By Sydne Tursky
Founded well over 100 years ago, Rogers-based Daisy Outdoor Products became a hallmark of the American shooting scene by producing iconic products like the Red Ryder BB gun, a toy made famous by the 1983 film, A Christmas Story. Daisy continues to honor its long history by promoting and providing gun-safety education programs for young people across the country.
“Our mission is to provide that safe avenue to learning gun safety so that young people can move forward in the shooting sports,” says Lawrence Taylor, Daisy’s public relations director.
The first incarnation of Daisy opened in 1882 as the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company in Michigan. As windmills became more difficult to produce, the company shifted its focus to producing an all-metal airgun, which had been recently invented by company head Clarence Hamilton.
What started as a gift purchase for windmill buyers rapidly gained popularity among the company’s board members and consumers alike, and by the turn of the century the company had renamed itself Daisy Manufacturing Company and was producing airguns exclusively. The company name came from a board member’s impressed exclamation when he tried out the new airgun for the first time — “it’s a Daisy” was a popular saying at the time.
In the 1950s, Daisy owner Lewis Cass Hough flew to Rogers and instantly fell in love with the area. It was small then, mostly dirt roads. But something about it made Hough want to move there immediately. In 1958, Hough, the Daisy Company and about 70 families of Daisy employees moved to Rogers.
“It spurred a lot of the creation and strength of Rogers,” Taylor says. “We’ve always been proud to be a part of Rogers, and we hope to be here for 100 more years.”
Daisy has expanded its catalog over the years to include pellet guns, archery products, slingshots and various accessories. However, even as toy gun products gained popularity over the years, the company’s executives questioned whether taking advantage of those trends was the responsible choice.
“We were on the forefront of the paintball trend and on the forefront of the Airsoft trend, but we determined that our responsibility as a BB gun company was to BB guns and that we would not be a part of guns that you shoot each other with,” Taylor explains. “That was not our message with Daisy.”
Today, the company focuses almost as much on safety as it does on guns. The Red Ryder BB gun is a hugely popular product for them. One reason Taylor loves it so much is because, thanks to A Christmas Story, Daisy has a free 24-hour commercial each Christmas as a movie, with the tagline “Don’t shoot your eye out,” is shown on a loop. It’s great for business, but also great for their message.
Daisy also uses its Daisy Nationals program to promote gun safety. It’s an annual national championship competition for kids across the country to learn and perfect gun skills in a competitive environment. All competitors must place first at their state-level competition, and then they may compete at nationals, where a safety test makes up a large portion of their score. Preparing for the test requires taking part in Daisy’s shooting lessons, the first gun-safety curriculum produced by a gun manufacturer. The lessons were even taught in schools in the 1950s and 60s.
“Not many people get to compete for a national championship in anything, but our Daisy Nationals match lets everyone [compete] regardless of race, gender, anything, handicap, anything,” Taylor says. “That’s the basis of everything we do, to help teach young people safety while exposing young shooters to the joys of shooting.”