3. All joints are perfect. In the finest specimens of guns the doll's-head and other joints fit with such exquisite nicety that the lines of junction cannot be seen with the naked eye. A human hair, or the thinnest tissue paper, would prevent the barrels from closing on the breech. Similarly the fitting of wood to metal is so close that no moisture can seep in between them.
4. The trigger-release is smooth, quick, and invariable. This is a matter of the utmost impor-ance, for marksmanship with any kind of firearm depends more upon absolute control of the trigger than upon anything else. I would put up with almost any other botch in a gun rather than tolerate a " mean " trigger. The various grades of meanness can only be detected by firing, or snapping, repeatedly from the shoulder.
In the matter of trigger-pull, one can only express his own preferences, for what suits one man may disconcert another. If, after firing several rounds, you find yourself thinking of the trigger at all, then that lock needs doctoring to fit your personal equation. A pull of not under three and one-half pounds for the rear trigger is necessary, in any case, to preclude jarring-off of the second barrel. The front trigger should actually pull lighter than the rear one, because it has not so good leverage. Then both triggers will seem to pull alike.
Choice of single or double-trigger mechanism depends a good deal upon one's shooting habits. " It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks;" and yet the new trick may be a good one. Men who are not set in their ways will find a first-class single trigger an advantage, because one pulls it always from the same point, at the same angle, with the same pressure, and without relaxing his grip. A single trigger has this further merit: that in shooting heavy loads continuously, as at the traps, one's finger is not bruised by a front trigger recoiling against it, or by the guard. Everybody who has suffered in this way knows that it causes flinching. The difference in speed of fire, between single and double triggers, amounts to nothing, when stiff charges are used; for the kick-up and return of muzzle must be waited for, in any case. A lefthanded shooter will find the single trigger easier to manipulate than double ones.
Hammerless guns are the safest, for the obvious reason that they cannot be discharged by catching in brush, clothing, fence wires, etc; also because a hammer may slip when one's thumb is numb with cold. If you have any lingering mistrust of the hammerless, then get one with an automatic safety. This is an especially admirable contrivance to have on " the other fellow's " gun.
Some shotguns are locked shut by a holt which engages lugs under the barrel. Such a mechanism is bound to wear shaky in time. There are guns of this kind so well made that they remain tight for a long period, but the principle is faulty in itself. The locking point should be as far as prac" ticable from the hinge; as anyone can realize if he stops to think about it. The proper place is where the rearward extension of the rib enters the frame. The best fastening is a rotary bolt, which is beveled or tapered. This bolt goes from one side of the frame, through the extension rib, into the opposite side, and also locks over the extension. It is actuated by a heavy spring. Its taper automatically takes up all wear. There can be no more play than with a wedge driven home. The gun will always close tight, no matter how much it has been used.
A self-ejector is such a positive advantage on any gun that it should be applied, as a matter of course, to all but the very cheapest grades. There is no good reason why it should add more than ten dollars to the cost of the ordinary double-barrel.
As for engraving on a gun, I have already expressed the opinion that it is ornament out of place. If you must have it, then, by all means, get a pattern designed by somebody who knows art from filigree. A profusion of meaningless scrolls, or other rococo, cheapens a weapon and provides just so many extra nests for rust to breed in. Anyway, if you can afford engraving, you can afford something distinctive—a bit more original than the everlasting pointer dog or the stag at bay. Your own monogram is the best design of all.
What has been said of wood for rifle stocks applies equally to shotguns. The right fit and " hang" of a shotgun are another matter, because the arm is handled differently from a rifle. A gunner's eye, and his whole attention, should be on the mark alone. He should not be conscious of seeing either the front sight or the rib. The gun-pointing is done with his two hands, as quickly as he would point a forefinger. Hence the gun, to be a fit, must come up naturally, with rib parallel to line of aim (or, rather, tilted a little upward) and aligned with it, whenever the two hands are leveled on the mark.
If a gunstock is too crooked for your own build, you will shoot low; if too straight, you will overshoot. Moreover, if your cheek does not come just right against the comb of stock, you will aim diagonally across the gun's rib, without knowing it, and so shoot to right or left, as the case may be. If the heel of the stock does not rest against the same part of the shoulder, every time, your shooting will be irregular. A grip that does not fit the right hand prevents the firm grasp that is necessary to take up recoil, and so will provoke flinching. A forearm that misfits will balk a man in guiding the gun. If the stock is too short, it will buffet your face, and shoot low or in front; if too long, it will catch under your armpit, interfere with your trigger-reach, and make you shoot high and behind.
It is customary, in ordering guns, to specify only three measurements of stock, namely: the length from front trigger to center of butt, the drop at comb, and the drop at heel. These may suffice for average men, but if one is particular about getting a perfect fit, and is willing to pay extra for it, he should give more detailed measurements, as shown in the following cut.