The Rifle and Hound in Ceylon Sir Samuel White Baker 

 - The Rifle and Hound in Ceylon

Sir Samuel White Baker 


Upwards of twenty years have passed since the 'Rifle - Page 1
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The Rifle And Hound In Ceylon

Sir Samuel White Baker


Upwards of twenty years have passed since the 'Rifle and Hound in Ceylon' was published, and I have been requested to write a preface for a new edition. Although this long interval of time has been spent in a more profitable manner than simple sport, nevertheless I have added considerably to my former experience of wild animals by nine years passed in African explorations. The great improvements that have been made in rifles have, to a certain extent, modified the opinions that I expressed in the 'Rifle and Hound in Ceylon.' Breech-loaders have so entirely superseded the antiquated muzzle-loader, that the hunter of dangerous animals is possessed of an additional safeguard. At the same time I look back with satisfaction to the heavy charges of powder that were used by me thirty years ago and were then regarded as absurd, but which are now generally acknowledged by scientific gunners as the only means of insuring the desiderata of the rifle, i.e., high velocity, low trajectory, long range, penetration, and precision.

When I first began rifle-shooting thirty-seven years ago, not one man in a thousand had ever handled such a weapon. Our soldiers were then armed*(*With the exception of the Rifle Brigade) with the common old musket, and I distinctly remember a snubbing that I received as a youngster for suggesting, in the presence of military men, 'that the army should throughout be supplied with rifles.' This absurd idea proposed by a boy of seventeen who was a good shot with a weapon that was not in general use, produced such a smile of contempt upon my hearers, that the rebuke left a deep impression, and was never forgotten. A life's experience in the pursuit of heavy game has confirmed my opinion expressed in the `Rifle and Hound' in 1854--that the best weapon for a hunter of average strength is a double rifle weighing fifteen pounds, of No. 10 calibre. This should carry a charge of ten drachms of No. 6 powder (coarse grain). In former days I used six or seven drachms of the finest grained powder with the old muzzle-loader, but it is well known that the rim of the breech-loading cartridge is liable to burst with a heavy charge of the fine grain, therefore No. 6 is best adapted for the rifle.

Although a diversity of calibres is a serious drawback to the comfort of a hunter in wild countries, it is quite impossible to avoid the difficulty, as there is no rifle that will combine the requirements for a great variety of game. As the wild goose demands B B shot and the snipe No. 8, in like manner the elephant requires the heavy bullet, and the deer is contented with the small-bore.

I have found great convenience in the following equipment for hunting every species of game in wild tropical countries.

One single-barrel rifle to carry a half-pound projectile, or a four ounce, according to strength of hunter.

Three double-barrelled No. 10 rifles, to carry ten drachms No. 6 powder.

One double-barrelled small-bore rifle, sighted most accurately for deer-shooting. Express to carry five or six drachms, but with hardened solid bullet.

Two double-barrelled No. 10 smooth-bores to carry shot or ball; the latter to be the exact size for the No. 10 rifles.

According to my experience, such a battery is irresistible.

The breech-loader has manifold advantages over the muzzle-loader in a wild country. Cartridges should always be loaded in England, and they should be packed in hermetically sealed tin cases within wooden boxes, to contain each fifty, if large bores, or one hundred of the smaller calibre.

These will be quite impervious to damp, or to the attacks of insects. The economy of ammunition will be great, as the cartridge can be drawn every evening after the day's work, instead of being fired off as with the muzzle-loader, in order that the rifle may be cleaned.

The best cartridges will never miss fire. This is an invaluable quality in the pursuit of dangerous game.

Although I advocate the express small-bore with the immense advantage of low trajectory, I am decidedly opposed to the hollow expanding bullet for heavy, thick-skinned game. I have so frequently experienced disappointment by the use of the hollow bullet that I should always adhere to the slightly hardened and solid projectile that will preserve its original shape after striking the thick hide of a large animal.

A hollow bullet fired from an express rifle will double up a deer, but it will be certain to expand upon the hard skin of elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotami, buffaloes, &c.; in which case it will lose all power of penetration. When a hollow bullet strikes a large bone, it absolutely disappears into minute particles of lead,--and of course it becomes worthless.

For many years I have been supplied with firstrate No. 10 rifles by Messrs. Reilly & Co. of Oxford Street, London, which have never become in the slightest degree deranged during the rough work of wild hunting. Mr. Reilly was most successful in the manufacture of explosive shells from my design; these were cast-iron coated with lead, and their effect was terrific.

Mr. Holland of Bond Street produced a double-barrelled rifle that carried the Snider Boxer cartridge. This was the most accurate weapon up to 300 yards, and was altogether the best rifle that I ever used; but although it possessed extraordinary precision, the hollow bullet caused the frequent loss of a wounded animal. Mr. Holland is now experimenting in the conversion of a Whitworth-barrel to a breech-loader. If this should prove successful, I should prefer the Whitworth projectile to any other for a sporting rifle in wild countries, as it would combine accuracy at both long and short ranges with extreme penetration.

The long interval that has elapsed since I was in Ceylon, has caused a great diminution in the wild animals.

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