Many guns of inferior

To the young sportsman, armed with the finest of implements, and
trusting much to them for his success, it is a matter of mortification
and surprise how well a bad gun will shoot in good hands; nevertheless,
no true sportsman ever lived but, if he were able by any self-denial to
scrape the means together, would purchase a valuable and necessarily
expensive fowling-piece. Not only is a well made and handsomely finished
gun safer and lighter than a cheap affair manufactured for the wholesale
trade; not only does it ordinarily carry closer and recoil less; but it
needs fewer repairs, lasts infinitely longer, and is always a matter of
pride and delight to its owner.

Many guns of inferior workmanship throw shot as strongly as those turned
out by the best makers–although this is not the fact in general–but
greater weight has to be given to insure tolerable safety, and the
locks, if not the barrels, are sure to give out in a few years; whereas
the high-priced article will be as perfect at the end of a dozen
years–which have accustomed its owner to its easy, rapid, and effective
management–as it was in the beginning, and will endure until failing
sight, wasting disease, or accumulating years, shall compel its
transfer into younger hands.

Unless a man has continual practice, or is an excellent shot, it is a
serious undertaking to change his gun and accustom himself to another,
which, although apparently identical in weight and shape, will
inevitably differ in some slight point that will be sufficient to
destroy, for a time, accuracy in aim and prompt execution in cover. Some
persons require months to acquire the effective use of a new gun under
difficult circumstances; and in those dense thickets where so much of
our shooting is done, and where it is by instinct founded upon long
habit that the sportsman is enabled at all to kill his game, and where
he cannot indulge in the deliberate care that more open shooting
allows–this deficiency will be most painfully apparent. For such
persons to purchase a new piece, is equivalent to throwing away the
sport of an entire summer or fall, and when we consider that few of us
can expect to average more than forty summers or falls, the loss of
one-fortieth part of life’s enjoyment is no trivial deprivation.

A very cheap gun is dangerous; but it is not expected that any person
reading these lines will trust his life with an instrument that common
sense tells him is manufactured to kill at both ends. A gun of moderate
price, that is, about one hundred dollars, is as safe as the most
expensive–the iron is not so tough, but more of it is used; but in a
short time the barrels will wear away; the locks, losing their original
quick spring and sharp click, will become dull and weak, till they will
scarcely discharge the cap; and the stock, warping with the weather,
will exhibit yawning fissures between itself and the iron lock-plates or
false breech.

In lightness, however, is the great superiority of the highly wrought
implement; and in hard tramping through a dense swamp of a hot July day,
or deep wading in a soft snipe-meadow, or in a wearisome trudge over
hill and dale after November quail, a pound will make itself felt in the
additional weight of the fowling-piece, and not only so, but a light gun
can be handled more readily. In open shooting, especially for the wild
fowl of our bays and coasts, mere weight is a positive advantage; but in
the tangled thickets, where birds flash out of sight like gleams of
party-colored light, and the instantaneous use of the piece can alone
secure success, a light gun is an absolute necessity.

Moreover, on certain occasions, when the barrels are exposed to an
extraordinary strain, when the piece built for light charges and upland
shooting is used temporarily upon the larger game of the coasts or
woods, and the two and a half drachms of powder and ounce of fine shot
are replaced by a dozen buckshot, or an ounce and a half of No. 3 driven
by five drachms of powder–then it is pleasant to feel that the iron is
of the utmost possible tenacity and the workmanship in every way

A learned dissertation on the science of gunnery is neither appropriate
to the occasion nor possible to the author, and would probably prove as
little entertaining as instructive to the reader. The majority of
purchasers cannot form an exact opinion relative to the merits of a gun
prepared with the utmost skill and ingenuity to deceive them, and must
rely mainly on the word of the seller or reputation of the maker. There
is something, to be sure, in the smooth working of the locks, and still
more in the perfect fitting of the stock; but after all, even to the
experienced sportsman, there is little difference in appearance between
the Shamdamn and the purest laminated steel.

American importers have a peculiarly moral and respectable habit of
vending German guns stamped with the names of English makers, and pacify
their consciences with the idea that the manufactures of Germany are not
inferior to those of England; but they would give more satisfaction to
the public and more ease to their consciences by proving this in open
contest, and establishing the reputation of the German makers, than by
appropriating the names and reputations that good work has made famous.
So far is this deception carried, that some houses even order from the
Belgian manufacturers a certain number, nominally, of each of the
leading gun-makers. It may be that there is little real difference,
although on the continental guns you sometimes pay for useless ornament,
money that should have been expended where it would tell, on locks and
barrels; but the mode of proceeding is certainly not creditable.

In a highly finished article the locks usually work with a smooth
oiliness that can be distinguished with a little practice, and are
fitted with great accuracy into the stock, so that projections of wood
will be left standing not thicker than a piece of blotting-paper. The
barrels will be without flaw or indentation, and if looked through with
the breech removed, will exhibit a perfect ring of light flowing up
evenly, as they are raised or lowered. The mountings will be faultless,
and the cuts in all the screw-heads will point in the same direction;
the screws will work easily and yet perfectly, and the triggers and
trigger-plate, which are invariably neglected in a poor gun, will be
admirably finished and fitted. Examine all these particulars, but
especially the last, and you can form some judgment whether the piece
comes from a good maker or a spurious imitator.

The greatest attention, however, in the selection of a gun should be
paid to the form of the stock and the pull of the triggers; if the
former is unsuited to the shape of the purchaser, or the latter are
stiff or dissimilar, the consequence will be utter failure that no
amount of practice will remedy. If the purchaser’s arms and neck are
long, the stock may be long and crooked; but if the contrary is the
case, the stock must be short and straight.

If possible, the person intending to use a gun should select it for
himself; and if it does not “come up right” the first time he brings it
to his eye, he should refuse it positively. He must not allow himself
to be persuaded to try it again and again; for after one or two trials
he will instinctively adapt his eye to its construction, and will
imagine the gun suits him–an impression that the rapid flight of the
first quail he endeavors to cover will dissipate. The triggers should
give back at a weight of four or five pounds; the hammers of a
muzzle-loader at ten or twelve, and of a breech-loader at twelve or
fourteen. For the former, the best cone is what is called the inverted,
where the bore is larger at the top and receives the entire flame from
the cap.

The shape of the breech for the muzzle-loader formerly gave rise to much
learned disquisition and many plausible theories; but, in all
probability, had no influence on the shooting, which is due mainly to
the form and quality of the barrels. Joe Manton founded his fame on the
idea that the lines of force, if reflected from a hollow cup, like rays
of light from a reflector, would be directed parallel to one another and
lengthwise of the barrel; but later experiments have tended to destroy
this theory. The simple fact appears to be, that powder exerts just so
much force, and, as it cannot escape sideways, it must go out at the end
of the barrel; and that the shape of the breech, except so far as it may
affect the rapidity of ignition, has no influence whatever.

These questions, however, are being effectually disposed of by the march
of events and the general diffusion of breech-loaders; to the latter, as
they are not generally known or appreciated in our country–to which, by
its nature and its game, they are peculiarly adapted–the writer’s
remarks will be mainly confined. Feeling entirely convinced, even from a
short experience, of their superiority in most particulars, and their
equality in all, he regards the consequence as inevitable that they will
utterly supersede the old-fashioned fowling-piece; the few defects that
were originally alleged to exist in them having been either removed or
remedied, and the supply of ammunition for them in this country having
become sufficient. They have won their way slowly into public favor
against the interested opposition of gun-makers on one hand, and the
ignorance and superstitious dread of change of gun-users on the other.

They are a French invention of twenty years’ standing, and proved their
superiority long ago; but prejudice was too strong for them, as it has
been for many another good thing. Their merits, nevertheless, slowly
conquered opposition, convinced the intelligent, and confounded the
obstinate; till at last in England–the very hot-bed of prejudice and
the favorite abiding-place of antiquated ideas–there are now sold five
breech-loaders to one muzzle-loader. As they are not extensively used
with us, the description of them will have to be somewhat minute, and
would be better understood if the reader would take the trouble to
examine one for himself.

The best and most generally adopted of the various kinds is the
_Lefaucheux_, or some slight modification of it; and to that the
attention will be principally directed. In this gun the breech, which
in the muzzle-loader screws into the barrel, is omitted, and the
barrels are open at both ends; they are fastened to the stock by a pin
and joint a few inches beyond the guard. When free, the muzzle hangs
down, and the breech end presents itself several inches above the stock,
so that the cartridge can be readily inserted; when the barrels are
pressed back into their place for firing, they are caught by a bolt that
can be opened or closed by a lever lying along the under part of the
stock, between the guard and the joint. The false breech is flat, solid,
and heavy, and completes the barrels, taking the place and performing
the duty of the breech in the muzzle-loader. The hammers have a flat
surface on the striking end, and the locks are back-actioned, to avoid
interfering with the other mechanism.

A cartridge is made of stout paper, shaped like a short section of the
barrel, with a brass capsule on one end and open at the other; it is two
or three inches long, and has a pad of thick paper beneath the capsule.
In this pad a hole is punched on the inside and the percussion-cap is
inserted, with a brass pin resting in it and projecting above the
capsule on the outside. The percussion-cap is entirely within the
cartridge-case, and the brass pin passes through a hole drilled in one
side of the capsule, just large enough to admit it and exclude moisture
entirely. A blow on the projecting end of the pin drives the other end
into the cap, and discharges the latter. The cartridge-case is prepared
already capped, and is sold in England for from thirty to fifty
shillings the thousand; it may be recapped by an instrument made for the
purpose with a peculiar cap, and may be used, on an average, three

The cartridge must be loaded as the gun would be, only by the use of a
short ramrod or a special loading implement; the powder is poured in, a
wad placed above it, and the shot and another wad follow. The cartridge
may then be trimmed down and the end bent over, so as to retain the load
securely, if it is to be carried for a considerable distance; but where
the shooting is from a boat or stand, the case should be left untrimmed
and of full length. A chamber is cut away in the lower part of the
barrel, which corresponds exactly with the cartridge-case, so that the
latter fits perfectly in it; but, if there is an interval between the
end of the cartridge and the shoulder in the barrel, no injury to the
charge or the shooting appears to result. A small notch is cut in the
upper edge of the barrel to contain the brass pin, and allow it to
project so as to receive the blow from the hammer.

When the bolt is withdrawn and the barrels are allowed to fall so as to
bring the open breech fairly into view, the loaded cartridge is
inserted, the barrels are sprung back to their place with a sharp snap
that sends them home at once, and are ready to be discharged. To allow
the cartridge to be inserted, the hammers must be drawn to half or full
cock; and when the trigger is pulled, they fall upon the pin, which
penetrates the cap and fires the load. The entire mechanism is so simple
that it can hardly become deranged, and will last as long as the
barrels. The greatest care is necessary in making the chamber that
receives the cartridge of a proper shape, for if this is faulty the
cartridges are apt to stick after explosion.

There is no decided improvement on the original Lefaucheux model, except
in the modification of the machinery, and a convenient method of
separating the barrels from the stock; and no other innovation of a like
character need be particularly described. The needle-gun, which is made
on a somewhat similar principle, is more curious than valuable, being
both dangerous and complicated, and possesses no advantages over the
other pattern. In it the cartridge has a percussion-cap so disposed at
its base that it is penetrated by a needle, which is projected by a
spring through a hole in the lower end of the cartridge; but the
composition of the cartridge, and the manner of its insertion, are
altogether different from the same in the Lefaucheux gun.

According to the arrangement of some English guns, on a plan invented by
Jeffries, the lever, instead of closing forward, lies under the
trigger-guard, when the barrels are closed; and provision is made for
tightening the bolt, in case it wears loose by long usage. This
invention permits of the use of forward-action locks, and the easy
separation of the barrels from the stock, and has come into vogue in
England; it is undoubtedly convenient in both these particulars, and has
as yet developed no corresponding drawbacks.

Personally, the writer has always preferred British to French or Belgian
guns, although chance has compelled him to own as many of the latter as
the former. The English gun is made for work; even when cheaply
manufactured, it will be found effective where efficiency is necessary;
and it is far more beautiful to the eye of a true sportsman, with its
plain blued lock-plates, and total deficiency of ornament, than the
Continental weapon, covered with engraving and ornamentation, but
defective in some of those minutiæ that lend nothing to its beauty, but
add much to its usefulness. This is particularly the case with
breech-loaders, which, if not manufactured carefully, are almost
useless, and which, although originally invented in France, are at this
day produced in more serviceable style–unless where the highest-priced
article is obtained–in England than in the country of their origin.
Great discredit was brought upon breech-loaders among us at their first
introduction, in consequence of the importation of inferior articles,
and they still labor under the disadvantages of that failure, although
rapidly overcoming all objections.

There are a few implements that are necessary to the use of a
breech-loader, which are much simpler than they at first appear. To load
the cartridge is required either a short ramrod and a machine for
turning over the edges of the case upon the wad, to retain it in its
place, or an apparatus, also invented by Jeffries, that combines all the
requisites for loading, and by the aid of which a hundred cartridges
can be loaded in an hour. As the case can be used several times, and the
cap, which is of a peculiar size, has to be placed in its exact position
to receive the pin, a capper invented for the purpose is employed, by
which the cap is inserted, and the pin pressed into it without the least
difficulty; a pair of tweezers are used to withdraw the pin after a
discharge, in order to free the old cap and make room for the new, and a
large gimlet will be found useful for extracting any discharged caps
that may happen to stick.

A cleaning-apparatus is also occasionally used, consisting of a brush at
one end of a string and a small weight at the other; the weight is
dropped through the open barrel and the brush drawn after it; but, as
the gun may be fired ten times as often as a muzzle-loader without
fouling, a plain rag and cleaning-rod will answer. Cartridge-cases, of
course, cannot be obtained like powder and shot at every country store,
and to obviate the danger of finding oneself, after extraordinary
good-luck with a gun, without the means of firing it, it is well to
carry a couple of brass cases, which can be used with a common French
cap, and reloaded indefinitely almost as quickly as a muzzle-loader.

The sportsman, by the aid of these implements and a couple of scoops
with handles for powder and shot, recaps the cartridges which have been
discharged, loads them as he would a gun, only much more rapidly, and
lays them aside for future use. In the field, he carries them in a
leather case, or, which is the preferable plan, in a belt round the
waist, or in his pockets, being able to store in the pockets of his vest
alone at least twenty. The English sportsmen carry them loose in the
pockets of their shooting-coats; but a belt is convenient and
commodious, holding from thirty to fifty, and distributes the weight
pleasantly. Where the shooting is to be done from a boat or stand, of
course they will be kept in an ammunition-box, without having their
edges turned over, as there will be nothing to loosen the wads.

The reader may naturally suppose that there is risk in carrying a number
of loaded cartridges about the person; but in this he is entirely
mistaken. In the first place, the difficulty of discharging a cartridge,
except in the gun, is surprising; no pressure will explode the cap, and
no ordinary blow, unless the cartridge is retained in a fixed position;
and if one falls, the weight of the shot compels it inevitably to fall
on the end: but in case these difficulties are overcome, the result is
merely the discharge of a large fire-cracker.

The writer instituted a number of experiments, and having succeeded,
after many trials, in setting off the cartridge, found that the powder
burst the paper, but failed to drive the wad out of the case. This was
tried with cartridges in all positions, horizontal and perpendicular,
but produced invariably the same result, with unimportant modifications;
and it was farther ascertained that the fire from one would not
communicate to another. So that, if a cartridge does explode
accidentally, it may scorch the clothes or even burn the person
slightly, but can inflict no serious injury. These remarks, however, do
not apply to the brass cartridge-cases, which must be handled more
carefully. The common paper-cases may therefore be carried with perfect
impunity, and transported, if carefully packed, without risk.

A more curious idea–for the dread of danger from the loaded cartridge
is natural–prevailed at one time, that the barrels were weakened
because they were open behind, instead of being closed by the
breech-screw; as if a cylinder would be rendered more cohesive by
screwing another piece of metal into one end. In fact, if the
breech-screw has any effect whatever upon the strength of the gun, its
presence is probably an injury. The charge, it will be observed, presses
against the shot on one side and the false breech on the other, and
would not be retained any more securely by the addition of a
breech-screw, which tends to separate instead of closing the barrel. So,
also, it must be borne in mind there is no strain worth mentioning on
the hinge-bolt, and no danger of the barrels blowing away with the
charge; while the disposal of the metal at the false breech, and the
omission of the ramrod, tends to make the gun light at the muzzle–a
great advantage in snap-shooting.

There is absolutely no escape of gas at the break-off; none can escape
unless the brass capsule, which closes the joint hermetically, can be
driven out, and this is a sheer impossibility. The gas cannot penetrate
the paper of the cartridge, and if it bursts the latter, still cannot
escape except through the brass; and although the least perceptible
amount may come out alongside of the pin, it is scarcely traceable, and
nothing like what is lost at the percussion-cap in the common gun. These
cartridges are wonderfully close, as the reader may conclude when he is
informed that a loaded breech-loader, left entirely under water for
fifteen minutes, was discharged as promptly as though it had never been
wet; while a muzzle-loader, that had not been half so long exposed,
would not go at all, and required an hour’s cleaning. In fact, the
breech-loader is entirely impervious to any ordinary wetting, will not
fail in the worst rain, and the average number of miss-fires, in well
made cartridges, is one in a thousand.

In the handling of this gun there is one peculiarity: the pins rise from
the middle of the cartridge, and not at one side, like the ordinary
cones, thus bringing the hammers closer together. To the beginner this
may appear awkward, but is no real disadvantage. It would seem also
desirable to use more powder with a breech-loader, although this is not
necessary to so great an extent as it was formerly; but, on the other
hand, the weight at the breech appears either to diminish the recoil or
reduce its effects on the shooter; as the testimony of persons using
breech-loaders is unanimous that the recoil is less perceptible than
with muzzle-loaders, although the scales have refused to verify their

One immense advantage of the breech-loader is its safety in loading,
especially in a confined position, as on a boat or in a battery.
Whereas, in the muzzle-loader, immediately after the discharge, while
the smoke is still pouring from the barrel, and while the fire may be
smouldering invisible below, the sportsman deliberately pours in a fresh
charge of powder, holding his hand and the entire flask over the muzzle,
endangering his life, and incurring injury far more frequently than most
persons suppose; with the breech-loader, the barrels are opened and fall
into such a position that no discharge can take place, and never point
towards the person of their owner.

Several of the writer’s friends have been maimed for life by the
premature discharge of a load in the muzzle-loader from a spark
remaining in the barrel; the risk connected with it has always seemed
very great; and even with the patent flasks, which are hardly practical
inventions, more or less unavoidable. This danger is entirely obviated
by the breech-loader, which cannot go off until the barrels are restored
to position after the charges are inserted; cannot leave hidden sparks
to imperil the owner’s life or limb; never expose the hand over the
loaded barrel, that may have been left at half-cock, if the sportsman is
liable to thoughtlessness or over-excitement; and which can be loaded
without difficulty in the most confined position. So, not only do we
have rapidity, but entire safety in loading.

The objections, however, urged against breech-loaders have not been few,
and, if well founded, forbid the use of the gun; if, as has been said,
the target is not so good, nor the shot sent with as much force, the
requisites of a first-class sporting implement are wanting. These
charges, freely advanced, have been sustained in a measure by the
wretched performance of poor guns, but have finally been brought to the
only true test–actual experience, under equal conditions; and by this
test have been so utterly annihilated that their discussion is only
necessary on account of popular ignorance of the experiments. When
breech-loaders first came prominently before the English public, their
supposed merits and demerits were discussed in the sporting papers in an
animated and violent manner; and in order to settle the questions at
issue, the editor of the London _Field_ determined to have an open
trial, where the breech-loaders and muzzle-loaders could be fairly
matched against one another. The contests took place in 1858 and 1859,
and being carefully conducted, settled the dispute for the time being,
and, even before the latest improvements, established more fully the
superiority of the breech-loader. The best guns and gun-makers of
England were represented; and in spite of occasional variation and
accidental luck–as in the pattern of the first muzzle-loader–the
prejudices against the modern arm were so entirely dissipated that the
old-fashioned guns are at present rarely sold.

Since that trial considerable advance has been made in the minutiæ of
the manufacture; and now it is the general impression of those
acquainted with the arm, that the breech-loader, with a slight
additional increase of powder, shoots both stronger and closer than its
rival. In the pigeon-match between the nobility and gentry of England in
1863, described in the London _Field_, volume xxiii., p. 389, where it
is to be supposed that the best implements the country could furnish
were used, and where some of the shooting was done at thirty yards, the
first and second prizes were both taken by breech-loaders. With all
allowance for the quality of the marksman, the quality of the gun that
wins a match at English “blue-rocks” must unquestionably be good; and
this, the universal experience of those matter-of-fact John Bulls, who
test everything by success, has entirely confirmed.

A trial of guns was made in 1859, and the results were published in
tabular form in _The Shot-Gun and Sporting Rifle_, by Stonehenge, p.
304. The targets were made of double bag-cap paper, 90 lbs. to the ream,
circular, thirty inches in diameter, with a centre of twelve inches
square, and were nailed against a smooth surface of deal boards. The
centres were composed of forty thicknesses for forty yards, and twenty
for sixty yards, and weighed eighteen and nine ounces respectively, with
such slight variation as will always occur in brown paper. The powder
was Laurence’s No. 2, the shot No. 6, containing 290 pellets to the
ounce, and the charges were weighed in every instance.


| | | | | |
Name of Maker. | Kind of Gun. |Bore.| Length of |Weight of | Charge of |
| | | Barrel. | Gun. | Powder. |
| | | | | |
| | | in. | lb. oz. | drs. |
Pape, Newcastle | Muzzle-loader | 12 | 30 | 6.11 | 2¾ |
Prince & Green, London| “ | 12 | 30 | 7.6 | 2¾ |
Pape | “ | 12 | 29½ | 6.8 | 2¾ |
Egen, Bradford | Breech-loader | 12 | 30 | 7.8 | 3 |
Prince & Green | “ | 12 | 30 | 7.2 | 3 |
Pape | “ | 12 | 30 | 7.0 | 3 |
Pape | Muzzle-loader | 13 | 30 | 7.0 | 2¾ |
Needham, London | Breech-loader | 13 | 29 | 6.10 | 3 |
Egan | Muzzle-loader | 13 | 28 | 6.14 | 2¾ |
Culling, Dowtham | | | | | |
Market | “ | 12 | 29½ | 6.10 | 2½ |
Reilly, London | Breech-loader | 16 | 30 | 7.4 | 3 |
Elliott, Birmingham | “ | 16 | 28 | 7.4 | 2¾ |
Needham | “ | 13 | 28½ | 7.4 | 3 |
Hast, Colchester | “ | 12 | 31 | 7.8 | 3 |
Reilly | “ | 12 | 30 | 7.4 | 3 |
Elliott | “ | 13 | 28 | 5.4 | 3 |
Francotte, Liege | “ | 14 | 29½ | 7.8 | 3 |
| Averages | | | | |

| | | | No. of |
Name of Maker. | Charge of | No. of Marks on | No. of | shots |
| Shot. | Face of Targets. | Sheets | through |
| | | pierced. |20 sheets. |
| oz. |at 40 yds. |at 60 yds.|at 40 yds.| at 60 yds.|
Pape, Newcastle | 1¼ | 158 | 118 | 63 | 60 | 28 | 33 | 5 | 2 |
Prince & Green, London| 1¼ | 148 | 98 | 52 | 65 | 28 | 22 | 1 | 2 |
Pape | 1¼ | 116 | 129 | 46 | 40 | 25 | 28 | 1 | 1 |
Egen, Bradford | 1¼ | 144 | 90 | 32 | 58 | 28 | 30 | 0 | 2 |
Prince & Green | 1¼ | 103 | 93 | 60 | 62 | 24 | 31 | 2 | 4 |
Pape | 1¼ | 132 | 93 | 55 | 38 | 26 | 33 | 2 | 3 |
Pape | 1¼ | 117 | 71 | 47 | 61 | 29 | 37 | 4 | 8 |
Needham, London | 1⅛ | 65 | 135 | 24 | 54 | 29 | 39 | 0 | 1 |
Egan | 1⅛ | 113 | 113 | 24 | 46 | 23 | 34 | 0 | 1 |
Culling, Dowtham | | | | | | | | | |
Market | 1-3/16 | 106 | 103 | 35 | 31 | 22 | 32 | 0 | 0 |
Reilly, London | 1¼ | 95 | 105 | 50 | 31 | 20 | 27 | 2 | 0 |
Elliott, Birmingham | 1 | 73 | 99 | 22 | 42 | 30 | 40 | 0 | 1 |
Needham | 1⅛ | 97 | 95 | 31 | 20 | 22 | 26 | 0 | 0 |
Hast, Colchester | 1⅛ | 100 | 77 | 32 | 28 | 33 | 25 | 0 | 0 |
Reilly | 1¼ | 88 | 91 | 37 | 31 | 22 | 27 | 2 | 1 |
Elliott | 1 | 90 | 87 | 20 | 28 | 20 | 31 | 1 | 0 |
Francotte, Liege | 1⅛ | 60 | 48 | 31 | 40 | 25 | 23 | 0 | 0 |
| | 106 | 97 | 33 | 43 | 26 | 30 | 1 |1½ |

| | |
Name of Maker. | Total on face | Tot’l thro’gh | Recoil in
| of 4 targets. | 4 targets. | pounds.
| | |
| | |
Pape, Newcastle | 399 | 68 | 68 | 62
Prince & Green, London| 363 | 53 | 66 | 65
Pape | 331 | 55 | 68 | 64
Egen, Bradford | 324 | 60 |untested.
Prince & Green | 3 8 | 61 | “
Pape | 318 | 64 | 70 | 68
Pape | 296 | 78 |untested.
Needham, London | 278 | 69 | 64 | 62
Egan | 296 | 58 | 68 | 68
Culling, Dowtham | | | |
Market | 275 | 54 | 59 | 61
Reilly, London | 281 | 49 |untested.
Elliott, Birmingham | 236 | 71 | 64 | 66
Needham | 243 | 48 | 65 | 61
Hast, Colchester | 237 | 58 | 72 | 69
Reilly | 247 | 52 | 76 | 73
Elliott | 225 | 52 | 64 | 68
Francotte, Liege | 179 | 48 | 74 | 68
| 285 | 59 | 67 | 66


| | | | | |
Name of Maker. | Kind of Gun. |Bore.| Length of |Weight of | Charge of |
| | | Barrel. | Gun. | Powder. |
| | | | | |
| | | in. | lb. oz. | drs. |
O. Smith, Derby | Muzzle-loader | 15 | 30 | 6.14 | 2¾ |
Culling | “ | 14 | 28½ | 6.11 | 2¼ |
Dougall, Glasgow | “ | 14 | 27 | 5.14 | 2½ |
Joe Manton, London | “ | 16 | 31 | 6.12 | 2½ |
Culling | “ | 14 | 29 | 6.0 | 2¼ |
Reilly | Breech-loader | 15 | 30 | 6.14 | 3 |
Lang, London | “ | 15 | 29 | 6.8 | 3 |
Reilly | Muzzle-loader | 14 | 29 | 6.4 | 2¾ |
Prince & Green | Breech-loader | 15 | 30 | 7.0 | 3 |
Prince & Green | Muzzle-loader | 14 | 30 | 7.0 | 2¾ |
Hast | “ | 15 | 30½ | 6.8 | 2¾ |
Reilly | Breech-loader | 15 | 28 | 6.4 | 2¾ |
| Averages | | | | |

| | | | No. of |
Name of Maker. | Charge of | No. of Marks on | No. of | shots |
| Shot. | Face of Targets. | Sheets | through |
| | | pierced. |20 sheets. |
| oz. |at 40 yds. |at 60 yds.|at 40 yds.| at 60 yds.|
O. Smith, Derby | 1⅛ | 101 | 121 | 48 | 55 | 38 | 22 | 3 | 5 |
Culling | 1⅛ | 147 | 85 | 42 | 48 | 24 | 19 | 0 | 0 |
Dougall, Glasgow | 1 | 130 | 92 | 30 | 60 | 25 | 27 | 2 | 0 |
Joe Manton, London | 1 | 122 | 86 | 86 | 57 | 27 | 28 | 2 | 0 |
Culling | 1⅛ | 101 | 103 | 30 | 55 | 21 | 25 | 0 | 1 |
Reilly | 1¼ | 105 | 106 | 63 | 26 | 29 | 33 | 6 | 1 |
Lang, London | 1¼ | 129 | 57 | 45 | 52 | 20 | 28 | 0 | 3 |
Reilly | 1⅛ | 99 | 99 | 34 | 42 | 32 | 27 | 0 | 8 |
Prince & Green | 1 | 77 | 100 | 41 | 31 | 33 | 26 | 5 | 0 |
Prince & Green | 1 | 71 | 92 | 52 | 27 | 20 | 29 | 0 | 0 |
Hast | 1⅛ | 83 | 55 | 44 | 24 | 28 | 29 | 5 | 0 |
Reilly | 1⅛ | 83 | 101 | 34 | 7 | 18 | 28 | 0 | 0 |
| | 104 | 92 | 42 | 40 | 26 | 27 | 2 |1½|

| | |
Name of Maker. | Total on face | Tot’l thro’gh | Recoil in
| of 4 targets. | 4 targets. | pounds.
| | |
| | |
O. Smith, Derby | 325 | 68 | 68 | 58
Culling | 322 | 43 | 53 | 54
Dougall, Glasgow | 312 | 54 | 65 | 68
Joe Manton, London | 301 | 57 | 64 | 62
Culling | 289 | 47 | 60 | 44
Reilly | 300 | 69 | 69 | 76
Lang, London | 283 | 51 | 64 | 60
Reilly | 274 | 67 | 68 | 74
Prince & Green | 249 | 64 | 71 | 73
Prince & Green | 242 | 49 | 69 | 64
Hast | 206 | 63 | 68 | 67
Reilly | 225 | 46 | 68 | 72
| 277 | 56 | 65 | 64

The guns were classified according to their weight. The breech-loaders,
which used one quarter of a drachm more powder, showed about an equal
recoil; the recoil differed surprisingly, ranging from 44 to 76 lbs.,
and was no indication of the power with which the shot was driven–a
greater number of sheets being pierced where the recoil was under the
average. The patterns produced by the muzzle-loaders varied from those
of the breech-loaders less than they did from one another, and far less
than that of one barrel differed from that of the other; in fact, the
right-hand barrel seems to have shot much the best, and some of the guns
that excelled at 40 yards fell far behindhand at 60 yards.

In penetration, which is a more valuable quality in a gun than even
pattern, the breech-loaders took the lead; one pierced through 40 sheets
and another through 39 sheets, so that the vaunted superiority of the
old gun in this particular was found not to exist. It was further noted
that a great improvement in this particular had taken place in the
breech-loaders since the trial of the year previous, which improvement
has been going on steadily since. The trial also proved that, although
the breech-loaders required an extra amount of powder to give them
force, it caused in them no additional recoil, and was objectionable in
so far only as it entailed extra expense and weight of ammunition. The
muzzle-loader was left, to offset its numerous inferiorities, nothing
more than a claim to diminished weight of gun and ammunition, and a
trifling saving in expense; in force and pattern it was equalled; in
safety and handiness it was far surpassed by its competitor.

A book called the _Dead Shot_, which has been circulated extensively in
our country, remarkable more for the wonderful number of mistakes, if
not absurdities, that it contains, than for any other quality, denounces
the breech-loaders in unmeasured terms, and, among others, gives the
following categorical objections, to each of which the writer appends,
from personal experience, what he considers an answer. The _Dead Shot_

“1. The breech-loader does not shoot so strong nor kill so far as the
muzzle-loader, though allowed a quarter of a drachm of powder extra.”

The contrary was proved at the _Field_ trial, as shown by the foregoing
tables, and is proved in the field daily.

“2. The breech-loader is, of necessity, much heavier than a
muzzle-loader of the same gauge.”

About one quarter of a pound.

“3. It is more expensive as regards ammunition, and also as to the gun
itself–the latter by reason of its not lasting so long, and its greater
liability to get out of repair than a muzzle-loader.”

The cartridge-cases cost about twenty dollars a thousand; so that if
they are used but once, a single additional quail or woodcock will pay
for ten of them. The same wise economy raised this objection of expense
against percussion-caps when first introduced. The gun lasts longer, as
there is no breech to become rusty or burnt out with percussion powder,
and the barrels may always be kept in perfect cleanliness.

“4. The recoil on discharge is heavier and the report louder than that
produced by the muzzle-loader.”

The first portion of this paragraph is answered by the foregoing tables,
and the second is not only false but childish.

“5. The penetration of wet and damp in rains, fogs, or mists, between
the false breech and barrels, and often into the cartridge itself,
cannot be avoided in the present form of breech-loader, more especially
in one that has been much used. And if the cartridge-case gets damp, it
adheres to the barrel, and cannot be removed without considerable

That rain cannot penetrate the cartridge-case is pretty well proved by
the experience already mentioned of firing a gun that had been under
water fifteen minutes; and if dampness gets in between the false breech
and barrels, or under the latter, the parts should be wiped dry after
use. The residue of this paragraph is answered below.

“6. There is obviously a greater risk of bursting; indeed, the safety of
a breech-loader, after much usage, becomes doubtful by reason of the
escape of gas between the false breech and barrels, particularly after
the trying vibrations of heavy charges.”

There is no such escape of gas, and “obviously” can be none, unless it
can find its way through nearly a quarter of an inch of solid paper and
brass. Does the comparatively excessive escape of gas at the cone and
vent of a muzzle-loader endanger its safety? and will the “trying
vibration” of one cartridge affect the strength of another not in the
barrel at the time?

“7. The time and trouble required in filling the cartridges, and the
danger attending that operation before going out shooting, are very
considerable; and it is with one peculiar form of cartridge only that
the breech-loader can be used; and if purchased of the gun-maker ready
filled, they come very expensive.”

This paragraph is unanswerable; as no source of danger in loading the
cartridges is specified, the writer is at a loss to know what is
meant–there being, in his experience, no danger whatever. As for the
trouble, it is far less than that of loading the gun.

“8. The operation of _making_ and filling the cartridge is to a
sportsman a tedious, dirty, dangerous, and laborious one–quite as much
so as making fireworks.”

This may be true of making the cartridges, which no sportsman ever
thinks of doing more than he would of making percussion-caps, which is a
far more dangerous employment. The filling them is identically the same
as loading a gun, omitting capping, but without its dirt or danger. If
loading a gun is akin to making fireworks, so may be loading cartridges.
In fact, using cartridges is merely loading at a convenient season
expeditiously, and may be done to the extent of thousands without
soiling the hands.

“9. Another serious objection to the breech-loader is the weight of
ammunition that must be carried in the shape of ready-made cartridges
when going to the Highlands or any remote shooting quarter. And then
arises the difficulty of keeping them perfectly dry in damp weather; and
every one knows how very soon the damp will penetrate through a paper
case, and cake, and weaken the force of the gunpowder.”

If the cartridge cases are carried unloaded, the bulk of ammunition is
increased; if loaded–and they are as safe as powder in mass–neither
the weight nor bulk is at all increased. The powder might be injured in
very damp weather in the course of years; but such an occurrence has not
yet come before the public.

“10. The cartridges must be carried in a strong case with divisional
compartments. In the event of their being carried loose, they become
damaged; and the danger of so carrying them is excessive, by reason of
the results which may ensue in the event of a fall or accident in
getting over a hedge, or otherwise, whereby a blow or friction is given
to the metal pin which explodes the cap.”

Friction will not discharge them, and no ordinary blow; and, in case of
explosion, the danger is merely what may result from the discharge of a
charge of powder in the open air–by no means so great, but about as
probable as from the explosion of the caps in the cap-pocket. The writer
has never heard of such an occurrence, and English sportsmen
universally carry cartridges loose in their pockets.

“11. The extra weight incurred in being obliged to carry a sufficient
number of cartridges for a day’s sport, in a very cumbersome leather
case, with iron compartments, considerably exceeds the ordinary weight
of powder-flask and shot-pouch, with ammunition for a similar amount of

This may be, if any one is fool enough to use iron compartments; but in
a proper receptacle–a leather belt–the weight is much less.

“12. Another of the principal defects in the breech-loader is the flat
surface of the breech, which scientific and practical experimenters have
proved to be erroneous, by reason of the much greater power and extra
force which may be obtained from the conical interior form of solid
breech–the rule being that ‘force cannot be expended and retained
also;’ and as it must, of necessity, be expended to a certain degree by
explosion and recoil on a flat-surfaced breech, extra powder is required
to produce like effects to those which result from the solid conical
breech. The recoil is also considerably greater on a flat surface than
on a tapering one.”

So much of the foregoing as is comprehensible, the tables of the _Field_
trial “and practical experimenters” have found to be erroneous. It will
also be borne in mind that the inside end of the cartridge-case is

“13. Joints, joinings, slides, and bolts, are all inferior to a
well-made screw, as regards soundness of the breech. A perfectly solid
breech, free from all suspicious joinings, curves, and openings, _must
be_ by far the safer and more effective one in any instrument, in which
so searching a substance as gunpowder has to be compressed and

If this last objection is correct the others are superfluous, as it
disposes of the discussion; and the statement will be true whenever it
can be shown that the cohesion of a tube is increased by forcing a screw
into it. To silence, however, such senseless cavils, gun-makers
construct the breech end of the barrels slightly heavier than in the

These being the greater disadvantages, the _Dead Shot_ then adverts to
the minor ones:

“On reloading, it is necessary to draw out the case of the discharged
cartridge before inserting a full one. _It is true the discharged
cartridge may generally be withdrawn almost instantly_; but if intended
to be refilled and used another day, it must be carefully replaced in
the cartridge-case in one of the divisional compartments, for if carried
loose in the pocket it is soon spoilt. Therefore, if these important
minutiæ be taken into consideration, it will be found, after all, that
there is very little saving of time in re-charging the breech-loader.”

This is the acme of captiousness; as though the cases might not be
placed in the pocket till a favorable opportunity presented to return
them to their compartments. To any one who, with numbed hands on a
bitterly cold December morning, is watching for ducks at daybreak, and
who looks to reloading as a difficulty and recapping an impossibility,
the large, easily handled cartridge is a blessing that he will never
forget; and any one who, having used a breech-loader, will pretend that
it cannot be loaded on the average infinitely faster than the
muzzle-loader, is guilty of prevarication. In truth it can be reloaded
in less time than the other gun can be recapped.

“With regard to refilling the cartridge-cases, the makers warrant that
the discharged cases may be refilled and used again with the same
facility and effect, some of them two or three times. This, however, is
not always so; on the contrary, the cases expand so much on explosion of
the powder, that when refilled they are sometimes not only difficult to
thrust into the barrel, but on second explosion they stick so fast that
in many instances the copper end comes off, on the case being attempted
to be withdrawn, and the paper is left inside. And then, unless a
loading-rod is at hand with which to force out the paper case, your
breech-loader is powerless.”

Were it not for the next clause, one could suppose that _Dead Shot_ had
never heard of an extractor, which is a little instrument not so large
as a cone wrench, always carried in the shooter’s pocket, and with which
the paper can be pulled out in about two seconds’ time, without
possibility of failure; until this is done, and for those two seconds,
“your breech-loader is indeed powerless.”

“None but those who have experienced the difficulty of extracting a
bursted cartridge-case, which adheres firmly to the sides of the
barrel, can imagine the annoyance it causes; and if the cases get damp,
or if refilled ones are used, the difficulty is constantly occurring.
And then the ‘extractor’ is of little use, beyond pulling away the brass
bottom of the cartridge and leaving the paper case more difficult to

New cases, whether they burst or not, scarcely ever stick in passably
well-made guns, and reloaded ones rarely; but when they do, the
extractor will, in nine times out of ten, withdraw them at once; and if
on this tenth occasion the brass capsule is torn off, the extractor, by
the aid of a hook at the end, made expressly for the purpose, will tear
out the empty paper instantly.

“Unless the brass pin which explodes the cap is made very precisely, a
miss-fire is inevitable. If there is any corrosive substance upon it or
upon the sides of the hollow in which it is to travel, the hammer will
fail to drive it home or explode the cap. The hammer must strike it in
exact position, or the pin will bend; any extra length or protrusion of
the pin, or any dampness or foulness which causes it to stick, or if the
pin be nipped in any way so as to weaken the force of the hammer, a
miss-fire will probably be the result; and the pins must not be too
loose, or they will drop out of the cartridges on any sudden or violent
exertion on the part of the sportsman.”

All but the last clause of this paragraph is prejudice stated as fact,
and that is simply ridiculous. It happened that one hammer of the
writer’s breech-loader was broken and so badly mended that it did not
fall true upon the pin, and yet the only miss-fires he has ever met with
arose from his own neglect, in omitting to recap one or two of the
discharged cartridges before reloading. The average of miss-fires with a
cartridge is asserted by Mr. Eley, the celebrated gun-maker, to be one
in a thousand–an assertion openly made, and, as yet, uncontroverted,
and which is confirmed by the experience of the writer and his friends.
So far from the pin’s being liable to fall out by any exertion whatever,
even if the sportsman turned acrobat for the nonce, it is simply to be
said that it cannot be withdrawn with the fingers, and requires a small
pair of pliers.

“If in drawing out an unexploded cartridge the brass end comes off or
breaks away from the paper case, _it will not be advisable to use the
cartridge in that state_: it cannot be safe to explode it in the barrel
of a breech-loading gun; in fact, it would be almost as unsafe as a
loose charge of powder. _And in the event of the cap missing fire in a
breech-loading cartridge, it is not desirable to recap the cartridge._
When once the brass and the pasteboard part company, the power of
retaining the explosive force within the case is considerably weakened,
and so is the expulsive force.”

On reading the foregoing, one would suppose the author of such
statements had never seen a breech-loader. Where the brass end breaks
away from the paper case, the cap comes off with it, and the cartridge
cannot be discharged unless touched off with a lucifer match or a
lighted cigar–a performance that probably few persons out of a lunatic
asylum would attempt. And as for recapping a cartridge that once missed
fire, it cannot be done, _as the cap is inside_. What species of
cartridges the _Dead Shot_ must have used, the writer of this cannot
imagine. In case of a miss-fire the cartridge has to be unloaded, and
may then be recapped and reloaded like any other.

The writer experimented extensively in reloading cartridges, using some
a dozen times, and has experienced the annoyance of sticking cases and
separating capsules, and tested it thoroughly; and he must say that if a
cartridge is loaded over three times with heavy loads it is apt to
stick, especially if it is loaded shortly after being discharged, and
while it is still soft from the heat. The cases should be left for
several hours before they are reloaded, until they are dry and hard,
and, if there is time, should be reloaded in the mould–a block bored
out to the exact size, in which they fit accurately, and in which they
cannot spread.

They rarely stick, however, before the third discharge, and then may be
pulled out by force–in pieces, if necessary, and thrown away. If,
however, they cannot be forced in, and are torn apart before they are
discharged, which never happens except after repeated use, the charge is
wasted; the powder should be at once poured out, the wads pushed aside
by the extractor to let the shot escape by the muzzle, and the empty
case torn away–an operation implying neither danger nor difficulty. It
is desirable to pour the shot out at the muzzle, lest a pellet lodge
under the breech-end of the gun and interfere with its operation.

“The rapidity with which a succession of shots may be made is urged as
one of the chief recommendations of the breech-loader; but rapidity of
firing is seldom desired, _and the barrels may become heated to danger_.
The sportsman’s every-day success frequently depends on the range of his
gun, but seldom on the loading and firing of it.”

The _Dead Shot_ is an English book; and in England there are no rail or
bay-snipe; the author, therefore, has never whistled a flock of
marble-winged willet or golden-brown marlin back, time after time, to
the fatal stand, and delivered repeated discharges into their thinning
ranks. But ducks abound there; and for any person who has been present
at the early morning or late evening flight, and has seen and heard the
rush of wings innumerable, when a dozen guns and men to load them would
hardly have been enough, to say that “rapidity of firing is seldom
desirable,” is marvellous indeed. The italicized portion of the last
objection further implies that _Dead Shot_ has never used a
breech-loader; for, while in the muzzle-loader the heat of repeated
discharges may be dangerous, in a breech-loader it cannot, as paper
intervenes between the barrel and the powder. The writer has fired his
breech-loader until it was so hot he could not bear his hand on it.

This is the last of _Dead Shot’s_ objections, and none of them merit the
attention they have received, except from the fact that this book has
been extensively circulated in our country, where the merits of
breech-loaders are little known. The objections so manifestly arise from
prejudice or ignorance, that they need no contradiction to any one
acquainted with the true state of the case, and are worthy of an author
who, in his opening, says: “He only can be called a ‘Dead Shot’ who can
bring down with unerring precision an October or November partridge,
whenever it offers a fair chance, _i. e._ rises within certain range;”
which range he afterwards, at page 86, puts at forty yards, in the
following words: “With judicious loading and a regard to the principles
of deadly range, a partridge may be killed with certainty at forty
yards.” The partridge resembles, in many points, our quail, and
sportsmen can tell whether quail can be killed “with certainty at forty
yards,” or whether the best shot alive can kill them every time at any

In discussing the merits of any new invention, prejudice is one of the
strongest grounds of opposition to overcome; and prejudice in favor of a
weapon that we have tried and found trustworthy, that years of service
have enabled us to use skilfully and have endeared to our affections,
that has never, under all diversities of trial, failed to merit our
confidence, is not merely a natural but praiseworthy feeling in the
human mind. Prejudice, when at last driven to a corner and forced to
give up as untenable the objection to the safety or shooting qualities
of the breech-loader, will say: “I can shoot fast enough with a

For woodcock and quail-shooting, rapidity in loading is not essential,
although frequently after a bevy of quail has flushed, one or two birds
will loiter long enough to be killed by the reloaded breech-loader, that
would fly before the muzzle-loader could be recharged. But for killing
English snipe, that have a habit of rising one after another in
tantalizing succession before the unloaded gun; for ducks and rail; but
above all for bay-snipe, one-half if not two-thirds of the bag depends
upon celerity in loading. Duck shooting is frequently best in wet
weather, when even Eley’s “central fire double water-proof” caps will
not always insure the ignition of the powder; and in thick covert the
caps, especially if they do not fit perfectly, will occasionally be
brushed off; whereas the breech-loader is impervious to wet, and is not
liable to the last difficulty; above all, where different kinds of game
are expected, and it may be important to change quickly the load for
ducks, to buckshot for deer, or double B’s for geese, the breech-loader
has an infinite superiority.

The comparative merits of the two guns may be stated as follows:

For shooting quail or woodcock, where there is no necessity for great
rapidity in firing, there is little advantage in a breech-loader; and,
unless loaded cartridges sufficient for the entire trip are carried, the
reloading them during the evening after a hard day’s fag will be found
annoying. But for all the shore-birds, and even for English snipe, the
breech-loader has an immense advantage. It requires a quarter of a
drachm of powder extra, and, on this account as well as from the cost of
the cases, is more expensive in use; with the extra allowance of powder,
however, it shoots stronger, with as good a patten and as little recoil
as its rival; it is somewhat heavier to carry, infinitely safer to load,
rarely misses fire, and may be cleaned ere the tow can be prepared for
the muzzle-loader.

Of course the better the barrels, the better it will shoot, to a greater
degree even than the old gun; and it is being daily made more perfect.
The weight has already been reduced, for field-guns even of No. 12 bore,
to six pounds ten ounces, which is as light as any double-gun should be,
and the mechanism of the parts is very fine. Of course the friction on
the hinge will in the end wear it loose, but the expense of a new one is
trifling, and its construction might almost be entrusted to a country
blacksmith. The barrels are said to spring slightly at the discharge
when the load is heavy, so that a piece of thin paper pasted across at
the break-off along the ridge will be rent; and, on the other hand, Mr.
Dougall, of Glasgow, claims to have made an invention called by him the
“Lockfast,” that removes this difficulty. The objection, however, is not
important; and Mr. Dougall’s invention, by which the barrels slip into a
shoulder-cut on the face of the breech, is considerably slower in action
than the other patterns: it cannot be made to spring shut like the
Lefaucheux, but must be drawn back into place by a short lever.

The price of a superior breech-loader, made by Jeffery of Guildford,
several of whose make have been imported and given entire satisfaction,
is thirty guineas, and by Dougall of Glasgow about forty guineas,
although of course the price varies to suit purses; and some of the best
London makers, who spare neither labor nor expense, and who turn out
work that is unsurpassable, charge double these sums. It has even been
asserted that Purdey has received over a hundred pounds for a
breech-loader; but this is merely a fancy price, and makes the gun
neither safer nor more useful than one at a third of the cost.

A breech-loader to shoot creditably must be well made, and consequently
is expensive; and at the best an extra quarter drachm of powder must be
allowed. This is supposed to be required by the yielding of the
comparatively soft material of the cartridge-case, which must fit rather
loosely in the chamber of the barrel to allow of its ready insertion,
and any defect of workmanship increases this difficulty materially.

There are several descriptions of cartridge–those made by Eley of
England or Gevelot of France being the best. Eley manufactures two
qualities at different prices, and those persons who object to reloading
their cartridges, may purchase the lower-priced article, which is not
intended to be used more than once. The first quality cost three pounds
a thousand, unloaded but capped; or they may be purchased at a
proportionally higher price loaded, ready for instant use, as they can
be transported even across the ocean without material risk. The
brown-paper cartridges of Chaudun are also good, but not quite so fine
an article as Eley’s; they may be reloaded, however, several times. In
carrying the loaded cartridges, it is natural to suppose that there
would be danger of their exploding in consequence of a sudden jar, and
they are generally packed in sawdust to avoid this risk, but experience
has proved that the danger is slight; generally speaking, they cannot be
so discharged, and there is but one case reported where it happened; in
this instance, a railway porter in England let fall a large box of them,
when a single cartridge exploded, without doing any damage or
discharging the others.

There are, properly speaking, no gun-makers in America; a few workmen
import English locks, stocks, and barrels, and fitting them together,
stamp them with their names; but I know of no establishment where the
smallest portion even of the fowling-piece is manufactured. It is a
matter of great difficulty to get any good work done, and the simplest
repairs are generally bungled in our best shops in a way to disgrace the
trade and disgust the owner; as for having a gun made, we have not
advanced the first step towards it, not even having a compulsory

It is hardly necessary to add that breech-loaders must be imported. They
and their equipment are kept for sale at our principal metropolitan
shops, and their mechanism is so simple that any accident to it can be
repaired; but as they are not in general demand, really fine articles
are difficult to find, and had better be purchased specially on the
other side. This can be done by the party himself, by sending to any
European maker the length from the foremost trigger to the heel-plate,
and the drop from the line of the barrels to the cheek-piece of the
stock–that exist in his present gun, and which he wishes to retain. Or
any of our dealers will take the measure of his gun, and import him a
breech-loader that will “come up” like the old gun he has handled for

Much space has been devoted to the breech-loader, for the reason that
the writer, while recognising its adaptability to general use, has
considered it specially advantageous for the pursuit of the game of
which this work particularly treats; that it has defects is not denied,
but these are vastly overborne by its advantages. Prejudice is strong;
for twenty years the Lefaucheux has been in common use among the French,
who had satisfied themselves of its superiority; and it required that
time for an invention so simple and easy to test, to cross the narrow
channel between the continent and England. Americans are always ready to
try a new discovery and judge of its advantages by their own experience;
so that it is not probable that the breech-loader will be as long in
crossing the “broad Atlantic,” and locating itself securely on our

There are now some twenty or thirty of these guns in use among our
sportsmen, and they have generally given satisfaction. Of course it
requires a short time to accustom oneself to a new implement; and a
cheap piece, which it is natural to purchase on an experiment, is a poor
affair, and especially so with a breech-loader; but the invention is
steadily winning friends. In England, where the nature of the game is
not so well calculated for its use as here, the highest authority on
sporting gunnery, the editor of the _Field_, who writes under the name
of Stonehenge, speaking of the two guns, says: “Indeed, so near is the
performance of the two, that we cannot think for a moment that for
general purposes there can be a doubt of the superiority of the
breech-loader, when quickness of loading, safety, and cleanliness are
taken into consideration.”

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