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Ralphie's beloved Red Ryder BB gun got its start in Michigan

Dec 1, 2015

Ralphie taking aim in 1983's "A Christmas Story"
Credit screenshot

For many of us, the holiday season just wouldn’t be the same without the annual viewing of A Christmas Story.

The 1983 film follows young Ralphie on his quest to get Santa to bring him a Red Ryder BB gun.

In his recent piece for DBusiness, Ron Ahrens reminds us that the object of Ralphie’s desire was made in Michigan – in Plymouth, to be precise.

We know the company now as Daisy Outdoor Products, but Ahrens tells us it all began with windmills.

He says the company started out selling windmills in the 1880s under the name Plymouth Iron Windmill Company.

“They got fooling around with BB guns of their own design and were giving them away as premiums with the purchase of windmills,” he says. It wasn’t long before the rifles became so popular that the company changed its name to Daisy Manufacturing and shifted focus from windmills to the guns themselves.

This Daisy Red Ryder Air Rifle ad appeared in Real Screen Comics #88, July 1955
Credit flickr user jbcurio / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

“’It’s a daisy’ was a popular expression of approval in the 19th century,” he says. “When the general manager of the windmill company tried out the prototype BB gun he said, ‘boy, that’s a daisy!’ And that’s how the name stuck.”

Over time the company grew and continued to raise the bar in the air gun market, “doing molded medal and casting with nice walnut stocks and glued barrels,” he says.

The company’s marketing and designs changed with the times to continue appealing to children, and eventually landed on what is perhaps their most famous rifle: the Red Ryder.

“By the 1950s they had the Red Ryder rifle, which took its name from a cartoon strip. And then they marketed this rifle with comic books of their own,” as well as all sorts of material teaching children the basics of wilderness survival, Ahrens says.

Daisy continues to produce a wide variety of air guns, including some designs that have stood the test of time. Ahrens says the Model 25 rifle has been in production ”for more than six decades,” and the company is currently offering a special edition Red Ryder celebrating the rifle’s 75th anniversary.

“That says a lot when a product can go more or less unaltered for such a long time,” Ahrens says.

Ron Ahrens’ piece  on the history of Daisy and the Red Ryder air rifle can be found in the latest issue of DBusiness Magazine​.