By: Tom Lounsbury.
The young girl avoided stepping on downed leaves and twigs and quietly eased up to the tree trunk for steady brace, slowly brushed a wisp of blond hair away from her shooting eye, shouldered her gun, took careful aim at her quarry as she eased off the safety, and then touched the trigger. At the shot, a little green apple lying on the ground several yards away rolled over with a direct hit. The girl re-cocked her little lever-action and shot the apple again to make sure it was down for the count.
My 10 year old granddaughter McKenna and I were performing a favorite pastime of mine, which is plinking with a BB gun, and duplicating a hunting scenario in my orchard near our house. While this might appear like we were playing a game of pretend, we were actually in training and I have found that BB guns are the perfect training tool for young hunters and readily teach safe gun handling practices as well as hones shooting skills. All the safety rules that apply to firearms should also apply to BB guns, and I have never assumed a BB gun as being a mere toy, and requires adult supervision (and shooting glasses in the event of a BB ricochet – which can happen if a hard surface is struck).
Like many American shooters, my earliest shooting experiences were with a Daisy BB gun, the first being a hand-me-down Daisy Red Ryder. My three sons would each begin their shooting experiences as well with their personal “Red Ryder”. Due to her smaller stature, McKenna presently shoots a Daisy Model 105 “Buck”, which is made in an ideal size for littler sized kids.
I will never forget the Christmas morning as a kid, when the package for me under the tree contained a brand new Daisy (Model 25) pump-action BB gun that featured a very unique rear sight that could be flipped over from a regular iron sight to a peep-sight. I have no idea as to how many BB’s I fired through that gun, but it would have added up to a whole bunch, believe me. Having been developed in 1911 and first produced in 1914, the Daisy Model 25 pump-action is for a fact celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
The Daisy BB gun has its original roots in Plymouth, MI, where watchmaker and inventor Clarence Hamilton first developed an all wooden BB gun. In 1888 he created an all metal BB gun and approached the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company to see if they would produce it. When the company General Manager L. C. Hough handled and fired the newly designed BB gun he said – “Boy, that is a daisy”, which was a common colloquialism of the time (I remember Doc Holliday using that phrase “you are a daisy if you do” in the movie Tombstone). Hence the name “Daisy” came into being.
Originally, Daisy BB guns were primarily given as an incentive to farmers who purchased windmills, but by 1895 it was clear putting a focus on manufacturing and selling BB guns, which were becoming quite popular, was more lucrative than windmills and the Daisy Manufacturing Company came into being. Manufacturing Daisy BB guns would continue in Plymouth, MI until 1958, when the business moved to its present location in Rogers, Arkansas (which also features the Daisy Museum).
From the last part of the 19th Century all the way to present times, Daisy BB guns have played an important role in the American shooting scene and the term “Daisy”, at least in my vocabulary, refers to the epitome of BB guns. I have never considered a typical BB gun as being a hunting arm, although I had downed my share of starlings (a non-indigenous pest bird) while carting my Daisy around the farm when I was a kid (and when my parents determined I was trustworthy to do so). For a fact, my Daisy BB gun was a constant companion whenever possible.
Daisy BB guns are surprisingly accurate when used at the typical close ranges they are designed for, but it is a whole lot of fun trying for targets further out. I learned a lot about the shooting term “holdover” when firing a BB gun at targets a bit out there.
The shooting practice McKenna and I were performing in the orchard actually entails a bit of competition, not unlike the basketball game known as “Horse”. It is also similar to the archery practice bowhunters call “stump-shooting”. It was something I did regularly with my sons, and obviously now enjoy doing with my grandchildren. I was carrying my personal BB gun (a Daisy Model 96 that is basically a proportionally beefed-up Red Ryder that fits me well, but sadly is no longer made) as well, and whatever shot McKenna made, I had to duplicate. Besides green apples that had fallen off the trees, fallen leaves lying on the ground were also a prime target for our Daisies. It is actually a whole barrel of fun and what I would call quality time spent in the outdoors.
Another fun target I also employ is balloons bouncing and weaving a bit along the ground in a gentle breeze, which provides the perfect moving target and adds a little spice to any shooting adventure. There are also the typical paper targets we shoot at, but this is primarily done to check the accuracy of the BB gun, and the shooter. Plinking is done to hone actual hunting skills by duplicating various in the field shooting positions. We also practice from our deck to duplicate shooting down from a raised platform (our home is located literally in the woods and the beauty of BB gun practice is that it doesn’t disrupt any serenity with a loud blasting noise and I’ve seen no reason for wearing hearing protection, although wearing proper eye protection is very important). And shooting practice with a BB gun is, as always, quite economical.
As I write this, the mid-September squirrel season opener is fast approaching, and this is a pastime that I particularly enjoy. It is a great way to literally witness late summer transcend into autumn in the woods. McKenna also really enjoys squirrel hunting, and instead of her Daisy BB gun, she will be using a (Mini-Henry) single-shot .22 carbine (which we also practice regularly with, as well as a bit of plinking too, on my shooting range). And of course later, there will be deer hunting with yet a bigger firearm. Thanks to regular plinking with her Daisy BB gun, McKenna has her safe gun handling and shooting technique honed and down pat.
This of course all works for me too because I’ve discovered getting older doesn’t necessarily make me a better shot, only regular shooting practice does, and plinking with my BB gun (and having a good time with family and friends in the process) is all a part of the picture. And plinking to me is always a real “daisy” of a time in the outdoors.
For more information about Daisy Airguns go to www.daisy.com.