Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Working The Butts

I was recently reading a girl and her gun, she was talking about her new job at the gun range and I was reminded of some of my favorite range times.
The military has a knack for taking a normally enjoyable experience and sucking all the fun out of it, be it camping (field exercise, no open camp fires) fitness training (forced run in full gear) and of course the rifle range.
Growing up I always enjoyed shooting practice, you throw a can into the air and shoot at it, or shoot at a can watching it bounce along the ground, shooting different pieces of junk to see what damage you could do, some favorite targets were, old refrigerators, old cars, TV sets, propane cylinders (partially full), concrete blocks etc. The military tends to frown on this kind of range activity (although we did get to shoot at old tanks with mortars)
At least once a year we went to the range to qualify with our rifles. we would be divided into three squads. We were then rotated between the firing line, the stand by where you waited behind the line for you chance to fire and the 'Butts'. On range day I enjoyed working the Butts the most (spare me cracks the jokes, I have heard them all)


Watching for shots, arrows show small marker discs.
The 'Butts' was 200 yards down range where the targets were, they had to be manned while the range was hot. One man would be below each target which was numbered. If you qualified on a certain target you would work the same target in the butts. This was done to help certify scores. During 'doping in' you would wait for the first 3 shots and then pull the target down (as you see in the first target in the foreground) and mark it with little cardboard circles (picture at left) then raise it up so the shooter could see his round placement.. For certain courses of fire you would stand with the target raised, it would be only about 5 feet above your head, your head crammed back watching for the bullet hole to appear in the target, At 200 yards down range you could not hear the shot only a tap noise like you rapped the target with your finger, when you saw the hole you would quickly lower the target and mark the shot with a small marker that you would poke in the hole and raise it quickly for the next shot. On other courses of fire you would simply mark the shot placement with a paddle or disk which was a 12" round metal plate (red on one side white on the other) attached to a 6' broom handle.  When the hole appeared in the target you would not lower the target but rather raise the 'paddle' to cover the area of the shot so the shooter could see it, and then quickly lowering the paddle before it got shot while you were holding it. This was another reason we worked the same target as we shot so if your shooter shot the paddle while you were holding it you could return the favor for him when it was your turn to shoot.
'Dog' targets in raised position
There was also a range officer on the line as well as in the butt area with a phone line between them. This was so the line could tell you to pull a target if you failed to see the hole. The shooter would yell "mark target 45" the range officer would call to the butts and they would yell down the target line, "mark 45". On the other hand if you saw too many holes in our target we would relay it to the line so they could yell and shout verbal abuse to the  shooter like " 27 why are you shooting target 28."  I liked the action and bustle, you had to be on your game all the time when the range was hot and it was important to stay in your area with 50 shooters firing 5 to 6 feet over your head. On most ranges all the pine trees behind the target areas looked like they had been sawed off about 15' above the ground from the years and hundreds of thousands of rounds fired. I don't know why I liked working behind the berm but there were always stories to tell afterward.




11 comments:

  1. The military has a knack for taking a normally enjoyable experience and sucking all the fun out of it, be it camping (field exercise, no open camp fires) fitness training (forced run in full gear) and of course the rifle range.-----too funny

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    1. Thanks, the truth is funny sometimes.

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  2. ooooh....the memories! ****shudders**** i hated working the butts! we also had to collect all the spent rounds from the entire range - you sure nailed it when you said "the military has a knack for taking a normally enjoyable experience and sucking all the fun out of it"!!! no truer words have been spoken!

    your friend,
    kymber

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    1. Kymber, I did actually enjoy working down there. glad you chimed in my friend, thanks.

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    2. no probs buddy! and thanks for the ***shuddering*** memories - bleck!!!

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  3. Seems you and I just had this conversation....nice piece.

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    1. Thanks, it's strange the things you remember.

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  4. Lord help you if you did not keep your weapon pointed downrange. I have seen many a soldier rapped hard on the Kevlar for swinging their rifle every which way.

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    1. Yea, on the line the lacked a sense of humor for sure. Thanks.

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  5. You need to shoot the National Matches at Camp Perry (or the Eastern Games at Camp Butner, NC). You'll get to spend half of each match in the pits, or "butts", pulling targets. It's mandatory and your description of how it works is dead-on.

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    1. I have spent many a day behind the berms. I always enjoyed it.

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