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The circumstances which have led to the publication of this treatise on the Shot-gun and Sporting-rifle are as follows:
At the close of the year 1857, on undertaking the editorship of the department of the Field connected with shooting, I found its columns deluged with an angry correspondence on the comparative merits of the breech-loader and muzzleloader-statements and counter-statements were made, week after week, all of which could not possibly be true, since many of them were in direct opposition to each other. Theories were propounded of the most visionary kind, yet, as generally happens, their inventors expected them to be received as conclusive of the opinion to support which they were brought forward. The battle had raged for several months; but after all this
Toil and trouble,” no one was convinced, and the question was left exactly where it was when the correspondence commenced. But, as numerous good sportsmen seemed really desirous of ascertaining with something like exactness the real merits of these guns, it was determined to give them a public trial,
and the task of making the arrangements was undertaken by myself. The two gun trials of 1858 and 1859 were carried out with great care and trouble, and the real pretensions of muzzle-loaders and breech-loaders have been settled for the present to the satisfaction of all reasonable men.
As a natural result I have been brought into contact with guns and gunmakers in an unusual degree, and have had far greater opportunities of seeing varieties of principle and workmanship in this department of art than any other person out of the trade. Of course I do not claim to be acquainted with the details of the workmanship of guns and rifles to the extent which ought to pertain to the working gunmaker, whose life has been engaged in the mastery of them. The view which I have taken is that of the sports
but having been all my life of a somewhat mechanical turn, I may perhaps have been more capable of fathoming the secrets of the trade than others who have no taste that way. Where those secrets have been openly and fairly obtained by my own resources, I have not hesitated to lay them before my readers; but there are many others which have been communicated freely to me by gunmakers, without the slightest idea on their part of having them published, and these I have thought myself compelled to confine to my own breast. They are chiefly, however, connected with matters of no practical interest to the sportsman, and can only be useful to the actual makers of the gun.
For the opinions which are freely expressed throughout the book in reference to the various inventions I am alone responsible, no person connected with the gun trade having had the remotest influence upon them. Indeed, I have so cautiously abstained from any risk of bias in favour of particular interests, that even in the descriptions of the mechanical details of gunmaking I have not availed myself of the supervision of a professed gunmaker, although I might easily have obtained that assistance. This may possibly lead to some slight errors of commission or omission; but I considered that it would be better to run the chance of these than to incur the suspicion of a tendency or leaning in some direction or other, which would probably be manifested. The book is, indeed, to be regarded more as a description of the various shot-guns and rifles after they are made than of the processes by which they are brought to the state in which they are offered to the public.
In addition to the three books on The Theory of Gunnery, on The Shot-gun, and The Sporting-rifle, three others are appended, on Game, The Animals used in Pursuit of it, and The Methods of Preserving it from Vermin and the Poacher. Finally, a short chapter on the present Game Laws closes the volume, which it is thus hoped will be made a full compendium for the shooter.
Most of the originals for the various elaborate drawings and sections of the guns included in this volume have been kindly lent me by their makers or inventors, to whom I beg to offer my thanks for their courtesy and constant readiness to afford to me every assistance in their power.