I finally finished the final polish and double checked and boxed the pieces to go across the whole of Canada. The metal to Heidi Hiptmayer for engraving and gold lettering and the stock-wood to Ted Girodat for a traditional 1880’s checkering pattern. Ted also volunteered to rust-blue the 16lb barrel and baby-sit all the finished engraved metal work to a commercial heat-treater with a vacuum atmosphere controlled process furnace which would enable me to give the gun an old look whilst still having the right heat treatment. The clock was ticking when all the pieces were finally re-assembled into the finished rifle. Now a lot of shooting and walking, and shooting and more walking, was the routine of the day. With approximately 60 rounds fired at the range, I decided on some major changes in powder and bullet loadings. I had three concerns; the legality of shipping black powder loaded ammo even though the rules stated 5kg sporting ammo; reduce the felt recoil a bit so a second shot would be a viable option; and re-design the bullet to cut a clean hole and maybe step up the velocity. The obvious solution: nitro loads, and I had this information on file. But I guess I really am a man of the 90’s - but it’s the 1890’s. The Nitro Load's pretty peppy, but I missed the smoke and they felt different! So along came Pyrodex Select.
The bullet mould was recut to add another grease groove and a sharp shoulder at the nose radius to make it a dual dia style. Now to centre in the rifling and the added shoulder made the bullets cut clean in wood and paper (and buffalo hide as we found out). The new combo was lubed with SPG and the fouling wiped out easily. A new batch of brass cases were machined out with a slightly different interior profile and cut to accept shotgun primers to give the handful of Pyrodex a good spark. These eleventh-hour changes produced a winner. They grouped well, they smelled and looked good when fired, they met transportation legalities, a slight bit of the concussion was gone from the 400 grains of black, and velocity was up approximately 100 fps to well over 1400 now. The next item to direct our attention towards was a way to carry this great heavy thing. It became obvious on the first hike - you can’t carry a 24lb rifle on a sling, as it gives new meaning to the phrase “Cuts off the Circulation”. Also both hands needed to be free for glassing game or crawling and stalking. All difficult to do with a heavy object dangling off one shoulder. A shoulder harness and belt arrangement seemed the way to go, and after a few quick designs, one was settled on and cut out of leather. The rifle was attached to the harness with those plastic quick release buckles found on back packs. They worked well, were quiet and could be released easily without having to take your eyes off the game. The rifle loaded and four rounds in the pouch with the weight of the harness totalled 31 lbs. It worked well in the African bush, carrying the gun in close to my body and distributing the weight well off both shoulders.
|Make my day!|
A .465 pales into insignificance next to a 4-bore.
Everything was together now and even the weather co-operated, with the whole last month over 100 Degrees Fahrenheit every day. Just perfect for a two-hour hike up the mountain in full gear - mid afternoon - to get toughened up and fire a few shots each day at the target I had hidden in the deep forest where I could simulate actual hunting conditions: into the sunlight, through shadows or with the target board hidden partially behind branches. These outings were also valuable to check out the rigging - to find out my favourite shirt’s pocket is too small to accept my compact binoculars or that one pair of shorts had an annoying little flap that hooked the rifle swivel every time I turn around. Hundred break-in miles feels good on your new hunting boots when you leap out of the Land Cruiser for a little hike through the thorns. Your boots are one of the areas that your PH’s eyes go to on your first meeting and you can hear a small sigh of relief when he sees that they had been out of the box prior to this moment. The August 28 departure was now at hand, and I released my sweaty grip from the big gun case to let it register on the scales at the local airport at 34kg. Well under the 35kg-limit!
I hope the system did work and that the big black Pelican case would meet me two days later in Jo’burg. I had chosen to fly British Air, so Tracy could join me at Heathrow for the flight to Africa together. The ladies in the British Air booth at the SCI show had assured me that problems in the past with guns flying through Heathrow were just that, “Problems in the past”. We flew out in the evening and even though it is a long flight, after not seeing each other for nearly a year (as my daughter is now in Edinburgh) the night passed so quickly and the sun came up just as we broke free of the cloud cover and illuminated Zimbabwe and Lake Kariba and the Zambezi Valley on our way to Jo’burg. Jo’burg airport was uncrowded and ALL our baggage had made it. A quick stop at the customs counter and then a helpful agent filled out the necessary gun permits - the rubber stamp made a big thump and we were out through the doors to be greeted by a big smile and a hand shake, as PH Campbell had come to collect us and get us pointed towards Zimbabwe.
We had flown to Africa three days earlier than our departure day to Zimbabwe, just to allow for any baggage to catch up or the ill effects of jet lag to pass. We therefore spent the time game viewing and enjoying South African hospitality at its finest.
In the next issue (4 Bore Part Two) we’ll look at the hunt and the 4 bore's performance on African game.