A.B.T. Manufacturing Corp. Target Skill

Description: Target Skill, A.B.T. Manufacturing Corporation, 1925-1961. These weren't really "gun games", at least in my eye, because they vended gumballs. They were more like trade stimulators, or gumball machines that stimulated more "trade" (gumball buying) because in addition to getting a gumball, the patron got to play a game of skill. The concept was good. Put a penny in, take a single shot, and get a gumball. If you hit the target, you got your penny back! Since you always got a gumball and there was skill involved, it was viewed as a legal skill vendor/game.

The ABT Manufacturing Corporation started making their "Target Skill" gun games in Memphis Tennessee in 1925. The games were small coutertop size, made with an oak cabinet (later pine), and cast metal gun parts. Gus Adler, Jack Bechtol and Walter Tratsch (hence the initials A.B.T.) started the company. They advertised their ABT Target Skill as being legal anywhere, playing on the fears of tavern owners who worried about confiscated games.

Several models were made through the years ("A", "C", and "F" models), becoming more advanced as time marked on. The different models were all very similar though, and used the same gun parts. Many were produced under private label for other companies like Pace, Rockola and Keeney & sons. Model A was the first model, known as the "Target Skill". Next was Model C, known as the "Big Game Hunter". Within this model there were two versions, the 3 hole target and the 1 hole target. It was available with either animal reels or number reels, both with a separate "reward" card. The reels spin just like a slot machine when the targets are hit, but there is some skill involved.

When the Model F was introduced things changed a bit. This model added a clockwork motor that is wound when the machine is reset. This motor turns a shaft via a chain and raises one inch steel balls, appearing in a circular window for a second. The player must hit the ball when it appears to score. This introduced a time element to the game that had not been previously present. The cabinet also changed from an oak case to a painted pine box with an art deco look. It was still called the Target Skill.

Around 1939, other models were available including the Challanger. This was ABT's first ten shot model, and still all for one penny (though at some point, the price did increase to five cents). Around the same time, A.B.T. changed to a single cabinet model, and just changed the graphics on the sides to designate a new model. Different silk screened cabinet graphics and different metal head bonnets comprised the variety of models up to and after the war. On the "Fire and Smoke" model, reels showed different kinds of cigarette packs, and would cause the merchant to hand over free cigarettes if the proper combinations were achieved. The A.B.T. Skill Target stopped production in the late 1950s or early 1960s. During there production life, over 120,000 A.B.T. Skill Target games were made.

The 1939 A.B.T. Challanger model.

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