Targo! Gone But Not Forgotten

A low fedora disguises the face of the shooter who has just missed his minute Targo target in this period ad from Mossberg.

A low fedora disguises the face of the shooter who has just missed his minute Targo target in this period ad from Mossberg.

 

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.

Genesis

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.

4 thoughts on “Targo! Gone But Not Forgotten

  1. rawone

    I have a targo trap mod #1 in the box included are thrower,do’s” and don’ts booklet,belt target carrier, five targets, target carrier booklet,No.1 targo parts list,No.1 targo trap instructions, one bag 6 screws, 1 envelope to request special brackets addressed to O.F. MOSSBERG & SONS INC. 131 ST. JOHN ST. NEW HAVEN, CONN. LOOKING FOR BEST OFFER. THANKS FOR LOOKING

    RICH

  2. tallbob

    Dan, I have one of the seven hardcased model 42tr targo rifles shipped by Mossberg. I believe it is complete as shipped. I also have 600 targets that were bought in the 40′s with this gun. I am interested in selling this if you know anyone interested. You can reach me at rbneal22@yahoo.com, Thankyou

    1. tallbob

      I apologize. Hadn’t read far enough to realize that had passed. I guess most post needs to go to one of Dan’s old correspondents, Bob of Skeetermaster, if anyone can do that. Thankyou

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