“Alright. Aim with both your firing points. Center them and stabilize your hands… Pay attention to the slow match. Close your eyes… Fire!”
As Welikro yelled, Claude shut his eyes and pulled on the trigger.
Click, hiss… Bam!
He felt the recoil through the butt flat against his shoulder. Surprisingly, the aubass mark 2’s recoil wasn’t as huge as Claude had imagined. It was much weaker than Welikro’s gally mark 3’s, which felt like being punched hard in the shoulder. If he wasn’t prepared, it’d already be great if he only got blown a few steps back. If he wasn’t careful, he might just fall backwards altogether.
Welikro didn’t look at the targets at all. Instead, he came over and received Claude’s gun and inspected it lovingly. He praised enviously, “What a great gun. Actually, I should’ve tried it first. When I watched you shoot, I realized that you can use this without closing your eyes.”
Seeing Claude and Borkal’s doubtful looks, Welikro explained, “I was wondering at first why the flash pan of the aubass mark 2 would be so far from the gunstock. Look, this gun’s wooden stock is longer than usual, around a foot and a half away from the end of the gun barrel. That is to ensure that the sparks from ignited gunpowder wouldn’t hurt the eyes. Also, the gunstock can be placed more comfortably against the shoulders and allow for better stability. The length also allows the shooter to aim better with the two firing points.
“You’ve seen my gally mark 3, right? Its flash pan is quite close to the rear, so the firing points are a little too blurry when you’re trying to aim cause you have to focus directly in front of you instead of further ahead. Also, I’ve noticed that your new guns’ flash pans’ tightness are rather good. Not many sparks come out after you pull the trigger. That’s why I believe that you don’t have to close your eyes to shoot.”
Welikro raised the gun and tried to aim with it. “Look, this flash pan is much further to my eyes than before. You really don’t have to close your eyes to shoot and will be able to maintain greater accuracy with it. This wooden gunstock really does feel much better and help with balance. Oh, I forgot to ask, was the recoil huge?”
Both of them shook their heads. They didn’t think it was a big deal.
As for the location of the flash pan, Claude found that it wasn’t anything to be surprised about. Ergonomically speaking, Claude thought that the guns resembled modern guns in his past life quite a bit, just with dated firing mechanisms.
Welikro weighed the gun with his hands and stood it up to compare it with his height. “It weighs around one catty lighter than that old gun of mine and is shorter by about 20 centimeters, making it much better for long troop marches and operation. I recall my father saying that the aubass mark 2s can also be fitted with a bayonet at the front for close combat. Did your guns come with that attachment?”
Claude thought back at everything that came with the box and shook his head. “No, I don’t remember seeing anything like a bayonet. If there were, I wouldn’t have bought this fishbone dagger at Wakri’s.”
Borkal said the same as well.
“I was curious to see how a bayonet would fit on the barrel at first,” Welikro said as he felt the barrel up, “This barrel is straight and the muzzle is the same size as it is, unlike mine, which spreads outward like a cone. I heard that these new guns have their bayonets fitted right outside the barrel and it wouldn’t interfere with the shooting either.”
Claude had seen Welikro’s bayonet before as he brought it with him on the trip to Egret. It was not so much different in length than a shortsword; one was single-edged and the other, double. However, the dagger had no proper hilt and was hard to grasp. Welikro explained that it had to be so to be stuffed into the barrel.
“It’s actually pretty simple. If you make a metal ring at the back of any dagger, you can fit it over the barrel and it wouldn’t interfere with the shooting process.” Even though it didn’t come with a bayonet, Claude could easily figure out more or less how it would be like.
“Let’s check out the targets first. I wonder if Claude and I managed to hit them,” said Borkal with annoyance. He didn’t want to stand there listening to unimportant stuff. He couldn’t wait to check how he did with shooting.
So, the three of them walked to the targets that were 50 meters away. That was the distance Welikro set. He believed that since they were using type 1 gunpowder, they could fire up to 50 meters with a reasonable margin of error. They would be able to see the targets clearly and account for the aiming offset easily. Additionally, they wouldn’t have to consider other factors such as wind speed that would affect bullets over long distances.
The three realized that the targets were fine and pristine without a single hole on them. Obviously, Claude and Borkal didn’t manage to hit them.
Those targets weren’t the round, bull’s eye ones Claude was more familiar with. Instead, they were wooden cutouts of a wild boar and a goat.
They were modeled after the outline of a real animal. During archery practice, they would use straw targets shaped like humans, but in the era of firearms, they switched to using wooden cutouts instead. As a military unit, the accuracy of each individual wasn’t important. They trained by firing in a whole line and they would calculate the coverage of their volley based on the bullet holes on wooden targets.
Welikro had heard his father say that for a line of 100 soldiers, hitting all ten targets was an excellent result. Eight out of ten was considered good while six was considered passable. Any lower than that and the unit would have to be punished.
The goat and boar targets Borkal got from his stores were actually products to be sold. However, not many people bought them; they only made a sale or two each month. So, he used them for shooting practice instead.
“Where were you aiming just now?” asked Welikro.
“I was aiming for the center of the boar,” said Borkal. He was the one trying to shoot the wild boar cutout.
“I was aiming for here,” said Claude as he pointed to the location where the goat’s heart would be.
Both targets were laid against a tree respectively.
Welikro looked down and checked for bullet marks in a practiced manner.
“This should be Claude’s shot,” said Welikro when he found a bullet hole on the ground near the goat cutout.
Claude looked at the hole and back to where he aimed. It can’t be… It’s off by 30 centimeters vertically and near a foot horizontally…
At the very least, Claude’s shot could be traced. Borkal’s on the other hand was nowhere to be seen. Welikro could only give up after a painstaking search. It was possible that Borkal’s hand twitched the moment he fired, causing the bullet to fly off to who-knows-where. Fortunately, they were practicing in an uninhabited forest. Otherwise, the possibility for accidentally shooting someone was very real.
Borkal wasn’t satisfied and he and Claude started reloading their guns. They poured some gunpowder, used the ramrod to make sure it went deep, loaded the bullet and used the ramrod on it again before they filled up the flash pan, cut a segment of the slow match and fastened it on the gun and leveled it on a rest properly. Then, they lit the slow match and started to aim.
This time around, Claude didn’t close his eyes. He could see the slow match going down into the flash pan, followed by a loud bang, a flash of sparks on the flash pan, and a puff of smoke.
Borkal fired a few seconds after Claude did. However, he complained that he was startled by Claude’s shot and it probably caused him to miss.
They checked the targets once more and they looked pristine as usual. However, there was a bullet hole and a flattened bullet embedded in the tree not a finger’s distance away from the target.
Claude estimated the shot to be off by around 20 centimeters this time around.
They found Borkal’s bullet as well, but it was half a meter away from the target. It was off by far too much.
Claude compensated for the offset during his third shot. He tilted a finger to the side after he locked on with his two firing points and fired.
This time around, he finally managed to leave a mark on the target. But, he had hit the back of the goat even though he was aiming for its head. Welikro laughed and said that if they were really hunting, the goat would still be able to escape into the woods without a problem.
Borkal’s shot was off as usual.
Welikro used a brush and painted on the bullet mark so that it wouldn’t be mixed up with the shots made later. They wouldn’t have to swap out for a new target every time either.
Claude continued firing.
After Borkal shot ten times, he lost interest and handed his gun to Welikro for him to calibrate the offset for him. He then drove the carriage back to the jetty to look for Eriksson, excusing himself by saying he was going to check whether the broken flipper had arrived.
The other two merely watch with a bitter smile on their faces. That was the Borkal they knew. It wasn’t that he wasn’t smart, he just didn’t have much patience for weapons, as was the case with his swordsmanship. If they were all given an account book, Claude and Welikro would only flip it through without much interest, but Borkal would keep reading keenly for the whole day and even tell whether the one who made that account was weaseling around or not.
Welikro looked much more proficient compared to Borkal. Using the same aubass mark 2, he could estimate the offset after ten shots. The offset was diagonal to the lower left at a rough distance of a finger. Eight of the ten shots he made after adjusting for the offset hit the target accurately.
Claude was still calculating the offset of his own gun. He felt that no matter how he adjusted his aim, his shots always wouldn’t hit the spot he wanted. Perhaps it was because of the goat target. It was really hard to aim at and he could only get a rough mark and it would already be good if he could hit some part of its body. The bullets just didn’t seem to go where Claude wanted them to.
Borkal drove the carriage back and he said that the flipper was already brought to Eriksson’s. Currently, he was baking the flipper by the jetty with Pegg.
“Why would they need to bake it?” asked Claude.
Welikro laughed. “They’re going to dismantle the flipper. Don’t you know that part of the structure is held together by adhesive? They use a mixture of fish glue, animal horns and cow tendons as an adhesive which they will have to melt by heating. Otherwise, the whole assembly would snap because of the adhesive. Those things really hold things well together.”
Ah, I see. Claude suddenly recalled something he had to do. “Ah, Boa, send me to the bookstore. I need to buy some papyrus paper to make some target sheets with. You won’t have to bring these targets tomorrow. I’ll give you some measurements and get your firm’s carpenters to make me two simple targets which we can use for shooting practice tomorrow. They’re definitely better than the two we have now.”