AUTOMATIC PISTOL SHOOTING ***
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AUTOMATIC PISTOL SHOOTING
[Illustration: AUTOMATIC PISTOLS]
AUTOMATIC PISTOL SHOOTING
TOGETHER WITH INFORMATION ON HANDLING
THE DUELLING PISTOL AND REVOLVER
BY WALTER WINANS
CHEVALIER OF THE IMPERIAL RUSSIAN ORDER OF ST. STANISLAUS
COMMANDER OF THE ROYAL SPANISH ORDER OF ISABELLA THE CATHOLIC
COMMANDER OF THE ROYAL ORDER OF THE CROWN OF RUMANIA
OFFICER OF THE STAR OF RUMANIA
OLYMPIC CHAMPION FOR DOUBLE-RIFLE SHOOTING IN 1908
GOLD MEDALLIST FIFTH OLYMPIAD, STOCKHOLM, 1912
REVOLVER CHAMPION, FIVE YEARS NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF
SEVEN YEARS OF THE SOUTH LONDON RIFLE CLUB AND TEN YEARS OF THE
NORTH LONDON RIFLE CLUB
ONE YEAR DUELLING PISTOL CHAMPION AT GASTINNE-RENETTE'S, PARIS
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VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF GREAT BRITAIN
MEMBER OF THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL RIFLEMEN, LIFE
MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, LIFE
MEMBER OF THE UNITED STATES REVOLVER ASSOCIATION AND
OF LE PISTOLET CLUB OF PARIS
PRESIDENT OF ASHFORD RIFLE CLUB, ASHFORD MINIATURE RIFLE CLUB AND
THE SURRENDEN MINIATURE RIFLE CLUB
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
The Knickerbocker Press
BY WALTER WINANS
The Knickerbocker Press, New York
Though my last edition of _Hints on Revolver Shooting_ was published only
four years ago, I find it now necessary, owing to the advance of the
automatic pistol, to revise it thoroughly and to add new chapters.
Till quite recently, the automatic pistol had many defects, both as to
balance and as to safety, chiefly in the latter respect, so that only a
very careful expert could handle one without danger to the public and to
This has now been altered, and with safety bolts and external hammers
several automatic pistols are quite safe for the use of experts.
They are still very dangerous in the hands of ignorant persons; a revolver
is dangerous enough in such cases but the automatic is much more so.
I shall try to explain how any one possessing mechanical knowledge can, by
observing certain precautions, safely carry and shoot an automatic pistol.
Of course, some men who, for years, have shot small game, and who are good
shots, are still very careless in handling a gun. Such men should never
touch an automatic pistol.
I have made the above remarks as I do not want to be responsible for any
accidents with automatics; and I advise any one not sure of himself to
confine himself to revolvers and single-shot pistols.
The automatic pistol is gradually replacing the revolver except as a
Up to the present no automatic pistol can shoot gallery, or light-charge,
ammunition, and the full charge, because of the noise, is very unpleasant
in a shooting-gallery.
It is a great pity that the .44 Smith & Wesson break-down model of
revolver (shooting gallery ammunition) is no longer made, as it is still
the best revolver for gallery shooting.
M. Gastinne Renette, of 39 Avenue d'Antin, Paris, for his gallery, uses
them still, together with his duelling pistols of the same calibre and
I mention this as he is the only dealer who can now supply the old Smith &
17 Rue de Tervueren,
I. - THE AUTOMATIC PISTOL 1
II. - SELECTING A PISTOL 5
III. - CLEANING AND CARE OF PISTOLS 10
IV. - SIGHTS 14
V. - LEARNING TO SHOOT 21
VI. - RAPID FIRING 40
VII. - TRAVERSING TARGET 43
VIII. - GALLERY SHOOTING 48
IX. - TWENTY-YARDS STATIONARY TARGET 52
X. - DISAPPEARING TARGET 61
XI. - STATIONARY FIFTY-YARDS TARGET 77
XII. - TEAM SHOOTING AND COACHING 79
XIII. - SHOOTING IN COMPETITIONS 82
XIV. - DUELLING 85
XV. - SHOOTING OFF HORSEBACK 98
XVI. - PISTOL SHOOTING FOR LADIES 102
XVII. - STAGE SHOOTING 106
XVIII. - TRICK SHOOTING 116
XIX. - SHOOTING IN SELF-DEFENCE 120
XX. - SHOOTING IN THE DARK 131
Automatic Pistol Shooting
THE AUTOMATIC PISTOL
This is the pistol of the future and the revolver has now to give place to
it, just as the horse has to give place to the automobile for traction
Still, like the horse, the revolver seems still to have before it a future
for certain purposes, and one uses a revolver where one would not care to
use an automatic pistol.
The superiority of the revolver consists in its being adaptable to reduced
charges and also in its being less complicated and less apt to be
discharged accidentally by an ignorant person.
At one time, the revolver was considered the most dangerous fire-arm in
existence, but the automatic far surpasses it in this respect. When the
chambers of a revolver are emptied, it is harmless; but when the magazine
is taken out, after an automatic pistol has been charged, _one cartridge
still remains in the chamber_. This has been the cause of several
accidents; a man thinks the pistol is safe after he has extracted the
The automatic pistol is barred from gallery shooting by the fact that the
mechanism is operated by the recoil from a full-charge cartridge only, and
this full charge makes too much noise.
I do not advise the purchase of any automatic pistol which does not have
at least one safety bolt and which does not have also an external hammer.
There are two makes which, from personal experience, I can recommend; one
is the Colt .45 which has been adopted by the United States Government for
army and navy purposes. This has a grip at the proper angle for shooting.
Hardly any other automatic pistol is properly designed in this respect,
their grips being too much at a right angle, so that the barrel tends to
point too high, this creating a strain on the wrist, since the wrist must
be held in an unnatural position.
The Colt automatic of the U. S. Army pattern has a stock as pleasant to
aim with as a duelling pistol.
Next, it has a hammer which can be put to full and half cock, just like
that of an ordinary pistol or revolver.
It has, besides, two safety appliances; one a slide which can be moved
with the thumb just before firing, like the safety bolt of a shotgun, the
other a safety bolt which is pressed by the palm of the hand in the act of
squeezing the trigger, like that of the Smith & Wesson safety revolver,
The pistol is, therefore, as "fool-proof" as it seems possible to make it,
but yet there is the danger of a cartridge being left in the chamber when
the magazine is taken out. I again warn all shooters of automatic pistols
to bear this fact constantly in mind whenever handling an automatic.
However, I do not like the sights of this Colt automatic. The front sight
is a black, upright, narrow rod when aiming, and the notch in the hind
sight is far too small. This arrangement of sights may be all very well
for deliberate aiming at a black bull's-eye on a white target, but it is
of no use for practical shooting in a bad light.
The front sight should be a "shotgun" silver "bead," and the hind sight a
large "U"-shaped notch that will show the full bead in it with a little to
spare at the sides.
With these alterations, I think the U. S. Regulation Colt automatic is the
best automatic I know.
The Savage automatic is also very good, and I can confidently recommend
it, especially for those who find the .45 Colt too large for their
The following chapters on learning to shoot with the revolver and duelling
pistol apply equally to the automatic pistol, except that the butts to be
shot against should be more solid when using the automatic, owing to its
penetration, and the shooting with it should take place only out-of-doors,
as the noise is very bad for indoors.
SELECTING A PISTOL
You must first decide for what purpose you want the pistol; a "general
utility" one is about as much use as a hunter who goes in harness - not
much good for either purpose. If you want a hunter, buy an English hunter;
if a harness horse, buy an American trotter. In the same way, for whatever
purpose you want a pistol, buy one, if by any means you can do so,
especially for that purpose. Anyhow, it is useless to compete with a
short-barrelled pocket automatic against target pistols. This class of
pistol is intended only for self-defence at short range, and has no
pretensions to accuracy.
A long barrel theoretically gives greater accuracy, especially at long
range, owing to there being more length to burn the powder in, and to the
sights being farther apart, which minimizes error in aiming; but
practically this advantage is more than counterbalanced by making the
pistol heavy at the muzzle, so that it therefore balances badly. The
balance ought to be as near the trigger as possible. For a pocket pistol,
a short barrel may be absolutely necessary for portability. In England
some men use very long barrels, but I prefer shorter pistols, and I do not
consider that anything over 7-1/2 inches is a "Military" revolver nor
should it be permitted in military competitions.
See that the trigger-pull is "sweet," and has no "drag." Also, have your
trigger-pull as light as can safely be used. The pull is often left by
makers very heavy, so as to be alterable to suit customers, and the
shopman may forget to have this altered. If you are not hampered by rules,
about three or three and a half pounds is the best trigger-pull for
I do not like a double-action revolver, except for a pocket one, as it
cannot do accurate shooting when cocking with the trigger.
For a man whose hands are apt to get moist, roughing the trigger may
prevent slipping; but it may also make the finger sore if roughed too
Some pistols have too narrow a trigger, almost like a piece of wire; a
wide, spoon-shaped trigger is best, as less likely to cut the finger,
especially when coupled with a heavy trigger-pull.
Get a pistol which, when you grip the stock properly, has the barrel and
your arm as nearly in a horizontal line as possible. Many makes of
revolvers and automatic pistols have the stock much below the level of the
barrel, which consequently is above the hand. This makes shooting more
difficult; you are apt to cant the weapon to one side, and the recoil is
more severe on your wrist. A man who holds a pistol properly does not need
a big stock, even if he has a big hand.
For rough work, and in strong sunlight, a pistol is best blued. I
temporarily paint the rib, etc., when target shooting on sunny days, with
Revolver ammunition is usually made in the following calibres: .32, .38,
.41, .44, .45, .455. Most of these can be had loaded with various
smokeless powders, as King's semi-smokeless, Riflite, Cordite, Walsrode,
The Union Metallic Cartridge Company, U. S. A., have supplied me with
great quantities of .44 "gallery ammunition," loaded with both round and
semi-round bullets. These have a small charge of black powder, and I
should prefer this ammunition out of a Smith & Wesson Russian Model
revolver for self-defence, as well as for competitions up to twenty yards,
and I find it the most accurate for exhibition shooting. I believe most
professional stage-shooters use it. It is a great pity this revolver is no
longer made and can only be bought second-hand. If a second-hand one is
otherwise good, a new barrel can be put to it. I suppose the various
English makers of ammunition could supply "gallery" charges in any of
their various calibre cartridges, but I know of none and should not advise
the beginner to try loading this sort of ammunition in English
cartridge-cases for himself. The dome of the cap is generally higher than
in American cartridges; if, therefore, the small powder charge used in
gallery ammunition be put in the case and the bullet pressed down, the
bullet will come down on the dome, stop up the flash-hole, and cause a
misfire. The way to obviate this is to take a wad of suitable calibre,
make a hole in the centre, and push the wad down to the bottom of the
cartridge before putting in the powder, so as to fill up the base of the
cartridge and let the bullet "seat" on the powder, higher than the dome.
Makers can do this properly, but an amateur may put the wad in too
loosely, and a little powder get under the wad. The result would be that,
on the shot being fired, the wad would be driven half-way up the barrel,
and might at the next shot cause a burst.
Be sure to use only low-pressure powder, if you use smokeless, as
high-pressure powders are dangerous in a "break-down" action revolver.
Gallery ammunition in a .38 new model solid frame Smith & Wesson revolver
gives good shooting.
Many people do not understand this difference in powder pressure, and
injure their revolvers by experimenting with what become practically
"blasting" instead of propelling charges.
CLEANING AND CARE OF PISTOLS
Always clean your pistol the moment you have finished shooting. If you
leave it over till the next day, you may as well throw it away as expect
to win prizes with it.
The larger the calibre, the easier it is to clean and the less chance is
there of spoiling the rifling by jamming the rod in it. I prefer wooden
rods as less apt to spoil the rifling, but the very narrow calibres
require a metal rod (soft metal for preference), as the wood would have to
be too thin and would be liable to break in the bore.
Clean from the breech, not the muzzle end if the make permits of this; the
last fraction of an inch at the muzzle is where the rifling, if damaged,
spoils the shooting most. For the same reason, it is as well to have the
rifling "reamed off" at the mouth of the muzzle, so that the edge of it is
protected. Examine the interior of your barrel at frequent intervals after
cleaning, to see if there is any damage going on from corrosion.
Use the cleaning fluids recommended for the particular powder you are
using, as what may be good for one powder is of no use for another.
The great thing is to clean very thoroughly. I use cotton-wool of the best
quality rather than tow, and I do not use boiling water unless in very
exceptional cases, for fear of overlooking a spot in drying, and getting
rust in consequence. If necessary to use water to remove fouling, let it
be as hot as possible, but this cannot be done if the barrel is not
capable of being separated from the action.
Do not try to oil the lock, or put it right; send it occasionally to the
maker to be seen to. It is also well to have a cleaning kit with wooden
not metal (except for calibres of .32 or less) cleaning rods, cotton-wool,
cleaning fluids, screw-drivers, etc., all in proper compartments, and to
_put them back when used_. See that the cotton-wool is absolutely dry and
clean before using it. Throw away such pieces after once using. Do not use
too big a piece on your rod, such as would get the latter jammed in the
barrel, as you may ruin the shooting qualities of the barrel by using
force to remove it. Have the cleaning rods long enough, or you may bark
I do not care much for detachable stocks for pistols. They only turn a
pistol into an inferior carbine, and the pistol is not meant for a
I also do not like the cardboard cases in which American pistols are
usually packed, for permanent use; they are not strong enough and are apt
to injure the sights, especially fine sights. A holster, again, is not the
thing in which to keep a pistol habitually, as the sights get knocked
about; if the holster is used out-of-doors it gets damp inside and rusts
the weapon. Great care should always be taken to see that the holster is
absolutely dry inside before placing a pistol therein. To dry the inside
of a holster, make some oats very hot in a saucepan and fill the holster
with them, emptying them out when cold. Some American holsters are made of
india-rubber, to prevent perspiration from the body rusting the pistol,
but such an one is very liable to retain dampness inside after rain. The
holster which I prefer (for wearing, _not_ as a pistol-case) is a cowboy
holster, without any button to the flap. If you fasten the flap, you
cannot get the pistol out in a hurry. A lining of rabbit fur is useful in
keeping out sand or dust.
My pistol-cases are good, strong, and solid, of leather, with brass
corners like gun-cases. Each case holds four, placed either side by side,
each pistol in its own compartment, or, with a tray, two in the tray and
two below. If you have only two pistols, they can be put in a case
without this upper tray, or the tray can be used for cartridges. Under all
circumstances, use a good lock, - not the sort that any key fits, - keep the
case locked, and wear the key on your watch-chain, so that you are sure
nobody but yourself can open the case. Keep the case in a dry place, and
look at the pistols occasionally, when they are not in constant use, to
see that they are not rusting.
Keep your cartridges, if not in the same case as the pistols, also locked
in a good leather case. This may be fitted with compartments for various
calibres and loads. The word "loaded" may with advantage be inscribed
inside the lid of the pistol-cases. People then feel less encouragement to
meddle with the contents.
Sights are made in many forms. Some suit one man best; others another. You
cannot decide which suits your individual case without trying each sort
When you find one form which suits you, it is a pity to risk spoiling your
shooting by changing to others; a beginner should never do so, as he will
get into an uncertain way of taking his sights, instead of always the
same, which is the only way to make reliable, consistent, shooting. Of
course, all your sights may be useless if you are going to shoot in a
competition, consequent on the authorities making some new rule as to "fit
for rough usage"; and then you will have to shoot with whatever will pass
My patent sight has, so far, complied with every rule, and it can be used
for hammering nails without sustaining damage.
The main point is to have a front sight at once easily seen, and of which
you see each time the _same amount_; not sometimes more and at other
times less, else you cannot keep your elevation.
Also the "U" in the back sight should have bevelled edges, so as to give a
sharp edge, else it looks "woolly."
Again, if you are not able to see daylight each side of the front sight
when it is in the "U," you cannot be aware that you are not covering part
of the front sight on one side or the other, and, therefore, whether your
aim is in horizontal axis with your barrel.
The reason I prefer a "U"- to a "V"-shaped notch in the hind sight is
because in the "V" you do not see this daylight so well.
As soon as you can shoot well enough to know whether bad shots are the
fault of the sighting of the revolver or of your own holding, you can
sight the pistol properly for yourself; and in this way you can do the
sighting much more accurately, and with greater nicety, than by taking it
to a gunmaker and saying: "Alter the sights to shoot three inches higher
and two to the left at twenty yards, and open the 'U' a little," etc. To
do this, have front and hind sights made of horn, put in temporarily,
without any "U" in the hind sight, and both hind and front sights a little
higher than you think necessary. Then go to the range with your pistol and
several files of various sizes, including some that are round. Make a
slight "U" in the _measured_ centre of the top edge of the back sight.
Shoot a few shots at the range you want to sight for (taking care that you
do not go clean over the top of the butt, owing to being sighted too
high), and then keep working with the files, first at one sight and then
at the other, till you get them approximately right.
Do not cut the "U" down too close to the barrel, as it will then give you
a blurry aim, especially when the barrel gets hot. If you find you shoot
too high, unless you cut this "U" down take out the front sight and put in
another higher one, rather than file the "U" unduly low.
Remember when filing: Filing at the bottom of the "U" makes you shoot
_lower_; filing at the top of the front sight makes you shoot _higher_;
filing on the side of the "U" or the front sight makes you shoot _towards_
the side on which you have filed. Therefore, by filing a very little at a
time, where necessary, you can at last get your sighting perfect. Be sure
to file a very little at a time, or you will overdo it. As in sculpture,
you can easily take off, but cannot replace. If you have taken off too
much anywhere, you may be able to correct this by filing so as to alter
the direction. For instance, if you have been shooting too much to the
right, you can correct this by filing on the left of the front sight or
the left of the "U," whichever makes the more symmetrical job; but if, by
doing so, you make the front sight too small or too narrow or make the "U"
too wide, there is nothing to do but to put in a new front or hind sight
and begin shooting and filing again.
When you have got the sighting perfect, work carefully with your file
(taking great care not to spoil the edge of the "U" nearest to the eye
when aiming), and give a chamfered or bevelled edge to the other side of
the "U," so that it has a knife-edge. This is to make the "U" look clear
and yet allow the back sight to be strong. On this principle, you can let
the hind sight be strong and over a quarter of an inch thick, and yet have
a nice, clear "U." Do not have the "U" deeper than a semicircle. If this
"U" is too deep, it hampers your view of the object aimed at. In fact, it
should not be quite a real "U," but a semicircle. You can also file all
round the front sight, giving it a taper toward the muzzle, but keeping
unaltered the silhouette that you see when aiming, so that the outline
shall then stand clear to the eye.
A gunmaker's vise (padded, so as not to bruise the revolver) is a useful
thing, as it leaves both your hands free to use the files.
I cannot tell you how much you may undercut the front sight, assuming you
intend to use it in competition, as the rules alter so from year to year.
I have an undercut bead-sight which some years was allowed at Bisley as
"Military," and in other years not. The best plan, if you are in any doubt
as to its passing, is to send your revolver to be passed by the committee
When you have finished, and have had a final shoot to see if this
finishing has not spoilt your elevation, etc., you can send your pistol to
the maker, and ask him to make your sights precisely like your model ones,
and to fix them permanently on the pistol _without screws, if for Bisley
use_, so as to comply with the rules. When you get the pistol with these
sights, if the work has been properly done, a very little more filing will
put the matter right.
Should you not be shooting at Bisley, or at any of those clubs which shoot
under Bisley rules, you can, of course, get a pistol with Smith & Wesson's
"Ira Paine" adjustable sights. Carry a miniature folding gilt screw-driver
and sight-case on your watch-chain, as I do, and you will then be able to
shoot in any light, at any range, or in any style of shooting, by merely
giving a slight turn to the adjusting screws to alter your elevation or
direction; or take out a sight from your little case of sights, if a sight
breaks or you want a different size or shape. Public opinion has not yet
been educated to the point of considering this "a practical military
sight," but this will come - in time.
EXTRACTS FROM SPECIFICATIONS OF WALTER WINANS'S REVOLVER FRONT SIGHT
"Great difficulty has hitherto been experienced in seeing the same amount
of front sight each time aim is taken, unless the base of the sight is