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creases your power of killing at a distance, but produces a disagreeable recoil.
PEECAUTIONARY SUGGESTIONS IN THE USE OF THE GUN,
ESPECIALLY AS TO LOADING.
So many serious accidents have happened, and are continually occurring in the simple process of loading, from the neglect of the most ordinary and obvious precautions, that it may not perhaps be amiss to make a few observations on the subject, witb a view, if possible, of preventing their recurrence. This can only be done by inducing sportsmen to adopt some fixed rule and plan, never to be departed from. This will occasion no trouble or loss of time, or be in any way an impediment to sport, but merely demand a little forethought.
Of the several causes of accident during loading, the most common is that of loading one barrel immediately after having discharged it, with the lock of the other barrel at full-cock, the jarring of the ramrod in loading causing the lock to go off: how this takes place with a good lock, perfectly clean, is difficult to explain satisfactorily. The only way to guard against it, is to make a rule, immediately after discharging only one barrel, of putting the lock of the other on half-cock, and also invariably to place the gun in such a manner that the barrel which you are loading is nearer to your hand than the loaded one, in which case your right hand will not be over the loaded barrel when you are ramming down your charge, and will escape intact in the event of an accidental discharge. Many will be ready to say that my suggestion is altogether superfluous, as who would ever load one barrel with the lock of the other at full-cock, if they thought of it, and it were not done in the hurry of the moment. I am well aware of the justice of this observation, but as, unfortunately for those who have suffered, it was merely because they did not think of it, I trust it may not be entirely without advantage to invite attention to the subject, so that the vital necessity of carefulness may be ever present to the memory even in moments of the greatest excitement, for it is generally at such, times that accidents occur.
As an instance of the uncertainty of locks, I can state a circumstance which occurred to myself a few years since. I had discharged one barrel at a bird, and having wounded it, was watching its flight, resting the stock of the gun on the ground, when the other barrel went off, nothing whatever having touched the lock, as I was standing in an open place, and no dog was near me at the time. As I never allow the point of my own gun to be towards myself, having received and adhered to that instructive lesson from the very commencement of my sporting career, I was of course intact; but I was somewhat alarmed, and very much astonished, as my gun was a firstrate one, and unimpaired by use. I however found, on examining the delinquent lock, that some common oil had been used, and had become, as is invariably the case with bad oil, thick and adhesive, thus impeding the safe and perfect movement of the lock, and rendering the retention of the scear by the tumbler doubtful and uncertain. Hence the necessity which devolves on every sportsman of looking after his own locks, and seeing that only suitable oil, such as is used by watchmakers, or such as may be made specially for the purpose, is applied, as this will neither cake nor become glutinous, nor adhesive. The bad oil, I have no doubt, was the occasion of my accident.
Another cause of accident in loading is to be found in tow being left in the breech of the gun after cleaning, owing to the negligence of the person who may have washed your gun. If the quantity of tow be so small as not to interfere with the discharge of the gun after it is loaded, the risk arises from the small portion which might remain in an ignited state, so that on your reloading, an explosion would take place and communicate with your powder-horn, and the loss of your hand might be the unfortunate consequence: this is not of frequent occurrence, but still as it has happened, in spite of patent powder-horns, it is just as well to obviate the possibility of its recurrence, remote as the chance may be, by the adoption of such precautions as may prevent it, and this is simply to make a point, before loading for the first time in the morning, of invariably dropping your ramrod into each barrel; you will then readily ascertain, by the sound of the ramrod when it reaches the breech, whether all is right or not. The result being satisfactory, you may then proceed safely to load, letting the cocks, or strikers, in the first place, gently down on the nipples, then charge your barrels, and, lastly, put on your caps.
Never think of warming your gun before loading it, by firing off caps, as is sometimes most unadvisedly done, because by this superfluous and unnecessary process the detonating gas will be forced into your barrels, create rust, and thereby injure your gun. A gun properly cleaned requires no warming previous to loading. The caps must on no account be put on the nipples before loading, because if the powder were forced into the cap, it would cake, and a miss-fire would inevitably ensue. Should this be done by accident, in the hurry of the moment, always remove the cap, clean the top and surface of the nipple, and put on a fresh cap. Sometimes if the cap be put on before loading, and fit very close, the air may prevent the powder from entering the nipple, a miss-fire would equally be the consequence, although the cap would go off. I have witnessed two or three consecutive miss-fires in consequence of this preliminary mistake, because the person would not give himself the trouble in the first instance to draw the charge, which in this case is the only certain remedy.
When the gun is loaded, never allow the cocks to remain down on the nipples, either when in or out of hand, as this position is dangerous, and many very serious accidents have arisen from it, under the erroneous impression that it was safer than half-cock, when, in fact, it is not more safe than full-cock, even if so much so. If the cocks be down, and the gun be placed against a wall, and accidentally thrown down, it would probably explode if the cocks came in contact with the floor, which would not be the case if the gun were at half-cock.
Three accidents from having the cocks down, one fatal, the second most serious, and the third only ending in alarm, and conveying admonition for the future, came within my immediate knowledge in France. A Captain U