by BRIG. GEN. A. F. U. GREEN, C.M.G., D.S.O
A fascinating insight into rifle shooting as the sport recommenced immediately post the Second World War.
Many of the answers to the posed questions are as relevant today as they were over sixty years ago.
In particular, please don't take any of the LEGAL advice as being up-to-date!
See also the latter-day (current) FAQ and correspondence page
QUESTIONS ANSWERED ABOUT RIFLE SHOOTING
by BRIG.-GENERAL A. F. U. GREEN, C.M.G., D.S.O., p.s.c.
Volunteer, Sussex H,G,
Author of " I Home Guard Pocket Book," " Landscape Sketching
for Military Purposes," Evening Tattoo," etc.
Illustrations by the Author
JORDAN & SONS, LIMITED
CHANCERY LANE, W.C.2
THE RIFLE............................................................................... 6-39
AMMUNITION 40-6I RANGES AND TARGETS...............62-77
HANDLING ARMS ............................................................... 78-94
RIFLE SIGHTS AND THEORY ........................................103-117
LEGAL AND SOCIAL ........................................................118-137
ODDS AND ENDS.............................................................. 155-162
BIBLIOGRAPHY ..............................................................Page 102
Made and Printed in Great Britain by
Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ltd., London and Aylesbury
MY object is to summarise in simple language all that must be known by anybody who wishes to become a proficient rifleman.
I address all Britons regardless of age or sex, because I believe that our wisest advisers in the remote and recent past have been right in urging us to adopt compulsory military training as the foundation of national security.
It is the duty of Britons to serve our country, and rifle shooting is a form of service which provides recreation and fun, in conditions which require collective and individual discipline in its least irksome form.
Some people believe that we are a nation of natural marksmen-as though there were such a thing as a natural marksman !
Here is Bishop Hugh Latimer preaching at the court of Henry VIII :
" The arte of shutyng hath ben in tymes past so much estemed in this realme, it is a gyft of God that he hath geuen vs to excell all other nacions wythall. It hath bene Goddes instrumente, whereby he hath gyue vs manye victories agaynste oure enemyes. But nowe we haue taken up whorynge in tounes, in steede of shutyng in the fyeldes. A wonderous thynge, that so excellente a gift of God shoulde be so lytle estemed."
I need not quote Lord Roberts, whose warning fell on deaf ears.
It is revealing to compare the proportion of our population who shoot at all with the vast numbers in other nations who learn the use of the rifle as a matter of course, for example in Switzerland, Russia, Finland, the United States, and the Dominions.
Only in this country, outside the Services and cadet organisations and in spite of the N.R.A. (National Rifle Association) and the S.M.R.C. (Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs), two of the potentially most influential bodies of their kind in the world, there is no national call for marksmanship, because no Government has ever taken the lead and established it as an integral part of our national life.
It is part of my purpose to explain how anybody can become a member of a club and enjoy rifle shooting within the limitations from which we shall always suffer until the Government makes up its mind that we should become indeed what we have kidded ourselves to be ever since Crecy - a nation of marksmen.
I do not pretend to teach the experts; on the contrary, I invite them to correct my errors, and I beg the novices to bombard me with questions which will be answered in due course.
What a chance there has been before the disbandment of the Home Guard-and is it too late ?-to form H.G. Rifle Clubs from Land's End to John o' Groats !
PULBOROUGH, A. F. U. GREEN. November, 1944
1.-Can I learn rifle shooting from a book?
No more than you can learn to play the violin from a book. The only way to learn to shoot is by handling a rifle and practising with it. A sympathetic individual instructor is also desirable.
2.-Then why write a book?
Because there are masses of facts and information you ought to know about which will not come your way and must be dug out of standard works or learnt from experience.
3.-If there are standard works, why write a new one?
Because few people have access to them or time to read them. If you start learning by going to a library to dig out the essential facts, you will either get bored or suffer from mental indigestion. On the other hand, I have had to do with rifle shooting for years and have collected in my pigeon-holes of memory quite a lot of information which I am putting into the form of questions and answers.
You may remember somebody apologising for writing a long letter because he hadn't time to write a short one. Well, I have had time to write a long book and to cut it down to this.
4.-Is this book all I want to supplement my practical work?
Certainly not ; there is always something new to learn or some new way of looking at a subject. Read The Rifleman regularly (published by the S.M.R.C., quarterly, 6d., or 2s. 6d. p.a. posted to you).
5.-What if your book says something different from my Instructor?
No matter. Show it to him, and he may correct me where I am wrong or he may pick up a point or two. Rifle enthusiasts often disagree, but they learn a lot by discussion.
But whatever you read, learn to handle your rifle as though it were part of yourself. You can't use a cue or racquet, cricket bat or golf club, without continually handling it and making shots with it.
6.-What is a rifle ?
A rifle is a firearm with spiral grooves in the barrel which impart a spin to the bullet and keep it nose first in the way that feathers keep a dart point first. These grooves are called the `rifling." They may be many or as few as two ; they may be right- or left handed and either " uniform " or with an increasing twist towards the muzzle.
7.-Are there many different kinds of rifle ?
Their name is legion. They may be divided into categories according to purpose, for example (a) for war, or (b) for shooting game, or (c) for obtaining a high score on an inanimate target. Again, they may be subdivided into categories according to size, weight, type, size of bore, action, price, and so on.
8.-What rifles are used in war?
" Service " rifles are designed for war. They must, therefore, be robust and able to stand up to all kinds of climatic and atmospheric conditions, subjected to sand, mud, dust, and neglect, not too heavy for a man to carry with all his other equipment, simple in construction and reliable, and as nearly as possible foolproof and weatherproof.
Any service rifle can be used for game shooting or competitive target shooting, but it starts with a handicap as compared with a rifle designed for those specific purposes.
9.-What is used for shooting game?
Rifles for game shooting are not necessarily exposed to the hardships of war, so that the designer concentrates on hitting power without neglecting reliability and portability. A rifle intended to kill an elephant or a tiger. is different from one intended to kill a rook or rabbit. The service rifle must be able to kill a man, the sporting rifle must be able to kill the class of game for which it is designed.
10.-What about a rifle for target shooting ?
Its essential feature is accuracy. It may be as heavy as lead and as ugly as sin, but all may be forgiven if it is accurate. Another way to divide rifles into categories is by " bore " or " calibre."
11.-Aren't "bore " and "calibre " the same ?
In a sense, yes ; but we must understand the use of both words. The barrel is a steel tube through which the bullet is projected. The interior of the tube is the " bore." This word may also be used to describe the type of barrel or as a measure of its size. For example : ` smooth bore," " twelve bore," "•4IO bore," " small bore."
The word " calibre " means technically the diameter of the bore in inches or millimetres measured across the " lands " (i.e. the ridges between the rifling grooves). The Americans spell it and pronounce it caliber (to rhyme with excalibur), but we pronounce it caleeber. Politicians and journalists talk about " guns of heavy calibre " and " troops of good calibre " and " a man of high calibre," but to the rifleman or gunner that is a misuse of a good word hardly legitimised by common usage.
12.-What do you mean by smooth bore?
Smooth bore means that the barrel is not rifled. Every barrel before being rifled is smooth, and it will now be understood that the " lands " across which the calibre is measured are not ridges created in the barrel, but actually what is left of the original bore after rifling.
13.-What does twelve bore actually mean ?
There are different ways of labelling firearms. A big gun may be called " hundred-ton gun " or " six-inch gun " (calibre) or " twenty-five pounder " (weight of shell). A sporting gun may be called " twelve bore," that is, taking a spherical lead bullet weighing one twelfth of a pound; •4IO bore means "calibre '410 inches." We always label rifles by calibre, e.g. '303, '300, or •z2, or (in millimetres) 9 mm.
14.-What is meant by "small bore" and "miniature " rifles ?
This is a rather debatable question. Years ago the modern rifle with a nickel-cased bullet was called " small bore " to differentiate it from the old rifles like the Martini-Henry firing a large lead bullet; " miniature " was the term applied to all kinds of rifles firing very small bullets-for example, rook rifles, saloon guns, and the War Office " miniature Martini " for cadets. The word is embodied in the title of the S.M.R.C. (Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs), who are the fountain-head of this kind of shooting, and one would suppose that what is good enough for them is good enough for us. But the word has become a misnomer because rifles of this kind have so developed that though they fire a small bullet, some of them are larger and heavier than many service and sporting rifles, and to call them miniature rifles reminds one of the art, collector who particularly prized a painting because it was the biggest miniature in the world. There has been a revulsion in favour, of calling the rifles and all the business of this kind of shooting " small bore," but the experts do not yet agree and one may see both words used indifferently in S.M.R.C. and N.R.A. publications, and I can't help sympathising with the lunatic who knew he was the Duke of Wellington, but sometimes suspected that he was also Napoleon by another mother.
Fortunately there is one calibre, and one only, that has become standard regardless of the size of the rifle or the length of the range, and this is •22. I will therefore invariably use the term •2z instead of " miniature " or " small bore " and advise you to do the same.
By the way, this can be pronounced " point twotwo " or " two-two " or " twenty-two " (by analogy with, e.g., a " Colt forty-five "). I personally prefer " two-two," in the same way that one calls our service rifle " three-0-three."
15.--Aren't all rifles more or less the same kind of thing ?
In a sense they are. They all have a straight barrel mounted on a wooden " stock," with a wooden butt which fits into the shoulder when " mounting " the rifle into position to fire. They all have a breechaction (because all rifles are now breech-loading), and for the trigger-hand a grip, technically called the " hand," from which the trigger finger can comfortably reach the trigger. But that is almost as far as the sameness extends.
16.-What about English rifles ?
Amongst British rifles there are two main types : (a) bolt action and (b) Martini action. In the former the breech is opened and closed for the insertion of a cartridge by a sliding bolt very like a common or garden back-door bolt. This is suitable for use with a magazine or as a" repeater." The Martini is a very reliable lever action which cannot be employed with a magazine or as a repeater. As very few other British rifles will be met with, it will be sufficient to learn these two.
17.-What is a bolt action ?
The bolt action has been adopted by nearly all nations, with certain differences of detail. The bolt slides freely in a channel in prolongation of the barrel at the breech "end and is worked by a knob on a lever which locks and unlocks the bolt in precisely the same way as the back-door bolt handle moves into the slots which keep it open or shut. The magazine is a metal box fitted into the stock below the bolt and contains five or ten cartridges, according to design. The bolt, having been unlocked and pulled back, in its forward movement picks up the top cartridge in the magazine and pushes the cartridge into the " chamber " and at the same time "cocks" the mechanism. The rifle cannot be accidentally discharged until the bolt is locked, and there are other safety devices.
18.-Is the bolt action suitable for other than service rifles ?
A similar action is to be found on sporting rifles and on some target rifles, but any •22 rifles of this type must always be used as a single-loader on indoor ranges for reasons of safety.
19.-What is the Martini action ?
This is a single-loader action that has stood the test of war and service in all conditions for seventy-five years, and is still probably the best all-round singleshot action there is. The action is opened by a lever under the " hand " behind the trigger guard, which exposes the chamber into which a cartridge can be pushed with the thumb. The breech is then closed by raising the lever with the fingers of the right hand, which then assume naturally the correct grip on the " hand." The fired case is ejected on the breech being reopened by the lever.
Practically all English •22 target rifles are of this pattern, and its use will be found as convenient and . simple as any other on the market.
20.-Please describe a typical rifle.
The full description of any rifle requires a handbook, and they all have certain parts that differentiate them, hut here is a general description of a typical rifle, the British S.M.L.E. :
a-a-a, the stock (all wood) consists of : aI, butt (sometimes erroneously called " stock ") ; a2, hand (some-times called " grip," or " small " of the stock) ; a3, fore-end (sometimes " fore-hand " or " forend," both questionable). B, breech. M, muzzle (from B to M is the " barrel "). L, lock or action ; t, trigger ; tg, trigger guard.
At or near B is the back sight, hind sight, or rear sight (take your choice).
At M is the front sight or " foresight" (both are correct).
At certain points, e.g. x, x, x, are sling swivels. The number and position of these vary with different types of rifle. They are for the sling to be attached to. I describe the sling later.
The remaining parts vary so much that they must be learnt on the particular rifle, e.g. nose cap, upper and lower band, bolt (and its parts), etc. Those on the diagram are sufficient to enable one to understand a reference to the parts of any rifle.
21.-What are the British service rifles ?
The service rifles that a British serviceman or cadet may come across are these :" Rifle No. I," S.M.L.E. ('303 short magazine Lee-Enfield) ; " Rifle No. 3,"
P'14 (American •303 " Pattern " of 1914 of Enfield design) ; P17 (or more correctly MI7, i.e. " Model 17 "), American version of the P14 adapted to take the •30o rimless cartridge ; Ross (•303 Canadian rifle pre-war 1914-18) ; and the so-called Rifle No. 4., which is the latest issue to the British Services. Incidentally, Rifle No. 2 was the S.M.L.E. with. a •22 barrel.
" No. 4" is so named because the Mark VI S.M.L.E. was altered so as to be suitable for mass production and was then so different as to require rechristening - it is therefore called Rifle No. 4. For the love of Mike don't call it the " Mark IV " rifle, as so many people do, including Generals, who ought to know better. " Mark I, II," etc., only means a modified model of a particular weapon.
22.-What about sporting and target rifles ?
Shooting game opens too big a subject. I will stick to rifles used for sport and target shooting-that is, rifles which are to some extent suitable for both purposes, though those designed solely for target shooting tend to be too unwieldy and possibly too delicate for use in the field or on service ; but I want to emphasise that though a service rifle may not be able to compete on even terms with a sporting rifle for game, nor with a target rifle on the range, ANY rifle worthy of the name could at a pinch be used to kill a rabbit or an enemy.
There are many calibres and makes of sporting rifles, American, German, Belgian, as well as British, but let us stick to •22 rifles, which are really representative.
23.-What is the simplest form of •22 rifle ?
The simplest and cheapest are little light single-shot weapons such as the small patterns of English B.S.A., or American Winchester, Remington, Stevens, etc-all good little guns suitable for small game and teaching novices to shoot, but not really in the " target " category. Then there are various repeaters, i.e. magazine, automatic, or self-loading types which are beyond the scope of this book. And then we come to the sort of rifle that is designed primarily for accurate shooting at targets on the range in competitions and matches.
24.-You said " magazine, automatic, or self-loading"-what's the difference ?
This is a digression, but I would like to clear that up once and for all. A repeating firearm is one that is capable of firing a succession of shots after one loading. A magazine rifle is one that holds the cartridges either in a box-magazine at the breech or in a drum, box, or tubular magazine, and after each shot the next cartridge is made to take the place of the fired cartridge by the action of the bolt or lever of some kind. " Automatic " is really a misnomer, because an automatic should be capable of discharging a continuous stream of bullets by keeping the trigger pressed, and no " rifle " is constructed on that principle except a few (with which I am not dealing) like the Browning Automatic, and even they are never used for automatic fire except in great emergency.
It is better to call the kind of rifle I am talking about either " semi-automatic " or " self-loading "-both these terms mean that the discharge of one cartridge mechanically exchanges a full round for the fired cartridge and leaves the action cocked ready to be fired by depressing the trigger. But I really do want to avoid talking about these kinds of firearms, though it is a most fascinating subject.
25.-What about the target rifle, or match rifle ?
We don't necessarily call a target rifle a match rifle - however good it may be. A match rifle has a definite technical meaning and the term is only properly applied to a rifle with a greater calibre than '22 (say •303), with very special sights and specially designed for longrange shooting, i.e. goo, I,000 yards, and over, on the open range. It is a weapon for " tigers " only ; what we are talking about is a" target rifle," which may be a•22.
Such a target rifle is invariably a single-loader and, in English patterns, almost invariably Martini action. The greater part of its virtue is in its barrel and its sights.
To get the best results in target shooting it is usually very heavy. The barrel is long and heavy to reduce vibration and flip, and the whole weapon is so solidly built as to be unsuitable for anything but deliberate shooting on a range. .
A real enthusiast will probably have one or more of his own with gadgets and improvements to make it " fit " in the hope of hunting down the elusive " possables." A very good shot ought to be to some extent independent of extraneous aids, but there is really a lot of sense in making sure that the length and weight are within the powers of the owner. Why, a sportsman ordering a shot-gun or a pair of guns from a good maker gets measured for them and fitted as carefully as by a high-class tailor for a morning coat (if anybody wears such a thing nowadays), and if that is reasonable for what the rifleman calls a" scatter-gun " firing two to three hundred pellets, surely it is reasonable for a rifle of precision that is expected to put one bullet at a time into an inch ring at zoo yards or to hit a sixpence every time at 25 ?
26.-Some riflemen don't think much of shooting with a shot-gun. Do you?
Rifle shooting and shooting with a gun are as different as golf and hockey. The expert at one does not necessarily excel at the other ; but they are the same kind of thing, and I don't know which fascinates me more or which I have tried at harder and longer. Believe me, the rifleman who sneers at the shot-gun shooter and talks about pheasant shooting as murdering barndoor fowls has missed one of the pleasures of life. I am not going to yield to temptation and say anything about game shooting, but it is curious that though I often hear rifle shots crab shooting with the shot-gun, I have never heard a sportsman who shoots with a shot-gun disparage rifle shooting. I can say that quite impartially, because I like them equally well, and I think it is a pity there is not a better understanding.
27.--Anything else about a target rifle ?
The wise rifleman will fit to his rifle the best sights that he can afford. There are many sights available and there is little to choose between some of them except as regards price. I advise you to study different sights on the club rifles or the rifles of your friends, and don't be in too much of a hurry to decide which kind you are going for when you have a target rifle of your own.
28.-What sort of rifle would you advise me to buy ?
Unless you really know something about it, NEVER buy a gun without consulting somebody whose opinion you can trust. The same applies to a horse, and it might be supposed also to buying a second-hand car or taking a wife ; but in these two cases, advice is generally unwelcome and rarely heeded.
I strongly advise you before buying any rifle to try out any you can lay your hands on, and when you know the sort of thing you fancy and the price you are prepared to pay, consult somebody in your club. Who knows ? he may be able to put you on to an old club dud rifle, one of which the barrel is worn out. Such rifles are often cast out at a nominal price, such as 5s. ; there was a time when old service rifles in various stages of decrepitude were valued at is. Well, if a friend can put you on to a dud like this and can tell you that the action seems all right, especially if it has decent sights, all you have to do is to write to Messrs. Parker-Hale, Bisley Works, Birmingham, and ask them if they can Parker-rifle it (i.e. rebore it and insert a permanent •2z tube). At current rates it will cost 50s. and probably take twelve weeks or more.
29.-Is the spin intended chiefly to increase range or accuracy ?
It improves the all-round performance of the rifle. A modern propellant on being ignited produces an enormous volume of gases under very high pressure and blows the bullet out of the bore at a speed known as the muzzle velocity, which will carry the bullet of a certain weight a sufficient distance and give satisfactory penetration at all ranges with a reasonable degree of accuracy. What the rifling does (by keeping the bullet " nose first " and therefore on a definite course) is to take advantage of the initial velocity and improve the extreme range, accuracy, and penetration at all intermediate ranges. The theory is called " ballistics," but you need only understand some of its practical applications.
30.-What does `` range " mean exactly ?
The extreme range is the greatest distance at which you may expect the bullet to do useful work, i.e. satisfactory penetration. The distance between rifle and any target is called the range of that target, and it will be necessary to " cock up " the rifle at an appropriate angle in order to hit the target at any given range.
31.-What do you call satisfactory penetration ?
That depends on what you want the rifle to do. For a service rifle to kill a man it must not only hit him hard enough to kill, but it must be capable of penetrating a certain amount of cover of which he may take advantage, e.g. earth, sandbags, or wall. In this case there is always a certain amount of hitting power wasted in getting through cover, and the punch of the bullet must still be able to kill the man. It is the age-long conflict between armour and penetration. For sporting purposes a rifle must be used whose penetration is enough to kill whatever animal you are hunting. But for target shooting, only, penetration is far less important than accuracy, indeed it is sufficient if the bullet punches a clean-cut hole in a card target.
32.-How accurate should rifling make a weapon ?
We require of rifles different standards of accuracy
according to their purpose, nature, cost, and so on. With •22 target rifles, it is sometimes sufficient if they are plumb accurate at 12, 15, or 25 yards, though many high-class •2z rifles are accurate at 200 yards or more. A service rifle requires a high standard of accuracy up to say 400 yards, and reasonable accuracy up to about 600. For a sniper's rifle or a" match rifle " great accuracy is necessary even to i,000 yards.
But accuracy is rather a vague term. No rifle can be made that will, with certainty, put all its bullets into the same hole, however it may be aimed and whatever cartridges are used. A good rifle will put all its bullets very close together in a very compact pattern or " group," say a 2-inch circle at 200 yards,. and it is accurate within that limitation, which is a measure of the " error " of the rifle.
We shall have to discuss the personal error of the rifleman presently. The ideal arrangement is to have the rifle at least as accurate as the man ; nothing is more disheartening for a promising shot than to try to get results with an inaccurate rifle or one which lets him down. Even Inman could not play his best with a crooked cue.
33.-What punch is required to kill?
You can kill a man just as dead with a knitting-needle or by tapping him on the head with a light hammer as with a felling axe. The amount of punch necessary with any weapon can be more or less correctly calculated. With a bullet it is measured in what the experts call " foot-pounds of bullet energy." We need not examine that scientifically, but it is said that anything over 6o foot-pounds will probably kill a man. Now consider these facts : within some hundreds of yards the service rifle has ten to twenty times the necessary foot-pounds-this supplies the margin for penetration of cover. Even the •2z rifle has over twice the necessary punch to kill a man at 1,350 yards.
These figures illustrate the following points : With the service rifle the power of the cartridge has been stepped up so as to give as long and flat a trajectory as possible, with the result that it is actually wasteful as a killer of individual men ; it would in fact go straight through a whole platoon standing close up in single file. With the •2z rifle, the cartridge has been stepped up for the purpose of gaining accuracy and quite incidentally it has developed this terrific punch, in fact (and this is the point) the •22 rifle is a lethal weapon up to extreme range and should always be treated as such, and, in my opinion, is an admirable weapon against a real enemy.
34.-What are foot-pounds ?
A foot-pound means the energy developed by raising a pound one foot (which is very roughly the same as dropping a pound a foot), so when I say that sixty odd foot-pounds are calculated to kill a man, you must picture a weight of a pound being dropped on him from 6o feet or 6 pounds from 10 feet or 6o pounds from a foot. But, of course, the shape and density of the weight come into the picture, and I think that a fairly reasonably accurate statement would be : " If a bullet has sufficient remaining velocity to expend 6o foot-pounds on a living man in any part where he is liable to fatal injury, it will probably penetrate sufficiently to cause him fatal shock by " hydraulic bursting effect."
35.-What does that mean?
A man is not killed by the actual penetration so much as by high pressure set up by the blow and which is transmitted throughout the whole system. That is as far as we need go into the scientific aspect of the matter, but it does help to explain why a very small rifle or pistol bullet may be fatal provided -it strikes with sufficient energy a spot from which the shock is diffused through the body. I think that's about enough for one sitting ; you had better get a little relaxation now by going back to your book-keeping or your algebra. Any other questions ?
36.-What makes a rifle kick?
There is an old law that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In simple language this means that if one body pushes or strikes against another body, they exert on each other equal and opposite forces. This is not always easy to believe. For example, if I kick you on the shin, you will hardly realise that your shin pushed the toe of my shoe just as hard ; but it is illustrated by throwing a ball against a wall-the ball bounces back apparently as hard as you threw it. The effect on the two bodies differs according to their mass. For example, a small boy running full tilt into a big man appears to be bumped much harder than the man, but as a matter of fact they actually do bump equally hard.
In the rifle the explosion of the cartridge strikes equally hard in all directions and the forward push against the base of the bullet is balanced by the backward push against the rifle. Suppose the rifle weighs 9 pounds and the bullet a fraction of an ounce, it is clear that the effect of the explosion is very different forwards and backwards.
37.-Doesn't the kick make it difficult to shoot straight ?
Not really very much. The anticipation of the kick makes one flinch and therefore shoot erratically. In a properly designed rifle, with a suitable cartridge, the kick is not a thing to be afraid of, and presently, when we get on to the proper way to shoot, we shall find that the kick is absorbed by the rifle itself and by the arms and shoulder and it ought not to worry us. You will find it is chiefly a matter of holding the rifle properly and applying pressure to the trigger properly, and if you don't try to overcome the kick beforehand, the bullet will have started well and truly on its journey before you feel the effect of the kick.
In fact, almost the whole art of rifle shooting depends on the skill one must acquire in letting the rifle and the bullet act and react on each other without you spoiling it by flinching or jerking or, in fact, doing anything to interfere with the natural " recoil " of the rifle.
38.-Is a two-two rifle suitable for war and sport, and does it help to make us a nation of marksmen?
The •22 is a lot better than nothing for killing an enemy, it is good for rabbits and small game, it is the cornerstone for making us a nation of marksmen ; but it has its limitations, and for this it requires Government recognition. With the •2z in artificial conditions you may learn to shoot with microscopic accuracy, but this is only one aspect of training the Services and cadets in the use of the rifle.
The rifle must be suitable for its purpose. From time to time during the life of the Home Guard, small job lots of small •22 rifles suitable for small boys who want to shoot small birds have been issued. Most of these have no military value whatsoever. The only kind of •22 rifle for training a soldier or a cadet must simulate a service rifle-size and weight, bolt action, trigger pull, all the same as the service rifle. The worst possible issue was the delightful little Winchester Automatic (or self-loading) •22 rifle which, apart from being the very worst for military training, can only be used with a cartridge which is unobtainable.
39.-Is there any prospect of getting •22 rifles like the service rifle ?
Hush ! not too loud ! In the Daily Telegraph of fifth May, I944, it was stated: " A new miniature military rifle and a match rifle of the same type are to be available as soon as possible after the war." Discounting the use of the terms "miniature" and " match," it really does appear that a•22 rifle will be produced on the lines of the service rifle and possibly a superior model of the same kind with sights sufficiently accurate for high-class competitive shooting.
For this-let us pray.
The link shown here is to a page covering the development of this very rifle: the post WWII B.S.A. .22RF Enfield Trials Rifles
(NOTE - This word is abbreviated in different ways. Some riflemen call it " ammo." I adopt the Army code word " amn." Cartridge may be abbreviated " ctg.")
40.-What exactly is a ctg. ?
Every modern ctg. consists of these components : bullet, cartridge-case containing some kind of powder or explosive (called the " propellant "), and a" cap," or " primer," to fire the "charge." The only exception is the " pellet," or " slug," used in an air-rifle. This needs no other components, because it is propelled by released compressed air, like a peashooter or a savage's blowpipe. The effect is the same as with a ctg.
41.-Isn't an airgun only a boy's toy?
There are airguns that are little more than toys which give a boy his first chance to shoot, but I said " airrifle." That is different. A modern air-rifle, e.g. a B.S.A., is a powerful and accurate weapon, and is a very fair substitute for a •22 rifle. Their amn. is the simplest and cheapest, and you can get great value out of it. You compress air in a cylinder by a lever, and then
release it by pressing the trigger, and the bottled-up air projects the pellet as though propelled by an explosive. The National Air Rifle League is the chief organisation and under its aegis there are many air-rifle clubs.
42.-It does not seem to me the same at all. What about all these components?
I said the " effect " is the same. Here are some standard cartridges :
No. I is an American '300. No. 2 is the British •303 ctg. No. 1 has a groove round the base instead of a rim as in No. 2. No. 3 is a .22 " Long Rifle." No. 4 is a .22 " Long." No. 5 is a .22 " Short." These are a few typical ctgs. out of literally many hundreds of different kinds.
Choose one, and let us strip it and see what it contains.
43.---All right. What does No. 1 contain?
The bullet fits tightly, but can be got out with pliers. And out comes a lot of shiny black flaky powder.
The bullet has a " jacket " of cupro-nickel filled with a core of tin and lead. The jacket is harder than pure lead, and that will affect the rifling. The black shiny powder is the propellant, of which there are many different kinds. This particular one approved by the Americans is of a nature called " pyro-cellulose." The now empty case has at the base a cap which on being struck is to ignite the charge and propel the bullet.
44.-It looks the same as No. 2. Is it really the same?
It is the same in design and in effect, but the components are different. If you open NO. 2 you will find instead of powder, little sticks about 1½ inch long of a brownish gummy substance about as thick as ordinary pencil leads. This is cordite. But the action and effect are the same.
45.-Why are there •22 made in three different lengths ?
There are eight different types of •22 rim fire, of which you need know only two, viz. No. 3 (Long Rifle) and No. 5 (Short). No. 4, called " long," is a mongrel and serves no special purpose. No. 3 is standard for nearly all '22 rifles and pistols, but No. 5 is equally satisfactory in most firearms chambered for " Long Rifle " and is the only ctg. for some of the smaller firearms chambered for " Short."
46.-These little cartridges, Nos. 3, 4, and 5, don't seem to have any cap. Is that why they are called " rim fire " ? -
The ctg. we opened has a central cap in the base, and flush with the base ; it is therefore fired by a central striker and is called " central fire," or " c.f." But this little •22 (No. 3) has the cap composition tucked inside the rim and therefore requires to be struck on the edge of the rim. This is called " rim fire," or " r.f." So you see it would not do in a c.f. rifle.
Because a c.f. striker hits the base of the ctg. plumb in the middle, and would consequently miss the cap composition in the rim.
48.-How do you get over that?
Rifles for rim fire, or r.f., ctgs. have a special bolt with the striker slightly out of centre, so as to make certain of striking the rim.
49.-Why not have all rifles either r.f. or c.f. ?
To begin with, a service rifle or any other large rifle fires an extremely powerful ctg. of which the case must be specially robust at the base, and it is shaped to fit the chamber and prevent any gas escaping. If this ctg. were rim fire, it would be far more likely to go off by accident if handled roughly ; moreover, the amount of eccentricity required to strike the rim is considerable. On the other hand, for this •22 the striker only requires to be very slightly eccentric.
50.-Then why not all c.f. ?
Simplicity and cheapness. The r.f. is quite safe with ordinary care. The manufacture is simplified by cutting out all the processes necessary for making and inserting the cap. All kinds of •z2 amn. are made by the million and you can shoot far cheaper than with
any ether kind of ctg.
51.-What do you mean by `` all kinds of • 22 "?
There are three ctgs., called " Long Rifle," " Long," and " Short," which may be loaded with different propellants, e.g. black powder, smokeless, Kleanbore, rustless, and non-rusting. It is not necessary to go into the chemical composition of these, but they are different, and presently, when we examine the question of care and preservation of the barrel and cleaning generally, we shall find that different propellants have remarkably different effects : some preserve the bore and some induce damage by fouling and rust. It is therefore worth learning about ctgs. and also it will be found worth paying a little more for amn. which will actually preserve your rifle-that is, of course, if it is worth preserving.
52.--How do the larger service ctgs. differ ?
There is almost infinite variety in them.
For instance, look at the bases of the •303 and •300 : one has
got a rim, and the other has got a groove round the edge and is called rimless.
They would not do in both rifles, even if they were the same shape and size, because the shape of the extractor must be different and with different-shaped bases they could not both fill up the rear of the chamber, as must be done to prevent the escape of gas. One of the first things to learn is NEVER to try to use any ctg. in any rifle but one for which it is intended. Again, we have also got in these ctgs. all kinds of propellants ; for example, we found that cordite is quite different from the shining powder in No. I. This also emphasises the need to use the right ctg., because some of these propellants are quicker burning and more violent than others, with disastrous results if used in the rifle not designed for them.
53.-There must be one best propellant. Why do we not all use the same ?
Why do we not all use the same kind of car or wireless set, or even sparking-plug or valve ? There is always, and always will be, a choice, and in selecting for oneself an individual or a nation may be guided by many different considerations, such as cheapness, reliability under different climatic and atmospheric conditions, availability of materials, continuity of supply, and the physical characteristics of the user. There is also a good deal of tradition and prejudice about weapons, not to mention " custom," which affects considerably their shape, length, simplicity or otherwise of design. The same applies to amn.
54.-Is it necessary to know about all ctgs. ?
No. There are literally hundreds of different ctgs., as a glance at a pre-war catalogue would show you. But you must understand how and why the ctg. must fit the chamber, and you need not bother any more - unless of course you get interested, as you surely will !
55.-What about the fit of the ctg. in the chamber ?
The bullet must be driven through the barrel in exactly the same way every time. The force that does this is produced by the explosion and none of this force must be wasted by escaping round the bullet. The bullet must therefore fit. It also has to " take " the rifling so as to take the spin. So it is obvious that the bullet and the front end of the ctg. must fit in the chamber. The force is the result of the explosion, or, more accurately, the combustion of the propellant. This is either a chemical combination or mixture or a bit of both, which on being ignited by the cap produces gases which expand enormously in very quick time. The propellant is the same as the compressed air in the air-rifle and is really a sort of highly compressed gas in a very portable form. None of this gas can be allowed to escape in any direction ; the walls of the cartridge case therefore fit the chamber accurately. The case is also slightly coned towards the front to ensure a tight fit where it is pushed home. The explosion presses the walls of the case still tighter in the chamber, and now all that we have to ensure is that the gases do not escape backwards. Hence the need for strength in the base.
Suppose the base were flimsy or did not fit, gas might escape between the face of the breech and the bolt head, and this would be bad for the rifle and also for the rifleman's face !
One more point in favour of the coned ctg. case: if it is inclined to stick, the cone actually makes extraction easier.
56.-What is meant by a misfire?
A misfire is the failure to explode after the trigger has been pressed and the striker has fallen. It ought not often to happen with decent amn., but it can occur owing to a variety of causes, e.g. defective cap, weak striker spring, or the striker not hitting the cap fair and square. The last named does sometimes happen, particularly with rim fire. Some American rifles are slightly different as regards eccentricity of the striker, and it is usually better to use American r.f. with American rifles and British with British, but I don't think this is very important. .
The misfire may be only a " hang-fire," i.e. a delay in the cap composition igniting the charge. It is therefore desirable, particularly with powerful ctgs., to wait a short time before extracting the ctg. It can then be examined and the 'cause ascertained ; this is usually easy, and one can see whether the impression of the striker indicates that the striker is to blame or the cap. If it is the striker, it may be due to a weak spring or to the striker being sluggish owing to sticky oil. In any case, a ctg. that has misfired will often go off on a second try ; if it does not, make quite certain that the defective ctg. is got rid of so that NOBODY can ever come across it
I know personally of a case where an experienced musketry instructor had a dud ctg. that had failed to explode on the range and had used it for weeks as a dummy (i.e. an inert drill round). One day it went off, and that instructor was killed.
58.-That sort of thing can't often happen. Aren't you inclined to be too cautious ?
With a rifle and amn. one cannot be too cautious. These questions and answers will be grossly incomplete if I do not include in them all the " do's " and " don'ts " I can think of if you are to avoid remorse, possibly for the rest of your life !
59.-You said " NEVER use any ctg. in any rifle but one for which it is intended."
I suppose that is a warning, but you have
also said that a ctg. won't actually fit the wrong rifle.
I am glad you remembered that ; it is very important. It is true that, for example, this •303 and this •30o will not both fit the same rifle, but it is astonishing what a stupid but hefty man can do in the way of jamming a ctg. into the wrong rifle. Here is an authentic case : When a mixed lot of American •303 and •30o rifles were in use, a man who thought he knew all about it jammed a ctg. of the one kind in the other rifle and managed to close the bolt. He fired it on the range and blew the rifle to bits, and was extremely lucky to escape with injuries which ought to have cost his life. People rarely think what force is wrapped up in these little packets. How far can you throw that •22 bullet ?
and could you hurt anyone by throwing it ? But that little quantity of propellant can throw it the best part of a mile and shoot accurately at 200 yards, and it can kill a man at many hundreds of yards. For this reason, I advocate extreme care in using any of •22 ctgs. for shooting rooks and small vermin. They can be killed with comparative safety if you use a rifle and ctgs. specially intended for rook and rabbit.
A skilled shot may have fine sport shooting rabbits with a target rifle-with telescopic sight if he wishes - but he will take all precautions. It is dangerous to blaze off indiscriminately with a rifle which may go through a grey squirrel and still kill an adult or a child hundreds of yards away.
60.-Isn't it going to cramp my style if I have got a decent rifle and am not sure exactly what amn. is safe in it?
I advocate common sense and care in not using palpably wrong amn. There are some risks that are justifiable and of everyday occurrence. For example, a few instances of split cases and blow back do not justify condemnation of all amn. of that type.
On the other hand, if you have a mixed lot of ctgs. it is only sense to consider which of them you will use. With a .22 it is pretty safe to fire any ctg. that will fit, though you will get different results according to whether the ctg. is suitable for the rifle. With larger weapons, e.g. service rifles, big-game rifles, and revolvers, extra care must be exercised.
The question of revolver amn. is very complex and more burst revolvers are due to wrong ctg, than all other causes.
61.-You seem to be against shooting " in the air." Why ?
The only legitimate target in the air for a rifle is a plane or a balloon or a parachutist. Any bullet fired into the air reminds me of the tragedy :
" I shot an arrow into the sky,
It landed spang in Harold's eye."
A bullet that is not stopped will travel a long way and a•zz rifle will kill at nearly a mile. There is only one air shot that is less dangerous than others, and that is exactly vertically. A bullet fired vertically reaches its highest point and then starts coming down again. If there were no resistance of the air, the bullet would accelerate and develop the same velocity at any point on the way down that it had on the way up, so that it would arrive with the original " muzzle velocity "enough to kill twenty times over. As a fact, it does NOT, and it gets back with less than the amount of energy theoretically required for killing. Shot, or pellets from a shot-gun fired into the air, come down quite harmlessly as spent pellets.
Mind you, I do not recommend you to try this ; any weight falling from a height may give a nasty bump, and bullets are always bullets.
RANGES AND TARGETS
62.-What is meant by a rifle range ?
One of the peculiarities of English is that we sometimes use different words for the same thing or the same word for different things. There are all kind of ranges --mountains, kitchen stoves, range of colours, range to
the target, etc. " Quires and places where they sing " has nothing to do with quires of paper, nor even choirs, except by accident. Rifle Ranges are places where they shoot and it has little to do with the actual distance. Let us distinguish them by calling them Ranges with a capital R.
63.-Are there different kinds of Range ?
Yes. A Range may be indoors or out of doors (open Range), anything from ten yards to a thousand, it may have room for one rifleman or a hundred. It may be a safe place in a sandpit or provided with firing-points, butts, telephones, etc., to enable many riflemen to shoot together.
64.-Will you describe a typical Range ?
The rifleman takes up his position at the " firingpoint." The target is placed vertically in front of a bank to stop the bullets, called the " Butt." The essential features of a Range are that one can legally shoot there, that it is safe, and that it suits our purpose -whether it is with a•22 rifle or a service rifle.
65.-What is the simplest form of Range?
For a.22 rifle or pistol it is a space of ten yards with the target against a butt, in a room or a sandpit. Ten yards is the minimum and bullets must go into sand or timber, so that there is no risk of their splashing back. At 10 yards one can learn pistol shooting and one can shoot with a .22, but for the latter, 12, 15, or 25 yards are better. You can use targets at any of these Ranges which are scaled down so as to represent targets at a longer range. The best indoor Range for a .22 is 25 yards. It requires a room or corridor or cloister about 30 yards long, because you must have room for the butt and for the riflemen and others at the firingpoint and it is difficult to find such ample accommodation. Many individuals and clubs have to be content with less, that is why targets have been designed to give the same results as at 25 yards by scaling them down in size.
But even with a .22 you can shoot at much longer Ranges and do wonderful shooting at 100, 200, and 300 yards, and even more.
66.-What is the minimum Range for a service rifle ?
The standard short Range is 30 yards, and it is contended that any service man can do most of his training at this Range.
67.-Do you agree with that?
In my opinion, you can learn most of your stuff at 30 yards, but nothing can actually replace experience at longer Ranges, where all kinds of things come in to perplex you, such as changes of light, wind, visibility, etc. But if you have not got hundreds of yards, 30 yards is a good substitute. I maintain that a keen rifleman can learn a great deal of his art and maintain his proficiency by " dry shooting," i.e. going through the motions of firing, without ctgs. ; but what I want to emphasise is that if you have not got facilities to shoot at targets some hundreds of yards away, you can learn, and keep up a lot of the business of position, holding, and trigger-release, either at close range or even without cartridges.
68.-I know where I can shoot indoors at about 15 yards. . Will you tell me how to fix it up?
At the target end you must have a butt, safe for the public and for you. A brick wall (41 or 9 inches) is a good backing. In front of that, something to absorb your bullets. Sand is excellent, but sandbags are apt to get punctured. Sleepers are fine and last a long time. Best of all is a 3/16ths.-inch steel plate at an angle of 30° to 45° behind the targets to deflect bullets down into a sand trough (see S.M.R.C. pamphlet). But for legality and safety you had better consult the local policeman. For a properly constituted indoor Range, there are a good many authorities to satisfy, War Office, Police, etc., and the S.M.R.C. is the fountain-head of information on this subject.
Then you have got to consider lighting and firingpoint.
69.-How do you mean, " lighting "?
In an ordinary room you might see your target well enough by day, but not at night. So you must arrange for artificial illumination of the target, which may be from above or below, and you may require a light at the firing-point. This all takes thought, but is common sense, and if you can get somebody with a little experience to help it is as easy as pie.
70.-Anyway, the firing-point won't require much thought, will it?
The chief thing to remember is that all the elements of good shooting depend on a good position and avoidance of muscular strain, that is to say, " on comfort." No marksman can do himself justice for long in discomfort, so consider the firing-point for the lying position.
Try lying on concrete or even bare boards with your stomach and legs hugging the ground and your elbows supporting the rifle, and a very short time will convince you of the need for something better. Moreover, a man in the lying position takes up far more ground than the traditional six feet by two ; he needs to spread himself and his legs are splayed out to the side of the line of his spine. He really requires about 5 feet by 5 feet, but in order to make room for more shooters at a time they can be arranged to overlap, thus :
One man splayed out occupies a lot of space. If we are to economise in space, we must make each man share with others ; or if we think they are spreading themselves unnecessarily, we reduce their space thus :
and we cannot cramp them further.
There are two points to note here : (a) shooters are always numbered from the left, so as to be firing on the target opposite their positions, the targets being numbered from their right, and (b) a man shooting lefthanded has to be given special space. He should obviously lie on the extreme right, i.e. in this case No. 4, and he must be given room for his legs to the right.
71.-So a one-man Range must have at least 5 feet width ?
For one man you really want 6 feet, but you must make do with whatever space you have. The chief point is that the straighter the firing position, the less chance of good shooting.
There is something more-you must have something to lie on. Even a soldier on service does not often have to lie on concrete. The best thing is a gym. mattress or door-mats, the thicker the better. If unobtainable, use rugs or blankets or sacks or your greatcoat and something under it. This will save you from discomfort and help your elbows not to slip.
Presently you will learn the position-elbows well in under the rifle, shoulders and chest off the ground, and stomach and legs fairly gripping the ground.
72.-Now what about targets ?
Anything will do for a target provided it enables you to judge the accuracy of the shot, but properly designed targets give more fun and better sport.
The simplest form of target is a circular bull's-eye with concentric rings indicating how far the shot is from dead centre. Your object is to get all your shots as near dead centre as you can and the rings give a mathematical measure of that accuracy. This design is ancient and the archer still tries for the central "gold." But variety and amusement can be introduced by other designs, sometimes simulating a real target from nature, such as a man's head and shoulders or a rabbit. The standard dart-board (originally concentric rings) employs variations and gives scope for skill beyond mere mechanical accuracy.
The standard targets for •22 are published by the S.M.R.C. They are mostly circular bulls and rings for shooting at 25 yards, which will test the accuracy of the finest shot and the best rifle, and these are obtainable scaled down for shorter ranges.
The service targets have for years been generally concentric rings round a circular bull's-eye on a square frame. From time to time modifications, particularly in the shape and position of the bull, have been made, but their variety is so great that it is better not to describe them here. For training, practice, competition, and match purposes the S.M.R.C. type is admirable, whilst for - variety and higher training some fancy shapes are very welcome. such as :
When figure targets are used, I am in favour of counting only hits on the figure. Measurement by rings gives an idea of accuracy, but in real life " near misses " with single bullets are as valueless as blank cartridges.
73.-What target shall I start with?
Start with circular bulls and concentric rings. When you can make a decent group and apply it to the bull, you can use your own taste. The rifleman has a certain standard of proficiency and accuracy, each rifle has its own standard, and ctgs. also. It is useless for a man to try to get better and better results with a rifle that is only accurate up to a certain range-shooting beyond that range will not improve his marksmanship. Unless you have a rifle that is better than you, have it tested by a reliable shot who can tell you, for example, that it is only reasonably accurate up to 15 yards and that it cannot he expected to make a group of less than a 2-inch circle. In such a case you will get best practice by shooting at a 2-inch bull at 15 yards. If you can group all your shots in that bull reasonably often, one day when you have an opportunity of using a really good rifle you will make a much smaller group on a smaller target at a longer range.
Of course, the ideal for a beginner is to start with a perfect rifle and perfect ctgs., but even the best shots are always hoping that they may some day improve on their performance by getting a rifle or ctgs. which are better than they.
* No. 3 is the design of Major A. Talbot Smith, Flint Cottage, Chipstead, Surrey, from whom particulars can be obtained. It is particularly realistic and suitable far snap-shooting.
74.-What is a coach?
He is the rifleman's right-hand man on the Range, and he is anything between instructor, guide, philosopher, and friend on the one extreme and a purely mechanical voice on the other. I consider a coach for each rifleman at the firing-point so valuable that I advocate every rifleman, from the best shot to the humblest, always having a coach (except on service and other competitive practice, where it is impossible).
75.-Why should the best shot need a coach? Who is going to teach him?
It is not quite a matter of teaching, though I believe Paderewski used, to take piano lessons late in life.
For the novice- it is a matter of instruction, careful watching and checking faults, advising as to alteration or aim of adjustment of sights ; for the expert, the coach is an assistant who keeps him informed of such things as the lapse of time, changes of light or wind, or rain coming or flags showing signs of something or other, and who will also (if, desired by the expert) comment on such things as slight alteration of position or trigger-release.
76.-What do you mean exactly by competitive practice ?
All rifle shooting, except purely instructional or training, is to some extent competitive. If several people shoot together under the same, conditions, there must be some kind of comparison between their results. Even if you shoot by yourself, you must compare the result with what you have done previously or you learn nothing. In any kind of game it is a question of vying with one another whether it is a needle match or a practice game, and in shooting there is always the spirit of competition, though it may only-be an attempt to improve upon a standard or previous record. In any such shooting, I say a coach is almost essential.
77.-Can you tell me something about shooting matches ?
I don't think it would be much good here. In order to take part in any match or proper competition, you must belong to some organisation or club, and if you do, the club can give you all particulars of every kind of team or individual event suitable for that club.
For •22 shooting, the S.M.R.C. offers an infinite variety of competitions to suit all kinds of shots and all purses. Service-rifle competitive shooting is not so generally available as •2z ; here, again, the unit or club is the body to arrange facilities.
I would like to add this : whether it is at a village fair or on a formal range, competitive shooting is very good fun, and we can do with some of that these days. I suppose it is better fun if you shoot against equals. and sometimes win, but, believe me, you will learn more by shooting against betters. There is a spirit of fraternity among riflemen which always helps an aspiring novice. You learn more about billiards by playing against a better man with the cue, even though it means paying for the table-you will pay less for the table later on.
78.-Surely if I know about firing a rifle, you don't expect me to drill with it like a soldier?
The handling of any weapon or tool is necessary to get the best out of it. It is to a certain extent " drill," but it is really getting accustomed to using it in the best way. Few men can, by the light of nature, make proper use of tools such as a saw, plane, chisel, file, axe, bill-hook, scythe, spade, hoe, or golf-club. They are all simple, but try to use a file properly and then get a fitter or a mechanic to show you what he can do with it and you will have an eye-opener.
79.-Does drill mean a lot of people working together ? or me going through drill by myself ?
" Drill " really means a lot of people doing the thing in the right way, because each of them does it in the right way whether he is alone or with others. You see individual drill every time an expert handles any tool and you see collective drill every time you see a decent football team or cricket team or gang on a job of work, or waiters in a restaurant, or glee-singers in the village hall, and in its highest degree if you watch Navy, Army, or Air Force men on the parade-ground or at action stations-that is, " on the job." But this isn't a drill-book, ask me something else.
80.-Can't I shoot decently without drudgery ?
You can't learn to do anything well without drudgery. You can't paint without learning about drawing and colour and the tools you use. You can't be a printer without learning about the types and presses and typesetting. You can't even write a book without having something to say and learning how to put it into words ; and then if you want to know what drudgery is--write it !
81.-What drill have I got to do to shoot with a rifle ?
Your main object is to be able to hit what you shoot at. Your second object is not to hit anybody you are not intending to shoot. Take your second object first, because once you are safe with a rifle you have plenty of time to become proficient in hitting a target.
You must therefore learn to handle a rifle so that you are safe to your neighbours. That is easy and can be put into a few simple rules :
NEVER handle a rifle without seeing it is not loaded. NEVER point a rifle at anything you do not mean to hit.
NEVER put it down or hand it over without seeing it is not loaded.
NEVER load it until you are getting ready to fire.
When you have loaded it, then comes the drill of a loaded rifle, with which you are going to shoot at a target.
82.-A rifle must be pointing somewhere even if I don't touch it. Where does the drill come in?
If you handle it, make sure that the muzzle is pointing where it can do no harm, i.e. facing a wall or the butt or into the ground. In the drill, when you are going to use the rifle there are only four requirements : i. Position ; i.e. standing, kneeling, crouching, or lying, or indeed any kind of posture. 2. Hold ; i.e. the way you hold the rifle with both hands. 3. Aim ; i.e. the way you use the sights to align the rifle on the target. 4. Release of the trigger, to fire the shot.
The only two drill positions you need learn are standing and lying, because if you learn the correct " position " for these, you can shoot in any posture and can drop into any other position or posture as easily as in ordinary life you can stand up or sit down.
83.-What is the difference between position and posture ?
" Standing position " is the way experience has taught a rifleman to stand so as to take advantage of every possible factor, such as " stance," firmness on the feet, balance, comfort in holding up the rifle without strain.
There are two, and only two, alternative positions for standing-viz. the British military standing position, and the position largely adopted' in America and on the Continent called the " hip-rest " position.
By "posture" I mean any attitude which varies from the normal. For example, the tommy-gun or pistol is frequently fired from the waist or from the middle of the front of the body, and various postures are recommended officially, and the tendency is to change the foot-work and to lean forward with the weight on the left leg, which is advanced, and bent. The general appearance is that of a crouching man preparing to lunge. In rifle shooting " from the hip " (not to be confused with hip-rest) the same kind of posture is adopted.
84.-What is the standing position?
The military position is pretty generally accepted, but with each individual it must be capable of variation according to his size, strength, weight of rifle, length of stock, etc. The essential points are that his " stance " is right, as we say of a golfer addressing his ball, his feet firmly on the ground, his balance correct, his hold of the rifle as comfortable as his lack of strength allows, and lastly and very important, that all muscles in the body are relaxed as much as possible and no muscle is tensed or strained more than absolutely necessary.
A sound standing position is the foundation of all rifle shooting, because if you make it second nature, any position can be adopted quickly and accurately. Moreover, if you can shoot standing, you can shoot in any position or posture. On the other hand, you may be pretty good lying and hopeless when you try standing.
The position is taken up in this way. First stand facing your target squarely, eyes fixed on it. Turn nearly half right and separate the feet sufficiently to make them into a steady platform, weight evenly distributed. Bring the rifle to the " ready," i.e. supported by the left hand a little in front of the point of balance in front of the body, right hand gripping the " hand," i.e. the thin part behind the trigger guard, forefinger of right band kept consciously away from the trigger, muzzle pointing at but above target, eyes on target.
To ` mount " the rifle, lift it with both hands and with the right pull it gently into the cup of the shoulder. Right elbow up. Left elbow bent and brought well under the rifle to support it. Fingers of left hand should not grip the rifle nor help the right hand to pull it into the shoulder ; on the contrary, the more you can make left hand into a forked prop the better. Head and, neck bent slightly to the right and front, so as to bring the right eye (I am speaking for normal righthandedness) comfortably in line with the sights but not too close to the bolt or back sight.
85.-Do I always have to shoot exactly like that when standing?
That is the military standing position. The " hip-rest " position differs from it in some essentials, and you may take your choice. The hip rest is popular in America, where they pay much more attention to standing shooting than we do-I wish we could imitate them !-and is universal among continental sharpshooters, who do marvellous shooting, literally in thousands.
The variations from the military position are these : Turn nearly completely to the right, so that you align your rifle nearly over the left shoulder. You need not raise the right elbow quite so much and the left hand is brought farther back, nearer the point of balance, and the left forearm is used as a forked prop almost vertically. The continental practice is to support the rifle on the tips of the extended fingers (or with special rifles even to support the rifle on a vertical pillar resting on the palm of the hand), this is to enable the left elbow to come into the body even so far as actually to rest against the hip or above it. To complete the position, bend the hips slightly forward, and to preserve the balance incline the upper part of the body and head slightly backwards. This sounds awkward, but the illustrations ought to make it clear.
In either position you ought to be able to shoot at a target below or above the horizontal and even overhead without feeling uncomfortable ; on the other hand, if you find that you are not so comfortable as you wish
and are more comfortable aiming a little more right or left, this means that you must move your stance round a little one way or the other so that the rifle comes up in the right line even with your eyes shut. In both cases, cheek firmly against butt but not far enough forward to be bumped by the thumb.
The standing position is the foundation of all shooting, and you should practise it continually. In America " three-position shooting " is a standard of proficiency, and in practice they make a man shoot six " strings " or " series " standing for every series lying, and two or three kneeling or sitting. If you are a fair three-position shot (i.e. a rifleman) you will wipe the floor with crack target shots who habitually shoot lying.
86.-What about lying ?
There are many ways of assuming the lying position and the US. Basic Field Manual illustrates different ways of doing so quickly. The way I recommend is as follows : Get into the ready position for standing, leave go with the right hand and bend down, placing the right palm on the ground, poke out your legs straight back, i.e. at a considerable angle with your line of fire (30 to 45 degrees), sink down on to your stomach, keeping the chest and shoulders well up from the ground, and bed the rifle in the cup of the right shoulder ; both elbows well under the rifle, the upper part of the spine in line with the target and bending at the waist, the legs spread out and comfortably hugging the ground. Then when you " mount " the rifle, if you are more comfortable when aiming right or left of the target, it means that your position is at a wrong angle. You must not correct this by forcing your arms and rifle over, but you must shift the whole angle of your body to one side or the other till you are comfortable and can mount your rifle in the direction of the target (eyes open or shut) without straining.
87.-Is that all about drill ?
That is all that matters until - you start shooting, Then there is some more drill-the drill of loading, the drill of taking your aim, the drill of trigger release (which is not so easy as it sounds, because different kinds of rifles, all fired by trigger pressure, have their own particular kind of pull). Then there is the drill of doing everything at the firing-point in the proper way and according to the rules or standing orders of your club or range or according to your instructor, but that is all part of " range discipline."
(a). Various angles indicated. A is too straight, C is too wide, shaded figure is a good average.
The point to note is that, having found the comfortable angle, the whole position must be pivoted round till B reaches A and the body and legs go through the same angle.
(b). The final position seen from above. Note particularly the angle of the mat.
88.-What did you say were the four essentials in getting off a good shot ?
They cannot be repeated too often : position, hold, aim, and trigger release. " Position " I have dealt with and aim comes into " Sights and theory " later on. Trigger release is possibly the most difficult thing to master in rifle shooting ; the experts call it " squeeze " or " pressure," but I will try to explain how it is done with the least disturbance of aim.
Trigger release means releasing the striker on to the cap by means of the trigger, which operates the mechanism that keeps the striker under control. I say the trigger is " pulled." The weight required to operate the trigger is officially known as the " pull." Thus a
22 rifle must have a" pull " of not less than 3 lb. The service rifle has about 6 lb., or with a" double-pull " trigger the first pull is 3 lb. and the second about 6 lb. If you pull the trigger in the sense that you jerk or snatch at it, the shot will be thrown off the mark just as surely as if that kind of pull is applied to the trigger guard or indeed any other part of the rifle. The secret is that the pull is exerted only by the very sensitive trigger-finger without allowing any other muscle of hand or arm to take part in it. The actual part of the forefinger which is used depends on several things--size of hand, length of finger, distance between trigger and that part of the stock called the " hand," where the thumb and other fingers grasp the rifle. The ideal is to use the hinged joint between the end and second bones of the index finger, but you in ay have to use some other part of the finger-it is a matter of the most comfortable grip in which you can leave the whole of the pull to the finger.
89.-Ought this trigger release to be instinctive or automatic ?
Purists say you can't pull with the finger without an equal and opposite action by the thumb or rest of the hand and consequent disturbance of the grip. That is to some extent true, but the human hand is a delicate and tractable instrument. When a skilled violinist executes an arpeggio, I don't suppose he has to think all the time about action and reaction between the thumb and fingers. What the rifleman must aspire to do is to teach his members to respond to his subconscious will so that all his reflex actions appear to be automatic. There is nothing " instinctive " or " automatic " about it. It is instinctive to flinch ; this instinct must be schooled. It is automatic to breathe ; this automaticity must be controlled. When you are master of your reflexes, you are very near to outstanding skill in rifle shooting.
90.-Then to score a bull, the proper position, hold, and " pull " are all that are necessary ?
That is as near as one can put it in simple language, but there is one more thing to remember and to provide for. That is the time-lag between your final squeeze and the departure of the bullet from the muzzle.
91.-There surely isn't enough to matter ? It sounds instantaneous.
It is not. The difference between old-fashioned hammer-guns and hammerless was appreciable. The 'difference between a long travel for a striker with a sluggish spring and a short travel for a striker with a powerful spring, though not appreciable, is a fact. That is only a part of the time-lag. The rate of detonation of the cap and of the explosion and combustion of the propellant and of the travel of the bullet through the bore all come into it. If all these things were instantaneous, the effect of the time-lag would not arise ; but all these things take their time and your shot may be spoiled by not allowing for it. You may even unconsciously, by anticipation, habitually ruin what would have been a good shot.
In the same way that you must not check your stroke at golf on hitting the ball, but learn to follow through, so in rifle shooting you must not check on releasing the trigger, but allow full time to elapse.
92.-What's the difference between detonation, explosion, and combustion ?
" Detonation " is the practically instantaneous disruption of a so-called " high explosive " (H.E.) unsuitable for a propellant because it is too sudden and violent ; it would burst the rifle before the bullet had time to get going, but it is all right for the small cap in the ctg. " Explosion " is the rapid development of gas which starts the bullet on its travels ; " combustion " is the complete burning up of the propellant while the bullet is still in the bore. All of these, though rapid, are at a different rate. So if you have a slow propellant, it adds to the time-lag and there really is an interval between your final pressure of the trigger and the departure of the bullet from the muzzle, and in that short space of time you may spoil your shot, although you are quite unconscious of the time-lag.
93.-What am I to do to avoid It?
Never anticipate the explosion or prepare to counteract it. Let the ctg. do its work and you do nothing to resist it. Let the rifle kick and offer no opposition in advance-your shoulder will do that better if relaxed and inert. Second, realise that when you have pulled the trigger at 3 lb. to 6 lb., the trigger-finger suddenly finds itself pulling against nothing, which means that it is almost instantaneously pulling back when it should have stopped. In short, you can only nullify the timelag by offering no muscular resistance beyond your inertness to the recoil and by training your finger to stop dead and not to overshoot the point where the trigger suddenly releases the striker.
94.-Haven't you forgotten to explain the "hold " of the rifle ?
No ; but I have kept it till now. Picture to yourself the old farmer and his wife driving back from market, tired, and behind the tired old mare. Clop, clop, clopperty-clop ! The wife says, " Can't ye get a move on the old mare ? We're late as 'tis. Give 'er a flick under tail, Jarge "; and he says, " Ar ! I'm keeping that for the last 'ill."
I am keeping " Hold " for the last hill.
You may have perfected your position, your aim, the niceties of trigger release, and yet be let down by faulty " hold." If your hold is bad, the rest may be waste.
The position must be reasonably comfortable ; the rifle must be held with both hands, so that it balances as though it were almost without weight. Both hands must grasp gently but firmly, so as not to interfere with the natural recoil. The whole posture must be such that there is no stress or strain, no tensing of muscles, no muscular exertion to lift the rifle or to anticipate recoil, no rigid grip with either hand beyond what is necessary to attain steadiness-breathing under control so that at the right moment there may be perfect steadiness of arms and hands and rifle for that short space of time required for trigger release.
The left hand is, above all, a prop just in front of the point of balance ; it is not a vice. The right hand grasps the " hand " of the rifle, and ensures that the rifle is upright and keeps the butt firmly bedded into the hollow of the shoulder, and after all that the brain, eye, and trigger-finger work together and all the other muscles remain relaxed until the bullet has reached the bull. You may then look up. It is rather like putting at golf-one of the hardest things to learn, but so easy once it is learnt. But I suppose even if I spoke with the voice of Henry Cotton or Sandy Herd, I could not persuade you to keep your head down any more than I can learn not to grip the rifle.
You may go now, and I hope you will get a lot of fun out of an hour or two of Latin, Greek, or conic sections or whatever you choose as a relief from handling rifles. With persistence you may learn to balance a billiard-ball on a cue on your nose, you may even learn to bid at Bridge-there are a lot of things that may be learnt by concentrated effort-but, believe me, all of these are child's play compared with perfection in the art of firing a rifle.
95.-Does cleaning matter much?
It matters so much that I put it as the most important thing for the beginner to learn. Ignorance or neglect may start the very best rifle on the downgrade that leads to the scrap-heap. One night's neglect after one round fired may do the trick.
Take a new target rifle costing many guineas or only a pound or two. Examine the barrel. The inside is polished as smooth as glass. The boring and rifling have been done with precision tools to the highest pitch of accuracy, hand-lapped by a craftsman in one of the most highly skilled trades. On the care that the owner takes to see that the high polish is preserved depends the future of the rifle-whether it is to render years of service without reduction of value or whether it is to be allowed to slip into the not-so-good class and end up among the duds.
96.-Isn't it a bit of a job keeping that complicated bit of mechanism in order?
No. I am not asking you to keep any mechanism in order ; in fact I don't mind much if you don't know how the mechanism works. The action is so well designed that it is almost foolproof, and-excepting the barrel-you can maintain the rifle in fair order by keeping it clear of grit, going, over the parts with an oily brush and wiping it carefully with a soft cloth slightly damped with Rangoon oil, sewing-machine oil, " three in one," or some oil or preservative specially made for rifles such as " Young's Cleaner and Rust Presenter'' or any preparation supplied by a reputable British firm,
97.-Why is the barrel so frightfully important?
As I have tried to explain, no barrel can be made so perfect as to put all bullets through the same hole even with perfect aiming and perfect ctgs., but the rifle makers have got very near that ideal, and that barrel will go on grouping its shots so close together as to go on making " possibles," i.e. all in the bull, till the cows come home, provided always the aim is good and, above all, the bore is kept in its original condition. There are, of course, many causes that may lead to its deterioration.
98.-What are they?
First, neglect. Fire a few shots and forget to clean the rifle, and the fouling will start rust which may be dealt with if taken in time, but which can never be completely cured. Second, damage by bullet.' Suppose you use too hard bullets, the rifling may be damaged. Third, damage by cleaning-rod or pull-through. It certainly seems rather rough that you may damage a rifle by using the very tools supplied to preserve it, but I will explain later. These are some ways of damaging the bore : now for the result. As you know, the bullet depends for its accuracy, range, penetration, etc., on being blown through the barrel the same way each time and being uniformly gripped and spun by the rifling. If the rifling once loses its polish or gets pitted with rust or the edges of the lands get damaged, the accuracy begins to fall off-in fact, a perfectly clean barrel is the only passport to good shooting.
99.-What should the barrel be cleaned with?
Old Musketry Regulations said " the rifle
should be cleaned with care," which was considered rather funny about
the time of the Crimea, but one requires more precise instructions. There
are several different kinds of fouling to contend with :(a) Metal, e.g.
nickel or cupro-nickel of a jacketed bullet forming a thin " plating
" in the bore. (b) " Leading," which is not quite the same.
This is due to soft lead bullets leaving behind a certain amount of lead
which is skimmed off the surface of the bullet either on being forced into
the rear end of the barrel or during passage to the muzzle. (c) There is
also the fouling of the propellant-the residue left behind after combustion,
also complicated by the possibility of chemical action on the steel. (d)
Lastly, there is the very important effect of the chemical composition of
the priming material in cap or primer, which may have even more serious
effect than the propellant.
Each of these types of fouling can be partly prevented and partly remedied. For example, the leading of a barrel is often due to using " dry ' lead bullets, that is unlubricated bullets. This can be avoided, and each of the different kinds of fouling can be remedied by cleaning.
I impress on all •2z shooters the desirability of using non-rusting or rustless ctgs. such as " Remington Kleanbore " or " I.C.I. Non-rusting " or W.D. issue marked Non-rusting. It is claimed that if You start with a clean barrel you can shoot with any of these indefinitely without cleaning, but you will of course go by what your instructor or the secretary or captain of your club says and not go entirely by me. (Personally, I am in favour of periodical cleaning, however nonrusting the ctg.).
100.-What is the best way to clean ?
You can use either a cleaning-rod or a pull-through. It is a good thing to have the rod covered with celluloid or lacquered to avoid scratching. The slot or the jag or loop is threaded with tow or flannelette to make a tightish fit, and it is then a matter of pushing or pulling through a rag damped with a cleaning liquid, oily and dry polishing cloth in rotation, and giving a final thin coating of oil. Some use the rod from the muzzle, but I prefer the breech-end if it is practicable, because pushing from muzzle to breech is against the fibres of the metal, since rifling is drawn from the breech end. If a wire brush or scourer is used, push it from breech to muzzle, then unscrew it and repeat the process again and again. The pull-through consists of a weight to slide through the bore from the breech end attached to a cord with loops at the other end. These loops are to take tow, flannelette, or even soft metal gauze or wire wool. for scouring, cleaning, and oiling. The pull-through is almost exclusive to the service rifle owing to its portability. The end loop is called the " armourer's loop "' and helps to extract a broken pull-through jammed in the bore. Remember to pull straight, to avoid " cordwear," i.e. rubbing at the muzzle:
N.B.-If you do get a pull-through jammed and you can't shift it with a cleaning-rod, NEVER use force and NEVER, NEVER, NEVER think you can blow it out with a live round. It need not be a pull-through-mud or snow or any obstruction in the bore may at best bulge the barrel or at worst kill you horribly or maim you for life. In good hands a rifle is as safe as a golf club, but it is as dangerous as dynamite in the hands of a fool.
101.-Any other tips about cleaning ?
One more which you must never forget.
Before firing, wipe out the barrel, using
a dry flannelette patch. An oily barrel will certainly spoil your first
shot, which is a pity, because it may lead to a bad string of shots and
you may damage the barrel. If the bore is very oily, the bullet is apt to
pile it up in a kind of miniature tidal wave and create enough local pressure
to bulge the barrel.
The chamber is less accessible than the rest of the bore, but must be kept scrupulously clean, and a special tool will have to be improvised to do it. A soft wire brush on a short bent handle is best. Incidentally, one other reason for keeping it clean is that loading and extraction will be easy.
102.-What about cleaning materials ?
The cheapest is water. This is not meant to be funny.
" Boiling out " is the most important thing of all. For this (unless you want to spill water into the action and between the barrel and stock where it will start rust) you must have a funnel that fits the end of the chamber. A tin funnel and a piece of bent tube soldered to the base of a ctg. with a hole drilled through the cap are almost essential, and if you value your rifle you will regard the small sum necessary as well spent.
The whole process simply consists in pouring boiling water through several times from breech to muzzle. A team or a party can do it one after the other, using the same water boiling in a pan and taking it out with a dipper. I say advisedly the base of a ctg. case, because if you use a whole ctg: case you will not boil out the chamber.
You can make a solvent of 2 parts water to I part of Young's cleaner and run that on flannelette back and forth through the bore immediately after shooting. Do this several times, then push and pull through dry patches of flannelette until they come out clean. Then oil with Young's cleaner.
The above applies to any rifle ; but with a •22, if you have used rustless amn. in a clean rifle, as I have said, it is not considered necessary to clean.
Remember this about rifle cleaning-it is absolutely untrue to say " it's never too late to mend." If you allow neglect to start its deadly work, no scouring, no rustless amn., no frenzy of cleaning and remorse, can undo the damage.
" The moving Finger writes ; and having writ, Moves on : nor all thy Piety nor Wit .
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."
All necessary cleaning materials may be bought cheaply from the S.M.R.C. or any good dealer. Things you cannot buy so cheaply are experience and new barrels.
RIFLE SIGHTS AND THEORY
103.-What are the sights and what are they for ?
The sights are devices fixed on the rifle to enable the
firer to hit the target at any effective range. The limit
of range is dictated by the power of the rifle, and the ability to hit depends on (a) the sights being " set " or adjusted for any particular range and (b) correct aim.
The bullet cannot go straight from rifle to target owing to gravity. The " trajectory " of the bullet is a curve which may be high (like a lob bowler) or flatter, but the flatness depends on the punch behind the bullet, its weight and shape, the resistance of the air, and so on. The directness also depends on wind, " drift " (which is a sideways deviation of the bullet owing to its spin), and other factors such as leaning (or " canting ") the rifle to the right or left.
If the rifle could shoot dead straight, all that would be necessary would be to align the barrel on the target and it would be hit, but the curve of the trajectory makes it necessary to employ some other way. The longer the range, the more you must " cock up " the rifle to get there ; the sights are the apparatus to enable the right amount of " cock-up " to be used.
104.-We don't use sights on a shot-gun. Why are they necessary on a rifle ?
A shot-gun 'fires a number of pellets which make a pattern in the air, and the sportsman, usually shooting at flying birds or running game, has to learn by experience how much to swing through the target to have a reasonable chance of getting some of his pattern on to the place where the target will be when the shot arrive. But the rifle is different. There is only one small bullet to travel far greater distances, and the essence of rifle shooting is that the bullet must be not merely somewhere near the target, but spang on the spot with mathematical accuracy.
105.-Will you draw the " trajectory " for me?
Here it is in its simplest form :
The line from the rifleman's eye to the target is called the " line of sight." If he aims along his barrel, the bullet will fall, by gravity, to x below the target ; or alternatively if the rifle has a natural " flip " it will " jump " to somewhere about v. The rifle is therefore provided with an adjustable backsight so as to bring x or y on to the target, thus :
The angle of elevation (a) given by the adjustment of the backsight is called " tangent elevation."
The backsight is graduated in hundreds of yards ; and if the leaf is adjusted to the correct graduation, a true aim will bring the bullet on to the target at that range.
106.-Supposing the target is above or below you ?
A very shrewd question.
There is what is called the theory of " the rigidity of the trajectory," which sounds formidable but is not really.
Take our diagram above and imagine the line of sight and the trajectory to be cut out of a bit of cardboard, and imagine this cardboard to be pinned or pivoted at the rifle end, then the theory is that, within limits, the trajectory remains the same in shape, whether you are shooting at a target above or below you thus.
The rule is : " Set your sights at whatever is the range of the target, regardless of whether it is above or below." But that is only true within limits.
107.-Why ? and what limits?
Take an extreme case. Suppose a balloon is directly overhead and 50o yards up. You set your sights at 500 yards and shoot at the balloon. On the level you would hit it, but the elevation given to your sights must make you miss the balloon vertically overhead, whereas if you put on no elevation at all you might hit it, It is clear that there is a limit to this theory of the trajectory always remaining the same, or " rigid." If you shoot in mountainous country-unless your targets are somewhere near your level-you must make allowances.
That is a big subject. It is not so difficult for artillery, but with a rifle it can only be learnt from a practical game shot or by hard experience.
Now for the sights and the mechanical business of " setting " or adjusting them. What we have got to learn to do is to hit a target in ordinary and not " freak " conditions.
109.-Are the curves as pronounced as you have drawn them?
No ; the drawings are drawn to two different scales, so as to make it clearer in diagram form. The heights are enormously exaggerated compared with the range, otherwise it would not be practicable to draw a diagram at all. For example, if a line across this page 3 inches long and - .'0 inch thick represents a range of 1,000 yards, the whole of the trajectory would actually be contained between the top and bottom edges of that line ; thus :
110.-What are the simplest sights ?
The simplest is the bead at the muzzle of a shot-gun, which gives a rough guide to direction ; the next simplest is a modern " battle-sight," which is a fixed aperture near the eye in which the foresight is seen and aligned on the target ; but the ordinary sights must come first.
At the muzzle is the " foresight " or " front sight " (both are correct). At the breech end the " backsight," " hindsight," or " rear sight " (take your choice). Ordinary foresights usually take one of the shapes below, and when backsight and foresight are in line or on the target, what you see is shown in the lower line.
In every case the rule is " aim at 6 o'clock," i.e. at the bottom edge of the bull, allowing a minute amount of light between the foresight and the bull. This is the first rule of aiming, endorsed by anybody who knows - anything about rifles. Pay no attention to the theory of the " central aim," which is comparatively new and sheer nonsense when aiming at bullseyes - aiming at living targets is another story.
111.--Then I don't have to set my sights-I merely aim at 6 o'clock ?
For the 6 o'clock aim, it must be assumed that the backsight is correctly set for the range, and it is obvious that one may have to aim off, right or left, or up or down, to make any correction that you cannot make on your backsight. But if your sights are right, 6 o'clock is your aim.
The simplest form of backsight on which corrections can be made for tangent elevation is a hinged leaf carrying a slide of one of the shapes above.
The leaf is graduated in ranges in yards, but the actual " cock-up " given to the rifle above the line of sight is the " tangent elevation " for that range.
112.-How does one adjust the slide ?
On modern service rifles and on most target rifles the backsight is provided with screw threads capable of very fine adjustment, and the graduations are made more exact by the use of a " Vernier " scale, which I will not describe here because it is so much more clearly understood by examination on a rifle.
113.-What do you mean by " aperture sight "?
In the notch patterns of backsight the tip of the foresight is brought into line with the shoulders of the notch and then aligned on the 6 o'clock of the bull. This gives the rifleman the impression that he must focus simultaneously three points at different distances, which is a physical impossibility and, with indifferent eyesight, a source of considerable worry. It is a good rough-andready means of aiming which has persisted for centuries, but an optical device makes it much easier. This is called an " orthoptic sight " or an " aperture sight."
The optical principle is that if a pinhole in an opaque screen is held close to the eye, the definition of objects is made clearer and light seems to concentrate at the centre of the aperture. For example, you can read a directory more clearly through a pinhole. Again, if you look through a tube at a dark corner of a room you get an effect of illumination of the spot you are looking at. The orthoptic sight may be fixed to a spectacle frame or to the rifle itself. With the aperture sight it is fixed to the backsight of the rifle, and the nearer it is to the eye the better.
For the rifleman it is a matter of looking through the aperture, which should be conveniently placed, and if you can entirely banish all idea of focussing the aperture, in fact disregard the backsight, there are only two points to focus, namely the foresight and the target. In actual practice you focus the foresight until there is contact between it and the target, and the final focus is probably on the target, while the foresight remains in the proper relation to it.
It is an immense advance on the old-fashioned sights, and is used almost exclusively on target rifles and now also on service rifles as the " battle-sight."
114.--What do you call, a battle-sight?
It is the most modern application of an aperture to service conditions. It is a fixed aperture, good for all short ranges, through which you look, and if you align the foresight on the target you hit it. All our modern service rifles have it-S.M.L.E. MK.V., Ross, P14, M17, and No. 4 Rifle, and yet few people understand it.
115.-Will you explain it with the No. 4?
The No. 4 has no tangent sight. It has a" duplex " battle-sight marked for two standard ranges, 300 and
600 yards. It consists of two little flaps set at right angles, each having an aperture in it. The 300 or 600 flap may be turned up-as you wish - and there is no other adjustment possible.
With the 300 flap turned up, wed fixed bayonet, you cannot miss a target of the size of a man's head and neck at any range up to 300 yards provided you aim at 6 o'clock, because the greatest height of the bullet above the line of sight is about 8 inches.
116.--Is the battle-sight as good as an adjustable sight ?
For all practical purposes, yes. For extremely accurate target shooting, no. For target shooting, where the ideal is to hit the centre of concentric rings, you must have adjustable sights ; but for killing an enemy the battle-sight is ideal, provided your rifle is " zeroed " and you aim at 6 o'clock.
117.-What do you mean by " zeroed "?
I have explained that no rifle is calculated to put all its shots into the same hole. No two men aim exactly the same. Therefore each man must try out his own rifle to make sure that he can shoot straight for line and that all his shots " group " satisfactorily. He therefore tests his rifle on the range, and his line is made accurate by moving the foresight right or left and his elevation is adjusted by fitting a higher or lower foresight. If such adjustments cannot be made, he must learn that his tendency is to shoot so many inches high or low and he must always bear that in mind.
A reliable shot should, of course, check a rifle zeroed by a bad shot.
The business of adjusting the rifle to the man is called " zeroing " the rifle-or, as I think more accurately, " calibrating " the rifle. It is another example of " fitting " the implement to the individual, in the same way that one fits boots, golf clubs, spectacles, or dentures.
N.B.-Before zeroing wipe out the bore and fire a couple of rounds into the butt to tune up the rifle.
LEGAL AND SOCIAL
118.-How am I to keep within the law if I want. to shoot ?
The law chiefly concerns itself with what you may NOT do. I am concerned with what you MAY do. With regard to the accuracy of what I say, I strongly advise you to consult your local police. I have found that though the higher authorities are apt to be sticky about everything connected with game laws, shooting, and firearms, the police sergeant or the village policeman is generally most helpful. They are probably sportsmen and may even be keen rifle shots ; at least they will save you endless trouble with your firearm certificate.
119.-Is a firearm certificate the same as a gun licence ?
No ; it's quite different. There are three things to know about (a) gun licence, (b) game licence (or certificate), and (c) firearm certificate, though the last named is all you may need for rifle shooting.
120.-Why not stick to the firearm certificate only ?
I would rather clear the ground. Gun and game licences are issued on payment at a post office as a source of revenue ; if you want to shoot you must pay for the privilege. On the other hand, the firearm certificate is issued by the police under the Firearms Act after certain formalities, and though fees are charged for the issue or variation of the certificate, its purpose is not to increase the revenue, but to ensure that firearms do not get into wrong hands and that all firearms are registered and can be traced.
You may not carry or use any firearm without a gun licence outside the " curtilage " of your house. Curtilage is defined as " a piece of land adjoining a dwellinghouse." It appears that you may use any kind of gun (except one subject to the Firearms Act) in and around your own house and within your own adjacent grounds.
Under the Gun Licence Act, 1870, a gun licence costs Ios. at a post office and expires yearly on July 31st. It must, of course, be renewed annually to be valid. This entitles the holder to acquire or carry or use (without a firearm certificate) any smooth-bore shotgun, provided its barrels exceed 20 inches in length, and to shoot-for example, rabbits on his own ground or where he has a right to shoot, or by invitation ; but though a gun licence entitles you to handle and use any shot-gun you please, it does not give you any rights as regards acquiring or using or even carrying or handling a rifle or a revolver or any part thereof.
121.-Why is a firearm certificate required for a gun with barrel less than 20 inches ?
These weapons were much used by gangsters in the U.S.A. They are handy to carry, easily concealed and inflict a horrible wound. To prevent their use in this country this provision was made in the Firearms
Act of 1937- The " sawn-off (or sawed-off) shot-gun " is regarded as a suspicious sort of lethal weapon suitable for a bad man of the wild and woolly West or easily concealed in a poacher's trouser leg. I don't think it is altogether logical to bar any barrels on%account of shortness, because a gun with 25-inch barrels is, if anything, a little more lethal, and even an air-rifle may be very deadly.
122.-Are there any formalities before using an air-rifle ?
I have had this from the police-" A gun licence is required to carry an air-rifle or air-gun of any description." On the other hand, the Firearms Act, I937, exempts ordinary air-guns, rifles and pistols from a firearm certificate.
I don't think it is generally understood that an airrifle is legislated for at all-if you use one and your conscience bothers you, consult your police friend.
If you don't want to be worried with legal questions or to pay for a licence you can join an air-rifle club and enjoy target shooting or matches just as exciting as real rifle shooting and your difficulties or obstacles will be dealt with by the club.
123.-And what about the game licence ?
A game licence (or certificate) costs ~3 a year at a Post Office, also expiring on July 31st. This allows you to shoot certain birds and animals in season, provided of course you have the right to shoot them at -that place or in those circumstances. This licence does NOT give you any rights as regards rifle or pistol. The subject of game shooting and its many legal aspects is very interesting, but I am not going into it here.
The point is that neither of these licences enables you to handle, carry, use, borrow, acquire, or fire any rifle or revolver or automatic or pistol or any ammunition for the same. For these you must have a firearm certificate.
124.-What is a firearm certificate ?
It is a certificate required by the Firearms Act, I937, which serves the purpose of keeping track of every rifled weapon which has once been registered and also of permitting the holder legally to possess and use the weapons enumerated in it. It must be remembered that -unlike a gun licence-it does not authorise the holder to handle, still less fire, any weapon not enumerated in it. I will amplify this a little more later on, because one of the main snags and the curse of rifle shooting is this certificate, which is strangled with red tape and always will be until our Government give support, instead of antagonism, to rifle shooting. This is one of the reasons I recommended you to make a friend of the local policeman, who will, so far as it is possible, smooth out your difficulties. It is also one of the strongest arguments in favour of your joining a properly constituted club, for preference affiliated to the S.M.R.C. or N.R.A., but more of that later.
125.-How do I get a firearm certificate ?
These are granted by the Chief Officer of Police of the district, usually the Chief Constable, and forms on which to apply can be obtained at your local police station.
There is usually little difficulty in obtaining a certificate for a .22 or a sporting rifle, but you must have an adequate reason for acquiring a revolver or automatic pistol. " Self protection " is not regarded in this country as a sufficient reason.
The cost of the first grant of a firearm certificate is 5s., and it remains in force for three years. The renewal costs 2S. 6d., and is valid for the same period. Variations for the amount A ammunition to be obtained and acquiring of additional weapons are also granted, in the latter case at a fee of 2s. 6d.
No person under fourteen years may have in his possession any firearms or amn. except as a member of a boys' organisation in which shooting has been regularised.
Between the ages of fourteen and seventeen a boy may accept as a gift or borrow firearms and amn., and he must obtain a firearm certificate before receiving them ; he may not, however, buy anything. There is not a special certificate for boys but the usual one endorsed " No firearm or amn. must' be sold or let on hire to the holder of this certificate prior to ... at which date he will attain the age of seventeen years." On reaching seventeen he may continue to use the same certificate and will have to have it renewed every three years, or varied whenever he wishes to make a change in the weapons and amn. enumerated in it. In order to get a new certificate, or vary an old one, it is necessary to use a pink form (Firearms Form I3) obtainable from local police, specifying the weapon or weapons and amn. one wishes to acquire. The form has to go through the routine channels, and takes about three weeks to come back. There are two points to note : (a) you cannot legally " acquire " (i.e. hire, buy, borrow, or accept as a gift) a specific firearm until you have received a certificate authorising the acquisition of a weapon of that type, and (b) the possession of the certificate does not enable you legally to use any firearm other than those enumerated on your certificate. This illustrates the difficulty of any person who wants to use firearms in what appears to him to be a legitimate way. Again, the best remedy I can suggest is to consult the local policeman or join a club which will enable you to enjoy greater freedom.
126.-But surely they all apply the law in the same way?
In different places authorities appear to exercise a wider and (in my opinion) a wiser discretion than in others, but it will always be difficult until a national awakening does away with unnecessary bumbledom in a matter which is of national concern. Surely it is obvious that every facility should be given to anybody desirous of becoming proficient with a rifle, rather than that he or she should be not only obstructed but actually sometimes subjected to injustice and indignity ?
127.-Aren't members of the Services and Cadets allowed to use firearms without certificates ?
Members of the Services can of course use firearms issued to them for their use as such, but even they must, equally with civilians, have a firearm certificate for privately owned weapons, even if they are intending to use them on duty. '
128.-I have got a pistol that belonged to my late father, which he kept after the last war-what ought I to do ?
There are a great number of firearms which are not recorded on certificates ; they are always coming to light, having been put away in attics, or in trophies, or sometimes left by somebody who has died, whether in the Service or not. Anybody in possession of such an undisclosed weapon can go without fear to the police and surrender the firearm, and, if he or she desires, get its possession regularised by the issue of a certificate, provided there is a sufficient reason.
On the coming into force of the Firearms Act, 1937, possessors of firearms as trophies of previous wars were given three months' grace to regularise such possession ; since then there is no indemnification and anybody coming into possession should go to the police. On the other hand, any " antique firearm which is sold, transferred, purchased, acquired, or possessed as a curiosity or ornament " is exempted by the Act. Unfortunately " antique " is not defined and even the trade convention of " over 100 years old " obviously includes many firearms every bit as lethal as their modern equivalents.
129.-Is there an authoritative interpretation of all these laws ?
I think the answer is NO. There has been a lot of muddled thinking on this subject. For instance, I have known sundry police stations issue, for service use, firearms which had been handed in to them, without any formality at all. At the same time, when seeking to get from the police, for service use, revolvers which had been surrendered it was stated that all such revolvers had to be destroyed. On the other hand, official instructions state that all arms and amn. not " required " must be forwarded to an Army Ordnance Depot. There is no general routine for everybody.
130.--Do you mean that the law wants changing ?
I think it wants revising comprehensively, but that is a very big subject and nobody cares a hoot what I
think. But taking the law as it is, I think there should be an official pronouncement allowing some latitude in applying the law as it stands. For example, under the Firearms Act, officials of affiliated rifle clubs, cadets, police, and owners of shooting-galleries can buy •22 rifles and amn. for use on their Ranges. Military units, O.T.C., and the Police Force are exempt from the provisions of the Act, but individual members are not exempt. Cases have been brought before magistrates in which proprietors of shooting-galleries were fined for " using a gun without having a licence," and it was stated that everyone who fired a rifle at a fair was liable to a £10 forfeit unless he had a " gun licence." On the other hand, the Act specifically exempts persons conducting or carrying on a rifle range or shootinggallery and persons shooting there from the necessity to have a firearm certificate. The point is that the law is not fully understood, and if it is in the national interest to encourage rifle shooting, it should be clarified by some authoritative pronouncement. To reassure the public, the accepted view appears to be that persons using rifles or guns at shooting-galleries (10 NOT require licences or certificates.
131.-I am sorry, but I haven't got it quite clear yet. Am I very stupid ? Do I have to have a gun licence to shoot rabbits with a club •22 ?
You are not stupid. The law is very complicated, and those versed in the law do not all interpret it alike, and I may have confused the issues. I would like to make clear when you must take out gun licence and/or firearm certificate.
Firstly, assume you have neither, and you want to be able to use a gun, pistol, or firearm of any kind as a private individual. You must first take out a 10s. gun licence (unless you intend only to carry the weapon within the curtilage of your house). This will give you complete freedom with smooth-bore shot-guns (exceeding 2o-inch barrels).
It is not an offence for a person to transfer or acquire a firearm without a gun licence, but it is an offence for a person to transfer a rifle or small arm to any person (other than to a registered firearms dealer) who has not first obtained a firearm certificate authorising his possession of a weapon of that type. The person transferring the weapon must notify the police by registered post within forty-eight hours of the transaction.
You then fill in the particulars of the firearm and amn. you wish to acquire on your application for a firearm certificate and wait for this to be issued. You can then complete the transaction and you can use the firearm (but no other pistol or rifle) for legitimate sporting as well as target practice.
Now assume that you are a member of a Service unit or recognised Cadet Corps Rifle Club approved by a Secretary of State. For using any service or club rifle issued to you for practice, you require no gun licence or certificate. But if you want to shoot rabbits as well as practice at targets, you must have both-whether the rifle is club property or acquired by you.
132.-Does a game licence make things easier?
No. A game licence is only a kind of magnified and more expensive gun licence which extends your field of sport. Of course, if you have a game licence you do not need a gun licence.
133.-Can a rifle club relieve me of all legal worries ?
Undoubtedly. The S.M.R.C. can fix up all formalities about rifles and amn. for affiliated clubs and obtain the " Rifle Range War Office Safety Certificate " for Ranges. They can also help enormously in providing the club with information about layout of Ranges, lighting, targets, etc.
134.-Any other advantages in joining a club ?
Yes, a well-run rifle club is like any other good club, such as a tennis club. According to its membership and support it can offer all amenities-for example (apart from shooting) a club-room, entertainments, and competitions of all kinds.
That is all I had better say about clubs. You find out where the nearest one is and see the secretary. If you can't find one, write to the Secretary, S.M.R.C., Mayleigh, Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey, and you will be given helpful advice.
135.-Is there any advantage in belonging to a club apart from its amenities ?
Yes, as a law-abiding citizen. One of the essentials of the enforcement of the law is a proper record to keep track of firearms and amn. and also to enable the police to prevent or detect their illicit use. A club secretary can do all this and can not only provide you with amn., etc., but can account for it ; and he will arrange for W.O. (War Office) approval of Ranges and all certificates.
The S.M.R.C. will send free on request a leaflet on the Firearms Act to the secretary of a club. A copy of the Firearms Act is obtainable through any bookseller for 9d., but if you have read the extracts printed in the firearm certificate or if you have read what I have written, you will realise that it would be better to rely • on a man whose business it is to run a club than to try to interpret the law for yourself.
136.-If I can't find a rifle club ?
There must be some kind of a club or organisation in your neighbourhood, or British Legion, Women's Institute, Boy Scouts, Cadets, or something? If you can interest an existing organisation, that is half the battle. There you will find the machinery in working order -committee, secretary, and amenities ; it is a matter of persuading them to introduce rifle shooting as an additional amenity, say, once a week (like a dance night or whist drive), and the rifle will attract its own recruits without much propaganda on your part.
Don't chuck your hand in if you find difficulties to start with-that seems to be partly the intention of the law, until rifle shooting is recognised as a public service.
137.-You are always saying " Ask your instructor " or" consult the police or so-and-so." Surely if you know the right answer you would not do so ?
In rifle shooting, as in the law, there is
no item of supposed knowledge that may not be corrected by reason or experience
or by trial. If an illusion of mine, however cherished, is dissipated, I
am very glad. Besides, we are not robots and must rely a good deal on "
trial and error "; when I read in " 250 A.R.P. Questions Answered
" . . . " Apply a cold compress - if cold fails to give relief,
apply a hot compress," I thought it frightfully funny until I learnt
from an eminent authority that it is sense-as you might say, " one
man's drink is another man's boisson."
Let us always hear both sides to a question unlike the mythical old judge who said he only listened to one side because if he heard both sides it muddled him. Therefore I repeat don't go entirely by what I say, but consult the police or anybody you can trust and then decide for yourself.
138.-Why pistols in a book about rifle shooting ?
I love pistols and handling them and talking about them, and I never met a healthy man or boy who didn't. There are few men who do not hanker after one, if it is only for " house protection," The Rio Kid who can pull a gun quicker than Two-gun Pete and shoot the corks out of a row of bottles always gets more marks than the good boy who washes behind his ears and never misses Sunday school. Listen to Sam Galloway in The Last of the Troubadours, by O. Henry: "He reached for his gun first-but I got mine unlimbered first. Three doses I gave him-right around the lungs, and a saucer could have covered up all of 'em. . . . He won't bother you no more, Uncle Ben. You ought to have seen how close them bullet-holes was together."
Can't we share his triumph in his " group "? The Americans call a 16-inch gun a" rifle " and a •45 revolver a "gun," so I insist on including pistols under the general heading of rifles-particularly as I wish to show that they are more effective when fired with two hands like a rifle.
139.-Do you think you could teach me to hit the pip on the ace of diamonds ?
Not quite. But I can tell you how to cut a card " edge on " at close range. You would like to do that, wouldn't you ?
First about " automatics." This is a misnomer, unless they are adapted to fire a continuous stream of bullets, and no automatic pistols are so adapted except for very special purposes. They are repeating pistols which are self-loading ; that is they contain a magazine, and as each shot is fired, another is automatically inserted in the chamber and the pistol is re-cocked ready to fire again. I am not going to describe their sizes and shapes, because they are a dangerous kind of weapon in the hands of anybody who is not a firearms expert. Not only dangerous because they may go off in unexpected ways, but also because they will not go off when you want them to.
The revolver is the firearm for me and you-it is an old friend which suffered eclipse when automatics arrived, but back in favour in American and British shooting circles. The relative advantages can be argued, but the bedrock fact is that the revolver is simpler, safer, as good in performance, and reliable even with defective amn. and in all service conditions.
140. What is a revolver exactly ?
The principle of the revolver is a single-barrel weapon provided with a cylinder containing five or more (usually six, hence the name six-shooter) ctgs, which come up in rotation to a point " lined up " immediately behind the barrel, for firing one after the other.
There are two main types of modern revolver :(a) the " tip-up " or " drop-down " or " break-down " type, in which the barrel and cylinder are released from the framework and hinge downwards to facilitate ejection and loading, and (b) the solid-frame type with a" swingout " cylinder which enables all fired ctgs. to be ejected together and new ones inserted.
141.-Why mention American revolver-shooting ?
The revolver has developed chiefly in America, where, since pioneering days, it has been the essential companion of man and as natural for a man's hand as a saw or hammer. There are two great firms--Smith & Wesson and Colt-who have turned out countless patterns, or models, of every calibre and size for all purposes, whereas there is only one British firm - Webley - that specialises in revolvers. The Americans cater for all purposes- self-defence, sport, target-shooting, and war ; whereas in this country revolvers have been developed primarily for war and only to a small extent for personal protection.
142.-Is there any difference between American and British ?
Webley's have produced a fine reliable type of revolver on the " tip-up " principle with a powerful and positive stirrup latch which holds the barrel to the frame, suitable for service conditions for our armed forces and of high quality. Smith & Wesson and other American firms also make revolvers on the same principle, but with a less positive lock. On the other hand, S. and W. and Colt have perfected the swing-out principle, which, owing to the solid frame, gives the revolver a great margin of strength, and is, in my
opinion, the best design.
143.-Why do you want a great margin of strength ?
There are such an enormous number of ctgs. of different power, though many approximately of the same calibre, that a large margin of strength is desirable to avoid disaster if the wrong type of ctg. is used. In America there are all these ctgs. available and a prewar catalogue would astound you, whereas in England there are only a limited number of different ctgs. available and the solid construction of the Webley can cope with them.
144.-What calibres are you talking about?
The principal calibres are round about •45. '38, and 32. The Americans usually adopt one or other of these calibres, though there is an immense amount of variety among them. The British service revolvers are •455/476 (though there are some that shoot •45) and 380 (which is not quite the same as •38). It is true that some revolvers will shoot safely a ctg. that does not technically fit it ; on the other hand, there are many revolvers into which the apparently appropriate ctg. will not go or will be dangerous. This question of amn. is very, very complicated, and for our purposes it would be better to stick to specific weapons and see what they ought to be loaded with and then get on to shooting. One of the principal difficulties arises out of the fairly modern adoption of " jacketed " bullets instead of lead.
145.-What difference does a jacketed bullet make?
We used to use lead bullets and black powder,, and the powder pushed the soft bullet through the rifling comparatively gently. Faster-burning propellants and the hard jacket require more force, more strain, and increased wear on the rifling.
A jacketed bullet should not be used for practice if you can get lead and NEVER used in a revolver for which it is not intended.
The British Service ctgs. are •455 and •380. These all have a rim and both lead and jacketed bullets are available. The latter are safe to fire both in the Webley Mark VI and the Enfield service revolver ; they can also be safely used in any Colt or Smith & Wesson " solid frame " which they actually fit. In all other cases stick to lead, unless you consult an expert.
146.-Does the revolver re-cock like an automatic ?
No. Only one pattern-the Webley-Fosbery -does
that, by an ingenious camgroove on the cylinder. It is consequently as rapid
as an automatic, but it has never become popular, and with all other revolvers
you must re-cock with the thumb and fire single action or employ
" double action."
147.--What are single and double action ?
The hammer may be cocked by the thumb and the trigger then pulled with the forefinger ; this is " single action " (the pull should be 31 lb, for service revolvers and not less than 2½ lb. for target shooting). Revolvers can also be fired " double action," i.e. by a long continuous pull on the trigger which pushes the hammer back nearly to the cocked position, where it is released without interrupting the steady pull. This pull is usually about 10 to 12 lb., and " single action "'IS more accurate, though not quite so rapid.
148.-How does a revolver compare with an automatic for actual shooting ?
In my opinion, the revolver is superior. It is capable of great accuracy at all useful ranges ; it is rapid enough ; it is " Old Trusty " and not temperamental ; moreover, it can deliver a punch as hard as any weapon. In theory the space between the cylinder and the barrel would lead one to expect a considerable escape of gas. The bullet does, however, actually bridge the gap without serious loss.
149.-Will you tell me about shooting a revolver ?
The first thing is " position." I
illustrate the standing position for single-hand target
shooting adopted by crack shots. It is firm, yet relaxed, and gives the
eyes a chance to use the sights properly ; the left arm steadies the whole
position, and you may, if you wish, hook the fingers of the left hand in
the belt or trouser pocket (fig. i8).
I do not recommend beginners to try this position except for snapping practice until they are sufficiently advanced for competitive target shooting. The best position is the two-hand crouch with left foot forward. The two-hand hold is either with left hand grasping right wrist or enclosing right hand without interfering with the movement of the cylinder. The revolver is either pointed from the middle of the body or raised sufficiently to align the sights by eye (fig. 17).
It is perfectly legitimate for novice and expert to use both hands and rest the hand on something solid, such as a bank or tree, for all kind§ of shooting other than competitions where the position is specified. Experts do as a matter of fact use both hands and a rest when testing revolvers for accuracy.
Supposing you have not got a left hand to spare, I still consider this is the best position-you may get considerable support from the body for the right arm or even steady the right hand on the left forearm. This position is infinitely preferable to " hip-shooting."
150.-What is hip-shooting ?
It is the traditional or gunman method of a quick draw from the holster (or " scabbard ") and a quick shot from the hip, which is all very well with a tommygun with a stock, but not so easy with a revolver. The first shot must be spang in the target or you may be too late. It is a good thing to practise getting off two rounds in rapid succession-the first may be to the left, the second will be straight. If you want to fire six rounds rapidly, it is worth trying to hold the revolver with the left hand and using the right hand to grasp the left hand and the right forefinger to pull the trigger by double action, this enables you to fire more quickly without jerking the revolver in all directions which is the tendency with one-hand shooting.
151.-What sort of range and target should I shoot at to begin with ?
I will tell you presently about beginning with a singleshot •22 pistol or a .22 revolver or even an air-pistol. But for revolver shooting start at 6 yards at a target 12 inches wide by 16 inches high (with or without an aiming mark in the centre). If you can get all your shots on the card deliberately, go back to 10 yards and when you can put ail six on the card in six seconds you are on the way to becoming a pistol shot. Your ideal is to put all these shots into the smallest " group " somewhere on the card. After that, you can shoot at bull's-eye targets up to 25 yards, both single-handed and double-handed and by single and double action. Ranges of 50 yards or more are for very advanced pistol shots and for extremely high-class revolvers. The real cracks even shoot successfully at fantastic ranges such as 200 yards, but that is not for me, and not for you till you have graduated by constant practice.
152.-Why do you introduce the •22 pistol or airpistol? Isn't that Boy Scout stuff ?
Far from it. The •22 is the only single-shot pistol now made, it is a beautiful weapon and simulates the full-sized pistol in weight and is the best groundwork for pistol shooting. But they are very rare. The service revolver can be fitted with a .22 " adapter "the Parker-Hale catalogue will tell you about them. If you are lucky enough to have the use of one, your progress will be rapid', but most people must start with some fairly reliable old revolver for which amn. is available.
If you can obtain a good air-pistol (such as the Webley MK. I) you can learn a lot, because you can shoot it anywhere and the pellets (either •z2 or •I77) are so cheap ; but the release of the powerful spring gives the impression of a recoil forwards, which sounds rather Irish and is very disconcerting ; with a pistol there is the same bugbear to be overcome as with a rifle, which is the unconscious urge to counteract the " kick," or recoil.
153.-Does a revolver kick much?
Some do ; but a decently balanced pistol with suitable amn, only recoils as a rifle does, and to overcome this the hold must be correct, the muscles relaxed, and it is your job not to fight against it but to absorb it without jerking or wobbling.
If you do try to anticipate it by tensing the muscles, you will find that the recoil of the air-pistol (in what seems the wrong direction) will exaggerate the divergence from the target. So one must discipline oneself not to bother about the recoil in advance. If one can do that, pistol shooting with anything from the airpistol to the Smith & Wesson " Magnum " (probably the most powerful revolver ever made) becomes not only fun but a source of always increasing pleasure.
154.-You said you would teach me to hit a playing-card edge on. How shall I do that?
I hoped you had forgotten. But what I said was I would tell you how to do it. Here is a playing-card which measures nearly 22 inches by 31 inches, the vertical line down the centre represents the target " edge on " . The explanation is that you have all the advantage of the width of the bullet ; the same thing that happens in billiards, only there it has to be allowed for. What it comes to is you must get one bullet inside a rectangle of about I by 32 inches, and you ought to be able to do that say once in six shots at 6 yards. It is easier than it sounds, and if you want a real kick you will get one out of that !
A shot that is almost as spectacular and a good deal easier is to cut a vertical cigarette. This gives you the width of the cigarette to play with.
One final shot which is not exactly a trick or a joke. With rifle or pistol you may frequently cut vertical match-sticks at close range, but you may try all your life to cut a horizontal cord and never cut it.
Work that one out for yourself !
ODDS AND ENDS
Any more questions about anything you like connected with rifle shooting? If I don't know the answer, I will get it from somebody who does.
155.-Can one improve one's shooting without actually firing amn. on a Range?
Yes, there are three ways : (a) " snapping," that is firing the rifle or pistol at a mark without any ctg. ; (b) loading and firing a service rifle with dummy amn. ; (c) the use of an accessory like the " Martin Practice
156.-What is snapping?
Cocking the weapon, aiming at a mark, and pulling the trigger, and (except when you use an " aim corrector " of some kind which your instructor or coach can watch) you are the only person who knows whether the shot ought to be a good one or not. With very fine guns, rifles, and pistols it is not good form to snap them without a rubber pad or " snap-cap " to prevent damage to the striker. Do not be deterred ; snap your rifle or revolver as often as you like, and the oftener the better. If you snap it often enough to damage it, you are on the high-road to success.
157.-What is dummy amn. ?
It is a harmless, inert replica of a real ctg. containing no cap or propellant. It is not necessary in a singleloader, but is an essential for training in the use of any service rifle, whether loaded singly or inserted in the magazine by " clip " or " charger."
Anyone who wants to be good at " rapid fire " must practise continually charging magazine, working the bolt, and firing " at a mark " in the open, in the bathroom, or on the kitchen floor-anywhere you like. The man who has the pertinacity to do this can improve his shooting with a service rifle out of all recognition.
158.-What is a" Martin practice piston "?
It is a simple device consisting of a stiff wire (like a bicycle spoke) which is put in the bore of a rifle and is free to slide through a guide at each end, and is propelled from the muzzle by the blow of the striker. It is brought back into the barrel by a light coil spring. If an aim is taken at a target a few inches from the muzzle, the piston records the accuracy of the shot. You aim at a target which represents a little figure at 200 yards and the piston records the result on a little bull's-eye target a short distance below.
This piston is the best device for " dry shooting " with any kind of service rifles. It must be kept straight and slightly oiled and it affords infinite instruction and fun. (Alexander Martin, 20 Exchange Square, Glasgow, C.r. ISs. 6d. with targets.)
159.-Have you said anything about the use of the " sling " ?
The sling would require another volume, but I give you my opinion. The Doctor said, " You must give up whisky-that is my advice and it'll cost you two guineas," and his client replied, " It may be worthy a' that, but I am no' takin' it."
My advice to the novice (you may take it or leave it) is, do not use a sling until you can shoot ; after that always use it.
The sling was originally a means of carrying the rifle, a la Robinson Crusoe. But it was found that by winding it about the left arm it acted as a kind of stiffener, like the guy-rope of a flag-staff. It helps to steady the left arm and forms a frame with arm and rifle barrel, and provided the framework is elastic and not too stiff, I am all for it.
If you learn to use it properly, you will increase your steadiness a hundredfold ; if you use it wrongly, you will regret the day you were born.
160.-How do you use it?
There are three different ways of using it :(a) the British Service way, (b) the American way, (c) a cross between the two used in this country on •z2 target rifles.
(a) The fixing of the sling is conditioned by the position of the sling swivels. Those on the British rifle are halfway along the fore-end and near the heel of the butt. The left hand should be passed through the sling and the muzzle end of the sling wound half round the wrist. The tightness of the sling should be adjusted to give gentle tension from the upper arm to both sling swivels ; if it is too tight it induces rigidity, and if too loose gives no support.
(b) The American sling swivels are the same and they attach the sling to both of them, but they prefer to have the tension on the front swivel only, so the sling has a loop in the front portion which is adjusted to the left arm so as to give support by considerable tension while the part of the sling to the butt swivel remains slack.
(c) The British target-rifle sling can be attached to swivels wherever the owner fancies, but most •22 riflemen prefer a sling attached to a fore-end swivel and to one just in front of the trigger guard. This appears to give support without the twisting tendency of the service sling.
161.-Do you recommend me to use one as soon as I have passed my elementary instruction, or should I postpone it ?
English musketry instructors appear to have had a prejudice against it for years, and for hunting game it is probably more often done without ; on the other hand, its use is universal for precision target-shooting.
My opinion is definite : once you are a fairly good shot, ALWAYS use a sling when you can. The chief service reasons against are that, except for snipers, there is not time to use it, and its use in peace practice tends to make one a slave to it, and when you can't use it you wobble because you miss the familiar support. To which my reply is that, firstly, you must not be a slave to it ; on the contrary, you- have got to master it from the beginning ; and, secondly, in action it does NOT take any extra time to use it.
The most natural way to carry gun or rifle is somewhere about the "port" or "high port," that is, pointing up diagonally across the body with the muzzle upwards towards your left front. In action with a rifle you hold it thus with the left hand, leaving the right hand free for other work, e.g. helping you into the lying position ; with a gun you hold it similarly if you want the right hand free for carrying or beating along a hedge.
If you are holding the rifle thus, there is no time lost by the use of the sling ; it is part of the permanent arrangement of the rifle in your hand and you can instantaneously drop into the lying position, sling and all.
162.-One more question. You said something about " hunting " game with a rifle just now, which sounds odd. What did, you mean?
In this country " huntin' and shootin' " mean chasing the fox or hare with a pack of hounds and shooting flying game birds or running ground game, with a gun. In the States and Canada " hunting " means going after live game with gun, rifle, or pistol ; using a rifle on a range is called shooting. That is to say, a Canadian asked to go hunting to-morrow may turn up in a rough suit with a gun, whereas an Englishman similarly invited would wear breeches and boots and the nearest he can manage to the proper kit. The word slipped out inadvertently, but I am glad you mentioned it, because it is a small illustration of the differences in our technical language, both sides of the Atlantic. Believe me, we have got a hell of a lot to learn from them about firearms and shooting and hunting both man and beast, and I hope, too, that there is a good deal they can learn from us.
Good luck to you all-good hunting and straight shooting.
"A. G.'s Book of the Rifle" (Jordan
& Sons Ld., 7s. 6d.). A mine of information. For the advanced shooter
rather than the novice.
"Dry Shooting" (Alex. Martin, 2o Exchange Square, Glasgow, 3d.). Most instructive for the Service rifle.
Accurate Shooting in Way, by Lieut.-Colonel T. S. Smith (Gale & Polden, is. 6d.). Clear and authoritative for service men with service rifles.
"Small Arms Manual", by Lieut.-Colonel J. A. Barlow (John Murray, 2s.), gives detailed descriptions of all modern service small arms. It does not give instruction in shooting.
"Textbook of Pistols and Revolvers", by Major Hatcher, U.S.A. Rare and expensive, but completely comprehensive.
"Home Guard Pocket Book", by the author of this work, Brig.-Gen. A. F. U. Green (Major Whitlock, Sussex Zone H.Q., Haywards Heath, Is. 3d. post free). Written for H.G., contains a good deal about rifle shooting and amn. and notes on Range discipline.
"The Rifleman," the S.M.R.C. quarterly, 6d. (Mayleigh, Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey.)
"The N.R.A. Journal," the N.R.A. quarterly, 6d. (Bisley Camp, Brookwood, Woking, Surrey.)
Messrs. Parker-Hale (Bisley Works, Birmingham) and Messrs. Gale & Polden (Wellington Works, Aldershot) have comprehensive catalogues of works dealing with every aspect of the subject and are always helpful.
Prices quoted above are the net publishing prices and do not include postage, except for my H.G. Pocket Book, which has reached the 26,000 mark.
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