Home Blog  
Education / Training Johnson Indoor Target Gun

Johnson Indoor Target Gun

by B.B. Pelletier

Johnson-web
The Johnson Indoor Target gun was a slingshot with a stock!

In the 1940s and early 1950s, the Johnson Indoor Target Gun was sold by sporting goods stores like Stoegers. Although I am calling it an airgun, it isn’t actually operated by air. It is really a catapult gun – sort of a slingshot with a trigger.

Blue Book!
I have touted the Blue Book of Airguns Fifth Edition so many times that you’re probably sick of it by now. However, in the case of the Johnson, they have a few errors. First – is the name. They call it the Johnson Indoor Target “RIFLE,” when it doesn’t even have a barrel, let alone rifling. I’m showing a closeup of the printing on the right side of the gun, and we’ll let you decide.

Johnson-writing-web
Clearly a gun and not a rifle, the Johnson doesn’t even HAVE a barrel!

Second – they list the caliber as No. 6 birdshot, like the Daisy .118-caliber Targeteer and the Sharpshooter catapult pistols. In reality, the Johnson shoots regular steel BBs. It’s a repeater in that it stores many BBs onboard in a spring-loaded magazine on top of the gun, but it seems more like a single-shot because of a rather involved cocking procedure.

A very expensive gun!
In 1948, the price for a Johnson was $15. At the same time, there were two Savage .22 rimfires for less money, and a Benjamin 132 pistol went for $13.50! Perhaps, that’s the reason we encounter so many new or nearly new Johnsons today. About 10 years ago, brand-new, old-stock Johnsons still in the box were being sold at airgun shows for $100. I saw one of these as recently as three years ago at Roanoke. Although the price had climbed to $120, it was still an unused gun! This availability of pristine examples has conspired to keep run-of-the-mill guns under $60.

The boxes are all disintegrating
Johnson boxes are made from acidic pasteboard and, as a result, every one of them is disintegrating today. The ends fall off and a cheesecloth screen pasted inside the top is turning to white powder. I suppose a paper conservator could stop the damage, but I doubt whether many boxes will be saved. In 50 years, there probably won’t be a Johnson box left.

Each gun sat inside a box that turned into a shooting gallery with metal spinners on a wire stand that connected to the box. The cheesecloth hung behind to stop the shots. There was also a small bundle of replacement rubber bands.

The gun has fully adjustable front and rear sights. The rear is a peep sight that actually works very well, while the front adjusts for windage. The crisp trigger-pull makes it possible to hit very small targets at close range.

Johnson-rubber-web
Surgical rubber tubing makes a handy replacement for the original Johnson rubber bands. This arrangement is inside the top cover, where the band can be captured by the launcher during cocking and loading.

Johnson-mechanism-web
The mechanism that both cocked and loaded the gun

Weird cocking!
To cock and load, a pair of metal fingers at the “breech” are squeezed together and pushed forward, pushing a plastic launcher in front of them. A groove in the launcher captures the rear of the rubber band and the entire mechanism now slides to the rear, where the sear catches it with a click. As it passes a metal release lever in the magazine, one BB is dropped into the launcher seat.

Velocity depends on the strength of the rubber band, and my own gun can fling a BB up to 101 f.p.s. It never varies by more than two f.p.s., which makes it even more stable than an airgun. Of course, 100 f.p.s. isn’t much, but the scale of the target gallery is perfect for it.

I admit I don’t shoot mine very much. It’s too cumbersome and too slow! But, I’ll always keep it for the sheer curiosity of the thing.

author avatar
B.B. Pelletier
Tom Gaylord is known as The Godfather of Airguns™ and has been an airgunner for over a half-century, but it was the Beeman company in the 1970s that awoke a serious interest in airguns. Until then, all he knew were the inexpensive American airguns. Through the pages of the Beeman catalog, he learned about adult airguns for the first time. In 1994, Tom started The Airgun Letter with his wife, Edith. This monthly newsletter was designed to bring serious reports about airguns to the American public. The newsletter and Airgun Revue, a sister magazine about collectible airguns, was published from 1994 until 2002, when Tom started Airgun Illustrated -- the first American newsstand magazine about airguns. Tom worked for three years as technical director at AirForce Airguns, the makers of the Talon, Condor, and Escape precharged air rifles. Today, he writes about airguns and firearms for various publications and websites. He also makes videos, and you'll find short clips embedded in some of his artices on Pyramyd AIR's website. Tom is a consultant to Pyramyd AIR and writes under the name of B.B. Pelletier.

16 thoughts on “Johnson Indoor Target Gun”

  1. B.B. Pelletier if you could choose between a single shot .45 large bore rifle or a .50 which would you choose….also I am purchasing a RWS 350 mag rifle w/air force scope did i do ok for the money?

  2. Clamdigger,

    In big bores I usually go with the larger caliber, but of all the guns Pyramyd sells, I like the Big Bore 909 (a .45) best.

    And yes, you did very well with the RWS 350 Mag. Just remember it takes technique to shoot its best. Let the rifle kick, vibrate and move all it wants to!

    B.B.

  3. I would like to post a picture of President Truman holding an engraved presentation model of the Johnson Indoor Target Gun, around 1948, in the White House …presented by GEN McAulifee.

    LTC B

  4. My dad has a Johnson Indoor Target Gun dated 1945 or ’46. It’s still in its original box, as well as having all the accessories (BBs, instruction manual, extra rubber-bands, targets, etc.).
    How much would you say its worth?
    Thanks,
    Arielle

  5. I have a nice johnson target gun without the plastic bb carrier. If anyone has one intact, I am interested in fabricating a copy. what I would like are some very good digital pics and dimensions.
    I will gladly compensate for your time.
    you can contact me at woodman07@yahoo.com
    thanks, chris

  6. Dane,

    Your guns in the box will bring $150 or possibly a little more at an airgun show. A complete and working Johnson is worth $90-110 by itself. The boxes are disintegrating because they were made from acid pasteboard and nothing can reverse the process. They are all turning into white dust on the inside. So that is normal.

    The best place to sell any airgun is here:

    http://www.network54.com/Forum/79574/

    B.B.

Leave a Comment

Buy With Confidence

  • Free Shipping

    TEST Get FREE shipping on qualifying orders! Any order $150+ with a shipping address in the contiguous US will receive the option for free ground shipping on items sold & shipped by Pyramyd AIR during checkout. Certain restrictions apply.

    Free shipping may not be combined with a coupon unless stated otherwise.

    View Shipping Info

  • Shipping Time Frame

    We work hard to get all orders placed by 12 pm EST out the door within 24 hours on weekdays because we know how excited you are to receive your order. Weekends and holiday shipping times will vary.

    During busy holidays, we step our efforts to ship all orders as fast as possible, but you may experience an additional 1-2 day delay before your order ships. This may also happen if you change your order during processing.

    View Shipping Times

  • Shipping Restrictions

    It's important to know that due to state and local laws, there are certain restrictions for various products. It's up to you to research and comply with the laws in your state, county, and city. If you live in a state or city where air guns are treated as firearms you may be able to take advantage of our FFL special program.

    U.S. federal law requires that all airsoft guns are sold with a 1/4-inch blaze orange muzzle or an orange flash hider to avoid the guns being mistaken for firearms.

    View Shipping Restrictions

  • Expert Service and Repair

    We have a team of expert technicians and a complete repair shop that are able to service a large variety of brands/models of airguns. Additionally, we are a factory-authorized repair/warranty station for popular brands such as Air Arms, Air Venturi, Crosman, Diana, Seneca, and Weihrauch airguns.

    Our experts also offer exclusive 10-for-$10 Test and 20-for-$20 Service, which evaluates your air gun prior to leaving our warehouse. You'll be able to add these services as you place your order.

    View Service Info

  • Warranty Info

    Shop and purchase with confidence knowing that all of our air guns (except airsoft) are protected by a minimum 1-year manufacturer's warranty from the date of purchase unless otherwise noted on the product page.

    A warranty is provided by each manufacturer to ensure that your product is free of defect in both materials and workmanship.

    View Warranty Details

  • Exchanges / Refunds

    Didn't get what you wanted or have a problem? We understand that sometimes things aren't right and our team is serious about resolving these issues quickly. We can often help you fix small to medium issues over the phone or email.

    If you need to return an item please read our return policy.

    Learn About Returns

TEST Get FREE shipping on qualifying orders! Any order $150+ with a shipping address in the contiguous US will receive the option for free ground shipping on items sold & shipped by Pyramyd AIR during checkout. Certain restrictions apply.

Free shipping may not be combined with a coupon unless stated otherwise.

View Shipping Info

Text JOIN to 91256 and get $10 OFF Your Next $50+ Order!

* By providing your number above, you agree to receive recurring autodialed marketing text msgs (e.g. cart reminders) to the mobile number used at opt-in from Pyramyd AIR on 91256. Reply with birthday MM/DD/YYYY to verify legal age of 18+ in order to receive texts. Consent is not a condition of purchase. Msg frequency may vary. Msg & data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help and STOP to cancel. See Terms and Conditions & Privacy Policy.