Fun shooting with interesting training possibilities – for minimal cost
Daisy’s adult Red Ryder BB gun is truly an adult air rifle that is cheap, cheap to shoot, and really fun to use. Here is my review.
Until several weeks ago, the thought of covering a basic BB gun would’ve never crossed my mind – let alone one designed eighty-plus years ago. But sometimes life provides unexpected twists. In this case, a bubble-blowing gadget, squirt gun and four-year-old grandson were the magic mix that sparked an incongruous reintroduction to some long-lost BB gun fun – with a legitimate pinch of training thrown in. Classify this under fun guns worth buying.
Late last spring, the weather finally granted our visiting grandson an opportunity to break out a few prized possessions. His trusty squirt guns top the list but, for obvious reasons, they’re restricted to outdoor use. A deck is an authorized location so, as the sun’s rays cut through the morning mist, he loaded up for some action.
After liquidating a few plastic dinosaurs, a hunt for new targets commenced. By happenstance, that’s when his grandmother appeared with a new bubble-blowing kit. Before long, large bubbles floating on gentle breezes became targets of opportunity. Not bad shooting from the little guy, but a fair share survived to travel surprisingly long distances. This prompted thoughts of a more effective bubble-busting system – one perhaps suitable for the coach.
An airgun made the short list but those on hand – the latest, greatest scoped versions – were entirely unsuitable for the job. The better choice appeared be a simple iron-sighted gun, stocked to place the shooter’s eye as close to the barrel as possible – a concept similar to a close-quarter dangerous game rifle set up for fast reactive shooting – but without the attendant power and noise.
Here, the objective was just the opposite. The airborne targets called for limited range. Ideally, the flight of the projectile would be visible, too.
A few CO-2 powered .177 pellet repeaters received brief consideration, but the Daisy BB gun belonging to my deadeye toddler’s older sister seemed like a better pick. However, it was just too small for an average-sized adult. However, a check of the Internet showed Daisy catalogs a similar gun as an “adult-sized” version that should be familiar to many long-time shooters.
Table of Contents
Daisy’s Red Ryder Series
Long an iconic airgun brand, Daisy has been manufacturing inexpensive BB guns since the late 1800s. The subject of this post typifies the line and, in case you’re wondering, yup, the Red Ryder is pretty much the same gun young Ralphie obsessed over in the classic, 1980 “A Christmas Story” movie.
Set in 1940, Ralphie’s object of desire was a genuine Red Ryder BB gun, introduced by Daisy during that era. And, amazingly, it’s still in production! Ralphie would note a few differences, but its basic lines are still preserved. The box states: “The Family Sporting Tradition Since 1940.” Interestingly, the brand remains a trademark of Red Ryder Enterprises, Inc., licensed for use by Daisy (possibly the oldest such deal still going). And Daisy is still headquartered in Rogers, Arkansas.
But unlike Ralphie’s gun, nowadays, the Red Ryders are “Made in China”. In other words, some plastic parts are inevitable. But the barrel/receiver assembly is still steel, and the stock is still wood.
Daisy’s Adult-Size Red Ryder
No doubt capitalizing on the value of nostalgia, Daisy produces Red Ryders for grownups. Because airguns are non-firearms (per federal regs) I considered ordering one online, but by chance, I stumbled on to the same model at a local general store. New in the box, the gun set me back $50. A container of Daisy Premium BBs (2400) cost $6, plenty of potential entertainment for less than sixty bucks!
- PrecisionMax premium .177 cal. BB
- 6000 count in handy plastic bottle
Features & Specifications
According to the Red Ryder’s box, the gun is a “lever-cocking spring-air” design. One manageable stroke of its lever cocks a spring-powered piston assembly. Upon its release by the trigger, the BB is expelled by an initial piston-generated shove and a larger blast of air; the “propellant” that shoots the steel sphere. Read this for a deeper look into the function of it.
Maximum velocity is claimed to be 350 fps, shooting “.177 Cal. BBs”, and maximum “shooting distance” is listed as 195 yards.
The sights consist of a “blade and ramp front, adjustable rear”. A trigger-blocking crossbolt safety is incorporated in the plastic trigger assembly. The lever is some type of synthetic material (resin?). The two-piece stock is “stained solid wood”.
Overall length is listed as 37.75-inches. Weight, 3.25 pounds. Capacity? Today’s high-cap guns may be “in”, but the Red Ryder’s magazine is good for 650 dirt-cheap shots! The box proclaims its “beefed up bigger stock means this Adult-sized Red Ryder fits like any other full-sized gun and lets you plink the target just like old times”.
Issues & Fixes
Regarding the stock, as far as I’m concerned, “full-sized” was an understatement; it certainly didn’t “fit” like any other gun in my possession. Length of pull (LOP) was a super-long 15 ½ inches with a pronounced toe-out pitch. Easy fix though: One pass through my bandsaw provided a more manageable 14 ½” LOP.
A hand-grinder and pad sander contoured and smoothed the new butt. An application of stain and Tru-oil finished the job. Total time was less than 45 minutes. Not overly fancy but the “fit” was greatly improved and its appearance was still presentable.
Also, this particular Daisy shot “right” by more than an inch at 10 yards; a problem since the “adjustable” sights have no provision for windage. After considering practical options, I simply widened the left edge of the rear sight’s notch with a file. A few trial & error sessions, along with some cold blue, solved that issue.
More aggravating was the trigger, which wouldn’t consistently release. The problem turned out to be a slight misalignment with a notch in the sliding safety drum. Because the parts are plastic, by repeatedly exercising both, they eventually wore in. At that point the trigger became borderline “okay”, scaling a fairly consistent six pounds.
Lastly, the leather thong & steel ring on the receiver hung close enough to the trigger to drive me nuts. Initially I untied the thong but, eventually, I removed the dangling metal ring.
Loading & Operation
A small loading port near the muzzle is the gateway to a very lengthy shooting session. Just slide its small cover open and pour in a bunch of BBs while trying to avoid spillage (don’t forget to close the cover). These guns are gravity fed, requiring elevation of the muzzle between each shot, but you may still encounter the occasional “blank” discharge.
I stuck with the recommended Daisy Premium BBs in hopes of avoiding a jam – a potential problem since the barrel’s breech end isn’t accessible (resist the urge to recycle any recovered BBs). They’re held in place by a small magnet, so they won’t dribble out the muzzle. The steel Premiums are zinc-plated to resist corrosion.
Cocking is accomplished by driving the lever downward and all the way forward – seven full clicks! If not, the gun won’t “fire” (as explained in this link):
Due to its anti-bear trap feature (a more recent addition that prevents smashed fingers), uncocking requires shooting the gun. Same for clearing its chamber (a small port provides a view). The BBs in the magazine can be unloaded through the loading port – after applying the non-automatic safety.
Accuracy & Velocity
Because it’s designed to shoot spherical projectiles, the barrel is a smoothbore tube. A such, gilt-edge accuracy is highly unlikely. The photos show the results of five-shot groups from 5, 10 and 15 yards. The 5-yard cluster (3/4”) illustrates why regulation BB gun competitions are shot at that distance.
The actual velocity through my chronograph (3 feet ahead of the muzzle) was a slower than advertised, averaging 270 fps, however, the extreme spread for 10 BBs was a surprisingly narrow 10 fps.
Takeaways: The gun is relatively easy to cock, offers plenty of inexpensive shots, and produces minimal noise. Egg-size groups are a reasonable expectation at 10 yards, and a beverage can is in peril at twice that distance.
Still, this performance warrants careful considerations regarding a safe shooting location! From 15 yards, many of the lightweight Daisy BBs (5.5 grains) completely penetrated an aluminum can.
BB Gun Training – 2.0
Daisy is heavily invested in training (and accessories) but what follows takes a different tack. It’s geared toward fast gun mounts and reactive shooting.
I mentioned being able to see the projectile, a trick that ties in with fast so-called “instinctive” shooting. To that end, I hung an aluminum beverage can off a tree branch in the back yard, donned a set of shooting glasses, and backed up around 15 yards. I then shot BBs at it while staring through the sights with my primary attention focused on the can – the antithesis of proper iron sight doctrine.
Before long -as I’d discovered as a kid -I could mount and shoot instantaneously while watching BBs arch into the can. The resounding impacts and the quivering target provided instant feedback. It was addictive to the point where, within a couple sessions, the can was dangling by just a sliver. At that point I felt “tuned up” for some aerial action.
Busting Bubbles (moving targets)
Popping bubbles with the Red Ryder turned out to be a real hoot! They’re entirely doable in the right conditions – with the above technique. The greater challenge is scoring a light but consistent breeze so the targets will float in safe directions. The logistical requirements consist of glasses, a designated bubble blower – and safe area! Obviously, a housing development won’t do.
I’m rural enough that immediate neighbors are a non-concern, however, our vehicles and windows certainly are! Bystanders, too! Maintain a safe mindset and avoid the pitfalls of target fixation. BBs can ricochet off hard surfaces in the background to include trees.
The BB/Wingshooting Connection
Years ago, when the father of our squirt gun pistolero (a son) hit his early teens, his interest turned to wingshooting. He was already a competent rifle shooter but, instead of starting him out with a shotgun, his training began with a BB gun. After removing its rear sight, we used a version of the hanging-can drill.
Within several days he could reliably smack a small aluminum pie plate from 12 yards, as soon as the gun contacted his shoulder and face. From there we advanced to a properly fitted 20 Gauge and a period of gun-mount practice, followed by some dry-firing at airborne claybirds. Once that was down pat, he loaded a shell, dusted his first target and never looked back.
More recently, his older brother showed up during a BB bubble-fest and decided to give it a try. He’d never expressed any real interest in wingshooting but is deadly with a rifle. Still, the drifting bubbles gave him fits, the product of a somewhat mechanical style. It took at least twenty attempts before he could “let go” and catch the flight of a BB. At that point his shooting smoothed out and he transitioned to a true bubble-busting machine. Cost in ammunition? Maybe 25 cents.
A partner with a good pitching arm offers further possibilities. Tossed targets (suitable types) are challenging but doable if thrown consistently.
Bottom line: With a BB gun, the sky’s the limit – but don’t dismiss the safety aspects.
Safety & Parting Shots
The Daisy literature focuses heavily on safety for good reasons! Some people consider BB guns toys. They’re not; the gun is even stamped “for use by age 10 and older with adult supervision” (our toddler may start sooner but he’s not close to being ready).
The firearms safety rules apply – with an additional concern: Steel BBs have no ‘give”. Reactive metal targets are absolutely out and as noted above, their low velocities can produce ricochets off harder surfaces. Eye protection is essential – although hearing protection can be skipped.
On a positive note, the Daisy is as simple as all get-out. The main requirements are some BBs, glasses, and motor oil; a couple drops of 20-W in the “oil here” port every 1000 rounds or so. If you encounter a problem, search “Daisy Red Ryder problems”. A practical solution may be just one click away.
This stands in contrast to my high-end pre-charged pneumatic guns that require external air sources, HPA couplings, special lubes and specialist-servicing. I detail some of this in my article on whether PCP air rifles are worth the money.
My British-built PCP rifles are as accurate at 50 yards as the Red Ryder is at 5-yards. But for entertainment on the fly (sometimes literally) the much simpler Daisy often has them beat. The theme here is KISS. You could spend a few bucks for a metal lever and fiber-optic front sight – or just enjoy it as is.
Finally, for more about the fascinating world of airguns to include a number of much techier picks, here’s a link to Air Rifles: A buyer’s and Shooter’s Guide:
- Markwith, Steve (Author)
- English (Publication Language)