« ForrigeFortsett »
and refuted by experience. Breech-loaders rarely burst—indeed not one solitary instance has come within the reach of my experience, and I am aware of many instances of muzzle-loaders having burst.
There is one especial negative circumstance in favour of breech-loaders, which is to be found in the fact of a total absence of several causes which occasion the bursting of the muzzle-loader, and which have come within my own immediate knowledge; viz. mistakes of various kinds in loading, slipping of the wad which covers the shot a short distance down the barrel, by which means a vacuum is produced between the powder and shot, and bursting almost certain if the gun be subsequently directed downwards, and discharged as in the case of a hare or rabbit being shot at, and these liabilities can never arise from the use of the breech-loader. No. 9. Safety doubtful. Immeasurably safer; not only in consideration of the reasons given in the preceding answers, but, on other equally valid grounds, breechloaders are safer in their general use than a muzzle-loader ever was, or ever can be.
In loading and in unloading they are perfectly safe, which cannot be said of the muzzle-loader, the contrary being incontestably and unfortunately the fact, as it is notorious that ringers and hands have been lost, and sometimes a life sacrificed, in the process of loading and unloading. The hand can neither be over nor near the muzzle, in either loading or unloading, of the breech-loader, neither can the muzzle be towards the body of the sportsman; with the muzzle-loader, the reverse is the case. In the use of the muzzle-loader, the fingers, and sometimes the entire hand, are over the muzzle during that process; indeed there is no escape from this liability. No. 10. Trouble of making cartridges. Ans. No sportsman is necessarily subject to this trouble, as cartridges can be purchased in any number ready made. No. 11. Cartridges dangerous to carry. Ans. This is merely ideal: they are perfectly safe loose in the pockets of a shooting-coat, or when carried in a leather belt or case, quite as safe as a powderhorn, if not more so. No. 12. The weight of cartridges objectionable. Ans. They are not heavier or more irksome to carry than powder-horn, shotbelt, caps, wadding and loading rod, and used with much less trouble, with greater ease and dispatch, and with immeasurably greater security. When a few cartridges are carried loose in each pocket the weight is scarcely felt; and in the event of a sportsman shooting alone and unattended, and consequently being under the necessity of carrying the whole number of cartridges he thinks he may possibly require for the day's use, the weight would not certainly exceed a similar amount of ammunition carried in powderhorn and shot-belt, with the possible addition of some steel or copper charges, which were considerably in use in former days; and are much heavier than any cartridge can be. If fifty cartridges were put into one scale, and powder-horn and shot-belt containing a sufficient amount of ammunition for a similar number of shots were put into the other, together with caps, wadding, and loading rod, I rather fancy the preponderance would be in favour of the latter scale.
On the score of safety, as the writer to whom I have alluded considers the muzzle-loader by far the safer weapon, I cannot omit to mention some other negative advantages in addition to those I have already enumerated, which the breech-loader possesses over the muzzle-loader, which arise from the facility of unloading by the withdrawal of the cartridges on entering a house, either during the day or at its close when the sport be over, an operation so easily and expeditiously performed, that it is difficult to suppose it will ever be neglected under such circumstances, so that within doors at all times the breech-loader must be a perfectly harmless weapon, whereas with the old system, how often have loaded guns and their usual companions, well filled powder-horns, been . brought into a house and left carelessly about, and proved the fertile sources of dreadful and sometimes fatal accidents. In farm houses and in keepers' cottages, a loaded gun in the corner of the room or on a rack, and a powder-born on the shelf, were very common and usual objects, and have frequently proved the unintentional instruments of destroying life in the hands of the inconsiderate and careless.
To withdraw the cartridges, put them into a place of security, wipe out the barrels and put away the gun, are operations which can be performed in about a couple of minutes: it must therefore be hoped, as they are conducive to complete security, and at the same time necessary for the maintenance of the good condition of the gun, they will never be lost sight of or neglected.
PRECAUTIONARY 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, with a view, if possible, of preventing their recurrence, by inducing sportsmen to adopt some fixed rule and plan, never to be departed from.
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 my suggestion is superfluous, as it is not likely any one would ever load one barrel with the lock of the other at full-cock, if they thought of it, and if 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