Dorri Partain 

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

That’s the response Ralphie gets everytime he mentions that he wants a Red Ryder Range BB  gun for Christmas in the classic holiday movie, A Christmas Story.

Released in 1983,  the movie relates the nostalgic Christmas memories of a nine year old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsly) growing up in Indiana in the 1940’s.  Author and radio host Jean Shepherd (1921- 1999) used his childhood memories to write the movie script; he also narrated the film.

During the 1 hour, 33 minute film, Ralphie mentions the desired gift 28 times.  In fact, the Red Ryder Range 200 shot BB gun was a popular item following a licensing agreement with Daisy Manufacturing Company of Plymouth, Michigan, one of many models featuring the Red Ryder comic strip character.

Red Ryder, his Native American sidekick Little Beaver, and his horse Thunder were the creations of Steven Slesinger and his illustrator Fred Harmon Jr.  The strip was syndicated through the Newspaper Enterprise Association from 1938-1965, leading to multiple movie serials, films, and radio programs relating tales of Ryder’s heroics in and around his Painted Valley Ranch.

Slesinger and Harmon were early pioneers of character licensing, years before Gene Autry and Roy Rogers followed his lead. Slesinger lined up contracts with manufacturers and Harmom, an actual cowboy, would don his gear and portray Ryder in personal appearances. 

By 1940, in addition to the branded BB gun, multiple products bearing the Red Ryder name and image were available. At select J.C. Penney department stores, an area named the Red Ryder Corral offered clothing and other toys bearing the Red Ryder label.

A bronze “Red Ryder Lucky Coin” was given out to corral customers, with one side showing the face of Ryder and the reverse showing Ryder on his horse, along with the slogan, “JC Penney’s For Super Value”.

While the Red Ryder character, with the exception of the mentions in A Christmas Story, has nearly disappeared, Daisy has continued to manufacture several versions of the Red Ryder Range BB gun. The first model introduced in 1938 sold for $2.95.