by B.B. Pelletier
Among the many models of airguns that might be called classics, there are a few quirky guns that have to be loved just because they exist. Daisy’s model 177 Targeteer is one of them.
The first Targeteer
All you armchair airgun designers – listen up, because the story of the 177 is a lesson in why scaling guns up or down doesn’t always work. Daisy’s debut in BB pistols came in 1937, when they brought out the first version of the Targeteer. I reported on this one in May 2005. Although this gun was touted as a BB gun, it didn’t shoot conventional steel BBs. Instead it shot a tiny .12 caliber steel ball that was called Targeteer Shot. Initially they came 500 to a small cylindrical tin.
The first Targeteer was purposely low-powered – or was it? In fact, Daisy got about as much power as they could from the gun, because the piston was so small and the stroke so short that the displacement was miniscule. Further compounding the problem was the need to keep the mainspring weak so the pistol could be cocked. Unlike a rifle that has a lot of leverage for cocking, an air pistol is smaller, and the Targeteer was cocked by pulling back on the slide – not a very convenient method! The net result was a very weak air pistol, best-suited to close-range target practice, only.
A BB gun doesn’t have an especially efficient powerplant to begin with, and the Targeteer’s was small in comparison with the long guns Daisy made. They were lucky to see as much as 200 f.p.s. with steel shot. After they stopped making .12 caliber steel shot, the world had to switch to No. 6 birdshot, which is pure lead and, of course, heavier. Velocity dropped off even more.
The original Targeteer resumed production after the war and held on until the early 1950s. But its low power became a liability when a new crop of very powerful CO2 pistols hit the scene. The Targeteer was laid to rest in 1952, but it wasn’t gone long. In 1957, Daisy brought it back, this time as a true BB pistol called the model 177. I reported on it in June 2005. This new gun shot the popular steel BBs that were easy to find, but not without a problem.
Can you guess the problem?
If the original Targeteer was underpowered, the new BB pistol was hopeless! The much heavier 0.173-sized steel BB went less than 125 f.p.s. in a well-maintained gun! It was a sharp-looking air pistol that, unfortunately, failed to deliver in real life. The instructions claim it’s made for indoor ranges of 9-12 feet, but I have had BBs bounce off the target at that range! In fact, I just tried my gun while writing this report, and it can’t penetrate one sheet of paper at two feet! If I oiled it a lot, it would go through a sheet of paper, but just barely.
The BB-shooting Targeteer looks like more of
a gun than the older .12-caliber pistol.
So how did this pistol ever sell? That’s easy; it looks great! Look at the picture. You’ll see deep dark paint that looks like bluing, and finely sculpted grips that resemble wood more than a little. It came packed in a box that looked like a fitted case, with styrofoam that was heat-shaped to accept the pistol perfectly. Sales began in 1957 and continued until 1978. The first guns were made in Plymouth, Michigan, before Daisy moved to Rogers, Arkansas, and they now command a premium. Mine is a late Rogers model and is in like-new condition. A lot of the BB-caliber Targeteers I see are nice, because I don’t think people used them very much.
The lesson here is that every airgun that looks cool doesn’t necessarily shoot the same way. Remember the recent test I did with the Marksman 1010? It looks like a semi-auto, but functions like a flintlock!
Scaling an airgun up in size and caliber sounds like a good thing, but it often doesn’t work out. However, as these guns get some age they become interesting in their own right as a study in airgun history.