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visible. As the wiping out process is performed in about a couple of minutes there can be little excuse for the neglect, especially as the omission is injurious to the gun. In going through or over any difficult fence, or getting over a wall, or on entering or leaving a boat, it is better to take the cartridges out than to leave them in; in fact, in all cases where there is any liability to accident. Since writing the preceding chapter, in which I have related several accidents which arose from allowing the cocks of copper-cap guns to remain on the nipples, which came immediately within my own notice, another of a very serious character happened within a short distance of the place where I was residing in Scotland previous to my leaving that country, and to a sportsman of experience. He had been out wild-fowl shooting on a sea-water loch, and on reaching the shore on his return, previous to getting out of the boat, had unwisely let down the hammers of a copper-cap gun on the nipples, and, after being ashore, attempted to draw his gun out of the boat by the muzzle end, when one of the cocks, on meeting with an impediment on the side of the boat, was raised and instantly liberated ; a discharge was the consequence, and, as the muzzle was immediately under the right arm, the whole charge of shot was lodged there close to the body, so that amputation of the entire limb was necessary. I men
tion this serious disaster, although it arose from the mismanagement of a copper-cap gun, and might not occur under similar circumstances in the use of a breech-loader, because it imperatively suggests the vital necessity of not allowing the muzzle of any gun to be towards the user of it, whether it be loaded or unloaded, cocked or uncocked.
The observance of this rule is so important that I do not scruple to reiterate it, especially as year after year serious accidents arising from its violation are frequently recorded, in spite of the monitions of the past.
In the field no sportsman ought to fire across, or in the direction of anyone, as is too frequently done ; for however wide any person may be of the line of aim, one shot may sometimes take an oblique direction, especially in cover, or near any objects from which shots may glance off. It is impossible to tell in what direction a shot may go which strikes a tree or rock; and in reference to distance, it is most difficult to prescribe the precise limit which the strongest shots in a charge may sometimes reach, with sufficient force to inflict injury in the event of their striking the eye of any living thing.
Those who wish to ascertain the fact of the irregularities and peculiarities in different discharges from the same gun, have merely to make
a number of experiments by firing over the surface of water on a perfectly calm day—a target is not sufficiently wide for the purpose, and is at the same time no certain test as to distance, whereas on water the most distant as well as widest shot may be seen to strike.
Before reloading Daw's or Lancaster's gun special care must be taken to place the cocks on half-cock, as in closing the barrels; if this absolutely necessary precaution were neglected the cartridges would come into forcible collision with the projecting points of the pistons, and if a discharge did not occur the cartridges might be damaged.
It is not likely that a precaution so manifestly important should be neglected, but as in the hurry of the moment I know that the neglect has occurred, but with no consequence beyond slightly damaging the cartridges, I am induced to refer to the subject for the guidance of those who may use these guns.
HINTS ON THE SUCCESSFUL MANAGEMENT
OF THE GUN.
As EVERY man who takes up a gun is anxious to make a good use of it, and all are not equally
successful, and some much disappointed when they fail, it may not be out of place to direct attention to a subject so interesting to sportsmen, and make some inquiries into the occasional causes of failure. When there is no apparent physical impediment, and when success is sought by frequent and persevering efforts, it seems strange that it should not be attained; still how many are there who have shot for years, and who, admitting the existence of no physical obstacle, yet remain bad shots, as stationary as many billiard-players, who after twenty years' practice and experience play nearly as at first. The failure perhaps in both cases may be attributable to the commencement not having taken place under favourable auspices and on sound principles, as both require some preliminary instruction to ensure progressive success. If a man in the first instance be taught to stand in a good position, hold his cue correctly with one hand and place the other firmly, but not stiffly, on the table—to handle his gun in a sportsmanlike manner-he must advance in both; but if in either case the preliminary instructions be disregarded or neglected, and a start be made on false and erroneous principles, the odds will then be great against either progress or success.
To succeed in either billiards or shooting, the commencement ought to be early in life; few
who start late succeed in attaining more than mediocrity.
I place billiard-playing in juxtaposition with shooting, because it depends equally upon the same physical qualities and upon the early exercise and practice of them ; and as it is important to success to maintain these in all their integrity, the golden rule of moderation must be observed in all things, as all excesses interfere with the economy of the stomach, and consequently, to a certain extent impair both sight and nerve and unhinge the whole system ; hence the frequent inequality of the shooting of some good shots, who indulge too freely in the pleasures of the table : but over-fatigue, too severe walking, and too great anxiety, will frequently be attended with the same unsatisfactory result.
I will now address myself to beginners, and endeavour to convey such suggestions as I believe, if attended to, may be serviceable.
A young gentleman who has never shot, after having been taught in the first instance by a competent person how to handle his gun, cock and uncock it with facility, firmness, and safety—to bring it up in a sportsmanslike manner to his shoulder--to be careful in loading, and to adopt a safe method of carrying it-should then endeavour to bring it up to some object so as to cover it, and when he can do this with ease and accuracy, he