In a light barrel, there is a vibration or jar at the time of explosion, which takes a certain effect upon the direction of the ball. This is necessarily increased by the use of a heavy charge of powder; and it is frequently seen that a rifle which carries accurately enough with a very small charge, shoots wide of the mark when the charge is increased. This arises from several causes, generally from the jar of the barrel in the stock, proceeding either from the want of metal in the rifle or from improper workmanship in the fittings.
To avoid this, a rifle should be made with double bolts and a silver plate should always be let into the stock under the breech; without which the woodwork will imperceptibly wear, and the barrel will become loose in the stock and jar when fired.
There is another reason for the necessity of heavy barrels, especially for two-grooved rifles. Unless the grooves he tolerably deep, they will not hold the ball when a heavy charge is behind it; it quits the grooves, strips its belt, and flies out as though fired from a smoothbore.
A large-bore rifle is a useless incumbrance, unless it is so constructed that it will bear a proportionate charge of powder, and shoot as accurately with its proof charge as with a single drachm. The object in a large bore is to possess an extra powerful weapon, therefore the charge of powder must be increased in proportion to the weight of the ball, or the extra power is not obtained. Nevertheless, most of the heavy rifles that I have met with will not carry an adequate charge of powder, and they are accordingly no more powerful than guns of lighter bore which carry their proportionate charge - the powder has more than its fair amount of work.
Great care should be therefore taken in making rifles for heavy game. There cannot be a better calibre than No 10; it is large enough for any animal in the world, and a double-barreled rifle of this bore, without a ramrod, is not the least cumbersome, even at the weight of fifteen pounds. A ramrod is not required to be in the gun for Ceylon shooting, as there is always a man behind with a spare rifle, who carries a loading rod, and were a ramrod fitted to a rifle of this size, it would render it very unhandy, and would also weaken the stock.
The sights should be of platinum at the muzzle, and blue steel, with a platinum strip with a broad and deep letter V cut in the breech-sights. In a gloomy forest it is frequently difficult to catch the muzzle sight, unless it is of some bright metal, such as silver or platinum; and a broad cut in the breech-sights, if shaped as described, allows a rapid aim, and may be taken fine or coarse at option.
The charge of powder must necessarily depend upon its strength. For elephant-shooting, I always rise six drachms of the best powder for the No. 10 rifles, and four drachms as the minimum charge for deer and general shooting; the larger charge is then unnecessary; it both wastes ammunition and alarms the country by the loudness of the report.
There are several minutiae to be attended to in the sports of Ceylon. The caps should always be carried in a shot-charger (one of the common spring-lid chargers) and never be kept loose in the pocket. The heat is so intense that the perspiration soaks through everything, and so injures the caps that the very best will frequently miss fire.