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Remembered Today:

rifle ranges


Moonraker
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The design of rifle ranges is one theme that I've overlooked in my researches, though there were/are plenty of them on Salisbury Plain. Yesterday I was reading how Lieutenant Ross Briscoe of the First Canadian Contingent was shot at the Sling Camp butts on January 6, 1915. He should have been in the pit in front of the targets, not in a pit behind, where there was a risk of bullets being deflected downward after hitting the target - which is what happened to him. And he had been warned not to shelter behind it.

Presumably ricochets would have been off metal frames, rather than wood - though I suppose a screw or nail holding a wooden framework together might have deflected a bullet? And would the targets themselves be fixed, or could they have been moved up and down so that the range staff could assess the numbers of hits?

I vaguely recall looking at National Archives file (WO 78/3704) of 1904 about butts in the Sling/Bulford area, but I think this related to ground plans rather than the design of the targets. I'll check it out again on my next visit there, but until then any info on early 20th century butts would be of interest.

Moonraker

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The design of rifle ranges is one theme that I've overlooked in my researches, though there were/are plenty of them on Salisbury Plain. Yesterday I was reading how Lieutenant Ross Briscoe of the First Canadian Contingent was shot at the Sling Camp butts on January 6, 1915. He should have been in the pit in front of the targets, not in a pit behind, where there was a risk of bullets being deflected downward after hitting the target - which is what happened to him. And he had been warned not to shelter behind it.

Presumably ricochets would have been off metal frames, rather than wood - though I suppose a screw or nail holding a wooden framework together might have deflected a bullet? And would the targets themselves be fixed, or could they have been moved up and down so that the range staff could assess the numbers of hits?

I vaguely recall looking at National Archives file (WO 78/3704) of 1904 about butts in the Sling/Bulford area, but I think this related to ground plans rather than the design of the targets. I'll check it out again on my next visit them, but until then any info on early 20th century butts would be of interest.

Moonraker

An interesting subject I agree given the importance afforded to marksmanship in the early years of WW1. For the first 2 decades of my own service (72-92) the most common form of target arrangement was a so-called 'Gallery Range' which comprised a row of twin metal frames of a counter weight design with each frame counter balancing the other and therefore operable by one man. Embedded in a concrete lined and overhung pit, behind an earth embankment, the design of these frames dated from at least WW1 and quite possibly before, as they looked decidedly Victorian in style and ingenuity. There is a particularly good explanation of how they worked and were used in WW1 in the book by Ian Hay - 'The First 100,000' - which records his experiences as a subaltern in a Scottish Imperial Service Battalion of Kitchener's First batch or recruits, the so-called 'K1'.

The School of Musketry in conjunction with the Ordnance Board laid down the construction of ranges and these were eventually encapsulated in "Infantry Skill at Arms Pamphlet Number 22: Range Construction and Safety Regulations. The Army is an extraordinarily conservative institution and I strongly suspect that a similar pamphlet existed in 1914-18. The Gallery Range had firing points at 100 yard (later 100 metre) intervals running from 100 to 600 and, on some ranges, with a further 2 firing points behind, taking the maximum range to 800 and generally used for light machine gun and sniper training..

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The current bible of range construction is JSP403.

This is an 'Unrestricted' military publication, so it should a available somewhere.

The construction of Gallery Ranges does not seem to have changed in years.

However,one change that seems to have taken place on some of the military ranges that I use is that every other target frame has been removed giving wider spacing between firers.

The good old Hythe Frame is alive and well all over the country. and the only part of this that is exposed to the firer is the wooden target frame, the metal mechanism is under cover.

I have personaly never experienced a ricochet finding its way into the target markers covered butt, although I have heard tales of near misses.

The markers pit is in front of the target under an earth and concrete parapet.

Philsr

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Outdoor ranges in my area seem to be contemporary with the Volunteer movement c.1859, enlarged on c.1881 and 1908 then 1914-1918. The variety of indoor ranges and sub-target apparatus from 1908 onwards is mind-boggling - the TF Yearbook for 1908 is most instructive on the training devices and facilities available to county associations and well worth a look if you can find a copy.

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The "Musketry Regulations Part II 1910" will give a good basic guide to the thinking on ranges, and targets, etc.

Gareth

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I am familiar with the type of ranges ('Gallery Range')

all ex-British Army models, mentioned above, at:

Finner Camp, Co. Donegal,

Oranmore, Galway, Co. Galway,

Carna Range, Athlone, located on the Roscommon side of the River Shannon.

and Kilworth Range, near Kilworth Camp, in County Cork.

The only other thing that I ever saw to cause a ricochet into the Butts Safe Area

would be during the "Falling Plates" Competition, after the steel plates were stood

on wooden railway sleepers on the earth mound to the rear of the Butts,

the Butt Party retired to the bunker / target stores, helmets on,

and wooden doors closed for the duration of the firing,

Upon receiving a field phone or radio signal from the firing point,

Butt party would exit the "Bunker" only after the red flag had been raised.

At no time was it permitted to fire down range towards the butts while the flag was raised.

Connaught Stranger :D

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connaught, back in the early sixties ,the butts in the glen of immal were a scary place to be marking targets. during volley practice you had to hold up the marker to show the shooter where his last shot went, if you left the marker raised too long you might get a hit through it. also the earthen banks behind the targets were dangerous as there were some rocks among the clay and when a round hit one you`d certainly hear it ricochet. on this range also ,if you over hit the target you`d have a good chance of bagging a sheep!!. cheers, mike. perth.

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This photo of the B range butts at Altcar was taken in 1974 and you can just make out on the right, the very clever

but ramshackle target apparatus. Pte's Jack Winstanley and Dave Forrester, 1 Lancastrian.

Bob Grundy

post-18171-1212445423.jpg

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Your humble narrator was in the butts near Catterick in 1977 and got a red hot, deflected 7.62 SLR round down the back of his smock & shirt which left an interesting burn scar for years. :o ouch!!

Chris C

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connaught, back in the early sixties ,the butts in the glen of immal were a scary place to be marking targets. during volley practice you had to hold up the marker to show the shooter where his last shot went, if you left the marker raised too long you might get a hit through it. also the earthen banks behind the targets were dangerous as there were some rocks among the clay and when a round hit one you`d certainly hear it ricochet. on this range also ,if you over hit the target you`d have a good chance of bagging a sheep!!. cheers, mike. perth.

Hallo Mike, :D

I well remember doing the indications, at the various ranges mentioned in my above post with a long pole with two discs, one at each end, a red, a white, Black & white, and Black.

You had to look up at the target and place the relevant colored disk to indicate where the shot landed, if I remember correctly it was:

White for a bull,

Red for an inner,

Black for an outer,

and moving the Black & White in a side to side movement indicated a miss.

Connaught Stranger :D

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Bob G,

the 'ramshackle' target apparatus is still in use today on many ranges !

the only changes appear to be a lick of paint and new wires.

Mick

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They could be Spencers Patent Excelsior Targets.

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All I can say is it was the same in Fifties. I did assist at a practice shoot for the local civilian club. They had persuaded the Army to allow them on to Barry Buddon range where they were firing at long range. TA provided range staff. This entailed firing at enormous targets which were erected in 3 parts. As a signaller(TA) at that time, I spent most of the weekend at an outpost warning off civilians who had ignored the danger flags. I was told that some of the shooters lay on their backs with feet toward the target, rifles supported on their legs. Ranges were in the region of 1000 yards. Bren gun practice at about 400 yards and up, was on steel plates laid on the back stop embankment. Plates were about 9" square. Butts were emptied for that for fear of ricochet. Every metal frame I ever saw, had nicks and holes so they did get hit occasionally.

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...I did assist at a practice shoot for the local civilian club. They had persuaded the Army to allow them on to Barry Buddon range where they were firing at long range...

I'm wandering dangerously off topic (but I started it, so why shouldn't I :)) but I've just come across a reference to a sergeants' mess of the First Canadian Contingent taking part in a 16-a-side shooting match against Devizes Working Men’s Club in mid-November 1914. The working men won by 432 points to 410, three of them recording higher scores than the Canadians’ best performer, Sergeant Graham. Ouch.

It's not clear what sort of range was used, but I doubt very much that it was a military one, as all those in the Salisbury Plain area were seriously over-booked at this time. Just possibly it could have been a facility at Le Marchant barracks, Devizes, the Wiltshire Regiment depot. I suspect that it may have been a miniature one. Has anyone any idea what sort of range a working men's club might have used in 1914?

Thanks for all the replies received so far.

Moonraker

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Gents,

I often use an ETR (Electric Target Range).

Great fun to use, you get reacting targets, they fall when hit, and you don't need a butt party, the scoring is electrical.

They give much more realistic training than with Gallery Ranges.

I was wondering when these came in to use.

The technology is quite old, all relays, solonoids and switches, well capable of being produced in the early 20th century.

Philsr

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Gents,

I often use an ETR (Electric Target Range)...

The technology is quite old, all relays, solonoids and switches, well capable of being produced in the early 20th century.

Philsr

But how weatherproof would it have been then?

Moonraker

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Next time I use a gallery range, I'll look at the makers mark that is still on the apparatus.

Mick

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Gents,

I did not phrase my remark about ETRs very well.

The technology is well old enought to go back to WWI, being all electromechanical.

Were they used back then?

Philsr

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The ETR's I have used are definately modern.

Mick

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