The most historic gun I ever fired…

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?


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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6 Responses to The most historic gun I ever fired…

  1. Mike W says:

    I’m jealous. I wouldn’t have washed my hands for a week after handling that rifle:)

  2. Jon says:

    I also have a pre-64 but in 300H&H. The old canadian fellow I bought it from got it new in the early 40’s and used it every year to put food on his families table. From the US border going after whitetails to the far northern Quebec tundra after caribou he carried it many miles. When the gun laws in Quebec got to be too restrictive he finally decided to let it go. Honest, hard use spoke from its scarred stock and worn blueing but the action and barrel said everything. Pristine and spotless it told of a man that took care of a tool that took care of him. He told me that he had reservations about selling it to me but when I held it and my eyes lit up as I ran my hands over the stock he knew it had found a home.

  3. R.D.WYLIE says:

    It takes your breath away,besides guns do talk just a bit when you pull the trigger ! Very nice article

  4. Steve says:

    I met Finn and had a short conversation with him at an NRA show years ago. I’ve got every book he ever wrote, and the audio and book that Mrs Aagaard published after his death.

    He and Jeff Cooper are my favorite gun writers. Honorable men both and I count among the great privileges of my life that I got to spend a bit of time with both.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Semper Paratus,


  5. BTDTonce - in Namibia says:

    Well don’t stop NOW! – Tell us more, man- tell us MORE! What a terrific opening,and what a wonderful opportunity you had, but you leave us wanting far more information than you provide. How did it shoot? What round did you use, what was your target, and at what range were you shooting? What about the scope? What was it and how did it perform vs. today’s optics?
    How did the action feel?

    Details, old chap – we want details!

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