My First Time

From Reader Preussenotto in an email:

“I don’t know if you’ve asked this before or its been some time, but I’d be curious to know.
“What was the first “real” gun you ever bought with your own money (long-arm or handgun)?  Not a .22 (because those should be household appliances, like a toaster) and not one you inherited from Grandpa or Dad, but one you plunked down your own hard-earned for?”

I think my first gun purchase was a Llama Mod IXA in 9mm:
…and I say “think” because I can’t remember whether I bought it first, or the Israeli K98k beforehand:
As I recall, the purchases were made within a month or so of each other, so it doesn’t really matter.
The Llama only lasted about a year before being traded for a Colt 1917 revolver in .45 Colt / .45 ACP (with moonclips and a shortened barrel):
…which in turn was traded for a Colt Combat Commander a year or two later.
That was my last handgun before The Great Wetback Episode of 1986, at which time I sold the Colt and gave the Izzy Mauser to a friend.
So… what was your first gun, purchased as prescribed by Reader Preussenotto above?

Breaking The Law

Question from Reader JockC, via email:

“Did you own any other rifles back in South Africa, or was the Israeli Mauser the only one?”

Getting one gun in those days was relatively easy.  As I recall, the license application for the Llama pistol took about a month to be granted, and the Mauser only a matter of weeks.  “Self-protection” for the handgun required a background check, but “hunting” and a bolt-action rifle was hardly even scrutinized, as far as I can tell.

Getting your second gun always took longer, as the “Why do you need another gun?” had to be justified, and “Because” wasn’t acceptable.  Once again, the hunting thing was much easier, especially if one was applying for a larger- or smaller-caliber chambering.  A second handgun, unless for a specific sporting purpose, like a target pistol?  Oy.  It could take as long as a year for the license to be granted.  So I only ever owned one handgun at a time, as did many of us.

Officially, that is.

The only other centerfire rifle I owned back in the old Racist Republic was an Oviedo Spanish Mauser in 7x57mm, similar to the one below except that I had the bolt altered so I could use a scope with the thing.

I have spoken many times before of my affection for the old, gently-recoiling cartridge, seen here alongside the other popular ones in use at the time:

The long bullet of the 7×57 allowed for astounding penetration, which often made a “quartering” shot as deadly as a side-on shot.

The Orviedo Mauser was the Model 1893 (similar to the “Boer” Mauser of later fame), and many was the approving nod I got from Oom (uncle) Sarel and his farmer friends whenever I uncased it.

This was the gun I used for almost all my hunting (a.k.a. poaching), and it was never registered to me under S.A. law because reasons.  (I did occasionally use borrowed rifles, but the Spanish Mauser was the main one.) I got it from the estate of an acquaintance who’d been killed in a car accident, and whose father just wanted to get rid of it.

Using the unregistered gun instead of the Izzy (which was registered to me), I had no compunction about tossing it into a ditch should the game rangers ever appear… but fortunately that never happened.  Just before I emigrated, I gave it to the farmer on whose farm I did all my hunting out in the Northern Cape.

As to the area where we hunted:  yikes.  I have no pictures of where I hunted, nor any trophy pictures, because under the conditions I hunted, those could be called “evidence” and used against me.  But I found some pictures of the terrain up in the northern Cape Province (as it was back then), and they should give you a glimpse of conditions along the fringes of the Kalahari Desert:


Dry as hell, hot as hell, no place for White men (as the saying goes) and only mad dogs and Englishmen etc. etc.

Despite the harsh conditions, game was relatively plentiful, although we usually only hunted for culling purposes — such as when a springbok herd started grazing on pastures meant for sheep or cattle, and had to be made to fear the area.  I myself grazed on springbok biltong for about six months after that occasion.  Then there were the lions, who just followed the game onto the farm, and had to be dealt with, in the words of the farmer, “so they don’t develop a taste for beef, sheep and humans.”

I would get an evening call from Oom Sarel the farmer:  “Neef (nephew) Kim, do you feel like a bit of shooting this weekend?” and if I was free, I’d load up the car and set off before midnight Friday for the six-hour drive out to Kuruman, the nearest town.

I enjoyed it immensely, as much as for the companionship of those weekend hunts as for the actual hunting.  What I learned from those outings was that I wasn’t as good a shot as the farmers — hell, the neighbor’s 17-year-old was death on wheels, and when he shot, he worked his rifle’s bolt so fast it sounded more like semi-auto fire.  (It was a Sauer .270 Win, I think, but I do remember that his one-shot kill ratio was well over 75%.  Astounding.)

Anyway, that’s the story of my hunting days.  There were a couple others, in different areas, but those weren’t as illicit, nor as enjoyable, as the ones out on Oom Sarel’s farm.

Side note:  In South Africa, younger people address their elders as “oom” (uncle) or “tannie” (auntie) out of respect, even when not related.  In return, the older folks will call the younger ones “neef” (nephew), “seun” (son) or “dogter” (daughter) and “niggie” (niece).  It is a very affectionate and respectful custom, and I have to admit that I miss it.

The Afrikaans “g” is pronounced the same as the Scottish “ch” as in “loch”.

Three Old Farts Walk Into The Range…

So I took myself off to the range yesterday, accompanied by these two other old guys:

Here’s the final five-round string for the Mauser, at 100 yards, bench rest (elbows, not sandbag), shooting Sellier & Bellot 195-gr FMJ:

I’d noted in earlier targets that the gun was shooting high, hence the low hold.  However:  while I could sort of make out the front sight, the back V sight (tiny, as all Mauser shooters know) was simply an amorphous blur, and I had absolutely no idea whether I had the sight picture properly aligned, or not.  Here’s a rough idea of what I’m talking about:

…only the rear V was even more blurred than that, making it impossible to get a clear and consistent sight picture.

It’s not the rifle;  it’s me;  although I am a little concerned that it’s shooting so high, it might just be that I was shooting with sight pictures #2 or #5.

I need to get my eyes fixed, pronto.

Anyway, on to the (post-’64) Winchester 94.  This time, I set the target at 50 yards, and figuring that it would shoot high, I held the same point of aim.  These were all fired offhand (standing, unsupported), because I doubt very much whether I’ll ever benchrest it.  Ammo was Winchester Super-X 170gr SP:

Unlike for the Mauser, I fired no “warm-up” shots, just loaded some rounds into the tube and let fly:  I know how to shoot a lever rifle.

Just not this one.  The first five shots were all over the place because I discovered that there’s absolutely no take-up in the trigger:  once the hammer is cocked, apply about 3lbs of pressure, and off she goes.  So I took my time with the last two (#6 and #7) and was amply rewarded.

For some reason, the little “buckhorn” rear- and brass bead front sights were a lot easier to line up properly, compared to the Mauser’s V/conical setup.  Also, the Winchester’s sight radius (distance between back- and front sights) is 17″, compared to the Mauser’s 20″, which means that when I’m focusing on the front sight, the lever gun’s rear sight is a lot more in focus than that of the K98.

I should also admit that twenty rounds of 8x57mm took quote a toll on my shoulder, whereas the .30-30 was an absolute breeze by comparison.  Next time I shoot the Mauser, I’ll use either a shoulder pad or a removable rubber pad to help my ancient shoulder handle the recoil.

What fun.

Note:  Ammo for both rifles came from J&G Sales.  I paid a small premium for the S&B for two reasons:  I hate shooting corrosive ammo, and I trust the Czech ammo to be consistent (as it has been for me in the past).  Likewise, I bought the Winchester ammo because the thought of shooting Winchester ammo through a Winchester rifle gave me a warm & fuzzy feeling.

Welcome Home

Back In South Africa, I remember the time I bought my first Mauser, an Israeli surplus (rebarreled to 7.62x51mm NATO).  It looked something like this:

Of course, as my very first centerfire rifle, I was as proud as all hell about it — I even took it to the annual family reunion (on Ouma’s birthday) and showed it around.

One of my uncles peered at it like a suspicious dog, then took it, worked the action expertly, and smiled broadly.  When he handed it back to me, he asked in Afrikaans, “Do you know what they call a Boer without a Mauser?  No?  An Englishman!” *

Many chuckles from all the men sitting around, with murmurs of agreement and pats on my shoulder.

So yesterday I took possession of my latest badge of Afrikanerdom (courtesy of Longtime Reader BobJ, thankee squire), and OMG…

Pre-war manufacture, all the proper cartouches, and matching serial numbers.  The “42” refers to the Oberndorf factory, 1938 the year of manufacture, and the serial number has only four(!) digits.  I haven’t been so excited about a gun in years.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the range.

* “Weet jy wat hulle ‘n Boer sonder ‘n Mauser vernoem?  ‘n Ingelsman!”

In the Army (no explanations, it’s too long a story), the CO of my commando unit referred to it as “that Jewish Mauser” (“daardie Joodse Mauser”).

Gratuitous Gun Pic: Manurhin MR 73 (.357 Mag)

Mentioned in Comments by Reader Motoguzzi on my Difficult Choices post on .357 Mag revolvers, and also in email from Longtime Reader Martin K.:

Please allow me a few questions: do you have any experience with the MR 73 revolver from the MANURHIN factory? Have you ever shot one? If yes, what is your opinion on this model?

Okay, I have to make a HUGE admission of guilt right up front.  Because ‘Murka is the fountain of Fevolverdom (Sam Colt, Horace Wesson etc.), I’ve always looked upon European revolver offerings with something of a pitying smile — one exception being the non-Euro British Webley revolvers, of course.  The source of my condescension can be seen in the Austrian Rast & Gasser Mod 1898:

…which has to be the ugliest revolver ever made.

And indeed, I’ve always known about Manurhin guns in general, but tended to dismiss them because, well, my American chauvinism coupled with the fact that one doesn’t see them that often Over Here — my logic being that if they were any good, there’d be a market for them in the U.S., but there isn’t.

Also, the older Manurhin guns were nothing special to write home about:

HOWEVER, as I delved more into these guns (prompted, it should be said, by Martin’s question and the fact that I respect Reader Motoguzzi’s opinion of guns), I came across this little article:

Interest in the historic Manurhin MR73 has increased since Beretta announced its plans to import several models to the US—and for good reason.  It’s called the “best revolver in the world,” designed to endure several dozens of shots per day, every day, for the lifespan of the gun. As the first official GIGN revolver, it has never been officially retired after nearly fifty years of service.

Wait, what?  How did I miss that last little snippet?  (See above for reasons.)

And then the pictures:

And if that weren’t enough to make my trigger finger itch and my wallet tremble, there’s a stainless steel version, the MR88 SX Inox:

Are you kidding me?

And of all that weren’t enough, Gun Jesus Ian McCollum loves it.

I WANT ONE — that stainless Inox.  Annnnnd it displaces the S&W 686 in my top three .357 revolver list.  It’s going to be spendy, but I can always sell a couple guns of lesser quality, right?

Finally, to Manurhin-Chapuis:  je suis désolé, messieurs.