AIR­GUN COLLECTION

Ad­di­tional im­ages cour­tesy of Dr. Trevor Adams

Air Gunner - - Contents - by John Atkins

John Atkins’ in-depth study of two pumpaction guns from Daisy

No mat­ter how much I write about BB guns and de­spite my best ef­forts in the past, the Amer­i­can BB gun still does not seem to stir the in­ter­ests of all UK air­gun col­lec­tors, al­though prices do seem to be on the up. I re­alise that a large num­ber of UK col­lec­tors have nei­ther time, nor space in their col­lec­tions for them or other ‘lit­tle weak shoot­ers’, as they call them, like Amer­i­can ‘par­lor’ pis­tols. Pos­si­bly, if some of th­ese col­lec­tors had seen a good BB gun like the sin­gle-shot Daisy Model 499 per­form­ing surprisingly ac­cu­rately in the right hands, opin­ions might change.

A demon­stra­tion I wit­nessed by ex­pert marks­man, Brian Ship­per­ley, in 1990, of his Daisy ‘Quick Skill’ Model 2299 BB air­gun on a 25- yard gar­den range cer­tainly changed my own opin­ion. The ‘Quick Skill’ was based on the Daisy Model 99 used for the ‘Ri­fle Quick Kill’ pro­gramme for train­ing troops in the Viet­nam war, and in­tended for ac­cu­rate in­stinc­tive shoot­ing with­out sights that was taught be­fore the sol­dier was in­tro­duced to aimed fire, which utilises the sights. For civil­ian sale and use, the name of the BB gun ob­vi­ously had to be sub­tly changed in 1968! How­ever, th­ese are lever­ac­tion cock­ers like the old mod­els I looked at last month and now I’m look­ing at Daisy pump- ac­tion cock­ing mod­els, start­ing at the be­gin­ning with the US patent 1,136,470 of 20.4.15 seen in Fig­ure 1.

The in­ven­tor was the gun­smith, Charles F. Le­fever, Ply­mouth, Michi­gan, as­signor to Daisy Mfg. Co. for a spring air­gun, which went on to be the Daisy Model 25, the world’s big­gest sell­ing air­gun. Le­fever (known as Fred) was the grand­son of the founder of the Le­Fever Arms Com­pany. He ac­cepted the of­fer to work for Daisy on the year- long tool­ing and de­vel­op­ment for the gun, but said, “I’ll come to Ply­mouth for a few months to get you started, but that’s all”. He stayed for 41 years.

EIGHT MILLION SOLD

The Daisy Model 25 pump slide- ac­tion BB re­peater is the big­gest sell­ing air­gun of all time and is shown cocked in Fig­ure 2. Look­ing al­most ex­actly like it did in 1913 when the first model was made, it was man­u­fac­tured for 66 years up un­til 1979 in nearly 60 vari­ants, with pro­duc­tion restarted in 2009, a tes­ti­mony to the de­sign work of Charles F. Le­fever. Al­though sales fig­ures of up 25 million are com­monly given for the Model 25, the num­ber sold ac­cord­ing to Cass H. Hough, grand­son of the founder of The Ply­mouth Iron Wind­mill Co. in his 1976 book, It’s A Daisy, was stated at 8,000,000.

With ap­prox­i­mately 45 shots from the spring-fed mag­a­zine, older Model 25s seem to have a stronger spring than later vari­ants, giv­ing about 400 fps with ex­cel­lent accuracy at sen­si­ble range. Fig­ure 3 shows the Model 25 Daisy pump gun ad­ver­tised by Arthur Wil­liams, Wea­man Street, Birm­ing­ham in UK in The Sport­ing Goods Review Septem­ber 15th 1915 for 16 shillings ( 80p). The ‘100 pel­lets’ ca­pac­ity quoted was a gross ex­ag­ger­a­tion.

PUMP AC­TION

To ex­plain the term ‘pump gun’, as ap­plied to the two Daisy BB air­guns I’m look­ing at this month, to new read­ers; it’s a recog­nised, shorter way of say­ing ‘pumpaction air­gun’ and in the case of th­ese Daisy mod­els it doesn’t mean you pump air into them to store in a reser­voir for the shot, or shots, as with some sin­gle- stroke, or mul­ti­ple- stroke pneu­mat­ics. The sin­gle pump­ing ac­tion is the way of cock­ing the main­spring, more usu­ally ac­com­plished by break­ing or push­ing in the bar­rel, or with a lever with most other spring- pis­ton air­guns. The pump ac­tion for an air­gun ap­pealed to many Amer­i­can shoot­ers used to firearms, like pump- ac­tion shot­guns and live- round ri­fles. A pump- ac­tion or slide- ac­tion firearm is one on which a fore end can be moved for­ward and back­ward in or­der to eject a spent round of am­mu­ni­tion and to cham­ber a fresh one.

Fig­ure 4 shows an­other U.S. patent 1,866,561 of 8.11.32 from Charles F. Le­fever, Ply­mouth, Michi­gan, as­signor to Daisy Mfg. Co. with his de­sign for an­other pump gun – this time a ‘ trom­bone’ pump air­gun ini­tially pro­duced by Daisy for the King line, to com­pete with Daisy’s pop­u­lar Model 25 pump ac­tion in the mail or­der cat­a­logues, etc. as the King No. 5.

Con­fus­ingly, there were two King No. 5s. One be­ing a 1000- shot, lever- ac­tion from around 1908, un­til the early in­ter- wars pe­riod – and the other, this slide- ac­tion, made 1932 to ‘36, that was the King brand ver­sion of the Daisy Model 105 Ju­nior Pump Gun (1932- 34); Model 105 Ranger (made for Sears & Roe­buck 1932- 34) and the Daisy Model 107 Buck Jones Spe­cial made 1934- 42.

The ‘Ranger’ name seemed to have been adopted, fol­low­ing the pur­chase of Amer­i­can Tool Works/All Metal Prod­ucts by King/Daisy in 1929. Al­beit a quite dif­fer­ent 1000- shot lever- ac­tion, the Ranger re­peater was the Sears name for the fi­nal model made by All Metal Prod­ucts’ ‘Wyan­dotte’ model in 1928/9, both be­ing based on the ear­lier 1922 Up­ton Model 40.

Fred Le­fever’s 60- shot slide- ac­tion was pos­si­bly a re­sponse to C. Loomis’s 1931 and 1932 US patents for the Rem­ing­ton 50- shot geared slide- ac­tion Model 26 air­gun sold from late 1928 for four years that I men­tioned in the Jan­uary 2019 is­sue of Air Gun­ner. Le­fever’s Novem­ber 8 1932 patent ap­pli­ca­tion cov­er­ing the Daisy Mod­els 105 Ju­nior Pump Gun and 107 Buck Jones had been filed Oc­to­ber 14, 1929 - so the Craw­ford Loomis patents for the pumpaction Rem­ing­ton pre­ceded it, both be­ing filed in 1928.

RE­DUCED RESISTANCE

In his patent, Fred ex­plains that com­pres­sion of the spring in his im­proved pump gun was ac­com­plished by the move­ment of a han­dle par­al­lel to the bar­rel, and usu­ally there is in­ter­posed be­tween the han­dle and the spring com­press­ing plunger, a lever mech­a­nism for in­creas­ing the power on the spring and such mech­a­nism com­pli­cates their con­struc­tion and in­creases pro­duc­tion costs. With the present in­ven­tion, he had dis­pensed with this in­ter­ven­ing lever mech­a­nism and ac­tu­ated the plunger by the di­rect push of the han­dle.

To lessen the labour of com­pres­sion, he had sub­sti­tuted for the usual heavy gauge spring, a rel­a­tively light spring. He stated that he had ‘re­duced the fric­tional resistance to the move­ment of the plunger so that sub­stan­tially the same de­gree of air com­pres­sion is at­tained’. I think ‘sub­stan­tially’ is the ques­tion­able word be­cause there’s no me­chan­i­cal ad­van­tage with this straight pull ‘trom­bone’ cock­ing method, and to use a main­spring to give the ex­cel­lent power of the ear­lier Le­fever el­bow- pump Model 25 would have meant it would have been too dif­fi­cult for boys to cock. In re­al­ity, I sus­pect that the Model 105 Ju­nior/Ranger Pump Gun and Model 107 Buck Jones us­ing this straight pull method sel­dom, if ever, achieved more than 300 fps, even when new. About 240/260 feet per sec­ond is about the norm for a Buck Jones in good or­der.

AN AIR­GUN FOR A DOLLAR!

The new 1933 Daisy line ad­ver­tised with rel­a­tive prices in The Amer­i­can Boy –Youth’s Com­pan­ion be­fore the ap­pear­ance of the Buck Jones pump gun, is re­pro­duced as Fig­ure 5. In it, Buzz Bar­ton tells read­ers how he got Daisy to re­duce the price of the fa­mous old Model 25 Pump Gun from 5 dol­lars to $ 3.95 and shows the new Ju­nior Pump Gun at $ 2.95 down to the fa­mous Daisy sin­gle- shot for one buck. By sheer co­in­ci­dence, as I typed this, an email from New Zealand came in from Trevor Adams to say, ‘It is sim­ply amaz­ing what could be

made for only one dollar - and still leave a bit of profit for ev­ery­one.

An ex­am­ple of Daisy’s bril­liant 1934 ad­ver­tis­ing reprinted here as Fig­ure 6, shows the ar­rival of the ‘Buck Jones Spe­cial’ model, and how they were in­volv­ing read­ers by ask­ing them to pit one model up against the other. The newer Buck Jones trom­bone- pump ac­tion won the na­tion­wide competition, al­though if I’d been around then, I would have voted for the lever- ac­tion ‘Su­per Buzz Bar­ton No. 103’, which did even­tu­ally prove to be the big­gest seller. To re­move the Buck Jones 107 shot tube, to rod out any stuck ammo, the tube is turned left around a quar­ter turn and jig­gled a lit­tle whilst pulling, and it comes right out and this also ap­plies to the No. 105 Ju­nior Pump/Ranger and the King No. 5 slide- ac­tion model. Both sides of the re­ceiver of the Buck Jones had fancy en­grav­ing with the name en­graved on the left side.

FIT­TED COM­PASS

The No. 107 Buck Jones Spe­cial 3rd vari­a­tion 1934- 42 with float­ing com­pass dial from Trevor Adams’ collection ap­pears as Fig­ure 7. This type of com­pass was fit­ted to later mod­els of the Buck Jones set in the nat­u­ral fin­ish hard­wood stock be­sides a sun­dial brand (see Fig­ure 8). The in­ser­tion of a spent match­stick fit­ted into the drilled hole would act as a gno­mon, to cast a shadow onto the dial and al­low in­trepid young ex­plor­ers to find out the time, as well as their way home for lunch. A closeup view of the ro­tat­ing com­pass wheel with­out nee­dle of the later Buck Jones is shown as Fig­ure 9. Com­passes fit­ted to ear­lier guns were of the float­ing nee­dle type with the rest sta­tion­ary. It’s hard to date th­ese guns, be­cause com­passes could be re­place­ments of the later type.

An orig­i­nal hang tag for the No. 107 Buck Jones Spe­cial Daisy show­ing: ‘The Happy Daisy Boy’ is pic­tured in Fig­ures 10 and 11. The re­verse of the tie- on swing tag in­formed that the com­pass was not in­cluded in the guar­an­tee, but could be re­placed at rea­son­able cost. No doubt th­ese com­passes came in for some rough treat­ment from care­less boys! Made ‘out of house’ by U.S. Gauge Co., New York, both types of com­pass fit­ted car­ried the name ‘DAISY’ above the cen­tral tar­get de­sign.

The ad­ver­tise­ment in Fig­ure 12 points out the spe­cial fea­tures of the Buck Jones slide- ac­tion pump gun, keyed to a good il­lus­tra­tion of the gun along with a lower price of only $ 2.69. Univer­sal Mo­tion Pic­tures cow­boy ac­tor, Buck Jones, was a big­ger star than Buzz Bar­ton, mak­ing eight fea­tures a year, but he still found time to help pub­li­cise Daisy’s Buck Jones pump gun as shown in Fig­ure 13. A much later, Stoeger 1939 ad­ver­tise­ment for the No. 107 Daisy Buck Jones Spe­cial forms Fig­ure 14.

As with most air­guns, some Buck Jones ex­am­ples are harder to find than oth­ers. The rarest are guns util­is­ing left- over, 1933 No. 105 Ju­nior Pump Gun frames that have been over­stamped ‘107’. As the frames al­ready had been stamped ‘Ju­nior Pump Gun’, th­ese few guns then car­ried the ‘No. 107 Ju­nior Pump Gun’ mark­ing, al­though ac­tu­ally were early ‘Buck Jones’ mod­els.

SPACE PIS­TOLS

A sur­viv­ing ex­am­ple of the Buck Rogers 25th Cen­tury Dis­in­te­gra­tor toy pis­tol, a ‘noise­maker’, rather than a BB gun, with ‘elec­tronic com­pres­sion cham­ber view­plate’ at the top is seen in Fig­ure 15. Press the en­ergy re­lease lever (i.e. trig­ger!) of this fully au­to­matic (no cock­ing) pis­tol - BOY! What a ZAP! - and what a flash in your ‘elec­tronic com­pres­sion translu­cent view­plate’! So the ad­ver­tise­ment copy ran for this gleam­ing, cop­per- fin­ished pis­tol ap­pear­ing a year after the Buck Rogers Rocket Pis­tol that had been in­tro­duced on Fe­bru­ary 26th 1934, both toy pis­tols sell­ing for 50 cents each. Ini­tially, some Daisy sales­men were re­luc­tant to take out toy pis­tols rather than the usual BB air­guns, but soon they were back clam­our­ing for more be­cause the space pis­tol sold out faster than it could be pro­duced!

A HERO?

As we’ve seen, an­other ‘Buck’ - Buck Jones, agreed to use his name on the ‘Buck Jones Spe­cial’ trom­bone- ac­tion BB air­gun. It was thanks to th­ese ‘Buzz Bar­ton’ and ‘Buck Jones’ 1930s pro­mo­tional air­gun mod­els en­dorsed by the two pop­u­lar cow­boy ac­tors, along with a space­man

with his ‘Buck Rogers Rocket Pis­tol’, that Daisy – in the depths of a de­pres­sion – had one of the big­gest years in its his­tory, sales al­most dou­bling what they were a year be­fore, (1933 sales: $ 530,984), with nearly two million pieces of mer­chan­dise be­ing pro­duced and shipped from the Daisy plant in Ply­mouth, Michi­gan in 1934 with sales of $1,010,583.

Trag­i­cally, Buck Jones, the cow­boy film star died in the cat­a­strophic Co­coanut Grove night­club/restau­rant fire in 1942 along with nearly 500 oth­ers. In his great book The Amer­i­can B.B Gun, Arni Du­nathan records that he safely es­caped, but reen­tered the fire in an at­tempt to save oth­ers – a hero on and off the sil­ver screen in the eyes of his many fans. I’ve never been able to es­tab­lish if his re- en­ter­ing the build­ing was ac­tu­ally true, but I sus­pect not. After a very care­ful study of all the facts it seems he was found barely alive close to the ta­ble he had been seated at and died soon af­ter­wards in hos­pi­tal, but not wish­ing to take any­thing away from the man, I’ll leave his heroic es­cape and re- en­try as a pos­si­bil­ity, rather than as a def­i­nite fact.

Through­out the 1930s, cow­boys were the or­der of the day and Daisy did well with both Buzz Bar­ton and Buck Jones, but there was al­ways the risk that if any whiffs of scan­dal or pub­lic cen­sure of ei­ther of th­ese celebri­ties, or in fact, any live char­ac­ter, then Daisy would be tarred with the same brush. Cass Hough ex­plains in his book that this was al­ways at the back of his mind. There­fore, it was only nat­u­ral that an ad­ven­ture strip hero, ‘Red Ry­der’ run­ning in hun­dreds of news­pa­pers coun­try­wide seemed a safe bet for Daisy to try to tie- in with.

On Oc­to­ber 6th, 1939 Daisy signed a con­tract with the orig­i­na­tors and own­ers of Red Ry­der and pro­lific cow­boy artist and au­thor, Fred Har­man, to use Red Ry­der, his fa­mous char­ac­ter as the name for a new BB gun which turned out to be a most prof­itable and re­ward­ing as­so­ci­a­tion for all con­cerned. With their No. 111 Model 40 Red Ry­der, Daisy worked hard to make it re­sem­ble a ‘west­ern carbine’ as can be seen in Fig­ure 16 that fea­tures four Red Ry­der mod­els from Trevor Adams’ Collection, dat­ing from 1941/1946/1952 and 1956.

SOURCES:

The Amer­i­can B.B Gun: A Col­lec­tor’s Guide 1971 by Arni T. Du­nathan; It’s A Daisy, 1976 by Cass S. Hough; and The Blue Book of Air­guns Tenth Edi­tion 2012 by Dr. Robert Bee­man & John B. Allen.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

My thanks again to Dr. Trevor Adams for his in­put and im­ages.

FIG­URE 2

FIG­URE 3

FIG­URE 4

FIG­URE 5

FIG­URE 6

Fig­ure 1: US patent 1,136,470 of 20.4.15. Charles F. Le­fever, Ply­mouth, Michi­gan, as­signor to Daisy Mfg. Co. for a spring air­gun, which went on to be the Daisy Model 25 – the world’s big­gest sell­ing air­gunFig­ure 2: Daisy Model 25. El­bow- slide, pump-ac­tion shown cocked. Un­like a lever-ac­tion, you can cock it more comfortably from your shoul­derFig­ure 3: The Model 25 Daisy pump gun ad­ver­tised by Arthur Wil­liams, Wea­man Street, Birm­ing­ham in UK in ‘The Sport­ing Goods Review’ Septem­ber 15th 1915 for 16 shillings (80p). The ‘ 100 pel­lets’ ca­pac­ity quoted is an ex­ag­ger­a­tionFig­ure 4: U. S. patent 1,866,561 of 8.11.32. Charles F. Le­fever, Ply­mouth, Michi­gan, as­signor to Daisy Mfg. Co. de­sign for a trom­bone pump air­gun ini­tially pro­duced by Daisy for the King line, to com­pete with Daisy’s pop­u­lar Model 25 pump ac­tion in the mail or­der cat­a­logues, etc. as the King No. 5Fig­ure 5: The new 1933 Daisy line ad­ver­tised with rel­a­tive prices in ‘The Amer­i­can Boy –Youth’s Com­pan­ion’ be­fore the ap­pear­ance of the Buck Jones pump gunFig­ure 6: An ex­am­ple of Daisy’s bril­liant 1934 ad­ver­tis­ing shows the ar­rival of the ‘Buck Jones Spe­cial’ model, and how they were in­volv­ing read­ers by ask­ing them to pit one model up against the other. [Cour­tesy of Dr. Trevor Adams]

FIG­URE 8 FIG­URE 7

FIG­URE 12

FIG­URE 10

FIG­URE 11

FIG­URE 9

FIG­URE 16

FIG­URE 13

FIG­URE 14

FIG­URE 15

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.