Here's an excerpt from The Encyclopaedia of Sport on How to buy a Rifle.
HOW TO BUY A RIFLE—"What game do you propose to shoot with it ?" is the natural question which arises. If you want to shoot a rhinoceros or an elephant, a small cannon will be best, i.e. anything from a '500 express with expanding bullets to an eight or ten bore. If, on the other hand, your game consists of small deer such as gazelles, antelopes, or roe, a good rook rifle will be sufficient. But for almost all purposes the two best rifles at present in use are the '450 express and the '303 Lee-Metford, the latter used with the black bullet and cordite or rifleite powder. I say the black bullet, because it makes a more killing wound than the nickel-covered army bullet, which goes clean through any stag and does not stop him at once unless it strikes a vital part. I used to prefer the '303 to the express, owing to the noiseless and smokeless ammunition and to the absence of recoil; for, in stalking, noise and smoke are naturally prejudicial to a second chance.
But of late many experiments have been made with the '450 express with '400 chamber and smokeless powders; and, if the proper powder is used, I have but little doubt that this will supersede all other weapons. The size of the bullet and the wound it makes give it a great advantage over the "303. Besides, the lead of the black bullet is less likely to ire main in the groove of the express than in that of the '303. Some experiments with tubeite have succeeded well, fired from the '450, and this gives all the advantages of the '303—i.e. no noise and no smoke, plus a lighter and less delicate weapon and a larger bullet.
In buying a rifle, soundness and shooting are the points to be ascertained first, and then the pull of the triggers, which latter entirely depends upon the purchaser's taste. I prefer the pull to be very light, and in hammerless rifles the half cock or safety bolt should have a guard so .as to prevent its slipping when carried. The bend of a rifle is not so important as that •of a gun, as it is very rare that one requires to put it up quick to the shoulder and snap off as one does with a gun. But the sighting is quite .a study; and though the sight of a rifle may make admirable practice in one good shot's hands, it may not do so in the hands of another •equally good shot, for the reason that the two men's '(eyesights may be quite different. A man may shoot well with an army '303 rifle if he has young sight or even if he wears spectacles to assist short-sightedness. But a man with old •eyesight, that is, who can see any distance within reason, but cannot read without glasses, will be apt to find the back-sight of his rifle totally useless. Such a man will generally be .able to read the leader type of the Times newspaper, for a very short while, by holding it well away from him, say 26 inches or so, though it •will make his eyes ache. If the back-sight, therefore, is put at the usual distance from the eye (said to be 14 inches) the old sighted man will not see it clearly, though he sees the bead .at the end of the barrel. If he puts on his "clearers" he will see the back-sight, but not the bead or the bull's eye. This very common form of eyesight is rarely properly attended to •on sighting rifles, and yet the remedy seems simple enough, viz. : to put the back-sight forward until it is clearly seen. It will of course involve the altering of the V, but it will not hurt the shooter's eye for the few seconds he takes in aiming, as it would if he tried to read for any length of time at the same distance. But before using this extreme measure, i.e., of placing the back-sight so forward, I would recommend a trial of the bar-sight, which was so strongly advocated in the Deerstalking article in this Encyclopedia by Mr. Grimble. It suits some people with old sight, and its outline is very distinct, being white platinum on a black ground, but even this requires adjusting to the purchaser's sight. Hundreds of rifles are bought on the strength of a target pattern which is shown to the customer. They have been sighted to the proper eyesight of a man of thirty; but no offer is ever made by the seller to adjust the sight to the eyes ot the actual purchaser. This the latter should see to himself. The most conscientious gun-makers fall into this error, an error which eventually does them as much harm as any other shortcoming in the rifle they sell, for their customer shoots badly and the maker gets a certain amount of the blame. We know that a rifle is rather disfigured by having its back-sight forward on the barrels, but the outward appearance is only a secondary consideration. I prefer the doublebarrelled Lee-Metford to the single barrel and magazine. The former is a nice handy weapon, and to my mind two barrels should be sufficient, unless the sportsman (?) is of that blood-thirsty tribe who go out with the intention of killing all they can, not by fair stalking, but by penning deer into gorges and slaughtering them. Let them use magazines if they like, I shall not even be surprised if I hear some day of their adopting the Maxim!
As to the care necessary for preserving both guns and rifles during the non-shooting season, it is best to take the advice of a gun-maker. But the essential point is never to keep them in a damp place; and to examine them thoroughly not less than once a month, wiping every part each time and oiling where necessary. The browning of the barrels should also be attended to at the end of a season, as a small rub may give a shiny barrel.
W. G. Craven.