Daisy Red Ryder: A Boy’s Memory

Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun

I am sure many of the readers of The Shooter’s Log started out with a Daisy Red Ryder. Most will remember little Ralphie opening his Red Ryder on Christmas morning in A Christmas Story—or at least his mother’s warning about shooting his eye out with it. Others, such as myself, started with something owning a little more pep such as a Winchester Model 69A .22 Long Rifle—a bolt-action .22 LR that quickly taught me to make every shot count small game such as rabbits and squirrel. Fortunately, a few years after that, I got the Daisy and while Black Bart never crossed my path, I thoroughly enjoyed torturing my little green plastic army men in mock wars for months afterward. .22s were for live game and hunting, BB guns were for target practice and all around fun.

Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun
Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun

Of course, that was many years ago. Times were different then I suppose, and allowing my kids to shoot plastic army men today would likely be frowned upon by some advocacy group or another. However, some things still remain the same. While my children did not start out on little green plastic army men, air rifles and plastic guns shooting a laser pulse were standard fare before the doors were opened on the safe, and they had the opportunity to pick the gun or guns for their first trip to the sportsmen’s club with dad.

The same lessons of gun safety that my dad taught me were passed down to my children and few of their friends—along with a few extras for good measure. Thankfully, I believe we are overall much more conscious, or at least organized about the teaching of gun safety these days. Fortunately, or unfortunately for some, the same tears streamed down my children’s faces as they did mine. Some lessons were deemed so important as to warrant a sharp bark to engrain the gravity and importance, the fact that a bullet cannot be taken back, and “sorry” or a few days of punishment would not suffice as a remedy for carelessness with a firearm.

While my memories of learning to shoot, and those of teaching my children gun safety, are not quite the same as this video from Daisy, the enjoyment of the time spent afield and satisfaction in knowing my children were taught a proper respect and safety for firearms is much the same.

I suppose in the world of karma, I owe hundreds—more likely thousands—of little green army men an apology. However, to be honest, I still giggle, deep inside, at the thought of them cartwheeling through the air after a firecracker embedded in a small dirt mound exploded, or a line of them fell to a boy’s imagination powered by a trusty Daisy Red Ryder. I’ll bet some of you do too…

Share your story of your first rifle or introducing the next generation to the shooting sports and gun safety with other readers in the comment section.


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Comments (27)

  1. Ah! Such fond boyhood memories. Started shooting at the tender age of 8. I didn’t have a firearm but my 13 year old friend Bruce had a single shot .22 rifle, and together we killed a lot of tin cans and bottles. The rifle had a spring-loaded firing pin that you had to pull to the rear to “cock” it, and I believe it was a J.C. Higgins. At age 8, I remember buying a box of .22’s for about .25 cents at a local small store/gas station – in CA – but that was in1950. As a kid, I always wanted a “cowboy rifle” (a lever-action rifle), like many of my friends who had a Red Ryder BB gun. When I was old enough (18) to get my first gun I purchased a Winchester 30-30, which put my desire for a Red Ryder BB gun behind me (but still thought fondly of it). Many years, and many guns, later my wife surprised me on my birthday day with a new Red Ryder BB gun. I love it.

  2. I remember my Christmas day when I was eight or nine. There was about 6 inches of snow on the ground. I had opened my presents and low and behold, there was the Red Rider that I had been begging for. I dressed in my warmest clothes and Big Game hunting I went. Behind the house there were a couple of pine trees. I shot and killed a bright red male cardinal. I took my trophy to the house to show it. I got my butt busted and lost my gun,the very day I got it,for a week!

  3. I have the ” Commemorative Museum Quality Anniversary Red Ryder”. I grew up with the original Red Ryder and literally wore it out. So happening to be in Rodgers Arkansas at the Museum I bought the gun there. You can also buy any BB gun that Daisy makes [current production]. So I also bought the standard Red Ryder as well. The Museum one is still in the box. You can also see just about every gun that Daisy made in the Museum as well. The one thing you won’t see is the production plant. I suspect it is now overseas. I even tried to find a physical location for it but could not.

  4. Well here I am feeling like getting me another Red Ryder BB Gun. I bought my first one way back in the 1930’s by picking Cotton on the Farm and it was a dandy. I’m still not sure what happened to that Gun. I was drafted for Korea in 1953 and stayed in the Military for 20 plus years, finally retiring in 1973. Somewhere along the way the Gun disappeared and I bought some of those High Powered type of Shotguns and Rifles. I told my wife of 60 years I ” might ” buy another one, she told me I must be going into my second childhood. I told her, maybe, but I didn’t know that I had left the First one yet. You know how ” SOME ” of us Old Folks are, we think we never age when it comes to favorite BB Guns. Yep, I guess tomorrow, I’ll buy one, there are a bunch of Black Birds out in the back yard, that need to be ” Thinned Out ” . Maybe I’ll get two BB Guns, I’ll tell the wife I bought her one also. TSgt., USAF Analyst Retired.

  5. I can still remember in 1960 trying to talk my Father in to letting me get a .22 Cal bolt action rifle that was advertised in Boys Life Magazine. My argument was that this one was “harmless”. I felt very stupid when he pointed out the word was hammerless.

  6. Ahh, the Daisy Red Ryder! Other than cap guns, it was my first also. Not sure how many eggs my grandparents had to sell to buy that boy and ship it to me in Germany? Price in that day was only $5-$6! Not sure what a dozen eggs would bring then? It did, however, get me nearly “killed off” before I had lived a full 10 years! My dad, an Army E-6 at the time, was taking a nap on the sofa in our 2nd story apartment. I chose that time to mosey on out to our balcony and started an attempt at reducing Germany’s bird population from their perch on telephone wires across the way. Well, wuddent ya know my old man came awake, probably from the pffiitt and cocking sounds I made. Long story short, hadn’t been fer me maw, no doubt i’da not made it. She heard the conflagration and was able to drag my dad off of me, just before my adams apple collapsed! Not sure if it was at that time, or later, that I learned that Germany had some viciously strict laws about firearms, and about killing their birds. Think it was illegal for me to even have that little Red Ryder – so, my dad thinking his career about to end, had I been seen, he was going to be sure he took me with it…. 😉 I wore that boy out at my grandparent’s farm, later, and wish I had it today! I probably could have replaced that fiber(?) washer that sealed the air chamber, and rode more miles with it. To this day, I am doing my penance, for decimating my grandmother’s song bird population, by being a “constant bird feeder/protector” and no longer their “predator.”

  7. That was pretty much my life. Just as in this movie. Sitting there Christmas morning sad I didn’t get a Red Ryder BB gun then my Dad, as in the movie, pointed to another hidden present. My Mom protesting, my running outside in my pajamas to shoot it. Firing at a target and the BB hitting me on the cheek. My Mom not seeing it happen. All like in the movie. My sleeping with my gun at night, no snow here where I am. And the best gift I ever got.

  8. I got a Daisy BB gun when I was about 7. It wasn’t a Red Ryder, but was fun just the same. When I turned 9, my dad got me a J.C. Higgins 22 from Sears. That gun is very accurate and I still have it 60 years later. It still shoots great. The BB gun is long gone, but my daughter got me a new Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas shortly after the Christmas Story movie came out. It is still fun to shoot.

    1. Almost my story. I had the Ryder w/leather tie or thong. Always though the guns without that section of leather lacked something. 😉 Remember too, something other than that Christmas Story, as I was more a Roy Rogers fan, that one episode on the Rogers’ show had several youngsters, riding horses and shooting the “real handguns” out of the hands of the BG’s with their BB guns. One even shot from under his running horses neck! Pretty sure I didn’t dream that, but then the old synapses have slept a lot since those days.

  9. I got a car before I my dad would let me have a BB gun. My brother and I bought our own Crossman M1 replicas Christmas of 1969. You pulled back the barrel to cock it. After a week we had shot up a 2000 count carton of BBs each and had sore arms. I still have mine, it no longer works so I did get my son a Red Ryder.

  10. My first “gun” was a toy Winchester .30-.30 with plastic bullets that were spring loaded into a cartridge. It operated very close to the real thing (which I got a few years later.) This would have been around 1967, when I was 6. It also came with a stand-up bad guy who resembled Yosemite Sam. You could hit certain targets on him that would knock his hat back, drop his pants, and shoot the guns out of his hands. Can you imagine the stores selling something like that today?
    My younger brother got the Red Ryder BB gun, which I appropriated whenever I could. I got pretty good with it, and word must have got around the grapevine, because soon no birds would enter our back yard.
    A bit later came the Savage 29B pump action .22. Still have that, and used it to introduce my son and daughter to shooting. They became crack shots with it in no time.

  11. Great memories. I started 53 years ago with a Benjamin 22 pellet model 312. My father had me read the Navy arms manual before I could open the rifle box, then the Marlin came next. Shooting plastic army men and firecrackers was the hoot on weekends. My daughters still have their Red Riders and also know how to reload.
    Trying to leave CA

  12. Marvin, as I mentioned previously, my Winchester 69A was the first firearm I ever purchased. I bought it used, without a magazine, and I used it for years, loading one round at a time, before I ever located and bought a magazine for it.

    BTW, on mine the safety doesn’t ride back to the “Safe” position when the bolt is opened; it must be manually moved back to “Safe”, and then pushed forward to “Fire” after the bolt is closed. Failure to manually move it back to “Safe” means it will not move forward to “Fire”. So it requires a very deliberate set of actions, which is why I consider it the perfect boy’s first rifle.

    Is it just mine, or is that a design feature?

  13. Thanks for the artucle. I had a .22 before I ever had the red ryder. A little Anschutz left handed bolt action. That was locked up. But once I got the Daisy … boy oh boy!! Hours seemed like days. Missions conducted in the deepest “jungles”, cowboys and Indians (when it was still allowed). Even if Mom had allowed us inside the house during those summer days, we probably wouldn’t have gone in.

  14. I am old and remember my Red Ryder. It had zero power. Lucky to break a window. The 22LR I got a 12 was a lot better.

    1. I found early on that a few drops of oil down the barrel now and then helped keep the power level up. Maybe that’s what your Daisy needed. I also found (painfully) that you don’t get your fingers between the stock and the cocking lever while shooting! A friend let me shoot his and the lever didn’t stay closed.

  15. Good article, but I currently own a Winchester 69A and it is magazine fed, not a single-shot rifle. I don’t know if there were model variations that included a single-shot.

  16. Thanks for reminding me i shot out our tv when there was a lodged bb in the gun .After 20 plus dry fires that bb came out and bullseyed colonel sanders . Wasnt until the commercial replayed that i could brag to my brother that i got him between the eyes. that was the last day i owned a daisy. mom saw to that.

  17. Great memory , I never had a red Ryder but my cousins had an old marlin 22 that was really beat! And they lived on a rural road with instant access to the woods and lots of abandoned coal mine pits and roads , I was absolutely mesmerized by the rifle and my uncle let me take it out whenever I was there, needless to say I would ride my bike to his small farm to “help out with the pigs or chickens or whatever was needed” but my real goal was to get to shoot the 22 (most little grocery stores sold the 22’s so I bought them with money’s I earned doing jobs in the neighborhood. . I learned to shoot with that rifle and still have one like it today . Then in 1962 I bought my first gun a bolt action 16 ga shotgun and my younger brother got a marlin 81Dl 22 .i was 12 !!! We harvested everything under the sun with those two . And I still have both what great memory’s . Thanks for bringing back a wonderful time of my life. But can you imagine a12yr old today buying his own firearm and walking home with it ! (The gun shop owner was a friend of my family) and no one called the swat team out , different world then sadly

  18. You know what? I still have a Sears and Roebuck .22 long rifle, bolt action, single shot that was passed down to me by my grandfather from the early 1900’s. It is dead accurate too! 🙂 Thank you for the remembrance of a memory that we sometimes forget when we get older and don’t think about our family members that have passed away.

  19. The first time I handled a Daisy Red Ryder was in 1968 — when the US Army was using them for what was then called Quick Kill training (I’m sure they would have a kinder gentler name for it if they still had any such training today). We would use Daisy Red Ryder bb guns to shoot at two inch fender washers tossed into the air.

    Surprisingly enough no one managed to put an eye out despite occasionally being hit by ricochets.

  20. Thanks for mentioning the Winchester Model 69A; that was the first firearm I ever purchased (I was a young adult before I ever owned a firearm) and I still have it (now 40+ yrs. later). I think of it as a perfect “boy’s (or girl’s!) first rifle”. And it is still dead-on accurate, although, like all my firearms, it’ll always be more accurate than I am!

    1. I still have mine as well. The spring in the magazine is a bit weak and does chamber the last round, but I love it just the same… Thanks for the read and sharing a memory. ~Dave Dolbee

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