1854 British Infantry Manual

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FIRING.

When the recruit has attained a perfect knowledge of the Platoon Exercise he is to be carefully habituated in TAKING AIM: to this great object too much care and attention cannot be devoted; it is the means by which the soldier is taught to fire with precision, or, in other words, to kill his enemy; and it cannot be too strongly inculcated, that every man who has no defect in his eyes may be made a good shot at a fixed object. The firelock is placed in the soldier's bands for the destruction of his enemy; his own safety depends on his efficient use of it, and no degree .of perfection he may have attained in the other parts of his drill can, upon service, remedy any want of proficiency in this; indeed all his other instruction in marching and manoeuvring with perfect steadiness and precision can do no more than place him in the best possible situation for using his weapons with. effect. The true principles upon which correct shooting may be taught are extremely simple; they are to be found in the natural connexion that exists between the hand and the eye; the eye is the guide and regulator of every action of the hand, which can only act the part of a subordinate agent; and constant practice must therefore be employed to perfect the connexion, and enable them so to act together, that the band will readily raise the firelock in a line with any object that the eye is fixed upon. In training the recruit to the use of his musket, the following instructions are to be carefully attended to.

The Traversing Rest.

A traversing rest will be found most useful in teaching the recruit individually the principles of taking aim, and it will also enable the instructor to ascertain at once whether the recruit has any defect in his eye-sight. The rest is a scooped piece of wood placed on a stand, which receives the firelock, and is made to elevate, depress, or traverse at will; several small bull's-eyes being painted on the barracks, or wall, the recruit at 100 yards is ordered to aim at any one of them. Having done so he leaves the firelock on the stand and removes himself, in order that the instructor may take his place and look along the sight, to point out, and correct, if necessary, any error. The recruit, thus taught to level accurately, the stand is set aside, and is on no account to be afterwards used as a rest for taking aim from.

Aiming at an Object.

The recruit is next practised in aiming at an object. He is to be taught to fix his eye steadfastly on the bull's-eye, or any other object; and, with the left eye shut, to raise his firelock gradually and horizontally from the priming position, until it is accurately aligned. As often as a squad of recruits assembles., this practice will be rigidly persevered in for at least a quarter .of an hour previous to being dismissed; and the men will in this way be as well instructed in levelling as if they were actually practising with ball cartridge; and instead of only taking aim fifty or sixty times a year (when firing ball) they will go through the very same motions, and with equal advantage, a thousand times a day.

Snapping Caps.

The recruit, having acquired the habit of readily aligning his firelock with any object selected by the eye, he will next be taught to snap caps without winking, or in the slightest degree altering the composure of his countenance. The instructor will give the command slowly, Ready, PRESENT, and when the recruit has covered his object he will pull the trigger, by the steady pressure of the finger and without the smallest jerk, continuing to cover the object after snapping with the cheek down on the butt, until the word Load is given. The slightest motion of the arm or wrist in pulling the trigger must be carefully avoided, as it would, in firing, completely change the direction of the ball; and the more accurate the aim, the smaller would, in consequence, be the chance of hitting the object aimed at. The instructor must watch the recruit minutely in this practice,. which must be continued until the eye is perfectly indifferent to the report caused by the explosion of the cap.

Blank Cartridge.

The recruit in loading, is to be instructed to shake the powder well out of the cartridge, and to ram the paper as wadding home. The instructor will fire each recruit singly by word of command, minutely observing that he fires with perfect composure of countenance and steadiness of body, wrist and eye; the cheek is not to be removed from the butt, or the least motion to be permitted until the word Load is given. When several recruits are steady in their firing singly, they will be placed first in single rank, that every man may be observed, and two or three men fire together. by word of command, each man bringing tip his firelock slowly at the word Present, and when he has covered his object, pulling his trigger, without reference to the man upon his right or left: afterwards a couple of files will fire two deep, occasionally changing ranks; then the files will be increased by degrees until the platoon fires together.

The rear-rank men must be more particularly attended to, to observe that they lock well up, and take a steady and deliberate aim at some object in their front. The centre part of a man, at 150 yards, is perhaps the best general rule to lay down for aim. Riflemen and Light Infantry, firing at long distances, will, of course, receive particular instructions, regulated by the different descriptions of sights in use. The practice with blank cartridge must be continued until the recruit becomes perfectly firm and motionless at the explosion and recoil, without which it would be a mere waste of ammunition to, commence firing with ball.

Ball Firing.

Firing at a target being one of the most essential parts of infantry instruction, it is important that all ranks shall be perfectly acquainted with the theory.

The ball cartridge is scrupulously reserved for the purpose of .proving the recruit's progress or proficiency in shooting; with this view three or four ball cartridges are given to him, and he is placed before the target, which, in the first instance, should be round and. eight feet in diameter, at the distance of thirty yards or even nearer, so that it will be almost impossible for him to miss it. This method is intended to produce confidence in the young soldier, and to show him that. his firelock will carry true if accurately aligned; should the recruit prove by his practice that he has not acquired the habit of taking aim correctly, he must on no account be permitted to go on with the useless expenditure of ammunition, but be sent back to aiming drill, and be continued practising to level until he has got over the deficiency; his whole attention should be exclusively directed to this object; and he will soon find it to be for his own interest and advantage to become an expert marksman, for no soldier should ever be considered as dismissed from drill, or fit to take his place in the ranks, until he has shown himself to be a good shot.

Should the recruit, however, prove that he understands the principles. of taking aim, the range will be increased by degrees to fifty, eighty, one hundred yards at the same target; and when the recruits can individually shoot well at these distances, the instructor will fire them by files, increasing the distance from fifty yards upwards, changing ranks occasionally - then by sections - and lastly by platoon.

The recruit will now practise at a target six feet by two as the last of his drill. This target will be divided by black lines into three compartments, upper, centre, and lower divisions (the centre division having a bull's eye of eight inches diameter in its centre, surrounded at two inches distance by a circle of an inch broad), and be placed at a range of eighty yards, which distance will be increased as improvement takes place to one hundred, one hundred and fifty, and two hundred yards; the instructor taking care to point out the necessity of the gradual elevation of the musket as the distance beyond its point-blank range is increased.

In the beginning of the practice the recruit is to be made to fire two or three times running, due care being taken to correct. the faults which may have been remarked in the position of the body, or in that of the musket.

The rank and file of each company to be divided into three classes: the first class will comprehend the best marksmen; the second class the next best; and the third class all the rest.

No man to be returned as sufficiently instructed, until he shall have been admitted into the first class.

The above division of the target is necessary, in order to correct any soldier's general line of fire, by referring to former practice reports where his shots have been inserted; as, for in stance, "always fires low," &c. The reports must be correctly copied into a book kept by each company for the purpose, and signed by the officer who superintended the practice according to the following form:-

Report of the Target Practice of Captain ____'s Company, on the ____ day of ____

No. Rank and Names Dis.
150 Yds.
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REMARKS
Hits.
1st Class
Hits.
2nd Class
Hits.
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1 Corp. Jas. Day 1 .. 2 .. .. .. .. .. .. 3 2 5 Hits at Upper Division fired at 200 yards.
1 Do. John Boyle .. .. .. .. 2 .. .. .. .. 2 3 5 Outer Circle
1 Priv. B. Carter .. .. .. .. .. .. 1 .. .. 1 4 5 Outer Circle
2 Do. John Cole .. .. .. 1 1 2 .. .. .. 4 1 5 Bull's Eye
  Total.. 1 .. 2 1 3 2 1 .. .. 10 10 20  

(Signed)     J. D________, Captain.

N.B. This Form will enable any Commanding Officer to judge of the proficiency of his Companies, and any General of his Battalions, by comparison with others.

It is most important. that soldiers should he accustomed to judge of distances correctly; that they should know how far, their firelocks will carry point-blank; and also the exact degree of elevation that is required in order to hit objects at different distances beyond that point-blank range. They should, therefore, be trained to a knowledge of distances on -every kind of ground, and be at all times prepared to answer correctly the following simple questions:

  1. What is the point-blank range of your firelock or rifle?
  2. Does it carry to. the right or left?
  3. How many yards distant are you from such an object?
  4. What is the requisite degree of elevation in order to enable you to hit the body of a man at 120, 150, 200, &c., yards?