Finn’s Rifle

One of the most loved and respected gunwriters of our time was Finn Aagaard. I never met Finn but did become friends with his widow, Berit. Berit is a wonderful woman with a wealth of experience, a big heart and she has a poise and grace lost in our modern world. Berit allowed me to spend several days in Finn’s old office at their ranch in Llano, TX reading his diaries and notes. What an experience!

At any rate, a few years back during a Sisk Rifles Hunter’s Workshop, John Barsness had devised a charging buffalo target. It came at you on rails from about 40 yards and slammed to a stop right beside you. Attendees found they could generally get two or three shots off before the simulated buffalo, simulated stomping them into a blood puddle. Most of those that tried it, got at least one good hit and one or two not so good hits.

I wanted to give it a go and Berit suggested I try Finn’s old rifle; the Winchester model 70 he had used on so many African safaris. As humbled as I was, I agreed and it led to the best shooting performance of my life. And, there were witnesses.

I loaded three big .375 cartridges into the magazine and readied myself with the rifle at the low ready. The buffalo target surged my way, I shouldered the rifle and – honestly – I can’t remember much after that. When the buffalo stopped, Berit walked up to the target and turned with her mouth wide open and proclaimed me the winner.

I was not sure whether she was being sarcastic or if I might have squeezed two good hits in. Several onlookers and I walked up to the target and to everyone’s – including my own – amazement, there was a tight, three-shot group smaller than a snuff can and right where it should be.

I tried not to brag – like I am now – and turned to Berit, handed her Finn’s rifle and said, “I think I might have had some help.” I meant it and Berit believed it.

Finn Aagaard's son, widow and me with the charging buffalo.

My 3-shot group achieved with some help from somewhere.

I’m not a superstitious person but I’m at a loss to explain my shooting performance that day. I could not duplicate it with a good rest and a pint of whiskey.

All of us have made that special, never to be repeated again, shot of a life time. That was mine, it just happened to be three shots in quick succession.

As cool as that experience was and as neat a story as it is to tell, I’d trade that brief moment in time for just five minutes with the man who owned that rifle and made it famous.

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About gunwriter

Born and raised in the West Virginia hills, Richard literally grew up in the woods. He has chased coon hounds until daylight, waited out whitetails perched high in an oak, canoed the New River and hunted from the Montana Mountains to the Green Hills of Africa. During service in the Army and later as a municipal police officer and Special Agent with the railroad police, Richard obtained numerous certifications in small arms instruction. He has trained military personnel, law enforcement officers and civilians in the application of firearms for defensive, competitive and recreational use. Richard won the West Virginia Governor’s Twenty Award for law enforcement, the West Virginia National Guard State Pistol Competition and earned his Distinguished Medal with pistol. Badge turned in, Richard is now a contributing editor for several magazines. He was the compiling author of the book, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter and conceptualized and contributed to Selecting and Ordering a Custom Hunting Rifle. Richard also contributed a chapter to the John Velke book, The True Story of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. Richard has patents on a riflescope reticle and a revolutionary bullet testing media. A hillbilly at heart, Richard lives on Shadowland - his shooting range in West Virginia - with the most understanding wife in the world, their three kids and a very protective ridgeback hound.
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One Response to Finn’s Rifle

  1. RG says:

    Thanks for the great story Richard.

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