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A deceptive glamor lingers about the days gone by. Without reasoning the matter out, many of us have an instinctive belief that there will never be another class of riflemen like the pioneers of a hundred years ago. However, it is my belief that the real rifleman is yet to be developed, and his time will shortly be here.

I do not wish to reflect on the skill of the man with the flintlock or to insinuate that the Kentucky riflemen couldn't shoot; there is no one today who could equal their performances with the weapons they possessed, nevertheless, the strict limitations of their arms necessarily governed the ability of the men who used them. Forty-eight inch barrels as thick at the muzzle as at the breech, loaded with a small round bullet, stocked with a piece of wood that was a mere handle, and a set trigger lock, furthered nothing but deliberate work at short range.

While some of these woodsmen could undoubtedly kill game in motion, since they had opportunities to practice immensely greater than any we are blessed with, yet they never took a running shot from choice. Indeed they were extremely partial to shooting from a rest whenever that was possible. Who could say that we would not do the same if we were given a rifle with an accurate range of but one hundred yards, that fizzled, flashed in the pan, and hung fire before starting its projectile on the way.

Even in the days of the Hawken rifle from 1840 to 1870, plainsmen were in the habit of carrying sticks to rest the rifle upon. Those were times when a bullet had to be placed right to do the work. Take it along down to within the past decade and the measure of a rifleman's skill was still his ability to bunch a series of shots, deliberately held. I believe the record for this kind of work is ten shots off-hand in a four and a half-inch circle at two hundred yards. Since the limit of accuracy in the rifle has about been reached, this is not likely to be excelled very much but even the man who can do it may not be a rifleman in the modern sense.

The twentieth century rifleman must not only shoot straight but shoot fast. His standard of excellence will not be ten shots in a four and a half inch delivered in half an hour, but ten shots in an eight-inch, all fired in ten seconds. He will kill his game as he comes to it, running, standing, and perhaps flying. It is now not beyond reason to anticipate a time when the hunter will deliberately start his deer to running in order to give it a fair sporting chance for its life, having the same contempt for a potshot that the shotgun expert has to-day.

I have spoken of this modern rifleman as "shotgun trained," not so much because he has been accustomed only to the scatter gun, as because he has developed the shotgun style of aiming to a point where it can be used with a rifle. Shotgun shooting means pulling trigger the instant our piece covers the point of aim, never dwelling and never taking a second sight, and rapid rifle fire is exactly that, no whit more and nothing less.

Our instructions heretofore have had reference to deliberate shooting, a careful and gentle manipulation of the weapon, an even and delicate pressure of the trigger, a cold control of nerve that sent the bullet on its way only when the aim is sure, time not being considered. Such work is furthered by heavy hanging barrels, set triggers, miniature loads, and "micrometer" appliances generally, but these are not for the student of rapid firing and running shooting.

Askins, Charles. Rifles and Rifle Shooting. New York: Outing, 1912. Print.

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