by Tim Smith
It’s amazing how many in the younger generations have not heard of one of the most popular TV and movie actors of the Twenty century, John Wayne. In the 1969 movie, “True Grit”, Deputy U.S. Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn, played by John Wayne, uses his Winchester 1892 rifle, with a large lever loop, throughout the movie along with his Colt Single Action Army revolver. With the recent addition of the ‘lil Duke BB gun, youngsters can now be introduced to John Wayne, aka the Duke.
So how did this signature series of airguns come to life? A few years ago, the John Wayne Foundation approached Air Venturi at Shot Show. In October of 2015, the very first John Wayne Colt CO2 BB revolvers were available, followed later by belts with holsters. Building on the success of the Duke Peacemakers, Air Venturi expanded the John Wayne product line by introducing ‘lil Duke – an entry level BB rifle, that any John Wayne fan would enjoy owning and shooting.
Let’s start with a quick look at some of the specs of the ‘lil Duke. It’s a spring powered, BB firing air rifle with an overall length of 34” and weighing just over two and half pounds. The stock is made of wood, the receiver and barrel are metal, while the distinctive large loop lever is made of plastic. The little rifle holds 550 BBs loaded in a loading port located at the front of the airgun. As for power, steel BBs left our ‘lil Duke at an average of 315 fps. The loading mechanism of the ‘lil Duke does not use a magnet, which allow the use of Smart Shot (copper covered lead BBs) along with steel BBs. As always, wear safety glasses as BBs can ricochet. All these features make for a nice close range backyard plinker for both young and older shooters.
Seeing that the box recommends that users be age 10, or older, I took Emily, who happens to be 10 years old, to the backyard to introduce her to the ‘lil Duke. After handing her the airgun, her first words were “This is light.” While looking at the airgun, she noticed the “‘lil Duke” engraved on the forearm, then noticed the image on the stock and said “There’s a cowboy on the stock.” This was the perfect opportunity to tell her about John Wayne and the various characters that he played.
Next, we loaded BBs into the ‘lil Duke, but first made sure the safety was on. Then we rotated the knurled cap, at the muzzle end of the rifle, to open the loading port. Next we poured in the BBs and rotated the knurled cap again to close the loading port.
After a quick explanation that the BBs are gravity fed, I instructed Emily that the muzzle must be elevated for the BBs to load into the chamber. We found it works better with the full amount BBs in the tube. When loading a small amount (50) of BBs into the airgun, we found it best to point the muzzle to the ground, then raise the muzzle up for it to reliably load.
The next step was to see if Emily could cock the lever and yes she could. Emily even commented “I like cocking it”.
Now it was time to fire the airgun. Having shot before, Emily knew the safety rules as well as how to sight the airgun. While pointing at the front sight, she said “Put this” next pointing at the rear sight, she said “In the middle of these.”
With the safety off and the airgun aimed at a plastic milk jug about 30 feet away, Emily fired the ‘lil Duke. After the BB hit the milk jug, she said “I like this. It’s fun. I’m going to shoot this again.”
After about 15 minutes of shooting and hitting her target, Emily was ready for a challenge and asked me to move the milk jug farther away. So I moved her target to around 60 feet from her. Once again there was the sound of steel BB hitting plastic, followed by “First try and I hit it!” Dozens more BBs flew downrange and found their target. Happy with the airgun, Emily said “It’s amazing. I really like it.” After going inside the first thing she said to her mom was, “I found an airgun that fits me.”
The ‘lil Duke gets the “Emily seal of approval”. With a list price of $49.99, it also gets the “Dad seal of approval” too. I can’t think of a better way to spend some quality with my daughter. Now, I need to introduce her to some classic John Wayne movies, so she knows who the Duke is.