Saturday, February 18, 2012

From “The art of English shooting” on Guns, Powder, Shot and Flints

Last time I quoted “The art of English shooting” on the matter of how to make sure that the fowling-piece of your choice is worth buying and how to take care and clean your gun. Today I'm going to quote “The art of English shooting” again, this time on the matter of guns and their appendages and the choice of powder, shot and flints. I imagine that it might not be the most interesting and exciting of subjects for monthly discussion, but I, for one, feel the need to pursue it in order to know what it is that my male characters are supposed to be doing before, during and after shooting, and I hope that the knowledge will help me create authentic stories set in Regency England during the season.

So, let us start with the fowling-pieces and their appendages (I think it's such a pity that this word is no longer used nowadays...):

The necessary appendages in the Fowling-piece are, an iron rod, with a screw or worm at one end, and a scrape (to clear rust or caked powder) at the other, which rod is to be used for the washing and dry-cleaning the inside of the barrel, and a turn-screw should be kept for the use of the lock.

A flask, or horn, for the carriage of the powder, the size and shape of which may be according to fancy; however, it will be proper to have the measure of the charge to hold the exact quantity the gun is found to carry.

A leather pouch, or small canvas bag, to carry the shot; with a tin, or other measure, that will hold the exact charge of the gun: this article of the exact measure for the powder and shot should be particularly observed; as it not only saves trouble, but is charging with more certainty and exactness.

And now a few words about powder, shot and flints. I've read several books on the subject and I always wondered about the size of the shot (I mean how am I supposed to know which one to use if they don't give any details?) and here, at last, the author actually goes and explains what shot size to use for what bird.

The best sort of Powder is small-grained, hard to crumble between the finger and thumb, and of a bluish cast; which should be the only sort used, by rights, for the Fowling-piece.

The Shot should be round and solid; and the more it has these properties the better it is: the size must be according to the shooting that it is intended for; there is from № 1 to 6, and smaller, which is called mustard-seed, or dust-shot; but № 5 is small enough for any shooting whatsoever; the № 1, may be used for wild-geese; the № 2, for ducks, widgeons, and other water-fowl; the № 3, for pheasants, (partridges after the first month) and all the fen-fowl; the № 4, for partridges, woodcocks, etc., and the № 5, for snipes, and all the smaller birds.

As to the choice of Flints, the clear ones are the best; but whether the dark or light sort, is immaterial, as there are good of both kinds: the size should be suited to the lock of the gun, and be neither too large and thick, not too small and slight; the first will not give fire freely, and the other will be very apt to break.

Thank you for your attention. I hope someone might find this subject of interest and use too. See you next month with more on shooting. Who knows, I might actually move from fowling-pieces to fowls next...

Farida Mestek is the author of “Margaret's Rematch” (newly edited and with a gorgeous new cover), “A Secret Arrangement” and “Lord Darlington's Fancy” - romantic stories set against the backdrop of Regency England. You can learn more about her books at her blog.


  1. This is so interesting, Farida! Thank you very much for these articles.

  2. Very interesting. I am a great fan of Bernard Cornwell and the Richard Sharpe book series. He goes into detail there about how long loading a rifle took and the drilling soldiers needed to become efficient. Wonderful post.

  3. Good article. You are so right that detail like this is often difficult to track down BUT if you are writing about firearms you want to be happy your details are correct.


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