Fantail Trap Shoot

I grew up shooting. My dad being a state cop I had the opportunity to shoot all kinds of weapons as a boy. And he loved to hunt. Shooting/hunting was the one thing that bonded my father and I. I started shooting trap at 14ish. I'd been shooting my dad’s squirrel gun (a Browning semi-automatic .22, which I now own today) consistently for years prior but now I've got my own gun! A .16 gauge single shot… choked tight! (I still have it today.) We started with hand throwers, taking turns throwing and shooting but a the next summer my dad got a thrower that easily anchored in the ground... and really slung them clay pigeons!

Early on in my time on Longbeach (I was so boot I was thankful to just know where MarDet was!) my first time being out to sea, word was given MarDet was gonna be throwing pigeons off the fantail for sailors to get some shooting in. Volunteers were asked for to operate the pigeon thrower. I jumped on that! Just had to set the throwers, release the disks, and I’d get to shoot a few rounds at the end.

I was slightly amused at how every sailor gave the command, "pull!" to stay in control of the release. On every shot. Expected of civilians I suppose but really?! Wussies! They were all still standing around when I finally got my turn to shoot. (Like... what else is there to do being out to sea, right?!) On the first release I called "pull" to get settled in. And I missed. I had called “pull” from a relaxed position. The shotgun hanging down at arm's length. Prior to my turn to shoot absolutely everyone else had shouldered and pointed down range. Preparing for my second shot I shouldered the shotgun at a 45 degree angle thinkin', "All right. Yer gittin' cocky. You don't know this scatter gun." Called “Pull!” And winged it. Shouldered at 45 degrees. “Pull!” Dusted it. I then took the relaxed position. Shotgun hanging down by my hips. “Pull!” Dusted it. Chambered, told the Marine to pull whenever he was ready taking the relaxed position and looking down. Target releases. Dusted it. Same procedure. Dusted it. Last shot. Chambered. Turned to face everyone with my back towards downrange. Told the trap operator, "Whenever" and closed my eyes. Heard the target release, turned... and dusted it!

While ejecting the spent round I heard the amazed sailors reactions while MarDet's CO (I can't remember his name!) came up to me in close and said, "Nice Marine!"

Hell! We'z just shootin'!

It was soon after this event I became the port gun radar operator. It dawned on me almost 3 decades later it very well may have been this event that got me that General Quarters post as MarDet’s CO sat right behind the operator during GQ. That end of that CO’s tour came up very soon after this and Capt. J.B. Egan replaced him. The 3 time Vietnam tour field commissioned Infantry Marine turned out to be the man I looked up to the most while I was on active duty. We developed quite a relationship quickly spending so much time in that little radar box together for almost a year and a half. So much so I addressed him as “Skipper” early on. And whenever I saw him for our whole tour together on Longbeach.

L/Cpl Dave Martin (Marty)
MarDet USS Longbeach CGN-9
1978 – 1980

MarDet CGN9