The Sound of a bullet - Army veteran talks about 'gunsmithing' at LMH

This article was published in the Traill County Tribune April 6th, 2019 by James R Johnson

Class is in session at  Luther Memorial Home.  

Kim Plank, a U.S. Army veteran who has been a resident for a bout a year, delivered a presentation to residents on ammunition and guns, what he called "gunsmithing."  "I'd never had an experience with guns until i went to college, " the Michigan native said.

He referred to movies about the Old West and the gunfights in the saloons where shooters would take shelter beneath or against an overturned wooden table, leaving audiences to believe a bullet wouldn't go through wood.  Plank chuckles, knowing better.  "I put a target on a 12-inch tree. The bullet went through the tree and blew off the side of a three-inch sapling.  It stuck in the sapling in kind of a comma shape."

Plank says he has a year-and-a-half of gunsmith training that turned him into  machinist. At one time he repaired jet engines for Eastern Airlines.  He wears a T-shirt proclaiming "Trust me. I'm an engineer."

In the Armed Forces, he was a lieutenant colonel and signals caller with combat units in Germany, Korea, and Hungary in the post-Vietnam era. Signals offices are responsible for the operations and maintenance of all communications systems that are not built into an aircraft, boat or ship.

"I was never a combat soldier, " Plank says. But there were mornings on the firing range that were quite sobering, he says.

"Can anyone snap their fingers, " he asks his audience.  "A bullet sounds like a finger snap, a pop as it goes past your ear, not like those loud sounds you hear on television or in the movies."

Displaying a .50-Caliber bullet, he says, "When I did this course for the Boy Scouts, I'd ask them how far a mile-and-a-half is."  He said few of the scouts knew the distance. He inquires from his audience of something six miles from Mayville. This is a leading to Plank's point of the development of bullets used in sniper rifles, and their training and ability to "shoot three miles and hit a person in the head."

Plank says the M-60 machine gun fires the same caliber bullet as a .308 hunting rifle. The difference in the two weapons is the heat of the M-60.   You shove a hunting round into the chamber and the gun fires it, but you can't keep a round in the open bolt of the M-60. It would cook off!"  A machine gun, just as any other firing weapon, "can get very, very dirty.  You clean your weapon, They get filthy dirty and with that dirt comes rust."

Even in the military, it's safety first with guns.  "With all the guns we had, we had very few accidents.  The military cannot afford to lose a soldier to an accident, to have somebody get hurt."  Plank has those with hunting experience laughing when he recalls, "A 30-30 was not legal in Europe because they claimed it doesn't have the power to kill a deer."

Humor came in handy in the service, particularly on "a nasty, drizzly day when i met the bus going out to the range.  The bus was full of young soldiers with long faces, They didn't want to get our and train in the rain and the mud. When we got to the range, the door opened being the first one out, I yelled, 'It doesn't get any better than this!' and the whole platoon broke up."