It is always nice to complete an African Safari rifle in what I might call hunting format, all best features but no frills, a rifle destined to hunt. Especially nice is that this rifle is going to a client in Africa, to a man who hunts regularly and has done since childhood, a man who has chosen our brand for his adventures, something we appreciate very much.
A two barrel take down rifle rifle built on a modern magnum Mauser 98 action with the Westley Richards take down lever assembly. Swarovski telescopes on quick detachable mounts, quarter ribs with express sights and Westley Richards patent front sights. The whole cased by our leather shop in a motor case with extra compartments for ammunition and slings. Put the case in the hunting car and off you go!
Bob Francis and Rich Cousins in Africa together with the Westley Richards .318
At the beginning of April you showed a beautiful .475 no.2 Eley Droplock rifle on the blog. As I read through the comments, one of the respondents had asked how long a set of drop locks would last. This rather intrigued me as I did not know the answer. I think the reason I did not know was because I have never had a problem with any of the Westley locks.
Then I realized I did have an answer of sorts. I currently own a Droplock .318 WR, this rifle was made in 1908, and shipped to India. Unfortunately I could find no history of the rifle in India. However, the rifle surfaced in Australia sometime after the end of WW2. The rifle was owned by a rancher in the northern territory. I have some second hand verbal history regarding its use on kangaroos and buffalo. The rifle was later sold to another gentleman in Australia, and I have some first-hand verbal history of its use at that time.
Sometime in the early nineties, the rifle ended up in the U.S. A gentleman from Montana bought the rifle and used it to shoot at least one elk. It was then traded or sold back to Westley Richards, and I was delighted to buy it at that time. It is a plain, non-engraved action with a tropical nickel finish. C type dolls head and a stalking safety, nicely engraved 26″ barrels, patent foresight and very nice French walnut. Q/D talley rings and bases were added at this time. The rifle has been re-blacked, the wood cleaned up and a new silvers pad installed. The rifle is on face, very accurate and shows no sign of ever being messed with. It has the original serial numbered locks.
I have taken the rifle to Africa seven times, and shot a wide variety of plains game, from steenbok to eland with this rifle.
In 2008, a friend of mine made a nice one shot kill on a lovely 8 x 6 elk with this rifle, on its one hundredth anniversary!
Now I have been a little long winded about this rifle, but it is very seldom that you can get some history albeit verbal, other than the story from the dealer who you bought it from. And some basic information from the maker.
The indications are that all the previous owners were hunters or shooters. The rifle was used, cleaned and cared for, otherwise it would be in a lot worse condition than it is now. It was not a safe queen, or used a couple of times and put into storage. The rifle has been used on four continents, and seen some constant use for over a hundred years.
Now for an answer. If you take care of a Droplock Westley, clean it, take reasonable care of it and cherish it, a Westley Richards rifle will last you a lifetime, or in the case of my .318, both the rifle and lock mechanism have lasted 108 years.
Bob Francis managed our first independent USA Westley Richards shop in Springfield, Missouri. This we opened after the Tulsa Gunshow in about 1995 and it was the formal brick and mortar start for me of what have been 20 wonderful years dealing in USA, from where I have been fortunate to meet so many enthusiasts who remain friends to this day. Rich Cousins is one of these people who over the years has given me good advice and always remained a Westley Richards flag bearer. I will always look upon the days in Missouri as some of the most exciting in my career, the heady days of gun dealing! Simon
An original pre war George Gibbs Ltd. .505 Gibbs Rifle. Willis & Geiger safari shirt.
I started hunting with my late father in those halcyon days in the early 1970’s, just before Kenya banned hunting in 1977
My father’s hunting career had started in the late 1930’s, his prime hunting area the South and South Eastern slopes of Mt Kenya and the trout abundant rivers and streams that flowed down the forested mountain to the plain. From his accounts, an area then abundant with vast herds of cape buffalo, big lion and numerous rhino. His preferred heavy calibre, a .404 Jeffery with a very heavy worn tapering barrel, and a thick solid stock of dark ochre red walnut.
Growing up in Nairobi in my formative years, I would haunt certain shops: Rhodes Books, Guns and Cameras, Nairobi Sports house, and, almost opposite the New Stanley on Kenyatta Avenue, the famous Kenya Bunduki.
I have vivid recollections of one particular visit to the armoury of Kenya Bunduki and browsing through the racks of heavy calibre magazine rifles, mainly the calibre of the age, the .458 Win Mag, interspersed with a few .404 Jeffery’s. One single rifle however, caught my attention. It stood out like a short –legged Borana Bull amongst a herd of Friesian cows; a monstrous .505 Gibbs. Its twenty-two inch heavy barrel blueing worn silver, dark walnut stock bruised and scratched from countless safaris. It spoke of adventure, elephant in the humid coastal forests, and the grey ghostly spider like Commiphora woodland of Tsavo and the Tarn Desert, stretching far beyond to the emerald green riverine forest tangle of the Tana River, and north, far north of south from nowhere else, to the isolated reed beds of the vast Lorian Swamp. Rhino in the coolness of the dark, damp cedar and giant Podo forests and glades, the Abedares and the snowy peaked Mt Kenya.
Lion on the red oat grass plains of Maasailand and Cape Buffalo in the scented Leleshwa, and yellow barked Aecacia choked lugas, and gullies of the Loita Hills.
The rifle symbolised a force of nature, in its short muscular dimensions, it gave you confidence to stop anything however large, however dangerous, and under whatever circumstances.
A friend of my father farmed the lower forested fringes of the Abedare range in the 1930’s, he used the Gibbs on control work, and I recall seeing old sepia images of rhino culled as vermin. I shake my head at the thought that rhino were once so common as to be vermin. Can you imagine how many rhino there must have been?
Later, in the 1970’s, when I apprenticed to the Seargent Major on his cattle ranch in northern Kenya, and while being Askari for the livestock at night, we would sit around a fire at night, chewing the cud so to speak, while countless shooting stars criss-crossed the endless void of the equatorial night skies.
He was a man who had been around the block a few times with regards to hunting, control work and as an Honorary Game Warden in colonial times. His battery consisted of a very well looked after but battered .318 Westley Richards and a Cogswell and Harrison .375 H and H Magnum. With these he took everything from impala to elephant, but he always stated that when things got “naughty”, (he was a master of the understatement), he loved the confidence and dependency the Gibbs gave him.
The Kenya Game Department at the time had a few Gibbs in service for control, and he had used one with great satisfaction when he needed that extra edge. He had used numerous calibres, but always quoted the Gibbs as having a distinct advantage in stopping power over the others. The talk would quite often enter the early hours, and around the fire at the break of dawn, “a lot of dead soldiers”, one of the Seargant Major’s long ago expressions from the Second War, meaning a lot of empty beer bottles in this case, “White Cap”, accompanied by a throbbing head.
It was a place with the most extraordinary light. I have never, to this day, seen a sky with such an intensity of blue and some days I would spend hours on Leopard Rock Kopje, with a pair of Zeiss, looking north into the eternal, far, far distance of Kenya’s Northern frontier District.
I will not go into the Gibbs’ history and ballistics; this has been done and anyway, you always have the internet for that.
Why buy a Gibbs? Firstly, the romance, for it is part of the Golden Age of big game hunting, mostly used by professionals and Game Control officers. Secondly, its large case capacity offers lower Chamber pressure, hence you won’t have any extraction problems when that Cape Buffalo that has designs on turning you into a doormat, heads your way. Its ballistics, although almost similar to the top new .450 calibre magazine rifles, has a considerably greater bore size, thus creating a larger wound channel.
Personally, I would want my Gibbs to have a short, heavy, twenty-two inch barrel and weigh around 11lbs, a single iron sight this is a stopping rifle, not for long range, although Leaf sights look great.
Its other great appeal is that it has always been rather elusive. You hear a lot about its wonderful reputation, but never actually see one: it’s like a ghost, talked about but never seen. When you have one built, the phantom becomes a reality.
On a final note, some of you may remember that old 1970’s Janis Joplin song: “Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”. Change some of the lyrics round, maybe not as catchy… I guess you know where I am coming from.
Westley Richards .505 Gibbs rifle which left the factory last month.
Left. H. Holland .577 Snyder circa 1867. Right. Holland & Holland .360 No.5.
One gun that has always seemed very interesting to me is the so-called Howdah pistol. The history is rich and it was originally created to serve as a last-ditch effort from attacking animals whilst on the hunt. The name of the gun originates from the use of the Howdah – or rather the carriage if you will – placed atop an elephant while hunting. These were quite popular for hunting in India especially during the late 19th and into the early 20th century. The need arose after, one must assume, a few hunters were plucked from their howdahs by angry tigers! The hunter needed a way to defend himself quickly and easily – much more so than a long barreled rifle could provide. H. A. Leveson is quoted in regards to the howdah pistol, “to be effective, the muzzle must be placed close to the tiger’s head, and care must be taken not to kill the mahout.” The mahout was the one who would lead or tend the elephant and was generally the first to be attacked by a tiger.
These guns started out merely as cut-down, out of use rifles. Therefore, it is typical to see them using rifle cartridges that have also been trimmed. The original howdah pistols could be smooth or rifle bored guns; although I’m sure many of them were built from rifles that had seen their rifling deteriorate through heavy use; making them nearly useless for accurate shooting. Because of the close range use, long distance accuracy was not a requirement! Over the years, I have seen a few of these that were of the original variety and, although they were not pretty, I’m sure they were able to get the job done! It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century when the English makers started producing guns specifically meant for howdahs – or merely a defense type gun that could be worn on one’s belt. All of the big names – Westley Richards, Holland & Holland, and Purdey – made these types of Howdah pistols. They were also naturally produced by much smaller firms and probably cobbled together in India, as well.
Peterson and Elman in their book, “The Great Guns,” reference a variety of howdah pistols. One of the earliest mentioned in their book is “made by Westley Richards between 1835 and 1850, [and] was a caplock with a heavy, octagonal, .722 caliber barrel.” Obviously this was one of the earliest Howdah pistols manufactured, before the demand really took off. Through the natural evolution of cartridges, the howdah pistol was later manufactured using pinfire and then centerfire cartridges. As stated earlier, many of these were merely shortened version of their rifle counterparts or would otherwise employ cartridges such as the 577 Boxer which was developed by William Tranter of Birmingham or, later on, the more common 455 Webley.
I have seen many of these howdah pistols over the years and quite a few of them go through the major auctions. It’s quite often that they are found cased or in pairs; especially those of the nicer variety that were most likely bespoke. Many of them are very similar having side by side barrels and an underlever; though occasionally one will see something unique such as an over/under with a side lever like Lancaster made. Perhaps not serving much of a true purpose these days, I still think they are typically great values if one is interested in the history or possible providence of these types of guns. As some would say, “if only these guns could talk…”
“You must come to the Kalahari with me. It’s hunting the way it should be, walk and stalk. It’s also real camping, so you’ve got to take practically everything with you. You’ll love it.”
They say all good things come to those who wait. After Paul’s invitation (issued after his second trip to the Kalahari in 1992), a personal change of career and circumstance, meant it took twenty three years before I could call him and ask if his offer was still good. It was and what a trip it turned out to be.
A vast semi-desert of over 900,000 square kilometers, the Kalahari covers most of Botswana and vast parts of Namibia and South Africa and is spectacularly beautiful, especially the sunsets. But to the uninitiated, perhaps looking out the window of a moving car, it can seem monotonously similar in both colour and topography for many kilometers and hours of travel. But when you turn off the main road, it starts to weave its magic.
We arrived at our camp on a huge tract of some 25000 hectares of red land not far from Askham. As part of a land restitution process it had been handed back to the ǂKhomani San tribe who are descended from the bushmen who had roamed the area in centuries gone by. As a sustainable way of earning money for their people, they had removed all internal fences and were guiding paying hunters during the season. A tank holding 500 litres of water, three sacks of ‘Kameeldoring’ firewood and a cleanly swept campsite is provided. It was all we needed because as Paul said, he had brought everything else along.
We pitched tents and arranged the supplies with the help of our two guides and trackers, ‘Blade’ and ‘Arries’. They would be our companions for the time we hunted there and from the banter that started right after we arrived, I knew it was going to be an entertaining five days.
Everything was in its place by midday so we decided to start hunting straight away. We had two gemsbok, four springbok and one red haartebees on our permit, none of which I had hunted before. I had once enjoyed succulent springbok venison made by Paul’s wife Eliese, so I was really after springbok and was using Paul’s little custom made 6×45mm. He carried his 7×57mm Mauser in case we came upon gemsbok.
I quickly found my prior efforts to gain fitness for hunting the Kalahari should have been a bit more rigorous, because that red sand is soft. You also need good ankle high boots or else that fine sand finds its way through your socks and causes blisters. The dunes which traverse the landscape are separated by the hollows between them called ‘strate’ (or streets), where the game is most often found grazing or loafing. Dunes vary greatly in height and each has to be laboriously climbed to gain a vantage point to scout for game in the straat below. I was amazed however, at how fast one can pick up a bit of fitness after a few days when pushed.
Although there was a good amount of game, abundance is a relative term due to the low carrying capacity of the veld and they were by no means in every straat, so a lot of up and down hiking took place before Arries pointed out a lone springbok ram on the side of a dune across from the one we had crawled up. I was breathing hard and sweating freely as I lay and settled into the sand to aim and finally squeeze the trigger. It had been a long time since I had hunted and I was incredibly relieved when the ram dropped where it stood. Paul’s range finder said 180 meters so I was quite pleased with myself, but it was pushing the truth when Arries said “Man jy’s nes a sniper!” I was to prove him very wrong the next day.
Despite the bitterly cold mornings, we rose at 5.30am each day to get the fire going. We then had coffee and rusks at about 6am and were driving to put some distance between us and camp by 6.30am just as the Eastern horizon lightened. Once we switched off the bakkie’s engine, the silence was as vast as the land we stood in and we waited a while, soaking it all in. Then we would start walking.
That second morning we eventually found a relaxed group of springbuck after an hours walk and I crawled closer to take a long downhill shot at a ram standing off to one side. The ram fell over at the shot but got up immediately and started running with the herd. We could not find a single drop of blood at the spot, but there was no doubt he had been hit. “Nou begin die werk” Paul said, which turned out to be an understatement, and we started tracking the herd of about 40 springbuck.
We hoped to find the ram lagging to one side or even lying dead as we tracked the herd up and over numerous dunes. But no such luck. Distances are big in the Kalahari and when we did get the herd in sight from time to time, they were just moving dots to the naked eye and it was only with binoculars that we could actually see any detail. Eventually Arries noticed a small bit of the plume of white hair (which runs the length of the back and is called a ‘pronk’ in Afrikaans), was raised on one buck when on the others it lay flat. Although that animal was easily keeping up with the rest, we felt it was the wounded ram exhibiting some discomfort and it gave us renewed hope. After another hour tracking and following, Arries said he thought he could see a small red mark high up on the shoulder and we became pretty certain it was my ram and we pressed on harder because the herd kept moving steadily, covering ground at a surprising pace.
Eventually the herd split and we were undecided which group my ram had run with. Paul and Arries opted for the left, leaving Blade and myself to check those that had veered to our right. Eventually we heard Paul’s Mauser boom in the distance and we turned back towards the sound. I could see the smile on their faces from a long way off and a feeling of relief rushed through me before we met beneath a camelthorn.
There is no glory or fun about wounding an animal, but there is a sense of satisfaction in working hard for the next best outcome. It took us an hour to find the herd of springbuck. Then from the time of my first shot to Paul’s coup de grace, it was five and a half hours of hard slog. Then another two hours of direct, sweaty walking back to the bakkie, which we would have struggled to find without Blade and Arries showing the way. Then another hour to drive, pick up the ram, drop it at the cold rooms and finally get back to camp. Never has a beer tasted so good!
I think Paul is right when he said that hunts often tend to be more memorable for the cockups than the success stories. Over the next three days, he got a springbuck and two gemsbok with good shots and after a long stalk I got another big springbuck ram and dropped it where it stood, but the details of retrieving the wounded ram are clearer than all the rest. We never got close to those cunning hartebeest though and I would love to make them a mission for another day.
It’s not only the hunting that makes a trip memorable and two incidents were out of the ordinary; the name Kalahari is apparently derived from the Tswana word Kgalagadi, meaning ‘a waterless place’. Well, it started raining softly, late one afternoon and a rainbow arched in the East as the sun set in the West. There is nothing quite like falling asleep in a tent, in the middle of nowhere, to the patter of rain.
In June the swarms of sociable weavers were widely dispersed and other bird species are fairly quiet. Nights are cold and insect life is practically dormant, but miracles of nature occur when least expected. One night, a large, pale colored moth landed on the lip of my wine glass and literally quivered in excitement. I poured a small bit of red wine into the palm of my hand and it then alighted on my thumb, unfurled its proboscis and sipped long and contentedly. Where had it been hiding and how on earth did it smell that fruity liquid and find it so accurately? Once it had drunk its fill, it flew off into the night and I fancied it did a barrel roll just as it left the firelight thrown by the burning camelthorn logs.
Completed in the factory this week is this scroll back, hand detachable lock double rifle in .475 No2 Eley, a rifle which is now heading to its new home in Northern Europe and then later in the year to the hunting grounds of Africa.
This is a very traditional format rifle with the addition of the scroll back, this I think has been a very nice recent ‘old’ addition to our offering, we did make rifles filed with scroll back like this in the past but it was dropped for many years. I have only seen very few pre war rifles with the scroll back and took the shape and file up we use from one such rifle, a .476 which features in our history book “In Pursuit of the best Gun”.
This rifle is supplied with a pair of cased extra interchangeable locks and is all cased in lightweight leather travel case made in our leather department with accessories.
The .475 No 2 Eley has a 480 grain bullet travelling at 2200 FPS.
Westley Richards .500 3″ Droplock sits above a 28g Droplock. A rifle for Africa and a shotgun for Quail, the wait for this customer is over!
It is always nice to get the finished guns and rifles in front of the camera and send the clients some pictures of the guns or rifles they have been waiting so patiently for. They can finally see the wood in all its glory and their order as a whole. This week we completed these 3 rifles and a single 28g gun and I managed to photograph them without scratching them!
The same guns with a selection of gunmakers tools.
A Westley Richards Bolt Action dangerous game rifle in the mighty .505 Gibbs. This plain finish rifle is made for the African bush and many adventures.
This Westley Richards .375 Bolt Action rifle is also in a plain finish and ready now for the bush or wherever the hunting will take it.
I seem to be losing out in purchasing these scarce Westley Richards rifles recently, the .425 in Las Vegas and now the only rifle of interest at the British Shooting Show, this .318 Light Model take down. This was acquired by a member of my own internal team, namely Trigger ‘for myself, so I can hunt with a Westley Richards’! I will not be sending him on any buying trips for the company in future!
I have only come across a couple of these rifles whilst here at WR, whilst not as nice in my opinion as the true bayonet type take down, it is an interesting rifle and I think the forend catch shows clearly that it is a take apart rifle which the Holland system may not to the uninitiated. The rifle comes apart with the release of the catch and the unscrewing of the front mag box screw which can be done with a small coin. This particular rifle is fitted with an original set trigger, standing and 4 folding leaf sights and the Westley Richards patent front sight assembly.
The life of an African professional hunter is a perilous one, says Marcus Janssen, who spoke to a number of PHs who have had lucky escapes whilst on safari. In part-one of this new six-part series, legendary safari outfitter Robin Hurt recounts the day when he was very nearly killed by a wounded leopard.
Robin Hurt looking at and considering a recently hung bait.
The life of modern day professional hunter (PH) is difficult for many of us in the Western world to truly imagine. Most nights are spent around campfires and under canvas a long, long way from home and any modern amenities or creature comforts. Indeed, the African bush becomes their home for anything up to 300 days a year. These are men and women who are more at ease tracking Cape buffalo in thick Mopane forest than they are in a traffic jam or boardroom meeting. Wild, open places under big blue skies are their natural habitat. And there’s nowhere they would rather be. It’s quite a life and one that may seem otherworldly or anachronistic to many readers. And of course, it has its perils.
Any PH who spends time in pursuit of dangerous game has to have their wits about them at all times; after all, the safety of their clients is their primary concern. But sometimes, even the best and most experienced PHs are caught off-guard. Indeed, almost every year secondhand stories, rumours and half-truths emerge from Africa of close calls or even final curtain calls when dangerous animals have lived up to their reputations. Some of these tales are just that – exaggerated campfire stories that become more dramatic and legendary with each subsequent telling.
But some, as unbelievable as they may sound, are in fact true. I spoke to a number of hunters and guides I have met over the years – all of whom are vastly experienced and have outstanding reputations in their field for their ethics, professionalism and conduct – who have had close calls whilst on safari. This is Robin Hurt’s story.
CHEWED BY A CHUI
Robin Hurt is without question one of the most experienced and highly regarded PHs in Africa. He shot his first Cape buffalo at the age of 14, became a licensed PH at the age of 18, and has spent the past 53 years conducting safaris in East, Central and Southern Africa. So one can assume that he has had a few close calls over the years. The closest he came to losing his life, however, was in northern Tanzania in 1989 after his client wounded a big tom leopard which subsequently ran off into some very thick bush in a narrow, steep ravine…
The ravine was of great depth, 100 feet at least, very steep-sided, and covered in dense foliage – perfect cover for a leopard but not a nice place to look for a wounded one. While we were standing at the top of the ravine, we could hear him breathing deeply on the far side from time to time. One of the trackers suggested that he may be dying. I wasn’t so sure. We glassed every inch of the foliage in the hopes of seeing him, but to no avail. We marked the position where we had last heard him and decided to allow at least half an hour before going in, just in case what we had heard were in fact his final breaths.
Half an hour later, however, it was decision time. Jacques, my client, and Israel, our game scout, are both good rifle shots, so I positioned them across the ravine where they could shoot safely without any risk to me or my two trackers, Tallo and Samuel, who would join me in tracking the leopard in the ravine below.
I was carrying my William Evans .500 NE double rifle which I had loaded with softnose bullets. Tallo had my Miroku shotgun which I had loaded with 00 buckshot. We soon discovered that the leopard was bleeding profusely. The only problem was that the blood was the wrong colour; I like to see bright red blood which always indicates a good vital shot, but the blood trail was dark as treacle – not a good sign. I led the way into the steep gully and before long we were in some very dense and thick foliage, making it difficult for us to move freely. The cards were starting to be stacked in the chui’s (leopard’s) favour.
When we reached the spot directly below where we had last heard him, the blood spoor indicated that he had headed up the side of the ravine into an impenetrable mass of vegetation. We had no choice but to follow. It was extremely difficult going, requiring us to use our hands to scramble up the steep bank for about 15 feet. This was no easy task with a heavy double rifle in one hand. Indeed, the cover was so thick and our position so precarious on the edge of the ravine that I felt that with only one hand free to handle the gun, I had a better chance with the lighter shotgun, so I gave the .500 to Tallo.
We finally reached the point where we had last heard the leopard. All was quiet. I then asked Tallo and Samuel to start throwing rocks into the thicket immediately in front and around us, in an arc of about 30 yards. I stood by with the shotgun ready, in a relatively flat area on the edge of the ravine. All was still until a bushbuck suddenly erupted from the thicket, giving us a rush of adrenaline and a lump in the throat!
I then decided that we would have to continue following the blood trail which lead us towards the opening of a tunnel into the densest part of this thicket. I was uneasy at the prospect of crawling in there on my hands and knees as I would have been in an extremely vulnerable position.
My sixth sense told me that all was not well.
There was one big branch across the opening of the tunnel, so I asked Samuel to hack it away with a panga (machete).
Suddenly, all hell broke loose. Accompanied by deep guttural grunts, the leopard charged from point-blank range. He had only been five or six yards away from us, but we never saw him – all of our rocks had been thrown beyond where he was waiting. I fired blindly and completely missed! Samuel miraculously disappeared out of the way and Tallo loosed-off a shot with my .500 – lord knows where it went but it didn’t touch the leopard either.
In a split second, the leopard sprang up at me from close quarters but I somehow managed to fire the second barrel with the muzzles less than a foot from its head. But as he was moving so quickly, the shot missed his head, hitting him on the side of the neck. At such close quarters, the ’00’ buckshot had acted like a solid and had absolutely no immediate effect.
Suddenly, his face was inches in front of mine, and I clearly remember the foul stench of his breath. His yellow teeth clasped solidly onto my right forearm which I had instinctively held up to protect my throat. I vividly recall the skin splitting and the blood spurting out in all directions, but strangely, there was no pain. His sheer weight and body mass coupled with the ferocity of his charge bowled me over. He immediately took advantage of his position over me and continued to try to reach my throat. He was very strong indeed, even though I noticed that his left-hand-side was useless. We later discovered that his left shoulder had been broken by Jacque’s .375 bullet. Even so, it took every effort on my part to keep him off my throat and he still managed to bite through my upper left shoulder and chest, within inches of my neck.
By now I was fighting for my life and was frantically kicking and trying to hold him off with my hands around his neck. He bit me a second time through the inner side of my upper arm, which almost succeeded in making me let go of his neck. I continued to struggle to hold him off.
Meanwhile, I shouted for Tallo to shoot him, but but no shot came. I suddenly realised I was completely on my own. I resumed kicking with a vigour and strength I was unaware I even possessed and somehow managed to kick him off me temporarily. The result was a vicious attack on my left leg which he clasped in his jaws and shook like a terrier shaking a rat. This resulted in a deep bite through my left calf which also started to bleed profusely.
Then, quite suddenly, the leopard stopped attacking me and simply lay at my feet. Only now was my shot taking its toll on him. His head was resting on his paws facing away from the gully, so I started to unsheathe my Randall hunting knife from my belt as I had no other means of defending myself if he attacked again.
I continued to call for Tallo who had my rifle, but not too loudly for fear of provoking another charge. I could not understand what had happened to him as he is a brave and reliable man. It seemed like an endless wait but was probably only seconds before I heard him crawling up the rock face towards me. He came quietly up beside me with the .500 in his hands. Very calmly, I asked him to crawl forward, lean over me and put the gun against the leopard and pull the trigger. This he did – the leopard gave no reaction to the shot, so presumably my second shot must have finally killed him. In any case he was now dead.
Tallo did a very brave thing to come back, for he had no idea as to what condition the leopard was in and he knew that I had been badly hurt. It’s a well-known fact that a wounded leopard can and will maul several people within seconds. As it turns out, the recoil of the .500 had knocked Tallo off the edge of the ravine and he had fallen straight down the side to the bottom, a distance of some 10 to 15 feet. The poor chap was bruised, had hurt his knee quite badly, and could hardly walk.
Samuel soon arrived on the scene with his panga and the two of them helped get me down the side of the ravine and into the open where I was met by Jacques and Israel. Poor Jacques was in dreadful shock at seeing what had happened to me. However, the fault was not his. He made a good shot, but unfortunately, the bullet had struck the leopard about one inch below his heart and had broken the shoulder. An inch higher and the leopard would have been stone dead.
The trackers immediately got the first aid kit out of the truck and wanted to bandage my wounds, but I adamantly refused as I knew that it is better to leave wounds from a lion or leopard open and undressed if possible. Although I was bleeding heavily I knew I was not in any danger of bleeding to death.
If there was any fault at all, it was mine in that I changed from my rifle to the shotgun. It was a calculated risk, one I was well aware of, but life is often a gamble and, after all, hunting itself is the chance of the chase. My shot through the neck and into his back would have killed him instantly had it only been from the .500. It was a costly mistake, but one that I would never make again.
On seeing the leopard, I experienced a feeling of both sadness and regret. He was truly a noble beast who had fought bravely to the end. I had the greatest respect for him in his death – he was magnificent and I asked Jacques to please take some photographs in honour of his memory.
The trackers usually sing with joy and admiration for a fallen cat, but our procession was a solemn, quiet one, the only discussion was on the extent of my wounds. This was not good enough for the leopard, so I asked the trackers to show their usual respect and sing him a song. So the trackers, Jacques and myself all sang the leopard song with our full voice to such an extent that the emotion of it all overcame us. I don’t think this very special leopard could have had a more appropriate send-off to the happy hunting grounds.
I was in hospital for a week, and lying in bed I realised how lucky I had been. All my family were in and out of the hospital constantly during that time, and on one visit my sons Roger and Derek counted 34 bites and claw marks, all made in a few, very brief seconds. And the strange thing is it takes an age to recount an experience like mine, but it all happened in no more than a few seconds.
The leg wound continued to bleed for several weeks as a main vein had been ruptured which had to be tied off.
After five weeks, when the doctor was certain that there was no risk of infection, he stitched up the wounds on the elbow. Within 10 weeks all the other wounds had healed over by themselves. I was lucky, to say the least!
My thanks to Marcus Janssen for allowing me to reproduce this article in full. I have the greatest admiration for Marcus’s editorial stewardship of this fine magazine, one which is very well produced and edited with much unique and interesting content. I seriously encourage you to subscribe to the magazine, a move I am sure you will not regret! Subscribe to Fieldsports Magazine here.
Why do I like to go to the Las Vegas Antique Arms show?, because there is always the possibility of a surprise to be unearthed on one of the tables. Over the years I have bought some super guns and rifles at the show, often from individuals who are selling off their small collections. I guess the first rule of Antique Arms is to look first at everybody else’s guns and then set up your own after, a rule I didn’t follow this year.
A long standing client and possibly the most enthusiastic Westley collector I know, asked me on Friday to have a look at a .425 take down rifle, he wanted an opinion on the rifle in general and what I thought of the price that was asked. I duly did this and commented that it didn’t have the desirable side clips to assist feed but besides that it was a good rifle in nice condition. I suggested a price he should try and get it for.
A couple of days later I had a text message saying ‘The .425 rifle was made for Selous”. he had not requested a history from the factory but rather had noticed from our book “In Pursuit of the Best Gun” the photograph of the ledger for the Selous rifle. Rifle No. 37798 supplied to Selous in 1911.
Having kicked myself very hard and been told I was totally incompetent by Trigger I am pleased to say that I really don’t think there is a better man who should have found the rifle and uncovered the truth, the new owner is totally deserving. I am quite sure I would never have put 2 & 2 together and whilst he denies it, I am sure Trigger wouldn’t have done either!
The rifle is heading to Africa this year which is fitting, there will be no film or such, just a great safari with a rifle that was ordered and shot by one of, if not the most famous hunters of our time. I am sure that will give a warm and cozy feeling whilst in the bush.