Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 51

"Alright. Aim with both your firing points. Center them and stabilize your hands... Pay attention to the slow match. Close your eyes... Fire!"

Claude shut his eyes and pulled the trigger with Welikro's shout.

Click-hiss... Bam!

He felt the recoil through the butt flat against his shoulder. Surprisingly, the Aubass Mark 2's recoil wasn't as severe as he had imagined. It was much weaker than Welikro's Gally Mark 3's, which felt like being punched in the shoulder. If he wasn't prepared, it would already be great if he only got blown a few steps back. If he wasn't careful, he might just fall down.

Welikro didn't look at the targets at all. Instead, he came over and took Claude's gun and inspected it lovingly.

"What a great gun. I should've tried it first. When I watched you shoot, I realized you can use this without closing your eyes."


"I was wondering at first why the flash pan would be so far from the stock. Look, its wooden stock is longer than usual, about a foot and a half away from the end of the breach. It keeps the sparks out of your eyes. Also, the stock can be placed more comfortably against your shoulders. The length also allows you to aim better with the two firing points.

"You've seen my musket. Its flash pan is close to the rear, so the firing points are a little too blurry when you're trying to aim because you have to focus directly in front of you instead of further ahead. Also, I noticed your new musket's flash pan's tightness is good. Not many sparks come out after you pull the trigger. You can shoot with your eyes open."

Welikro raised the gun and tried to aim it.

"Look, the pan is much further away. You really don't have to close your eyes. The stock really does feel much better. Oh, I forgot to ask, was the recoil bad?"

The two shook their heads.

Claude wasn't surprised about the flash pan being further forward. Ergonomically speaking, the muskets resembled modern guns far more than the older models.

Welikro weighed the gun and stood it up to compare it with his height.

"About a catty lighter than my old one and it's about 20 centimeters shorter. I remember my dad said the Aubass Mark 2s can also be fitted with a bayonet. Did yours come with one?"

Claude shook his head.

"No, I don't remember seeing anything like that. I wouldn't have bought the dagger if there were."

Borkal said the same.

"Aww… I wanted to see how they fitted the bayonets," Welikro said, stroking the barrel almost sensually, "Its straight and the muzzle is the same size, unlike mine. I heard these new muskets fit their bayonets around the barrel so it won't interfere with shooting."

Welikro's bayonet was not much different from a shortsword. It didn't have a proper hilt though. It had to be stuffed in the barrel, so it couldn't have a hilt.

"It's actually pretty simple. If you make a metal ring at the back of the dagger and you make a lock receptor on the muzzle of the barrel, you just fit it around the barrel."

"Let's go look at the targets now!" Borkal interjected impatiently.

The three walked to the targets 50 meters away. Welikro believed that since they were using type 1 gunpowder, they could fire up to 50 meters with reasonable accuracy, on the gun's part. They could also still see the targets clearly and account for the offset easily. They could also ignore other things like wind.

The targets didn't even have a scratch.

Claude had almost half expected round targets on his way to the range, but these were wooden boards cut in the shape of a wild boar and a goat. In school they used human shaped targets made of straw for their archery practise. They were fine for arrows since they stuck out to show where they'd hit, but rounds would pass right through either without leaving a trace if the target held, or blowing it to pieces if it didn't. Either way one couldn't see where one had hit exactly. So they switched to wooden boards when using muskets.

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 good, but six was only passable. Any lower than that and the unit would be punished.

The goat and boar targets Borkal got from his stores were actually products to be sold. Not many people bought them though; they only sold one or two a month. So, he used them for shooting practice instead.

"Where were you aiming?" Welikro asked.

"The center," Borkal said, pointing at a spot on the boar.

"I was aiming here," Claude said, pointing more or less where the heart ought to be on the goat.

Welikro checked for bullet marks in a practiced manner.

"This should be Claude's shot," he said when he found a bullet hole on the ground near the goat.

Claude looked at the hole and back at where he had aimed.

It was off by more than 30 centimetres top to bottom, and nearly a foot to the side! Well, he supposed it was better than Borkal's shot, since his could at least be found. Borkal's was nowhere in sight. It was possible his hand twitched the moment he fired, causing the bullet to fly off to who-knew-where. Good thing Claude's father had insisted they get well out of town before practicing, and not shoot back in the town's direction.

Borkal wasn't happy and he and Claude started reloading their guns. They poured gunpowder down the barrel from their horns, plopped the round it and rammed everything home with their ramrods. They flipped the muskets, primed the cock, and filled the flash pan. The slow match was still smouldering away so they just checked it was still firmly in place and far forward enough that it would actually hit the firing pan and aimed again.

Claude didn't close his eyes this time. He saw the cock flip down and shove the slow match into the waiting gunpowder. The powder hissed for tenth of a moment, then he felt the gun shove itself against him with a bang and a massive puff of white smoke. Borkal fired a few moments later, just in time to still be able to see his target around the edges of Claude's expanding cloud of smoke. He was quick to complain about Claude shooting too early, which made him miss.

The targets were still untouched, but Claude saw a brand new hole right next to his goat on the tree, barely a finger from the board's edge. He was only off by 20 centimetres in total this time.

Borkal's shot could also be found this time, about half a metre from his target.

Claude compensated with his third shot and actually hit the target. He'd overcompensated, however, leaving his mark on the goat's butt instead of its chest. Welikro shook his head with a slight chortle. Borkal's shot was still far from his target.

Welikro brushed a point of paint where Claude had hit his goat so they'd know which were old and new next time.

Borkal lost interest after his tenth shot missed and handed his musket to Welikro to calibrate. He took the carriage back to the jetty saying he was going to find Eriksson.

The two boys left behind smiled wryly at the disappearing carriage. Borkal was smart, but he had remarkably little patience, perhaps because of his intelligence. He was used to figuring things out quickly and expected to get things right after just a few tries. When he didn't he got frustrated very quickly and gave up. It didn't help that he didn't have much interest in the physical stuff like fencing, archery, or musketry. Conversely, however, he could sift through an account book for hours on end without so much as blinking.

Welikro handled Borkal's gun with much more finesse than its owner. He had the offset narrowed by his tenth shot and started making corrections to the firing points. It took him only a further five shots to have the sites zeroed.

Claude had kept hitting the target every time since his first hit, though he had yet to hit the same body part for which he'd aimed. It also didn't help that the offset wasn't consistent. Sometimes it was to the left, sometimes to the right, sometimes it was in the middle, but a little high, other times a little low, sometimes a combination of one of each of the pairs.

Borkal returned about an hour after he had left, saying the flipper was with Eriksson. He and Pegg were busy baking it.

"Why would they need to bake it?" Claude asked.

"They're going to dismantle it. Some of the planks are held on with glue. They have to back it to break it down."

That reminded Claude.

"Ah, Boa, take me to the bookstore. I need to buy papyrus for target sheets. You won't have to bring the targets tomorrow. I'll give you some measurements. Have your carpenters make me two simple targets."

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