Powerline Model 880 (which are still being sold at $49.99), it’s a multi-stroke pump-up rifle that takes from 2-10 pumps to force compressed air into an onboard cylinder. More pumps mean more air for faster BB/pellet speed.
As for the spring piston pumps that Gamo and Daisy sell, they’re extremely powerful, accurate but more expensive and typically use the barrel as a lever to cock an internal spring. The cocking effort on these is very high (sometimes up to 60 pounds), and may be too much for a youngster to cock.
Right now, Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Tractor Supply have Red Ryder’s in stock. Or, you can order direcr from Daisy through their website (www.Daisy.com).
Most importantly, firearm safety must be taught to the youngster immediately (if not before) upon receiving their first BB rifle on Christmas day. I never shot my eye out because I had good training and respect for a firearm.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.