Pistol Target Practice
Target Practice — If your first actual shooting is done at the range of a club, it is best to ask one of the members to coach you until you get accustomed to the rules, etc. A target will be assigned to you, and you will repair to the firing point and load your arm. It is well to let your coach fire the first shot or two, to see if your piece is sighted approximately right. If so, you are ready to begin shooting. If the sights appear to be as in Fig. 85 at the moment of discharge, then the bullet should hit the center of the bull's-eye. If, after several shots, you are convinced that the bullet does not strike where it should, the arm is not properly sighted for you.
In adjusting the sights you will find it an advantage to remember a very simple rule: To correct the rear sight, move it in the same didection as you would the shots on the target to correct them, or move the front sight in the opposite direction. Most target arms have the front sight non-adjustable, and the rear sight adjustable for both windage and elevation. A few arms have interchangeable or adjustable front sights for elevation. Move the sights a little at a time, according to the foregoing rules, until they are properly aligned. A few ten-shot scores should then be fired for record. As you become accustomed to the range, rules, etc., you will feel more at ease. This will inspire confidence, and your shooting will improve correspondingly.
Do not have your sights too fine. Fine sights are much more straining on the eyes, and have no advantage over moderately coarse sights. The rear sights as generally furnished are purposely made with very small notches, so as to enable individuals to make them any desired size.
It is well to have the trigger pull at least 1/2 of a pound greater than the minimum allowed by the rules. If much used, the pull sometimes wears lighter; and if there is little or no margin, you run the risk of having your arm disqualified when you wish to enter an important match.
Never use other ammunition in your arm than that for which it is chambered. A number of accidents and much difficulty have resulted from wrong ammunition. In the same caliber the actual diameter of the bullets frequently varies considerably, and a few shots, even if they should not prove dangerous, may lead the barrel, and thus cause much delay and annoyance. When a barrel is " leaded " from any cause it will become inaccurate. In such cases, particles of lead usually adhere to the inside of the barrel at or near the breech. A brass wire brush, of suitable size to fit the barrel, will generally remove it. When this fails, carefully remove all oil, cork up the opposite end of the barrel and fill it with mercury, letting the latter remain in the barrel until the lead is removed.
Occasionally the powder is accidentally omitted in loading a cartridge. When the primer explodes, the bullet may be driven partly through the barrel and remain in it. When this happens, whether from this cause or any other, always be careful to push the bullet out of the barrel before firing another shot. If the bullet is not removed, and another shot is fired, the barrel will be bulged and ruined. This may occur with a light gallery charge.
When shooting the .22-caliber long rifle cartridge, there will be an occasional misfire. In withdrawing the cartridge the bullet will stick in the barrel and the powder spill into the action. To prevent this, hold the barrel vertically, with the muzzle up, and withdraw the shell carefully. Then remove the bullet in the barrel with a cleaning rod; or extract the bullet from a new cartridge, inserting the shell filled with powder into the chamber back of the bullet and fire it in the usual manner.
Do not use BB caps in any pistol that you value. They arc loaded with a composition of fulminate of mercury in combination with other substances that cause rusting and the bullets have no lubrication. These caps will ruin a barrel in a very short time. The .22-caliber conical ball caps are loaded with black powder, and the bullets are lubricated, making this a much better cartridge; but it is best to adhere to the regular .22 ammunition for which the arm is chambered.
Never under any circumstances shoot at objects on the heads or in the hands of persons. There is always a possibility of something going wrong, and such risk to human life is unjustifiable, no matter how skilful you may be.
It is necessary to exercise extreme care in practising with the pocket revolver. Some persons delight in practising quick drawing from the pocket and firing one or more shots. This is dangerous work for the novice to attempt. Most of the pocket weapons are double action. If the finger is on the trigger and the arm catches in the pocket when drawing, a premature discharge is likely to result, which is always unpleasant and sometimes disastrous. Practice in drawing the revolver from the pocket or holster should always be begun with, the arm unloaded. Only after a fair degree of skill is acquired should actual shooting be attempted. For quick drawing from the pocket the only double-action revolvers that are fairly safe to handle are the S. & W. Safety Hammerless, and the Colt " Double Action," which has a safety notch for the hammer to rest on.
Drawing a revolver from a holster is easier and much less dangerous than drawing it from the pocket. Larger and more practical arms are generally carried in holsters, and such arms should be single action in all cases. In practising with a holster weapon, fasten the holster on the belt, and anchor the belt so that the holster will always be at the same relative position. The holster should be cut out so that the forefinger can be placed on the trigger in drawing. Always carry a loaded revolver with the hammer resting on an empty chamber or between two cartridges.
In the woods, or in localities where such shooting would not be likely to do any harm, it is good practice to shoot at a block of wood drifting down in the current of a swift-flowing stream, at a block of wood or a tin can swinging like a pendulum, from horseback at stationary and moving objects, and from a moving boat at similar objects. Such practice is largely indulged in by cowboys, ranchmen, and others in the western part of the United States. The shooting is generally rapid-fire work with heavy charges at short range, and is to be commended as being extremely practical.
Many of the published reports of wonderful shooting are gross exaggerations. The prowess of the so-called " Gun Men " of New York and other large cities is greatly over-estimated. These criminals do not practice shooting with the fire arms they use but operate by stealth and intrigue which makes them dangerous. They are, in fact, very poor marksmen, few of them being able to hit an object the size of a man more than 15 or 20 feet away.
In shooting a long series of shots with black powder ammunition, when the rules allow it, the barrel should be cleaned and examined every six or ten shots, depending upon the clean-shooting qualities of the ammunition used. It is well to examine the shells, also, and note if the primers have been struck in the center. If not, then some of the mechanism is out of line, and the parts likely to have caused the trouble must be cleaned.
After securing good, reliable arms, stick to them. Much time and progress is frequently lost by buying and trying different arms, ammunition, etc. If in any of your shooting, you should get results that are peculiar and unsatisfactory, make it your business to find out the cause of the difficulty, and remedy it as soon as possible.
" Blazing away" a large quantity of ammunition carelessly and recklessly is absolutely valueless as practice, and is a waste of time. Give your whole attention to your work, and try your very best to place every shot in the center of the bull's-eye.
It is very important to keep a full, detailed record of all your shooting, for comparison, study, etc. A suitable book should be provided for this purpose. Do not fall into the habit of preserving only a few of the best scores; but make it a rule to keep a record of every shot, and figure out the average of each day's work. The more painstaking and systematic you are, the more rapid will be your progress. By careful, intelligent work, it is possible to become a fair shot in three or four months, and a firstrate shot in a year.
Himmelwright, A.L.A.. Pistol and Revolver Shooting. New York: MacMillan, 1922.
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