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Base range will get automated target turning system soon

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

A new automated target turning system will debut at the base firing range soon, improving training for Airmen and the many law enforcement agencies that utilize the range for practice and qualifying.

The new system was actually purchased several years ago and has been languishing in boxes at the range. Busy shooting schedules and other concerns kept pushing the project to the back burner.

When the north range recently was closed due to erosion of the sand backstop and other safety issues, it was decided it was a good time to do the install. As planned, when the closed range is upgraded, the new target system will be operational.

Manufactured by Action Target, the company that produced the bullet trap system currently used on the south range, the automated system allows range masters to turn targets sideways with the push of a button, effectively ending firing opportunities during timed events, such as qualifying.

"People sometimes get a round off after the cease fire," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Amos, non-commissioned officer in charge of Combat Arms. "With this, they won't have a target to shoot at once the time is up."

The system also can be used as a proficiency training tool or "shoot, don't shoot" training device. Painted targets of armed and unarmed people, a hostage and hostage taker and others can be flipped quickly to test the response of the shooters and their ability to make a quick decision with accuracy under pressure.

Sergeant Amos said this feature will be particularly attractive to some 21 area agencies, including FBI, Tampa police, Secret Service and others that over the years have used the base range for training.

Those agencies have been excluded from MacDill in recent months due to the closure of the second range but when the range reopens, they likely will begin to return and utilize the new target system, said Sergeant Amos.

Sergeant Amos said concrete pads already have been poured for the system and soon a contractor will arrive to assemble and test the new hardware.

A reopening date for the range is not known at this point and depends on the availability of funds to complete the range work. End of year money known as straddle funds were earmarked for the project but budget shortfalls put the plans in jeopardy. At this point it is hoped the money will be available, even if arriving later than usual.

Once secured, the decision will be made whether to rebuild the sand backstop to trap bullets or to install a bullet trap system. Another aspect of the project is removing lead, classified as a toxic metal that has accumulated in the sand over the years.

To avoid the issues surrounding lead bullets, combat arms has moved toward use of frangible rounds, which are lead-free and break up on impact, lessening the risk of an errant bullet leaving the range.



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