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ash, steamed or boiled, so as to render them pliable, may be fastened with copper nails, and securely riveted; they must be at intervals of about nine inches. The decks may then be fixed; it is important that they be slightly convex, both fore, aft and elsewhere, so that no water can lodge, which would otherwise be attended with great inconvenience and some risk, especially in frosty weather, by becoming congealed, and rendering the gunner's movements thereon, whilst loading, insecure and dangerous.
The decks may be covered with waterproof canvas, which must fit closely and securely. Canvas painted on the outside will answer the purpose, and if applied to the decks immediately after they are tarred, it will adhere firmly and give strength to the punt without adding to its weight. When this operation is finished, the bulwarks may be annexed. These should be 4 inches in height forward, gradually declining aft to 2. Openings must be left for skulling; these to be closed when their use is not required, the moveable parts being made to fit well. There will be an aperture in the bulwarks fore, to receive the gun, and this part of the deck will be made sufficiently strong to support the gun with the assistance of the copper rest at the stem.
The thowles or rullocks may now be placed at proper intervals for skulling or rowing j sometimes these are moveable, but I think itwill be found more convenient to have them fixed, and there may perhaps be an advantage in having them covered with leather, especially for night-work, as the slightest noise will sometimes alarm and disturb widgeon, their sense of hearing being very acute. It will be as well to protect the bottom of the punt by having light, thin planks laid down, one-eighth of an inch in thickness; these to be moveable; and upon them you may place any suitable covering you may think proper to lie down upon. The opening in a punt of 22 feet will be sufficiently large to admit of three persons lying down conveniently, being 6 feet in length.
When the punt is not in use, she ought to be protected by a light covering, fitting exactly over her bulwarks. The stem may be rendered more secure against damage arising from collision with rocky or stony ground, when forced through shallow places, by having a slight covering of copper. Before the punt is used and put to sea, she must be well tarred in the inside, and the outside may be painted, with the exception of the bottom, which must be tarred and calked; and this latter operation must be repeated at intervals, if the punt be much used, so as to make her perfectly water-tight.
Slate-colour will perhaps be found the best for the deck and sides, but the nearer it approaches the colour of the water the better, so as to be as little perceptible as possible. There will be a copper fastening to receive the mast in the deck, immediately under that part which is open to sustain the gun. The mast will obtain further support from a block, fixed in the bottom of the punt to receive it, if the centre plank has not been originally made of sufficient thickness for the purpose; and this point is worthy of consideration at the time of building. The mast should be nine feet in height, the sail to correspond, with reefs, in case of necessity; the rudder, as in all small boats, will of course be moveable.
The loading rod for large guns ought to be made of the lightest possible wood, with a thin copper cylinder at the end to receive the powder, partly open on one side, so that when it reaches the breech of the gun, the powder which it conveys may be deposited therein on the rod being reversed; the person loading elevating the gun as much as possible from its horizontal position, so that the powder may reach its destination. The handle of the rod can be flat on the open side of this cylinder, so as to be sensible to the touch in the dark, in which case this operation may be performed at night without mistake.
Suitable wadding can be had from any London gun-maker, and it is essential that this be securely rammed down on the powder; attention cannot be too particularly directed to this point, both for security and effective shooting. Cartridges are frequently employed, but as the amount of shot used is large, it being often a pound, the paper which forms the envelope must be strong, and on this account I think they are objectionable, and loose shot preferable, as I am pursuaded that there is a very great uncertainty as to the distance at which they may burst, and that sometimes they do not burst at all, so that some of the finest chances may be lost. I have frequently known this to have been the case, and loose shot will answer every purpose when the fowl are not very wild, and obviate disappointment too frequently consequent on the use of cartridges.
For widgeon and ducks, No. 1., I think, will be found most effective, although double and single B. are frequently used; your chance, however, of killing numbers with these is somewhat diminished, except when fowl are very wild. The sportsman must therefore be guided by circumstances as to the size of his shot. There is a coarse powder prepared and sold specially for these large guns, which must be secured; the quantity will be the exact measure of the loose shot used, so that the rule applicable to ordinary fowling-pieces holds good with these larger guns.
Some skill and tact are necessary in firing a large
punt-gun, so as to avoid the recoil, which is sometimes severe, and I should recommend the beginner to practise first with a small quantity of powder, increasing it progressively till he arrives at the full charge, and can manage the same skilfully. In taking his aim, he must lay himself down in the punt, having his left hand on the stock of the gun, so as to direct it, his cheek slightly resting upon it; with the right hand he will pull the trigger, taking care at the same time to let the stock of the gun pass under his right arm, sufficient pressure being given by his left for this purpose. A very small stock is necessary, as far as the butt end is concerned, about half the length of a usual fowling-piece, as it is not intended to put this stock to the shoulder.
If the gun be properly managed at the time of firing, the rope breeching will be found sufficient to counteract the effect of the recoil, without any other apparatus, provided the gun be of moderate size, and not overloaded. From the largest size guns the recoil was found to be so great, that a contrivance of some sort in addition to the rope breeching was found to be necessary to counteract it, and Colonel Hawker invented a spring swivel for the purpose, the gun at the same time resting on a stanchion fixed to the bottom of the punt. How this answered I am not able to say, never having either seen or used one; but