The Land of Footprints by Stewart Edward White
For the benefit of the sportsman and gun crank who want plain facts and no flapdoodle, the following statistics are offered. To the lay reader this inclusion will be incomprehensible; but I know my gun crank as I am one myself!
Army Springfield, model 1903 to take the 1906 cartridge, shooting the Spitzer sharp point bullet. Stocked to suit me by Ludwig Wundhammer, and fitted with Sheard gold bead front sight and Lyman aperture receiver sight. With this I did most my shooting, as the trajectory was remarkably good, and the killing power remarkable. Tried out both the old-fashioned soft point bullets and the sharp Spitzer bullets, but find the latter far the more effective. In fact the paralyzing shock given by the Spitzer is almost beyond belief. African animals are notably tenacious of life; but the Springfield dropped nearly half the animals dead with one shot; a most unusual record, as every sportsman will recognize. The bullets seemed on impact always to flatten slightly at the base, the point remaining intact-to spin widely on the axis, and to plunge off at an angle. This action of course depended on the high velocity. The requisite velocity, however seemed to keep up within all shooting ranges. A kongoni I killed at 638 paces (measured), and another at 566 paces both exhibited this action of the bullet. I mention these ranges because I have seen the statement in print that the remaining velocity beyond 350 yards would not be sufficient in this arm to prevent the bullet passing through cleanly. I should also hasten to add that I do not habitually shoot at game at the above ranges; but did so in these two instances for the precise purpose of testing the arm. Metal fouling did not bother me at all, though I had been led to expect trouble from it. The weapon was always cleaned with water so boiling hot that the heat of the barrel dried it. When occasionally flakes of metal fouling became visible a Marble brush always sufficed to remove enough of it. It was my habit to smear the bullets with mobilubricant before placing them in the magazine. This was not as much of a nuisance as it sounds. A small tin box about the size of a pill box lasted me the whole trip; and only once did I completely empty the magazine at one time. On my return I tested the rifle very thoroughly for accuracy. In spite of careful cleaning the barrel was in several places slightly corroded. For this the climate was responsible. The few small pittings, however, did not seem in any way to have affected the accuracy, as the rifle shot the following groups: 3-1/2 inches at 200 yards; 7-1/4 inches at 300 yards; and 11-1/2 inches at 500 yards.*
*It shot one five-shot 1-2/3 inch group at 200 yds., and several others at all distances less than the figures given, but I am convinced these must have been largely accidental.
These groups were not made from a machine rest, however; as none was available. The complete record with this arm for my whole stay in Africa was 307 hits out of 395 cartridges fired, representing 185 head of game killed. Most of this shooting was for meat and represented also all sorts of "varmints" as well.
The 405 Winchester. This weapon was sighted like the Springfield, and was constantly in the field as my second gun. For lions it could not be beaten; as it was very accurate, delivered a hard blow, and held five cartridges. Beyond 125 to 150 yards one had to begin to guess at distance, so for ordinary shooting I preferred the Springfield. In thick brush country, however, where one was likely to come suddenly on rhinoceroes, but where one wanted to be ready always for desirable smaller game, the Winchester was just the thing. It was short, handy, and reliable. One experience with a zebra 300-350 yards has made me question whether at long (hunting) ranges the remaining velocity of the big blunt nosed bullet is not seriously reduced; but as to that I have not enough data for a final conclusion. I have no doubt, however, that at such ranges, and beyond, the little Springfield has more shocking power. Of course at closer ranges the Winchester is by far the more powerful. I killed one rhinoceros with the 405, one buffalo and one hippo; but should consider it too light for an emergency gun against the larger dangerous animals, such as buffalo and rhinoceros. If one has time for extreme accuracy, and can pick the shot, it is plenty big; but I refer now to close quarters in a hurry. I had no trouble whatever with the mechanism of this arm; nor have I ever had trouble with any of the lever actions, although I have used them for many years. As regards speed of fire the controversy between the lever and bolt action advocates seems to me foolish in the extreme. Either action can be fired faster than it should be fired in the presence of game. It is my belief that any man, no matter how practised or how cool, can stampede himself beyond his best accuracy by pumping out his shots too rapidly. This is especially true in the face of charging dangerous game. So firmly do I believe this that I generally take the rifle from my shoulder between each shot. Even aimed rapid fire is of no great value as compared with better aimed slower fire. The first bullet delivers to an animal's nervous system about all the shock it can absorb. If the beast is not thereby knocked down and held down, subsequent shots can accomplish that desirable result only by reaching a vital spot or by tearing tissue. As an example of this I might instance a waterbuck into which I saw my companion empty five heavy 465 and double 500 bullets from cordite rifles before it fell! Thus if the game gets to its feet after the first shock, it is true that the hunter will often empty into it six or seven more bullets without apparent result, unless he aims carefully for a centrally vital point. It follows that therefore a second shot aimed with enough care to land it in that point is worth a lot more than a half dozen delivered in three or four seconds with only the accuracy necessary to group decently at very short range, even if all of them hit the beast. I am perfectly aware that this view will probably be disputed; but it is the result of considerable experience, close observation and real interest in the game. The whole record of the Winchester was 56 hits out of 70 cartridges fired; representing 27 head of game.
The 465 Holland & Holland double cordite rifle. This beautiful weapon, built and balanced like a fine hammerless shotgun, was fitted with open sights. It was of course essentially a close range emergency gun, but was capable of accurate work at a distance. I killed one buffalo dead with it, across a wide canyon, with the 300-yard leaf up on the back sight. Its game list however was limited to rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, buffaloes and crocodiles. The recoil in spite of its weight of twelve and one half pounds, was tremendous; but unnoticeable when I was shooting at any of these brutes. Its total record was 31 cartridges fired with 29 hits representing 13 head of game.
The conditions militating against marksmanship are often severe. Hard work in the tropics is not the most steadying regime in the world, and outside a man's nerves, he is often bothered by queer lights, and the effects of the mirage that swirls from the sun-heated plain. The ranges, too, are rather long. I took the trouble to pace out about every kill, and find that antelope in the plains averaged 245 yards; with a maximum of 638 yards, while antelope in covered country averaged 148 yards, with a maximum of 311.