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When Daisy Went to War

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No doubt you’re looking at the Daisy break barrel gun above and thinking that sorta looks like an M-16, doesn’t it? And you’d be exactly correct. In 1967, the US Army adopted a new training program that emphasized instinctive shooting, which was thought to be advantageous in the close-up jungle environments of Southeast Asia. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

Another method of point shooting, developed by Lucky McDaniel and taught by the US Army beginning in 1967, was the “quick kill” method. It was taught using an air rifle, although the same techniques apply to handguns or shotguns. The quick kill method was outlined in Principles of Quick Kill, and was taught starting with a special Daisy BB gun that had no sights. The slow moving steel BB was visible in flight on sunny days, making it an inexpensive tracer round. The students began by firing at 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) diameter metal disks thrown in the air slightly in front of the student and 2 metres (6.6 ft) to 4 metres (13 ft) above the student’s head. After an 80% hit rate is attained firing at these disks, the student is then presented with 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) diameter disks. Once proficiency is attained with the aerial targets, it shows the student has mastered the fundamentals, and training moves on to stationary targets on the ground, first with the BB gun and then with a service rifle having its front and rear sights taped over.

The reason the quick kill method works is that the shooter learns to sight above the barrel, rather than along the barrel. While focusing on the target, the muzzle is placed about 2 inches (5.1 cm) below the target (the distance being measured at the muzzle), which places the barrel nearly parallel to the line of sight of the shooter. To hit the aerial targets, or other targets above eye level, the shooter focuses on the top edge of the target. When shooting at targets on the ground or below eye level, the shooter focuses on the bottom of the target. One of the points emphasized in quick kill is that it is essential to focus on a single spot on the target, such as the top edge of a thrown disc, or the bottom edge of a can on the ground.

Initially, standard Daisy guns were used,  the only modification being the removal of the sights. The gun pictured above came a bit later. I’m not sure how many were made, but samples have sold in recent years from $1,500 to as much as $3,000.

Daisy ‘s first gun designed for instinctive shooting was the “Lucky McDaniel Instinct Shooting Trainer Kit” that came out in 1960, and following their work with the military they came up with a civilian version of the Quick-kill system, calling it “Quick Skill.”  Both of these are fairly rare today.

Instinctive shooting isn’t just for soldiers- shotgunners use something very similar. Around twenty years ago, my pheasant hunting pal Tom and I picked up a couple of  Daisy Red Ryders and used them for off-season shooting practice when we couldn’t get to the range to shoot at clay pigeons. We’d set up stationary targets at various distances, and mount the BB guns just like shotguns, pointing rather than aiming. It was good practice and paid off well when the real season began.