While this style of shotgun aiming is of modern origin, in fast originated with Doctor Carver, yet;
it is the oldest of all systems of directing a missile. It was used by the rock slingers, the spear throwers, the dart casters, and was brought to the greatest perfection by the long-bowmen. Shooting in this fashion an Indian will drive a penny from between a split stick with half his shots at fifty feet, or strike a running deer at three hundred, and doubtless the Anglo-Saxon bowmen were much better shots than any Indian.
Gun pointing was the recognized manner of aiming of all our Western "bad men" and gun fighters whose gun play was entirely too rapid to be dircctcd by any description of gun sights. In combined quickness and accuracy, from foot or horseback, the work of these men has never been equalled, but their system of shooting is now becoming a lost art because it was not found the best adapted to target practice. Perhaps in coursc of time gun pointing will hold sway in short range shooting with every variety of firearm, for the military tendency at present is to encourage rapidity of fire.
Probably it was from the Western gun-fighter that Doctor Carver, a Western man, got his idea of the correct way of sighting a shotgun. If the man with the sixshooter could hit nickels thrown into the air, rabbits running, a man on a galloping horse while himself mounted, or swing his weapon on a foe with such rapidity that the eye could not follow the movements, then why couldn't a man with a shotgun place its thirty inch pattern upon a
flying bird without glueing his eye to any sights? Carver believed that it could be done, and he showed the skeptical until everybody was ready to go away and do likewise.
Gun pointing has been miscalled instinctive aiming, though in reality there is nothing instinctive about it. There can be nothing instinctive in doing a thing that w e ha v e learned to ac-c o m p 1 i s h t h r o u gh repeating a pcr-formance thousands o f times. It is merely perfecting an art that we have been acquiring f r o rn h a by-
hood, that of Gun pointing—both eyes open being able to point the finger or something else directly at an object toward which we are fixedly looking. We might as well say that we write instinctively, because we give no thought as to what the next stroke will be. In civilized human beings training takes the place of instinct which is a very imperfect fac tor, though it must be admitted that every man has inherited tendencies-
Shooting a pistol in the old Western way consisted simply in extending the hand quickly in the direction of the target and pulling on the instant. This one-hand gun pointing is the most natural method and the easiest to acquire because we have been at it a good many years before we ever gripped a gun. Shooting a shotgun differs from it only in that the piece is pointed with both hands in place of one, and while the method is more difficult to acquire it is steadier and more reliable, because with the butt of the weapon at the shoulder and both hands holding it, we have a firmer control than if the piece were directed entirely with the one hand. Shooting a shotgun in the Carver fashion, in its primary principle, is merely training the two hands to point at the exact spot at which the eyes are looking or the brain directs, without any lost motion or focus upon sights.
Shooting a revolver in the Western manner, with movement of hand too fast for the eye to follows is in reality juggling a pistol, and muscles and nerves must undergo the same training as those of a juggler who keeps half a dozen balls in the air with one hand. The wing shot who aims by pointing also juggles his weapon in a way, though the training necessary to do this is not so severe because the movements are not especially rapid. Nevertheless he undergoes a degree of training that insures his weapon being aligned automatically or without conscious effort before he becomes an expert shot. When he has reached a stage where none of the movements of his piece require conscious supervision, then they are said to be instinctive, though, as we have seen, instinct has nothing whatever to do with it, but it is training pure and simple.
The advantages of pointing a shotgun in place of getting the eye close down to the barrels and aligning rib and sight are these: Point your finger at an object quickly, without any effort to sight or closing an eye, and you will find that while it is directed precisely, yet nevertheless you are glancing some distance above the finger. Now close one eye and you will note at once a tendency to drop the head and sight the finger. The same optical principle applies to pointing and sighting a gun; under the former system you naturally keep the barrels well down out of the line of vision, but at the same time direct them at the object with exactly the same precision as In the other way.
Moreover in pointing a gun by means of a thorough training of the hands, you are in a measure independent of fit of gunstock. Indeed, in my own experience and that of others, any gun can be shot accurately so long as the drop of stock is not so great as to bring the barrels within the line of sight, or where they will interfere with a clear view of the target. Correct alignment is not nearly so depend ent upon drop of stock, as it is upon the position of the two hands grasping grip and fore-end.
For instance, if you arc accustomed to a gun that is grasped nearly in the line- of fire, and you then attempt to shoot with one having a deep fore-end which places the left hand low,, or a piece with grip set low behind the frame, you will at once note a feeling of uncertainty as to where you are pointing. I should therefore conclude that an accustomed grip and fore-stock were of as much importance as drop at comb and grip. Additionally it should be noted that if the hands are to do the pointing, unassisted by sights, they should grasp the piece well apart, that is with the left hand extended as far as possible without strain, and the places where they grip the arm should never vary an iota.
Given a gun that I have grown to with use, I find that I can shoot as effectively when holding my face several inches from the gunstock, really not inclining the head toward the stock in the least, but holding it perfectly erect, some inches above the line of the barrels and well to one side. 1 have further dropped my head toward the left shoulder in place of the right and struck my bird with the same facility, proving that the hands were accomplishing their work automatically without regard to the position of the sighting eye with reference to the line of sight. Dropping the stock low on the shoulder, or jamming the comb tight against the cheek made not a particle of difference so long as the automatic action of the hands was not interfered with by try-ing to govern them directly by means ol the sight.
In gun pointing the sight should never be seen, nor rib, nor barrel, neither should they be even thought of, for if the eye is permitted to interfere with the calculation of the brain two bosses of equal authority are installed with the obvious result that nothing will he accomplished. In this style of aiming the gun should be swung methodically, with mechanical uniformity of movement, and the trigger pressed the moment you feel that the aim is correct. No mystery need be made of this feeling of being right, for it is merely the signal of the brain to the nerves that the work has been well accomplished. The same feeling is in evidence when a baseball pitcher has released a ball which he knows will split the pan, or when the billiardist or golf player has made a true stroke.
In gun pointing, long and short barrels can be shot with much less variation in the holding than when the eye governs the line of sight, for with the latter method a long sighting plane is a positive advantage. The hands will do their work with the same facility, be the barrels long or short, since these are never seen, but length of tubes is to be preferred for other than sighting reasons, as balance of the arm, steadiness in swinging to a given point, with reduced recoil, etc.
Relative to the rapidity of shooting under the two systems, when a rifle is fired the two sights are first placed exactly in a line which is then directed to the point of aim. Should this line of sight not cover the target precisely the piece is not discharged but the sights are swung on again and again before the trigger is pulled; it may take the rifleman from fifteen to sixty seconds to secure a satisfactory aim and pull. This sort of aiming is absolutely impracticable in shotgun shooting for obvious reasons, in fifteen seconds the target might be two or three hundred yards away.
In some descriptions of wing shooting, as quail or ruffed grouse in the woods, the gun is discharged within three-quarters of a sccond after the brain has realized that the bird is on the wing; during this length of time the shooter takes position, brings his gun to his shoulder, selects the point of aim, directs his piece there, and presses the trigger. No "second sight'1 can be obtained under such circumstances, whatever error the eye may detect at the instant of firing, and accuracy is absolutely-dependent upon the mechanical training of the hands which direct the gun. By putting the eye and mind upon the gunsights these can be noted very clearly, but while doing this the bird is lost.
The one advantage in "sighting," among all its disadvantages, is that the novice can more readily detect errors in holding. He cannot prevent the shot he is firing from going wrong, but he may be able to analyze every movement of his piece and to discover which particular feature needs correction; for he might be making some mistake with mechanical regularity and certainty, just as in writing he may produce some ill formed letter and be quite unable to alter its form except with deliberate care. Perhaps it is true that a high degree of skill in gun pointing is the result of a post graduate course in wing-shooting rathei ¿han the A. B. C. of the art.
Now there may be doubt in the mind of the beginner or others as to whether a shotgun can be pointed accurately enough invariably to place, the pattern upon the target, for it is not claimed that sufficient precision can be developed for deliberate rifle shooting. With a view to settling this question the writer made a series of experiments at twenty yards with a 22 rifle in which the sights had been removed.
With a well balanced rifle, handling like a shotgun, ball after ball could be placed in a six inch circle, the majority of them going into four inch. No attempt was made to level or even see the barrel and the arm was fired with the same rapidity as a shotgun at quail.
In order to be sure that the barrel was not being leveled or sighted, a blinder was built up on the barrel over the position of the ordinary rear sight; any attempt to sight over this would have thrown the bullets two feet high. After a few shots the results were just the same as before, and so long as the target could he seen the gun could be pointed there with ample accuracy to kill every bird with a shotgun. Diagrams are here presented of ten-shot targets made in this fashion both with the naked barrel and the blinder attached. Of course such shooting is dependent somewhat upon the skill of the marksman, and so is any other kind of shooting for the matter of that.
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