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Since the publication of my former little work in 1855, a total change has taken place in firearms for sporting purposes, breech-loaders, constructed on many different principles, having, to a great extent, superseded the muzzle-loader. Whether there will be a reaction in favour of the latter is a problem which remains to be solved, as some sportsmen of experience have resumed the use of the muzzle-loader and almost abandoned the breech-loader, on the plea that the breech-loader neither shoots so hard nor distributes its shot so equally and regularly as the muzzle-loader, but, on the contrary, throws the charge in patches. The accuracy of this opinion is however disputed by the majority, who adhere pertinaciously to the use of the breech-loader, and who value it independently of its shooting powers, in consideration of its numerous incontestable advantages over the muzzle-loader. From my own experience and observation, I should arrive at the conclusion, that the breech-loader is quite as strong a shooting gun as the muzzle-loader, and frequently kills at much greater distances, although I am willing to admit that a weak cartridge may sometimes come into use either from a mistake in the filling, or from looseness of the charge consequent on a fall upon the ground; but the exception is too rare to be worthy of serious notice, and certainly has only the weight of a feather in the scale of disadvantages, against the overloaded scale of advantages on the opposite side of the balance, combining facility and dispatch in loading without the encumbrance of either powder-horn, shot-belt, caps, wadding, or ramrod, with much greater safety and convenience; and for the service of young, inexperienced, and careless persons, it is immeasurably the safer and more easily managed—consequently the preferable weapon, demanding a small amount of attention in its safe and efficient use in the field, and involving little trouble after the day's sport be over; the wiping out of the barrels alone sufficing, an operation easily performed in a couple of minutes: with the locks interference is rarely necessary.
As regards good shooting, I have witnessed as many good and long shots with the breech-loader by first-rate sportsmen, as I have ever seen with tbe muzzle-loader; and although I have occasionally observed a fair shot missed, which I fancied arose from the deficiency of the cartridge rather than from a want of skill on the part of the shooter, I have also witnessed a similar result under similar circumstances with the best muzzle-loaders, for even these weapons do not invariably throw their shot with similar regularity. I therefore believe, if a reference be made to the impartiality of the experienced in these matters, they will admit that little difference of consequence exists as to the shooting powers of the two guns, that each gun in good hands is equally effective, but in other respects the advantages on the side of the breech-loader are as innumerable as they are incontestable. In the first place, the sportsman has merely to provide himself with suitable cartridges in sufficient number for his day's sport, and he is ready for action and prepared to join his party. The cartridges may be carried either loosely in the pockets, or in a belt about the body, according to taste or convenience, an extra supply being within reach if a great day be in prospect. The sportsman can't forget his cartridges, that is impossible, but with the muzzle-loader, how often has it occurred to us all, that some one essential