Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 52

Target practice continued the next day. Borkal complained when he drove the carriage over to pick Claude up that the targets he'd had him make would be that simple. It was just an erected rectangular wooden board nailed to a stick at the bottom.

"How many did you make?" Claude asked, ignoring his complaints.

"Asked them to make two, but they gave me four more. I've got six in all," Borkal answered.

"They're simple, but they aren't useful at all. The ones we used yesterday are more or less the same size as actual animals. You can put them in the forest to train, these won't train your eye to recognise animals."

Claude smiled.

"Don't worry. They're only half finished. You'll understand when I'm done."

Claude took out his sheets of paper and handed one to Borkal.

"Be careful, the back is glued. Stick it on the board."

The paper was cut into the shape of the boards, and had a bright red circle in the middle, with a number of larger concentric circles in black around it. Claude had about twenty of them.

Welikro looked at the targets and instantly knew what Claude was doing.

"Ideal targets," he said, "How did you get this idea?"

Claude only smiled.

"Try it first. We'll see if it's useful."

Welikro shot this time. It took him only two shots to get used to the musket. The third hit the red circle's rim. He coached Borkal thereafter on how to account for the offset he couldn't fix by tuning the site.

Borkal was much more excited this time. His shots didn't hit the red circle, but he was overjoyed to actually be hitting the target.

Their overall hit rate was far greater today than could be accounted for just by their greater familiarity with their muskets and shooting in general. Claude's new targets were effective after all. Even Welikro had been won over, and kept praising the red circles, especially how easy they made it to determine and adjust for a musket's offset. You just aimed for the very centre from a fixed platform, shot several shots and noted where they hit relative to the centre, for which you've aimed, and there you were, offset determined.

Claude wasn't boundlessly satisfied though. He didn't like the sights -- firing points, he reminded himself -- his musket used. They were just two metal rods on top of the flash pan's lid, and one metal rod sticking out to the side of the muzzle.

Of course, even modern sights weren't on the mark, but they were certainly far closer. The offset made it an impossible task to simply pick up a musket and shoot it accurately. One had to practice to get used to every individual musket's unique offset, not to mention that that ofseet was far greater than any 'modern' old world weapons.

Borkal finished at around the time Claude was beginning to seriously consider getting a blacksmith to make him breech-and-muzzle sights. Borkal had shot thirty times and scored 17 hits. He beamed at the result. He genuinely thought he had talent for shooting, so he tore off his target paper to show it off to Eriksson. He wasn't just proud of his shooting skills, he also had a business proposal for his friend concerning his papers. He wanted to take the papers into larger scale production.

"This is genius!" Borkal exclaimed, flapping his target enthusiastically, "it doesn't just make it easier to aim, it also make things much more long lasting! We could make a lot of money! Even if we don't, however, we'll still make good pocket money!"

Borkal was right. His family's firm only sold seven or eight standard targets a year. Most were bought by upper class townsfolk's children. The hunters and mountain folk had to practice as well, but they just used some random object. They'd rather spend the few fennies on alcohol.

The targets usually didn't last long though. They were usually made of scrap wood and broke easily. Even if they lasted, they were quickly so riddled it was pointless to keep using them.

Claude's targets, however, were of hardwood. And as long as it held up, which could be quite long, one could just drape a new sheet over the old holes to hide them after a couple of shots. They could also press the targets rather than hand-painting them. All they needed was a stencil.

"Fine, just tell me what you need. We'll start the business with all four of us," Claude caved.

Borkal made some quick mental calculations before he answered.

"If we each give a thale, that should be enough. We'll make 20 in the first batch and sell each with 30 sheets. We should be able to sell each for three riyas and still make a good profit, then."

One wooden target and 30 or so target papers cost only around one riyas to make. While selling one for three riyases wasn't a lot to ask, there was still two riyases of profit. It was a pretty worthwhile effort. Borkal really outdid himself with the calculations. It was too bad that it wasn't a daily necessity and not many people needed them, so they might not be able to make huge volumes in sale.

Welikro didn't have any other opinions about it. He believed that the targets Claude designed were great and it wouldn't harm him to invest some coin. So, Borkal happily went to the jetty to look for Eriksson to ask him for his silver thale.

Borkal drove the carriage away and Claude pondered how he would install a sight near on the muzzle. Welikro shot Borkal's musket a few more times before asking Claude what he was up to.

Claude shared his thoughts and Welikro wasn't surprised. He said the muskets had existed for six centuries and most people were already used to shooting the way they did, so nobody saw the need to add an extra sight and were content with the firing points. He believed Claude couldn't aim well simply because he lacked practise.

As the saying went, 'there is no point in describing ice to a summer bug'. Claude couldn't exactly use an example from his previous life. He asked him where he could find a good smith that could forge small things. Seeing Claude was intent on making his 'sights', Welikro recommended a smithy in the south of town. His father and he bought most of their equipment there.

Claude thought up his desired sight and made a simple model of it. He decided on the airsoft weapons' sights. A simple pair of rods on the breech and a single rod on the muzzle. He decided to fit the sights using rings that could be weld-fixed around the existing weapon.

He remembered a documentary on weaponry he'd seen as a teenager. It discussed how zeroing worked with the sight he had in mind. Sights couldn't be zeroed for all distances, one had to pick the distance most of the shooting would take place, and zero it for that by adjusting the two sights to as closely as possible align with the barrel and so the sight line and round-line intersected at the desired distance. Having remembered the documentary, Claude adjusted his sight design so he could adjust a middle pin in the rear sight so he could zero the musket for different ranges.

Borkal returned with Eriksson not long after Claude had finished his design. Eriksson looked gloomy. He said he didn't get to see his father the previous night as he had attended a friend's birthday party. Eriksson didn't meet him in the morning either because he'd set sail.

It was his nightmare. He'd been planning to get pocket money from his father to build his fishing ship, now he would get nothing for at least ten days, more likely a fortnight.

Eriksson said Pegg's payment could be delayed and he had most of the materials he needed. But he had to buy the adhesives and a bunch of other small-sale stuff, all of which would cost him three or four thales, which he now wouldn't have for a fortnight. He'd originally planned to borrow money from his friends, but when Borkal came running to him to tell him about their little business, Eriksson almost broke into tears.

Welikro eventually said Borkal could give the money he'd been keeping for him to Eriksson so he could finish his boat. Borkal also lent the boy some money.

Claude was completely ignored. They knew he'd spent his money on other stuff and had nothing left anymore, especially not now that what little he might still have left was going to be wasted on a new 'sight' for his gun.

Support Ryogawa and his work Black Iron's Glory