One of the coolest guns I’ve hunted with…

There were two Boer Wars. The first, from 1880-1881, was known as the Transvaal War. It was a brief conflict during which Boer settlers revolted against England’s attempt to annex the Transvaal. England struck again in 1899. Gold mines were part of the reason but Britain also looked to establish a Cape to Cairo confederation. The result was a long and bloody war that lasted until 1902.

Most Americans have limited interest in and even less connection to this war. However, it has interested me since my first African safari. “Boer” is the Dutch word for farmer which came to denote the descendants of the Africans speaking, stock raising farmers who fled the British Cape colony to escape English rule. Sound familiar? The area primarily settled by the Boers was the Orange Free State and Transvaal which together is known as the Boer Republic. Boers employed a guerilla method of combat that stretched British logistics to the limits. (Seems England learned little since their war with America.)

Hennie Badenhorst is the owner of Lyon Safaris . Badenhorst, a veteran of the South African Defense Force, is an accomplished professional hunter with over one hundred lion, buffalo and elephants hunts under his belt. We were setting by the fire ring one evening watching the flames dance between us and two bottles of beer when Badenhorst remarked, “I have a rifle that was recovered from a battlefield during the Boer War.”

Badenhorst’s great uncle, a young boy at the time, was out playing in the bush and came upon the unimaginable scene of a battlefield where he found a dead British soldier. Being the good Boer he was, he picked up the rifle and carried it home.  It was a late model Enfield, Martini-Henry rifle converted to .303. Badenhorst remembers stories from his grandfather about having to hide the rifle out back every time British soldiers came by.

The rifle had been in Badenhorst’s family since the war. Kind of a behind- the-door gun.  When Badenhorst left military service and began his career as a professional hunter he frequently used the rifle while training his blood trailing hounds. Badenhorst put an empty bottle of lager on the rock rim of the fire ring and asked, “Would you like to shoot it?”

“Absolutely! “What shall we shoot?”

“Maybe a warthog.” Badenhorst said as he removed his fedora exposing the scars left there by an angry leopard. “Tomorrow we’ll see many warthog.”

Before the hunt we stopped by the range and I fired three rounds through the old rifle.  Considering the crude iron sights, it shot well and I managed a group of about two inches at 50 yards. Late in the evening Badenhorst declared, “It is time.” and pulled the Boer rifle from behind the seat of his LandRover. Just at dusk we spotted a field full of warthogs and Badenhorst picked out one about 100 yards away and asked, “Do you think you can hit him?”

I shouldered the relic, covered the dark pig with the triangular front sight and pulled the crisp trigger, undoubtedly honed from years of use. We heard the “whop” of the bullet and moments later were standing over the warthog.

 

Badenhorst was all smiles that the old rifle had once again proven sufficient for the African bush by providing food for his staff. It was an honor to hunt with a rifle with as much history as this one. And, at least for now, no one has to hide it when the army comes by.

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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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5 Responses to One of the coolest guns I’ve hunted with…

  1. Mike W says:

    Great story Richard. I wasn’t aware that Hennie had some much history.

  2. John in KS says:

    Nice story, thanks!!

  3. Duane says:

    Great story. I love hunting and old guns.

  4. I don’t suppose the timing of this blog post was in any way influenced by the recent release to DVD of the movie “War Horse” by Steven Spielberg, was it?
    Regardless, it was a great read, and went nicely along with a very good movie, which I just finished a few minutes ago. It really sorta added an extra dynamic to the historical telling of events, of an era in history that really need be remembered.
    My grandmother’s brother fought in WWI and it really brought home a story that needed more exposure than it receives. Having a weapon from events such as these, especially those with familial connections, must be a great connection to the historical past, regardless of how fond, or how painful.
    Thanks for the post. Wish I’d had such an opportunity to enjoy the tactile experience of time travel via firearms, along with the story that went along with it. You are a privileged Mann. (pun intended)

  5. Matt says:

    Nice read. I have a 1911 of that period, but don’t know its history.
    Matt

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