by the Wilkinson Sword Co.


Below, the front pages of the Wilkinson Sword company's brochure of 1906 are reproduced

The device was the invention of an American - Mr. Henry Havelock Cummings of Boston, Mass.,

and built under licence in Britain at a time when Lord Roberts and other senior military men and politicians were putting into force a plan to render every male subject of the United Kingdom well versed in the art of rifle shooting . This device is one of many which evolved to that end, not least of which was the setting up of the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs.


..........................................................A.J. Comber....................................................................................................................................................................... this brochure's text is continued below


A.J. Comber, a Bisley King's Prize winner, is seen demonstrating the machine.

The rifle being used is a Magazine Lee-Enfield or Lee-Metford ( the "Long" Lee) - see also the S.M.L.E. (Short) Rifle.


Below is the specially adapted Lee-Metford rifle used with the Sub-Target Machine.

This particularly rare example is held in the National Firearms Collection of the Leeds Royal Armouries

and is shown by their kind permission.



Sadly no known example of the machine itself resides in the United Kingdom.

If you know of the whereabouts of an example, do please advise us.


Below: a drawing of the mechanism


The continuing remainder of the brochure's text is here reproduced:


"and consequently more rapidly corrected. It is an instrument that records not only the actual result of a shot made at a mark,

but the position of the Rifle during the process of aiming and at the moment of pulling the trigger,

and thus demonstrating to the instructor the reasons for a hit or miss on the objective target.



If Rifles were constructed as cannon are, for firing from a rest, many of the difficulties of marksmanship would disappear,

because the rest at moment of aiming would hold the weapon absolutely steady, but a man with a Rifle cannot do this.

In watching a good shot firing in the prone position, the barrel looks to be quite still.

But the marksman, holding a barely visible bull balanced on his fore-sight, is aware of more or less movement of the Rifle,

and knows how very slight a tremor will spoil his shot.

The novice very soon knows that too, but it comes with something of a shock to him to realise that tremor

in his case is frequently represented by a wobble that may send the bullet to the edge of the target,

over it, or anywhere round the face of the clock.




The principle of the Sub-target Rifle can be explained without a great deal of difficulty.

In the illustrations it will be seen that a strong and heavy upright pillar supports, in any position required—standing, kneeling, or prone—the head.

Above this head is placed a delicate rod with a universal movement.

At the forward extremity of the rod a needle point is fixed, and in a little grooved frame a target, about the size of a visiting card, is placed.

That is the Sub-target. The objective target is an ordinary one, placed preferably at 30 yards range,

which is ringed to proper dimensions to appear the size of a standard target at any desired distance, say 200 or 500 yards.




An ordinary Rifle is used for taking aim, and it is so ingeniously connected to the machine that there is no point of rest. The weight or the parts attaching the Rifle to the instrument is exactly balanced by the weight of the counterpoised ball seen in the illustrations, so that the marksman has only the weight of the Rifle to support, aud sufficient freedom of movement is given to allow of the Rifle being aimed off the target in any direction. The rifle connections are mounted on ball bearings, and are connected to the steel rod which is swung on a four-point universal joint on tlie " head " of the machine.
This rod moves coincidentally with the line of sight along the rifle barrel, and transfers its gyrations, through an ingenious ball differential movement, to the needle. The relation of the objective target 20 yards away and the Sub-target on the
machine itself is determined by calculation of angles, but to allow for variations in eyesight, or constant peculiarities of aiming, the " head " may be adjusted both vertically and horizontally by means of screws. These variations from the normal are- recorded on two dials, one corresponding to degrees of elevation on the back sight, and the other to lateral movement for windage. In using the machine, the marksman may first sight the Rifle with the radial rod locked, so that if any adjustments are necessary to get the sights properly aligned on the bull's eye these adjustments can be made. The radial rod is then released, the Rifle cocked, and the marksman aims at the objective target and pulls the trigger.




On the tiny Sub-target every movement of the Rifle is indicated by the delicate pointer until at the pulling of the trigger the card, darts forward and takes the impress of the needle, exactly corresponding to the aim on the objective target.


In many of the public schools of the country, military organisations exist and military tactics are taught. The boys march
well and go through the manual of arms without a hitch, but they cannot shoot. It is considered unsafe to allow the schoolboys to practise shooting with loaded Rifles as some serious accidents have happened. It is a matter of much interest and a cause for congratulation that the schools are becoming interested in the Sub-target Rifle—which is safe as it is used without ammunition—and are beginning to adopt it for instructing the boys in marksmanship.
Eton was the first College in England to adopt this apparatus. This remarkable machine, it will be understood, requires no attention beyond the preliminary setting, as the little Sub-target is electrically actuated. There is a dry battery in the pillar, and the head contains a powerful magnet, the armature of which impels the target on to the needle when the circuit is closed.



This closing of the circuit results from pulling the trigger. There can be used, if desired, a blank cartridge in the Rifle,

but as the apparatus is designed for aiming, not for shooting,

this serves no purpose beyond that of accustoming the user to the noise of the discharge.

It has also been found excellent training to get men used to the explosion by mixing blank cartridges with empty shells,

so that the marksman must always anticipate the explosion although it only occasionally occurs.



Windage allowance can be taught, by the instructor purposely deflecting the apparatus from its normal direction,
with the aid of a lateral adjustment lever. Magazine pratice can be carried out on the Sub-target Rifle.
Any kind of target can be used except the "running man," and the reports prove that the instrument is capable of being used
to great advantage with the disappearing target, as well as for snap shooting.



Some of the places where the Apparatus has been installed and can be inspected. ( as at 1906 !)

H.M.S. "Excellent",
Marine Barracks, Chatham
,, ,, Portsmouth
,, ,, Devonport
H.M.S. "Grarton"
Royal Military College, Camberley
Royal Military Academy, Woolwich
Guards' Depot, Caterham
Eton College
Cheltenham College
Dover College
Royal Horse Guards
11 th Hussars—Curragh
King's Dragoon Guards
7th Dragoon Guards
21st Lancers—Hounslow
13th Hussars—India
1st Battalion Grenadier Guards
3rd „
1st Battalion Coldstream Guards
1st ,, Scots Guards
Irish Guards
2nd Bn. Lincoln Regiment
1 st , Royal Welsh Fusiliers
2nd , Black Watch—India
3rd , „
2nd , Northumberland Fusiliers
1st , Norti Staffordshire Regiment
2nd ,

1st Bn. West Riding Regiment—Bombay
3rd , Northamptonshire Regiment
1st , South Wales Borderers
2nd ,
1st , Yorks Light Infantry—Gibraltar
2nd ,
1st , Rifle Brigade—Malta
1st , Royal Irish Rifles—India
1st , Seaforth Highlanders
Somersetshire Light Infantry
Scottish Horse—Blair Athol
„ —Transvaal
Middlesex Imperial Yeomanry
Bombay and Baroda Railway Volunteers
Malay States Guides
East London R.E. Volunteers
3rd V.B. Royal Fusiliers
1st V.B. York and Lane. Regiment
The Stock Exchange Rifle Club
The Southfields
The Eglingham
St. Anne's Asylum, Redhill
Sussex County Cricket Club
rders for Machines have also teen received on
behalf of
H.I.M. The Sultan of Turkey
The Roumanian Government
The Maharajah of Gwalior
Kaid Sir Harry Maclean for the Sultan
of Morocco.
The Duke of Manchester
The Countess of Dysart
The Marquis of Tullibardine
The Emperor of Abyssinia
Messrs. Walter Locke & Co., Calcutta.


At 1024 x 768 pixel resolution these targets should be shown near actual size


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Copies of Letters from
July 23rd, 1904.


GENTLEMEN,—It affords me pleasure to testify to the value of the Sub-target Rifle, one of which was set up on the steamer,
and was in constant use by the members of the Canadian Rifle Team during the voyage from Montreal to Liverpool, and
afterwards at the Canadian Headquarters at Bisley, where it was in almost constant use. I consider it of great value in the
instruction of recruits in holding and sighting, and also in detecting and correcting the individual errors of eyesight. For
practice in trigger-pulling it is of great advantage, even to the experienced marksman.

My daily use of the Machine at Bisley, was, I feel, of advantage to me in my work on the ranges,
where I was winner of the King's Prize.

Very truly yours, (Signed) S. J. PERRY, Gold Medalist, 1904.



24th July, 1905.


GENTLEMEN,—Having used the Sub-target Rifle frequently during the N.R.A. Meeting at Bisley, just closed,

I am pleased to testify to its value in promoting steadiness in holding, sighting and trigger-pulling,

To the recruit it must be especially useful in these respects, as the tell-tale "needle " points out every "fault" of the man,

I believe that its general adoption and use by the Army, Navy, Volunteers, Rifle Clubs

and in the Public Schools would go a long way towards making a nation of reliable shots for " Imperial Defence."

Very truly yours.
(Signed) ALF. J. COMBER.
Gold Medalist, 1905.



Copy of Report received from

Referring to your letter of the 15th inst., I have prepared a table showing the various figures of merit obtained by parties of
recruits that have been exercised by me this year. I have another party here now, and I think they will do as well as the 3rd party on my table did. The figures, I think, show a wonderful improvement in their shooting, which must largely be attributed to ihe Sub-target Rifle. At first when I had the Machine I was very much afraid of it being damaged if used without an instructor or responsible person who understood it being present, but since I spoke to Mr. Stratton on this point I have let all my men use it as they like, and it is seldom idle for a second from morning till night. It tends to a great extent to make musketry training more interesting, as it is a very interesting instrument to use, and to a large extent the use of it here by my men has rendered the tedious musketry parades no longer necessary. If I had another Machine it would be also used continuously, as there is great keeness to practice with the present one.
Several men when they are practicing with the Machine won't give it up till they have shot a good card with it. I make a point of making every man practice with it daily under the tuition of his own instructor. As I have about 42 men down here, and allow them only five minutes each, it takes three and a half hours to get them all through, and when three hours are spent on the range, it does not leave much spare time. The ease with which a recruit can be taught to shoot well on it alone is astonishing.
In the cases of recruits that develop the common faults called "bobbing" and "jerking the trigger," these faults can
all be overcome with practice on the Sub-target Rifle. If recruits are taught shooting on this instrument from the
beginning they can't help becoming good shots.

Copy of Preliminary Report on SUB-target RIFLE, Whale Island Staff.

This instrument has now been under trial for three months, and has been constantly used during this period for training the
boys of H.M.S. "St. Vincent." A statement of the results so far obtained is attached. The Machine is still in good order, and in daily use, the only parts that have given trouble being two of the electric contacts, these having been put in order, and slightly modified, the whole arrangement is now found to be very reliable.
When the short rifle is adopted (ed: the S.M.L.E.), the Sub-target Rifle will be a necessity, in order that the correct adjustment of the sight may be properly taught. No other system can do this.

I consider the Machine of very great value for teaching new entries and bad shots, and to fire properly. It is of especial value in showing up any individual who "pulls" or "bobs." It is particularly noteworthy that the superiority of the training given by the Machine is shown in the vanishing target practice and snap-shooting, The comparison given is not quite fair to the Machine, as some boys not trained with it were found to be extremely bad and unable to hit a target. Such boys were sent back, and were practised at the Machine, where their faults were invariably noticed and corrected. Blank ammunition has been used in conjunction with the Machine.


Copy of Letter from
(H.M.S. "Excellent"),
dated 20th June, 190&.
DEAR SIRS,—We have had the Sub-target Rifle in use here for a good number of months now. Its value as a teacher of the art of rifle shooting is undoubted, and superior to anything else yet invented—bar with unlimited practice with the actual rifle, of course. The results we have produced with the "St. Vincent" boys are quite extraordinary, and I should imagine that the Army will " go for it " for all they are worth directly they see it at work.

Sincerely yours,

Copy of Further Report received from
dated 19th June, 1905.
We do not teach moving target with Sub-target Rifle, only a form of vanishing or snap-shooting target, this by fitting a
shutter over a special target, and working it by a string and weight. As the boy may not come to the "present " till he sees
his target, it does not matter much if he knows pretty well where it is. We leave the target in sight for four or five seconds, and
have a special target and sub-TARGETS which we make, and so reproduce our range conditions as nearly as possible. The
Machine is working very well indeed, and the boys do extraordinarily well after using it. The last lot beat a class of old
hands, and good old hands at that, that is to say, men who were doing advanced course of gunnery to better themselves, and so were keen.

Copy of Letter from
ETON COLLEGE, dated 22nd June, 1905.
DEAR SIR,—I regret I am unable as yet to make a full report on the Sub-target Rifle Machine, owing to the short time
it has been in our possession. The Shooting VIII. and those who are qualifying have been exercised ; they show the greatest
keenness and interest in the practice. The Second Squad of Recruits were exercised this morning for the first time—they will
have seven more half hours before going on the range to fire their course. I will then let you know the result, comparing the
squad trained with the S.T.R. and a squad trained with the Morris Tube.
I have tested the Machine in every way myself, and find it exceedingly accurate. It shows every movement of the rifle and
every fault made by the shooter, such as bobbing, pulling, jerking, taking too much or too little foresight. On wet days it
will be invaluable.

I remain, Yours truly, G. A. SOLTAU-SYMONS.CAPT.


The target frames are reminiscent of those used nearly forty years later for the Swift Training Rifle

E.J.D. Newitt wrote of the machine, in some detail, in his 1906 book " The Citizen Rifleman

He evidently saw much advantage in the system


Another phase in the development of appliances for teaching marksmanship is one in which the rifle is used without ammunition. The office performed by ammunition in target practice is to indicate the accuracy of aim at the instant of discharge, which its projectile does within the limits of its own and the rifle's accuracy. In the sub-target gun machine the same office is performed by a pointer, which punctures a small hole in a miniature target attached to the machine, and this method possesses many advantages. In the first place, the cost of ammunition is avoided, whilst no range is required; and in the second, there are so many circumstances other than incorrectness of aim which cause a misplaced hit, that the position is not always a reliable guide for enabling the instructor to diagnose the cause. Inaccuracy of rifle and ammunition will falsify the most perfect aim and discharge, and when even this is beyond suspiciond, unsteady hold and discharge, the most frequent of causes are not observable whilst actually taking place. Consequently the most careful instructor may easily misconceive the true cause and lead his pupil farther astray by his instructions for correcting it.
When using the rifle in conjunction withth the sub-target gun machine every movement of the rifle whilst aiming at the target is duplicated on a smaller scale by the pointer, which moves over the face of the sub-target immediately under the instructor's eye. When the trigger is pulled the sub-target instantaneously responds by jumplng forward and, in coming sharply in contact with the pointer, receives an, indelible record, which exactly corresponds with the position the hit would have occupied had the rifle been actually fired with a cartridge.
Throughout the act of aiming the instructor has been able to observe every movement, and can say with certainty whether the aim was correct or otherwise, or if his pupil "pulled off " badly.
It has been found very difficult to produce an illustration which fully explains the machine and its operations. The rifle is attached by freely moving pivots to a cradle, which is in turn pivoted by a universal joint to the pointer. A convenient stand supports the whole mechanism. A pair of electric contacts close a circuit when the trigger is pulled and actuate the sub-target, The wei^ of the cradle, which would otherwise be added to the rifle, is counterpoised by the weight seen at the end of its supporting arm. The rifle is held and aimed at an ordinary target placed at adistance, and all its movements are conveyed to the pointer through the universal joint. Immediately in front of the pointer is a target having exactly the same ratio of size to the target aimed at with the rifle as the movements of the pointer have to the movements of the rifle.
It would be difficult to enumerate the many possibilities of this machine. For instruction in the first principles of aiming, holding, and discharge it is invaluable, and may be used in barracks, schools, and institutes by day, or in artificial light, thus prolonging the hours during which instruction may be given. On the range, when the shooter is performing wildly, an adjournment to the sub-target gun machine will generally determine the cause before much costly ammunition is wasted, and after a few minutes' instruction he may resume firing in the ordinary way with increased confidence and improved results.
Even the experienced marksman may sometimes learn that the cause of that unaccountable outer might more reasonably have been attributed to a bad pull-off than a change of wind.
Regular contests can be held on the machine, and afford the most useful practice to marksman and novice alike. The entire absence of any element of danger renders it particularly suitable for use in schools; indeed, it is already largely so used in the United States of America, where the annual inter-school championship contest is an event to which great public interest attaches. Its merits are fully recognised in England, and machines are now in use at the School of Musketry at Hythe, the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in the Royal Navy, and at the headquarters of many Regular and Volunteer
regiments. The cost of £50 is an item against which may be set off the cost of ammunition, which would otherwise be necessary, and in some cases the cost of erecting and equipping a range.
The greatest credit is due to Mr. H. H. Cummings, the inventor, whose ingenuity has produced a device which overcomes many of the technical difficulties incidental to the teaching of marksmanship, and minimises, most of those caused by the necessity, hitherto, of using ranges and ammunition, which may now be postponed to a later stage, when the pupil has acquired sufficient skill in the first principles to study the factors introduced by his ammunition, without wasting it.

Below; images from the pamphlet " The Sub-target Gun Machine"

of "The Sub-target Gun Co." -Hight St., Boston, Mass. U.S.A.

firstly in use Standing and Kneeling

and prone.

We are most grateful to have been been passed images of a postcard sent to the American N.R.A. in April 1908.

The postcard depicts the use of the machine during the


under the auspices of the Capitol Rifle and Revolver Association

and the National Rifle Association of America

WASHINGTON April 7-25 1908"

Postcard images kindly provided by Brian Woodall of the N.S.R.A. of Great Britain.

Written about in America, where it was originally designed,

the Sub-Target machine was covered by the journal "Scientidfic American" in October 1903

A facsimile of the article is shown below.

A higher resolution image can be viewed by clicking on the image.

The machine was also covered in another paper

The man himself was portrayed in a company brochure.


Finally, we illustrate e a report given in C.B. Fry's Magazine of 1906, containing some fine photographs.

This can be viewed as a flip-page document, both searchable and zoomable.



Should you not already have done so, please also view the pages detailing

the British "Swift Training Rifle "and the Canadian "Long Branch Training Rifle" of 1943 vintage.

Click here to access a Chronology of Enfield genre Training Rifles, Adapters & Cartridges


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