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About Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922 | View Entire Issue (July 18, 1909)
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PAGE3 1 TO 4.
VOL. XXXIX NO. 5.
OMAHA, SUNDAY MORNING, JULY 18, 1909.
SINGLE COPY FIVE CENTS.
UNCLE SAM TEACHES HIS SOLDIER BOYS HOW TO SHOOT
Scenes on Rifle Range Near Ashland Where Sixteenth Infantry, n 03 Been Taking Practical Lessons in Use of High Power Rifle With Which Army is Equipped
WHEN a squadron of soldiers marches up the street in a
parade the average bystander notes the precision of
their movements, the neatness of their accoutrements
and their snapplness of step, and supposes that If the
fighters present a good appearance they are probably
good soldiers. On this basis the American standing army is some
times compared to the German army to Us disadvantage, but those
who make the comparison overlook the fact that the fighters for
the United States who make a profession of being prepared for
actual warfare serve ideals of efficiency quite as businesslike and
direct as the Ideals of workers In any field. They are trained as
"first class fighting men." At that they 6pend all their time, and
the men who direct their education make a study of fighting
efficiency. For this reason the regular army officer is proud,
not of the appearance of his men or parade, although that Is lm-
portant, but rather of the record that stands beside the name of his
company in Washington as to its ability to shoot.
Three things are of prime importance in a soldier's training,
physical fltneES, knowledge of campaign service and marksmanship.
Of these the last Is most important, and a roan's standing and pay
In the army depends upon that. Once a year each soldier gets a
chance In the field to show what h can do, and the army depart
ment has provided at or near every post In the country a rifle range,
so the soldiers can get out where there is plenty of room and blaze
away at targets until they learn to hit them.
The two battalions of the Sixteenth United States Infantry sta
tioned at Fort Crook are taking their summer's practice this year on
a new range at Ashland, Neb., near the site of the encampment of
the National Guard. The Third battalion is now completing its three
weeks' work and was preceded by the Second. The Third battalion,
which consists of Companies I, K, L and M and a squad of men In
charge of a machine gun, is commanded by Captains Bennett, Dal
ton and Warfield and Lieutenants Drury, Mlchaells, Churchill, Nuel
sen, James and Shean. Lieutenant Churchill has charge of the range
and Lieutenant Mlchaells is in command of the machine gun squad.
Colonel Gardner, under whose command the two battalions are, has
directed the work of preparing the range and camp and is now rep
resented by Captain Dalton, who was preceded as commanding offi
cer by Captain Dennett.
- What a Rifle Range is Like
The rifle range Itself consists of a long strip of ground covering
about 750 acres, running north and south so that the targets at the
north end are on the bank of the Platte. By this convenient situation
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BEHIND THE BUTTS ON" THE RANGE.
the government saves the expense of erecting a bulwark or "butt"
to stop the stray bullets, as those which get over the targets have
five or six miles of water to travel over and spend their strength.
The land is now being rented, but will probably be purchased by
next summer, as it is ideal for the use of the soldiers. The ground
actually used for tatget practice is a closely mowed level stretch
seventy-five yards wide and 3,000 yards long. The longest distance
at which rifle practice is attempted is 1,000 yards, but the machine
gun is sighted at life sized dummies that are nearly two miles away.
The range used by the National Guard runs along the new course
of the regulars and has been there for several years. The new range,
which, if the land is purchased, will be made one of the most com
plete In the country, was built by H company under command of
Lieutenant Smith this spring, before the Second battalion came
Few people realize what shooting at 1,000 yards means unless
they have stood looking down a level stretch of ground, through a
pinhole sight, at a black spot a yard across and more than halt a
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EXPERT RIFLEMEN OF THE SIXTEENTH INFANTRY ON A "SKIRMISH RUN."
mile away. Some idea of the distance may be gained from the fact
that the bullet which leaves the rlflo muzzle at the rate of 3,000 feet
per second may be drifted fifteen feet out of Its course by an ordi
nary wind while it is going the 1,000 yards. If a man's rifle Is jarred
far enough for him to see the thinnest streak of light between the
bull's eye and the edge of his sight he will miss the whole target by
several feet. The expert rifleman'B eye Is trained to seeing distances
that are about equal to the thickness of a piece of paper and arrang
ing bis sighting apparatus he estimates spaces in hundredths of an
inch. A thousand yards is a long, long way to shoot, and the man
who can hit a slxteen-lnch bull's eye at that distance could probably
drive a shooting gallery out of business in about ten minutes.
Sort of Targets Used
There are eight target frames set up on the fifteen-foot em
bankment on the shore of the river. These are fitted with a system
of pulleys which raise and lower the huge targets. Two targets,
made of paper pasted on canvas, are on each frame, so that as soon
as one is punctured it can be lowered behind the embankment and
examined while another Is up above to be shot at. Two men and a
noncommlsssioned officer are in charge of each target and as soon
as a shot is made the punctured target Is lowered, examined and the
score flashed back down the range by a system of signalling with
metallic disks of different colors. If the shooter makes a "five
o'clock four," which means that his bullet has gone through the
target in the first circle outside of the bull's eye on the lower left
hand side, a red disk is shown over the spot in the target where the
bullet went through. When the shooting begins at each of the dif
ferent distances the soldier is allowed several shots to try the wind
and the place where the signal disk Is held over the target shows
him how far and in what direction he is away, from the center. A
bull's eye counts five, the first ring four, the second three and the
edge of the target two. The target Is considered as a clock face
and the portion which the bullet strikes Is designated by the hour
mark which It would be nearest if the dial were actually up there.
Bo a "two o'clock three" would be hitting the second circle outside
the bull's eye in the upper right hand corner and a "nine o'clock
four" would be in the first circle on the middle left hand side. The
men who work these targets and send back the signals sit behind the
sand bank and listen to the nickel-capped bullets that go "pinging"
over their heads, and if they want to get out from their little fort
ress they wave a red flag and run for it. There are very few acci
dents: Last year the National Guard killed a cow, but the owner
fot 80 for It, and that's a fair price for an ordinary bovine.
Down the side of the range runs a telephone wire which con
nects with the pits behind the targets, and is tapped out on the field
by an orderly, who carries his Instrument with hlra. This Is used
to send orders back and forth in case of emergencies. If the range
is completely fitted out next year, the telephone wires will be burled
In the ground and another 'Cable will be added to carry a system
Of bell signals for communicating scores.
In each target frame are used targets of three sizes. The
fhort, or "A" range, target, which Is shot at from the 200 and 300
yard marks, has a bull's eye eight Inches square on a field four by
six feet. The "B" range target, which' is put up when the soldiers
are at the 500 and 600 yard marks, is six feet square and has a
twenty-inch "bull's eye. The "C" range, or big target, is six by
twelve feet in size and has a bull's eye one yard across. This Is
shot at from the 800 and 1,000 yard positions.
Learning to Use the Weapon
When the soldiers are first taken out to the rifle range each
year they are allowed what is called an Instruction or preliminary
course. Underthe closa personal direction and with the help of
their officers they go through the prescribed shooting tests and are
acquainted with the conditions and what Is expected of them. After
that they are ordered to shoot for their records, and their officers
take every precaution to see that they do their best within the rules,
since not only the pay of the men depends upon their ability, but
also the standing of the company and the regiment In the army.
v When the firing begins for record, eight men are lined up,
one opposite each target, and 200 yards away. At this distance they
must stand. When they get farther away they are allowed to sit
or kneel, and at the greater distances to He down. At a table beside
them is a scorer, who belongs to another company and whose busi
ness It Is to keep the score on every shot fired by each man. The
man's complete score consists of five shots, fired at command from
each of these distances, 200, 300, 500 and 600 yards; five shots fired
in thirty seconds from 200 yards, and the same number in half a mln- 1
ute at 300 yards and one 'skirmish run." In the skirmish run the
men start at 600 yards, and under orders fire two shots In thirty
seconds; then move forward half the distance at a walk and halt
at a run to 500 yards'and take two more In thirty seconds, come to
400 yards and shoot three in thirty seconds, to 350 yards and shoot
three in thirty seconds, to 300 and shoot five in thirty seconds, and
then to 200 and fire five shots in twenty seconds. The targets,
.which are fired at in the skirmish run are silhouettes, life sized,
one of a man kneeling and one of a man lying down. At 600 yards
these two figures give very little space to hit, but the expert can
fill them both full of holes in a skirmish run.
Merely operating an army rifle fast enough to shoot five times
in twenty seconds is the result of skill attained by long practice,
and the untrained soldier can usually do scarcely anything in this
trial. By a movement of the lever the empty cartridge is thrown
out, a new one placed in position from the magazine and the hammer
drawn back. This series of movements throws the soldier's "piece,"
or rifle, completely out of position, and he has to get his sight back
upon the target again, all in the space of four seconds. '
Means More Pay for Soldier
If the soldier got a bull's eye, or five points, on every shot, be
would make 260 points out of this test, and ht) is put through it
twice, making his highest possible score 600 points. If he gets
60 per cent of that he Is entitled to the rank of "marksman," and
wears a medal on his dress uniform, beside getting f 2 a month extra
pay. A man who gets 50 per cent ranks first class, 40 per cent;
second class and men who cannot get at least 40 per cent are un
f.lassified. About one-half of a good company are "marksmen."
If a man qualifies as a "marksman" he is eligible to try for the.
rank of "sharpshooter." The test is two scores, or ten shots, at
800 yards, ten at 1,000 yards and ten at 500 yards. The last ten
shots are fired in one minute. A man who passes this test with
60 per cent gets a still finer medal, $3 a month extra pay and a
chance to try for the highest notch of shooting ability, the rank of
"expert rifleman." The expert rifleman test consists of five shots
at 200 yards, slow fire, and five shots In thirty seconds, the same
at 300 yards and at 600 yards, ten shots at 1,000 yards, slow fire,
and one skirmish run. To pass this test the candidate must get
204 out of a possible 300 points, or 68 per cent. The expert rifle
man gets $5 a month extra pay and a medal. These various medals
are much prized as badges of efficiency and service, and when a
soldier Is dressed up on parade in his best uniform he is very care
ful' to wear upon It every ornament his captain will permit him,
such as medals, service bars and honor badges.
Records Kept Accurately
Beside the scoring for Individual soldiers, records are kept on
collective firing by companies. The companies fire three volleys
at 600, 800 and 1,000 yards at silhouette targets, such as are used
in skirmish runs, and three rounds at will at each of the three
ranges. The standing of the company Is figured up by a very com
plicated system of tables from both the individual and collective
scores. The highest standing company In the Department of Mis
souri at the present time is "H" company of the Sixteenth infantry,
under the command of Lieutenant P. L. Smith, now at the range.
Every year a national competition is held In the army, for which
preliminary department shoots are held. The national competition
Is held in Ohio, and the men from the Department of Missouri will
be chosen at Sheridan. One man from each company' is allowed to
take part in the competitive shooting, and the experts from the
Third battalion are already chosen. They will be Sergeant Robin
son, Company "E;" Sergeant McGowan, Company "F;" Private
Zumbuhl, Company "G;" Sergeant Hornbuckle, Company "H;" Pri
vate Noble, Company "I;" Corporal Floyd. Company "K;" Corporal
Mllby, Company "L," and Sergeant Price. Company "M." These
eight men are shown in the picture, firing a skirmish run.
Not only the men. but their officers, too, keep their shooting
records on file, and every officer under fifteen years of service Is
required to shoot with his company each year In the regulnr test.
Beside the regular carbine shooting, they practice the use of the
pistol, and In the competitions they have special trials of their own.
As a rule the commissioned officers are fine shots, and the fact that
they have competitions of their own Is rather a concession to the
men than to them. The best shot In the Sixteenth Infantry Is
reputed to be Lieutenant O, E. Mlchaells. who will represent the
regiment at Sheridan this summer.
Weapon Used a Fine One
The weapon of the United States army la a machine worthy of
much study, and its peculiarities and capabilities have been figured
down to a very fine point by governmont experts. Every man In
the service gets the benefit of the calculations, in tho effort to make
him a good shot. The rifle is a gun so heavy that it takes consid
erable strength to held It steady, and the long barrel Is encased In
a wooden covering, so that It can be held when shooting at the rate
of ten shots a minutes has got the metal hot. The cartridges, which
are 30 calibre, come in "clips" of five, that is, every five cartridges
are fastened together by one end to a metal strip, so that five can
be taken at a time and slipped Into the magazine. This makes it
possible to'load the gun with only a tew movements. Tho bullet is
sharp-pointed and capped with nickel, so that it will not spread.
This bullet, about an Inch long, Is thrown nearly two miles and a
half at a maximum speed of 2,900 feet a second.
The sights are complicated little machines, which make marks
manship as much as possible a science. The hind sight, which Is a
little round hole In a metal plate, is moved up and down at different
elevations for different ranges, and is turned across the barrel either
way on a scale for "windage." By the scale on the windage gauge
the man can deflect the course of his bullet enough to allow for the
wind, when it is blowing across the range. The use of this com
plicated machinery is taught the men in the posts In tho winter time
at their short range targets and their indoor practice. The com
petitors cpend hours In practicing the simple movements of working
their gun, so that when they are shooting at the rate of one shot
every four seconds they will have as much time as possible In which
to take their aim.
Even tno strap on the rifle U used to aid la accuracy. Different
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PART OF LIFE IN CAMP.
methods have been devised of wrapping tho "sling" around the arms
and shoulders of the marksman, so that the butt of the gun is held
tight and solid against the shoulder, In spite of the heavy recoil,
and tho aim can be made as steady as a man can hold his body.
Soldiers Enjoy the Work
Each battalion spends 'three or four weeks in camp every year,
and the men enjoy it Immensely. Naturally the regular, who has
probably seen campaign service, feels very little thrill in pitching
a tent and sleeping in a blanket, but tho men like the freedom and
th change from the routine of post life. Taking care of the camp
and shooting when weather conditions are good Is about all the
work they have to do, and the rest of the time is spent in playing
ball or some other amusement. Beside this pleasantness in the
mode of life, the rifle range represents to them a chance to earn
honors and extra pay, and they take care to make the most of their
chances. The round of life In camp Includes such service as would
be undergone In a campaign, when serving on detached duty, save
that the supply of food la better and more regular, and the day's
work is fixed with considerable certainty. The men as a rule enjoy
the stay at the rifle range, as It represents something like a vacation,
and has many attractive features, such as caunot be had in barracks
or on a practice "bike.-
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AT MESS AT TUB TARGET RANGE.
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