Walter Winans was an acknowledged expert on the subject of firearms and shooting of all kinds in the early years of the 20th century and his comprehensive guides to the subject are well known and highly regarded. In this book he explains the evolution of the revolver and the selection of the right pistol to suit an individual. He provides here a guide to ammunition and to the care, cleaning, maintenance and use of a pistol before turning his attention to the many applications of the hand-gun in shooting sports. He also discusses duelling, the art of shooting while riding on horseback and the use of hand held firearms in wartime. When this book was first published the hand-gun was evolving and the familiar cylindrical chamber was being superseded by automatic mechanisms. Automatic pistols were increasingly produced and adopted by service personnel and this aspect of shooting is also briefly covered. This is an ideal companion for sports shooters, those who fire historical weapons, re-enactors, modellers, firearm collectors and others.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Position.—The position for shooting, which I am now going to describe, is one in which I shoot and the one which I have found from experience suits me best. This position, however, will have to be modified according to the build of the shooter (I am five feet ten inches tall, and weigh 168 pounds); a man stouter or shorter-necked than I am, might have to stand more sideways. I remember once, on the first day of a Bisley meeting, the non-commissioned officer in charge of my target saying: “Excuse me, sir, you are standing wrong.”<br>
I said: “What am I doing wrong? Show me.”<br>
He took my revolver—it was empty (I had been merely looking along the sights at the target to see if they needed blacking)—and showed me the regulation, conventional position—right side to the target, right arm bent, head and neck bent down to look along the sights, little finger under end of stock, etc. The position he showed me not only cramps one, strains the eyes (from having to look “round the corner” to the right) , and prevents one from being able to shoot at moving objects, but in addition one is very apt to be hit in the face by the revolver from the recoil of a heavy charge. A beginner almost invariably stands in this awkward, sideways position; it is also the conventional position with all artists, just as raising the right arm in jumping a fence. I suppose the origin of it is the conventional duelling position—trying to give your opponent a narrow target to aim at—but this is wrong even for duelling, as I explain in the chapter on that subject. From the shape of some men’s figures, though, I am of opinion that there are men who would present a narrower mark—especially in the region of the belt—when facing an enemy! But this is a digression.<br>
Stand facing the target, the right foot pointing straight for the target, or perhaps a shade to the left (if the ground be slippery this gives you a firmer foothold); the left heel distant from six to nine inches to the left of the right foot, according to your height (my distance is eight inches), and about an inch farther back; the feet turned out about as much as is natural to you when standing. Nails in the boots, or corrugated rubber, give a firmer hold, especially in short, dry grass.<br>
Stand perfectly upright, not craning your head forward; the left arm should hang down straight, and close to the side, in the position of “Attention.” Some people bend the left arm and rest the hand on the hip; but I think this looks affected, and it is not as workmanlike as if the arm hangs straight down.<br>
If you are trying to “hold” an especially important shot, and find yourself wobbling off your aim, it is a help to grip your thigh hard with your left hand; this especially applies in a gusty wind.<br>
Now lift the pistol with your right hand (the weapon is empty, remember) and cock it. There are two ways of cocking: one using both hands and one using only the shooting hand. I do not refer to the double-action cocking by pulling back the trigger for the moment.<br>
This single-handed cocking is done by putting the thumb on the hammer, and by the action of the thumb muscles alone bringing it to full-cock. Take particular care that the first finger is clear of the trigger, or else you will either break or injure the sear notch, or have an accidental “let-off.” With practice, this way of cocking becomes very easy, and can be done with great rapidity. I personally can also let the pistol down to half-cock (manipulating it with one hand, with the trigger finger and thumb); but I would not advise a beginner to try this, except with an empty pistol, and even then only with one that he does not mind the chance of spoiling, as he is very apt to break the nose of the sear if he bungles it.<br>
By practice, the thumb and forefinger muscles (abductor pollicis and adductor indicis) develop enormously, so you need not mind if at first this work of cocking seems difficult; but stop as soon as the muscles feel tired, or you may strain them. Pistol shooting is good also for the flexors of the forearm and for the dorsal muscles. A small hammer with short “fall” is easiest to cock, as well as to make good shooting with, for such a hammer takes less time in falling, and the aim is, in consequence, less likely to be disturbed.<br>
The beginner will find that it assists the cocking to give the pistol a slight tilt to the right and upwards, taking great care to bring it back with the hind sight horizontal afterwards, as holding the sights tilted is one of the chief causes of bad shooting.<br>
In double-handed cocking, assist the right hand by taking the revolver behind the chambers with the left hand, so as not to get burnt if it should go off by accident; with a pistol it is handier to grip farther forward; keep the barrel horizontal and pointed at the target, not (if you are competing) towards your left-hand neighbour, as is often done; and, while it is thus steadied, cock the revolver gently, not with a jerk, bringing the hammer well beyond full-cock, so that it sinks back into the bent with a well-defined “click,” keeping the first finger clear of the trigger.<br>
Now, stand with the pistol in your right hand, just back clear of the table; right arm full stretch; thumb stretched out along the revolver (see illustration), but the first finger must be outside the trigger-guard (not touching the trigger) during this stage. The duelling pistol has to be held differently, as will be seen in that chapter.<br>
Some Englishmen shoot with the second finger on the trigger and the first along the revolver; but this is a clumsy way, and the first finger is apt to be burnt with the escape of gas from the cylinder. I have never seen men of any other nation do this. The habit was acquired from shooting the Martini rifle, the clumsy “grip” of which made this manner of holding necessary.<br>
The great thing is to have your grip as high as you can on the stock, in line with the axis of the barrel, or as near this as is practicable. With the Smith & Wesson Russian Model I have it is as shown in the diagrams, actually in line with the bore of the barrel.