Purpose of the Book

The following information comes from Practical Rifle Shooting by Walter Winans. Practical Rifle Shooting is also available to purchase in print.

In my first book on Revolver Shooting, (published in 1901), I drew attention to the dangerous consequences which a nation may incur when excessive devotion to such games as cricket, golf and football, leads its men to ignore the art of handling firearms. Many partisans of these games were indignant at my remarks, but two regrettable wars have had a salutary influence in this respect. Public opinion now endorses my doctrine of the absolute necessity that every able-bodied man should be able to bring at least as much skill to the handling of a rifle as he evinces with the cricket bat or golf club.

A second desideratum mooted in my book—that advancing civilisation ought to subordinate the arbitrament of arms to the decisions of an international Court of Arbitration, has, unfortunately, not been fulfilled as yet, though matters are trending that way. Until it is so fulfilled, men must be taught the proper handling of a rifle.

There are many excellent works to be had on the subject of rifle shooting at targets, but I do not at the moment recall a single volume which teaches practical rifle shooting. By practical rifle shooting, I mean the capacity to so handle a rifle that the user can confidently expect to stop a wild animal even if in rapid motion and charging, or—in the case which I do not approve, but which may be an absolute necessity—a charging man.

The nearest approach to such instruction is to be found in the pages of certain works on big-game shooting, but in order to have a connected manual under hand, one would need to peruse many such volumes, and to make extracts of the requisite passages.

The following few pages are designed to furnish the beginner with a series of hints, by the use of which he may be enabled not only to put himself through a course of continuous and graduated training, but may also keep himself free of the tricks which impede progress, and which, if persisted in, will destroy his ability for any but the most artificial forms of shooting.

It has been said, in certain quarters, that I condemn all target shooting as useless, but this is a serious misapprehension. The National Rifle Association, of which I have been a member for many years, has done more to encourage rifle shooting than any other organisation in the world. A beginner must commence his practice at a stationary target, and a pretty big target at that, for it is with the man as with the horse. No one attempts to train a horse to the High School by beginning with the “Spanish Trot,” and similarly a man must advance to skill with the rifle by carefully working up through successive stages of increasing difficulty.

I could not, again, condemn scientific long-range rifle shooting, which has been most useful in bringing about the development of rifles, ammunition, sights, &c. The majority of improvements in modern military rifles are, indeed, adaptations from experimental improvements to the match weapon based upon experience at the ranges. Match rifle shooting is also a most fascinating sport, and it does not have a very deleterious influence, as some first-class big-game shots are known for their skill at the 1,000 yards Bisley range.

What I do condemn is the class of shot who never fires a rifle except at the targets, and then only in the prone position. He may, and often does, make wonderful scores in this style, and beginners naturally try to emulate him, with the worst results to their capacity for practical work.

A marksman of this kind is sometimes called a pot-hunter, but the use of such a term is a confession of ignorance, since I have yet to see the man whose winnings at the stationary target could do more than cover his bare expenses, however good a shot he may be. Men with skill of the kind do not shoot for the money, but for the sport of the thing. It is a good sport, a clean and sober sport, but it is not practical rifle shooting.

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Purpose of the Book - Practical Rifle Shooting - Walter Winans

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