3713 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.
buoy and then the battleships steamed
off to a proper range and blazed away.
Targets were usually not examined but
the officers merely estimated from the
ships the accuracy of the fire, and any
shot that struck in line with the target
was considered a hit.
While in Chinese waters Sims became
acquainted with a young British officer
named Percy Scott who had a device
for improving the marksmanship of gun
crews and developing expert gun pointers.
Owing to the great cost of firing a big
gun, target practice was, of course, extremely expensive and was rarely indulged
in. Scott had devised a plan of fixing
a smaller barrel to the top of the big gun.
The gun crew pointed the big gun but when
the trigger was pulled, the actual shot
fired came from the smaller barrel. By
means' of this device it was possible for
the crew to have very frequent practice.
Scott explained the plan to Sims, and Sims
equipped one of the big rifles on his own
ship with such a tube and trained a gun
crew in its use. In the next target practice
this crew easily defeated all others in the
Asiatic fleet. Sims thereupon urged his
superiors to adopt the plan generally
throughout the navy. His recommendations were pigeon-holed by the bureaucrats of the department and finally Sims
appealed directly to President Roosevelt.
Roosevelt well understood the importance of accurate shooting in warfare
and gave Lieutenant Sims an interview.
As a means of proving his contentions,
Sims proposed that the President order
a battleship to engage in target practice
under conditions which Sims should specify; a target should be set up, larger than
the one In use by the navy- and if, under
battle conditions, the gunners were able
to make a reasonable average of hits,
then Sims would confess that he was
guilty of presumptuous advice. Roosevelt
was struck by the suggestion and ordered
not one, but five battleships to undertake
the experiment. Sims selected an old
lighthouse on an old outlying reef and