American Hunter | ‘How My Guns Worked in Africa’
by J. Scott Olmsted –
Saturday March 27th 2021
Few better examples of how things stay the same as things change than in the annals of shooting and hunting. History students and hunters all share moments of personal discovery as they read about the exploits of Natty Bumppo by James Fenimore Cooper or Nick Adams by Ernest Hemingway. These American authors may have written printed descriptions of gun use and hunting in the 18th or 20th centuries, but the truth is that physics never changes. The game doesn’t change either. Only technology changes – but the truth is, our uses are usually very similar to the same things our ancestors did. Our common ground is shooting and hunting in the field, regardless of what century it is in.
Since its inception in 1871, the National Rifle Association has focused on providing education and training in the use of small arms for civilians and military and police personnel. To this end, the various official magazines over the years have given advice on all subjects such as weapons, shooting and hunting. Today, no fewer than four official NRA magazines, covering all major segments of the shooting world, continue the tradition. As such, we describe American Hunter as “The Authority on Hunting Arms & Adventure”.
Entering the time capsule that represents the library of NRA Publications is a treat for every crank. We wish every member that this is possible. Unfortunately, the following piece of history has to be enough to fill the void.
In 1911 we published Arms and the Man; Shooting And Fishing succeeded and preceded The American Rifleman as the official journal. It was published weekly; Topics included the latest news on pistol, rifle and shotgun and army, navy and national guard, essays on things like “bullet penetration” and the “lethal properties of sporting rifles”, and reports from hunting fields.
One such report appeared in the June 1, 1911 edition of the American author Stewart Edward White (1873-1946), whose fiction and non-fiction books focused on nature and human nature. His first book, The Westerners, was published in 1901. Today many older Americans may remember him as the name behind “The Saga of Andy Burnett,” a television miniseries based on four of his books (notably The Long Rifle). Andy Burnett, who came to life 10 years after White’s death, was a famous successor to Davy Crockett in “The Wonderful World of Disney” from 1957-58. A total of 14 of White’s stories were turned into movies, 13 during his lifetime.
Stewart Edward White wrote stories of outdoor adventure at a time when America was losing its vast wilderness.
White’s stories struck a chord at a time when America was being recognized as losing its vast wilderness. He has been a prolific writer of outdoor adventures, westerns, and hunting and fishing stories. His style was called pithy; He kept it short but liked to describe details about hunting and guns and include the story in his stories. He was often mentioned in the same breath as Jack London.
White grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As a young man he worked as a lumberjack before turning to writing. He was a major in the 144th Artillery during World War I. He explored German East Africa (now Tanzania) in 1913, mapped the area and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
White wrote his letter to the editor “How My Guns Worked in Africa” in 1911 from Nairobi, British East Africa.
“This is probably an exhausting and exhausting letter,” he wrote, “but I’ve amassed a lot of good gunpowder over the past three months and I’m sure you guys will be interested.” … A three month test in Africa is worth ten years elsewhere. “
White brought three cannons to Africa: a Springfield with a Sheard gold bead visor, a Lyman stern opening and an “emergency” flip-up visor, a .405 Winchester and a Holland & Holland .465; He “had the triggers of all three rifles made the same.” He described the performance of rifles and shooters in detail, but noted the performance of bullets in much less detail.
Probably the first thing White noticed, much like hunters do today, was the hot African sun.
“Shooting here is quite difficult from a marksman’s point of view,” he wrote. “The light changes constantly, the heat shimmer is intense, the range is difficult to estimate, and a man is usually calm or drenched in sweat, nervous or all three. A man has to be determined to learn where to stop. “
He couldn’t resist using the Springfield early and often, popular as it was among Americans at the time. With this, White fired at 154 animals and killed 109 of them (which he recognized as looking good but “comprised 38 species and included many things like hyenas, jackals, crocodiles, etc.”) over three months. Of his total of 289 shots fired with the Springfield, 178 were hits from less than 100 meters to more than 400 meters. His table, he explained, only displayed the shots with which he “could keep up”. His longest shot with the Springfield was clocked at 563 yards.
He described the .405 Winchester as a “tyrant little weapon for length and balance”. With it he took eight wild heads, including two lions and an oryx, eland, crocodile and rhinoceros.
He couldn’t resist using the Springfield early and often …
About the rhinoceros: “Tried it with hard points. He looked at me at fifty yards and poked one in his throat. He dropped his horn to attack and got another on the back of his neck. This turned him around and he sideways, badly injured. Gave him a third shot in the side. That was enough even though he wasn’t down, so F- [his PH?] put a heavy bullet into him to save a possible long chase in the twilight. The .405 will make it, but not shock enough to bring a charging rhino very close. “
He described the H&H .465 as “a beautifully crafted and accurate rifle”. He explained the recoil of the heavy weapon, though brutal, “does not show up above the surface when you are shooting at something you should be shooting at with this weapon.”
Of the 11 heads taken with the double, no fewer than seven were rhinos. Rhino # 6, “Tried to go over me and came across a shot at 9 yards,” he wrote. “There is an idea that you want to get away from, and that is that these twin cannons will deliver such a debilitating shock that you can hit an animal anywhere and overturn it.”
That was Steward Edward White, robust as always. His contribution to Africana was one of the first cases of hunting in Africa’s wild fields to be published in an American magazine – and it appeared in an official NRA journal.
Of course, white wasn’t the only one who contributed to Africana. Two famous names at this time in the late Victorian era were the British Frederick Courteney Selous and the American Theodore Roosevelt. The latter’s African Game Trails were and are world famous. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that anyone as skilled as White with a gun and pen was also a good friend of Roosevelt, who the writer calls “the best man with a gun and rifle to ever shoot Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill.” has “complimented the range.
Roosevelt also described White as “the kind of young Americans who make our new literature”. A contribution like his in the annals of our association cannot be overrated. This is our story – it belongs to hunters and shooters, yes, but first and foremost it belongs to the members of the NRA. In 1911 it represented the agency for hunting weapons and adventure. It’s still like that today.