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UNDERGROUND RIFLERANGES

(the times.) I Major- General Philip Smith during* his tenure of office as the General commanding the Home District -has gained popularity among the metropolitan Volunteers by virtue of the zealous interest which he has shown in their affairs. It is notorious that metropolitan riflemen labour under great disadvantages in the matter of obtaining* practice in the use of the infantry weapon, that the difficulty of obtaining* adequate ranges in the open air tends to become -greater every year, and that the men can, as a rule, devote only their evenings to military training. Mnny inventions have been brought out with the view of .minimising these disadvantages, and it Avas thought at one time that Mr. Morris had gone as far as Avas possible toAvards the .solution of the difficulty. He, it is well' known, devised a plan by Avhich a tube was introduced into the barrel of the Martini- Henry, so that, upon a miniature range of absolute safety, men could use in the full-sized weapon a charge and a bullet not larger than. those of , a saloon rifle. Major Richards also introduced a scheme by which the Martini could bo used as a saloon rifle without the introduction of a tube. His scheme involved to all appearance the fixing of a re voh-er car tridge upon tb c flan go of a Martini cartridge. In his case also there Avas a miniature range. But practical men, althnigh they gladly admitted the merits of loth schemes, could not fail to recogniso in them a common defect which greatly impaired their value for military purposes. It is no easy thing to teach a recruit to hold his ride properly, to take au accurate aim, to press and not to pull the trigger ; und all these points could bo impressed upon those who used the inventions of Mr. Morris. But there remained still the difficulty, apparently insuperable, of rendering the recruit accustomed to the recoil of the rifle Avhen fully charged, under any circumstances other than those of an open rage. It may be said at once that Colonel Huddan and Dr. Stephenson have overcome that difficulty, and that the members of Colonel Haddan's battalion can noAv, at their own headquarters, practise with rifles carrying a full charge and a full-sized bullet, and thai when thoy go to an open range the only fresh difficulties they Avill have to encounter will be those of wind and light. Colonel Haddan's task has been to provide in the middle of a crowded neighbourhood a perfectly safe range, the noise from which should uot reach the ears of the inhabitants of adjoininghouses. In the matter of safety hehas, with the assistance, of Colonel Athnrpe, the commanding Royal Engineer of the Home District, absolutely succeeded. A tunnel, some 25ft. long, has been driven nuclei' the drill-ground; the roof, supported by iron girders, has been lined with Portland cement, the sides Avith brick and lime cement, and tho floor has been laid Avith concrete. A strong light illuminates the miniature targets, and the rifleman whe stands in a dim twilight, finds that he can take a perfect aim, while a large disc fan, driven by a gas engine, forces the smoke up a shaft and clears the air. If this Avere all,, nobody but a deaf •man, or one bold enough to visk tho certainty of deafness could use the tunnel, for the noise of tho report would be intolerable. But Colonel Haddau has obviated this difficulty by lining the tunnel Avith thick felt coated Avith sackcloth, the result being that tho noise of the report is immediately deadened. Mr. lligby, the expert, perhaps strained a point when, in an after-supper speech, he declared that the rifle in the new range would " roar you as gently as any sucking dove," and would be not more noticeable than the beat of a drum ; but it is true, and it suffices for the purpose, that inside the vault tho noise is not moro than is tolerable. Ontside, on the drillground, the effect is curious ; each report is heard as a dull boom, similar to that of a heavy gun at a distance. Listeners Avith eyes closed might haA'o fancied themselves to be standing on tho seashore listening to a Royal salute fired far out at sea. So much for the tunnel, which, when all is said and done, is a device necessary only for volunteers avlio are compelled to mako tho best of their position in crowded neighbourhoods. Moreover, the tunnel would be useless if Dr. Stephenson had not inA'entcd his patent target ; and in relation to this invention it may bo stated that its .author, Avith rare modesty, claims no credit, but declares that it was forced upon him by circumstances Tho A'oluntecrs in Avhom he was interested had absolutely no range upon which to practise except an old stable which he placed at their disposal. In that stable Dr Stephenson discoA-ercd that a bullet, impinging on a steel pinto laid at an angle of about one in two and a half, would invariably glide along the angle of the plate. That fact, once discovered, became the basis of his patent target, Avhich completely obviates the difficulty of " splash," Avhich, as MajarGeneral Smith observed, is tho greatest obstacle that the designers of littlo ranges have to encounter. The apparatus, in its present form, is easily described. Tho rifleman takes up his position facing a canvas screen, in the C-ntro of which a paper target is pasted. The bullet, passing through the screen, strikes the steel plate and rushes upwards along it. At the top of the inclined plane is a piece of iron, overlapping it a little, after the manner of the' eavoof a houso, and bent downwards on the far side. This piece of iron, called tho " floppor," hangs upon a hinge, and, Avhilo it yields to thc^impact of the bullet, vapidly killjs its energy, so that in tho end the dead missile drops into a box of sawdust. There can bo no question as •_ to the utility .of this invention. At the end of a tunnel such as that which Colonel lladdan, who encountered unforeseen difficulties in tho shape of a spring and a. sandbed, has constructed at great expense, it makes rifle practice possible in the Heart of 'a"'city, and in the country, Avhere' tl.ie. clement of noise need not be considered,. .' it maybe setup on any open piece of ground. It is not pretended, of course, that marksmen, in the technical senso, can be made by practise at tlie immature range, but it is clear that third-class firing can bo accomplished thoro under practical conditions, and that men can be taught there iv a thoroughly sound Avay.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/BA18900712.2.52

Bibliographic details

UNDERGROUND RIFLERANGES, Bush Advocate, Volume V, Issue 339, 12 July 1890

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1,126

UNDERGROUND RIFLERANGES Bush Advocate, Volume V, Issue 339, 12 July 1890

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