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Too much gun?Too much gun?Over the last 3-4 years I have proved comfortably to myself that a 45/70 lever action can and does take down the largest of our game and cannot be discarded as an unworthy rifle for Africa – there are simply a few things one needs to be aware of and I have addressed these throughout this website. My quest for the ultimate African carrying rifle has seen me try many of the popular bullets and methods, make the small and big fixes recommended for each rifle and I have more often than not been thoroughly surprised at the outcome. I grew up in humble times in a small African country so have hunted what many consider the most dangerous of game with calibers that may have not seem suitable, especially to our modern day experts – BUT when I say that I have proven to myself that the 45/70 is suitable for me, it does come from more than 25 years of experience on dangerous game!

My grandfathers and grandmothers came to Zambia, then part of the Rhodesias, on foot leading teams of oxen pulling great big trek wagons, with worn out shoes and rifles from the boer war slung over their shoulders. Others arrived on the newly built railway line which stopped at Lusaka, the one Owen Letcher Thomas traveled upon and wrote about in his famous hunting book, the furthest most stop north of the day. They were all seeking a new life, a new beginning in a land that was untamed, after a 

devastating war in South Africa which robbed many of them not only of land but also their loved ones.

To them our annual family hunting trips were more of a luxury than a necessity, considering the background they had come from, after all it was a part of their daily life for many months at a time when they first came to Northern Rhodesia. However they also saw the value of the clan gathering, perhaps to pass down traditions they thought may be disappearing in those “modern” days. The daily camp life, orchestrated by my grandmother, our family Matriarch, was more important than the hunting, in fact this is what made the bond between us all stronger and lasting.

The rifles exhibited at these gatherings were an exemplification of the the past being taken over by technology, those of my grandfathers and their brothers and then those new shiny rifles that looked so good to me, those of my dad and my uncles. It was a war of words each morning as the men set out for each days hunt with my grandfathers, who would walk out of camp at first light with their German mausers and old British war rifles, and those new magnums of the younger men who would drive out in their land rovers and land cruisers. Of course all sons want their dads approval yet my grandfather flatly refused that the new Carl Walther .375 H&H Magnum would kill a buffalo – he essentially would call it a queer or gay rifle – obviously very funny but with a hint of seriousness at my dad. He owned a beautiful 10×75 Mauser which his sidekick and lorry boy Lenart would carry while he carried the lighter Seven9 (7.9) – a war rifle which his father used to shoot British soldiers with. It carried stories from the Orange Free State family farm at Smithfield through the western Transvaal at Zeerust and then through Bechuanaland to Rhodesia at the mighty Zambezi where they would have to swim the river ahead of the oxen to clear the Crocodiles.
Part of my grandfathers disdain at the Carl Walther .375 H&H Magnum that my dad had brought, brand spanking new, was exactly this fact – it was a rifle that came off the shelf and had not proven itself like the seven9 had done through generations. The rifle was a foreigner, it still had to make its name and until then there was no trust in it. He also knew that my dad could shoot far better with the seven9 and the 10×75 because he had grown up with them, he had taken his first duiker and kudu with them on the farm at DrieHoek – there is no substitute for experience it seems and nobody knew it more than him.
It may be difficult to understand, especially for Americans and their 2nd amendment rights, but obtaining a rifle in the ex-British colonies was and is not an easy task. Perhaps a remnant from the very early days when the Colonial government passed an act requiring all “natives” to hand in their guns – mostly old muskets and powder guns or ‘gogodas’ – this law pertains to this day in varied forms.
Thus growing up in Zambia in late 70’s and 80’s meant that proper hunting rifles were few and hard to obtain, and ammunition even more so. Good rifles were those owned by family generations, ones passed down from fathers to sons, be they fancy London made doubles or simple German Mausers that originated from the early wars in the south.
There existed one key ingredient however and that was a simplicity in our rifles that is becoming rare today – rifles that were used, wore in by regular use rather than some fancy highly expensive machined product AND this is what I have carried with me throughout my professional hunting career – the older well used calibers are perfectly good and adequate for use in Africa if you keep one thing in mind – respect for both animal and rifle.
Too many times do I see the ‘new age’ outlook on hunting our continent – some foreign colonel in tight shorts telling us our business and making generalised statements about shiny new sponsored rifles he totes over to our continent with him. Telling us why we as born and bred African hunters raised in the wilderness with 4 generations of hunting tradition under our belts should now take up the colonels new endorsed guns!
There’s alot of BS that goes along with the Safari Hunting industry I am born into and more so now with the advent of the internet, anyone can chime in and become an expert from what they read and see on the hunting channels. There is one thing however that can never be bought or learned from watching those sun tanned hard men of the African wilderness in their ball huggers potting elephants and the vengeful killer of the savanna the Cape Buffalo – AND that thing is experience!