Plinking: “You’re a Daisy if you do”

Tom LounsburyFriends of ELO, Youth Hunts

By:  Tom Lounsbury.

The young boy avoided stepping on downed leaves and twigs and quietly eased up to the tree trunk for a steady brace, slowly shouldered his gun, took careful aim at the quarry as he 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 boy re-cocked his little lever-action and shot the apple again to make sure it was down for the count.

My 10 year old grandson Orlando 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 in my opinion, requires adult supervision (and proper 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 Daisy “Red Ryder” (which remains to be the most popular air gun in America). Due to his smaller stature, Orlando was shooting a Daisy Model 105 “Buck”, which is made in an ideal size for littler kids. This special practice session occurred in late summer last year, and due to getting acquainted to sighting in on matters, including shooting at targets down below from our deck, Orlando was very ready for the mid-September Youth Deer season, thanks to plenty of shooting practice with a Daisy BB gun. While being mentored in a ladder-stand by his father, Josh, Orlando would put a suddenly appearing 7-point Thumb buck right down on the spot with one shot, while using my T/C Contender Carbine in .44 Magnum.

Whenever possible, I “adopt” a kid for the September Youth Deer Hunt, and a major practice they experience while under my wing, is learning all about gun safety, sight acquisition and accurately hitting the mark with a BB gun. An example is Dale Skinner of Akron who I mentored on his first deer hunt 3 years ago, when he was 13. Dale went through a whole bunch of BB’s prior to that hunt, using a lever-action Daisy Red Ryder, and was then more than able to perform a precisely placed neck-shot on a large Thumb doe, while using my .44 Magnum lever-action Henry Carbine (I go over plenty of deer pictures with the kids beforehand so they automatically know where to aim, as well as they get fully acquainted on my shooting range with the hunting arm they will actually use on the hunt).

I will never forget the Christmas morning as a kid, when the package for me under the Christmas tree contained a brand new Daisy (Model 25) pump-action BB gun which 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 Model 25 was quite a popular BB gun, and I sure appreciated it for all sorts of plinking, including rapid fire practice, which its pump-action readily accomplished. 

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 shot 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 nonindigenous 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 to hit targets further out. I learned a lot about the shooting term “holdover”, not to mention reading the wind, when firing a BB gun at targets a bit out there.

The shooting practice my grandson Orlando 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 Orlando successfully made, I had to duplicate. Besides small 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 shared 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 (balloons are also my favorite long range BB gun target). 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 an elevated 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. When using proper targets, they can be used indoors as well.

This of course all works for me 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.

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Tom Lounsbury