Throwback Thursday: Indoor Novelty Shoots

posted on May 1, 2014

By George L. Cutting

Just never do what you are told. Especially never do it if the NRA says so. A while ago I received from them instructions for annual report of the activities of my Club, and having a conscience, I truthfully reported. By return of post delayed, the NRA wanted to know what it all meant, and asked me to please send pictures. As near as I can decipher, they want information regarding our novelty shoots that have proved very satisfactory in finding new members and in amusing the old ones.

This is the way we go at it. First of all you have to create an atmosphere-make the members think they are little boys playing they are on the warpath, or Vandals entering Rome. To get this result, everything connected with the shoot is shrouded in mystery. Each member receives a postal card announcing like this:

"Fifth Novelty Shoot

Saturday, March 14, 7:30 P.M.

Mystery: The lamb has been slain: Its blood has thickened: But there are no clues. Not even the empty shell has been found. Come and help solve the puzzling case. Come armed for all eventualities. It is not known what we shall have to do or whom we shall have to face. There will be prizes, though: of that we are assured. Are you inquisitive?"

Of course, the members know I am the greatest liar that ever got into the lantern light, but just the same, mister man begins to think that perhaps he is a greater detective than the other fellow; he gets out his guns and revolvers, and by the time he gets to the Club he wants to know "where the hell's this lamb, and where's the cross that marks the bloodstains." He's all fixed to get that murderer. Perhaps he gets fooled this time a little, so the next postal he gets gives him a little more information to go on. But he is dumped into an atmosphere just the same.

"Bandit Slaughter

Saturday Evening-1925

Re-entry 10c Pistol or Rifle Any Sights

We have Bandits from the Rio Grande, Gangsters from New York. Hit 'em with the rifle or jab 'em with a fork. Pull the trusty skinning knife. Gouge 'em in the Park, but you'll have to shoot right proper to nip 'em in the dark.

"Anyway, come and see. Bring your friends too. There are prizes for the friends as well as for you."

All of us would like to whang the stuffing out of a bandit, provided we can do it safely. And this seems a favorable opportunity. Here the name of a shoot suggests a glorious time, and the "boys" fall into the atmosphere through that.

Still playing on that boy instinct, we try to give the members something to smash. They like to see the pieces fly, and if it is something new, something that they have never done before, it is a great deal better. Never repeat a novelty shoot exactly. Vary something about it, and you can still get a kick from it.

Of course, there is the type of man who can no longer play boy. To this fellow we appeal William Tellthrough another channel. As you probably find in your own Club, there are very few men who shoot much better than the others, and these men are in the habit of taking away most of the prizes. The ultra-boy does not like this. He wants to carry something home for himself once in a while. So in these novelty shoots we make the scores a matter of lucky-at least it seems that way. In reality the better shot always has the edge, but the edge does not always give him the prize, especially with the proper sort of Executive Officer. We give the new shots the benefit of everything going in our novelty line, and as a result they turn out splendidly.

It is another trait of us humans to be pleased if somebody gets pinched. So if we can work in a trick by which someone loses an otherwise fine score, it tickles the crowd, and makes every one laugh except the tumbler. And, as some one else always falls too, he will get his chance to laugh and also to sympathize. The best example of this comes in our "Big Game Hunt."

And lastly in "what-to-do," have as few rules as you can. Let the contestants shoot anything they please-rifle, revolver, iron or glass sights, and in any position. This gets them all there with their pet weapon, and gives the odd fellow with his nerve gone a chance to rest his muzzle on a sandbag, lets the prone shot warm his tummy, and the offhanded stand on his own two legs. Shove the pistol shot nearer the target some twenty feet, and he is all set. Each one is at home and has nothing new to remember, and his only care is to let the gun off at the right time.

When they have finished then give something to eat. This is a big point and need cost the Club but very little. The entrance fees should take care of most of it, as well as the prizes, and what the fees do not meet the Club can well charge to advertising. Your own men are sent away content, and the new people who have perhaps shot very little, thing they have been taken care of. If your treasury is way down, buy a big bag of peanuts and tell the gang to scatter the shells over everything. They will enjoy doing it and it gives those standing around something to do.

Now let's see just what a novelty shoot looks like when we get on the range. These that follow are reports of shoots we have actually tried and have found to work. You can think of others and far better ones, but these will serve as examples.

William Tell Shoot

Looking at Figure 1, you see William's son Bill as he peers back at you from the port of the back stop. Figure 2 gives you the close-up. You will note that on the top of Bill's head is an apple. It is really on a clip behind the head, and the red apple is printed a little off center on the reverse of a single-bull 75-foot rifle target. Jimmie, the firer, plugs five shots at the apple, and then the Executive Officer scores the shots according to the unseen target on the back. Of course, if you hit Bill in the head, you forfeit the score. As you can not see which way the target is decentered, you may have a very pretty group and still a poor score. In the actual shoot, Bill was turned in dead several times, and once had the part in his hair all mussed up. He lost both his life and the pursuit of happiness.

Bandit Slaughter

No picture is needed of this. Firing is down at a single-bull rapid-fire target. If shooting the rifle the competitor stands facing the target with the piece held at port arms. If firing the pistol he is seated at a table nearer the target with his pistol lying on the table. All lights are out. Without warning the lights flash on, and the competitor must cock his piece and fire within five seconds when the lights are again turned off. If Jimmie is slow and does not fire until after the lights are out, don't bother to fine him; he won't hit anything anyway. Score the target as in any other match.

The Desolate Bear Match

The desolate bear gets his name from his expression and from the desire of some of our members to desolate him properly. The expression may be readily seen by reference to Figure 3. Of course, he is tracing from some magazine picture. To the best of my recollection he is about five inches high. He, too, is slipped behind a frame as in the William Tell Shoot. He has discovered a bee tree which makes him stand very still. The firing is done any old way with pistol or rifle, and at the end scoring is done by placing over the bear a transparent sheet lined as in Figure 4. Care must be taken not to hit the bee tree, as this stirs up the bees, and of course in that case the Executive Officer would not be able to score the target.

Shoot Your Lunch Match

This match is not really what it seems. Postals were sent as usual to the members, requesting them to come to the Range supperless. On arrival they found a lunch counter arranged along one wall. Large signs told what you might not buy, but shoot for. It cost you a nickel a shot, and you fired at regular 75-foot, six-bull, rifle target, one shot on each bull. When the target was pulled up, the Executive Officer placed a transparent sheet over each bull (see Figure 5) and told you what kind of eats you were entitled to at the counter. It was a pack of fun. One fellow got four pieces of cheese and a cup of coffee his first time at bat, and almost always the ration would be considered unbalanced. Later in the evening too, members were shooting for particular things, especially the ice cream. And they had many mishaps. should a shot go outside of the counting rings on the regular target, of course, you got nothing. It was keep 'em wide but not too far if you wanted that last cup of coffee before you hit the cold for home.

The Hidden Hand

Some of our members like to play cards, so this match was originated for their special benefit. From an ordinary pack remove the face cards. When ready to shoot, the Range Officer takes one of the remaining cards at hazard from his pocket, fastens it to the carrier, and runs it down with the back toward you. You then fire five shots at the card without knowing what it is. To score, count one for every shot that hits the card and one for each pip that is struck. For example, Jimmie hits the card five times, and scores five for that. His card was the two of spades and he put all his shots in the middle. His total score is five. Henry finds, after he has shot, that he drew the ten spot, and as he scattered his shots, four of them hit different pips. As all five shots were on the card, his score is nine. Be sure to rule that it is the number of pips hit that counts rather than the number of shots that hit a pip, for if you don't, some smart guy will remember that there is a little pip on two corners of the card, and with his scope he will knock the stuffing out of one of those for a possible.

Pop the Pipe

You will remember that some of the Bill Tells were ruined, and as we always believe in animal crackerscleaning up, our Executive Staff decided the Pop the Pipe Match to use up the rest of Bill. Consequently they cut off his head just a voce his grin, nailed a block back of his teeth, thus giving him two nail-head dimples, as may be seen in Figure 6, and placed a strong elastic band around the block. Under the elastic was placed the bowl of a T.D. pipe. Advertising stated that here was a chance to get even with that first T.D. that made you sick when you smoked it, and that you were to torture the victim. The grand idea was not to smash the pipe the first shot, but to see how many times you could hit the pipe and still leave another piece to shoot at. Of course, the minute you missed the pipe entirely you were done. It takes considerable skill to hit the pipe nine times in succession, as the winner of this match did, before there is nothing left to shoot at. And, too, as pipes differ in fragility, there is a good deal of luck in drawing a tough T.D.

A Shot in the Dark

This match is just what its name implies. The firer stands aiming at the target. He signifies that he is ready. Sometime within five seconds all the lights go out, and he may fire as soon as the lights are gone. Use a 60-foot pistol target to shoot at, even with the rifle, for this game is played only in the standing position, and it is a difficult one in which to make a score. Place the pistol shooters about twenty feet nearer the target than the riflemen [on different relays, of course], and they will compete on equal footing.

Big Game Hunt and Xmas Tree Shoot

This match is an annual feature in my Club, for we have found that its enjoyment lasts. We send the usual postal stating that the entry fee for the match is a present, something the entrant would like to receive himself, and that it shall cost about a dollar. The entrant must wrap his present securely, barbed wire not barred, and he must place his own name inside the parcel so that he may be properly thanked. At the Range we have a Christmas tree with the usual fixings, and under this the presents are piled. The hunt consists in firing five shots at a black card on which are mounted five animal crackers. See figure 7. If you completely burst a cracker it counts five. If you make a killing shot it counts four, and if you get a leg it counts one. Glue the crackers on securely, and the scorer will have lots of fun. And then, just to make a racket, any one knocking the tail off one of the animals has his whole score erased. Of course, shoot any way you like. After the scores have been added, the man with the highest total has his first pick of the wrapped presents under the tree. One rule here must be enforced. The package must be opened on the spot, and as the members rather pride themselves on their ingenuity in wrapping, this affords a lot of fun.

These examples will at least give you an idea of what we are doing for our newer members and as advertising. We have tried them out, and find that it pays. We get younger men than we used to, and they are filling the places that the older men leave as they are gradually forced to fall out. The new and the old keep each other alive, and we continue to be a shooting club rather than a place to tell how we used to do it. The Executive Committee is the only thing to suffer, and what, pray, are its members for if they are not ready to work, to be blamed, to be pounded and pulled, and finally to be kicked out by some youngster who can do better.

Like the radio lecturer, I shall be glad to answer any questions you may think of regarding these matches.


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