During the relative calm before the storm of World War II, Mossberg rolled out Targo. The game apparently wasn’t bound by an iron girdle of rules and regulations. The bird sailed away, and you tried to hit it. If you did, you won. If you didn’t, you were like most people.
Mossberg’s first Targo gun was the bolt-action smoothbore 42TR, which had an eight-shot detachable magazine, though a 15-shooter was available as an option. So as not to doom it to a lifetime of missed Targo birds, Mossberg also supplied the gun with the novel RA-1 Rifle Adapter, a 4-inch section of rifled barrel that screwed onto the 42TR’s muzzle. (And you thought that rifled choke tubes were something new!)
But there was more to Targo than the 42TR. To play the game as sanctioned by Mossberg, you needed the entire setup, and it was rolled out in high style. You could buy the 42TR separately, of course, but the serious Targo addict would want the cased kit. The Blue Book of Gun Values by S.P. Fjestad records fewer than a dozen cased Targo kits in existence today.
According to one of my correspondents, Bob of Skeetmaster, “The set came with rubber practice birds, some clays, a net, a clay carrier for your belt, the thrower and adapters (smoothbore and rifled). I assume the net was for the clays that you missed, preventing them from hitting the ground and breaking.” (By the way, Bob has collected a lot of Targo material but is still seeking a practice net. If anyone has one gathering dust, contact me at Gun List, and I’ll forward your info to Bob.)
The standard Targo kit included the Model 1A thrower, which attached to the barrel of the rifle and was operated by the shooter. That way, the Targophile could enjoy his solitary pleasure without the shame of being observed. The 1A could also be mounted on a pistol-shaped frame or used as a freestanding unit, which presumably would expose you to the ridicule of your trap operator.
Understandably, the pistol-mounted and free-standing throwers are rare today.
Mossberg pumped up Targo in a big way, offering six models aimed at the sport: the 26T and 320 TR single-shots, and the 42TR, 42T, B42T and 340TR bolt-action repeaters. Targo must have been fairly popular because it inspired several knockoffs, the most notable of which was Moskeeto. Moskeeto won a sort of official recognition when it was adopted by the Royal Canadian Air Force as a training aid during the war. Apparently, the thinking was that if you could hit a wafer-sized clay bird with a .22 shotgun, shooting down an ME-109 with a machine gun would seem easy.
The Idea Survives
Targo was discontinued by Mossberg in the mid-’60s, but the idea of mini-skeet wasn’t dead. A Gun Digest of that era reported that Remington, incredibly, was entertaining the notion of introducing a coin-operated mini-skeet game built around a special .310 shotshell. The idea was dead on arrival, however, a soon-forgotten victim of its improbability.
If you have an irresistible urge to play Targo, my advice is to seek professional help immediately.
However, the guns, launchers and even the tiny birds are available through the on-line gun-auction sites. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives classifies the Model 42TR Targo under Section II as “Firearms Classified As Curios Or Relics.”
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About the Author: The late Dan Shideler was a senior editor for Gun Digest Books from 2004 until 2011, best known for his entertaining prose and knowledge and insight into firearms history, trends and pricing. He served as editor of two of the industry's most respected annuals: Standard Catalog of Firearms and Gun Digest. Dan passed away in April 2011.
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