by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Why we collect
  • Today
  • .12 caliber
  • The box
  • Lead BBs?
  • Fragile
  • Art deco
  • Summary

Why we collect

Sometimes we collect something because of its performance. A Whiscombe recoilless rifle that’s powerful and accurate might be an example of this. Other times we collect something because of the way it is made — the craftsmanship. The Sheridan Supergrade comes to mind.

And other times we collect something for other reasons. My M1 Carbine is an example of this. I like it for three important reasons:

1. It is so well made and so well designed. It weighs 5 lbs. — a rifle weight that has never been equalled in a rifle as powerful, to the best of my knowledge. And this rifle was designed in 18 months, back in the late 1930s!

2. More than 6 million carbines were produced in just a few years in a national program that had as many as 10 prime contractors and hundreds of subcontractors — in the middle of a war! It was the Manhattan project of firearm development!

3. Even today, 80 years later, the carbine design has not been equalled. The Ruger .44 magnum carbine was more than two pounds heavier than the M1, and the designers had difficulties with that!

Today

Today I want to start a review of an airgun that’s similar to the Carbine in how clever the designers were — Daisy’s Targeteer.

.12 caliber

The first Targeteer came to market in 1937. That was just past the height (or depths) of the Great Depression — a time when companies were struggling just to survive. That there was any innovation happening at all is a marvel in itself. Ironically, the M1 Carbine was being developed at the sane time

The gun uses BBs sized 0.118-inches in diameter. They are much smaller than conventional steel BBs. There are other guns that use the same ammo, but as far as I know they all either fire by means of a catapult or an exploding cap.

blued Targeteer
In 1937 two dollars bought all this. There is a gun, a steel tube of .118-caliber steel BBs and a box that turns into a shooting gallery, as you can see.

Targeteer shot
Daisy made .118-caliber steel BB shot for the Targeteer. You can see some of the imperfections in the shot that resembles the kind of imperfections all BBs made during the same era used to have.

The box

Let’s talk about the box for a moment, because it has bearing on today’s subject. As you can see in the picture, the box becomes a shooting gallery for the pistol inside. That is the kind of innovation that excites me. The Targeteer is too weak to penetrate the box, so you can use it as a gallery for a long time. Most boxes have tiny imprints of lead BBs (I’ll explain why in a moment) on the inside of the box lid, which is how the gallery is supposed to be set up.

Targeteer box gallery
This is the way the box is set up to be a gallery. This box hasn’t been shot with lead very much, but as you can see, the spinners have been shot. They still have much of their original paint!

Lead BBs?

The .118-caliber steel shot wasn’t ever very popular. Daisy discontinued making it sometime in the late 1940s or 1950s, I believe. Tins of the BBs are now very collectible in their own right! At one airgun show I once paid $100 to a person who was desperate to sell 3 Targeteer pistols and 10 tubes of the shot. I sold two of the pistols at the show and all but one tube of the shot and recovered my money, which was necessary because it was all the money I had on me and I was a thousand miles from home. It sounds like a risk, but I knew I could come out okay. I still have the one pistol I kept and I’ll show it to you in a bit.

But the .118-caliber steel BBs are too valuable to shoot. Fortunately there is a cheap substitution. Number 6 lead birdshot is a perfect substitute. It isn’t always uniformly round, but take a good look at that steel shot. They aren’t that round, either.

“But B.B., I don’t know where to buy lead birdshot. Maybe you know where they sell it but I sure don’t. Sure you do! Buy a box of 25 12-gauge cartridges at your local discount store. Just be sure they have lead shot, because I don’t know how well lead free shot works. It may be fine — I just don’t know.

Pry one cartridge open and save the shot in a small bottle. That much should last the rest of your life, because Targeteers are not guns you will want to shoot a lot. The other shot you can package and sell at the next airgun show. Plenty of airgunners are just like you and need some shot but don’t know where to find it. Sell a cartridge-worth of shot for $5- and you’ll make over a hundred dollars on the deal. You won’t get rich quick and it may take several shows to sell it all, but do what you have to, to move it.

Model 118 Daisy Targeteer Number 320 shooting gallery set

Now, for the  pièce de résistance — the subject of today’s report! The shooting gallery set is a red molded plastic shooting gallery that has a rod of white spinners running through the center. The top has a place for a chrome-plated Daisy model 118 Targeteer to sit. Even the feet are special, as they are hollowed out and designed to accept one tube of shot per foot. This gallery was made from 1949 through 1953 and is much rarer than the one in the box,

Targeteer shooting gallery
The red and white Daisy shooting gallery for the Targeteer is one of the most beautiful products Daisy ever made. Mine is in great condition!

Fragile

The white plastic spinners in this target are somewhat fragile. I have seen several targets that have damaged spinners. Exposure to the sun and smoke turns them yellow and they do get brittle with time. At some point they will start cracking and breaking off from firing. If you shoot them with lead shot it will leave black marks on the plastic.

The red plastic is also prone to changes over the years. Mine no longer accepts shot tubes in either foot. The plastic has warped over time. Daisy plastic stocks from this same timeframe did the same thing. But other than that, my target is in excellent condition. There are some, though, that aren’t so pretty.

Targeteer shooting gallery damaged
This gallery has been shot a lot. You can see the marks of the impacts on the spinner and several spinners are either broken off or cracked. Even the red case is cracked on the right side.

The entire 320 set came in a white cardboard box that has blue lettering. That is the only thing I don’t have with mine. I have seen boxed sets at shows, but be prepared to spend a lot more for one.

Art Deco

The thing about this set is it is so pretty that decorators can use it in a man cave. They don’t care what it is — it just looks nice. Sometimes even domestic tranquillity can be assured by the appearance of something as pretty as this!

Summary

I will end the report here but the plan is to conduct a complete test for you. Both velocity and accuracy will be difficult to measure, as the .118 BBs are both small and weak. But we shall see.