As a manufacturer of traditional big game rifles there are always those classic books that come up in discussion and without question one of the very best is John ‘Pondoro’ Taylors “African Rifles & Cartridges” published in 1948.
I have always found this book a great resource as it details all the great British calibre’s, specifically bullet weight and velocities. Having worked at Westley Richards for well on 13 years this has proved invaluable as we have been lucky enough to deal in so many great vintage rifles, both double and bolt action in every calibre mentioned in Taylors book. Being able to turn to this book in my early days was of real benefit when looking up the oddities that still arrived from India.
What continues to amaze me from a modern perspective is that even with the advancement in bullet technology and optics, the traditional British big game rifle of Taylor’s era has remained virtually unchanged, a testament perhaps to all round perfection in gunmaking.
Today we have in production double and bolt action rifles in .300 H & H, .318 WR, .375 H & H, .425 WR, .450/.400 3″, .404 Jeffery, .470, .500, .505 Gibbs, .577 and .600, calibres all discussed in detail in Taylor’s book.
Taylor himself spent the greater part of his life as an ivory hunter, come poacher and was lucky enough to be around at a time when big game hunting and access to the rifles of the great British manufacturers of the time were both readily available.
Whilst Taylors own exploits and life remain controversial, no-one can take away the fact that he wrote a fantastic book, one that has often been copied, but never bettered. The whole layout, photography and line drawings make for a great visual and informative book dealing principally with British big game calibres, rifles and hunting in Africa.
In my own humble opinion no serious African hunter or avid gun collector should be without a copy of this book in their library. I have owned several copies since the age of 15 and at one stage ticked off all the different calibre’s I was lucky enough to shoot here at Westley Richards and out in the field!
Taylor was always a great advocate of the .375 Holland cartridge and today it still remains the ‘all around’ cartridge and one which no hunter should be without.