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--=- GUN ACCIDENTS AND THEIR CAUSES. (Irom "Land and Water.") Each succeeding shooting season brings with it the usual accompaniments of fatal poaching affrays and gun accidents. We are, however, pleased to nore from careful observation, that, although a few very deplorable instances of both have occurred, the present season has hitherto been comparatively free from distressing occurrences of either kind. But Christmas has only just gone bv and probably we are premature in forming such a favourable estimate of this season's casualties. Regarding "gun accidents," the subject to which we intend in the present instance to confine our remarks, the numbers that occur yearly can scarcely be deemed great, considering the multitude of individuals who use firearms in this country. Nevertheless, although comparatively far from excessive, they might be greatly reduced by the simplest precautions. As many ajcidents from guns occur, we should imagine in the fortnight succeeding Christmas as during nearly the whole of the rest ot the year, and this arises from the fact that a greater number of individuals, more or less unacquainted with the dangerous nature of the weapon, use it at that season of the year than at any other. Accidents aris- ing from this cause, it is much to be feared always will happen with more or less frequency as long as each Christmas brings its numbers of young men and boys home at this season, from their town employments, and from school, to their friends in the country, where at Christmas time most classes spend their holidays, indulging in that love, so inherent in the English people, of field sports of some kind or other. We can scarcely attribute any reasons for this gratifying decrease of gun accidents this year, except it be the almost general use of the breechloader. Guns built on this principle are certainly much less likely to be the cause of accident to the shooter at least than the muzzle gun, particularly if the latter be a double-barrel. It has frequently caused us to shudder in the olden days of muzzle loaders when we had to reload one barrel while the other contained its charge with the cap on the nipple. Of course, with the hammer at half cock, the danger was re- duced to a minimum, but still it is next to impossible to replenish the empty barrel without having some pomen of the person exposed to or partially covering the tube containing the deadly charge. We have seen men reload the empty chamber of a double- muzzle gun with the hammer resting on the cap this is one of the most fertile causes of accidents from firaarms. It is, indeed, a very dangerous practice, for if the striker should get a slight knock from a stone or piece of wood, it would in all probability explode the fulminate, and we have heard of an instance in which a second barrel was discharged bv the striker while down on the cap being accidentally bumped against the leg of the loader, whose hand was in consequence badly mutilated. Some men even neglect the commonest precautions, and allow the cock of an undischarged chamber of a double- muzzle gun to remain at the full while they place the butt-end on the ground and reload the empty barrel. Loading at the breech precludes all possibility of accidents of this kind to the loader, aa in all instances while loading operations are going on the muzzle necessarily points away from him. The immunity, however, of his companions the while is not quite so complete, although the probabilities of the cartridges exploding as the breach of the barrels is pressed or jerked back to its place in the stock are remote. In any such instance, if the holder of the weapon be a careful man, there need be no danger, as he will take care that the barrels shall not be united while in the horizontal position in which he holds the stock to insert the cartridges, but pointing downwards. VIe have seen many men, however, who ought to have known better,after reloading, jerktheir barrels into posi- toon in a horizontal line en a level with the waists of their neighbours, who, we have seen, have had quicklytostep out of a position thus suddenly rendered dangerous. Fatal accidents not unfrequently result from persons pointing a gun at another in fun. Any onlT J°.PeuP Jfte8 8uck a sorry "joke" is utterly unfitted to handle a gun, and should on the first oppor- tunity be disarmed, and treated as something akin to a dangerous lunatic. Accidents in the field are chiefly attributable to two causes-drawing or pushing the gun thronrh a hedge with the muzzle forward; carrying the gun with the hammers resting on the caps (if a muzzle-loader) or at full cock. We have had personal acquaintance with two or three dreadful accidents arising from the former cause. A young man two or three years since wanting to hide his gun tiU his return/rom a visit to a neighbouring house in the midst of closely preserved land, where he did not care to carry it, pushed it butt-end foremost into a dense thicket of brambles, and in doing so the trigger waspulled-no doubt by a twig-the gun ex- ploded, and the charge lodged in the man's groin, causing almost instant death. About twelve months afterwards a brother of the unfortunate individual lost a leg from an almost similar accident; and the ™ x. ™ a y°un? man named Ernest Marsh, 20 years of age, son of a brewer at Barnsley, was fatally shot in the stomach while in the act of handing a double-barrelled gun, butt-end first, through a hedge to a friend. Guns should always be carried at the half-cock, as then neither a blow on the striker nor a pull at the trigger will bring the former into action. There is no necessity what- ever for a gun to be otherwise than at the half-cock, unless game is immediately in front; and, further, it may not be out of place to add, that it is dangerous when shooting in company for the gun to be swung round in taking aim, with the finger on the trigger. The eye should follow the line of flight, and the gun oe raised at the proper moment. Accidents from guns bursting are rare; but caution is very neces- sary in getting over fences to see that no earth gets lodged in the muzzle, or in winter time that the latter does not get blocked up by snow dropping from bushes, or otherwise. These obstacles, although they may be easily re- moved, are quite sufficient, if they remain, to burst the strongest barrels when the piece is fired. This it caused by the wonderful velocity of the expanding gases. This expansion, which is said to be at about the rate of 7000ft. per second, is the same in all directions, and the least check at the muzzle of the gun causes such a sudden increased pressure on its sides, that the latter are unable to resist its effects and are burst open. The monitory remarks above are scarcely needed by true sportsmen of experience.

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