How to use a rifle

With Americans the Rifle is a great favorite. One of the first lessons should consist of the following practice at a target about eighteen inches in diameter, and at a distance of ten or twelve paces. Having put a small copper thimble, or percussion-cap from which the composition has been removed, upon the nipple, the pupil should raise the rifle (previously cocked) steadily to his shoulder, and, while closing his left eye, look intently with the right along the first sight to the more distant one, the gaze being steadily fixed upon the mark, however, and not on the sight, and the muzzle being raised above the bull's-eye.; The rifle should now be steadily lowered, and at the instant that the more distant sight covers the center of the bull's-eye, the motion should be arrested, the center of the heel-plate as above directed, firmly pressed against the muscle of the shoulder, and the trigger simultaneously pulled. All delay is bad when once the aim has been clearly got. After the cock has fallen on the nipple, the eye should still look, for the space of a second at least, as fixedly as before upon the target, noting carefully the deflection upon each occasion. Easy as this may appear, it will be found that to do it without flinching requires some considerable practice. When that amount of proficiency is obtained, the same process should be repeated with caps, proceeding gradually to the use of a few grains of gun-powder, increasing the charge to two or three drachms. When the slightest terror is no longer felt at the critical moment of the explosion, a bullet, with a very small charge of powder may be ventured on. By degrees the shooter will find himself acquiring confidence, and having repeatedly struck the target at a dozen yards with half a drachm of powder, he will find the same feat practicable enough at twenty, fifty, and finally at a hundred yards, with one drachm, or one drachm and a half. Having proceeded so far,, he will do well to continue working daily at the latter range for some weeks, until he can make certain of raising his rifle to the "Present," and of striking the bull's-eye almost at the same moment. He may then progressively extend his distance by twenty or twenty-five yards at a time, till he has reached the extremist limits at which good shooting can be calculated upon. He may consider himself somewhat above an average shot, when at fifty yards he can make sure of obtaining twenty hits all within a circle of five inches in diameter; at a hundred yards within a circle of ten inches; at two hundred yards within a circle of twenty inches; and so on up to a thousand yards. As to that range, if the shooter can be certain of putting ten bullets in succession within eight feet in diameter, he will do as much as any one need hope to achieve. A very important matter to be kept in mind while practicing at the target is the charge of powder. It cannot be too strongly inculcated that, after careful trial, the proper charge for a particular rifle having been once determined upon, that charge ought never to be increased or diminished even by a grain. When the greatest possible accuracy is required in shooting, it is well worth while to weigh each charge in a delicate balance, and subsequently to enclose it in a small dry glass or metal tube, carefully securing it with a cork or stopper. If this process be deemed too tedious a small brass charger should be used, slight "hopped," each time that it is filled; it should then be tapped lightly at the bottom, so as to shake off the superfluous grains, leaving the measure exactly filled. Care should be taken that no extraneous matters get mixed up with the powder, as every particle of the kind, however small, will diminish more or less the momentum of the bullet, causing it to strike low, for besides displacing a certain bulk of powder, any matter of the kind prevents the due and regular ignition of the charge. It has frequently been remarked that, when using a loose charge, the best shooting was at the commencement of the practice, when the flask was full. This arises from the common habit of filling a flask when about three parts empty; the dust, smaller grains, &c., thus collect at the bottom, and the force of each later discharge is proportionably feebler. To avoid this, the stock of powder should be occasionally sifted through a lawn or silk sieve. Some riflemen attach much importance, at shooting matches, to wiping out the barrel after every discharge. For this purpose the shooter is provided with a number of pieces of rag (the material preferred being cotton flannel, each about two inches square; one of these being twisted round a rod kept for the purpose, is passed up and down the barrel after each shot, care being taken never to use the same rag twice until it has been thoroughly washed.

Return to Boys Own Book of Outdoor Sports