Shooting in Wet Weather

Reprint from The Sportsman’s Cabinet and Town and Country Magazine, Vol I. Dec. 1832, Pg. 94-95

To the Editor of the Cabinet.

SIR,

Possessing that anxious feeling so common among shooters on the near approach of the 12th of August, I honestly confess I was not able to sleep on the night of the 11th, so prepossessed was I with anticipations of the following day’s diversion; and although the weather was unfavourable, I groped my way up the mountains before the dawn of day. With my double copper cap percussion, I conceived myself proof against the weather, and was weak enough to suppose I could pursue my diversion despite of the rain. It is true, I discharged my gun several times, and it is equally true that I attempted to discharge it many more; and though the priming uniformly exploded, yet the gunpowder in the barrel did not ignite.  I was for some time at a loss to account for this; but a careful examination convinced me that this defect arose from the size of the air-hole, which in my fowling-piece is much too large, and for which indeed there is not the least occasion. To be more explicit:—my gun is formed with what the gunmakers call collars; or in other words, at the breech end of it, where the touch-hole in a flint-lock gun is situated, project two cylindrical pieces of iron, called collars, into which the peg or touch hole is fixed, and upon which the copper cap is placed: at the end of these collars there is a small hole, called the air hole (for which I can perceive not the least occasion either in theory or practice) which, in my gun, is about half the size of a common touch-hole; and into this hole the rain insinuated itself, and, as gunpowder possesses a powerful principle of absorption, so the charge thus becoming wet, did not ignite by the flash produced from the explosion or combustion of the priming; and thus I lost several brace of grouse. The moors upon which I shot, were exceedingly wet, more so than I can recollect, yet the game lay well, and I levelled my gun at eight beautiful shots, which all escaped from the reason which I have just assigned. This, you will easily admit, Mr. Editor, was, to say the least of it, a most vexatious circumstance; and though shooting in rain very much neutralizes the pleasure of the diversion, yet on the present occasion I should certainly have persevered for some time longer, had it not been for the circumstance I have just mentioned. Prior to ascending the mountains, I had prepared a number of primings by placing wax* upon the percussion powder priming already in the bottom of the cap. This precaution rendered the primings completely impervious to the wet—they never missed, and had it not been for the unlucky airhole, I should certainly have bagged a few brace of birds, notwithstanding the continued misty rain.

I met with a gentleman in my range with a similar gun to my own, except that it had no air-holes, and as he had prepared his caps with a little tallow (which is not equal to the wax I have just mentioned) his gun was rendered completely water-proof.

On mentioning the circumstance to my gunmaker, he remarked, that he had formed air-holes in all the percussion guns which he had made, under an idea that they would thus be less liable to burst, as well as that the powder in the barrel would be more rapidly ignited.—I must confess these appeared very cogent reasons; but they were merely theoretical; for, on discharging my gun after the holes in question were stopped, I perceived no difference in the discharge, nor the least tendency to bursting of the barrels.

However, shooting in rain, after all is not remarkably pleasant, though ardent sportsmen are sometimes apt to attempt it. But, prepared in the manner above described, a shooter may keep the field in drizzling rain ; but when it falls heavily and fast, his clothes, to say nothing of his fowling piece, become in a short time, so saturated with moisture, that he will find it next to impossible to keep his gun powder dry, or to load his gun. Finally, it should be remarked, that those who wish to retain the air-hole (those in my gun, were, I believe, much too large, even allowing such apertures to be necessary) should, in hazy or wet weather, fill it with tallow or the wax above mentioned, which will of course, render it water-proof.

* The wax here mentioned, is thus prepared:—

  • Of tallow, two parts,
  • Of white soap, three parts,
  • Of hog’s-lard, one part,
  • which should be melted and mixed together, till the whole is quite smooth. As the soap is more difficult to melt than either of the other ingredients, so it re quires this operation, before they are added. By making a small mortar tolerably warm, the soap may be melted, when the tallow and hog’s-lard may be added, and the whole stirred with a pestle till it is perfectly smooth. This was used to prevent wet penetrating into Forsyth’s magazine, and is very superior to tallow, particularly as it is much less affected by heat: while perhaps it may be justly remarked that the priming fires better with it than with tallow.

Your’s respectfully,
A Shooter.

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