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the loch, if he had no large boat at hand, he would have no other alternative than to go all the way round the head of the loch, which might delay him several hours. • I once found myself on a small island, which I had visited on returning home in the evening for the purpose of killing a few woodcocks, where I was compelled to remain throughout the night, the wind having suddenly risen in great violence; and being opposed to the tide, the water was so rough, that even with a boat of 15 feet keel, my exit from the island was not safe—at least not from that side of it on which I had landed, and by which my boat was lying.
Attention may now very suitably be invited to the subject of breech-loading punt-guns, the remarks in the first chapter on wildfowl shooting in reference to punt-guns being almost exclusively applicable to guns constructed on the ordinary detonating principle.
The superiority of the breech-loader over the ordinary detonator for the purpose of punting is so decided, that a few explanatory observations may possibly not be unacceptable to those sportsmen who have not yet departed from the old system, and at the same time not unworthy of the consideration of others who are about to enter upon this description of exciting sport, and who as a matter of course would like to be in possession of the most suitable gun for the purpose.
After a shot with an ordinary punt-gun the sportsman is under the necessity of rising from his concealed position in the hottom of the punt before he can reload, whereby he is seen by all the wildfowl in the immediate vicinity of his last shot; he is also obliged to stand upon the deck before he can raise the gun sufficiently for wiping out and reloading, which operation is a long and tedious one, and sometimes attended with risk, from the slippery condition of the deck in frosty weather. Skill is also required to insert the powder properly, and special attention must be directed to the management of the ramrod so as to force the charge well home; as a difficulty sometimes arises in this respect when the inside of the barrel is damp, which it generally is if there has been a long interval between the shots. The strength of the powder is also considerably affected in damp weather if there be much delay in obtaining a further shot. Now in the use of the breechloader all these inconveniences and disadvantages are obviated, as the sportsman can reload without rising from his concealed position, with ease, safety, and despatch, and (what is also important) without being seen by the wildfowl, in consideration of which advantage he will frequently be able to obtain a second shot without delay—as the widgeon may either fly within reach of his punt after he has reloaded, or drop again at a short distance; whereas had they seen him standing up in his punt they would instantly have taken their departure to an immense distance, and in all probability he would not have seen them again during the whole day. It has been frequently ascertained from experience that a shot fired by a person in concealment does not alarm game so much as the sudden appearance of any offensive object. Deer even, when shot at, if they perceive no object calculated to alarm them, neither man nor dog, will gaze about for a long time before they go off, and in some instances sufficiently long to admit of the stalker reloading his breech-loader whilst lying in a recumbent position, so that in the event of their coming towards him he may obtain a second chance—in fact, a double shot. An instance to this effect came within my knowledge. Wildfowl I have often seen drop after being shot at, within a very short distance, when the sportsman was sufficiently prudent to remain motionless in concealment. If neither man nor dog present themselves after a shot be fired at a large lot of wildfowl, the greater number of them are indisposed to move; they don't know the direction from which the shot came, and being naturally apprehensive of flying towards the dangerous quarter, remain for a short time in a state of indecision.
From what I have stated I think it may be inferred that the breech-loading punt-gun has the following advantages over the ordinary detonating muzzle-loader: it is—
1. Immeasurably safer.
2. Much more easily, more safely, and more
3. Affords more chances of obtaining shots.
4. Is more conducive to the ease and comfort
of the sportsman in very severe weather, as he is not obliged to rise for the purpose of reloading. I have examined several breech-loading guns for this purpose, and consider the one made by Baddeley, of 183 Central Street, City Eoad, Islington, to be immeasurably the best in every respect. It is good in principle, is easily managed and perfectly secure, and can be loaded in about a minute. His last improved punt-gun, which I have examined, carries 2 lbs. of shot and 7oz. of powder. This gun is rather too heavy for a small punt; one carrying from one pound to a pound and a half of shot I should consider preferable; the larger size is more suitable for a large-sized boat or yacht. There is a plug under the barrel and connected with it, which fits into a revolving socket, well secured in the bottom of the punt, so that the punter can easily turn the muzzle of his gun in any direction which may suit him. Within a few inches of the breech-end of the barrels there N
is an opening, in the bottom and at the top, for the reception of the false breech, which fits closely in its place, and is brought and kept there by a powerful lever, on which it rests, and to which it is attached; this lever also keeps the stock firmly fixed in its proper position, and when brought up lies horizontally under the barrels. The lock is on the right side of the barrel; the hammer or cock strikes horizontally on a projecting nipple made for the reception of a copper cap. As the cartridge when placed in the barrel is entire, and only contains powder and shot, it must be punctured by a pin introduced through the nipple berore the copper cap is placed on the nipple. After a shot is fired, a movement of the lever instantaneously releases the stock, which declines sufficiently to admit of the cartridge being immediately withdrawn by an extractor, whose end fits exactly into the centre of the copper head of the cartridge, an opening having been made and formed expressly for the purpose; so that the operation of reloading can be speedily and easily accomplished by the punter without obliging him to rise from his horizontal position. The extent to which the recoil of the gun is counteracted, by the braces and the movable socket, renders its management comparatively easy and safe in the hands of the skilful and experienced sportsman.