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.
(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
(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
(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
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."
(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.