The .177 caliber Daisy Red Ryder BB gun is right up there with legendary rifles of the Old West. These include greats, such as the .44 Henry Rimfire, 1892 .44-40 Winchester and .45-70 Trapdoor Springfield. In fact, today the Daisy Red Ryder is probably better known by members of the general population than any of the other aforementioned Old West firearms. The reason, of course, is the movie A Christmas Story. Even people who know nothing about guns of any sort know the Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. In the movie, despite the risk of “shooting his eye out,” the main character Ralphie is bound and determined to end up with this greatest Christmas gift.
Red Ryder BB Gun Overview
The original Red Ryder was designed more than 80 years ago. And, according to Daisy’s website, the BB gun “has taught marksmanship and gun safety to generations.” It also teaches youth the joys of roaming about in woods and fields, imagining themselves to be great pioneers or even the cowboy comic hero Red Ryder or crack shot Annie Oakley.
The Daisy 1938 B Red Ryder is still produced today (albeit in China with a couple of modern updates). It is a “spring-air” lever-action BB rifle. The gun even still features an engraved Red Ryder logo on the buttstock and a plain wood forend with brass barrel band. There is also a combo pack available, containing both adult- and original kid-sized models so adults can more easily join in with young shooters.
According to the literature provided by Daisy, a .177 caliber BB will reach a muzzle velocity of 350 feet per second. That means that, yes, a BB at close range could shoot an unprotected eye out. Range of a BB under ideal conditions is a surprising 195 yards.
Safely Shooting the Daisy Red Ryder
Daisy has improved safe shooting by adding a manual pushbutton safety at the rear of the trigger. Neither Ralphie’s gun nor Daisy BB guns produced for many years after had manual safeties. But the addition of this one does not detract from the gun’s appearance or simplicity of operation.
The sights are traditional: plain black steel and open. They are adjustable for windage and elevation. Remember the Henry Rifle slogan: “load on Sunday and shoot all week long”? The capacity of the Red Ryder is an awesome 650 BBs! Load the BB gun via a smaller push-in, slide-up opening port that is covered on the left side of the barrel below the muzzle. This is different than the original screw-off muzzle cap.
Atop the barrel are two additional small ports. The first is the oil port. All BB guns need to be kept oiled, though not to excess. The second is a BB viewing port located just forward of the brass barrel band. You can ascertain the status by simply moving the gun a bit because the BBs are contained loosely in the barrel. BBs are made ready for firing simply by the movements of cocking the gun.
Christmas Story Redux
Even though my son already has a Golden Boy Henry .22 rifle and his newly acquired Heritage Arm’s Betsy Ross .22 revolver — both locked in my safe — I wanted to get him something he would be able to use in our backyard and woods on his own when he is older. He was pretty stoked when he found this gift hidden for Christmas. And I am looking forward to him watching A Christmas Story for the first time and seeing the grand finale.
Shooting the Red Ryder
After first going over the safety operation and setting up a target outside, I worked with my son on cocking the yet unloaded gun, which he was strong enough to do. Yes, he wore safety goggles. We set up our paper target, and I let him try from a standing position rather than prone so he could work the lever. His shots were all on target — somewhat to the left and low at about 20 feet — and produced a reasonable group of around 8 inches. The gun is capable of more.
After about 15 shots, his arm was getting tired but not his trigger finger, so I did the rest of the cocking for him. He will be able to handle it soon enough. The Red Ryder will definitely be a good supplement to and reinforcement of shooting his Henry .22.
I highly recommend BB guns for kids (and adults) even if they’ve shot .22’s already. Though I didn’t have my own BB gun until six years after I fired my first .22, I spent a lot of time in the woods with my Daisy 1894. Being able to be trusted with a firearm all your own should still be an important part of growing up. MSRP is $43.90. Check local laws before purchasing.