Ozarks Life: The birth of Ralphie’s Red Ryder BB gun

The Daisy Airgun Museum in Rogers helps tell the story of an iconic movie prop.
Published: Dec. 16, 2022 at 9:33 AM CST
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ROGERS, Ark. (KY3) - A big piece of Christmas movie nostalgia was born just down the road from Springfield. For many of us, it’s an item or a memory that’s become a part of our Ozarks Life.

On a trip through Rogers, Arkansas, you can’t help but see a 25-foot-tall rifle leaning on a building. Inside is the Daisy Airgun Museum.

“We have airguns from the late 1700s and from the 1800s,” the chairman of the museum, Joe Murfin said. “(That’s) much earlier than when Daisy was making its first airgun.”

Daisy didn’t get into the game until the late 1800s. At first, its air rifle was an afterthought.

“Our company traces its corporate history to a corporation called the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company,” Murfin said.

They made windmills and with every one sold, the company would throw in a freebie - one of its air rifles. It was a hit! But the windmills weren’t.

Struggling to stay afloat the company changed its name and its business model.

“You just ask somebody, ‘name a BB gun company’ and the answer is almost always Daisy,” Murfin said. “If you ask them, ‘the name of BB gun they had when they were young’ it’s almost always a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.”

In the 1940s, Daisy teamed with the comic strip hero Red Ryder. It was a marketing success. By the end of the ‘40s, Daisy was selling one million Red Ryder BB guns a year.

Just like the one Ralphie wanted in the movie “A Christmas Story.”

But the exact model Ralphie wanted in the movie didn’t exist in the 1940s. The writer got the Red Ryder rifle mixed up with another Daisy rifle, the Buck Jones Special. That rifle had the compass on the stock and the “thing to tell time.” So what happened?

“We have an example of one of the prototype guns that was made to convince the writer and directors that yes, we could create a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass and the sundial in it much like Ralphie wanted,” Murfin said.

So you could say Daisy “fudged” history a little bit.

Today, the museum in Rogers has an entire section dedicated to “A Christmas Story.” Complete with the leg lamp sitting on that fragile box. (it’s pronounced: frah-GEE-lee)

“We keep a copy of the movie playing all day,” Murfin said, “in a replica of an old-time radio, much like the one on which Little Orphan Annie played for Ralphie.”

You can visit the Daisy Airgun Museum at 202 West Walnut in Rogers, Arkansas.

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