Shooting Simulations In the 1930s

Modern Mechanix published an article in the 1930s about British soldiers learning marksmanship skill by shooting at animated scenes. The scenes were motorized so the shooter had to track a target. I am not sure what exactly they were shooting, but those guns resemble the elastic guns my friends and I build as kids.

Animated paintings in steel picture frames are now being used to train British troops in marksmanship. Miniature soldiers, representing an enemy army, move along the bottom of the frame and up an incline across the picture, while sharpshooters try to pick them off. For this form of practice the distance from the target is only a few paces, making a spacious rifle range unnecessary. As the speed of the moving figures can be mechanically controlled, it is easy to test the skill of the marksmen by hurrying up the targets while the sharpshooters are at practice.

[ Many thanks to Sven (Defence and Freedom) for emailing me the info. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • H. L.

    Simulators have certainly changed since then, but the concept of sharpening skills with them remains the same.

  • noob

    I’m glad that they switched to human silhouettes after generations of carnival games trained our youth to mercilessly gun down little yellow ducks. 🙂

  • Adam

    That rifle would be the BSA military pattern air rifle most produced in .177 cal

  • Chucky

    Hit the pickelhaube, win a prize.

  • gunslinger

    i wonder if they were biased… like carnival games are today

  • Leonard

    The “graphics” on these simulators look almost as good as those on the simulators the Bundeswehr uses for shooting training today… 😉

    No really, the Bundeswehr AGSHP (=Ausbildungsgerät Schießen mit Handfeuerwaffen und Panzerfaust; translation: Training device for shooting with handguns and Panzerfaust RPG) looks about as good as a commercial video game from about 1997, ie everything is made of very huge and thus blocky polygons and simple 2D bitmaps…not much of an improvement over the british device depicted 🙂

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  • Mike Knox

    I’ve actually tried a couple of these training rifles when I was in England. It was a mock-up of an Enfield and the other one was a Springfield 1903. They looked like the actual rifles but instead of a usual muzzle, it had a metal spike that sprung out when the trigger was squeezed and poked holes on paper targets.

    I later tried imitating the training rifles as part of a zany idea for spear-fishing..

  • Geodkyt

    I’m thinking of the early Weaponeer systems the US Army used, where they had a similar scale model terrain setup with physical targets, and a modified M16 attached with cables, rods, and a system to simulate recoil.

    Although those had a position sensor to figure out where the muzzle was pointed, and (AFAIK) a ballistics table embedded in the controlling computer to determin if lead and elevation were correct.