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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 muzzle of my own gun to be towards myself, having received an instructive lesson at the very commencement of my sporting career on this point, I was of course intact; but I was somewhat alarmed, and much astonished, as my gun was a first-rate 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.
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.
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 was out shooting a few miles from where I was residing; he had to pass through a thick hedge, and let down the cocks, and was drawing the gun after him, thinking himself quite safe, the muzzle being towards him, when one of the cocks was drawn back by a branch, and released; a discharge was the consequence, and the unfortunate gentleman was killed on the spot.
Another case was that of a Frenchman, with whom I was personally acquainted. He was out snipe-shooting, and wished to pass from one marais to the other, the two marais, or marshes, being divided or separated by a canal; and by way of passage from one to the other, a strong pole had been laid horizontally across the canal, fastened to another pole inserted perpendicularly, midway between the two banks, by which means both poles were steady. The Frenchman let down the cocks upon the nipples, and extended the buttend of his gun towards the perpendicular pole, with a view of catching the same with the guard of his gun, and thereby enabling himself to keep his equilibrium as he passed over the pole; but unfortunately he caught the pole with one of the cocks of his gun instead of with the guard, which being raised, and almost instantly released, a discharge took place, and the entire contents of the barrel were received in the hand and arm, from the palm of the hand up to the elbow.
The third instance was that of a loaded rifle. A party of Frenchmen with whom I was acquainted were going out boar-hunting. Intending to proceed to the scene of action in a light car, they had previously loaded their rifles, one of which was being handed into the vehicle by the owner with the cock down and the muzzle towards himself; when the cock caught part of his friend's dress, was raised, released, and the rifle discharged; the ball passed close by my friend's body into the ground. A serious alarm was the sole consequence, in addition to a very instructive lesson conveyed as to the future, not only as regards the cocks of the gun, but also as to the direction of the muzzle, the escape having been an 'hair's-breadth' one.
I have frequently witnessed the accidental discharge of guns in the hands of the careless and unskilful; the excuse has been that they were merely uncocking their gun, and that the cock slipped, or some or other equally unsatisfactory reason. It is always advisable, when you cannot altogether avoid such sportsmen, to give them plenty of room, and to avoid, if possible, coming within range of their shot. There are also others who designedly kill game close to you, piquing themselves on the close shooting of their guns, and the accuracy of their aim; but no sportsman with any experience, sense, or good feeling will be designedly guilty of so imprudent and improper an act, as the best gun that ever was made will occasionally throw a few shot wide of the main charge: of this fact I have witnessed very extraordinary instances, one of which occurred to myself. I had shot at and killed a snipe, which was at least twenty feet from the surface of the ground, when I found that one shot had entered the eye of one of my dogs standing about fifteen or twenty yards to the right of the direction in which I shot: what caused the shot to go thus obliquely I cannot conjecture; the gun was a first-rate one, made by one of the best London makers.
There are but few additions to be made to the contents of the preceding chapter, as most of the suggestions as to the muzzle-loader are equally applicable to the breech-loader; the old chapter is, however, allowed to remain intact, not only in consideration of that circumstance, but in virtue of the fact that some sportsmen still adhere to the old system, and it is possible others may return to it One suggestion cannot be too often made, or too frequently repeated, equally applicable to each system, which is, that the muzzle of the gun should never, under any circumstances, be directed either towards yourself or towards anyone accompanying you: to the first liability the sportsman is rarely exposed in the use of the breech-loader, the process of loading and unloading being at the breech end, but with regard to those who accompany him the same liability exists as with the muzzle-loader, if the gun be carried carelessly, hence the necessity of enforcing this salutary regulation applicable to the old system. It may be further suggested, that before entering a house or lodge during the day for the purpose of taking lunch, or with any other object, that the cartridges be withdrawn; and at night when the day's sport be over in returning home they should on no account be allowed to remain in the barrels, for independently of the security ensured by their removal, the barrels ought to be wiped out; this precaution is necessary with all breech-loaders, but especially so with Lancaster's, Daw's, and Needham's, where no external indication of the gun being loaded is