Hunting African Big Game

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Hunting African Big Game  (1909) 
by Fritz Joubert Duquesne
From: Field and Stream, p. 323, (August 1909).

SPORTSMAN AND EXPLORER

NOW that ex-President Roosevelt is in the wilds of British East Africa and the cables are kept hot with the news of his exploits in the tropical jungle, it is natural that hunters all over the country are interested in the battery of arms the great sportsman is carrying. Since Colonel Roosevelt left the United States there have been various rumors that the expedition was equipped with arms and ammunition of but one manufacturer. As a matter of fact, Colonel Roosevelt favored no particular firm. He could not favor one manufacturer, for no makers of arms and ammunition in this country or in Europe can supply at present all the weapons necessary for an African hunter's battery.

For instance, the double-barrel express rifles used to hunt the large African game, such as the rhinoceros, elephants and hippopotamus, are made in Germany and Belgium and sold in England under the names of the various firms that sell them. These weapons run from the .350 to the .600 double cordite express. They are not manufactured in the United States and. cannot be bought here, for there is no game here dangerous enough to necessitate the use of such powerful weapons. The manufacturers who handle these rifles make a specialty of them, and their names are well known to all the amateur and professional hunters in Asia and Africa. Then in America where there is such bewildering number of calibers and styles of rifles, no one firm could supply all the different types.

For instance, the Remington Arms Company is noted amongst hunters as the makers of that wonderful piece of American ingenuity, the autoloading rifle, a remarkably ingenious and powerful weapon which, on account of the simplicity and strength of its breech-action and its accuracy and rapidity of fire, has found favor amongst the African hunters who have had a strong prejudice against the lever type of American repeater. Then there is the Winchester, noted by the peculiarity of its action, which, like the Rein- collection. Colonel Roosevelt is not handling the toy weapons. The Remington, is a distinctly American type and the product of American skill. All the European repeaters have the bolt action and are represented by the Mauser and Mannlicher, the standard of Europe. The armies of the world are armed with rifles of the bolt action type, as it is considered the safest.

The present arm of the United States army is practically a Mauser. The Remington resembles this rifle in the fact that, although it is an autoloading arm, it has a bolt action, that has overcome the African hunter's prejudice against arms of American manufacture, the breech actions of which although strong, do not appeal to the professionals who have been educated to prefer the bolt- action Mauser and Mannlicher. To emphasize the fact that no one firm could supply everything, take, for instance, the ammunition. The large express rifles use a special powder known as "strip cordite." made especially for the large-bore guns. Cartridges loaded with this explosive can only be bought in the United Kingdom and the British colonies. The cartridges in which this explosive is used (the express calibers) are not made outside of England, WINCHESTER .405 REPEATER, LEVER ACTION. therefore they must be purchased there.

The ex-president has an excellent equipment, for he had the, advice of the greatest and most experienced hunters of the dark continent. In my talk with him at the White House, I found him to be the best informed man in the requirements of the African hunter, and the topography and fauna of the great continent, that I have ever met. He had studied the country night and day, through map and book, from the time he decided to go to East Africa. With the remarkable energy for which he is noted, he fired question after question at me like the shots from an automatic gun. He spoke of his weapons as a parent speaks of his children. His rifles were "fine little fel- lows" and "dandies." The .30 caliber U. S. arm which he now has in Africa, he spoke of as a "bully boy, the best army rifle in the world."

Colonel Roosevelt's battery is composed of five rifles and two shotguns. There are a couple of toy guns of the .22 caliber variety which need not be taken into consideration. These will be used by the scientists of the expedition to shoot small birds for the Smithsonian Institute's collection.

30 SPRINGFIELD AMERICAN ARMY SPORTING MODEL RIFLE. HAND OPERATING, BOLT ACTION. 9M/M MANNLICHER, HAND OPERATING, BOLT ACTION. DOUBLE BARREL CORDITE EXPRESS. ,4.W CAL. ROOSEVELT'S BIG GAMK RIFLES / SQUARE-MUZZLED OR WHITE RHINOCEROS This is the Rarest of East African Game A WARTHOG SHOT IN EAST AFRICA AFRICAN ELEPHANT Shot in

Colonel Roosevelt is not handling the toy weapons. The Mannlicher he is carrying was bought in Germany, the .450 cordite express was purchased in London, the .30 caliber U. S. Army was made at the Springfield armory and converted into a sporting model, the .35 caliber autoloader was made by the Remington Arms Company, Illion and the .405 caliber repeater was made by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company of New Haven. The two shotguns are a Remington and a Winchester. The ammunition for these arms was purchased, when possible, from the people who made them. The rest of the party is armed on lines somewhat similar, with the exception of a. couple of Mausers.

When Colonel Roosevelt gave out the news of his intended hunt in the East African jungle, a large number of rifles were offered him by amateur hunters in all parts of the world. Inventors with all kinds of infernal machines, guaranteed to do anything but talk, brought their contrivances to the White House. Many struggling manufacturers, just waiting for a boost from someone like the President of the United States, were thoughtful enough to offer him a rifle for nothing. Of course, these offers were ignored. Colonel Roosevelt selected his weapons under the guidance of men who know, and, as a hunter, I can say that no better equipped expedition than his ever trod the wilds of Africa. His arms equipment could not be improved upon. The rifles he has with him will certainly get a practical trial, and he will return to this country with a knowledge of weapons that will be of great use to the ordnance department — to which, I believe, he intends to report his experiences. Not only will Colonel Roosevelt get a thorough knowledge of the different weapons in use in the colonial armies in Africa, but he will also make a study of the equipment used by the military of the different countries through which he passes, which will be used in future experiments in the West Indies and the Philippines.

The man whose experiences in the hunting field have been confined to this continent will wonder why it is necessary to carry such a large equipment of arms as Colonel Roosevelt is using on his expedition. As a matter of fact, he has been somewhat conservative in the selection of calibers, for his battery does not contain the famous .6oo-caliber cordite express. He thought it was quite unnecessary to carry an arm that has a recoil of a hundredweight and the power of a small cannon, its striking blow being 8,700 foot pounds. With the exception of the above arm. the equipment resembles that of the average African hunter, which is from four to five rifles ranging from the 6.5 millimeters, to the .600 express, or their equivalents in American calibers, with the exception of the last-named arm. Rifles of various calibers are carried for economy. It is cheaper to use a small rifle on small game, a medium rifle for medium game and a heavy rifle for large game, than to carry one weapon for all-round work, which would have to be big enough at least for the largest game. Nothing smaller than a .450 express would do for that. It would be distinctly uneconomical, not to say foolish, to shoot a small antelope with an express rifle — like using a pile-driver to kill a mosquito. Again, cartridges become very costly by the time they reach the interior of Africa. A cartridge for a .600 express, for instance, costing twelve cents in London, reaches an enormous price by the time it gets into the hunting grounds of Africa. I have seen them bring as much as a dollar and a quarter, and very scarce at that. When one takes into consideration that every ounce has to be carried by porters, who plod for months across rivers, through swamps, over mountains, traversing the parched veldt and penetrating the dismal forests, often fighting their way foot by foot to reach their destination, it is therefore easy to see that weight is an important factor in cartridge economicsi Four of the ordinary small-caliber cartridges are AFRICAN HUNTER'S HOUSE Beyond Reach of Wild Animals. equal in weight to one .600 express, but the advantage is on the side of the small cartridge if the game is not dangerous, for it is four deaths against one for the same weight. Another important consideration is that more than three or four shots a day from an express rifle is liable to result in permanent injury to the shooter, for the recoil from one shot will leave the shoulder bruised and black, and so sore that it is most painful to the touch.

Each arm in Roosevelt's battery has its special work. The double cordite express is for use on large and dangerous animals, which, unless they receive a smashing blow, will, charge and very often kill the hunter, and it is used only at close quarters, from fifty to loo yards. Colonel Roosevelt's express is a 450 caliber, carrying a 480 grain bullet which has a velocity of 2,200 feet a second and an energy of 4,600 foot pounds. The .600 express takes a 600 grain bullet and strikes a blow of 8,700 pounds. The recoil of this arm is a hundredweight and is very dangerous to the shooter. The Mannlicher the ex-president will use with a telescope, and is for extreme ranges on the open veldt. It is a repeater loaded from a clip, and it is a very accurate and reliable arm. It will be used on ostriches, cheetahs and the timid antelope, all hard to approach.

The .405 Winchester is the only gun made in America that comes near being an express. It carries a 300 grain bullet, hLS a velocity of 2,135 feet a second, and an energy of 3,077 pounds. Although not as powerful an arm as the English express, it is a very useful weapon, and I have seen it do good work on the smaller large game. It is a repeater but may be loaded singly. The .35 Autoloading Rem- i n g t o n, the other American rifle that Colonel Roosevelt is carrying, is an excellent weapon for all-round use. It carries a bullet of 200 grains which has a velocity of 2,000 feet a second. As it is the latest weapon on the market, it embraces all the inventions and improvements up to date. It is automatic in action, cocking and loading itself, and is charged from a clip that holds five cartidges. The most powerful automatic rifle made, it is a fine arm for jungle work and closer quarter shooting when there is danger, as one has five shots at his command by mearly pulling the trigger after each shot. The rifle will be used on leopards, giraffes, and Kudu. In an emergency it could be used on hippos, elephants, and rhinos by a good shot who could place with certainty his bullets in the heard or the heart.

The shot guns Coronel Roosevelt is carrying will be used to shoot birds and supply the camp with food. Personally, I do not believe he will use these guns himself as he likes the big things and is hardly likely to go snipe hunting when there are such things as lions and rhinoserouses around camp.