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One of our rifle building companies states in their catalog that as a rule a rifle will shoot three inches higher at one hundred yards when shot with a muzzle rest than it will when fired off-hand. This simple statement is worth considering and analyzing in these days of light weight, heavily charged arms.

The average novice naturally concludes that when his piece is properly sighted for the distance, with no wind to affect the flight of the bullet, and he holds dead on and pulls trigger without a wobble, something is due to happen to the target. But if the deer runs away with his flag up, or the bull’s-eye shows no bullet hole, he humbly accepts? The blame with the hope of making amends next time. However, one of the first things he needs to learn is that the rifle may be as accurate as any ever built, the sighting, holding, and pulling perfect, and yet the ball may obstinately refuse to go to the desired spot. There are reasons for this which we cannot treat at length in this chapter, but one is light. For example a hold at 6 o'clock may be placing the bullets in the center with one light, but a change in light will possibly throw the projectile above the bull or beneath it. Again a change in temperature has its influence, and, moreover, the rifle that has been sighted near sea level will not shoot on the same elevation when in the mountains several thousand feet higher. What we wish to emphasize here, though, is that the manner of holding the weapon, and the position of the marksman in shooting may cause a wide variation of the bullet on the target—due entirely to recoil.

This is not a scientific disquisition on rifle shooting, nevertheless the bearing of recoil upon accurate rifle work is so pronounced and so unavoidable that every man who uses a rifle at all should understand it and guard against it as far as he may. In the first place, under the influence of powder gas, a rifle barrel expands; in the next place it may bend, technically called "flip;" third, it may "jump " or rise, and lastly it may move to one side or the other—all this after the marksman has completed his work of sighting, holding, and pulling trigger, and while the bullet is moving from breech to muzzle.

The principles that govern are: The lighter the rifle and the heavier the charge, the worse "will it jump or flip. Long, slender barrels flip, while short barrels jump. Long, military fore stocks running to nearly the end of the barrel lessen flip, but may injure the accuracy through binding the tube and preventing expansion. Rifles that are shot with like charges, from like positions, held with like force or grip, jump or flip uniformly, in which case the movement might be ignored.

Our military authorities once experimented to see how heavy a Springfield .45-70-500 barrel would have to be in order to reach a maximum of accuracy. They were trying to reach a weight of barrel so heavy that it would not move while the bullet was passing from breech to muzzle. They learned that the most accurate work could be accomplished only with a barrel weighing about thirty pounds. Even that weight could not be held rigidly without deflecting the ball, but must be allowed to move backward with the recoil, backed up by the shoulder or a spring. When the barrel was confined, as in a vise, a weight of one hundred pounds was demanded if accuracy was considered. A further surprising discovery was that the thirty-pound barrel gave a considerably higher velocity than one of normal weight.

Further experiments with the .45 and a certain weight of barrel showed that loading the cartridge with a five hundred grain bullet for one shot and a three hundred and fifty grain for the next, the heavy ball, which should in reason have gone the lowest, landed four inches higher than the other at fifty yards. Our combination rifles, those handling black powder and lead bullets, also smokeless powder and mantled bullets with a higher velocity, cannot be shot with the same alignment of sights—the high-pressure charge will "kick" its bullet away above the other. I have found that the lightly loaded .32-40-165 would shoot six inches higher at two hundred yards when shot with a muzzle rest than when held off-hand, this with an arm weighing over ten pounds. The same rifle would show a variation of three or four inches when shot off-hand, depending on whether it was held tightly or simply allowed to hang in the hands.

A .30-40 weight 7.2 pounds threw its bullets ten inches higher with a muzzle rest than it did off-hand. The .32-40, it should be kept in mind, is a weapon of very light recoil, 3.08 foot pounds. What a rifle with thirty pounds of recoil would do under a like test, the Lord knows, at least I do not.

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

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