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December 23, 2004
Christmas Armaments

My Christmas quest was simple enough: buy toy cowboy guns for my boys. Caleb and Eli have boots and hats, bandanas and sheriff's badges. But they don't have holsters and guns. Without those critical components, however, you've really just got yourself a Village People costume. We've made do until now with two wooden pistols that were originally designed to shoot rubber bands. But I wanted to get them shiny cowboy guns, the kind that make a little boy's heart race, that turn a bad guy's legs to jelly, and that give a damsel that funny climbing-the-rope-in-gym-class feeling when she sees them strapped around your waist.

So I got up early one recent Saturday, and set out to catch Toys R Us right when they opened. This is advisable if like me you find yourself drawing hysterical conclusions about the future of civilization based on your experiences shopping in malls and driving behind school buses. If you can't find anything nice to say about your fellow man, I like to think, then best just to avoid him.

So I walked inside the Toy Mecca in vain hopes of quickly completing my mission. In this I was working against teams of psychologists and store design specialists all bent on exactly the opposite goal, which is to keep the hapless shopper in the store for as long as there are dollars left in his wallet. I winded my way past rows of video games and Barbie paraphernalia (I think boys might benefit from owning a Barbie doll; every young man should understand what an expensive proposition it is to cohabitate with a narcissistic woman built like a stripper), past noisy electronic gizmos and remote-controlled devices.

But I couldn't find guns. I wandered up and down aisles until I spotted a salesman. "Excuse me," I said, "where can I find cowboy guns?"

"Oh. We don't sell those." He looked at me as if I had just asked him for nipple clamps, or perhaps a Bible. His voice was tinged with the self-righteousness of people who announce to others that they recycle, or that their children attend Eugene V. Debs Elementary because they believe in supporting the public schools.

"So basically we're becoming France, right?" He saw neither the truth nor the humor in this observation.

Disgusted, I decided to nip this troubling portent in the bud by going to the store where the Almighty himself would shop if he needed cowboy guns. That's right: Wal-Mart. Good 'ole Wally World. Any store that draws as much ire from trial lawyers, NOW, and 60 Minutes has got to have me in mind as a target demographic. Wal-Mart, certainly, would have cowboy guns.

Well, if I wanted to buy the boys real guns, and perhaps a gallon of milk, then it turns out that Wal-Mart is the place to go. But not for toy cowboy guns -- at least not my local Wal-Mart.

What followed were increasingly panicked visits to all the places that one might expect to find cowboy guns. KMart? Nothing but an assault rifle that makes high-pitched electronic noises, and a crappy plastic cowboy gun that I think actually broke a little when I looked at it wrong.

Target? Target! Their logo is a bloody bulls-eye, for crying out loud. Surely they would have cowboy guns, yes? Don't believe the hype.

And so it was with every destination. Time dragged on and the roads began to fill with grim-faced shoppers. In desperation I wheeled into the local mall. There was one place left, one final hope for a man intent on arming his children, in fine American fashion, for Christmas. The hobby shop.

I was greeted by a gruff bearded man. He could smell the panic on me, like a grizzled sergeant can smell it on a soldier in his first battle. "Something I can do for you, son?"

"Yes. Please. Please, for the love of all that remains good about America, tell me that you carry toy cowboy guns. Just a couple of cowboy guns is all I'm asking for. Toys R Us doesn't have them, Wal-Mart doesn't have them . . ." My voice trailed off.

He sized me up, perhaps to see if I was one of those pansy do-gooder Public Citizen types just looking to make trouble. Fortunately I hadn't shaved, and I was wearing flannel. "C'mon," he said with a gleam in his eye, "we just got in a shipment."

They just got in a shipment.

He led me to the back, where he had assembled -- and I am not making this up -- gun racks to hold all the toy armaments. If Santa ever needed to assemble a commando strike force, this could be his armory.

I almost cried. Here was every kind of toy pistol and rifle imaginable, made of real wood and metal. Single-barrel, double-barrel, over-and-under, even blunderbuss. Sighted, scoped, with and without shoulder strap, pump action, bolt action, underlever cocking . . . (Insert Tim Allen gorilla sound here).

There were swords, too, but as I've explained in a recent post, we don't need any more of those.

And then I saw them: row after row of silver six-shooters in leather holsters. At that point I did cry a little, but I wiped away the tears really quick so the hobby-store guy wouldn't see.

I think he would have understood, though. After playing with testing the guns for a while, I made my selections and hefted them to the counter. Keep in mind that a cowboy needs not just his pistols, but also a rifle to hunt with, and to cap rustlers from a good quarter-mile out. Then there's also the fact that Isaac is going to need a gun in a couple of years. Plus the boys like for me to help them defend the house against bad guys, and there's no way in heck I'm going to keep using the kitchen broom if they're going to be wielding all this sweet equipment . . .

Suffice to say that the hobby-store guy covered his rent that day. He didn't have a bag big enough to hold all my new weaponry, so he dug under the counter until he found an industrial-size garbage bag, the thick black kind. He asked me how many boys I have, and I told him three. He nodded approvingly as he gently placed my weapons inside the bag and tied it up. Then he offered me his hand and wished me a Merry Christmas.

I felt like I restored his hope in America, or fatherhood, or something like that. I know he inspired me. Think about it: here is a small entrepreneur who staked thousands of dollars on the bet that even if the big retail stores don't have the guts to admit it, there are plenty of us parents willing to give our boys a toy gun for Christmas.

Nah, we're a long way from being like France.

Blessings to you and your family for the remainder of this year and all of the next. And if you come creeping around my house in the middle of the night, you'd best announce yourself clearly and stand real still until we give you entry. We're armed to the teeth.

Posted by Woodlief on December 23, 2004 at 09:12 AM


For target practice, you can get a life-size cut-out of Michael Moore to shoot at...Actually, I guess a broad side of a barn might be a bit more of a challenge.
Merry Christmas and hope to see you soon!

Posted by: Shawn at December 23, 2004 10:07 AM

What an inspiration ! I'm going out this evening and buy toy guns for my two young daughters for Christmas!
Merry Christmas ! See you this week-end.

Posted by: Bill at December 23, 2004 10:58 AM

Great, really great, stuff...

I'm glad you're on my blogroll man...

And I'm assuming that soon enough we'll see a photo of your armed young'uns that will replace the one with the wooden weapons...

One can hope...

Posted by: RickinVa at December 23, 2004 11:13 AM

When I was 10 years old my dad bought me a 20 gauge Mossberg shotgun for Christmas. Looking back, I suspect it was because he was unable to find any toy guns.

Posted by: Josh at December 23, 2004 11:40 AM

I want to learn my lesson about the narcissistic woman built like a stripper...

Funny stuff Tony, people in the office asked me why I was laughing out loud, so I had to share.

Posted by: Harmon at December 23, 2004 11:59 AM

Wonderful! I'm delighted you were ultimately successful. Brought back memories of my very own silver, ivory-gripped, leather-holstered pair of cap guns back in the early 50's--as well as similar shiny sets for my sons 30-some years ago. A favorite picture--two little guys in flannel p.j.s with boots, hats and holsters with drawn sets of revolvers--looking fierce but already worn-out at 7:30 a.m. on Christmas morning. Congratulations on persevering in your quest--and make sure to always patronize that great guy at the hobby shop! He deserves all the support he can get. Merry Christmas!

Posted by: Dinah at December 23, 2004 1:09 PM

I am only 22 but I still have fond memories of Cowboys and Indians with my brother in the back yard. How I wish I still had my cap guns. Thank you so much for the story. Have a Merry Christmas!

Posted by: Garland at December 23, 2004 1:17 PM

"...and that give a damsel that funny climbing-the-rope-in-gym-class feeling when she sees them strapped around your waist."


Posted by: Neuroto at December 23, 2004 1:37 PM

My guns were one of my favorite toys. I had a flintlock rifle to go with my coon skin cap. I had perfect colt 45's to go with real leather holsters. Chaps, spurs, sherrif badge, cowboy hat, spurs. For modern military my uncle in the national guard got me a military knapsack, military pup tent and shovel, a uniform with hat, pants and shirt & my name above the pocket. I had a toy M-16 that had spring loaded plastic bullets. I had an Indian costume and bow, arrows & tomahawk.

I have seen good male toys that look like authentic weapons at Cracker Barrel gift shop and Sheplers Western wear. (Remember Sheplers from your Wichita days?)

Political correctness makes me sick regardless of topic. Press on brother, thanks for making healthy male members of society. Both spiritually and socially.

I take solace in the fact that the blue states are having lower per person birth rates than the red states.

Posted by: Jim at December 23, 2004 1:52 PM

Very funny, very cute. There's a picture of me somewhere wearing a cowboy hat and a six shooter, but I don't think it gave any girl that climbing the rope in gym class sort of feeling. She may have wanted to give me a hug though.

Posted by: Teem at December 23, 2004 2:11 PM

I have felt your pain.

My quest only ended when I made a fascinating discovery: our regional gun show, held every couple of months, always has vendors selling toy guns--the good kind, too, not those plastic pieces of junk.

Not that I needed another excuse to go to the gun shows, but it can't hurt.

Posted by: Justin at December 23, 2004 2:48 PM

KB Toys has a nice collection from the classic silver six shooter to very loud and light emitting alien vaporizers.

Posted by: Sligobob at December 23, 2004 3:50 PM

Know where I can pick up some poison? I got a kid that needs to handle a teacher real quiet.

Posted by: Duke at December 23, 2004 4:03 PM

Great Christmas Story. I see my wife (Dinah) has already commented. We are happy our two boys had these toys for Christmas and even other events. My personal favorite of theirs was the Red Ryder. Have a Very Merry Christmas. Your sons are lucky to have a good Dad. Ron

Posted by: Ron at December 23, 2004 4:06 PM

One of my fondest memories is going to Colorado where my uncle bought me a guns and tooled leather holster set to go with the boots, hat and cowgirl outfit that my mom had made. Which is why when I needed a picture of myself for my website I went with the spunky little cowgirl circa 1952: floridaherbs.com (at the bottom).

Posted by: susan at December 23, 2004 4:28 PM

They'll shoot their eyes out.

Posted by: Ralph at December 23, 2004 4:39 PM

Last Haloween was crazy. The girlfriend's costume was Lara Croft, all we needed were the guns. That was a pain. It was like looking for absynthe in England.

Posted by: Joseph at December 23, 2004 4:46 PM

Wow. An excellent story well told. I'll be back. And since I'll be seeing the folks this weekend, maybe I'll grab that pic of me in PJs with cowboy hat and six-shooter.

Susan, that is an amazingly *resonant* picture. :)

Posted by: LC Curtis the Marine at December 23, 2004 4:49 PM

Tony, that was another reminder of just why I constantly check your site for new content.

You're an artist, sir.

Posted by: Kevin Baker at December 23, 2004 4:54 PM

I lost you, Tony, when I switched computers without switching bookmarks. I'm glad to be back, finding you in such top form. I hope someone'll pay you for publishing this one, a first-class and principled hoot. Christmas-classic, a wholesome version of that awful Sedaris elf piece.

Bless you and your family.

Posted by: bc at December 23, 2004 5:01 PM

Great! My 11 yo daughter has not only a set of six-shooter cap pistols, but a Ruger Bearcat, a Colt Ace and cut down 96/22 LR.

And she can *ride*!!!

Posted by: Chilly Willy at December 23, 2004 5:05 PM

Great column! I was in the toy store the other day shopping for my granddaughter and musing how strange our world has become. Simply asking about toy gun, similar to those I grew up with, is regarded as tantamount to child abuse, but every discount store carries video games like Grand Theft Auto where you get points for shooting police or running other cars off the road.

Posted by: McKie Campbell at December 23, 2004 5:09 PM

While visiting friends and their two boys one evening my wife discovered that guns, of any definition, were banned in the household. For weeks thereafter my wife ripped me up with serrated comments about the toy guns I allowed my son to own -- guns that were sure to come alive and possess his soul. I began to believe her depressing forcasts. I was all ready to go to the next parenting class at the YMCA.

Then, on a return visit to those same friends another night, I was saved from damnation when I smugly pointerd out to my wife what our two friends' boys were doing with the Idaho and Florida pieces of their educational jigsaw puzzle. They were shooting each other.

Posted by: CodeBlueBlogMD at December 23, 2004 5:11 PM

My wife occasionally sends me your posts--we both enjoy your writing. I hope you don't mind me sharing your heartwarming Christmas tale with my friends at my cigar bulletin board, Herfer's Paradise. There are a lot of fathers there that I know will appreciate your story. You can see it at:
The home site is:
Thanks and Happy Holidays,
Tim / MuzikBear

Posted by: MuzikBear at December 23, 2004 5:14 PM

I always loved guns and still do. I had those silver cap guns with leather holster and fake ivory handels when I was kid. I own a ton of real ones now. I also read Sgt. Rock comics. All 4 of my kids (2 girls + 2 boys ages 13 to 4)like guns now too, they are pretty good shots and safe in the field.

If the lefties don't like it, they can move to France.

Posted by: George Skakel at December 23, 2004 5:52 PM

Thank-you. Brought back memories of one special Xmas morning around 1960.

Posted by: Gary Keedwell at December 23, 2004 6:13 PM

What is the hobby shop called and what city and state is it in? I would like to maybe order some of those toy guns for my kids. Thanks.

Posted by: qmony at December 23, 2004 6:30 PM

"God bless us"



Posted by: Bill Peschel at December 23, 2004 6:33 PM

Hi Woodlief,

As a first time visitor to your site (followed a link from Instapundit), I enjoyed that post immensely. I've been following this degeneration of American History and custom closely, for years, and, I guess I'll never be Politically correct...too much the Cowboy for that.

I grew up living (part time) on a Ranch in S/W Texas. Suffice to say I grew up wearing the requisite Cowboy Hat, Chaps, Boots, Pearl Handle, Frontier Model, "Gene Autry" Capguns, and, riding a classic Tobiana, King Bred/Bruni Paint Horse, with perfect bilateral symmetry. But, I didn't own him, I was given to him as a Birth Right in May of 1946 (I was 5 yrs old), and, he owned me for over 30 years. He was mutilated and murdered in his stall, Dec. 5th of '76.

I tried to raise my kids the same way, but, living in Pasadena, Texas put a few limits on that. Cali (th' Paint Horse) raised me, taught several cousins to ride, and, raised my children, as well. I outfitted my children the same way I was at their ages, but, my grandchildren have necessarily lacked some earlier advantages of availability. As you say, there just ain't a lot of places that sell cowboy accoutrements anymore, nor, places like Old Riser, Caroline Tex, Ochova, the Whitson, Jackson and a few other Ranches previous generations had access to, or, lived on. Plus, they're beleaguered by 'Teachers' who insist they eschew all forms of play that simulate violence.

As a result, children are exposed to a fantasy world (Computer Games) that they are not allowed to express openly in play, and, a few ultimately begin to act out their dreams in real life, with tragic consequences.

I guess we need to step back and consider what being "Politically Correct" is costing us, and, get back to being real people, living our lives as our parents and ancestors did, who have no need of a Nanny State. It worked for millions of years, it's the founding principle of this country (freedom and liberty), and, I see no reason to believe it won't work now.

Gordon DeSpain
(ex-"King of the Punching Bag" at Gilley's)

Posted by: Warsong at December 23, 2004 6:41 PM

Mattel "Fanner Fifty's" I had a pair at the age of three, Now, fifty years later they still remain my favorite Christmas present.

Posted by: geno at December 23, 2004 6:52 PM

My son and I had a similar experience at Toys R Us several years ago when he was around 10 and looking for a toy gun to give to a friend as a birthday present. The difference was that when the salesman (who looked to be around 18) told my son that Toys R Us had a no-gun policy and my son responded with something along the lines of "that sucks", the salesman shook his head sadly and said, "I know, man. I know." We found what we were looking for at KayBee toys and I noticed when I was in there last night shopping that they had an area that looked like an armory.

Posted by: Nancy at December 23, 2004 6:59 PM


A wonderful Christmas for you and your family.

Merry Christmas and Happy shooting!

Posted by: Christina at December 23, 2004 8:28 PM

I do remember those fanner fifties. of course a year after that I graduated to a 6.5 Arisaka courtesy of a friend. A lot heavier.

Posted by: John Sukey at December 23, 2004 8:46 PM

Seriously, Woodlief, that was a great piece of writing. In what publication can I find more of your stuff?

Posted by: Jeff at December 23, 2004 9:15 PM

Seriously, Woodlief, that was a great piece of writing. In what publication can I find more of your stuff?

Posted by: Jeff at December 23, 2004 9:18 PM

My 7 year old daughter came in as I was watching a tape of "Mail Call" from the history channel. R. Lee Emery was shooting a civil war musket. She was fascinated. "Dad", she asked, "when are you going to teach me to shoot a rifle?" "Soon" I replied, "soon." She has not forgotten and now is pestering me to buy her a lever action rifle - "just like a cowgirl." She does not want a toy - "How are you going to teach me to shoot THAT - it doesn't even shoot bullets." Damn kid takes after her mother.

Posted by: Californio at December 23, 2004 9:20 PM

Just going into a toy store makes me sick these days, all that plastic. Over-styled toys that leave nothing to a kid's imagination. The junk does the play-acting for them with the push of a button.

I, too, had those silver and ivory cowboy pistols with cowhyde (had hair) holsters, they were my favorites. My fellow "cowboys" and I played in and around the pony barn. One of my favorite spots was on the roof and when I got "shot" I took my tumble, like the guys in the movies, into a pile of pony manure.

Now there is realism for you!

One year I got a bow and arrows (had suction cup tips) and played cowboys and Indians. In the heat of battle one of the cowboys stood up from his hiding place just as I let loose with an arrow. He grabbed his eye and let out a shout, the shaft sticking out between his fingers. My heart sank as I thought he was badly wounded. My Mom took his hand down, the suction cup had protected his eye, but he had a beautiful shinner for several days.

These days a kid's parents would be in court suing for millions. Not then (1941),it was just part of growing up.

Posted by: Jim Martin at December 23, 2004 9:32 PM

Great Post!!

I remember my armory as a kid and even passed along some of it to my son. But I couldn't bequeth my coon skin hat. When I was "too old" to want it any more (in the opinion of others) it unfortunatley went under the knife and became a mink wrap for my sister's Barbie. At least it became a family legend to be told and retold each Christmas. (But don't get me started about what happened to my baseball cards!) Merry Christmas to you and the wranglers!!

Posted by: Clay from a Red State at December 23, 2004 9:50 PM

Great story!

Commenter CodeBlue reminded me of my son, who is this day 18. When he was very young I was foolish enough to believe that encouraging him to play with guns would be bad for him.

Like the boys in CodeBlue's tale, I soon realized it didn't matter if I encouraged, discouraged, whatever. Anything the boy picked up magically turned into a sword or a gun. I gave in to what I realized must be nature winning out over my efforts at nurture.

Needless to say, the rubber band guns, cap guns and bbguns he eventually got never did the boy any harm.

I'll never forget his 9th Christmas. He had decided several weeks before that there was no Santa. But on Christmas morn when he unwrapped the Daisy I bought him, he hoisted it high over his head and, with a huge smile, said, "I was wrong, Mom. There is a Santa, 'cause I KNOW you'd never buy me a gun!"

Merry Rooting Tooting Christmas To ALL!


Posted by: lunacy at December 23, 2004 9:58 PM

First time visitor here - great story. Toy guns were part of life for me 30 years ago. Kaybee still has a pretty good selection. Some gun stores have a good selection of the airsoft guns as do stores like Gander Mountain. Now that I'm older - well a few years back my wife bought me an air rifle. This year a Glock 17. :-)

Merry Christmas!

Posted by: al at December 23, 2004 10:01 PM

You can always find toy guns at the cheap stores
-- Dollar General, Dollar Tree, etc. They may not last too long, but they're nice and shiny!

Posted by: Lori at December 23, 2004 10:08 PM

Great story, and great writing as always, Tony. Last fall my niece, then 3, asked for gun for Christmas. My father is a hunter and has a bunch of guns, but my brother doesn't own one (not a philosophical thing, just a hobby preference), so she hasn't been around them much. But my niece wanted one because, she said, there were bears in the hall and she needed to kill them. So her parents bought her a popgun for Christmas, and the hallway bear population took a sudden dive. She worked on them for weeks, with great delight. Her little sister, now just over 2, has discovered wolves in the hallway and sharks under the bed (it's obviously a dangerous house), so we anticipate a popgun decimation soon. It's great to see both of them taking care of business in the face of monsters instead of hiding. Heh.

Posted by: susanna at December 23, 2004 10:24 PM

Funniest thing I've read in a while. Just stumbled in, I'll be back.

Posted by: Jay Gatsby at December 23, 2004 10:39 PM

I think I pissed my pants from laughing. This stuff was WAY too good to be true, but I'll trust it is. Now I just have to find out if the hobby stores still sell wrist rockets. You're in my favorites list now Woodlief.

Posted by: Jim Parks at December 23, 2004 10:57 PM

I was building a gas-fired, piezoelectric ignition potato bazooka some years ago. I found a very nice toy Uzi, assembled with screws, to use for the pistol grip and trigger, at Toys R Us. They stopped toy gun sales a couple days later.

I still have a photo of my twin brother and myself, proudly packing the cowboy pistols and kit we got for Xmas so long ago...

Posted by: Darrell at December 23, 2004 11:47 PM

I remember the Gene Autry repeater cap pistols with the ivory grips. Like a Schwinn bike, they were for the rich kids. My cap gun was a single shot. You had to tear each cap from the roll, pull back the hammer, put the cap in place, and lower the hammer without setting it off before you could shoot. All while the rich kid was shooting half a roll at you.

When I was nine we visited my grandfather in El Paso. He owned a hardware store on the main drag. Right inside the front door was a big glass display case full of six shooters. Awesome!

The biggest thrill was the previous year, tho. I spent the summer with my other grandparents in East Texas, on the Louisiana border. A company of the Texas National Guard camped on the courthouse square. A row of two-man tents in a perfect line. In each tent two bedrolls. On each bedroll a Thompson submachine gun. One of the soldiers let me hold his. It had a stick magazine, not the drum, but it was the real thing, and I was holding it. That was the summer of 1941. By Christmas everything had changed.

Posted by: JimT at December 24, 2004 12:44 AM

I'm currently sitting in a hotel room in Kazazstan,trying to summon up some holiday spirit.But,that's another story.Your article did it. My brothers (3 of them) always had their fair share of western firearms and paraphenalia. Every Christmas morning I would run to the tree, sure that Santa had heard my prayers. The closest I ever got to a real set of six guns was a hokey cowgirl outfit, with a skirt and some crummy plastic gators that were supposed to simulate cowboy boots!
Flash forward 35 years, when on Christmas morning I opened a gift from my son. My very own Daisy Red Ryder BB Rifle!I was warned "not to put my eye out". I keep it by the back door and haven't had trouble with rustlers or indians since then

Posted by: Susan at December 24, 2004 3:44 AM

I'm currently sitting in a hotel room in Kazazstan,trying to summon up some holiday spirit.But,that's another story.Your article did it. My brothers (3 of them) always had their fair share of western firearms and paraphenalia. Every Christmas morning I would run to the tree, sure that Santa had heard my prayers. The closest I ever got to a real set of six guns was a hokey cowgirl outfit, with a skirt and some crummy plastic gators that were supposed to simulate cowboy boots!
Flash forward 35 years, when on Christmas morning I opened a gift from my son. My very own Daisy Red Ryder BB Rifle!I was warned "not to put my eye out". I keep it by the back door and haven't had trouble with rustlers or indians since then

Posted by: Anonymous at December 24, 2004 3:44 AM

Funny story. France-bashing is funny too. But, believe it or not, kids here in France are packing heat. France's favorite cowboy, Lucky Luke, remains popular, and you can buy his eight-shooter for less than 10 bucks. Also, I hate to tell you, but here, political correctness, the art of making everyday life bland in a desperate effort not to offend anyone, is considered a quintessential American invention.

So may I respectfully suggest that the sentences:

"So basically we're becoming France, right?"
"we're a long way from being like France"

would be more accurate, though less funny, if "France" were replaced with, say, "Berkeley" or "Cambridge, Mass." Never assume foreign countries have achieved the same level of sophistication as good ole US home-grown silliness.

Posted by: Kai Carver, Paris, France at December 24, 2004 6:00 AM

Good to see a real man raising real boys. Gives one hope for the future.

As with many other comments here, this wonderful article takes me back to my own coon skin cap, Gene Autry, Hoppalong and Roy Rogers iconographic play of the 50s.

I love the smell of cap guns in the morning. Smells like victory.

Posted by: Drummer at December 24, 2004 8:35 AM

Many thanks for one of my most enjoyable reads of this Christmas season.


Posted by: Chuck at December 24, 2004 8:42 AM

Great post! For all you with up and coming hunters, I suggest hitting Cabela's. Great selection of realistic shotgun toys to start them in hunter safety.

BTW - post the name of the brave store with the weapons! Got a 3 year old who will be ready next year.

Posted by: Silver at December 24, 2004 8:42 AM

HURRAH! and Merry Christmas!

Posted by: slimedog at December 24, 2004 9:01 AM

Thanks so much for this.

Long forgotten memories of hours spent drolling over Sears and Aldens Christmas Catalogs picking out the perfect weapon.

God bless you and yours!

Posted by: Dave at December 24, 2004 9:21 AM

I remember my once sister got upset because I had Santa bring her sons toy guns one Christmas. Her argument was that toy guns teach kids to be violent. I reminded her that she gave her daughter dolls for Christmas and for birthdays and ask if she was advocating that the child get pregnant

Posted by: Axe Wielding Maniac at December 24, 2004 10:29 AM

So, I'm actually one of those french guys that wouldn't even think about buying toy guns for my kids, but I loved your piece, I really did. And as Libertarian, I would use a real gun to defend your right to buy your kids fake guns.

My objection to toy guns is actually very simple - when my kids are old enough, I am damn sure going to make certain they know how to use REAL guns. NOT knowing gun safety is, I believe, criminal negligence in this world. I don't own a gun, never really wanted to either, but I grew up on a farm, shooting woodchucks and the like.

I just have a general issue with making light of something so serious. I don't want my kids reaction upon finding a real gun in some other parents garage to be to point it at someone and go "bang:

Posted by: Dave Nadig at December 24, 2004 11:24 AM

Mr. Woodlief;

Excellent writing! Similiar style to one of my favorites-McManus {outdoor life} I have all his books.

I found you through Wizbang link.Halfway through your great story I added you to my favorites list.I will be back. Do you write professionally?

I have a picture of my brother and me almost exactly like your two sons photo.My brother is now however raising his son "Montessori School style" and allows NO guns or even "sexist" type toys.Only learning,non violent video game stuff.

Recently while installing a garge door opener for my brother,His 6 year old son watched me the whole time.I heard him making shooting noises and looked down to see him holding a screwdriver and pointing it and acting as if he was shooting.This has become my fondest memory of this particular nephew.We keep it quiet from his mother.

Posted by: Doug at December 24, 2004 11:32 AM

Nice story... but as someone posted before me, toy guns are still very popular and omnipresent in shops throughout Europe. As a young Belgian I can still remember me playing with my toy guns. You can find'em everywhere overhere. And as someone who's lived in both worlds, I fear that the most politically correct country is... indeed. The US.

Posted by: Fred at December 24, 2004 12:13 PM

Sometime in 1942, a soldier standing guard at a railroad bridge in Sacramento let me hold his Tommy Gun, complete with drum magazine.
Later, in high school, we had a small-bore range in Jr ROTC, and I would occasionally take my assigned M-1 home to shine it up.
The only people I ever shot at were communists.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis at December 24, 2004 12:49 PM

I can not tell you how much this story means to me. If I were to go back to my little girl roots of the 50's it might perhaps allow you to see a vision of a little girl playing with her older brother that she adored. Oh how we played cowboys and indians day after day after day.

Roy Rogers and Triger were are heros and of course it would have never been complete with out, "The Lone Ranger and Tonto!"

Trouble is, my brother always got to be, "The Lone Ranger, and me...I got Tonto!"

He he, he got a dose of his meaness when my Mother came home one beautiful sunny day out in the West Texas town of ElPaso! Yep, yep, I was born and raised in a pretty great time and era.

Mom had a most beautiful rose garden and this one day while she was off doing something, old smarty pants, my brother the older, the wiser the protector of his little two year younger sister, had decided to pull together some old twigs and old branches of a tree and rub them together for a fire in our back yard. You know, the old peace signs or warning signs of smoke that the indians used to get news to other tribes!

Yippie, this sounded fun to me and afterall he was my protector. Ha, ha ha ha ha ha. Eddie got too close to my Mother's rose garden and next thing you know....grass a Fire!!! OOPS! He starts running around like a wild indian in circles trying to fan it out with other brances of trees and what not. Well, here came ole' Tonto, that would be me Tony. I took a straight shot to the garden hose and turned on the water full blast and he got pretty wet and his guns and his little cowboy hat!

Te he he he, guess who came outside right when all this ommontion was going on, yep, not only my pretty Mum but Daddy as well and guess who got IN TROUBLE!!!! BIG BAD TROUBLE!!!

HA HA HA HA HA, Guess who got to be the Lone Ranger for the next week!

Tony, I love your stories and Dean, yes, my little cowboy now all grown with a big boy all grown up blog lead me to this story of you searching for those good old American Cowboy Guns. I tell ya Tony, I am thrilled for your boys, of course the biggest boy and how determined he was to bring such a wonderful little gift for his sons. They will look back and treasure those days as I look back on mine.

Thank you so much Tony and let me hear from you again someday. I do thank Dean Esmay, me kid for sending me back your way.

Merry Christmas Tony to You, Your Wife and Your Precious Little Cowboys and thanks for the memories that you brought back to me.

Blessings a Bounty Full,

Posted by: Janelle at December 24, 2004 1:01 PM

the smell of a cap gun
on a Christmas morning.

Posted by: Jerry Berg at December 24, 2004 1:44 PM

Thanks for posting such a great piece. You are setting a great example for your kids. I was brought up in the era Western movies, played cowboys and Indians and feel no regrets for it. Nor should I.

My favorite Western of all times, and it has tremendous parallels with our country's current situation is High Noon, starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. In this movie, the Coop as sheriff stands on principal to defend the town from a group of returning marauders (the Dalton gang, I think) that he had put away several years before. He gets no support from the townspeople and even his wife, Grace Kelly a pacifist Quaker, decides to leave. She changes her mind and eventually saves him by shooting the last member of the gang.

I admire you for your perserverance. But buy your kids a copy of High Noon and show them what guns are really meant for.

Corky Boyd
Sanibel FL

Posted by: Corky Boyd at December 24, 2004 3:25 PM

You'll shoot your eye out ! 8^)

Posted by: JacKaren at December 24, 2004 7:51 PM

Nature or nurture? My pacifist parents were strict about toy guns, and made it hard to even sneak-in some play with Gi-Joe's tiny little .45 sidearm.
So now I own the real thing; a '43 Colt 1911A1 that went through WWII and shows some signs of battle, a '44 M1 Garand, and a couple others - and I belong to a rifle shooting club and "test" my sighting-in and trigger-handling skills on weekends. I have a degree in anthropology, work professionally in computer graphics and interface design, and like shooting.

Posted by: -keith in mtn. view at December 24, 2004 8:03 PM

I just got back from Toys R' us here in Canada. My daughter asked for some 'army toys' for Christmas. Bless her heart. So I went off to TRU, expecting to get her a G.I. Joe, or a box of plastic army men, or a toy gun, or something. I figured there would be a huge selection of various army toys, and I'd buy whatever struck my fancy.

Well, guess what? I asked a young lady where the G.I. Joes were, and she said, "We don't carry THOSE." Really? No G.I. Joe? Okay, what about other army toys? "This store does not carry any military toys," she said with a hint of disdain in her voice. Bear in mind that this store is located about a mile from one of the largest military bases in Canada.

It makes me sad. I could scarcely believe it. Not even R/C tanks or jeeps. Nothing.

Posted by: Dan H. at December 24, 2004 9:12 PM

In Japan, where I live, there are hobby shops and toy shops carrying all sorts of toy and replica guns for kids to play with, for target shooting with plastic pellets, for paintball, etc.

Somehow, this proliferation of toy guns has not turned the Japanese people into violent maniacs.

Posted by: GaijinBiker at December 25, 2004 1:34 AM


I really enjoyed your story -- my wife sent me the link. As a hunting and shooting instructor, she knew that I would be interested. I hope that you follow up and get your sons involved in formal shooting training when they get older so that they understand the real things.

Youth Hunter Education Challenge is designed for that purpose. They learn to shoot, to use a map and compass, wildlife lore and identification and a host of other helpful outdoor skills.

One more comment, you mention all of the stores that did not fill your need, but you did not mention the hobby shop's name that came across. I think that they earned a mention as well. We must support those who support our interests. Would you please post the name?

Matthew Dell

Posted by: Matthew Dell at December 25, 2004 10:50 AM

Hey, this is a wonderful and heart-warming story and all, but if you know the hobby store is struggling and you're glad he did the right thing, why not up his reputation a little? Call him out!

As it stands, nobody who reads this knows the name of the place that had the stones to give the customers what they want, but we all know the ones who didn't. Does that seem right?

Posted by: Don Gwinn at December 26, 2004 10:42 AM

Reminds me of when in 7th grade we moved from Denver up to a small mountain community. I had my heart set on getting a bb gun, but in the lunch cafeteria, the boys were talking about moving up from 22's to "thirty ot sixes".

Great post!!

Posted by: brian at December 27, 2004 8:59 AM

There are, to this day, certain names that will (for me) awaken memories of an earlier era -

Kilgore - that was the name of the producer of the perforated roll-caps that went into the finest of the load-'em-up-and-shoot-all-day shiny metal and plastic-ivory-handled pistols we loved.

Renwal and, later, Mattel - the very best of the realistic protection from rustlers, b'ars and miscellaneous other varmints around the Home Frontier.

Tom Mix (I had the entire outfit, thanks to hugely-indulgent grandparents - boots, hat, neckerchief, shirt, vest, and double-holstered nickel-plated .45 sixguns!), Johnny Mack Brown, The Cisco Kid and Pancho, Red Ryder and Little Beaver (I still have my Daisy Red Ryder B-B carbine), Gene Autry, Roy Rogers (a distant relative under his original moniker, I found out, to my great delight), Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, and, the be-all and end-all of the Western Plains, that icon of American Western Heroism - John Wayne!!

I now own the real thing - in several versions. My personal favorite, though, remains the nickel-plated long-barreled .45 Colt single-action revolver.

Great post - I just gifted our daughter, now all grown up (24) and on her own, with a .44 Magnum (at her request) for Christmas. It was right at the top of her list.

The son (22) got his last year, and she didn't want to be left behind.

They both had toy guns, as realistic as could be found, when they were little (from about 7 or 8), and learned about the "real thing" before they became teenagers; one's an attorney-to-be, the other's a realtor. It didn't hurt them a bit, so far as I can tell.

Posted by: JB at December 27, 2004 2:39 PM

I had numerous toy guns both bought and home made. My Grandfather taught me to shoot when I was 6. We used a small specialty shotgun my grandfather had. It was a break open single barrel. I was so excited. A couple of years later we were back in the Philipines where my parents were missionaries. A young man who had graduated from the school my Father had run gave my Father a bow made by his tribe. He also made 2 scaled down versions himself which he gave to my twin brother and I. They had real bamboo arrows. They didn't have arrow heads on them, but we were resourceful boys and learned to sharpen the points on the sidewalk. They had good penetration when you shot a bannana tree. Those were great days to grow up in!

Posted by: MichaelH at December 29, 2004 8:58 PM

Some family friends (this was close to 20 years ago) had a "no toy guns" policy with their young children. Apparently the rule was dropped when the mother discovered that the first words out of their son's mouth, any time he went to play at a friend's house, was an enthusiastic "Do you have any guns???"

Great Story. Hobby shops and KB Toys. Check and Check.

Posted by: Strider at December 30, 2004 1:47 PM

This was just what I needed to read today. Earlier I was feeling a little down as I had stepped out onto the back deck and there was my little BB gun that I keep by the door for plinking. I asked my wife why it was outside – since we had been out of town for Christmas. I knew it had probably been sitting out there for over a week.

She looked confused a moment – then remembered our Christmas party before we had left. One of the kids (5 yrs old) had been eyeing it so his mom put it outside. Perhaps with people over I shouldn’t have left it there, but I know this mom – and I’m sure the problem was more moral than safety. I also know this boy. Overly mothered. Spoiled. Whiny. Demanding.

That’s why I was sad. Parents today are so misguided about what’s right and what’s wrong. Maybe, I think, just maybe if he had a little more discipline, but was allowed to act a more like a boy… I know he would have loved it if she had let me show him how to shoot it. At least some families still do it that way. Good job, Tony.

Posted by: Daveyd at December 31, 2004 2:12 PM

Beautifully written. I'm recommending "Christmas Armaments" as a must read to my friends. In our grandfather's day, a kid could take a real gun to school. Not too many years ago, a kid could take a toy gun to scool on western day (I sure did). Today a kid can get kicked out of school for having a 2-in. piece of extruded plastic shaped to look like a gun. That actually happened in Oregon or Washington state. Boys make their own guns if they aren't given any. Initially, my wife didn't want the baby to have a gun (fortunately, she came around to a saner view), but he kept shooting everything with a toy 2-ft. blue plastic golf club until I said hey, "Conan wants a gun so I'm getting him one." And yes, he is named Conan. And no, he hasn't yet killed anyone. In fact, he graduated from MIT recently AND came home to Texas uninfected by all the nuttiness that seems to be in the very waters of Massachusetts.

Posted by: Buddy Saunders at January 1, 2005 5:27 PM

Bravo! I can't think of a better gift for little boys. Guns are great, as opposed to popular opinion, you've done well.

Posted by: Jenny at January 2, 2005 12:53 AM

That was beautiful!

One of the joys about living in Europe (non Brit, non France Europe) is the wonderful toy guns. Great models of cowboy guns, Spaniard guns, all sorts of historical, solid metal-wood-plastic guns. And not in the horrid bright colors like purple that scream "This isn't a real gun!"

We're stocking up before we return to the States.

Posted by: TulipGirl at January 2, 2005 8:40 AM