Shooting in Britain



Shooting, one of the most scandalous and controversial verbs in the English dictionary, is and was a game, but is not a game for many. Shooting, which derived from the British, is defined as “hitting, wounding, damaging, killing, or destroying with a missile discharged from a weapon” ( There were three steps to progression of shooting in Britain…1.) to hunt so one can eat. 2.) to protect a nation through better weaponry and more power and 3.) to use shooting as a game. Within the discussion of shooting develops the questions of whether shooting follows certain Game Laws.

To begin, at most points in Trollope’s British Sports and Pastimes hunting and shooting are intertwined (notice how hunting precedes shooting chapter wise). This is because to be able to hunt successfully over time, one needs to be able to shoot. Trollope states that, “No one can deny that the pride which manly and genuine sportsmen feel in their shooting achievements is enhanced” when hunting because the hunter is getting something more useful out of shooting (nourishment with enjoyment due to success) (Trollope, 133). Although much of the food we eat is from a large farm, there are still people who hunt for enjoyment and sustenance.

The second step in the progression of shooting for the British is the most used and valuable step worldwide, as being a strong country entails good shooting abilities and artillery. In Britain in the 1800s, military reasons were behind the introduction of breech-loaders as they are better than muzzle-loaders. This spread of the practice of shooting in Britain lead to sportsmen adopting improvements in their gaming equipment that originally had rigorously practical applications. This transition to a better weapon is a part of the reason why Britain was so powerful and shooting became such a popular and enjoyable game.

A muzzle-loaded gun looks like this:



On the other hand, a breech-loaded gun looks like this:



This chart summarizes the major differences and the pros and cons between the two types of guns.

Difference Pros Cons
Breech-Loaded Gun The cartridge is loaded into a chamber rather than a barrel. Breech-Loaded guns really evolved in the early 1900s.
  • “May be fired five times”
  • “No recoil”
  • “Hits harder and shoots quicker”
  • Heavier
  • Not as easy to carry
  • More noticeable
  • Heavier
  • Not as easy to carry
  • More noticeable
Muzzle-Loaded Gun Bullet is charged from the open end of the barrel. Muzzle-loaded guns evolved in the mid 1800s.
  • Smaller
  • Cheaper
  • Easier to make
  • Can only be fired once
  • More dangerous because “the loader’s
  • Can only be fired once
  • More dangerous because “the loader’s hand is in jeopardy”
  • Harder to reload because you have to use single bullets

If you would like to learn more about the origin of the muzzler-loaded and breech-loaded guns, this video does a great job in allowing one to visualize the differences (watch the first 30 seconds): 

(Trollope, 149) (

The mid-1800s is when shooting really started to arise. Victorian and Edwardian hunting weekends were known as Saturday to Monday house parties, This is when the royal class shot glass balls filled with smoke or feathers and threw them in the air, shot a bat disc, or trap shot ( Many people are not aware of the fact that owning a gun entailed being upper class because the upper class had money and were the only ones sharing the wealth of shooting between each other. In the 1800s, the laws “denied all but county gentlemen the right to take game or even to possess a gun. Shooting as a sport for gentlemen and aristocrats…took place under the aegis of the landowner with his county house” (

In regards to the Game Laws of shooting, “there is not much to be said against them; nor do we think that poachers would, in the main, be gainers if Game Laws were abolished” (Trollope, 138). Guns were used for hunting and military purposes, but society eventually turned them to be a part of a game.

Shooting is a game unlike any other as it has life and death implications; however, many connections can be drawn in the development of rugby, another dangerous sport, to shooting. The first clear correlation is that both games were only played by the rich upper class; rugby was reserved for upper class citizens due to the cost of equipment and the danger in playing the sport ( Rugby, like shooting, is linked to another sport in its ideals: American football. Without rugby, there would be no American football and without the need for food (hunting) there would be no games of shooting. In regards to the Game Laws, rugby actually has a “laws of rugby union,” which was established in the mid 1800s. The democratization of sport was limited to the upper class in the 1800s, but now it is a common pursuit for the masses today.

In conclusion, shooting is a game that follows certain norms and laws, similar to those of rugby, and developed as a game due to the stated progression in Britain. Many activities can develop into games because society claims them as a source of enjoyment and worthy of time. This is the case with shooting developing from hunting or chess coming about from battle strategy practices. Shooting evolved in Britain as a game from hunting and it eventually correlated to military power as soldiers realized that a breech-loaded gun was much more useful. Right now, the game of shooting is in decline and it is more often called “hunting,” but this hunting is “gamified.” This shows the continuing relationship between the development of gun usage and leisure.

-Zach Mettel