’He, that rides at
high speed, and with
His pistol kills a sparrow flying.’
The National Rifle Association
may fairly claim the honour of introducing, at their
meeting in July 1885, the subject of Military Revolver
practice in this country. For years past the want
of such a movement has been felt, but the many obstacles
to be overcome have been so vast that no one seems
to have cared to venture upon the matter, and so it
The great drawback has been, and is
now, to find suitable ranges anywhere near London.
Such ranges, the use of which is enjoyed by our Citizen
Army, are insufficient, and the expense of keeping
them up is considerable, falling heavily upon the
corps to whom they belong.
The National Rifle Association, although
they offered some 40_l._ in prizes, and provided not
only revolvers but ammunition, for a small consideration,
or entrance fee, met with but poor support; but it
should be borne in mind that this was the first year
of such a competition, and it was in consequence not
generally known of. Very little was known of
the movement till it actually took place, and then
only when noticed by the press the day after its introduction.
Again, it should be remembered that
the entries were restricted to officers, warrant officers,
and petty officers, of her Majesty’s land and
sea forces, and doubtless this restriction accounted
for the spare attendance. Every Englishman belonging
to the auxiliary forces should hail with pleasure
the opportunity offered of making himself master of
this useful weapon; one that in skilled hands is most
deadly at long or short ranges, and a thorough knowledge
of the use of which might at any moment be the means
of saving another’s life from an opposing force
when no other weapon was at hand.
The difficulty in using even an ordinary
pistol with accuracy is, and always has been, an acknowledged
fact, as it requires great practice to enable a man
to make his mark as a crack shot. Some men would
perhaps miss a haystack at twenty yards, while others,
with little practice, soon become excellent shots
at very small objects. It is marvellous the accuracy
with which the professional burglar has of late years
used his revolver against the police and others; but
it may be accounted for by the fact that these men
use a small, light weapon, easily carried and much
easier wielded than the military regulation revolver,
which weighs 2 lb oz.; that they invariably take
what may be termed flying shots and it
should be remembered that a full-sized man at comparatively
close quarters presents a very large target. I
venture to affirm that if these burglarious minions
of the moon, who make night hideous, were compelled
to stand before a Martini-Smith target (a foot square)
at twenty yards, with a military regulation revolver,
they would make but sorry marksmen.
The use of the military revolver is
acknowledged to be a question of great importance,
as one not only affecting those who embrace the profession
of arms, but those who travel; and as no one knows
when he may be called upon, or where he may be, it
is imperative that he should gain a thorough knowledge
of every minor detail, most useful in the hour of
need, and which will enable him not only to protect
himself with confidence, but to come to the assistance
of the weak should occasion require.
It is to be deplored that what once
formed part of the education of a gentleman i.e.
the use of the small sword and broadsword should
have been so thoroughly neglected of late years in
this country. That part of the education of youth
seems to have become quite a secondary consideration.
General Sir Charles Napier has truly
said, ’Young men have all the temptations in
the world to pleasure, none to study; consequently,
they some day find themselves conspicuous for want
of knowledge, not of talent.’
The introduction of the Breech-loader
has revolutionised firearms. When we look back
upon the extraordinary achievements of arms during
the present century, with the comparatively crude
weapons then in use as compared with the marvellous
inventions of the present moment, it is simply astounding
what results were obtained.
The terrible work done by the old
Brown Bess, with its unique flint-and-steel lock of
its day, at Waterloo and elsewhere, is now matter
of history. In those days artillery and cavalry
had a chance of existence in the field, they have
scarcely any now. The old flint lock, although
it has had its day, has done its work well, and is
entitled to veneration. Many a noble fellow has
bit the dust from its spark, and England’s first
and greatest battles were fought and won by its aid.
The Nipple and Percussion Cap came next into use,
and subsequently the Breech-loader; but since Rifles
have superseded military smooth-bore weapons, the
old spherical ball has been condemned.
The breech-loading rifled arm of the
present day may be looked upon as a marvel of modern
ingenuity; as combining exquisite manufacture, extraordinary
precision, and unequalled range. The latter may
be accounted for by the conical shape of the bullet,
and the rotary motion given thereto by the grooving
of the barrel; and lastly, from the full force of
the evolution of gas consequent upon the powder being
enclosed in a copper tube which is inserted in the
breech when loading the piece.
The barrel of the Breech-loading Rifle
is by its own action of firing kept comparatively
clean, as compared with the old Muzzle-loader; for
with the breech-loader any fouling of the barrel is
driven out by the discharge, and the powder in the
cartridge is kept perfectly free from any contamination
with the moisture adhering to the barrel by its copper
case and being inserted in the breech; whereas in the
old muzzle-loading weapon the barrel, after the first
discharge, becomes lubricated, and consequently a
portion of the powder poured down the barrel adhered
to its moist sides, thereby becoming deteriorated
and decreasing the explosive force. As a weapon
of precision the Snider is perhaps preferable to the
Martini-Henry; but, of course, this is matter of opinion.
The sportsman of the good old school
would be somewhat astonished, and would perhaps feel
uncomfortable, upon finding himself armed with a breech-loading
fowling-piece of the present day, particularly as
prejudices are strong and obstinacy very prevalent
among some people, and the keen eye of the old sportsman
would view the modern innovation upon his rights as
he would probably call them with dread,
suspicion, and distrust.
It is a fact, even at the present
time, that there are many old farmers in England who
use their ancient flint-and-steel fowling-pieces from
choice in preference to modern weapons.
The cool old sportsman of days gone
by would sally forth in quest of game, having previously
overhauled his lock, and, if necessary, adjusted a
new flint, with as much care as an angler would examine
his tackle previous to a day’s sport, as he
well knew that success depended upon vigilance and
care. There was no blustering and banging away
in those days, as soon as a bird rose, as is unhappily
too often the case now-a-days, resulting in either
blowing the bird all to pieces or probably missing
it altogether. No, the keen eye of the old school
would coolly watch his bird rise, take a pinch of
snuff, cock his piece, cover his bird, and then bring
it down, allowing it to get well away before drawing
Many a young gentleman calling himself
a sportsman knows little of the capabilities of the
weapon he wields, and cares less; his whole aim is
to see how many head of game he can bag, and to blaze
away is the order of the day, to the astonishment
of poor Ponto, who, if he chance to run within range,
sometimes gets a charge of shot in his tail.
In the Royal Navy the use and practice
of the pistol, and latterly of the revolver, has always
been kept up. Consequently the Jack Tar knows
more about the pistol and the military revolver than
most men give him credit for. In boarding vessels,
for instance, the pistol was one of the arms used.
The importance of the revolver movement as inaugurated
by the National Rifle Association has resulted in
the formation of a club called ‘The Metropolitan
Revolver Club.’ This Club, which is in its
infancy, has many obstacles to surmount, but it is
to be hoped that the Provisional Committee will be
able to carry out the object in view, which is, according
to the programme, as follows:
Club be formed, having for its object
provision of facilities for acquiring a
knowledge of and proficiency in the use
the Military Revolver.’
Dudley Wilson, Esq., 2 Pall
Mall, is the Honorary Secretary, and may success attend
To the inexperienced, the revolver
is, perhaps, as deadly a weapon as can well be handled;
and to no class is this fact so well known as to naval
and military men. The many deplorable accidents
resulting from the incautious handling of firearms
is terrible to contemplate; and sportsmen and military
men have frequently fallen victims to carelessness,
to say nothing of novices. The unfortunate part
is, that foolish and inexperienced people often inflict
misery upon innocent persons; unintentionally, it
is true: but they are none the less guilty.
Firearms should be looked upon as a kind of machinery,
which no one in his senses would attempt to handle
unless he knew the use of them.
The abominable practice of those to
whom firearms belong, or those in the charge or care
thereof, of keeping or leaving such weapons loaded,
so that they may at any moment fall into the hands
of children, or perhaps, what is worse still, inexperienced
adults, is most seriously to be condemned, and may
be designated really as a criminal act, which ought
to be summarily punished.
It is an act which has no real motive,
no real bona fide object, and is lawless and
idle in the extreme, an act which has resulted
in the death of its thousands, and the maiming of
A weapon should never be brought within
the portals of a man’s house loaded; the breech-loading
cartridge can be easily withdrawn. If the piece
is a muzzle-loader it should be discharged after the
day’s sport is over; ammunition is really not
so very costly as to require to be husbanded at the
probable cost of a serious accident, or perhaps a
fellow-creature’s life. This rule cannot
be too strictly adhered to. Some years ago it
was my lot to be staying with a gentleman of eccentric
habits, a man of violent temper, and when in one of
these fits really not answerable for his actions.
I was aware that he kept a full-sized revolver loaded
with ball, and capped, in his dressing-room. I
confess I was coward enough to let this matter trouble
me. I felt I could stand up and face death with
any one in the field, fighting in a good cause and
armed as others; but to be taken advantage of at any
moment, and perhaps shot down like a dog, was rather
too much. I therefore resolved in my own mind,
not only to disarm my friend but to render his weapon
useless; but how to accomplish this was the question,
as to raise any suspicion would perhaps bring down
wrath upon my own head. I therefore resolved
to leave everything precisely intact till an opportunity
should present itself. The very next day the
time arrived, and during this Grand Turk’s absence
I hastily removed the caps from off the nipples of
the revolver, and having exploded them upon the nipples
of his double-barrelled gun, I pinched them back into
their original shape and replaced them on the revolver.
I then put the box of caps into my pocket and felt
perfectly secure, and could have sat and been fired
at without the slightest fear. This gentleman
shortly afterwards was seized with paralysis of the
brain, and ended his days in a madhouse. No one,
I believe, ever suffered any inconvenience from the
revolver, and what became of it I know not.
If leaving weapons about is necessary
(which I do not for a moment admit), then most assuredly
they should be rendered harmless by being left unloaded,
and thus the means of rendering them destructive would
be kept out of the way of meddlers. All ammunition
should, as a rule, be kept in some secret and safe
place, and always under lock and key. Every man
knows that edged tools are dangerous, consequently
that the leaving loaded firearms within the reach
of anybody who may chance to come across them is simply
leaving means of destruction unprotected, and he should
bear in mind that this mischief of his own neglect
might accidentally at any moment be wielded against
’How oft the sight
of means to do ill deeds,
Makes deeds ill done.
The responsibility of those possessing
firearms is great, and proper precautions and proper
care cannot be too strictly enforced. Care costs
nothing, and may be the means of preventing loss of
life and many a deplorable accident. The precautions
necessary to be borne in mind in the safe use of firearms
for one’s own protection, as well as the protection
of others, are voluminous, and so varied are they that
it is with difficulty they can be all dealt with in
this little treatise; it is only therefore proposed
to mention some of them, and detail a few important
hints for the guidance of the unwary. Generally
speaking, if a man will not exercise a little gumption,
care, and discretion, when in the society of a shooting-party
similarly armed as he is himself, he must put up with
the consequences. Accidents in properly regulated
families should never happen. Since the introduction
of the breech-loader there is no excuse for any man
carrying a loaded weapon and swinging the muzzle of
it about when carrying it on his shoulder (which is
often done), bringing every one in his rear in the
line of fire of the piece. A man can load his
piece now when he arrives upon the ground in a moment;
and should a bird rise, with the present facilities
given by the breech-loader, there is ample time to
load and bring the bird down without the slightest
difficulty. For any man therefore, when not in
the field, to strut about with a loaded weapon in his
possession now-a-days is simply bombastic tomfoolery.
To carry a gun gracefully and properly
is an art. It should never be so carried or wielded
as to be a risk to the possessor, or any one.
The following are a few ways how a gun should be carried: For
safety, when commencing sport, the right hand grasping
the piece at the small of the butt, the butt resting
on the right hip or thigh, muzzle up. The weapon
can then, on the rising of game, be at once safely
When carried on the shoulder it should
be always with lock down: this mode will
so elevate the barrels that the muzzles are far above
the heads of any one; even when at close quarters,
on the march, or when approaching or returning from
cover, this way will be found easiest and with the
least possible fatigue, as the weight of the weapon
is centered in the stock held in the right hand.
To relieve the shoulder pass the hand up to the small,
or neck of the butt; at the same time seize the butt
with the left hand, then raise your gun to a perpendicular
position, carry it across the body, and place it on
the left shoulder. The left shoulder can be relieved
in a similar manner, i.e., pass the left hand
to the small or neck of the butt, at the same time
seize the butt with the right hand, raise the gun
to a perpendicular position, and carry it across the
body and place it on the right shoulder. Never
present, much less fire, when any person, whether keeper
or beater, intervenes or is near the bird. Never
fire over any one, even if he what is called ‘ducks,’
or stoops to allow of your doing so. A keeper
or beater should never be encouraged in, or allowed
to ‘duck’ or stoop; the practice is a
bad one, and should be for ever discountenanced.
If no one fired over a ducked body the habit would
soon fall into disuse. Sportsmen and others would
do well to bear in mind that an accident deprives
the injured man from earning his livelihood, and the
poor wife and children suffer: better to forego
taking a shot for safety sake and let the bird escape
for another day than run any risk. This should
be made a hard-and-fast rule among sportsmen, and
a law of sport.
The left hand should never be placed
upon the gun till the bird has risen and all is
clear ahead. Coolness in the field is everything;
there should be no blundering, no hurry; a man who
knows the capabilities of his gun can afford to be
cool. He knows but too well there is no occasion
for haste; the cool hand would pause after the bird
rose, and give it time to get fairly away before presenting.
A gun should never be so wielded as
to bring its barrels in line with any one, or the
barrels athwart any one. When quite a youth I
remember being in the field, when one of the party
becoming fatigued from the effects of a tight boot
handed me his gun; the friend, who evidently did not
appreciate the confidence placed in the youngster,
kept aloof well to the right; presently
a bird rose, I hesitated; looking at the bird.
‘Fire! Fire! why don’t you fire, sir?’
exclaimed the old gentleman with some warmth.
‘How can I,’ cried I, ’with those
peasants at work right in front?’ The effect
was marvellous. The old gentleman, thoroughly
appreciating the caution, at once joined me, and I
had the benefit of my full share of the sport.
Firing when in thick cover and from
behind hedges should be conducted with caution, and
with a knowledge that all is clear on the other side.
Little observation will show whether
your companion has been accustomed to the use of firearms.
A man of reckless temperament, one who would blaze
away blindly, a devil-may-care sort of fellow, should
be avoided; give him a very wide berth, and keep the
gentleman well on your extreme left. If you can
shunt him altogether so much the better. A gun
should never be carried in the field at the trail;
should never be carried under the arm, hugging the
lock; should never be carried muzzle down, so that
by an accidental slip, or stumble, or fall, the barrels
may become choked with earth (which would burst the
muzzle if not removed before firing); should never
be carried transversely across the body with barrels
pointing left. When shooting, a man should be
as much upon his etiquette as he would be in my lady’s
drawing-room; should mind his P’s and Q’s,
and remember that when in a china-shop he should refrain
from carrying his umbrella under his arm.
As a fact, the closing of one eye
in taking aim is unnecessary. The complete angle
of sight upon a given object can only be obtained by
the use of both eyes. Consequently two objects
cannot be seen distinctly or clearly at the same instant,
one is clear while the others are blurred or misty;
hence it stands to reason, that in laying a gun the
top of the notch of the hindsight, the apex of the
foresight, and the object, can be brought into line
as accurately with both eyes open as with one closed.
An artilleryman can lay a gun perfectly
without closing one eye. The eyes should not
be less than 12 inches from the hindsight, if from
2 to 3 feet so much the better, and a more accurate
aim will be the result.
Upon the principle that the hand follows
the eye, a sportsman fixing both eyes upon his bird
can take as perfect an aim as he could with one eye
This rule applies equally to all arms.
A man when in the field or at practice
should keep his eyes about him; he should remember
whom he is with; that he may be covered by a friend’s
gun or rifle at any moment, and that as the abominable
and unnecessary proceeding of carrying weapons loaded,
when not actually in the field, is the rule rather
than the exception, he may perhaps find himself accidentally
pinked at any moment, and when he little expects it.
I remember some years ago the magnificent
solemnity of a military funeral was brought to a somewhat
ludicrous termination by one of the firing party shooting
his comrade in the stern. How the accident really
occurred I never could learn; but it was a fact that
the rear-rank man managed somehow to discharge his
rifle, and pretty nearly blow off the tail of his
The wounded man, who was more frightened
than hurt, seemed not at all to relish the joke.
An old lady came to the rescue.
This good old soul seems to have been
in the habit of carrying a flask, and, graciously
offering the ‘pocket pistol,’ suggested
a drop of the creature. The offer was most readily
accepted, but, I regret to say, the terror of the
injured man was so great that he emptied the flask.
He had evidently had enough of soldiering and ‘villainous
saltpetre,’ for the very next day he sent in
At ball practice men should refrain
from talking, joking, and that ungentlemanly pastime
known as horse-play. Their attention should
be directed to what they are about to do and what
others are doing, and they should leave frivolities
for some other time.
Many accidents in the field have occurred
when getting over stiles, gates, hurdles, stone walls,
and even through hedges.
Within the beautiful glades of Kensington
Gardens stands a lasting memorial.
In Memory of Speke.
Victoria, nyanza, and
the Nile. 1864.
Here is a terrible record of an awful
death through carelessness. A noble life lost,
sacrificed in a moment. Poor Speke, who had faced
death often in many forms, met it at last by his own
While out shooting, in getting through
a hedge he dragged his fowling-piece after him, the
muzzle towards his own body, when, the lock becoming
entangled in the brambles, his immediate death was
the result. Such a piece of foolhardiness on
the part of a man accustomed to the use of firearms
Use dulls the edge of caution, and
some men, unhappily, who are accustomed to deal constantly
with weapons and ingredients of destruction, become
not only careless but indifferent and callous.
There is a class of men who, if not
kept under surveillance, would probably be found smoking
their pipes in a powder-magazine, or while sitting
upon a barrel of gunpowder.
Men are too prone to carry their weapons
at full-cock. This should never be done.
If alone, when getting through a hedge or over any
impedimenta the weapon should be laid on the
ground, parallel with the hedge, if possible.
After getting upon the other side, the weapon should
be drawn through with the butt end towards the person.
If you have a comrade or keeper with
you, hand him the weapon, muzzle up; get through yourself,
and then take the weapons from him, muzzle up,
and he can follow you with safety. Always place
your weapon upon half-cock (it should never be at
full-cock) before attempting to go through a hedge
or over a stile.
When two or more gentlemen take the
field together, it is advantageous to work the ground
in the formation of echelon.
The whole field will by this means
be thoroughly searched for game, and each man can
fire clear of the other, commanding his own ground
and the whole field within the range of the respective
When about to commence practice with
the rifle or revolver the firing party should be placed
well to the front, and should never load, or be allowed
to load, until all preliminaries are arranged, and
the words, ‘Ready! go on!’ are given.
This command or caution will, of necessity,
place every one upon his guard.
When the piece is loaded, the finger
with which the trigger is drawn should on no account
be placed within the trigger-guard till the weapon
is raised and the aim about to be taken; and with the
rifle until the weapon is presented, after being put
In firing with a pistol, or revolver,
the proper finger with which to draw the trigger is
the second finger, not the index finger, as generally
used. The index finger should be placed horizontally
along the barrel, on the side of the weapon, which
is most important which, as a means of
securing steadiness and leverage, tends not only to
reduce the difficulty of the pull, but also tends
to prevent depression of the muzzle, which is sure
to take place if the forefinger is used, particularly
when the trigger has the minimum five-pounds’
When a gun, rifle, pistol, or revolver,
is at full-cock, and it is desired to place it upon
half-cock, as is often done, it should be so altered,
with great care, as follows:
The hammer should be lowered gently
to the full extent of the spring, and should then
be carefully drawn back till the distinct click
of the half-cock is heard; then the weapon is as safe
as an arm can be when loaded, and cannot be accidentally
To place a weapon from full to half-cock,
by not lowering the hammer to the full extent of the
spring, and then drawing it back to half-cock as before
described, is a most dangerous practice, as the hammer
may not be properly inserted in the clip, and an accident
might be the result. A man once having taken
up his position at the firing-point, and having loaded
his piece, should never return into the company of
his comrades till his piece (particularly if a pistol
or revolver) is discharged, or till all its chambers
have been expended. If it is necessary for him
to rejoin his comrades after his piece is loaded,
or after any of the chambers have been expended, he
should leave the weapon behind him at the firing-point,
and should place it, muzzle down, in a hole
or slot purposely made in the table before him to
receive it, which hole in the table should have the
word ‘LOADED’ written legibly near it.
If there is no table, then the weapon
should, if at full-cock, be placed upon half-cock,
as before described, and then laid carefully upon the
ground, muzzle pointing towards the target, and slightly
inclined to the left thereof, so as to be clear of
it, which will allow of the target being examined,
if necessary, without the examiner coming within the
direct line of fire of the weapon; but the table with
a hole in it is the safest method, and is recommended.
A couple of stakes with a rope from
the firing-point to the target should be used, as
a precaution to keep back idle curiosity-seekers from
placing themselves within danger on the firing party’s
No one should, upon any pretence whatever,
place himself, or be allowed to place himself, on,
or even near, the firing party’s left side.
The reason is obvious, as it will be found invariably
in practice that a man, when loading with a breech-loader,
will naturally incline the muzzle of his piece, and
so innocently place those immediately upon his left
within its range.
If it is necessary to address a man
when at the firing-point all interlocution should
be addressed to him on his right; so the Instructor
should place himself on the right and rather behind
the practitioner, and as close to him as convenient,
so as not to incommode his freedom.
Some men are naturally nervous, particularly
when at ball practice, and for this reason all but
novices should be left alone, as they will perhaps
make better scoring if not interfered with.
All spectators should take ground
well in rear of the alignment of the firing-point,
and on its right flank. The practice of taking
up weapons and going through the pantomime of pointing
them at the target, or pointing a weapon at anything
when not at actual practice, is idle, and is to be
Weapons set aside for practice should
never be meddled with.
The party who takes his turn (if firing
with revolvers) should receive his weapon unloaded,
muzzle up, with the necessary amount of ammunition,
from the Instructor or Superintendent in charge; he
should then step to the front or firing-point, load
his piece himself, and get rid of his cartridges as
quickly as a due regard to careful aim, &c., will
admit; then return his piece, muzzle up, to
the Instructor, who will carefully examine it and
satisfy himself that all the chambers have been expended.
Should a revolver miss fire, it is
most important that great caution should be used,
as it will sometimes ‘hang fire,’
which the cartridges of all weapons are liable to
do at times. When a cartridge does not explode
the revolver should be held in the same position as
much as possible, muzzle to the front, or downwards,
for a few seconds; should it not then explode it may
be examined, the non-exploded cartridge removed and
condemned, and a new cartridge put in its place.
On no account should the condemned cartridge be placed
with or near live cartridges.
Firearms should never, under any pretence,
be pointed at anybody; even if unloaded, such a practice
is foolish and unpardonable. No soldier except
in action would ever think of doing so, and no gentleman
The thoughtless practice of relinquishing
one’s weapon into the hands of a friend, or,
even worse, a stranger, is against all military rules,
and in any case is strongly to be condemned, and no
excuse will palliate such an offence; not even the
assurance that the piece is unloaded. A brother-comrade
in the same regiment is, perhaps, the only exception;
but even this is objectionable, except in extreme cases.
As a rule, a soldier should never relinquish
his piece, even to a General or a Field Officer.
Firearms generally, and particularly
revolvers, when loaded or unloaded, should never be
laid upon a table so that the muzzle can accidentally
cover any one. If they must be relinquished by
the owner they should be placed in a corner of the
room farthest from the door, leaning against the wall,
muzzle down, so that they cannot fall. If loaded
they may, when practicable, be laid upon a side-table,
muzzle towards the wall. Guns or rifles should
be stood muzzle up in their place in the rack, or,
if there is no rack, then in a corner of the room farthest
from the door, to prevent surprise. No weapon
of any kind should be carried or put down, or left
at full-cock, and no loaded weapon should be left
unprotected. They should, if loaded, be in the
charge of some trustworthy and responsible person;
but in the time of war no man would be so foolish
as to relinquish his piece, either by night or by day.
To sportsmen and others, with the
great facilities for loading and unloading afforded
by the breech-loading system, there can be no excuse
for leaving a weapon charged when it can so easily
be rendered harmless.
There are many theories as to the
proper way to present a pistol or revolver.
Every man has some idea upon the subject,
and perhaps it would be well to leave every one to
his own devices; but at the same time a suggestion
here, as we are upon the subject, may not be out of
The French carry the weapon muzzle
up, the lock of the piece in line with the ear.
Upon taking aim, the muzzle is gradually depressed
till the object it is desired to hit is covered.
This is no doubt a very good way; but when firing
at any distance beyond a point-blank range it necessitates,
firstly, the depression of the muzzle to cover the
object, and secondly, the necessary elevation must
be taken so that the ball may be carried the required
distance, and so hit the object.
This position of holding the weapon
when at practice commends itself on the ground of
The preferable way, perhaps, is the
old duelling style; that is, to hold the weapon muzzle
down at the full extent of the right arm, standing
sideways or three-quarters left, showing as small a
front as possible, the eye to be fixed steadily upon
the bull’s eye or centre of the target or object,
then gradually raising the arm to the required elevation.
Should the distance be beyond the point-blank range,
after covering the bull’s eye continue to elevate
till the required elevation is reached: by then
steadily and firmly increasing the pressure of the
second finger on the trigger the desired result will
be obtained. Suddenly drawing or jerking the
trigger should be avoided.
By the latter means the object is
covered at the same time as the foot of the target
is covered, so that in the event of the trigger being
drawn before the bull’s eye is reached the target
will be hit, and assuming the target to be a man he
would be disabled and the object gained. Another
important reason for advocating the use of the second
finger in drawing the trigger is the fact that the
weight of the military revolver (2 lb oz.), together
with the power required to draw the trigger (5 lbs.
pull), by the long tension of the muscles of the arm,
in aiming, causes a vibration, so that the farther
the bullet has to travel the farther it is thrown
off the centre of the objective. The first finger,
therefore, placed along the barrel or side of the
pistol, acting as a lever, tends to reduce almost to
a minimum the spasmodic muscular vibration; again,
in drawing the trigger with the forefinger the hardness
of the pull tends to depress the muzzle, while with
using the second finger as before described this depression
is almost impossible.
In rifle-shooting, as also in that
of the pistol and revolver, the ordinary method should
be reversed; that is, instead of commencing at 100
yards from the target, the practice should commence
at the longest range, and the target should be gradually
approached as if it were an actual enemy.
In revolver practice I would recommend
all who desire to become thoroughly efficient to commence
at say 100 yards from the target, and to gradually
reduce the range to not less than 20 yards. This
would accustom the practitioner to get a thorough
knowledge of the capabilities of the weapon, and to
learn the required amount of elevation necessary.
It must be remembered that the Military Regulation
Revolver will kill at 300 yards.
I have myself shot with a 320-bore
revolver, eight grains of powder, bullet eighty grains,
at a regulation target at 200 yards, and have made
very fair practice: in fact, the long range is
far preferable for practice, as being not only beneficial,
but a more exciting pastime than the ordinary range.
To those who do not possess a regulation
iron target, I would recommend one similar to that
which I have sometimes used. (Vide diagram.)
This target is made of a simple framework of wood,
covered with canvas and layers of paper pasted thereon.
It has the double advantage of having the Martini-Smith
target in the centre, and the remaining portion, having
the exact size of a man traced thereon, has one other
advantage in at once showing the result of the practice.
This target can be used over and over again, as, after
use, the perforations can be pasted over with small
pieces of paper, and when well riddled, it can be re-covered;
and the thicker it becomes the better.
No one should attempt to fire ball-cartridge
anywhere but at a proper range. Firing in small
back-gardens, against brick or stone walls and trunks
of trees, should never be allowed. Bullets will
rebound or go off at a tangent, and do serious mischief.
When a bullet once leaves the muzzle
of a rifle, pistol, or revolver, by the evolution
of gunpowder-gas, there is no dependence upon it as
to where it may stop, or what damage it may do, and
bullets upon hitting hard ground will ricochet; therefore,
to those who wish to enjoy security at practice, I
would advise the selection of ground free from habitation,
or where no people are at work some secluded
spot where there is ample range, and, if possible,
a natural hill or mound to receive the bullets.
The military revolver will kill at
300 yards, the Snider artillery carbine at 1800 yards,
and the Martini-Henry rifle at 3000 yards. Too
much dependence upon the use of the slide of the back-sight
for elevation in rifle practice should be deprecated
for more than one reason: e.g., assuming
that a man has been firing at 300 yards with his back-sight
adjusted to that range, and he is suddenly ordered
to advance at the double; if, at the spur of the moment,
he neglects to reduce his sight, the result will follow
that every shot will go over the enemy. It is
simply idle to suppose for one moment that in the heat
of action a soldier could afford to fritter away valuable
time, or even be allowed to do so, in adjusting back-sights.
He would, if he were properly instructed, when within
300 yards place his back-sight level, and rely upon
his own skill in judging what elevation he should use.
It is better to fire low than high.
A low shot will usually ricochet, particularly upon
striking hard ground, greensward, or a wet clay soil,
and, consequently, will do damage. Very nearly
two thirds of the bullets in action are lost by going
over the heads of the enemy.
In the instruction of men in the use
of the rifle valuable time is wasted, and too much
importance is attached to useless detail. Let
a man be placed before the ordinary regimental target,
at an unknown distance, with the figure of a man traced
thereon, assuming the target to be an enemy similarly
armed with himself; let him understand that he must
take his chance of hitting his man or being hit himself;
and let him fire at this target with the back-sight
level, judging his own distance and the necessary
elevation required: this calculation (not a very
difficult one, after a little practice) could easily
be come to while in the act of loading. The result
of the first shot would determine the required elevation,
and by taking pains, bull’s eyes and centres
would soon be obtained.
It is submitted that this mode of
procedure would create an interest in the practice
of the soldier, tending to cause a healthy reaction;
men would take more pains, and try to beat their comrades,
as there would be a greater stimulus to do so than
by the present system. Men, as it is, go to their
practice without the slightest interest therein, and
get rid of the ammunition as soon as possible, in
order to get off duty. The real reason why we
have such excellent shots in the Volunteers is accounted
for by the fact that they not only take an interest
in the work, but take pains in everything they do,
the result being success.
Much significance is attached to the
bull’s-eye mania. It should be borne in
mind that a man is a large object at which to aim;
that so long as he can be crippled there is no necessity
to kill. To disable a man so that he can do no
more mischief is sufficient.
Any man can make a scale of elevation
in his own mind, and, with practice, fire at any range
without putting up the sight, and can fire standing.
My theory is as follows:
Up to 100 yards the range is point-blank,
that is, aim direct on the bull’s eye; for 200
yards, raise the muzzle, say one foot above the bull’s
eye; for 300 yards, two feet above the bull’s
eye, and so on. A few trial-shots will soon settle
the question, and practice makes perfect. A man
will thus be independent of the back-sight of his rifle.
This refers to shooting in the open. Of course,
under cover, when time and circumstances admit, the
back-sight can be used with great advantage.
A man in shooting with a pistol or
revolver has to judge his own distance and the necessary
elevation. Why should not the same rule apply
directly to the rifle? I have seen excellent practice
at 400 yards with a Snider carbine, back-sight level,
the man judging his own elevation, and have been very
successful myself, and have found the above rule apply,
with slight variations.
In rifle contests all artificial nonsense,
such as coloured glasses, eye-shades, kneeling upon
eider-down quilts, firing from shaded tents, blackening
sights, &c., should be discouraged. Let a man
leave all such effeminacy and tomfoolery at home,
and shoot like a man, taking circumstances as he would
find them in the open field with an enemy before
him, using such cover only as nature and circumstances
There is infinite satisfaction attached
to the winning of an honour, when that honour has
to be obtained under difficulties which must be surmounted.
The more difficult the task is, the more merit in overcoming
Lastly. All firearms require
constant attention, and should be kept clean.
After use they should be immediately attended to, and
never put away dirty; should be kept in some dry corner
where rust cannot destroy, and they should be occasionally
overhauled and oiled when necessary. Really valuable
weapons are sometimes ruined by neglect. The man
who takes no pride in his gun is no sportsman.