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Title: Hints on the Use and Handling of Firearms Generally, and the Revolver in Particular
Author: Curling, Lieut. H. Onslow
Language: English
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_'Nunquam non paratus.'_

          DULAU & CO., 37 SOHO SQUARE.
          _All Rights Reserved._


          Tower Street, Upper St. Martin's Lane.


          'He, that rides at high speed, and with
           His pistol kills a sparrow flying.'
                                SHAKESPEARE: _Henry IV._

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 has slept.

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 lbs. 8 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

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

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

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

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 the trigger.

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:--

      'That this Club be formed, having for its object
          the provision of facilities for acquiring a
          thorough knowledge of and proficiency in the use
          of the Military Revolver.'

DUDLEY WILSON, Esq., 2 Pall Mall, is the Honorary Secretary, and may
success attend him.

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 _bonâ 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 even more.

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 himself.

          'How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds,
           Makes deeds ill done.
                                 SHAKESPEARE: _King John._

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 presented.

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

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 closed.

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 comrade's tunic.

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 his resignation.

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

          IN MEMORY OF
          AND THE NILE.

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 hand.

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 is astounding.

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 échelon.

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 guns.

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

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 upon full-cock.

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' pull.

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 discharged.

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 left.

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 condemned.

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.[A] 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

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 could.

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

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 place.

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 safety.

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 lbs. 8 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.[B] 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

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

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 provide.

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.


[A] I have known instances of pistols and fowling-pieces hanging fire
for two or three seconds after the hammer has fallen, and then suddenly
go off.

[B] Vide _Minor Tactics_, by Lieut.-Colonel Clery, 1883.

       *       *       *       *       *

  Printed by STRANGEWAYS AND SONS, Tower Street, Upper St. Martin's Lane

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Page 38, "The" changed to "the" (the Snider artillery carbine)

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