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"The British Aerial Dart Gun for Training AA Machine Gunners" from Tactical and Technical Trends

A report on British training method for antiaircraft gunners, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 33, September 9, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


To provide moving antiaircraft short-range targets, the British have a piece of training equipment with a number of interesting possibilities called the "Aerial Dart Gun," see figure 1. The gun fires a "dart" not unlike a small mortar bomb, fitted with colored streamers, which can be made to simulate an approaching dive bomber, a crossing or a departing plane. The flight of the dart is similar to the flight of a clay pigeon in trap shooting.

While the American army lacks the dart gun, with a reasonable amount of ingenuity, a similar device could be developed using a rifle grenade or even a 60-mm mortar, a 37-mm AT gun or possibly a catapult made of old automobile springs or an otherwise useless inner tube. The following description and account of the use of the gun is taken from a British source.

*          *          *

The aerial dart, fired by a simple gun, provides a realistic air target which can be used on all ranges suitable and classified for antiaircraft fire. Darts are recoverable and the only expendable item is the propellant cartridge.

[British Aerial Dart Gun for Training AA Machine Gunners]

a. Description

(1) The Gun

This consists of a barrel, breech piece, and firing mechanism held in a quadrant which allows the barrel to be elevated or depressed. The gun is mounted on a circular base plate which permits a traverse of the barrel within an arc of 90 degrees. The dart is propelled by a 12-gauge cartridge filled with 70 grains of powder.

(2) The Dart

This is a steel tube, closed at one end, with a solid shaft running down the center of the tube which goes into the barrel. The tube itself fits outside the barrel. Four steel fins are fitted to maintain steady flight. A 4-foot length of 2-inch wide cotton bandage colored with ink, is tied to the end of the dart, and streams out during flight. The colors of the cotton bandage may be varied to suit the colors of the sky background: red, or red and white, is the most useful for the average British sky background. (This variation can be made very simply by the use of red ink.)

b. Use

(1) To fire the dart

Fix the base to the ground with the four steel pins, the traversing arc to the rear. Elevate the barrel to the height required. (See range table.) Open the breech, insert a cartridge, and close the breech. Put the dart into and over the barrel, with the cotton streamer on the ground and clear of the gun. Cock the trigger mechanism and, on the order to fire, pull the trigger cord.

(2) To unload the gun

Open the breech and, with the aid of a steel rod inserted in the barrel from the muzzle end, push out the empty cartridge case.

(3) Care and cleaning

(a) The gun should be cleaned in the normal way after firing, and left slightly oiled until next required.

(b) Care should also be taken to ensure that any dirt or grit is removed from the inside of the dart tube, and the solid shaft.

(c) Streamers should be examined before firing to see that they are securely fastened to the dart. If a streamer breaks away in flight, it makes the retrieving of the dart a matter of some difficulty.

(d) The darts, on landing, may penetrate deeply into the ground, particularly if it is soft.* Care must be taken when digging them out to avoid damaging the darts, which are made of light metal since their future efficiency may be impaired.

(e) If possible, avoid firing darts on to hard ground.

c. Range Table

The following table gives the performance of the darts at various angles of the barrel:

  Elevation of Barrel    Height     Distance
       80 degrees        529 ft     100 yds
       70 degrees        484 ft     175 yds
       60 degrees        400 ft     245 yds
       50 degrees        324 ft     265 yds
       40 degrees        253 ft     315 yds
       30 degrees        169 ft     265 yds

d. Suggested Firing Practice

[Diagram: British Aerial Dart Gun for Training AA Machine Gunners]  
No. 1 Course. Dart gun on a flank (right or left) about 300 yards in front of firers--barrel at 40 degrees--dart fired diagonally across front to a point about 50 yards to the left (or right) of and in line with the firing point, representing an aircraft approaching diagonally and diving on a post to the left (or right).

No. 2 Course. Dart gun at the firing point with the LMG--barrel at 80 degrees and pointing up the range--the dart will go up to about 500 feet, and come down about 100 yards in front of the firing point; representing a dive bomber.

No. 3 Course. Dart gun on a flank, about 300 yards in front of firers--barrel at 40 degrees--the dart fired directly across the front, representing a "direct crosser."

e. Notes

(1) Dependent on the size and shape of the range, many other courses can be arranged.

(2) As a safety precaution, the dart should be tried out, and the base plate setting barrel elevation corrected before any firing starts.

(3) If the dart gun is fired from inside the danger area, a pit must be dug for the firer from which he can control the dart gun, which must itself be fixed near the pit and in the open.

(4) A look-out should be detailed to pin-point the fall of each dart so that collection after firing is simplified. Men should not be posted in the danger area for this purpose, since it is not always possible for them to follow the dart in flight and there is therefore a risk that they will be hit by dart or bullets.

*Painting the dart red might make recovery easier.


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