Shooting Sports USA | Los Angeles 1932 Olympics: On U.S. Soil, But Problems Develop (Half 2)

The following is an excerpt from the 1978 book Olympic Shooting, written by Col. Jim Crossman and published by the NRA. Read part 1.

1932 Los Angeles: On US soil, but problems arise (part 2)
From Colonel Jim Crossman

The rifle game consisted of 30 rounds of the 22-caliber rimfire rifle, which was fired slowly in the prone position. Telescopic sights were not allowed. The goal was the rather difficult international 50-meter goal, which according to this table had evaluation rings (ring value, ring diameter):

  • 10-ring *, 20 mm (0.787 in)
  • 9-ring *, 40 mm (1.574 in)
  • 8-ring *, 60 mm (2.361 in)
  • 7-ring *, 80 mm (3.148 in)
  • 6-ring, 100 mm (3.936 in)
  • 5-ring, 120 mm (4.723 in)
  • 4-ring, 140 mm (5.510 in)

* The 7, 8, 9 and 10 rings are black to create a target mark.

The highest possible score for the event was 300, but anyone who could hold all of their shots in this 1½-inch 9-ring, most of which were 10-quarter-size, shot well. There were many more points under 290 than over 290 in the trials.

This type of shooting was familiar to American small rifle shooters. He shot almost completely in the prone position at 50 and 100 meters at an easier target and at 50 meters at the international target. While the foreign shooter used a very light trigger, or even a set trigger, the American shooter needed a 3 pound trigger to comply with the rules. The American was used to filming this type of match (with the exception of a few details) and if it had been possible to choose from experienced (amateur!) Shooters the US would undoubtedly have done much better.

Cover of the official program of the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

The gun event was different. It was the “fire of defense” in which the competitor fired one shot at a time at six silhouettes in a limited time. The silhouette targets each represented roughly a standing man and were about 30 inches apart from center to center. The targets spun on vertical axes and all at the same time.

The shooter stood 25 meters from the target with his weapon pointed down at a 45-degree angle and the targets pointed at him. After shouting for the targets, everyone turned to him, whereupon he raised his pistol into firing position, fired a shot at the first silhouette, swung his firing arm to the next target and fired one shot, moving to the next, and so on, until he had fired six shots – or ran out of time. The shooter was allowed eight seconds for the sequence of six shots and this was repeated three times for a total of 18 shots. Great accuracy was not required as the only score was hit or miss. It was only necessary to hit the target somewhere for it to count.

If there was a tie at the end of the 18 shots, a single six-shot string would be fired in six seconds. Those who were still tied after this phase then fired a single six-shot string within a time limit of four seconds. The survivors of this stage then went to a time limit of three seconds and finally everyone who was left fought at repeated intervals of two seconds to the finish.

This exchange of fire placed great emphasis on speed but very little on accuracy, at least by American standards. The US firing courses included some quick shots but also demanded accuracy. The American rapid-fire stage called for five shots to be fired at a single target in 10 seconds. This was enough time to hold off a good shot, but no time to waste. The technique for the American course was very different from that for the Olympic game.

One match that was (and still is) popular in international pistol shooting – the free pistol event – was as different from the “fire of defense” as you can imagine. The free pistol demanded extreme precision with almost unlimited time.

The 1932 Fire of Defense Olympic pistol match was similar to the event fired at the 1924 Games in France, except for a shortening of the time limits. The 1924 game was fired within a 10 second time limit and the tie results were shot down by repeated strings within an eight second time limit. In general, the American shooter did not take either shot with enthusiasm, and there were few ranges with the correct aiming mechanism for it.

1932 wasn’t one of the best. In fact, it was a deep depression and financially terrible. It has been found impractical to conduct shoulder-to-shoulder tests for either the rifle or the pistol team, as had been done in the past. Instead, rifle and pistol trials were held across the country in May and June, and the results were reported to the Home Office.

The early announcements said the U.S. Olympic Committee would pay the cost of the firing squad, but the U.S. Revolver Association’s bulletin for June issued a sad cry for help. It was suggested that the Olympic Finance Committee was having trouble raising money (not surprisingly!) And had informed some sports administrative bodies that it might be necessary to reduce the number of participants or cancel the event. The story told the pistol shooters to put some money in the Olympic pot designated for the pistol team.

As it turned out, the Olympic Committee should have sponsored bigger and better shooting events because it made money from it. The record shows that the gun crew paid the grand total of $ 145.30 for clothing, entrance fees, transportation, room and board. In contrast, $ 112 was raised for the team so the handguns only cost $ 33. But the rifle group of three officials and three competitors cost the committee a total of $ 31.76, against which they raised over $ 203 for the rifle team, making a net profit of $ 172.

At this rate, the committee would have been rich if it had recorded more shooting events. However, I’m not sure the NRA could have endured it as the rifle association paid the majority of the team’s nearly $ 900 cost.

After the results of the pistol test were reported, the Olympic Pistol Committee, headed by Olympic Champion Karl Frederick, selected six shooters for more intense shots in the most difficult of conditions before deciding on the last three. Five of them were from Southern California: LK Roberts, L. McCauley, Cecil Russell, WB Morgan, and Detective Lieutenant Thomas Carr. The sixth man, Dr. EE Tippins, was from Wichita, Kan. After additional shots and careful study by the Pistol Committee, Carr, Roberts, and Tippins were selected to represent the United States.

Part 3 of our inside look at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics is coming soon. Be sure to subscribe to the free Insider newsletter for the latest updates.

Report on the 1932 Olympic Games

Main Photo: The cover of the official report on the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

Read more: 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam: Another game without shooting events

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