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SHOT-GUN AND SPORTING RIFLE,
VARIETIES OF SHOOTING.
GENERAL REMARKS-FIRST LESSONS IN SHOOTING-HENGE POPPING
ROOK SHOOTING WITH THE SHOT-GUN AND RIFLE.
The object of the following pages is to afford assistance to the
young sportsman in the use of the shot-gun and rifle, and in the selection of the kinds of each best suited to the particular sport which may be chosen for his amusement. It must be obvious, that in the early stages of this inquiry something must be taken for granted, because, without a knowledge of the exact purposes for which a gun is wanted, it cannot be advantageously chosen; and, in the same way, those purposes cannot be fully entered into, unless the reader is acquainted with the accessories to his sport which may be essential to it. For the sake of convenience, the plan will be here adopted of giving a general description in Book I. of the various kinds of shooting; the more detailed particulars of the dogs, guns, rifles, &c., employed being added in the subsequent books.
Whenever, therefore, the reader wants to know, for instance, how to load his gun or rifle, or the kind best suited to his purpose, he must search in Book IV. for what he wants; while the dogs, ponies, &c., used with the gun, will
be found described at length in Book II.; and the best modes of trapping vermin, and of rearing and preserving game in the Fourth Book. It will thus be made clear, that in the present book I shall proceed to describe in general terms only the various sports known as grouse and partridge shooting, covert shooting, &c., giving such particular directions as will enable the tyro to master each, and beginning with those methods which are the most easily practised, and which are, at the same time, the most likely to inake him ultimately expert in all branches of shooting.
FIRST LESSONS IN SHOOTING.
Before the intending shooter ventures to practise upon any living object, he should make himself completely master of the tool which he is to employ. It is not necessary, perhaps, in all cases, that he should understand the mechanism of its locks, or that he should know how it has been constructed; but he should, at all events, have learned how to load his gun or rifle in a safe and proper manner, and the best and safest mode of putting the various parts together, as he takes them out of his gun case. For the purpose of gaining this information he will do well to consult some experienced person, from whom he will readily learn by demonstration that which would possibly take him a long time to acquire from the pages in which it is described in its proper place in this manual. But in whichever mode the knowledge is to be obtained, it is absolutely essential to the safety of the shooter and his friends that it should not be neglected ; and until he has learnt to put his gun together, to cock and uncock it, to load it and to discharge it properly, he must carefully avoid using it indoors or out. At the same time he should diligently study the following general rules for the prevention of accidents, which should never under any circumstances, or with any gun, be overlooked :
1. Never let the muzzle of the gun be pointed at any living object, excepting that which is intended to be hit.
2. In carrying the gun three positions only are allowable, excepting at the moment of firing. Firstly, with the trigger-guard on the forearm, and the muzzle pointing
towards the ground. Secondly, with the stock in the hand, the striker resting against the shoulder, and the muzzle pointing towards the sky. And, thirdly, with the hands laying hold of the gun as in the position for firing, but with the stock against the right hip, and the muzzle pointing towards the sky. This last is the proper position at the moment when a shot is anxiously anticipated, as in walking up to dogs pointing, or when expecting rabbits to cross a narrow ride.
3. The directions for loading must vary according to the kind of gun used, the precautions proper to the muzzle-loader being quite useless if applied to the breech-loader. The young shooter is therefore referred to the directions for loading each in their proper places.
4. Every kind of gun with which I am acquainted may be left at half-cock, or bolted in a corresponding manner; and this is the safest position for it to be in when not immediately wanted. It is of the greatest importance that the tyro should practise the cocking and uncocking of his gun, so as to be certain that he can accomplish it without any chance of the cock slipping from his fingers, and at the same time to avoid a partial cocking only, by which the striker, or cock, is only slightly held in its place, and is liable to slip down and cause a discharge on the slightest jar. The cause of this will be fully explained hereafter; but in practice all that is necessary is to take great care that the striker is raised to the half-cock, when there will be a peculiar click heard and felt. In letting down the lock from “full-cock” to “ half-cock,” the striker must be suffered to pass this notch, the finger being on the trigger, and when well below it must be brought up again till it is securely fixed.
5. Take care that the charge does not become loose in the barrel, from the wads being too small for its calibre. Avoid also any chance of snow or dirt getting into the muzzle. A neglect of any of these precautions may lead to the bursting of the gun.
When the gun is thus mastered in the hand, the next thing to be done is to make the hand and eye combine together to take an aim, which may be either at a fixed
(dead or sitting) shot, or at a moveable one, as at a bird flying or a hare running.
In learning to hit a dead mark, which is usually the first step in shooting, the gun may be made familiar to the eye in-doors as well as out; and with the ordinary percussion gun practice may be afforded with a cap only, which will put out a candle at the distance of a couple of yards. A small bore (16 or 18) should be chosen, and then putting the cap on, the gun is brought up to the shoulder, and carrying the eye along the barrel when the “sight” is seen to cover the candle, the trigger is pulled smartly, and if correctly aimed the light is extinguished. By repeating this again and again until the feat is performed with certainty and celerity, a sufficient amount of control over the gun is obtained, which will be found to serve the purpose of facilitating the subsequent stages. Next load the gun with a small charge, say two drachms of powder and three-quarters of an ounce of shot, and then carrying the left hand well forward beneath the barrel, so as to steady the aim, point the gun in the same way as before at some fixed object thirty yards off. This should be surrounded by a flat surface, which will show the whole pattern made by the shot; and if these are scattered pretty nearly all round the central point, the aim has been a good
On the other hand, if there are more on one side than the other, there has been some fault committed, and the tyro must repeat his effort till he has acquired skill enough to throw the centre of his charge of shot on the object of his aim. It seems a very simple process to do this; but the beginner will find that it will take him some days to master it satisfactorily, and until he has succeeded in this, he should not attempt more. He must remember that at thirty or forty yards the circle well covered by his shot is from forty to thirty-six inches in diameter; and therefore it does not follow that because he kills a bird sitting on a post at that distance, he has really aimed correctly at it. It may have happened that the centre of the charge was nearly two feet on one side of it, but a stray shot on the outside proved fatal, and so his luck, and not his skill, served him. Hence an iron plate whitewashed, with a black centre, or a large sheet of paper having also a mark in the middle, will form a far better target for practice than any small bird or other similar object, which is nevertheless much more tempting to the eye.
Shooting flying is a much more difficult art, and a long apprenticeship is necessary to acquire it. Considerable difference of opinion exists as to the use of both eyes in this kind of shooting, or of the right one only; but my own belief is that few people really use both at the moment of shooting, even if they keep them both open. But, whether shutting the left or not, there must be no attempt at looking along the barrel, the correct pointing of the gun being acquired by looking at the object to be shot at, and then instinctively directing the gun towards it. In doing this the line of sight must coincide nearly with the upper surface of the barrel, if the butt of the gun is at the shoulder. Still the eye must not be taken off the object to look along the barrel, or the aim will be imperfect, and the shot probably a “miss.” It is quite true that some sportsmen adopt the opposite plan, and invariably wait till they can bring the “sight” to cover the object aimed at; but they are always slow shots, and are almost sure to shoot behind every variety of bird or ground game crossing them; because in this case they should aim in front, proportioning the extent according to the velocity at which the animal is moving. I have heard of an instance in which a partridge flying down wind, was killed at a distance (carefully measured) of one hundred yards from the shooter, who assured me that he aimed, as he thought, fully five yards in front of the bird as it was crossing, and flying exactly parallel with the opposite hedge into which it fell. A very good plan for beginners is to get a friend to throw a potato or turnip into the air, varying its direction at each throw. It should not be sent directly up into the air, because there is then a moment of time at which it is stationary, and may be hit almost as easily as & dead mark; but by throwing straight away, or from left to right and vice versá, the flight of birds may be imitated, and the shooter may obtain practice in everything but the excitement produced by the “ whirr" of the partridge or pheasant, to which, however, he must accustom himself by practice before his nerves will be steady enough to allow him to shoot well.