The ground was dry and dust trailed behind me as I slowly walked the 100 yards along the bullet’s path. My hand gripped the rifle’s battered stock and I thought about how much sweat the walnut had absorbed over the years. I thought about how many adrenalin charged hands had manipulated the rifle’s bolt. Men that were afraid had carried, fired and relied on this rifle to keep them breathing as they faced mbogo and other potentially dangerous encounters. This rifle had been there and done that many times. It had literally seen the elephant!
Finn Aagaard was a professional hunter in Kenya from 1970 to 1977. During that time Aagaard owned and used several rifles. He was very partial to the .375 cartridge and one rifle in particular; a battered and scared .375 H&H, pre-64 Winchester model 70. Finn kept very extensive diaries on every rifle that he owned and his family was kind enough to allow me to examine not only the diary of his favorite .375 but all of his notes and journals.
They also let me shoot his trusted .375.
I never had the opportunity to meet Finn but kneeling in the Texas heat, holding his rifle, examining the steel plate with two splatters where the heavy slug had smacked it, a chill crept up my spine. I have held a few historic rifles in my hands but none touched my hunter’s heart like this one. I thought of the excitement that the rifle had seen, of the smiles it had made possible and about how it had kept a hard working man’s family fed.
This rifle had battled it out with 66 buffalo either in Finn’s hands or in the hands of his clients and only seven had not been recovered. It had spent eight years in the wilds of Kenya and it looked it. The metal was near devoid of bluing and the stock looked like a fence post but you can be sure every mark, every scratch and every gouge got there honestly. Oh, if a rifle could talk?