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Mobile firing range on target

From the outside, it looks like an ordinary 53-foot trailer on wheels, guarded by security.

Inside, it looks like a sound studio turned arsenal, where flying casings from a 9 mm pistol are as common as pine trees on the leafy base outside.

The Chinhae naval base in southern South Korea, the Navy’s only base in the country, recently inaugurated its new Caswell Mobile Firearms Trainer, a firing range on wheels.

“This is the only one of its kind on the peninsula,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Douglas P. Dreher, master at arms and the range officer in charge.

The trailer is a steel armor-fortified firing range that can simulate scenarios to train and qualify sailors in firearms.

Inside the dark trailer, soundproof foam enveloping the walls and ceiling gives it the feeling of a recording studio. It’s dark, cool, computerized — and full of guns.

Navy security officers and sailors use the trailer to maintain their Navy shooting qualifications but it serves more to sharpen their skills overall.

“We make better shooters,” Dreher said. “It gives you a chance to go one on one, with individual coaching. We can see exactly what the shooters are doing wrong.”

In his 10 or more years running a range, first as an Army soldier and now with the Navy, Dreher hasn’t seen anything quite as helpful for shooters, he said.

The computerized trailer can simulate real-life conditions in ways not possible on a field range. Targets can be placed at staggered distances under different lighting conditions and can be turned to show a good guy or a bad guy.

Training can also simulate an attacking assailant.

The control room is behind bulletproof glass. Beyond it is the range — and at its end, to absorb the bullets, are piles of shredded tires covered by a sloped sheet of thick rubber. After 75,000 to 100,000 shots, the rubber and shredded tires are replaced. It even has a built-in vacuum cleaner to suck up any debris on the range.

The trailer can handle 9 mm pistols to light machine guns and sniper rifles, Dreher said. Shots fired inside the range sound like dull thud from the control room and are inaudible outside. Shooters wear double-ear protection in the range.

The range holds up to three shooters at a time. In one day, up to 24 can be qualified on a pistol and 18 on a rifle, Dreher said.

The trailer cost about $250,000 but saves the Navy time and the expense of transporting ammunition and weapons to an outdoor range, said Cmdr. James E. Tranoris, in charge of Commander of Fleet Activities Chinhae, the base’s official name.

Buying the trailer was more environmentally friendly than building an outdoor range, Tranoris said. The trailer also is mobile; it could be taken to other installations.

U.S. sailors from visiting ships or from other parts of Korea also can use the range, but “mostly, we purchased it for our sailors ashore,” Tranoris said.


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