Sahuarita Bombing & Gunnery Range

While out shooting my friend led me to an abandoned Word War Two artillery range. While out there we spend a few hours scouring the ground for pieces left from the range. Together my friend and I found about 130 .50 Caliber tracer and AP (Armor Piercing) rounds. We also found numerous .30 Caliber rounds, a couple casings, and about 15 .50 Caliber clips that held the bullets in their belt form as they were fed into a machine gun. I have been told that the range was mainly used for aircraft training fire. The range was closed shortly after the end of World War Two so all the bullets are from that era.

Here is some history about the range (from Wikipedia):

The Army Air Corp from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base first used this 27,046-acre (109.45 km2) range in April, 1942 for practice bombing runs. The Sahuarita Flight Strip was completed in 1943, with a 5,540-foot (1,690 m) paved runway, and the bombing runs ceased shortly thereafter. The site included 12 buildings in addition to the airstrip, and four observational towers. In 1950, bomber crews operating out of Carswell AFB, TX, restarted bombing runs on the range, which would last until 1962, with the airway strip remaining in use as an emergency landing strip thereafter. The Federal government soon released the land to the State of Arizona in 1978, who in turn leased the land to a cattle rancher. Presently, the former airstrip has been converted into a roadway that leads to “Sahuarita Park”, while the remaining land remains in use for cattle grazing. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is continuing its longstanding efforts of identitifying remaining munitions, preventing environmental containmentation, and protecting several endangered species in the area, including jaguars, spotted owls, among others.

I also found a few pictures from various sites of the range and airstrip:

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Circa 1958 – http://www.airfields-freeman.com/AZ/Airfields_AZ_Tuscon_SE.html

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Circa March 1945 – Douglas Section Chart – http://www.airfields-freeman.com/AZ/Airfields_AZ_Tuscon_SE.html

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Here are a few pictures of our finds:

All of my Findings (about 1/4 of what we found total)–

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.50 Caliber AP Round–

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.50 Caliber AP Tungsten Carbide Core–

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.50 Caliber Tracer Round–

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.30 Caliber Rounds–

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.50 Caliber Clip–

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Bombing Range Pictures:

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More findings from user Johnny Blaze:

http://www.motormayhem.net/2009/04/15/artillary-range-part-2/trackback/

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Sunday, January 11th, 2009 at 21:33 • TripsRSS 2.0 feed • leave a response or trackback

14 Responses to “Sahuarita Bombing & Gunnery Range”

  1. […] Miles guidance (Article),I went to the range and found some more stuff. I have 2 20mm rounds, 3 .50 cal casings, a hundred […]

  2. Jim says:

    Can you tell me how to get there or better yet post map

  3. josh says:

    Took a trip out there yesterday to see what it was like in person, very quiet, a little creepy. Found a 50 cal bullet, a 30 cal bullet, many 50 cal links and one of those top ‘bowls’ from a bomb.

    I will check out the area more in my spare time, but I wanted to say that I enjoy your site and wouldn’t have known anything about this place if not for it.

  4. Taylor says:

    Hello again, over the past few weeks now my step father and I have been driving out to the range. So far we have visited both of the large targets that can be seen easily from google maps and we intend to go out and find some of the smaller targets over the next few weeks. I just wanted to update you on what we have found. In addition to what I have mention before, we have found several more .50 caliber bullets and about five of the .50 caliber casings, all in good condition (before I found two or three that were either dented or heavily corroded). At both of the big targets, pieces and I’m sure whole practice bombs litter the area, even well outside the target, though they require some digging to get at. I didn’t get to bring a nice example like yours home but I did grab a few of the plate/bowl things, you know the very tip of the bomb. At the northern end of the northern most target, there seems to be hundreds of casings and slugs everywhere, mostly .22s and various types of pistol and rifle ammo. I’m sure most of these are not from the military but rather from people like us going out but I have found a few casings and bullets mixed in that were definately from the military (some armor piecering stuff and a few M1 carbine rounds from the 1950s). Back then the military bullets (at least the larger caliber ammunition) all had the same type of design for a headstamp: two letters indicating the maufacturer and two numbers indicating the year. (For example, the .50 caliber shells we have found all say “LC 43″ which stands for “Lake City Ordnance Plant 1943.”) Note that all of the bullets from 1944 only have one 4, as well as the two letters. We have also found many more .30 caliber machine gun casings, M1 Garand and M1 Carbine casings, one M1 Garand stripper clip, and a pin for a pineapple grenade. I also found a small glass thing over by the airstrip that appears to be an insulator, like what they used on old telephone lines, but this one is about 1 inch by 1/2 inch, clear glass, and has to numbers, “43”, on the top. I dont know but maybe it was used in an old army radio or some kind of communication equipment, or maybe in an airplane. In the same are I found a small metal square box thing that has what looks like a button on it. Its painted green and clearly says “CANNON” on it (my guess a piece of the 20mm anti-aircraft cannon). We have found hundreds and hundreds of .50 caliber, 20 mm and .30 caliber links. There were way to many but I grabbed a pile of the .50s and 20s and all of the .30 caliber links (well over 100 altogether). On the ones in good condition you can still see the manufacturers mark but I have yet to find out what these mean. Usually mived in with the links we find nails, wing nuts and bolt things. After seraching on the internet, I found that during WW2, most ammo was stored in wooden crates and after the war in “SPAM” ammo cans, which is a type of can that cannot be reused and requires one of those key things to open. Though the military did use some of the all metal reusable boxes with latches as early as WW2, it was not until the early to mid 1960s (after the range was no longer in use) that the “SPAM” can style was replaced by our modern ammo cans (the reusable ones with latches). So far, the nails and other hardware seems to be from deteriorated wooden ammo boxed and the smashed ammo cans I mentioned before are all the “SPAM” can designs. Found lots and lots of shotgun shells. Many of which are definately not military but some, such as the “Federal Monark” shells, most likely were. Back then the army/air force trained aerial gunners with shotguns and they used 12, 16 and 20 gage ammo, some of which fired flares. Being that the range was mainly used by the Army Air Corps and, after 1947, the Air Force, I’m sure there were plently of aerial gunners who trained there.

    Really interesting stuff. By researching on the internet, I have learned that the larger targets seem to have been used for bombing but the small tergets were used mainly for .50 and .30 caliber training. Also, we have found tons of more things but I have no idea what most of that stuff is. The only live ammo was a few .22 rounds at the northern most target.

    • miles says:

      Wow thats really cool! I haven’t had a chance to get out there in a while, but I defiantly want to make another trip out there in the near future. I really want to explore closer to the airstrip and try to find more of the equipment and such since I have a lot of the ordinance. The cannon stuff would be really neat to find. If you want to take pictures of your findings I can post them up here on a page like this. Just shoot me an email @ miles@motormayhem.net

  5. Taylor says:

    Hello I live next to the bombing range in Sahuarita and have found dozens of bullets and casings, including old smashed ammo cans, an old army green gas can and a friend of mine has an old JATO (Jet assisted take off) tank sitting in his yard. I have found alot of those clips things as well as a casing for a 20 mm explosive round. My uncle has an old wooden target in his backyard. Its shaped like a cross and has orange reflectors nailed to them. I have found these crosses all over the western end of the range on both sides of the Santa Cruz. I have also found shrapnel from what looks like an M203 grenade launcher rounds and lids for United States Tobacco Company cans. There are craters out there too, probably from 500 pound bombs and at least one concrete structure that looks to me like it was a makeshift bunker, smashed by an explosive. I am writing because I saw that large intact bomb in your pictures. Is that one of the dummies, or is it a live weapon? Just curious I want to do some more exploring out there but if I find something like that, I don’t want to leave it behind because it may explode. But if its just a dummy I suppose it would be safe then. Please send be a message and awseome collection by the way. In case you are interested, there is another bombing range southwest of the Sahuarita range on the left side of the Santa Cruz, the old mining town of Twin Buttes is located within the range at its southwestner corner. I have never explored this one as I think some of it is on mine property though it is huge and some of the range is still state land I believe.

    • Taylor says:

      Oh, I see now you have a map of both ranges.

    • Taylor says:

      After looking over my finds again, the shrapnel is from a 57 mm M306 A1. I have also found old smashed bottles and a pile of whole 1950s-early 60s style pepsi bottles. These are large (1 quart I think) with the old style pepsi logos on it, they even had the lids still screwed down. I have found old coke bottles and other things but those are usually found smashed. I have a bunch of old rusty cans, some were never opened and I suspect they might be from army rations, the ones that are opned have a triangle cut in the top made from those old can openers and they remind me of these ration water cans I have seen before. I have found some sort of meter as well and some broken gears, I think these are from bombs because they are made of some sort of thick, heavy duty metal but are smashed to pieces. I have found a 7.62 bullet including a casing that it fits perfectly into. I also found the metal end of an Federal Monark 12 gauge shotgun shell, this is old ammo that isn’t made anymore and I know federal did supply the army with ammo during ww2. I found a bunch of 45 shells to but at least one says 1984 on it so I guess that must be the date and thus cannot have been fired by the military. As I said in my first comment I found many clip things which attach to 50 caliber bullet casings. I only have two now one for a 50 cal and the other that fits on my 20 mm casing. Just thought you might like to know, there is alot of different things that can be found out there.

      • miles says:

        Wow thats awesome!
        I went there about 6 weeks ago and found some of the 20mm stuff as well as a bunch of .50 cal casings. I didn’t have that much time to explore as I spend a lot of time by the 20mm stuff and had some issues with the truck. I am defiantly going to go back and do some exploring next time. It would be awesome to find a target or JATO and some of the other stuff you mentioned. Also need to explore that secondary range sometime that is on the other side of the santa cruz. The bomb I have is one that was a sand filled practice bomb. There was nothing inside it when I find it. I picked it up at one of the orange bombing targets marked toward the N side of the map I have above http://www.motormayhem.net/wp-uploads/2009/04/es-map.png It is pretty neat the gravel berms that make up the marking of the target are still in tact and the area is riddled with bombs and .50 cal links. Defiantly keep us up to date if you go out there.

        Thanks for sharing!
        –Miles

  6. jonny blaze says:

    Dude, I NEED TO SEE THIS PLACE. iV HEARD RUMER IT EXISTED BUT YOU FOUND IT! aWESOME1

    • miles says:

      Ya it is about 5-10MI from the pima county fair grounds. We went there during we rock and found a bunch more. The guy I went shooting with told me he found the bombing range too but he couldn’t explain the location very well so I have yet to explore that. He found a few dummy bombs there. He also found a belt of live .50 cal’s at the artillery range.

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