The Choice of a Gun
If a 12-bore gun is thought too heavy, a 16-bore gun with 28-inch barrels, or even a 20-bore, which, however, is rather too light for really serious work, may be substituted. It must be remembered, however, that the lighter the gun the greater the recoil, which is the chief cause of the " shooting headache" which is the bane of a large number of sportswomen.
A hammerless gun, fitted with an absolutely trustworthy safety bolt, is a safe choice, and it should be fitted, if possible, with an ejector, which will eject the spent cartridges after firing. This is quite an invaluable addition.
The gunmakers, if asked to do so, will make the trigger of a gun destined for a woman's use pull off at a rather lighter pressure than that which is required for the locks of an ordinary man's gun - usually 4 lb. for the right-hand barrel and 4 3/4 lb. for the left.
A gun should always be taken about in a gun case. A good one, to hold a single gun, costs from £3 to £4, while one to carry a pair of guns costs about £6.
For practical purposes, of course, it is wise to choose one in which the gun can be carried at full length, to avoid the trouble of putting the barrels and stock together each time they are wanted for use.
Choice of shot is another important matter. The rule is that the smaller the bore the smaller the shot used. No. 5 shot is usually used with a 12-bore, or No. 6 shot with a 16-bore gun, except for young partridges early in the season, when No. 6 shot should be employed.
Fitting a Gun
Fitting a gun is a most important matter, and one over which good gunmakers take much trouble.
In order to choose a gun, bring it swiftly up to the shoulder several times in succession, pointed at an object level with the eye. If the sight of the gun comes well into the mark each time, the gun may be considered to fit the markswoman. If, however, the aim has to be more or less corrected each time, if the gun comes up to the shoulder slightly too high or too low, or a little to one side, it may be taken as a proof that it does not fit, and is unsuitable. When buying a gun, it is advisable to be accompanied by some experienced person who can assist you in making a selection.
To decide whether to shoot with both eyes open or with the right eye only, take up the gun and sight it at a given mark a few yards away with both eyes open. Now shut the left eye without moving the position of the weapon. If the sighting remains unaltered, by all means make a practice of shooting with both eyes; but if the sight moves to the left when the left eye is closed, it shows that the left eye is' the stronger, and it should therefore be closed at the moment of aiming, so that the right, or weaker, eye alone is used. Open the left eye again, however, directly the trigger has been pulled, to make sure of seeing birds or other game which may be approaching from the left hand side.
Carrying a Gun
The following points should be borne in mind by those who are unable to take lessons at a shooting school, and who may with advantage employ a dummy cartridge while practising the right way of loading and unloading their weapon, and of carrying it with safety to themselves and others, until habit has become second nature. Then live cartridges may be substituted.
The illustrations, in which the right and wrong ways of handling a gun are clearly contrasted, show that the right way is invariably the more workmanlike and easier, besides being the more graceful of the two.
To carry a gun, hold it with the barrels resting on the wrist, where it will be found to balance comfortably, with the barrels pointing to the ground (Fig. 2). Thus, if the barrels did go off unexpectedly, the charge would merely penetrate the ground, doing no harm to anyone.
The wrong method consists in holding the barrels of the gun in the hand (Fig. 1). To the uninitiated this may seem to be the natural way of holding a gun. It is, however, a method fraught with danger.
Before proceeding to load the gun, always turn away from the shooters and point it in a safe direction; and in order to charge it depress the muzzle, and, having inserted the cartridges, raise the stock to the barrels, which must be kept pointing to the ground throughout the whole proceeding (Fig. 4).
It is most dangerous to raise the barrel to the stock (Fig. 5).
In order to aim and fire gracefully and correctly, the body and head should be kept erect, and the hand must act in direct concert with the eye, the gun being brought up swiftly, and the aim taken and the trigger pulled directly the weapon reaches the shoulder.
The left hand should support the gun at least half-way down the barrels, in order to steady the aim (Fig. 3).
Always carry the gun on the shoulder with the barrels pointing upwards when tramping across country from one beat to another. When going down hill, however, or down the side of a steep bank, the gun must be carried with the barrels pointing always to the ground.
When two guns are being used, the loader, who must be employed, stands exactly behind his mistress, altering his position should she alter hers, but keeping at about one pace behind her.
He holds her second loaded gun, and in order to change guns she holds the empty one with her right hand, and places it in his left; while he, having the loaded gun in readiness in his right hand, simultaneously places it in his mistress's left.
This swift changing of guns is quite a simple manoeuvre to execute, but the beginner will do well to practise it several times with her loader - employing unloaded guns - to avoid any chance of a mistake at the crucial moment. And such mistakes entail at least much disappointment.