The following information on pistol and revolver clubs and ranges comes from The Book of the Pistol and Revolver by Hugh B. C. Pollard. The Book of the Pistol and Revolver is also available to purchase in print.
The construction of revolver ranges is more the business of an architect or engineer than that of a pistol expert, but “wherever two or three persons are gathered together” and interested in shooting, a properly organized club and range is the first necessity. An outdoor range should, if possible, be 60 yards long from firing-point to target, but long-range work means the establishment of proper pit targets and shelters for markers—a moderately expensive undertaking. The best orientation for an outdoor range is to have the targets due north of the firing-point. The cheapest material for building safe butts, etc., is old railway sleepers and old rails, and it is far better to adopt and adapt such material as can be found locally than to invest in expensive iron frames and carriers that have to be specially ordered. There is a distinct supposition on the part of many writers of pistol books that shooting men are necessarily wealthy, and it is common to find advice about expensive refinements, electrical fittings, and the like. My own experience tends to rather the opposite point of view, and I do not find shooting confined to, or greatly supported by, the ultra-wealthy, and except as offshoots of various rifle and miniature rifle clubs, there are no revolver clubs of note.
A good range in an old quarry, chalk, or gravel-pit, with a covered shed firing-point, is about as good an arrangement as is necessary. Up to 20 yards no marking arrangements are needful, as the cards can be run down to the firing-point on carriers supported by parallel wires, and actuated by plain rope and pulley winding gear. Moving, traversing, and up-and-down targets can also be actuated from the firing-point. The result of each shot can be seen by anyone of average eyesight, and the whole expensive paraphernalia of pits and markers’ shelters, etc., is thereby avoided.
Patent target devices that run on complicated systems of troughs and pulleys are seldom satisfactory. A plain pair of taut wires to carry a sheet-steel target carrier, and pulleys made of old perambulator wheels (the tyre groove takes a rope nicely), set in plain frames of ordinary gas piping, or the wooden firing-point counter, make the simplest and most efficient range equipment.
Indoor ranges of 20 yards or less need the same equipment, and the back, roof, and sides of the range should be plated with sheet-iron thick enough to stop or shatter the .38 automatic cartridge, which is the most penetrating pistol charge used. If the range is underground, only the butts and roof need protecting from accidental discharge.
The whole face of the butt should be steel or iron-plated, and behind each target should hang a heavy plate of 1-inch steel about 24 inches by 24 inches square. This receives the maximum battering, and can be easily replaced when worn out.
The lighting of the targets should be from gas or electric lights, about 2 feet in front of them, and about 18 inches below their base level. As splashes of lead and ricochets easily destroy the lamps or mantles, these should be partly enclosed in tin reflectors, so focussed as to throw the maximum of light upon the targets, but without exposing more than possible of the lamps to splashes. A good plan is to erect a thin board or plate-shield just under the targets, and between the lamps and the steel plate. This shield stops most of the splash.
The lighting arrangements are shielded from the firing-point by timber faced with heavy plate, and at least two lamps are used to light each target. A point to remember with the modern metal filament lamp is the need of minimizing all possible vibration, and the lamp settings should be unattached to the protecting plate, and, if possible, slung upon a loose board that does not suffer from the shock should a bullet hit the protecting steel sheeting.
The distance from firing-point to target must be exact, and the floor firm. Concrete covered with cocoanut-matting affords a good, firm standing ground. At Gastinne Renette’s and most Continental galleries of note each shooter fires through a special loop-hole or casement window of his own. This system partitions off the shooters and renders the range safer and less noisy.
At Gastinne’s the silhouette targets are automatic, electrically indicating, but the bull’s-eye cards are called by the marker in the usual way.
Most of the patent electrically registering targets will not stand the smashing impact of revolver bullets, and soon go out of action. I have not yet found any of these devices that will work properly with anything more powerful than the .22 ammunition, and they are mostly expensive and unreliable.
The most modern of all ranges is the special cinematograph or living picture range. This needs an expensive installation and several attendants, the mechanism complete costing some five hundred pounds. For this the usual cinematograph picture, or specially made films, are projected on to a paper screen. There are three of these screens, one behind the other acting on the roller-blind principle, one moving laterally, the other two vertically. ·
When a shot is fired the sound of it automatically stops the progress of the film, and the picture stops rigid for a second, showing the shot as a bullet-hole or spot of light, for behind the screens there are powerful illuminants.
The sound of the shot also sets in action the rollers of the paper screens, and after a second’s delay all three screens move half an inch in different directions. This automatically closes the puncture, and prevents the light behind being seen. The film again starts up, and the picture progresses till arrested by a second shot.
Practice at these targets is amusing and instructive, particularly for the perfecting of rapid-fire work, but as the first report stops the screen, the device has its limitations, and is only useful for noting the effect of the first snapshot. The other shots only take effect upon a stationary target.
In conclusion it may be said that, after all, range practice is not essential, and that a good deal may be learnt by outdoor work by sea or stream, by wood or field. Anything will do for a target, and, provided the background is safe, a great deal of useful and enjoyable practice may be obtained.
Pistol shooting is fine sport and good fun. It needs nerve and skill and is not an expensive hobby, and if this little work does anything to assist those who love pistols, it fulfils the author’s humble purpose.