The Targ-Aire air pistol was originally manufactured by the Targ-Aire Pistol Company in Chicago, Illinois from 1946 to 1947. The company was later purchased by the R. J. Randle Ranco Tool Company in 1947 and production continued until 1951 during which the pistol was called the Ranco and marked accordingly.
This particular model has a rifled .177 calibre barrel and heavy cast alloy anodized bronze grips. Later models were fitted with lightweight brown plastic grips. Brown alloy grips were also fitted to some Targ-Aire pistols. Both rifled and smoothbore barrels were available and also in .22 calibre.
The barrel drops down in a similar manner to the Haenel 26 and 28 air pistols which are also styled on the Luger. However, whereas the Haenel used a traditional hidden wedge style barrel catch, the Targ-Aire barrel is released by pulling the knurled release catch found just in front of the trigger guard. This knurled knob seems quite out-of-place and somewhat of an afterthought.
Despite this unsightly barrel catch, this pistol has a unique cocking method that is not found on any air pistol before or after. A lever tucked into the rear of the grip is pulled backwards and upwards to operate a ratchet mechanism that compresses the mainspring. This effectively provides three power settings of low, medium and high power. Why anyone would use anything other than the highest power setting is beyond me as the low and medium settings are far from inspiring. Nonetheless, this is still a unique mechanism that you would expect to be patented and yet only the external appearance was protected by a registered design.
Regardless, the pistol is quite awkward to cock. The first two strokes of the lever are easy enough, however, the final stroke takes quite some effort. Especially for the power that it produces.
With an estimated production run of only 2,500, these 70-year-old air pistols are particularly rare to find today even in the U.S. and are a worthy addition to any airgun connoisseur’s collection.
Until next time, happy shooting!