Mike Driskill grew up in a small town in east Tennessee. His grand mother had a Daisy Model 25 that she bought in 1947 to chase the squirrels off the birdfeeder. Driskill remembers pinching “the bejeezus” out of our fingers on this classic whenever he went to visit her. Eventually, young Driskill had his own airgun, a Benjamin.
But kids grow up, and as Driskill moved into adulthood and a career as an architect, he didn’t pay much attention to airguns.
“I’m not really sure when I became a collector,” Driskill says, “but I remember clearly when the resurgence of my interest in airguns happened. In 1985, our firm did a big project as a joint venture with another firm, and I spent almost a year working in their offices. Most of the guys were shooters, and there were a lot of shooting magazines around. In one of them, I saw an ad for a Beeman catalog, and that got me interested in adult precision airguns. The gun that captivated me in it was the HW 35. The beautiful lines just sucked me right in. I’ve owned three of them and now have a mid-70s Bayern-stocked HW 35 Luxus that is a real beauty.”
Over the years, Driskill has bought and sold over 100 airguns. Now he owns about 45 airguns, 90% of which have been built between World War II and the 1980s and are medium power springers. He also owns some high powered airguns and some CO2 powered airguns.
“Over time, you develop a taste for what you like,” he says. One of the things that influenced Driskill greatly was the articles of Ladd Fanta, an airgun dealer in California. He wrote several articles in the 1970s that extolled the virtues of the Diana 27.
“He got me looking at that class of gun, based on his comments on how nicely they handle and how easy they are to shoot well, and it doesn’t hurt that they are a lot cheaper than the new ones,” Driskill says.
The Diana 27 was made in many variations from WW I to the 1980s, and now Driskill owns six different examples of the 27 in different forms, including five major generations of Diana 27 actions. He is interested in not just collecting the guns, but the history of how a particular model has changed over the years.
The photo below shows (top to bottom) four distinctly different generations–the original “Millita” style gun (this one dated 1926); a Nazi-era “DRP” marked, ca. 1935 rifle with its marvelous striker-type adjustable trigger; a first-generation post-WW2 rifle from the late 1950’s; and the classic modern gun from 1981 with RWS markings.
Another air rifle that has fascinated Driskill is the HW55, and over the years he has collected seven different samples, each of which is unique. “I’ve seen so many different variations of some of these airguns that I’ve begun to wonder if they ever made two that were exactly the same,” he says, adding, “The one gun that I’d really like to find is an HW55 with double set triggers . . . and Gaines Blackwell (a friend) has two!”
Below is a picture of Driskill’s very first HW55.
Collecting has changed a lot over the years for Driskill. When he first started out, in the pre-Internet days, there was a mailing list that circulated among collectors. If you had something to sell, you put it on the list, and maybe someone else who received the list would buy it and maybe you would buy an offering from someone else.
Today, Driskill combs the auction sites every day, reads the airgun classifieds, and attends the Roanoke airgun show. His biggest source of collectable airguns is the German auction site, which Gaines Blackwell suggested Driskill check into.
“I shoot everything I own on a regular basis,” Driskill says. “I do have some guns that are in extremely good condition, but most of my favorite shooters are not mint guns.”
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott