It may be safely asserted that owing to the density of the cover in the low-country, nine out of ten shots obtained are within sixty yards, at which range a well-fitting spherical bullet from a first-class smooth-bore will, for all practical purposes, fly as true as a rifle bullet. This remark does not apply to rough-cast thirteen-bore bullets fired from a twelve-bore, which, at the range mentioned, cannot be counted on to hit a dinner plate with certainty. The vast majority of shots are also snap-shots obtained while the animal is bolting, and only a momentary glimpse is got of it through the underwood. Game in the high forest is indeed generally heard bolting before it is seen. Fine sights are of little use in such circumstances, or indeed any sights at all. What a sportsman then wants, is the power to throw his gun into his shoulder and touch the trigger almost simultaneously, and to do this, a gun is wanted so fitting his shoulder, neck and arms as to bear instantly and almost automatically on the object aimed at when raised to fire. Snap-shooting is, in fact, an art which it behoves every man ambitious to get good sport in Ceylon to practise.
A young man coming out to Ceylon, and unable to afford more than one gun, should provide himself with a fairly heavy, say about 8-lbs., strongly-built, twelve-bore gun with cylindrical barrels, and able to fire five'or six drachms of powder without risk of shaking the breech. It should be hammerless for choice, but there are many makes of guns, the hammers of which, when on full cock, are out of sight of the line of fire, and so are practically hammerless. Such a gun, by a first-rate maker, will, if care is taken to use only accurately fitting bullets, make excellent shooting at short ranges, but will, of course, be found heavy for snipe shooting etc.
If the young sportsman can afford two guns, he had better get a lighter twelve-bore, say one about 6½ to 7-lbs. weight. Unless he expects to get a good deal of snipe shooting it is better not to have the left barrel choked, as the gun can then be used with ball as a second gun when out night-shooting or after dangerous game. His other gun should be a •450 express, which he will find quite powerful enough for most of the animals he is likely to come across- elephants and buffaloes being, so to speak, luxuries.
Many men in Ceylon have gone out shooting with small bore magazine rifles, in regard to which a few words may be said here. They are all very well, and indeed are the right weapons, for stalking deer in the open, and when long shots have to be made, but in dense forest there are grave objections to their use. The necessity of dropping a magazine rifle to the hip to re-load, and the second or two required for throwing out the cartridge case and slipping a fresh cartridge into the breech, and for re-aligning the sights on raising it to the shoulder, will often prove just too long to enable the second shot to be got at an animal bolting through the thick cover of a Ceylon forest, which shot the "left" of a double-barrelled rifle would almost certainly have given. Should a man fire at some savage wild beast at close quarters with a magazine rifle and miss he will have a good deal less chance of saving himself from its attack than if armed with a double-barrelled gun,
A most important consideration in choosing guns for sport in Ceylon is their stopping or crippling power. Every sportsman who has been in the low-country shooting, knows well, from bitter experience, that if he fails to find a wounded animal within a few hundred yards of the spot where he fired at it, there is small chance of his ever seeing it again, owing to the dense cover and the hardness of the ground, on which no tracks to speak of are left. Consequently bullets giving great smash or shock are required. An elongated, nickel-cased bullet from a modern small-bore, will go like a needle through an animal, which, unless hit in a vital part, will gallop off miles, scarcely conscious that it is wounded. In the hands of a dead shot a light rifle, with a tiny pellet and a pinch of powder, is, of course, as good as "a young cannon," firing a four oz. shell with twelve drachms of powder, in an ordinary man's hands, but, as few men can claim to be "dead shots," it is as well others should make up for their deficiencies by using the most formidable weapons obtainable.
Economy is an excellent thing, but it is a virtue which may be exercised to one's disadvantage in the purchase of a gun. Cheap "iron-monger's guns" are to be obtained everywhere, the barrels of which were made in Belgium and fitted to the stocks in Birmingham, and, though these may not burst, and may even shoot fairly well, it is far better, when buying an article on which one's life may depend, to go to a good maker and pay a good price, An excellent gun may, however, be bought for a reasonable sum without going to a fashionable gunsmith and paying five guineas extra for his name on the ock-plate and barrels.