Have you ever seen a rubber band gun?

By B.B. Pelletier

I thought it would be fun to look at something completely different: a gun that uses the power of rubber bands to shoot tiny BBs. These guns were first made way back in 1923, but the one I want to share with you today is from the 1960s. I bought it new in California and at the time I thought it was a holdover from the 1940s that just hadn’t sold in 20 years. You know – “new old stock”?

The Sharpshooter is a pretty little gun!
My gun turns out to be a Sharpshooter pistol, made in La Jolla, California, before the year 1960. That was when the company was bought out by Berry Brow Enterprises and moved to Line Lexington, Pennsylvania. I found this out in an article by D.T. Fletcher in Airgun Revue #1. Apparently, my gun is the deluxe model because it is nickel-plated with ivory-colored plastic grips. A deluxe black gun had the same white grips and a shiny blued finish. A final model is plain blue and has no grips at all. The grip panels are just raised stampings of the metal gun frame.


My deluxe Sharpshooter is in good condition!

The box included the gun, operating instructions that look like they’ve been pieced together over 20 years, some rubber bands, a tube of shot, a loading trough and a target stamp. Ink the stamp and make as many bullseye targets as you have paper. This is really a very complete shooting kit in a box.


A complete shooting kit in a box!

It’s not just a simple gun – it’s also a sophisticated flyswatter!
The guns shot No. 6 chilled lead birdshot, and ads for the gun claimed you can hit a fly at 16 feet with this gun. In Fletcher’s report, he actually landed four out of five shots into a fly-sized target at 10 feet. When he used multiple rubber bands on his gun, he got velocities up to 158 f.p.s. With a single band, you get just over 100 f.p.s. Stoeger’s 1950 Shooter’s Bible said the shot measured 0.118″, which makes The Sharpshooter a .12-caliber gun.


Smaller than a regular BB shot tube,
the Sharpshooter tube holds about
as many shots because it’s so small.

A slingshot with a trigger & a barrel
The gun throws the tiny ball like a slingshot launches its projectile. A plastic launcher mechanism rides a rail to keep it straight, and the ball is forced by acceleration into a small seat in the back of the mechanism. Apparently that’s what gives the gun its accuracy. While I’ve never hit a fly with my gun, the shots go predictably to the same place time after time. I suspect there is more accuracy in the gun than most people might believe.

This gun had no price increase for 17 years!
The price for my deluxe gun was $5.00 in 1950, which is exactly how much I paid for it when I rescued it off the store’s shelf in 1967! The deluxe black gun went for $4.25, and the plain black gun sold for $3.50. For comparison, a Daisy Red Ryder sold for $4.95 that same year. I keep the gun around as a curiosity, only. It’s sort of the airsoft of the 1920s!

Do you have any odd airguns laying around the house? If so, I’d enjoy hearing about them!

36 Responses to “Have you ever seen a rubber band gun?”

  • Anonymous Says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • Trev Says:

    Hello from Auckland,NZ.I’d like to know when,where and for how long the Sgt REN Repeating BB gun was made?Made from cardboard and aluminium,it is a weirdy but it works!
    Regards,
    Trevor Adams

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Trevor,

    You got me!

    Anybody here know about Sgt. REN?

    B.B.

  • klink Says:

    Hi,

    I have a similar sharp shooter pistol. Unfortunately, the plastic launcher was missing. Do you have any drawing or detailed pictures of the launcher? I hope to make one if it is not too complicated.

    Thanks,

    Klink

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Klink,

    No, I sure don’t have a drawing. I had the same problem, so I bought a second gun, which is how I found out about the fragility of the plastic launcher I mentioned in the post.

    Sorry,

    B.B.

  • klink Says:

    B.B.,

    Where did you get your second gun and how much did it cost these days?

    Thanks,

    Klink
    __________

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Klink,

    I bought my second Sharpshooter at the Little Rock Airgun Expo, and it sold for $40 complete in the box. It was like new, but the seller told me about the fragility of the plastic launcher, so I didn’t shoot it much.

    I see them from time to time on the gun auction sites, but they are being sold by gun dealers who have grossly inflated ideas of their values. Check out Blue Book of Airguns (Vol. 5 will be available here at Pyramyd Air very soon) for better pricing on all vintage airguns.

    I guess you need to go to an airgun show to find the best bargains. Shotgun News published a calendar of airgun shows in their June 20 issue.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    The black pistol also comes with wooden grips and an aluminum carrier(SLIDE). Additional carriers were $.50 each per my instruction sheet. Does anyone know when the aluminum was replaced by plastic, or was it the other way around?

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    The aluminum carrier (slide) was replaced soon after the company moved to La Jolla, I believe. I have La Jolla-stamped boxes with guns that have plastic carriers in them.

    I have one of the black guns with the wood grips. It is called the black deluxe gun. The metal finish is supposed to be better than the plain guns, but mine must have faded since it was new.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Howdy…

    I think the aluminum carriers were replaced after the company moved from La Jolla. My Great Uncle owned the company while it was in La Jolla. When visited his place back in about 1979, long after they stopped making the guns, he had all kinds of bits and pieces of these guns laying around his place. I have at least two of them… plus a bag of the aluminum carriers. I’d have to look around for it but I have at least 30 or 40 of them. Send me an email if you’re still looking for a carrier and I’ll see if I can find my extras. jther at beer dot com.

    George

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    George,

    That is fascinating! You should write your story for all to read. The history of airguns is pretty sparse and anything you can remember will add to the mix.

    Thanks for posting.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    what is a fair market $ for the sharpshooter nickel plated in the box with all the assoc. targets ect. thanks leebeu13@yahoo.com..made in lajolla!

  • Johnson from Idaho Says:

    I have a deluxe nickel plated model with a metal slide, spinning targets, stamp, loader and original papers and order form all in the original box. From the Bulls Eye Pistol mfg. Company of Rawlins Wyoming. How old is it and is it of any value?

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    The Sharpshooter in the box that looks like the one shown here brings $40 to 60. The Rawlins gun with Bakelite spinners and everything is worth $100-125.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Anyone with info on a Sharpshooter for sale? Would love to find a deluxe model.
    Terry
    the1911guy@yahoo.com

  • Anonymous Says:

    Hello,
    I am having trouble with my Internet explorer.It is doing some very odd things.Sometimes it will completely close the page i am visiting for no reason or it will be very slow loading pages and when i say slow i mean very very very slow for eg i tried to google something and after 10 minutes of the page trying to load i gave up.I thought that it was perhaps the topic i was searching so i tried putting in random things to see if that made any difference but it didn’t.Another problem i had was when i was on a forum and clicked on a link and nothing happened i tried to open a new tab and that wouldn’t work either and it would let me access any options that are in my tools menu.i had to restart my computer.Just to let you know i have high speed Internet connection.Thanks in advance to anyone that helps me with this problem.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Anonymous,
    You should call your internet service provider. They may be having issues. It’s not necessarily you. You might also be using an older version of Internet Explorer. If there’s a newer version you can download that works with your OS and computer, do that first to see if it fixes your problems. Emptying your browser’s cache may also help, although speed problems frequently aren’t affected by the cache. What about viruses? Could you have one? That would certainly corrupt software and might affect your ability to browse. Good luck!

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Hello and Happy Holidays,

    I believe that I have one of the “original” Sharpshooter models, circa 1923, of this rubber band powered bb pistol. It was given to me by a very close family friend back in the early 1940′s. According to your description of the circa 1960 model and pictures, mine is slightly different. Printing on the top of original black box cover is “The Sharpshooter” made by “Bulls Eye Pistol Company” Rawling, Wyoming. The 4 sides of the box are printed with THE WORDS, SURPRISINGLY ACCURATE, NOISELESS, HARMLESS,and SMOKELESS. Mine is one of the blued models, and has a cellulose grip (simulated mother of Pearl)which has turned yellow over time. I have the two original bb ammo tubes which are marked Daisy “Targeteer” caliber 118 SHOT.
    I also have the original rubber stamp, pad and can for making targets. I would like to know if anyone has an idea as to what this bb pistol may be worth? Everything is in perfect condition.
    Thank you, PeterF

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    PeterF,

    The gun you describe is an old one. They were made from the late 1920s up through the 1940s and it’s impossible to tell more closely than that. I have one with the same box you describe and inside is the original store sales receipt dated 1943.

    The Targeteer tubes are later replacements. Your gun had red paper tubes marked Bulls Eye Shot. Your gun should also have some bright celluloid spinners and a loading trough.

    Your gun and box are worth $125-150.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    A friend of mine has this gun. Where would be a good place to sell it?

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Gun Broker or Auction Arms

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Hi there,
    I have two of these Sharpshooter guns right now on consignment to us for sale. However I am at a loss as to what a fair market value might be on them. Both are in the original boxes, and include some plastic birds as well as other stuff. I am at a loss on these. They may be older than what you have pictured, as one of the instruction sheets is dated 1937. Any infowould be appreciated. Thanks.
    Brockarla@aol.com

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Brockarla.

    I think you have some older guns. If they have the instructions, stamp pad with stamp, birds and the wire they sit on, and if the guns have the launcher (flinger) inside, they are probably worth $100-140. The shot in a red tube is a plus, as are the original rubber bands – though do not try to use them!

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    HI i have a vary old bullseye b.b. pistol in org, box with target stamp 2 birds loading stuff small lead b.b.s with directions sheet! in vary good shape for yr.pat.1924-25 still works fine and can put your eye out! would like to sell it, could you help me on that. thanks walt ph #941 224 8413

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Walt, Try the free ads on American Airguns website.

    http://www.airguns.net/classifieds/classifieds.html

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    The Sharpshooter I have is in the black box with the La Jolla address on it. It is the plain black model. I don’t have the instructions but do have the four spinning targets on a wire stand. The box contained a red, white and blue BB tube with Targeteer shot, 500 size copper coated by Daisy. The loading tube is metal.I acquired this about 10 years ago at a flea market. The Gun Report magazine had an article about them at that time. It said that the U.S. Coast Guard purchased a gross of them in 1934, the Marine Corps purchased 600 and N.Y. Police Dept and many R.O.T.C. units used them for pistol training.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Thank you for that article reference!

    B.B.

  • Hellrazor Says:

    I have a new in the box original Rawlings, Wyoming Sharpshooter with all that came with it. My sponsor from the USAF Academy, Col Hal Myers donated his hometown original to a museum in Wyoming with other Meyers family things. I found this one in Albuquerque, NM.
    Dennis

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Dennis,

    You have a wonderful find! I have the Bulls Eye Sharpshooter from Rawlings in the box, which is fairly common, but not one of these.

    Is there any chance that you could make some photos available? I might do another report on these and I own most of the other significant boxed examples. Yours would about round it off.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    I actually have one of these from 1937… Yeah. Its in its original green box and in very good condition.

  • Bill Wells Says:

    I left a comment on another site so this is a repeat.

    The U. S. Coast Guard purchased 580 of these guns in 1943.

    510 in the "Nickel Delux Sharpshooter" for $1.55 each.

    70 in "Black DeLux" for $1.40 each.

    I suppose they were used as an alternative, and cheaper, means of training. However, in my research I have not found who or when they were used this way.

    Bill Wells

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Bill,

    Thank you for this information. Where did you hear about it?

    B.B.

  • Tem Says:

    My dad got me one when I waz bout 12. Be 61 next month. While Back!
    Converted into a mini spear gun.
    Many a Brem & a few Bass got wrapped in foil at it's hands!
    Mine's on the bottom of the Saline River!
    Wish I could find another!
    Mauser8X57@yahoo

  • dew98 Says:

    Hi, I guess I'm a bit late here, but I have one of these. Complete with all instructions, BBs spare bands etc. I bought it at Abercrombie & Fitch in NYC around 1967. I used to call in there when it was a great sporting goods store every time I was in the USA.
    In those days I was a competitive pistol shooter and I bought it as a novelty. The instructions say that flies may be hit at up to 10 feet in a tent (I assume while they weren't flying). I couldn't duplicate that, but I could hit a matchbox at that range.
    Are they still made? The maker was listed as Bulls Eye Mfg Co Los Angeles (PO Box 5671 Sherman Oaks Ca 91413).
    David Watts dew98@bigpond.com

  • Mike Says:

    I have a Sharpshooter Model Bulls-Eye pistol manufactured by Bulls Eye Mfg. Co. in La Jolla, CA. in the original box along with original rubber bands, shot and literature. On piece of literature claims the pistol was originally sold as “The Official Target Practice Pistol For The F.B.I.” Is there any merit to this claim?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Mike,

      This is the first I’ve heard of that claim. I’m not saying it’s false, but it seems far-fetched. But I will now keep my eyes and ears open for corroboration.

      Welcome to the blog.

      B.B.

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