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Sharing another memory about BB guns

By Frank Galusha
01/31/14 -- My first air rifles, made by Daisy, were nifty looking but inaccurate. Since it was my job to eliminate the thousands of sparrows, jays and crows that ate our fruit and vegetable crops every year, I needed a better air gun. One summer, just after the July 4th holiday, one of my friends called to say he had a Benjamin pump BB Gun for sale. “Jay” had put out his right eye while playing with fireworks. His family was so upset they decided he should not own anything that might pose a threat to his remaining eye.

The price for the BB gun was $20, an enormous amount in those days but this was no ordinary air rifle. Its magazine held 25 copper-plated rounds and these were fed one by one into the chamber with a smooth bolt action. The barrel was made of brass. The stock was a beautiful wood, probably walnut but it was the plunger-type pump beneath the barrel that made this BB gun totally unique.

Benjamin C-700 25-Shot Repeater Air Rifle BB Gun, circa 1940
The above ad from a vintage outdoor magazine depicts what I believe is the classic Model C-700 Benjamin Model BB Gun I owned during the 1940's.

This gun was so powerful it could send a brass-plated BB through both sides of a Carnation Condensed Milk Can at 20 feet without knocking over the can!! Do any of these air rifles still exist? The plunger pump, which could be extended from beneath the barrel made it unique. The plunger could be pumped 15-20 times or until my strength ran out. Crossman made an equally powerful air rifle at that time but it's unique brass barrel and pump action did not capture my imagination. Also, since I was a skinny kid the Crossman was harder for me to pump up.

After firing a shot, the Benjamin pump could be unscrewed and pulled out much like a bicycle-tire pump. All I had to do was compress my toes, put the pump on the end of my shoe and pump the plunger up and down. The more I pumped, the harder it became but by using the weight of my body I could pump it up many times if I needed long-range killing power. (I used my shoe instead of the ground when pumping to avoid clogging up the barrel with dirt or leaves. This quickly wore out the tip of my shoes, which did not make Mom happy.)

BB's were sold in small tubes then that could be stuffed into a boy's pocket. If memory serves me correctly a tube like the one shown here held several hundred rounds and sold for about 50 cents. At that time 50 .22 cal. short or long rifle cartriges sold for about the same price.

After getting this BB gun any bird that tried to eat our apricots, strawberries or peaches was in, as they say, “harm’s way.” Since we were living on the outskirts of town, there were many open fields that also offered a variety of targets such as gophers and ground squirrels. Their number fell rapidly in the years that followed and my shooting skills got better and better. I got so good I hit some birds on the fly.

My Benjamin went most everywhere I went. One year, on a late summer trip to Albuquerque I arrived to find my uncle and a hard-drinking friend named “Tex” were going dove hunting. I was told I was too young and didn’t have a shotgun so I couldn’t go. Tex also sneered at my suggestion I could drop doves with a BB gun.

Undeterred, when the season opened, along with my younger brother Bob, I walked the banks of the Rio Grande, which was less than a mile away in search of doves. Those I found sitting on branches 30 to 50 yards out were quickly dispatched and added to the pouch in my vest.

When my uncles returned I asked them how they did. “We didn’t get a shot,” my uncle meekly admitted to which I replied, “I got my limit, see,” pointing at a pile of doves on the sink. This humbled my uncle a bit but it got Tex, who by then was a red-faced drunk, made as hell. “I’m calling the game warden,” he said. “You’re from California. You can’t come in here and kill doves without a New Mexico license!” Tex was wrong, of course, and he really wasn’t going to turn me in, he was just a loud-talking drunk but he kept up repeating the threat, screaming and storming about the kitchen in what appeared to be an honest rage. Since I was only 13 years old, I believed he was going to call Fish and Game, have me arrested and I’d have my BB gun confiscated.

This episode ruined the moment but not my entire vacation. By the time I was ready to leave Tex had been arrested for drunk driving and was sobering up in the city jail.

Tex never bothered me again. He wore out his “pump” in his fifties due mainly to alcohol poisoning. The pump in my Benjamin also wore out from overuse in 1950 and unfortunately it was laid to rest in the trash. It would be worth a lot today and probably could have been repaired. Much like my 1937 canary-yellow Ford V-8 coupe with the Carson Top, I wish I could get my hands on a Benjamin Air Rifle with a plunger pump one more time. I can’t find one like it on E-Bay or Amazon. If one of my readers knows where I might buy one, I hope they let me know – and please consider sharing some of your most treasured memories with me.

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