My family is the center and passion of my life but marksmanship and aviation occupy any time which may be left over. 

The flying and shooting worlds are similar in that they are populated with folks driven to become the best at what they do. In order to so one must have an absolute belief in an ability to be the best riflemen or aviator and to put in the hard, relentless, tedious, and grinding work necessary. 

The most important attribute a rifleman needs to reach the top step of the podium is the will to win, which includes determination and dedication. A written plan directs the search for the best possible rifle and ammunition combination. Next it moves on to the constant refinement of position and hold as one focuses on process. When all this comes together the road to the top is much smoother.

For an aviator, the road to the top begins with about eight to ten hours of dual instruction followed by being told to taxi to the ramp. Thinking the lesson is over you are surprised when the instructor unclips his seatbelt, hops out, tells you to take it around the patch three times, and meet him in the pilots’ lounge after you tie the plane down. The next 30 minutes will be with you forever, so relax, be confident, and fly the airplane. When your logbook is endorsed you know you can stand in front of the mirror and the best pilot you ever saw will be looking back at you.

This is illustrated in the movie The Right Stuff with a running joke based on an apocryphally question posed to Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut. Cooper played by Dennis Quaid, was asked, “Who’s the best pilot you’ve ever saw?” 

In a moment of unguarded subconscious truthful contemplation, he murmurs, “Who is the best pilot I ever saw? I’ll tell you. I’ve seen a lot of them, and most were pictures on a wall back at some place that doesn’t even exist anymore. Some of them are right here in this room. And some of them are…there still out there somewhere , doing what they always do… But there was…one pilot I once saw who I think truly did have the right stuff….”

Stopping in mid-sentence, as his overweening pilot’s ego snapped him out of his reverie and back to the present moment, he replied with a grin, “Who is the best pilot I ever saw? Well you’re looking at him.”  

And he may have been right.  Cooper’s parents owned a Command-Aire 3C3 biplane and he unofficially soloed when he was 12 years old. Four years later he reached the minimum age required for a pilot’s credential and logged his solo in a Piper J-3 Cub. Cooper was a  Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet in college and upon graduation converted his Army commission as a second lieutenant to the newly formed US Air Force. He completed undergraduate flight training and was awarded his wings in 1950. 

Selected as one of the first seven astronauts he flew the final Mercury program mission aboard Faith 7 on May 14, 1963. He flew longer, 34 hours, 19 minutes and 45 seconds than any American to date. In 22 orbits around the Earth he became the first American to spend an entire day in space, the first to sleep in space, and the last NASA astronaut to go into space alone.

Mercury capsules were designed for fully automatic control, causing noted test pilot Chuck Yeager to brand the astronauts “Spam in a can.” Equipment failures aboard Faith 7 forced Cooper to fly the spacecraft through reentry manually. In the face of  disaster, he calmly guided his spacecraft to a successful splashdown just four miles from the recovery ship USS Kearsarge, the most accurate landing of any Mercury mission. Cooper later wrote. "My electronics were shot, and a pilothad the stick” So, with all of that behind him, for a brief moment, Gordo Cooper became the greatest pilot anyone had ever seen. 

In his book, The Right Stuff, about the pilots engaged in U.S. postwar research with experimental rocket-powered, high-speed aircraft and the Project Mercury astronauts, Tom Wolfe describes, “… a seemingly infinite series of tests. … a dizzy progression of steps and ledges, a ziggurat, a pyramid extraordinarily high and steep; and the idea was to prove at every foot of the way up that pyramid that you were one of the elected and anointed ones who had the right stuff and could move higher and higher and even – ultimately, God willing, one day – that you might be able to join that special few at the very top… the very Brotherhood of the Right Stuff itself.”

After more than 60 years of shooting and a half of a century since my first solo I sit firmly at the base of the pyramid in both endeavors, my neck aching from being bent back looking upward at those who have climbed higher. What makes the ache bearable is the fact that I have been lucky enough to be associated with so many great shooters and pilots who have ascended higher than I in their search for Arete.

Arete, as the Greeks called the search for excellence, and, as my philosopher brother Steve would remind me, is the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one’s full potential.

If you put in the necessary hard work, have reached your full potential, and are recognized by your peers as a seeker of Arete you have won the Gold Medal, even if you haven’t been able to scramble the top of the pyramid.

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In cinema a shot is defined as time between the moment that the camera starts rolling until the moment it stops. In shooting shot are the pellets in a shotgun shell, but a shot is defined as the discharge of a firearm.

Arguably one of the most famous movie shots, pun intended, was the closing scene in the 12 minute long 1903 Edison Company film The Great Train Robbery, when actor Justus C. Barnes fired six rounds at the audience. Cinema was in its infancy and many viewers, unfamiliar with the new medium, thought that they were actually about to be shot. From its earliest beginnings it is easy to see why firearms have played a central role in motion picture.

Firearms have often been the focal point of some of the most popular films ever made. The first movie named for a firearm was the 1950 James Stewart vehicle Winchester 73.The plot of which was about the adventures of a specially selected Winchester 1873 marked “One of One Thousand.” Winchester made 701,058 centerfire Model ’73s which means that only 701 were possibly manufactured. To date only 136 of these rare rifles have been verified. Oddly enough, of the more common “One of One Hundred,” which more than 7,000 may have been made, only eight have surfaced.

Publicity conscious Universal Pictures sponsored a nationwide contest to find any of the remaining “One of One Thousand” Model 1873 Winchester rifles, resulting some hitherto unknown examples coming to light and a resurgence of antique gun collecting. To ensure authenticity Winchester sent its crack exhibition shooter Herb Parsons to do the trick shooting and to train Stewart so he would look natural handling the rifle.  

The1971 western Valdez is Coming features Burt Lancaster as Roberto ‘Bob’ Valdez, a former US Army Scout, who seeks justice for the widow of an innocent man he was tricked into killing. After kidnapping the wife of the rancher who tricked him he is chased by a band of his hired hands and holes up in the mountains. There he prepares his defense by handloading for his Sharps. The shot clearly shows a powder flask, empty cases, and bullets as Valdez professionally wields a nutcracker reloading tool.

Looking down into a valley at the approaching band of men Valdez screws a shooting stick into the ground, loads the rifle, mounts it, estimates the distance, adjusts the vernier sight, and begins to fire. Later he is captured and the jefe of the band, El Segundo, and he have this conversation.

El Segundo: [referring to Valdez’s earlier marksmanship against his men] You know something, Bob Valdez, you hit one, I think, 700-800 yards.

Bob Valdez: [with certitude] Closer to a thousand.

El Segundo: What was it? Sharps?

Bob Valdez: [nods] My own load.

El Segundo: You ever hunt buffalo?

Bob Valdez: Apache.

El Segundo: I knew it. When?

Bob Valdez: Before I know better.

The exchange is made all the more believable by the perfectly accurate portrayal of the period loading equipment and shooting scene.

While Tom Selleck may have starred in the 1990 film Quigley Down Under, clearly the attraction for firearms enthusiasts was the Sharps .45-110 rifle carried by Selleck’s character Matthew Quigley. His description of the rifle is red meat for  gun cranks, “It’s a lever action breach loader. Usual barrel length’s 30 inches. This one has an extra four, It’s converted to use a special 45 caliber 110 grain metal cartridge, with a 540 grain paper patches bullet. It’s fitted with double set triggers, and a vernier sight, marked up to 1200 yards. This one shoots a mite further.” This is true, for the .45 caliber bullet propelled by 110 gains of black powder was the most accurate and powerful rifle cartridge existent until the 1884 introduction of smokeless powder.

Quigley’s shots, particularly standing, require a suspension of belief but it is worth remembering buffalo hunter and scout Billy Dixon. A band of between 700-1200  Comanche and Cheyenne warriors attacked the settlement of Adobe Walls, Texas on  June 27, 1874. On the third day of the siege Dixon took aim with a .50-90 Sharps buffalo rifle knocking a warrior from his horse and killing him.  After the battle US Army surveyors measured the distance at 1,538 yards, nine-tenths of a mile.  The modest Dixon always referred to it as a “scratch shot”.

San Francisco Police Department Inspector Harry Callahan, in 1971’s Dirty Harry, points his big revolver at an alleged perpetrator and menacingly intones, “I know what you are thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five. Well to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kinda lost track myself, but being that his is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ”Do I feel lucky? Well do ya punk?” This 33 seconds of drama drove Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum Model 29 sales into the stratosphere, people were paying retail and in some cases, a premium surcharge to get their hands on this hand cannon. The demand for Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing’s Sharps reproductions pushed the factory to the limit.

Although these firearms manufactures did not pay for the free publicity, as do corporations today for product placement, they were well aware of the old poem, The Cod Fish.

“The codfish lays ten thousand eggs,
The homely hen lays one.
The codfish never cackles
To tell you what she’s done.
And so we scorn the codfish,
While the humble hen we prize,
Which only goes to show you
That it pays to advertise.”

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When I was a kid growing up in the 1950s there were three movie theaters I frequented, The Garde, the Victory, and the Capitol. My older brother Steve also recalls a fourth movie house, the rat infested Empire, but I have no memory of it.

Like most of my peers, I was a lover of western war, and action films. One of my favorite actors was Burt Lancaster. The former circus trapeze artist, and his aerobatic partner Nick Cravat, brought life to some of my favorite action moves, The Flame and the Arrow, The Crimson Pirate, Valdez Is Coming ,and Ulzana’s Raid. Lancaster and Clark Gable’s Run Silent Run Deep was a big hit at the Victory, which featured a mural of a Gato class fleet submarine behind the snack bar. It’s popularity was no surprise as it was located on the main drag of New London, Connecticut, the home of the US Navy Submarine School.

Toward the end of his career Lancaster starred in Valdez Is Coming. The film tells the story of Bob Valdez and his conflict with a wealthy rancher named Tanner who as tricked Valdez into killing an innocent man.  The unassuming Valdez, who rides shotgun for Hatch & Hodges stage line and is the constable, “…on the Mexican side of town..” has concealed his past as a scout for General George Crook and the  7th Cavalry Regiment during the Indian Wars of the late 1880s.

Valdez asks Tanner for a $100 to help the man’s widow, but he is ridiculed and almost killed by Tanner’s hired hands. After Valdez recovers he is determined to see justice done. He pulls an old bedroll from beneath his bed, dons his old calvary hat, and gathers up his collection of guns.

On his way to confront Tanner he is accosted by one of his henchmen who notices that Valdez is now heavily armed and remarks, “I think I see many guns?” Valdez replies, “These little things? For rabbit.” The man gallops away over a rise and quicky returns with his rifle out. Valdez mortally wounds him with a shotgun blast, helps back onto his horse, and sends him away with ominous  message, “You tell Mr. Tanner that Valdez is coming.” 

“So many guns” reminds me of the many guns I have run across in the course of my misspent days. I am not talking about Remington 513Ts, Winchester 52s, Springfield ‘03s, M1s, and M-14s but the odd type of guns.

The first would be a grease gun. When I was a kid cars required frequent periodic maintenance calling for “points and plugs,” adjustment of the point/condenser ignition system, and cleaning, gapping, or replacing the spark plugs. With that came pumping grease into special fittings connected to tie rod ends, ball joints, and other areas subject to wear. The grease was stored in a cylinder that was attached to a pistol grip and was either hydraulic or man powered. The similarity of this mechanics tool to the United States Submachine Gun, Cal. .45, M3 gave this World War substitute for the Thompson submachine Gun its nickname.

I have a tangential connection to the M3. My shooting mentor Art Jackson owned a first run Winchester 52 with a rare round action. The early 52s were designed as trainers for the centerfire ’03 so came with a flat topped receiver to accept a rear leaf sight similar to a Springfield’s. The 52 actions manufactured from 1919 until the introduction of the B model had a wing type safety on the left side with a pivot rod which passed through the recoil lug surface. Over time, this wall would frequently crack. Winchester would exchange faulty receivers, but Jackson did not want to give up the round one and so went to a local friend and gunsmith. George Hyde, a shop foreman at the highly respected custom gun makers Griffin & Howe, Hyde effected the repair. It was so well done that it is almost impossible to see. My connection? Hyde went on to design the M3 “Grease Gun” during World War II and Art gifted me the Winchester.

Then there is the Biscuit Gun. All airport control towers are equipped with a signal lamp which looks like a cylindrical box of Quaker Oats with a pistol grip. It projects a powerful white, red or green beam to direct aircraft traffic in case of radio failure, aircraft not equipped with a radio, or in case the pilot is hearing impaired. It is said that it got its nickname because, if a pilot could not read the signals, they could use the lamp to shoot up some biscuits to help him to stave off hunger as he circled about unable to land .

After Thanksgiving, I gather with friends to make Soppressata di Calabria, colloquially called ‘soupy,” a dry cured pork sausage specific to the region of Calabria, Italy, the “Old Country” for much of Westerly’s Italian population. We have purchased an array of meat grinders, mixers, and stuffing machinery to ease our labor. As we work the occasional grandfather, uncle, or other such ancient lay about toddles in during our sausage making for a taste of the product, a glass of homemade wine and, most importantly, kibbitzing.

The elders enjoy needling us about how much tougher it was making soupy in their youth. It is true. They raised, slaughtered and butchered the pig- you can’t get away with in Westerly today, ground the pork butts, mixed in the spices, cleaned and hand stuffed the natural pig intestine casing called ‘stendine’, and attended to it as it cures.

Recently one of the “Moustache Petes” showed up for his yearly soupy tithe with a burlap bag slung over his shoulder like a Calabrian Santa. After wetting his beak on our soupy and wine he opened the bag and pulled out a tube and piston syringe with a funnel like nozzle. Snatching up a ball of ground meat he filled the cylinder, fit a stendine over the nozzle, grabbed the device’s two handles, and pushing the base against his chest, produced one perfect stick of soupy. We stood in awe of this wizened old master of soupy making as he connected us to a past of which we had only a vague idea and now could fully appreciate. There are many types of guns, rifle, pistol, shotgun, matchlock, flintlock, staple, nail, and label, but that is how I was introduced to the sausage gun.

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The first automobile that I can distinctly remember The Old Man owning was when I was about six or seven years old. It was a  very well used late 1940s or early 1950 NashAirflyte, the famous “Bathtub Nash.” It was so named because it looked like an upside down bathtub on wheels. The design was part of the early post World War II automotive streamlining movement. Aerodynamic styling was coming into vogue and was also favored by Packard and Hudson. It may not have been such a good idea as Nash, Packard, and Hudson were automotive history by the time I reached junior high school.

The Old Man worked as a shop foreman managing a production line of women who were doing piece work assembling ladies foundation undergarment ephemera such girdles, garter belts, and shoulder straps for brassieres. This was sturdy stuff designed to support, shape, and mold women into the popular 1940-50’s streamlined style that modern women will never understand or suffer. Panty hose and the Women’s Liberation movement have reduced a once thriving business to a side line providing little more than lacy erotica.

In the early 1950s it was common for blue collar workers to put in a  five and a half day work week. On an occasional Saturday, The Old Man would take me to work with him. Rousted out of bed in the predawn darkness I breakfasted on a bowl of heavily sugared cold cereal while he munched on some buttered toast and gulped down a couple of cups of steaming hot coffee. After putting the dishes onto the sink we hopped into the Nash, stopped at Milbauer’s Bakery to pick up doughnuts for morning coffee break, and soon arrived at the fortress like mill building.

After he parked the car in the mill’s courtyard we would climb a few steps onto the loading dock and walk into the freight elevator. The Old Man would slam the scissored door shut with a satisfying crash, push a button or two, and pull a lever. Accompanied by the clanging warning bell, the squealing of cables rolling through pulleys, and the vibration of the misaligned car guide rail we were rumbled three stories up and onto the shop floor.

He punched his time card, letting me do the same with one he had made up for me, and would set me to work doing some innocuous task like sweeping, assembling cardboard shipping boxes, or sorting things. The ladies would make a big deal about me being a working man and the morning would quickly pass until break time. While all stopped for coffee or tea The Old Man would hand me my day’s pay, a nickel. Grabbing a doughnut I would rush off to the Vendo Coke machine, deposit my coin, yank down the hefty silver lever, and pull out a cold frosty green 6 ½ ounce bottle of Coke.

At the end of the day Nash I would again take up station in the Nash’s shotgun seat and watch with some awe as The Old Man effortlessly worked the manual transmission and clutch with practiced ease. It was an old car. and family finances would not stretch to purchasing a car with any amenities, let alone let alone a model with the new Hydramatic automatic transmission.

The Nash was the principle participant in a family treat. On an occasional summer Saturday evening we would take in a movie at one of the local drive-in theaters. On those nights dinner would be sandwiches of pastrami, corned beef , and The Old Man’s favorite cold cut-beef tongue, on rye bread accompanied by potato salad, coleslaw, and Heinz vegetarian baked beans. We would then pile into the Nash and head to the theater. Once inside my brother Steve and I would dash off to the playground located under the massive white screen. It was there that he took great sadistic delight in getting me to ride a small metal carousel. He would whip me around until I was dizzy and spewing up my dinner. Trips to the drive-in were few and far between so, dunce that I was, I never caught on to his malevolent big brother amusement.

It may have been old and battered but the Nash was spacious. After I cleaned up in the wash room we would retire to its sofa like back seat, change into pajamas, and either watch the movie if it featured cowboys, war, or jungle adventure or simply fall asleep.

Thoughts of the manual transmission and the Nash came back to me when my brother and I began to shoot high power. We had little money so, like The Old Man and used cars, we purchased what we could afford, an old beat up Remington 03A3 and an equally worn Springfield Model 1922 stock. The old crank rifle served us well. We next upgraded to an M1 and eventually M14s and M1As. Both of us legged out in the early 1980s and, therefore, never had to suffer the ignominy of using the effete M16 platform.

When we showed up with our hermaphrodite 03A3 we were subjected to sidelong glances, sotto voce comments, and well-meaning advice. When we graduated to the M1 the bolt gunners made fun of us because now we had to wait for the rife to reload itself while they could shoot as fast as they wished. The M14 brought about comments about our masculinity, or lack thereof, from the M1 community who felt the .308 cartridge was a powder puff load compared to the manly recoil of the tried and true ought six.

It seemed we could not win. What saved us from the constant mockery of the old timers was the M16. At the time it was a rifle that self-respecting rifleman could, and would, not take seriously. The plastic Matty Mattel 22 caliber centerfire rifle had no recoil, the barrel would bend with the slightest sling tension, the sights were incapable of any easy or serious adjustment, its accuracy dropped off severely beyond 400 yards, and rumor had it that the bullet would not penetrate a Soviet infantryman’s winter coat at that distance anyway.  A lot has changed in the ensuing decades concerning its value as a competition rifle. It is now more accurate, but it resembles a service rifle about as much as The Old Man’s Bathtub Nash resembled a bespoke Rolls Royce Phantom. Operating a standard transmission is an old school masculine skill rarely found in this day of the automatic transmission. The AR, with optical sights, is the automatic transmission of service rifle shooting. But, prized by iron men, a wooden rifle, shooting a 30 caliber cartridge with iron sights, is the stick shift of National Match shooting.

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One early September day in 1962 the warm afternoon sun poured through the classroom window and reflected off the page of my notebook upon which I had neatly copied the geometry problem that Mr. Pierce had chalked on the blackboard. Beneath was drawn a thick black horizonal line that was perpendicularly bisected by yet another thick black line dividing the bottom of the page into halves. My list of statements was precisely printed on the left of the vertical and the corresponding numbered reasons on the right.

As a freshman I had fought my way through the barbicans, drawbridge, and portcullis of algebra to reach the inner courtyard of geometry. With a year of mechanical drawing under by belt I was anxious and eager to deal with Euclid in all his forms.

Mr. Pierce had been grinding chalk on slate for nearly 40 years and was just a year or two from retirement. It was a commonly held belief among the young students at New London High School that the old gentleman was so well versed in his subject because he had been a student of Euclid’s. Tall, thin, slightly bent, and nearly bald, the frail looking Mr. Pierce resembled, if you will, a kindly C. Montgomery Burns, the owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and Homer Simpson’s boss. Like Burns to Simpson Mr. Pierce released his hounds on me in the form formal proofs. For the next ten months my name and the compliment, “Excellent” would rarely occur in the same breath, particularly when I spontaneously snorted a not too well concealed horse laugh on the day he introduced the Pons Asinorum or “Bridge of Asses” theorem. In my defense I was a sophomore and who has more right to be sophomoric?

Hardly the bell stopped ringing on the first day when he assigned seats and distributed books. It was then Mr. Pierce made it clear that there was hard work ahead and no way around it. There was a new vocabulary of symbols to be learned and axioms, postulates, and corollaries to be committed to memory.  “Geometry”, he told us, “was coldly logical.” If we adhered to strict methodology we would be successful but gave us a warning by telling us a little tale, perhaps apocryphal, of Euclid and Ptolemy.

Euclid of Alexandria was a Hellenic mathematician who lived in Greek ruled Alexandria, Egypt, probably during the reign of Ptolemy I. Euclid had written Elements, perhaps the earliest comprehensive mathematics textbooks. Ptolemy, as the story goes, employed Euclid as a tutor but was somewhat flummoxed by geometry. He asked Euclid if there were an easier way to master the subject, to which Euclid famously told his patron, “Sire, there is no royal road to geometry.”

Success in any endeavor requires hard word, be it geometry or rifle shooting. I learned that lesson from, among others, Mr. Pierce and the man who is to shooting what Euclid is to geometry, Lones Wigger.

Wigger is arguably the greatest rifleman who ever lived. He was quite candid about this ability. He believed that he was not a natural rifle shot and only achieved his three Olympic medals, 99 other international medals, world records, world championships, and countless national championship by dint of hard work.

He knew that there is a big difference between wishing and willing. Almost everyone wishes they might be an Olympic champion, but only those who are willing to do the relentless day to day hard work of preparation can possibly achieve that goal. Wigger was not sure he could outshoot every one of his competitors, but he was certain he could out work them.

As he often said, ““It’s persistence that pays the biggest dividends—constant, steady practice, week in and week out, all year long. I truly believe that anyone can be a champion marksman if they work at it long and hard enough.”

Hard training, coupled with another lesson he taught me, brought me a bit of fame and fortune. After toiling as a journeyman rifleman for decades I turned 55 and became an intermediate senior. I was usually in the top ten per cent at the national position championship, but not good enough to win the big bannana. That being said I was one of the best 55 year old position shooters, so I set myself the goal of winning the Intermediate three position title. From late April through July I trained five days a week, without fail,and won.

Ten years later I was 65 and, now a senior, thought I might make history repeat itself with a run at the geezer trophy. I trained hard, but after the first day of the championships found myself 17 points behind the leader.

The first day was blessed with good conditions but the Perry weather turned vicious on the second day. The range was swept by 30 mile per hour wind gusts from two o’clock which drove a hard rain nearly horizontal. I survived prone and was a hero with only three visible misses standing. Hard holding and luck allowed me to climb back to within striking distance of the leader. It was then that I remembered Wigger’s second lesson.

He had once mentioned to me that short squat guys, like us, have an advantage shooting kneeling in the wind. All you had to do was to take up a couple of notches on your sling and slouch low. I did so and ended up winning the sought after title by 17 points. Mr. Pierce amd Wigger both taught me the value and rewards of hard work. Mr Pierce’s reward was a hard earned B- in geometry. Wigger’s was a good-humored prank: while presenting me the Robert K. Moore Trophy on the stage at Camp Perry he pulled it back with a grin, accompanied by a collegial congratulatory clap on my shoulder as I staggered off balance reaching for the hard won prize.

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It was about 1900 on April 14, 1971 and I had been in the United States Navy about seven or eight hours. I sat at rigid attention with my hands clasped tightly in front of me on the tablet arm of my folding chair along with two dozen other members of Aviation Officers’ Candidate School Class 15-71. Clad only in our just issued snow white skivvies, boxer shorts and T shirts, we were uncomfortable for  a lot of physical and mental reasons. We suffered, without obvious complaint, the prickling of the loose hairs on our newly shorn heads and the acrid odor of the skivvies’ sizing. The smell of the sizing did little to mask the smell of fear which our bodies radiated as we faced an uncertain future.

Staff Sergeant A.W. Meyers, USMC, our Drill Instructor for the next 16 weeks of AOCS, was giving the flower of the nation’s best colleges and universities a lesson on person hygiene. He emphasized daily showers, perhaps more, as it was fast approaching the hot humid summer of Pensacola, Florida. Particular attention was to be paid to applying plenty of hot soapy water to our nether regions to avoid Jock Itch and brushing our teeth after every meal followed by gargling with the contents of the issued bottle of nasty tasting Listerine mouthwash. Staff Sergeant A.W. Myers, USMC, did not want, as he put it mildly, “…to suffer no funky breath blasting on me from your filthy pie holes, which you will keep shut unless told to talk or, of course, suffer the consequences!” 

He next passed out our dog tags and identification cards, telling us to memorize the card’s number, or suffer the consequences. It was the first, along with the chain of command, our rifle serial number, and the Eleven General Orders of a Sentry, of many things we were to commit to memory as we would be required to accurately quote one, or all of them,  anytime, anywhere, to anyone senior to us or, of course, suffer the consequences.

The last thing he did before ordering the class to “mount your racks” was to issue each of us a small dark blue box, about four inches by two inches, which, according to the label, held “Medal Set, National Defense Service, Regular Size, 1 set.” The ribbon, irreverently  known as the Firewatch or Gedunk Ribbon, would be pinned, exactly centered and ¼ of an inch above, the left breast pocket of our service khaki uniform or we would, of course, suffer the consequences. My hair had not even started growing back and here I was with a medal. Staff Sergeant A.W. Meyers, USMC, a beribboned veteran of Viet Nam, called us to attention and before dismissal acerbically told us that, “The Firewatch Ribbon is red for the blood we would never shed, blue for the water we would never cross, white for the eyes of the enemy we would never see, and yellow for the reason why.”

Some five months later, having survived the persuasive pedagogy of Staff Sergeant A.W. Meyers, USMC, I found myself a freshly minted Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve on the firing line of Naval Air Station Pensacola’s pistol range for qualification. It was a chance to double my ribbon display by adding a companion to my solitary National Defense ribbon. As we went through the safety briefing and basic pistol marksmanship training my mind wandered off to the history of the United States military sidearm.

During the Revolutionary War pistols were usually the private property of officers and were a motley collection of dueling and horse pistols with no common caliber and the attending difficulties. Feeling a need for standardization the Continental Congress elected to copy the 62 caliber British Model 1760 flintlock pistol, bought 2,000 from the Rappahannock Forge in Virginia, and named it the Model 1775. It saw service in the War of 1812 and was the United States Army’s standard-issue pistol for over 50 years.

Samuel Colt’s revolutionary revolver designs, the 44 caliber Walker and Dragoon revolvers were adopted by United States Army for cavalry and mounted-infantry use, seeing service in the Mexican-American War and on both sides of the United States Civil War. Just before the Civil War they were supplemented by the Colt Army Model 1860. Later the Colt Single Action Army replaced these three pistols because it used a safer and more reliable self-contained 45 caliber metallic cartridge, not the messy and dangerous loose powder, cap, and ball of the Walker and Dragoon, It remained the standard sidearm for the United States military until 1905.  The last revolver in United States service was the M1917, a 38 caliber six-shot pistol made by Colt and Smith & Wesson that had an amazing longevity, remaining  in the supply system through the 1970s.

The most iconic United States military sidearm in history is the John Browning designed semiautomatic, single action, recoil operated, seven shot, magazine fed, “Pistol, Caliber .45, Automatic, M1911A1.” It was the standard-issue United States sidearm for nearly 75 years and saw action every American conflict including both World Wars, the various Banana Wars, China and the Yangtze River patrol, Korea, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and Grenada until it was replaced in 1985 by the M9, the Italian designed 9mm Beretta Model 92.

While M1911 was officially replaced in 1985 a number of special-operations units carried them into 21st century and it is still in the supply system as the Marine Corps M45A1 Close Quarters Battle Pistol.

Recently the  XM17 Modular Handgun System, a variation of the Sig Sauer 9mm P320, has replaced the M9.

As for me, I used a M1911A1 to earn a United States Navy Marksmanship Medal to accompany my lonely National Defense Ribbon. I am proud to say that mine displays a silver ‘E’ to tell the world that I qualified as an expert with Old Slabsides.

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April 15, 1972 was a red letter day in my life. It was, first of all, tax deadline day. As a young cash strapped Naval officer I had filed my 1040 and the money was socked away. April 15th was also the day I left the regime of Reveille and Taps, departing Naval Air Station Corpus Christi a civilian. A footloose bachelor I planned a leisurely drive home through the Midwest go visit friends with whom I had joyfully misspent my youth.  

On the 14th I said goodbye to those I would leave behind, picked up my DD-214, mustering out pay, and travel money, and settled my BOQ bill. Up early on the 15th I broke my fast in the Open Mess with a last hearty Navy meal, a bowl of fresh citrus fruit, a plate loaded with scrambled eggs topped with a liberal dose of Tabasco Sauce, steaming chipped cream beef on toast, home fries, juice and milk. As the sun broke over Corpus Christi Bay, I was driving north on Interstate 37, heading into a new phase of my life. 

I turned east outside of Dallas onto Interstate 20 humming along with the soothing sound of Mozart playing on my cassette tape recorder. I was also humming down the highway and not paying much attention to my speedometer, the road level billboard, or Texas Department of Public Safety Officer Tommy Tucker hiding behind it. 

The flashing lights and siren broke my reverie and I pulled over. Trooper Tucker was polite, noticed my NAS parking sticker and remarked that he was a Navy veteran. He said with a wink and a smile he would take that into account when writing up my ticket. True to his word he cited me for “Failure to Obey Traffic Sign” a mere $97.00, rather than the $250.00 for “Speeding-exceeding limit by 15 to 29 miles per hour.” I was also allowed to pay by mail rather that appear immediately in traffic court. I thanked him profusely. I guess it pays to be a veteran when stopped by a veteran. 

A few years earlier my brother Steve found himself in the same predicament coming home from New Mexico. In his case he was escorted to the chambers of a Judge Sandoval, probably a relative enjoying a patronage job, and relieved of a hefty portion of his precious cash reserve. So much so that the rest of his journey was marked by carefully conserving gas, sleeping in the car, subsisting on Snickers, and worry.  

The next day I reached Washington, Missouri, the Corn Cob Pipe Capitol of the World, and home of my college roommate Craig Duncan. Washington  produces 12 to 14 million corn cob pipes annually, the world’s entire commercial output. Saying Washington is the Corn Cob Capital of the world was no brag, just fact. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, actor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., authors H.L. Mencken, and Mark Twain, along with politicians Herbert Hoover and Fiorello La Guardia are said to have favored Washington’s “Missouri Meerschaum.” 

After Mrs. Duncan served us a fine Missouri country dinner Craig suggested we go the movies to see the newest cinema hit, The Godfather. I enjoyed the movie and next morning headed north to Iowa City, Iowa, to check in with college buddy, Bruce Vliet. Arriving in Iowa City around dinner time Bruce suggested we dine at his favorite Dive Bar. As we wiped our greasy chins clean Bruce suggested we go the moves and see The Godfather. I could not refuse as he paid for our patty melts, fries, and IPAs. 

Next was Cleveland to visit college crony Bill Kaseberg studying at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. He rustled us up a homecooked dinner and then mentioned a special treat for me, he had tickets for, what else, the hit flick, The Godfather.  

My final stop was to pay a call on my then girlfriend. Her parents they suggested that we relax at the movies and see, yet again for me, The Godfather. By the time I got back home I had seen the movie enough times to  know parts of it by heart. Among them were when Caporegime Clemenza and his button man Rocco Lampone, conduct a wild goose chase, which includes buying Italian pastry for his Mrs. Clemenza,  to lull the traitor to La famiglia Pauli Gatto into a false sense of security. Clemenza has Gatto, who is driving, pull over so he can relive himself Lampone, sitting in the back seat, “makes his bones” by pumping three shots into Gatto’s brain. Clemenza surveys Gatto’s body slumped over the steering wheel and matter of factly  orders Lampone to, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”  

Lately two other scenes have come to mind. The first involves a lesser mafioso soliciting Don Corleon’s support to start dealing drugs. Asked what he need he relies, “I need, Don Corleone, all of those politicians that you carry around in your pocket, like so many nickels and dimes.” Later the same issue is raised in a meeting of the New York City family Dons. Corleone is reminded that, “…if he has all the judges and politicians in New York then he must share them, or let others use them. He must let us draw the water from the well” 

My extensive shooting research library/archive draws a lot of requests for information, usually for information about partially forgotten or long lost shooting performances,, general shooting history, or shooters from the dim past. My base is 120 linear feet of book shelf  packed full of histories, National Match programs, miscellaneous bulletins, and NRA, ISSF, DCM/CMP and government publications. On another set of shelves  hold American Rifleman, Tournament News, and Shooting Sports USA going back to the late 1920s and National Smallbore Outdoor Championship bulletins from1956 to the present.  

After many years of research I have become familiar with the contents and can usually readily find information sought. I have a good success rate and am only too happy to share the shooting knowledge stored, like so many nickels and dimes, on my shelves. After all, it is only right that I let others draw water from my well. 

In the light of The Godfather quotes it  has occurred to me that, just maybe I have become the Godfather of shooting history knowledge. 

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I have been a competitive rifle shooter for over 60 years or, to put it into perspective, eighty per cent of my life. My days, as my shooting mentors Dick Scheller and Roger McQuiggan would say, have gone up in smoke, noise, and expended brass. 

In these past six decades I have had a few moments of raging success, an individual open match win at Camp Perry in the prone stage of the anysight metric three position match, ironically my weakest position, a few team and individual National Records to my name, and some special category national championships. I do not relate these brief shining moments to brag for, in reality, my entire shooting career has been one of mediocrity. I am a journeyman rifleman, one who is reliable but not outstanding. 

Most of us are journeymen and there is no shame in our lot in life, seeking excellence and failing more times than not. Many more erudite authors than I have written on the subject such as Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech in which he says, The credit belongs to the man… who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”  

While I like Roosevelt’s words on the subject, my favorite thought along this line is from Andrea del Sarto.  It is a piece of dramatic monologue blank verse delivered in iambic pentameter by Robert Browning about the Italian painter Andrea del Sarto. Roosevelt delivered the Man in the Arena speech in Paris in 1910 but may have been influenced by Browning who published Andrea del Sarto in 1855 wherein appears the following, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” 

All in all this means that my shooting legacy will not be one to rank with Willis Lee, Morris Fisher, Walter Stokes, Art Jackson, Gary Anderson, or Lones Wigger. My shooting legacy will be from my musings and documentation of our sport. This was driven home to me as I was researching and writing the histories of the six major international prone matches, the shoulder to shoulder matches shot in Pershing/Roberts series, and the Dewar, Randle, Wakefield, and Drew postals. 

While I have a good reference library I usually find myself calling upon some of my British counterparts for aid. Brian Woodall and Geoff Doe have generously tossed out a life ring to me on more than one occasion. Answers to my questions usually come as an email essay accompanied by scanned copes of articles out of the National Small-Bore Rifle Association official journal On Target or its predecessor publication The Rifleman. 

When I read the articles in the magazine and the accompanying answer I would occasionally find an expression or term I did not understand. I could reason out that the British term  ‘foresight’ in American English is ‘front sight” and a ‘cross-shot’ is our crossfire. But what about a ‘carton‘ or the seemingly ubiquitous ‘three card system?” Perhaps a carton was something they used to store things like we use a box? Was the three card system a way that shooters at the NSRA’s headquarters relaxed after a match, gamboling as they gambled over cards, playing the British equivalent of our Three Card Monte? 

It was if the chain gang Captain from the movie Cool Hand Luke was staring down at me, as he did Luke, and announcing to all, “What we have here is failure to communicate.” Usually we were able to work out a translation with a little back and forth. By the way, a carton is an antiquated term for a ten, and inner carton is an X. The term three card system is an anachronistic reference to the old British practice of having the sighter target and two record bullseyes on three separate pieces of paper. This practice has long been superseded by a single target with three bullseyes so when a British shooter uses the term it implies he has reached a certain age and has a real history, much like a US highpower shooter using the term Maggie’s Drawers for a miss.  

And, of course, this brings up one at least one more translation. In England each aiming mark is termed a ‘target’, what we call a bullseye. A ‘card’, which we call a target, may be comprise of one or more bullseyes which the British call targets, three being the typical arrangement for the popular 25 yard/meter gallery postal matches. Most gallery shooting in the United States is done at fifty feet, but the NRA does have an authorized 75 foot target, the A7/5, which is based on the venerable A-17 target which dates from the early 1930s.  

The term card does play into the vocabulary of the United States shooter. It is used, usually in exasperation, after a trying day at the range. After looking at the scoreboard the dejected rifleman might say, “Well, at least I shot my card today.” Meaning his score at least met the minimum score of his current classification card. 

In England for the Roberts Match was flummoxed with left hand traffic. As a driver I left more rubber on the curb stones of the impossibly narrow streets than I did the roadbed and never got used to it. The same cannot be said of the change in shooting vocabulary. At the Bisley Meeting I quickly adapted to moving with my detail on and off the firing line which led to the Prize Giving of which, as usual  I was only a spectator. 

The difference between the Queen’s English and the vernacular spoken by us former colonists is a gap as wide as the ocean that separates us. In spite of that we are drawn together in a common love of our esoteric sport. 

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On March 16, 1926, Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard, a product of Massachusetts’ Worcester Polytechnical Institute and Clark University, trucked an ungainly framework of piping to a snow covered field on his Aunt Effie’s farm in Auburn, Massachusetts. After filling the tanks with liquid oxygen and gasoline he ignited the engine. After about 20 seconds the engine built up enough power to lift off. In about two and half seconds the primitive liquid fueled rocket reached a height of 41 feet with an average a speed of about 60 miles per hour before crashing back to earth. It was the world’s first flight of a liquid-propelled rocket engine, opening the door to the space age. 

Less than three years later, at 10:30 in the morning on February 14, 1929, four men, two dressed at Chicago police officers and the others in civilian clothes, entered the SMC Cartage Company garage at  2122 North Clark Street in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago’s North Side. Inside they found five members of George “Bugs” Moran’s North Side Gang and two hangers-on.  

When the gunmen entered the garage, Moran’s men thought it was a routine police raid and peacefully did as they were told. The ‘police officers’ quickly disarmed them and lined them up facing a wall. They then signaled the civilians who each unlimbered a Submachine Gun from underneath their overcoats and hosed their victims left and right, scattering 70 rounds of .45 ACP brass on the floor. The ‘police officers’, who were carrying shotguns, also added to din, smoke, and carnage by blasting away at the victims sprawled on the floor. The gunmen then tucked their Tommy Guns under coats, raised their hands, and were marched out to a waiting ‘police’ car by the ‘police officers,’ all to drive into anonymity.  

Enter the second Doctor Goddard. Cook County Coroner Herman Bundesen carefully collected the evidence from the crime scene and hired Dr. Calvin Hooker Goddard, a pioneer in ballistics testing, to work on the case. Goddard was given the shell casings collected at  the crime scene as well as bullets recovered from the wall and bodies of the victims. He quickly determined that  two Thompson submachine guns were used, one equipped with a 50 round drum and the other a 20 round stick magazine. He opined that the two different magazines were used just in case the drum magazine, which had a reputation for jamming, failed. Goddard next obtained samples of fired bullets from the Thompson guns owned by the Chicago Police Department and determined that no police weapons had been used.  

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre remains an unsolved crime to this day and has never officially linked to Moran’s rival Al Capone, but he is generally considered to have been responsible for the murders. A few months later Fred Burke, a known associate of Capone’s, was arrested for a separate crime and in possession of a brace of Thompsons and ammunition. The guns were delivered to Goddard who test fired them and found the bullets matched those taken from the Massacre victims. The “Chicago Typewriters” used in the St. Valentine’s Day today reside in the armory of the Berrien County, Michigan, Sheriff’s Department.  

Goddard was behind the development of the comparison microscope and used it to prove that no two firearms are made exactly alike and so that characteristic marks on the cartridge case and the bullet are the same every time that gun is fired, but not the same a similar type of firearm. 

Goddard rose to prominence with the 1927 Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti robbery-murder case in South Braintree, Massachusetts. The case was a highly charged political affair as the two accused were both Italian immigrants and anarchists. Goddard confirmed that one of the bullets recovered from the scene had been fired from Sacco’s gun. Goddard’s findings were retested in 1961 and 1983, and the results were confirmed each time. 

Both Doctors Goddard brought professionalism and the use of the scientific method to their fields. Robert recognized the potential of rockets for peace and war and was the first to scientifically study, design and construct the rockets needed to implement those ideas. Calvin, almost single handedly, created the science of forensic firearm identification. 

Robert was shy and retiring yet has become the more famous having Goddard. He has been credited with 214 patents for his work. He also influenced many people such as  astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell, and NASA flight controller Gene Kranz.. Goddard was honored with the Langley Gold Medal from the Smithsonian Institution and a Congressional Gold Medal. NASA named its facility in Greenbelt, Maryland in his honor and he even has a crater on the Moon named for him. 

The lesser known Calvin’s legacy was establishing the Bureau of Forensic Ballistics, the first independent criminal laboratory, which brought the nascent science of ballistic forensics into the modern and served as the model for the FBI Forensic Laboratory. 

Different doctors, one a physicist and one an MD, but ballistics is ballistics, be it rockets or bullets. 

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While writing an article about the Lord Wakefield Trophy Match I found its patron to be one of those storied Englishmen of business whose life began in Victorian England, passed through Edwardian Era, and ended in the reign of a later monarch. I was already familiar with, Sir Thomas Robert “Tommy” Dewar, Sir Thomas Johnstone “Tommy” Lipton, and Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch “Tommy” Sopwith. I like to refer to them as the three Tommys, Tommy Whisky, Tommy Tea, and Tommy Airplane. 

Tommy Whisky was responsible for Dewar’s Blended Scotch Whisky’s world-wide popularity. A friend to competitive marksmanship, the sporting man endowed a large loving cup to Britain’s Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs (SMRC) which has made an indelible mark on the sport. Since 1909 English speaking nations annually compete in a smallbore prone postal match where teams of 20 shoot 20 shots at 50 yards and 100 yards for the possession of the Lord Dewar Trophy. The match gives its name to the course of fire, the Dewar, always a stage in any prone tournament. 

Tommy Tea was a sportsman whose passion was America’s Cup yacht racing. Between 1899 and 1930 Lipton unsuccessfully challenged for the “Auld Mug” five times with his yachts Shamrock through Shamrock V. When the Dodgers decamped Brooklyn, and I lost interest in baseball, I found the America’s Cup. Fortunately, I became a Red Sox fan when the America’s Cup sold its soul to the Devil and mammon, abandoning the graceful 12 meters for trimarans which carried more commercial advertising than sail from their masts.  

Tommy Airplane was cut from the same bolt of cloth as the other Tommys.  The English aviation pioneer was a man business, sportsman, and yachtsman who challenged for the America’s Cup twice. He used his aeronautical knowledge to build two stately  J-class yachts which he helmed. In 1934, his Endeavour won the first two races against Harold Vanderbilt’s Rainbow, but inexperience cost him the next four. He fielded the Endeavour II in 1937 against Vanderbilt’s Ranger, losing in four. As a pilot I was raised on imagines of his most famous airplane the Sopwith Camel. 

This brings us to Cheers, Sir Charles Cheers Wakefield. One of my favorite aviation movies is Dawn Patrol, based on the short story “The Flight Commander” by John Monk Saunders who, like me, was a Quiet Birdman.  

It is a story full of flying action in real airplanes, those with square radiators and axles. Two things stood out to me, all the drinking and singing in the Mess and the fact that whenever a silk scarfed pilot landed and took off his goggles the area around his eyes were white while the rest of his face was black with dirt, sort of a reverse racoon look.  

As a youngster I was curious about it and asked my older brother Steve, who has just soloed and earned his pilot’s credentials, what he might know. Well versed in things aeronautical, and ready to pontificate at the drop of hat, he sat me down and explained that the boozing, scarves, and dirty faces were related. In the early days of aviation castor oil was used as a lubricant which would burn off and fly back in the slipstream, accounting for the pilot’s dirty faces. The scarves were used to prevent chaffing as the pilot swiveled his head looking for the ”Hun in the Sun” and to wipe the goggles clean of oil residue. As for the boozing, castor oil is a laxative. Pilots could not help but ingest it with the obvious side effects. Early aviators believed that healthy doses of brandy would counteract the oil, or so they said. 

When Cheers Wakefield left school his first job was with an oil company. He later left to form his own company the Wakefield Oil Company, but changed its name to Castrol, because castor oil was a major component of its products. Timing is everything and Wakefield hit paydirt because the internal combustion engine was just coming into its own. In the early decades of the 20th century and the demand for lubricants for motorcar and airplane engines was tremendous making Wakefield a very wealthy man. 

He did well and took to heart Andrew Carnegie’s belief that, “The man who dies rich, dies disgraced”, using much of his fortune for philanthropy. He established the Wakefield Trust, which exists to this day, to help good causes in London and particularly the East End, an area well known for its social ills caused by poverty and overcrowding.  

Wakefield’s charitable works drew attention it was not long before Cheers’ name began appearing in the London Gazette on the King’s Honors List. Knighted for his good works he was later raised to the peerage as Baron Wakefield, of Hythe in 1930 and in 1934 made Viscount Wakefield. 

He loved Hythe which was the site of the British Army’s School of Musketry. The anachronistically named school had been established just as the Brown Bess musket was being retired in favor of rifles. During the Great War it trained the trainer, just as Camp Perry did in the United States, so that officers would become competent small arms instructors. One of its successes was “The Mad Minute.” This exercise taught the British infantryman how to fire 15 to 20 well aimed shots in 60 seconds from their bolt action Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifles. Early in the war the “The Mad Minute” made the Hun believe that the British had more far more machine guns than they actually possessed. 

Wakefield was a generous man and gifted trophies and cups to numerous organizations that supported interests of his such as aviation, aviation modeling, motor cars, and marksmanship. 

As a member of the Council of the SMRC he donated a cup for competition between Great Britain and Sweden for a prone postal match series that ran from 1933 through the middle 1980s. When the match was revived in 1991 as a prone postal between English speaking nations it was first won by the United States with a record score that still stands. 

But I have another connection to two of these sporting English gentlemen. Not to lord it over anyone, but I have I have served as the adjutant, coach, and captain of both the US Lord Dewar and Lord Wakefield International Rifle Teams. It just seems a shame that Lipton and Sopwith did not donate a toby, ewer, or jorum to the SMRC to give me a shot, pun intended, at clean sweep. 

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With the possible exception of skeet and trap it seems that every shooting event is timed in some way or another, from the more choreographed disciplines like ISSF rifle and pistol events to the newer “bang and clang, run and gun” three gun competition. No matter if it is wind up analog or digital electronic a timer is a necessary piece of equipment for shooter and official alike. The lack of a timepiece, or lack of attention to one, has made for some interesting stories over the years.  

Bill Woodring and Vere Hamer were in a tight race for the 1937 smallbore prone championship.  There was no quarter given and none asked as the two national champions, Hamer in 1930 and Woodring 1936, went into the final match neck and neck, and there both men shot identical scores.  The Critchfield Trophy’s preliminary bulletin gave the championship to Hamer on Xs, each man being credited with a score of 1992.   

Hamer then stunned as he strolled to the statistical office, paid his challenge fee, and declared that he had been credited for a double by the scorers when, in fact, he had run out of time and saved a round. He won his challenge, got his fee back and lost ten points.  His act of good sportsmanship insured that Woodring, with a five point margin over Doctor Russ Gardner’s second place 1987, locked up a second consecutive victory for the reigning champion and the first back to back victories in match history. History does not record if Hamer had a stop watch or not, but it does record that, perhaps in reward for his sportsmanship he won his prone second title in 1939. 

Bruce Meredith had placed second in the 1967 Metallic Sight Championship and so occupied the second firing point from the left as the Dewar Team took to the line. Meredith asked noted gunsmith and trigger innovator Karl Kenyon to act as his wind coach and Kenyon was delighted to do so. 

Meredith was down one point with eight Xs at 50 yards when time was called, surprising both men as there were still two rounds in his loading block. Kenyon had been paying such careful attention to the wind that he neglected his stopwatch, costing Meredith, and the Dewar Team, a possible 20 points. Pulling themselves together after the disaster the pair carded a 199-9X at 100 yards for an aggregate of 378-17X. 

When the results bulletin came back late that year from the match sponsor, the National Small-bore Rifle Association of Great Britain, the showed that  Great Britain had won with a score of 7846. The United States was second posting a 7826. One will never know if Meredith would have shot two more tens, although it is likely. Had he done so the teams would have been tied and the match would have been decided by the high score at 100 yards.  

Two years later, with Meredith again on the Dewar Team, that exact circumstance would happen. The teams tied at 7879 with Great Britain notching a 3945 at 100 yards to the US score of 3937 for a British win. 

On the positive side, after the Dewar debacle Meredith went on to win the U.S. Cartridge Company Trophy, and a selected Remington 40X rifle as the any sight champion and the 1967 National Smallbore Rifle Championship garnering him the Critchfield Trophy, a selected and engraved Winchester 52D rifle, a Lyman Superspot telescopic sight, and a National Champion brassard. Feeling badly and embarrassed Karl Kenyon also awarded him with a lifetime of free gun and trigger work.    

The 2009 NRA National Smallbore Rifle Prone Championship began under less than ideal wind conditions and fighting them, as he sought perfection, was SSG Shane Barnhart, USA. Barnhart came into the match with a championship resume that was second to none in its breadth having won open, service, and junior titles in both position and prone, and a civilian and intermediate junior crown as well. The only thing missing was a win as a sub junior and a woman, the former being because he never shot at Perry in that category and the latter out of reach for obvious reasons. 

Intent as he was on the X ring he shot an amazing 35 sighters, but only 12 record shots, eating eight record rounds as time was called. Controversy still swirls around the question of whether he forgot to start his timer, looked at his timer had the battery gone flat, he forgot his timer, or if he even owns a timer.   

Barnhart, stinging from his earlier lapse, shot a 400-40X to win the opening Dewar of the any sight aggregate and repeated the next morning, his third Dewar clean of the tournament. So, while most shooters were packing up at the end of the day, Barnhart returned to the 100-yard line to make a run on Baron Whatley’s National Championship Dewar Record of 400-40X+10X and Mary Stidworthy Sparling’s National Record of 400-40X+40X.  Perhaps caught by a stray gust or a misread wiggle in mirage or just exhausted by five days of shooting a shot wandered into the ten ring after several Xs and the attempt ended in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative gallery. 

The match bulletin shows SPC Joseph Hein USA winning the National Prone Championship with Barnhart winning the any sight championship with 2400. Hein’s aggregate score was a 4790-354X while Barnhart posted a 4710-385X, and 80 point deficit. There is no telling how things might have turned out if Barnhart had watched the clock and gotten off those eight rounds. 

So, get a timer and use it or you will find out to your regret, to paraphrase Herman Hupfeld’s classic torch song As Time Goes By, that a miss is still a miss…as time goes by.  

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The state of Rhode Island has a long and colorful association with the US Navy, starting with the formation of the Rhode Island Navy on June 15, 1775, the first colonial navy established after the Revolutionary War began.  Although the Rhode Island Committee of Safety issued Letters of Marque and Reprisal, the Rhode Island Navy was primary a defensive force protecting the New England colonies trade in local waters. 

To honor Rhode Island’s early naval efforts and current connections the Navy has named some ten US warships for either the state, its capitol city, or the navy’s homeport in Rhode Island. The USS Rhode Island (SSBN-740) is an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, the third ship to be so named. The  USS Providence (SSN-719), a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, the fifth ship to carry the name, and the USS Newport (PF-27), a Tacoma-class frigate, the second ship of the name. But what of the11th, the USS Rumford, a curious omission in the Naval Vessel Register, but why? 

The Navy returned to Rhode Island during the Civil War. The Naval Academy and its  training vessel, the most famous ship in the Navy, the U.S.S. Constitution, Old Ironsides, was located in Maryland, a Border State with a tedious connection to the Union. The  tempting targets for the Confederates were moved to Newport for safety. 

The U.S. Naval Torpedo Station was established on Goat Island in 1869, The Navy purchased Coasters Harbor Island from the state in 1881 and launched its first recruit training station there two years later, followed by the Naval War College in 1884. 

In the early days of World War I the Navy took over a small rifle range owned by the Rumford Chemical Company, its most successful product being Rumford Baking Powder, still manufactured by Hulman and Company at its Terre Haute, Indiana facility.  Rumford is not a city or town of its own, but rather the northern section of East Providence. It is named for Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, an American-born British physicist, begging the question, “Why does a man who served as lieutenant-colonel in the  British Loyalist forces during the American Revolutionary War have a town named after him in the first colony to declare independence for England?”   

World War II saw a massive expansion of naval presence and activity.  The Training Station grew by leaps and bounds to accommodate the huge influx of officer and enlisted students; it was here where logistics officer LTJG Richard M. Nixon learned his trade. Coddington Cove was acquired as a supply station, fuel facilities were built at Melville, along with a PT Boat Training Center where LTJG John F. Kennedy completed PT Boat training, Naval Air Station Quonset Point and further down the coast at Naval Auxiliary Air Station Charlestown, Naval Aviator ENS George Herbert Walker Bush honed his craft, the Seabee’s found a home in Davisville, while Sachuest Point was home to Naval Radio Station Sachuest Point and a rifle range commanded by NRA President Commander Thurman Randle.  

As a side note Nixon, Kennedy, and Bush all had differing naval careers. Nixon retired as a commander from the Naval Reserve in 1966 after 24 years of service while Kennedy was retired on physical disability as a 1945. Bush was released from active duty in September 1945, placed in the inactive reserve, and formally discharged in1955 as a lieutenant. 

The Navy takeover and expansion of the Rumford Range was swift and extensive. War was declared on April 6, 1917 and three weeks later the first detail of what would become a permanent party of 300 naval personnel arrived at Rumford and tent city sprang up overnight . Following Federal blueprints the Blue Jackets began construction on May 1st of what would become 32 ranges with 200, 300, 500, 600, 1,000 yard firing lines for rifle, pistol, and machine gun training. As time went on the Navy replaced much of the canvas with wood structures, a 400 man mess hall, Bachelor Officers’ Quarters, hospital, and administrative buildings.  

Firearms training was scheduled and the plan of the day, which ran from 0730 through 1700 five days a week and part time on Saturday and Sunday, saw as many as 500 sailors and state guardsman on the line or in a classroom setting learning about, and get hands on training, with the Springfield 1903 Rifle, .38 revolver and .45 1911 pistol, the Lewis and Browning machine guns, and various types of hand and rifle grenades. 

Sailors sent to Rumford for training were detailed on Temporary Additional Duty orders to the “USS Rumford.” The assignment of the title United States Ship to a land facility was rare for the US Navy. However the British commonly use HMS, with the H standing for His or Her depending on the gender of the monarch at the time, for both vessels and shore establishments or ‘stone frigates.’ Examples mirroring the activities at Newport at the time are the basic training facility HMS Raleigh, Maritime Warfare School HMS Collingwood, and Portsmouth Naval Base’s HMS Nelson. 

Despite the Armistice on November 11, 1918, and demobilization, the range lived on under the control of the state guard. The Navy was always welcome and in1920 the crew of the USS Tennessee (BB-43) arrived for small arms training. The range was purchased by the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1922 for use by the state militia and the National Guard and saw extensive use during World War II. It closed in 1946 and eventually became the site of an elementary school and playground.  

My shooting crony Dave Czerwonka, who lives close by the old range area, reports that there are still some ruins of the range just visible to bikers, runners, and walkers using the recreational path that now wends through the area. 

Two world wars saw the creation, in the nation’s smallest state of all places, of some of the Navy’s largest range facilities. Today, all that is left of the buildings, firing points, and pits of the Rumford and Sachuest Point ranges are a few rotting foundations, crumbling concrete, and the fading memories of the kids, now grown old, who used to scavenge for brass to take to the scrap dealer to exchange for candy money.  

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The .30 Pencil…

My brother Steve and I were sprawled on the couch in front of the TV, watching the Muppets, idly wasting some time before heading up the Quaker Hill Rod and Gun Club for our weekly Mohegan League Rifle League match. The show was suddenly interrupted by a news alert and all of a sudden there appeared on the screen the mother of all fireworks displays as Coalition of the Gulf War bombers, dropped tons of ordnance on Bagdad, greeted by intense Iraqi antiaircraft fire. Green tracer arced into the sky as  2,000-pound GBU-24 Paveway-guided smart bombs dropped by radar-evading F-117A ‘Night Hawks” exploded and Tomahawk Cruise missiles joined in the mayhem, launched from surface ships and submarines cruising in the Persian Gulf.  

At  the range, the club’s TV was entertaining all with the start of Desert Storm, or what eventually became known as Persian Gulf War I. The pyrotechnics on the screen made the rattle of musketry coming from the basement range insignificant. Oddly enough my thoughts fell to a scene from a favorite move, Casablanca. It was January 16, 1991 in Connecticut but January 17, 1991, in Baghdad. How would the historians mark this date?  

History books tell us the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, pulling the United States into World War II on December 7, 1941, “…a date which will live in infamy….” according to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. But it was already December 8th in the Philippines when the Japanese raided Clark Field and effectively eliminated US air power in the region. 

In Casablanca, a drunken Rick Blaine played by Humphrey Bogart is musing about with his faithful companion and piano player Dooley Wilson’ Sam after Ilse Lund, a long lost love, performed by Ingrid Bergman, who shows up in Rick’s Café Américain

Rick: If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York? 

Sam: What! My watch stopped. 

Rick: I’d bet they’re asleep in New York. I’d bet they’re asleep all over America 

I really should have been thinking more about the ramifications of the last four or five drills at my National Guard Unit, the tongue twisting Connecticut Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot (1109th) instead of, as Rick put it, ”…the problems of three little people which don’t amount to hill of beans in this crazy world.” 

Since Operation Desert Shield began in August of 1990 rumors ran rife at every drill about a possible deployment to Southeast Asia. In general it seemed a little preposterous to me as we were a technical unit whose wartime mission was to mobilize in place, provide back up support to other deployed AVCRADs, support a deploying force with aviation maintenance, provide workload expansion capabilities, and provide support at ports where aviation units were deploying overseas or returning from deployment. 

Ominously though, over the last few drills we had been lined up for a plethora of shots, panorex x-rays of our teeth-which I later learned was not for our dental health put for identification purposes, dog tag check, meeting with JAG lawyers to ensure we had valid wills, a complete barracks bag inspection, and other such administrative folderol. 

Called up in February, we moved to Fort Devens, Massachusetts for training.  Just as the ground war ended notification came that we would be sending a detachment of 100 souls to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia to carry out helicopter retrograde operations. 

As the unit’s Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare NCO I had conducted extensive training in the months leading up to our activation so all I needed to do was to run a short refresher to certify the forward element. However, I was also the resident small arms expert and we had not been to the range in almost a year. On the plus side I had a small group of fellow state team rifle and pistol shooters in the AVCRAD. The full time Fort Devens range staff would handle running the qualification and the safety brief. Our armorers would take care of issuing M16A1s, ball ammunition, and any mechanical issues that might arise, although, secretly, their only concern was getting back 100 clean rifles and 4,000 pieces of expended brass. I would review basic marksmanship skills and, with the help of my teammates, remediate any soldiers who did not qualify.  

The job was made easier because Devens only required us to shoot the 25 meter Scaled Target Alternate Course, 20 rounds in prone and 20 rounds supported out of prepared fighting position,. After zeroing in, and a practice session, each soldier had 40 rounds to engage the target in two strings of 20 rounds in 120 seconds each. We would also be required to fire a familiarization course wearing the M17 protective mask, but that did not count for qualification. 

Qualification day dawned with snow on the ground, and more promised, with a cold breeze, typical of mid-February in northern Massachusetts. Sustained by a hefty, comforting, and artery clogging Army breakfast of juice, eggs any style, SOS, home fries, toast and coffee, a meal guaranteed to provide sufficient energy to qualify and calories enough to keep us warm, we bussed to the range. A rely would take about an hour so we would be done before lunch, even with an extra relay for bolos who had to fire again after remediation. Those that qualified, 25 hits or more, moved to a different range for the gas mask familiarization and then back to the warm barracks for hip pocket training before lunch.  

When firing was done 97 soldiers had qualified. Justly satisfied with the results I headed to the Mess Hall to warm up and have a hot lunch with the scorecards in hand. Just as I was tucking into my well-deserved meal the AVCRAD’s hoary old sergeant major sat down next to me, coffee cup in hand, and asked how we had faired. 

When I told him 97% he smiled and teased me with, “You know in my day those three would have qualified, even if it took a .30 caliber pencil. I replied, “Maybe, but the M16 is not like your old M1 or M14, it’s caliber is 5.56mm and, in my day, my pencil is not.” 

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Rick: If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York? 

Sam: What! My watch stopped. 

Rick: I’d bet they’re asleep in New York. I’d bet they’re asleep all over America 

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Sitting on my bookshelf is a gift from the late great Art Jackson, two deformed metal discs. One is a 1947, the year I was born, Mexican one peso piece with a hole shot through it on the circumference, the other a lead disc with a bullet hole, just off center which has inscribed on it “Shot with a Remington  Rifle” on one side and on the obverse, “Shot with a Remington Cartridge” with “Kleenbore” in it familiar dog bone shape in the center. 

Art was given the pierced peso piece by Winchester’s legendary exhibition shooter Adolph Topperwein when he and Bill Blankenship visited him at his home in the early 1950s during a break from training for international competition at nearby Fort Bliss, Texas. Topperwein was long retired and the peso was taken from his store of coins he had shot when active. The lead slug was picked up following an exhibition shoot by Remington’s Tom Frye.  

The first known exhibition shooter, Frank “Doc” Carver, won established a record by breaking 885 glass balls out of 1000 in San Francisco on February 22, 1878 and was proclaimed the “Champion Rifle Shot of the World.” Carver also laid down written rules  for this now arcane branch of the shooting sports. The shooter could use any rifle shooting a solid bullet, the target had to be a 2 1.4 inch composition ball or wooden block, the assistants tossing the blocks had to stand between 25 and 30 feet in front of the shooter, the targets had to be thrown to a height between 25 and 30 feet, and a judge, referee, and scorer must be present at all times. 

In December of 1907 Topperwein used three 1903 model Winchester .22 semiautomatic to shoot at 72,000 2½ inch square hand thrown wooden blocks, missing only nine. His longest run without a miss was 14,540 and followed the endurance shooting rules laid down by Carver, the father of the discipline. 

On May 25, 1935, at Forbes Field, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Babe Ruth his 712th, 713th, 714th homeruns. The 714th would be last he would hit, but it established a major league baseball career record for homers. Ruth started playing for the Boston Red Sox in 1914, played for the New York Yankees for 14 years after being sold by the Sox, and ended his days back in Boston with the cellar dwelling Bostin Braves in 1934. Ruth’s phenomenal career was fueled with natural talent he enhanced it with beer, broads and hot dogs and one minor run in with science 

October of 1959 saw Remington’s Tom Frye, using three Remington Nylon 66 .22 semiautomatic rifles, hit 100,004 out of100,010 wooden over a period of 14 straight days. Breaking Topperwein’s record. Yet there was a cloud over his achievement in the bright Nevada sky when he finished.  

Ruth’s record fell to Hammerin’ Hank Aaron when he hit his 715th home run on April 8, 1974 off of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing. The ball was caught in the bullpen by  relief pitcher Tom House. It was a double connection with Ruth for he broke his record while wearing a Braves, albeit Atlanta, uniform. Aaron ended his career with 755 home runs, well before baseball’s Steroid Era. 

Barry Bonds broke Aaron’s record on August 7, 2007, hitting a full-count, 84 mph pitch from Washington’s Mike Bacsik 435 feet to right-center field before a  hometown crowd. It was a night game but even the bright lights of AT&T Park could not hide the cloud which hovered over the event. 

To break any endurance record in shooting or baseball takes excellent physical conditioning, concentration, training, skill, the best equipment, patience, and resolve. For example, Frye’s Nylon 66 weighed four pounds and he lifted it 100,010 a total work out of a little over 20 tons, or about 1.5 tons a day for two straight weeks. Think of the friction on the trigger finger or the cumulative effect of the pounding of even the miniscule .22 Long Rifle cartridge, just 0.2 foot pounds, for that many shots. 

Unfortunately, almost all of these record holding performances were soiled in some way or another. Carver was said to have taken morphine injections to ease the pain in his shoulder. 

Ruth experimented once with an injection of sheep testicle extract to increase his power but it instead it made him violently ill, giving a whole new meaning to the term foul ball. His time on the Disabled List was chalked off by the Yankee front office as one of his famous hot dog induced belly aches.  

Frye was reported to have taken muscle relaxants to ease him through his marathon and he did not abide by Carver’s rules. The noted forearms writer crusty Colonel Charles Askins had examined photos of Frye’s attempt and noted that the man tossing the blocks was standing just off Frye’s left shoulder, a more advantageous position than Topperwein. 

Topperwein’s only relief for his sore muscles was having his wife Plinky help him dress and occasionally bathe his face with cool water during shooting while a barber shaved him each morning.  

The amiable Aaron was known to take an occasional beer after a game in the locker room with his teammates to relax while the abrasive and standoffish Bonds was a central figure in Major League Baseball’s performance enhancing drug scandal.  

Never the less, each man’s singular accomplishment, some tainted, represents, as Topperwein put it to Frye, an accomplishment of “wonderful endurance and accuracy.”  

Impressive as they were what about the wonderful endurance and accuracy of the anonymous men who rhythmically tossed thousands of wooden blocks 25 to 30 feet into the air for days on end? 

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There was a time in the not too distant past when Winchester and Remington fielded exhibition shooters to flog their products at state fairs and like affairs. They followed in the footsteps of famed western exhibition shooters that came of age during the 1880s. It started in 1874 when the Irish Rifle Team, the premier team in the British Isles, crossed the Atlantic to take on the upstart United States at Creedmoor. Some 8,000 spectators flowed out from nearby New York City to watch the event which was covered by all the major papers and the likes of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, which illustrated the event with elaborate woodcuts.  

In the wake of this international competition, exhibition shooters were soon populating vaudeville theaters, circuses, and fair sites, all claiming to be the “World’s Champion Rifle Shot.” In most cases it was a charade as there was no governing body, or even competition to regulate the shooting of ashes from a cigarette held in an assistant’s mouth or buttons from his vest-tricks that were more often than not rigged by the charlatans on stage. 

The first legitimate exhibition shooter to rise to prominence was a dentist by the name of William F. Carver who, much like controversial John “Doc” Holliday, gave up the chair and drill for the firearm and fame. Carver shot for six consecutive days in 1885 in New Haven, Connecticut, breaking 64,881 targets out of 60,000. Most importantly he established the rules for endurance exhibition shooting. To earn some side money he also developed a diving horse act . The act was continued by his family after his death and ran until pressure from animal rights groups forced its closure in the late1970s. 

Captain Adam H. Bogardus, a member of the National Trap Shooting Hall of Fame, was in heated competition with Carver for the world title and, in a series of 25 matches, was defeated by the dentist 19 times. Bogardus’ was an excellent wing shooter and displayed that skill in Madison Square Garden by shooting at 5,000 glass balls in eight hours and 20 minutes, breaking 4,844 of them. His two guns were alternately cooled in buckets of ice water.  

Young Phoebe Ann Mosey, better known as Annie Oakley or ‘Little Sure Shot, and Frank Butler were the next of the famous exhibition shooters. The pair married and together toured for many years with William Cody’s Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World, performing before the crowned heads of Europe. 

Adolf Topperwein, son of a gunsmith, was born into the Schützen shooting culture of the central Texas hill country’s German ethnic enclave that also gave us Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and another famous shooter, of sorts, Bonnie Parker. Early on Ad was handling firearms and after seeing Doc Carver on Buffalo Bill’s show there was no stopping him. Ad apprenticed in vaudeville and the circus until 1901 when he was hired by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company as an exhibition shooter.  

While taking a walk on the New Haven Common during a visit to the New Haven plant in 1902 Ad met Elizabeth Servaty, who happened to work as Winchester as a .22  caliber cartridge assembler. He was smitten and they soon married. The new Mrs. Topperwein was not familiar with firearms but didn’t want to remain at home while Ad was on the road. He took up teaching her trick shooting and she soon excelled. It wasn’t long before they were touring together. Along the way Mrs. Topperwein picked up the nickname ‘Plinky.” While Plinky’s specialty was shooting over her shoulder and sighting by looking into the mirror of her compact. Ad famously closed the act by drawing an Indian’s head on a board or sheet of tin using bullet holes. 

Asked as to which Topperwein was the better shot Ad diplomatically responded: “Well, I was best at some feats  and she was best at others. Reckon it was a toss-up between us.”  

Ad’s greatest claim to fame came in San Antonio, Texas, between December 13 and December 22, 1907 when, following Carver’s rules, he used three 1903 model Winchester .22 semiautomatic to shoot at 72,000 2½ inch square hand thrown wooden blocks, missing only nine. His longest run without a miss was 14,540. 

The record would stand until Tom Frye, exhibition shooter of rival Remington Arms Company, used three newly introduced Remington Nylon 66 .22 semiautomatic rifles to hit 100,004 out of100,010 wooden over a period of 14 straight days in October of 1959. Even though he did not follow Carver’s rules Frye received a letter of congratulations from Topperwein who lauded him for, “wonderful endurance and accuracy.” 

Others have followed in their footsteps, Herb Parsons was Topperwein’s protégé and successor, promoting Winchester product for 30 years. A member of the Trapshooting Hall of Fame he was noted for being able to toss seven clay targets into the air and dust them all before they hit the ground with a 12 gauge Winchester Model 12 pump action shotgun. 

Most recently Tom Knapp, sponsored by CZ-USA Benelli and the Federal Ammunition Company would put on 100 live shows a year and made numerous TV appearances. Knapp’s claim to fame is that he could hand toss nine clay targets into the air and using a Benelli semi-automatic shotgun break them all in less than two seconds. He followed that with breaking Parson’s record by breaking eight hand tossed clays with a pump shotgun in 1.87 seconds. Using a 12-ga. Benelli semi-auto shotgun with extended magazine he broke ten hand tossed clays in 2.2 seconds.  

They are all gone now and while such names as Smith and Wesson, Colt, Springfield, Eley, and Lapua sponsor competitive teams we shall never see the likes of the great exhibition shooter of the past again. 

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As a collegiate rifle coach I have grown fond of electronic targets. I can monitor a shooter without dragging around a spotting scope, a scoring detail and the human errors involved in adding up scores and plugging shots on paper targets are a thing of the past, and after the smoke clears, I have a printed record of performance to review with my athlete. 

On the other hand, I am a high power shooter of the old school. A 30 caliber wooden rifle, spotting scope, shooting stool stocked with ammunition for the day, score book and pencil, three magazines, and a mat is quite enough. I follow advice attributed to Albert Einstein, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  

I grew up in an era when matches either  provided target pullers or you trudged to the pits and pulled ‘em and pasted ‘em solo or with the others assigned to your firing point. It was the mark of a mature rifleman to serve the target in a quick and efficient manner. Learning how to do it correctly it was a rite of passage in which one took great pride in completing.  

In those days a match lasted all day and there was much to be learned in the pits about shooting, wind doping, reloading, local eateries, humor from jejune to scatological, and your fellow target pullers. In a sense the pits were shooting education institutions, local matches a community college, regionals and state championships Land Grant universities, and the National Matches was the Ivy League. They were rich, rewarding, and relaxing days, well spent in the company of likeminded individuals. 

Now adays the world seems to be spinning faster and, with the advent of electronic targets for high power, shooters seem to be in a rush to shoot and scoot. There is much chatter on internet forums at just how fast one can now shoot a regional course of fire with electronics. I have the sense that getting a full course over by noon brings more joy than  a good score. To me much is lost in the race to get back to whatever. 

The pits have been the scene of some of my more memorable shooting moments as well as some humor and chicanery. My first big pit moment came when I traveled 700 miles to Camp Perry only to be squadded in the Wimbledon with my hometown teammate John Sullivan. This was not a bad thing, but I knew John had a serious heart condition and that year the 1,000 yard match course of fire was unlimited sighters and 30 shots for record. In his late 60s, with cyanotic lips and a plastic earplug container filled with nitroglycerin pills bead-chained to a belt loop, his pride would not allow him to avoid pit duty as was his right. In my 20s I toiled mightily to carry the burden of work in such a way so as not to injure John’s dignity or, more importantly, his heart. 

During a Leech Cup my shooters finished early and I strode over to where my brother Steve and his partner stood red faced with effort and dusted with sand. The duckboards under their feet was littered with sand, sandbag canvas and shards of wood, their shooter was not having a good day. Steve admonished me to stand close to the wall. Just as I stepped back and peeked up at the target I was stung, I thought, by a bee. 

It turned out it was not a bee but an M14’s 173 grain boat tail bullet. It passed through a sand bag on the berm, hit an upright on the frame, and passed under the brim of my ballcap and smacked me right between the running lights behind the bridge of my glasses, breaking the skin and cauterizing the wound with its heat. With that I became legend, one of the few men to be shot between the eyes at 1001 yards and survive. To this day I still hear of the incident from those, yet unborn at the time, who swear to have witnessed it. 

My shooting mentor Dick Scheller and I were prepping our target for rapid sitting at All Guard tryouts when a call came from the line. It seems the last pit crew on our target had forgotten a few grapefruit tucked away in in the shade of the bench to stay cool and requested we bring them back at the end of the day. Knowing that the likely score from the pair on the line would be a clean with many Xs Dick devilishly taped a very ripe and juicy fruit behind the X ring. When the targets went up and the shooters went down we knew the rifleman had a good zero because, much to the amusement of the pit detail, the berm was decorated with shards of skin, pulp, pits, and juice. 

Charles Finney’s Old China Hands recounts his days in the crack 15th Infantry in China during the 1920s. He relates an incident during rifle qualification when, during a 500 yard rapid fire string, a popular and genial officer, Captain Wild Bill Tuttle, perhaps to help an infantryman qualify as a sharpshooter or expert and earn some incentive money, suggested to Finney and his fellow target pullers a little bit of pit “Santa Clausing”:  

We never knew who was shooting on out target…. But his first five shots made a beautiful tight group in the center but just under the black of the silhouette. Wild Bill looked at his target critically as the bullets tore into it. “He’s got his sights set a fraction too low, “ said Wild Bill. “When he puts in his new clip, ease the frame down about five inches and let him make a few bull’s-eyes.” So, in the miniscule interval in which it took the rifleman to reload, we inched his target down a little. This was not perceptible at the firing line, of course. But, his next five shots went spang! spang! spang! into the black. “Colonel Newell would court martial me if he knew I did anything like that,” said Wild Bill amiably, and walked on.  

Electronic targets may be fine for those in hurry but like metal and plastic stocks on rifles they lack soul. Shortened shooting days rob a new generation of shooters of education, comradeship, and tradition. Perhaps to new shooters pulling targets is, in modern vernacular, the pits but, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.  

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My brother Steve was off to an afternoon movie matinee with his cronies and not all that happy that our mother made him drag me along. She and The Old Man would be off on some adult business when he got home from his Saturday half day of work, which was common in the early 1950s for many blue collar workmen. She, justifiably so, did not trust the eight year old me to be home alone. Both mother and brother admonished me about behaving and, armed with two shiny quarters for my ticket, popcorn, and candy bar, I rode drag on Steve’s gang during the walk downtown. 

Exiled to a seat directly in front of him so Steve could keep an eye on me without acknowledging my existence, I sat candy bar in shirt pocket and popcorn in lap. The lights dimmed and there followed a travelogue, a cartoon, coming attractions, and the feature, The Kentuckian, starring Burt Lancaster as 1820 frontiersman Elias “Big Eli” Wakefield. “Big Eli” and son “Little Eli” were leaving Kentucky for Texas. What followed was a love triangle between “Big Eli” and two women, which didn’t interest me much, and a quarrel with the villainous bullwhip wielding Stan Bodine, played by Walter Matthau, which did. Bodine, decades before and nowhere as nice as the heroic Indiana Jones and his bullwhip, uses his bullwhip as a weapon. In the climactic scene Bodine whips Wakefield raw but, losing his whip, is pummeled in the end by Wakefield’s fists. 

On the walk back home Steve, ever the walking footnote, regaled his indifferent buddies with a myriad of minutia. Drawing on his even then impressive well of knowledge, he informed them that the bullwhip was the first man made device to break the sound barrier. In his Latin I text book, he said, there were pictures of  mosaics dating from the second century AD showing lash whips like Bodine’s. The next man made things to exceed the speed of sound, according to an article he read in The American Rifleman, were conical bullets and that led to his favorite subject, aviation. 

“Do you guys know that the first manned supersonic flight occurred on October 14,1947? Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager piloted the US Air Force’s rocket powered aircraft #46-062, the Bell X-1, named Glamorous Glennis in honor of his wife. Dropped from the bomb bay of a B-29 the Bell X-1 was the first airplane to exceed the speed of sound in level flight, reaching a speed of Mach1.06.” He went on to tell us that the fuselage design of the X-1 was based on the shape of the 50 caliber Browning Machine Gun bullet which was known for its stability in supersonic flight. The X-1 was simply a  “bullet with wings.” 

He was, as usual, accurate but there is more to the story which involves General John J. Pershing and John Moses Browning. The machine gun came into its own during World war I when Germany’s Mashinegewehr 08 and Great Britain’s Vickers Machine guns faced off across No Man’s Land. Ironically both guns were versions of American born, but later British citizen, Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim’s original 1884 Maxim gun. The Maxim gun was first  used by Britain in 1893 during the First Matabele War’s Battle of the Shangani when 700 British South Africa Policemen and five Maxim guns held of 3,500 Matabele warriors on Saint Crispin’s Day 1893. When the smoke had cleared some 1,500 warriors’ bodies littered the field while the BSAP buried four of their comrades. Of such events British historian, poet and essayist Hilaire Belloc wrote:  

Whatever happens, we have got 
The Maxim gun, and they have not.  

When the American Expeditionary Force landed in France in June of 1917 they had a motley collection of about 1200 near obsolete machine guns in their inventory including Colt-Browning M1895 “potato diggers”, M1904 Maxims, M1909 Benét–Merciés, Hotchkiss M1914s, and Lewis machine guns. This was a logistical nightmare and the Army put out a bid which Browning answered with a design he had been working since 1900. In its first test at the Springfield Armory Browning’s machine gun fired 20,000 rounds with a few stoppages due to poorly loaded cloth belts. It was followed with another 39,500 rounds that only stopped when the sear failed. A second gun repeated the original trial and went on to fire over 21,000 rounds in 48 minutes and 12 seconds, a cyclic rate of 435 round per minute. Designated the M1917, production guns arrived in France just a few months prior to the armistice, too late to really prove their worth. However, over the next six decades it would earn its spurs with service from the Banana Wars through the late 1960s until replaced by the United States Machine Gun, Caliber 7.62 mm, M60.  

The United States did not have a heavy machine gun to match the Germans so Pershing asked the Army Ordnance Department to develop one to defeat armored vehicles and aircraft, specifying at least 50 caliber and a muzzle velocity of 2,700 feet per second so as to match the effectiveness of the French 11 mm incendiary armor-piercing round.  Browning simply redesigned the M1917 for a larger for a more powerful 50 caliber cartridge that Winchester developed from the .30-06 design which, unfortunately, it did not meet Pershing’s specifications. Winchester later obtained some captured German 13mm Tankgewehr ammunition which gave them some insight and soon after the 50BMG cartridge was born. The resulting water cooled gun dropped the M1917’s single pistol grip trigger assembly in favor of twin spade handle grips with a thumb operated butterfly trigger, as a nod to its greater recoil, and was designated the M1921 Browning machine gun.  

Browning died in 1927, but the work on refining the M1921 continued. By 1933, the now air cooled gun, was designated M2 HB (heavy barrel), and the “Ma Deuce,” was adopted.  

The United States entered World War II with the M2 in service as fixed and flexible aircraft guns, anti-aircraft guns, a tripod mounted infantry version, and mounted on various vehicles as a dual purpose anti-aircraft and anti-vehicular weapon. After nearly 90 years it is still in service with the armed forces of 116 nations and over 3,000,000, and still counting, have been manufactured.   

So, in retrospect, we need to credit Pershing, Browning, and two teams of anonymous engineers and ballisticians at the Springfield Armory and Winchester for the 50 caliber BMG and, therefore, man’s first successful foray into supersonic flight.  

Image result for X1 Plane

Bell X-1 USAF #46-062 Glamorous Glennis  

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Before the Old Man allowed me to even pick up a rifle he required me to memorize the National Rifle Association’s Ten Commandments of Safety. The tenth was “Do not mix gunpowder and alcohol.” Being eight years old it was meaningless to me but as I grew to maturity I found that there was more to it than a simple exhortation to not drink when shooting, much like the pilots’ rule of eight hours from bottle to throttle. 

It seems that the term proof for alcohol came about during the Tudor dynasty in 16th Century England. Black powder had been around for a few hundred years but about this time manufactures began wet mixing it. The addition of distilled spirits to the three ingredients, sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate, or ‘villainous saltpeter’ in the words of Shakespeare in Henry IV, Part One, created a paste. Once dried the paste could ‘corned,’ easily broken down into uniform size pieces.  

‘Corned’ gunpowder was more efficient than its predecessor, dry mixed ‘Serpentine’ powder. ‘Serpentine’ was mechanically milled and mixed which gave it the consistency of flour allowing its components to easily separate when the barrels were jarred while being transported over rough roads in unsprung wagons. This often required it to be remixed before use. Not so with ‘corned’ powder. 

The Tudor Dynasty was not a peaceable period of English history. Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch, only became king after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. The Tudors also dealt with civil unrest: the Pilgrimage of Grace, the Prayer Book Rebellion, Kett’s Rebellion, Wyatt’s Rebellion, and the Rising of the North. Add to that the cost of building coastal defenses, creating the Royal Navy, and too many vainglorious continental wars which won them neither power nor territory. The only byproduct of this profligate spending was staggering debt, especially during the reign of Henry VIII. 

Henry was not willing to give up his extravagant life style. And there was also the matter of his six wives but he was lucky for he ruled in the days before alimony and so they were dispatched, in order, by being divorced, beheaded, death by natural causes, divorced, beheaded, until survived by Catherine Parr. She was his third wife named Catherine and so the third time was indeed the charm.  With the Royal Treasury running low what else was Henry to do? So he took control of the Church of England confiscating the property of the Church of Rome and raised taxes. 

It is with Henry’s taxation that mixing alcohol and gunpowder come together with the creation of the proof system, so called so called because it would “prove” the alcohol content of distilled spirits. Liquors were taxed according to their alcohol content and the test involved soaking a ‘corn’ of gunpowder with the liquor. If it the gunpowder burned with a steady blue flame it was proof, if it burned quickly it was over proof and if it did not burn it was under proof.  This determined its tax rate.  

It was not a very accurate measure of alcohol content as the flammability of alcohol is dependent on its temperature but, without a thermometer or hydrometer-devices centuries in the future, it was the best Tudor tax collectors could do. But Henry, an accomplished musician and composer, didn’t care much about accuracy as long as he heard the musical chime of pence, groats, and shillings striking each other as they cascaded into the coffers of the royal treasury. 

But proof has yet another definition involving gunpowder and firearms. A proof test is a stress test to determine if a firearm is safe with a given load. They are performed during the development of the firearm and then on each production model to ensure the safety of the user. 

Proofing was codified in England by the Gun Barrel Proof Act of 1868 and Germany adopted a similar plan in 1891. By 1914 the European nations formed the Commission Internationale Permanente pour l’Epreuve des Armes à Feu Portatives, the Permanent International Commission for Firearms Testing, commonly known as CIP. The United States followed suit in 1926 with the establishment of the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI). 

The testing procedure has evolved over the years. At first an excessive charge was used and then the firearm examined for damage. By most standards it was primitive. The Copper Unit of Pressure (CUP) or Lead Unit of Pressure (LUP), was a more sophisticated method of determining the chamber pressure. A hole drilled in the chamber was fitted with a piston and a precisely made lead or copper slug was placed on top and held in place by a fixture. When the cartridge was fired, the amount the slug was crushed allowed engineers to determine the pressure. Today, electric transducers provide the most accurate measurement of chamber pressure. 

Once a firearm is passed, a proof mark is punched into its receiver, frame, barrel, and/or slide. Anyone who owns a firearm manufactured by Anschütz, Heckler & Koch, SIG Sauer, Walther, or any other German firearms factory can’t help but notice the Teutonic obsession for proof marks for their runes are scattered all over the firearm. Shooters find them reassuring for safety and collectors find them useful in determining the age and origin of a firearm. 

The Tudors loved their food and, as the head of the Tudor household, King Henry VIII spared no expense in the kitchen. Actually, he spared no expense at anything which is the reason he ran up so much debt and started to tax spirits. That begs the question, why, when proofing was developed in the reign of one of the greatest of royal gastronomes , is the old expression ‘the proof is in the pudding and not ‘the proof is in the gunpowder?’  

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Publisher’s note. This is a New Year’s Eve special posting as this Hap’s Corner was not published in September as originally scheduled. – Joe Graf

My local Scout council had arranged for all newly minted Eagle Scouts to spend a career day with a local volunteer who shared similar vocational and advocational interests. In my case they faced the daunting task of finding a teacher with a naval background who had some competitive shooting experience.

Much to my surprise they magically managed to pull that rabbit out of hat. It seemed there was a former naval officer who taught at Mitchell College and claimed to have some shooting experience.

Mitchell was a two year junior college that specialized in what one might call academic rehabilitation. A large percentage of the student population had already managed to flunk out of a four year institution or, like me, had a dismal high school record. The school was very good at what it did and, as it also happened, I was ticketed for enrollment there after I escaped high school by the skin of my teeth.

The school was about a mile from my home which worked out well. I was one of the few seniors at New London High School who I did not have a drivers’ license and, even if I did, my father needed the family car to go to work. It wasn’t a bad walk, but for the fact that each day I had to pass by my old grammar school. The half drawn white window shades in the three story brick building seemed to be the teeth in a sardonic grin. Harbor School knew how I had skated through kindergarten through sixth grade on my store of useless knowledge and an ingratiating smile. I often thought it was enjoying the schadenfreude of the situation.

He pointed to a chair and gestured that I should sit as he sank into his. The desk was crowded, but tidy. Mr. McCoy, a mathematics instructor, was most hospitable and quickly had my measure as he enquired about my Eagle, school, hobbies, and my career plans. It was my dream, despite my academic performance, to become a naval officer. Being a teacher was also in the mix.

Once the formalities were over, he took me on a tour of the campus during which he discussed his experiences at Naval Academy casually mentioning in passing that he shot rifle at Annapolis. It was all very enlightening as he gave me valuable insight into what it might take to attain my goals.

A few months later I was a Mitchell freshman taking the traditional 100 level courses in English, psychology, biology, history of western civilization, and algebra. The latter was my bête noire. In the past five years I had taken algebra four times, failing it twice, scraping by once in summer school, and, at The Old Man’s instance, taking it once more to insure I got a grade of C or better.

On the Mitchell campus I bumped into Mr. McCoy from time to time. I was fortunate not to have him for algebra. I say this only because my fifth algebra go around resulted in a marginal C- meaning that what little reputation I had with him remained intact.

Mr. McCoy popped into my consciousness in 1968, the year the Department of the Army abandoned the National Matches and changed its face forever. He was featured on the cover of The American Rifleman as one of the first wave of volunteers who have served so well at Camp Perry

I earned an AS at Mitchell and followed it up with a BA, after which I managed to graduate from Navy Officer Candidate School. After the Navy I went to grad school on the GI Bill and a monthly paycheck from the Connecticut National Guard, for which I did little but shoot.

When, what is known laughingly, as my career as a writer of shooting history began, I was did an article on the NRA All American program. Much to shock and delight it turned out that Midshipman Jessie W. McCoy, wielding a Ballard rifle for Navy, was a first team All American in 1939. The photo staring out from page 24 of NRA All Americans: A Commemorative 1936-1998 showed that Mr. McCoy had changed little in the ensuing 26 years. Future NRA President Rear Admiral Morton Mumma, Jr., then a lieutenant, was his coach and the team won the NRA National Collegiate Smallbore Championship.

Although I did not know Mumma he was the skipper of the USS Sailfish (SS-192) at the start of World War II. Originally commissioned as the USS Squalus, the submarine sank off the coast of New Hampshire during test dives in May of 1939. After being salvaged the Sargo class submarine was put back in commission and conducted numerous patrols in the Pacific earning nine battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation. Her conning tower is on display at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, as a memorial. One survivor of the catastrophe was Allen C. Bryson who was a shooting crony of The Old Man. His son, Gordon Bryson, a high school classmate, is my life-long friend. One more connection.

Another member of the 1939 All American class was Sam Burkhalter, a shooter I came to know when he lived in Connecticut in the 1960s. I often think that I wished I had known then what I knew know.

A Master’s in Education started me on a 33 year career in the classroom. My broad, but shallow, education enabled me to be certified in high school special education, science, history, social studies, and blueprint reading. It was with great irony that I also had a certificate in mathematics and spent many a semester teaching algebra, something that am sure would have left Mr. Marshall, Mr. Seybold, Mr. Gonsalves, Mr. Pierce, and Mrs. Sutera scratching their heads in amazement.

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“Rifle training was serious business, and we worked at it for several months each year.  …The positions were standing, or offhand as we called it, sitting, kneeling, and prone, all using the rifle sling for support.  The sling, a leather strap attached to the rifle for carrying the piece, was a necessary aid for accurate shooting.”   So remembers Victor Vogel, in his elegantly simple memoirs of life as an enlisted infantryman in the United States Army between the World Wars, entitled Soldiers of the Old Army.   

In Vogel’s time the various services’ rifle teams fought ferociously on Camp Perry’s greensward for the honor of taking home the National Trophy, a massive bronze casting mounted on a well-polished piece of hardwood. The bronze bas relief is of an ancient warrior holding four dogs, all  straining at their leashes. The bronze is evocative of Mark Antony’s soliloquy in Act 3 of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in which he reveals his plan to incite violence against Caesar’s assassins with the phrase, “Cry ‘Havoc and let slip the dogs of war! ” It is but a short leap to understand why the National Trophy is commonly referred to as the “Dogs of War Trophy.” 

Rifle training was serious business for the Army and the Marines. The Army, in a draft document entitled Marksmanship-Rifle General, published by the Infantry School in 1923 outlined the training regime, stating that,  

“Under ordinary conditions the annual practice season for the regular army, exclusive of competitions, will cover a period of six weeks for each organization. A period of two weeks is devoted to preparatory exercise and gallery practice and four weeks to range practice.” 

Six weeks is a lot of time in a training year and no other soldierly skill was allowed that much time. 

Much the same may be said of the Marines, for whom marksmanship is a high and holy thing. They first demonstrated it at Belleau Wood where an official German report classified the Marines as “vigorous, self-confident, and remarkable marksmen …” Army General John Pershing, himself a Distinguished Marksman, said, “The deadliest weapon in the world is a United States Marine and his rifle.” And that rifle was the United States Rifle, Caliber .30-06, Model 1903.  

The ’03 was the Doughboy’s and Devil Dogs’ biggest source of military training, hard work, and sport. As for training and hard work, until they were perfect, recruits spent countless hours under the watchful eye of an experience non-commissioned officer learning how to manipulate their ‘03 through the formal choreography that is the manual of arms. 

The rifle had to be kept spotless, so gallons of hot soapy water were pumped through their bores after shooting to wash away the corrosive salt left behind by the detonation of the primer. This was followed by oiled patches and then the rifle was oiled again, a light coat of machine oil for the metal and linseed for the stock.  

Speaking of hard work, the Old China Hands of the 15th Infantry carried it one step further. According to Charles Finney a private in the 15th in 1927, “…every rifle had to have two sets of stocks, one scuffed and scarred and used for drill, the other boned and polished, wrapped lovingly in linseed-oily rags and only used for parades and guard mount.” To bone a stock one had to first cadge a soup bone from the company cook, clean it, and then spend hours pressing it hard  into the stock in the direction of the grain with a bit of linseed. This tightened the wood grain and polished the wood to a high sheen. 

Soldiers and Marines took qualifying seriously for in June 1922 Congress provided that an enlisted men who qualified with their primary weapon could receive extra pay.  In 1923 extra qualification pay varied from $1 to $5 each month, depending on the shooter’s skill, Congressional appropriations, and army regulations. During the days of the Great Depression, when Congress was tightfisted, the bonus money only went to those who qualified as Expert.  

That was big money in the days when a private was getting $21 per month, much of which went to deductions starting with 10¢ for The Old Soldiers Home and followed by barber and tailor bills, tobacco, tickets to the post theater, and personal hygiene supplies. Qualifying meant enough extra money for a few tickets with a taxi dancer at the local dance hall, a carton of tailormade smokes as opposed to a pouch of Bull Durham and rolling papers, or a few extra schooners of beer. 

Some enlisted men  were so serious about earning the extra money and moving on to Camp Perry with their service’s team that they took advantage of a regulation which allowed them to purchase a rifle from the Ordnance Depart for the princely sum of $35. These rifles had star gauged barrels and were essentially Match Grade.  

A man on his way to Distinguished would buy a spare tunic, one size too large to allow for the various positions, and convert into a shooting jacket by sewing leather or sheepskin pads onto the shoulder and elbows. A glove was optional but the ‘Sling, Small Arms: leather M1907’ was mandatory. He might buy a rifle fork to support the rifle while he used his O’Hare micrometer to adjust the rear sight. With a scorebook and a pencil the man was fully equipped to try for a spot on a Camp Perry team or, possibly more importantly, qualification pay.  

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The Rental Car Ammunition Bunker

Rummaging through my file folder entitled “It must be true because you just can’t make this stuff up” I found notes on a tale related by Glenn Dubis at Lones Wigger’s memorial service which was confirmed by two hoary old AMU alumni, Jim Meredith and Rick Hawkins. Confident that most of the principals are either dead, living in retirement in a nation with no extradition treaty, and/or that the statute of limitations expired with German reunification, I feel free to pass on the tale. 

The story begins with two kindred spirits meeting in occupied Germany in the late1940s US Army lieutenant Frederick J. Kiefer, on occupation service in Germany, befriended Werner Seibel, a young man on the hustle to put Hasenpfeffer and Spätzle on his family’s table in desperate post war economic times. 

Kiefer found himself trying out for the All Army Pistol Team at Fort Benning in February of 1950, beginning a long association with what would become the Army Marksmanship Unit. The unit was established in 1956, at the direction of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, to, ostensibly, win international competitions. At the time international shooting was dominated by the Soviet Union so it was likely more of a political decision rather than competitive one. Because to goal was to embarrass the Soviets the AMU had liberal funding. Kiefer eventually became the AMU’s  “International Coordinator” at a time when the cash rich  AMU was regularly traveling to Europe for training and competition. 

The AMU teams traveled back and forth to Europe aboard Military Airlift Command  (MAC) flights which landed at Rhein-Main Airbase. Kiefer’s buddy Seibel has a car rental business just a hop, skip, and  a jump from Rhein-Main and it wasn’t long before he and Kiefer were scratching each other’s backs. 

The AMU rented vehicles from Seibel and he, or one of his employees, would pick up the team at the airport and then go to the garage to complete the rental paperwork.  The procedure was reversed upon departure, with the team staying at a small hotel that Seibold had arranged for near the garage. There is no doubt that the shady Seibold was “wetting his beak” with the friendly hotelier.  

The teams, rifle, pistol, running game, and shotgun, operated on the philosophy that one never had too much ammunition unless one was on fire or had fallen into deep water. Therefore, they always brought an ample supply of training and competition ammunition which was never completely expended. Ammunition is heavy and there was always lots of  paperwork to be completed when shipping it on MAC flights. Like all travelers the AMU teams wanted no delays in returning home and ammunition paperwork was an unwanted speed bump. 

Additionally the teams always visited the Anschutz, Feinwerkbau, and RWS factories to test barreled actions and ammo. Quite often this resulted in finding an exceptional lot of ammunition which was then purchased. 

Thoughts of how to avoid the reams of required paperwork paper work and lugging the ammunition back to Fort Benning began to percolate in the minds of the team leadership. At some point Wigger decided they would just leave their surplus ammunition in Germany. Some think that Wigger asked Dieter Anschütz if they could store it at his factory and was told no. Others surmise that Wigger just didn’t want to call in that kind of favor. 

Leaving US Government ammunition with a German national was certainly not legal and Seibold, as well as the team, must have known this. Seibel, grifter that he was  probably presumed it was a temporary arrangement worth the risk. The incentive of possibility offending the AMU and losing its car rental business, along the cash cow of hotel kickbacks, allowed him to turn a blind. Reluctantly he allowed himself to be strong armed into permitting them to use storage space in the back of one of his single car garages  

Off the beaten path and full of junk, It was a perfect place, if not the last place, anyone might think of looking for choice lots of match ammunition. The ammunition, everything from .22 through .308, and 12 gauge, was carefully packed in cans and stacked in the very back of the garage, covered with a tarp and debris, and hidden behind a sheet of disreputable plywood. It goes without saying that this ammunition bunker was not authorized by anyone in authority. 

German gun control at the time was the most stringent in Europe, a left over mix of the Nazi era 1938 German Weapons Act and Military Government decrees, with harsh penalties. Seibel knew this and grew fearful that someone might find out about the secret cache of ammunition, tip off the Kommunalpolizei. This would be followed by a quick appearance before a magistrate and a long term of breaking rocks at the local Justizvollzugsanstalt. so he began haranguing Wigger about clearing out the garage.  

Wigger responded In the late 1980s when the team was in Suhl, East Germany and he was hospitalized for a severe nose bleed. The Old Lion summoned  Dubis to his bedside and directed him to go to Seibel’s garage and conduct an inventory. Dubis’ elevated status on the team, justly earned by setting a few world records on his way to his first world championship, did not trump the fact he was the most junior person on the team.  

Within a few years of Dubis’ inventory the last of the ammunition had been removed and shot up with no one having gone to jail. Soon after Seibel faded into the swirling mist of shooting mythology, having either sold his business or retired, possibly living high on the hog from the ill-gotten gains from the hotel kickbacks. 

The only question remaining is, with the demise of Seibel’s auto rental business, who has assumed the mantle of European vehicle purveyor to the AMU? 

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