A Fascinating Look At Shooting Targets Used By Armies Around the World

Illustration for article titled A Fascinating Look At Shooting Targets Used By Armies Around the World

Teaching soldiers to take aim at a human target and pull the trigger requires practice, and while the end-game is the same—make flesh-and-blood contact—the enemy looks different depending on where you are in the world. Photographer Herlinde Koelbl spent six years shooting military training grounds for a new book called Targets, offering a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the wide interpretation of international bad guys.

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Though it's not filled with blood and guts or wartime casualties, Targets is not a hardcover for the faint of heart. The mix of bullet-spotted dummies and paper caricatures in desolate desert terrains, coupled with close-up portraits of real men decked out in camo and staring straight into the camera is unsettling, and provides an intimate glimpse at the anticipation of action before shit gets real.

Illustration for article titled A Fascinating Look At Shooting Targets Used By Armies Around the World
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From South Africa.

And it's not just about the physical act of raising a gun. Koebel talks of the strong morals and ethics these officers must develop, leaders "who respect human life and the rule of law, who do not label the enemy as 'inhuman' and thus make targets of them. They are involved in deciding whether atrocities and attacks take place or not."

Illustration for article titled A Fascinating Look At Shooting Targets Used By Armies Around the World

From Germany.

Some of the targets are almost charmingly DIY, with basic faces painted on planks of wood draped with clothes to make them appear more legit; others appear like something out of a full-color comic book, in realistic faux-villages crafted by Hollywood set designers; while a few are just cans on the dusty ground. When Koebel describes the heavy stillness that she found common to these locations punctuated by the sound of tanks or the ratatat of ammunition, it's difficult to imagine the mental leap these men must take between practice and actual combat. There's something incredibly eerie about this view, and how it will eventually translate to battle.

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Purchase a copy of Targets here. [Wired Design]

Lead image from Germany.

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DISCUSSION

"The mix of bullet-spotted dummies and paper caricatures in desolate desert terrains, coupled with close-up portraits of real men decked out in camo and staring straight into the camera is unsettling, and provides an intimate glimpse at the anticipation of action before shit gets real."

Ugh artistic types trying to read too much into things. I spent six years in the Marines and I can guarantee you the only thing those 'real men decked out in camo' were thinking was, "Fuck this!!!" MOUT (Military Operations on Urban Terrain) is absolutely a four letter word in every sense in the military. You get blanks at first to practice and spend like 5 days straight running those through your rifle so it's good and caked up with carbon. Then on the 6th day they give you live rounds but since you've run about 1000 blanks through your rifle in the past week no amount of cleaning is going to make that thing function right till you can get it into a solvent tank. So I can 100% guarantee you that no one at these training exercises is anticipating when 'shit gets real'. They're just anticipating getting back to the barracks so they can get drunk.