Zing!” the ads said. “And out sails the target. Bang, goes the gun — a puff of powdery black appears against the sky as the pellets find their mark — and there’s the top-notch thrill for every shooter!” Thus in Fall 1940 did Mossberg introduce Targo, the latest craze in clay shooting.
Can’t you feel the excitement?
As a hopeless dub at the trap range, I find it difficult to hit a moving clay bird with a cylinder-bore 31/2-inch 10-gauge loaded with 2 ounces of cubed No. 9 shot over a spreader wad. I shudder at the thought of playing Targo, a game of mini-skeet, in which you tried to hit a 2 11/16-inch flying disc with a .22 shotshell. But for some clay shooters who couldn’t get enough of a good thing, Targo must have seemed a godsend.
History doesn’t record who thought up Targo, but Mossberg must take some of the responsibility. They promoted the game, marketed the Targo trap thrower and made the guns for it. The basic idea must have been inspired by that red-headed stepchild of American rimfire cartridges, the .22 shotshell.
The lowly .22 shotshell has always pouted on the edge of respectability. Many shooters probably didn’t even notice it in the 1900 Sears, Roebuck Wish Book, where it made an early appearance. Almost lost in a snarl of cornets, gramophones, celluloid collars and buggy whips, it peeped up from the sporting-goods section, banished to a corner of the page reserved for pinfires and other losers, priced at $5.25 per thousand, Cash On Delivery.
We don’t know who invented it or why. It might have been developed for pest shooting or for use in shot-out rifles that wouldn’t shoot straight, anyway. Apparently, the Stevens No. 161/2 “Favorite” smoothbore was the first factory gun chambered for it.
At the time, Targo was just a glimmer in Mossberg’s eye.
The first .22 shotshell was based on the .22 Long case. A cardboard-over-powder wad separated the powder from the No. 12 shot — one size larger than dust — and a greased overshot wad was crimped in place at the neck. Those stubby rounds must not have cut the mustard, because manufacturers soon began offering the .22 shotshell in the elongated, pucker-crimped case we know today.
In shotgun terms, the .22 shotshell is a ridiculous 430-gauge, since it takes about that many .22-caliber roundballs to weigh 1 pound. The typical .22 shotshell contains 175 No. 12 pellets, give or take. (I know. I have counted them.) Each pellet has a diameter of only .005-inch, just about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
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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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