To ensure the efficiency of a body of men, whose chief qualification shall be marksmanship, actual practice at a mark is even more necessary than attention to drill. Yet, except the ground at Kilburn belonging to the Victoria Rifles, there is no available ground near London. The proposed butt at Wormwood Scrubs would be useless to the great mass of London Volunteers.
Almost every country lad from his earliest days has been accustomed to handle a gun of some sort; but of Londoners, even among the middle classes, certainly not more than twenty per cent have any notion of the use of fire-arms, and not one per cent have ever fired a rifle.
I propose a plan by which targets may be set up in every Park in London, and also at any place where a length of from 200 to 400 yards can be found, without the expense of the very high walls generally considered necessary, and with a more positive certainty of absolute security from risk; as no accident could possibly occur, even if the practice was carried on in Hyde Park or St. James’s Park at the most crowded time of the day.
I propose to erect a wall, of a concave form, twenty feet high, and about twenty-five to thirty feet in length. In the centre of this the target would be placed; and to prevent the possibility of any inexperienced beginner missing the wall, I would build another wall of nearly the same size, of woodwork, faced on the side nearest the marksman with mud or pise, to prevent the rebound of the bullets.
This wall should be placed twenty-five yards from the rifleman, and should have in the centre a hole or doorway cut, six feet three inches high, by two feet abroad. If the marksman at twenty five yards fired a bullet through this opening, it could not possibly diverge so much as to miss the distant butt. It would be almost impossible for any man, however awkward, to miss the near butt altogether, but even this chance of accident may be further provided against by the form of the shed which might be erected for the protection of the marksman from the weather.
These walls and the other erections might easily be built so as to be ornamental rather than otherwise. The apparent objection which presents itself to this plan is, that the act of firing through a comparatively small opening at a distant object, would too much facilitate the aim, so that a marksman would soon become an adept with such assistance, and yet be unable to shoot well in open country. This, however, is not the fact, as actual experience will prove.
Indeed, upon reflection, it must be obvious, that as not only the target, but nearly the whole of the distant butt will be visible through the opening, it will require quite as much care to aim successfully as if the target stood alone. Moreover, “there would be no difficulty in giving the rifleman every opportunity of studying distance, and the comparative size of figures, and other objects. The target could be removed to any distance to vary the practice.
Author: S. R. L.
[This plan of forming, as it were, a sieve to sift aside the stray shots and render them harmless, is so simple and ingenious that we willingly make it public. But authorities must decide for themselves how far practice through such an orifice would educate for effective rifle-firing in the open field. — Ed. O. A W. Magazine]