He ejected the final cartridge, said “hmm,” picked up his brass, and shoved it into his pocket.
He fed five more bullets into the magazine, walked ahead fifty yards, and knelt. The target-rats had by now fixed a fresh target to the frame, and were rasing it as he got to the fifty yard mark He called out to them, telling them not to point to where his bullets hit. He could see that well enough from this distance. He waited until he heard their response, flicked the rifle-strap around his left wrist again, and swept the rifle up to his right shoulder. His arse was firmly planted on his right heel, and his left elbow was locked onto his left knee.
The five shots came in a blur, less than a second apart. Squeeze, flick the bolt up with the thumb, allow it to spring back and eject the shell, then sweep it forward, again with the thumb, and lock it down with a fresh bullet in the breech. Squeeze. Repeat as necessary. Arthur was showing off, and he knew it. He stood, and started the walk back to the 100 yard line, as Ken Swain fired his second round.
All five of Arthur’s bullets had gone through the same hole.
At fifty yards, four of Swain’s were on-target. His first round had gone high and to the left.
There were now over two hundred men watching the competition, and money was changing hands. The bets were now whether or not Arthur Tomlinson’s last fifteen shots would be on-target: that he was a better shot than Swain had already been established.
Arthur waited for Swain to come back to the firing line, made sure the safety was engaged, and then stripped two five-round clips into his rifle’s spring magazine, filling it to capacity. The balance of the weapon had changed now. Arthur hefted the rifle, then worked the bolt, ejecting five of the bullets. Adam Perry, his sergeant, fed the bullets onto a clip, and tossed it onto the ground. Arthur lay down, finding his prone position again, then shot an encouraging grin at Swain. “You’re a good shot, Ken. And I reckon you could be a very good shot, if you wouldn’t mind a few pointers.”
“You’re on, Arthur.”
“After the bet, then?”
Arthur picked up the clip from the ground, blew on it to loosen a couple of stray crumbs of dirt, and put it into the rolled-up cuff of his left sleeve. Once again, his five shots rattled away in a heartbeat. Once again – no. Four shots on-target, the last rising a hair’s breadth to the right.
“Barrel’s too warm, I reckon,” said Arthur to himself. He stripped the bolt out, and blew down the barrel a moment, then turned the weapon around and looked down the barrel. He grunted. It was starting to foul up. Swain had fired his last round, firing prone. He was starting to get a little ragged: only two bullet found the bull’s eye.
Arthur re-placed the bolt, fed five bullets into the magazine, and sat on the stony soil, facing the target. He brought his knees up, knees bent at a 45 degree angles. Twist the strap around his forearm, slap said forearm hard against the left thigh. This is probably the most uncomfortable way to shoot, and Arthur hated it. Five rounds, slow fire: five bull’s-eyes.
Ken Swain’s last five rounds were scattered about the target. Had he been shooting in anger, only three would have inflicted major harm on an opponent. Good shooting, but not good enough.