Small Caliber and enormous Velocity the
Fifty thousand of them were recently delivered to the war department from one of the national armories and 50,000 more are on the way. These modern small arms are wonderfully different from the guns carried by the troops hitherto. The clumsy old 45-caliber has been replaced by a weapon that shoots as fast as a man can pull the trigger. It is effective at the distance of a mile, and the lead bullet, clad in a steel coat. leaves the muzzle at a speed of nearly half a mile a second. The idea of the up-to-date rifle is to throw a small and very hard projectile with enormously increased velocity to a much greater distance with greater precision than formerly.
A United States soldier armed with the new rifle will carry 175 cartridges and can take 175 lives if he be a crack shot.
The question is still in dispute as to whether a bullet ought to paralyse a man or simply to inflict a slight injury. In battle 99 men out of 100 will withdraw from the conflict slightly wounded and seek medical treatment. Thus they are hors du combat for the time being. Often under such circumstances soldiers will yell and shriek, demoralizing their comrades. This of course is an advantage to the opposite side. On the other hand, it is urged that the new style of rifle bullet has not enough "stopping power." Against savages it is certainly not satisfactory, inasmuch as they will keep on fighting until crippled or brought down, taking small account of their lesser wounds.
The finest soldier marksmen in the world are those of the United States. Their skill has been developed under a system of competitions wherein medals and other badges of honor are awarded to the victors.
The war department distributes 176 medals annually. Of these 25 are gold, 61 silver and 90 bronze. There are six kinds of gold medals for various grades of achievement, five kinds of silver medals and three kinds of bronze medals. All of these are made at the mint in Philadelphia. The gold ones are very handsome. Of all of them the finest bears the design of an Indian shooting a buffalo with a how and arrow, with the legend "First-class Prize, Distinguished Marksman." It contains $100 worth of gold. However, a change has been made and the medaIs are not to be of precious metals in the future. The reason is simply that the soldier, when hard up. is tempted to pawn his hard-earned decoration of honor.
In the old battles every man fought with his own weapon. The revolver that had lain in the wife's bureau drawer undisturbed for a decade, waiting for the first burglar, played a part along with the "gun" which had stood in the shed for hawks. Everything went to the war. The South had the best firearms, for they came of a long line of gentlemen sportsmen who could shoot.
It takes an armory almost a year to make 25,000 rifles. And as fast as the new ones are made the old weapons for the regular army are gathered up and put in storage by the government. Many of the gentlemen volunteers of the New South have begged permission to carry their own favorite firearms to Cuba, a permission which has been granted.
The caliber of the new army rifle is .30 and that of the new navy rifle .23. This difference is apt to make confusion in ammunition when army and navy happen to act in concert.
Sharpshooters armed with the modern style will play a great part in warfare. The discharge of the new weapon is almost noiseless, and, smokeless powder being used, there will be nothing to betray the location of a concealed rifleman who pours a continuous fire with murderous accuracy into the ranks of the enemy. The commander in the field sees his officers and men fall around him without knowing whence the blow is struck. This will be highly confusing to the veteran who fought the enemy at short range through powder flash and thick smoke.
Just here comes in an odd point The new weapon is an improvement in the direction of humanity. The bullet travels so fast that apparently the body does not attempt to resist it, and it passes through flesh or bone without inflicting much of a shock, making a small, clean hole and not breaking up the tissues. It goes through the thinner bones, as the shoulder blades, the ribs and breastbone without smashing effect.
An opportunity for a first-rate test was afforded by the recent Chitral campaign of India. Wounded natives, with tiny holes drilled clear through them, were out and about within 24 hours, not suffering any inconvenience. Such was actually the case with a majority of the Swatis who were hurt in various engagements. This might be understood more easily if only the fish had been injured, but bones were perforated and yet the men were not disabled.
Veterans see these scientific facts with a grim smile, yet show no backwardness at shouldering the weapon which forces them to learn new tricks in their old age.-Chicago Chronicle.