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Gun Digest 2011

Gun Digest 2011

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Gun Digest 2011

2,477 pages
27 heures
Jul 14, 2010



Long regarded the shooter's best resource, Gun Digest is jam-packed with the kind of entertaining information on guns and shooting that you just won't find anywhere else. From in-depth field reports on the newest guns and gear to fascinating discussions of collectible guns and gear to fascinating discussions of collectible arms, you'll find it in Gun Digest 2011.

Jul 14, 2010

À propos de l'auteur

A lifelong firearms enthusiast, Dan Shideler is the editor of Standard Catalog of Firearms, Gun Digest Book of Guns & Prices, Modern Gun Values, Gun Digest and other Krause Publication titles. He is also a frequent contributor to Gun Digest Magazine and other national firearms publications. He lives in northern Indiana.

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Gun Digest 2011 - Dan Shideler


Dan Shideler

Copyright © 2010 F+W Media, Inc.

All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a critical article or review to be printed in a magazine or newspaper, or electronically transmitted on radio, television, or the Internet.

Published by

Gun Digest® Books, an imprint of F+W Media, Inc.

Krause Publications • 700 East State Street • Iola, WI 54990-0001

715-445-2214 • 888-457-2873


To order books or other products call toll-free 1-800-258-0929 or visit us online at www.krausebooks.com, www.gundigeststore.com or www.Shop.Collect.com

CAUTION: Technical data presented here, particularly technical data on handloading and on firearms adjustment and alteration, inevitably reflects individual experience with particular equipment and components under specific circumstances the reader cannot duplicate exactly. Such data presentations therefore should be used for guidance only and with caution. Gun Digest Books accepts no responsibility for results obtained using these data.

ISSN 0072-9043

ISBN 13: 978-1-4402-1337-3

ISBN 10: 1-4402-1337-2

eISBN 13: 978-1-4402-1561-2

Designed by Dave Hauser and Patsy Howell

Cover design by Tom Nelsen

Edited by Dan Shideler

Printed in the United States of America


John T. Amber


We’re proud to note that this year’s winner of the John T. Amber Literary Award is one of our longest-running contributors, the inestimable Jim Foral, for his 2009 Gun Digest feature, the Age of Mobilubricant.

Jim has a knack for uncovering forgotten chapters in our shooting heritage and reacquainting us with them with his witty, readable prose. How many of us knew that, in the age before jacketed bullets were perfected, serious marksmen typically dipped their bullets in a can of automotive grease? I didn’t, and perhaps you didn’t either. But I enjoyed discovering this bit of esoterica, as I suspect you did.

As its name implies, the John T. Amber Literary Award recognizes not only a writer’s knowledge but his ability to express it. We again note, with all regrets that may be necessary, that as a craft, gunwriting is a vanishing art. In this day of the blog, the flamer, the spammer and the un-moderated bulletin board, it’s easy to forget that the best gunwriters, the ones who have endured, not only know their subject but know how to entertain the reader. Jim Foral is one of these.

Jim is a humble man. When asked to provide us with a biography, he responded with the following:

A weakly credential man doesn’t embellish. Here ‘tis.

A once wider field of youthful passions has narrowed as I’ve gotten older. Some have slipped loose and are gone entirely, but the zeal for the history of the shooting sports hasn’t shifted. My stuff has now been printed in twenty different periodical and annual titles, but my greatest publishing satisfaction has come from being allowed an annual presence in Gun Digest, whose subtitle The World’s Greatest Gun Book is not just an uninspired cliche or a groundless boast.

I’ve always regarded its readers as my peers, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute. My bride Kathy and I live in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I work in the commercial floor covering field, and bowfish - another passion - more than any man should be allowed."

Thanks, Jim. And we hope you will honor us with your contributions for years to come.

Dan Shideler


Gun Digest

Jim Foral



to the 2011 Edition of Gun Digest!

When Gun Digest was founded in 1944, it had been a scant 33 years since the U. S. Army’s adoption of what many have called the greatest pistol of all time, the Model 1911. And now here we are, on the threshold of the centennial of that truly remarkable pistol. Today, of course, there are dozens of companies who make 1911 and 1911A1 pistols, offshore and domestic, and in shooting most of them, I haven’t yet found one that wasn’t, at the least, a sturdy, serviceable pistol. Some of course have been a great deal more than that.

This edition of Gun Digest contains an excellent overview of the history of the 1911 and its commercial variants by — who else? — Gun Digest’s venerable Contributing Editor for semi-auto pistols, John Malloy, whose familiarity with the 1911 is second to no one’s. From the pre-1911 Model 1905 to today’s Colt Rail Gun, John literally knows the 1911 inside and out.

Of course, other things are happening in the world of shooting besides the 100th anniversary of the 1911. Our chronic ammunition shortage, especially in regard to self-defense ammo, seems to be abating as hoarding and hysteria wane, so it’s now possible to feed that .380 and .40 and bang away just as you used to, at only slightly higher prices. Of course, our able Contributing Editor for ammunition, Holt Bodinson, gives you the inside scoop on the last ammo-related developments a bit later in these pages, and our good friend and Contributing Editor Larry Sterett helps us get the most out of the consequent boom in reloading in his remarkable profile of the latest reloading components and tools.

The hottest area in the gun market today seems to be in small, CCW pistols. Contributing Editors John Malloy and Jeff Quinn cover these in their respective sections — and hoo-boy, is there a lot to cover! But sporting rifles and shotguns are enjoying their fair share of innovation, too, and well-known gunscribe and. Contributing Editor Tom Tabor shares his inimitable perspectives on today’s rifles — and there’s more out there than ARs, folks — while our good friend and Contributing Editor John Haviland lines up his bead on today’s shotgun market.

Of course, not all guns go "Bang! or Boom! — some go Pffft!," either intentionally or not, so we are indebted to Contributing Editors Tom Caceci and Wm. Hovey Smith for their insights on airguns and blackpowder rifles, respectively. Women’s issues are ably covered by one of our favorite gunslingers and firearms trainers, Gila Hayes. And for those who love adorned and special-order guns — and who doesn’t? — we’re grateful to Contributing Editor Tom Turpin for his breathtaking pictorial on custom and engraved guns.

With so many guns entering the market, sooner or later someone’s going to have to fix them, so we welcome gunsmith and Contributing Editor Kevin Muramatsu’s report of what’s new in the tricks and tools of the gunsmithing trade. Contributing Editor Wayne Van Zwoll, who’s looked through more scopes than I’ve looked through martini glasses, sorts out the burgeoning scopes and sights market for you in a way that our old catalog section never could.

Of course, what would Gun Digest be without the usual assortment of pieces about oddball handguns, custom rifles, great gunwriters of the past, and controversies? All of this can be found in these pages along with much more that I hope you’ll find as entertaining and intriguing as I did.

Speaking of Which. . .

You may notice that the catalog in this edition of Gun Digest may look different to you unless you’re a very long-time reader. We’ve reverted to a format that Gun Digest used back in the mid-sixties. Aside from providing a nice retro touch, the new layout allows us to keep the picture of a gun closer to its description, which we hopes eliminates the page-jumping and other contortions readers formerly had to endure. As always, guns are presented by major type, then in alphabetical order. Prices shown are representative, of course; a 10-minute visit to the internet or your neighborhood gunshop will show you that, truly, there is no such thing as suggested retail price. Some manufacturer’s don’t even provide them — and if a manufacturer doesn’t provide good photos of his products, there’s a good chance they won’t appear in our catalog section.

You will also notice that we have shortened or eliminated entirely the catalog sections that formerly dealt with optics, reloading presses and literature. We have left the former two categories in the capable hands of Wayne Van Zwoll and Larry Sterett, respectively — and this for a simple reason: were we to include all shooting-related wares in this book, the book would have to be twice as big, twice as expensive, and would include no feature articles, which we feel have always been the heart and soul of Gun Digest. As for including periodical literature or books, we have discovered to our dismay that many retailers of this specialized literature have suspended operations, so if you are looking for a particular out-of-print book on guns or shooting, we refer you to www.amazon.com. If a book exists, you’ll find it there.

A Call for Papers

Gun Digest remains what it has always been: the world’s leading firearms annual. Many of the pieces written in the pages were not written by profesional gunwriters but gun just plain folks. We have never met a gun owner who didn’t have something interesting to say, so if you would like to write something for possible future publication in Gun Digest, be our guest! All materials must be submitted in electronic format (e.g., MS-WORD or .rtf files) and must be accompanied by a suitable number of in-focus, high-resolution images (300 dpi or greater) in digital format (,jpg or .tif).

If you have such a manuscript, or an idea for one, contact us at: Editor, Gun Digest

Gun Digest Books

700 East State Street, Iola, Wisconsin 54990

Please include your full name, street address, telephone number and email address with your submission.


This edition of Gun Digest is cheerfully and respectfully dedicated to you, the reader, who has made Gun Digest the world’s leading firearms annual since 1944.


This edition could not have been completed without the support of Jim Schlender, Gun Digest Books’s guiding hand, and of David J. Blansfield, our strongest corporate sponsor. Dave Hauser, Tom Nelsen and Patsy Howell lent their peerless layout talents, without which this book would never have been completed or look so attractive.

And a final word of thanks to those who prefer to be known only as EGH, EC, NA and JW, without whose help and support I would have been quite out to sea.


Dan Shideler, Editor


About the covers

FRONT COVER Today, without serious question, the 1911 is the King of the Hill of semi-auto pistols. A few of us remember one of the first major departures from the traditional 1911: the Coonan Model B of the late 1970s. Chambered for the .357 Magnum, the Coonan Model B was a solid performer from a smaller firm, but it happened to appear just as the wondernine phenomenon was taking off. The Coonan faded into obscurity, leaving behind a hard-core cadre of True Believers.

Today, glory be, The Coonan Model B has been reborn in two incarnations by Coonan Inc. of Blaine, Minnesota. The new Coonan .357s are available in two configurations: the full-size Coonan Classic, with 5-inch barrel and seven-round magazine; and the Commander-sized Coonan Compact, with 4-inch barrel and six-round magazine. Both Coon-ans feature frames and slides made of 17-4PH stainless steel, and both are 100% made in the USA. A number of custom options are available. For more information, visit www.coonaninc.com.

BACK COVER In this, the 1911’s centennial, we thought it fitting to tantalize you with two noteworthy examples of the greatest pistol of all time: the Kimber Centennial Edition (top) and Remington’s new 1911 R1.

The Kimber Centennial Edition is limited to a run of 250 pistols with a suggested retail price of $4,352. It’s all Kimber, meaning top-of-the-line, and is of course made here in the USA with special finishing work by Turnbull Restoration. For more information, visit www.kimberamerica.com.

Though Remington Arms never mass-produced the 1911 or 1911A1 until now – that distinction belonging to affiliated office equipment manufacturer Remington Rand – it is awfully nice to see again the name of Remington on a handgun. At press time we know but little about Remington’s plans for the 1911 R1, but next year we expect to have a full report. For breaking news, visit www.Remington.com.

Gun Digest Staff




John T. Amber Literary Award



TR’s Big (Fire) Stick

by Tom Caceci

The Innovative Winchester Model 59

by Bernard H. DiGiacobbe, M.D.

The French Service Revolver Models of 1873 and 1874

by Raymond Caranta

The N-Frame S&W Revolver

by Paul Scarlata

The Mighty (?) 9mm Rimfire

by Phillip Peterson

Smith & Wessons of the Great War

by Tom Osborne

The Mossberg Brownie (1919-1932)

by Jack A. Myers

The ARs of Olympic Arms

by Steve Gash

On the Trail of Small Deer with Allyn Tedmon

by Clarence Anderson

Custom and Engraved Guns

by Tom Turpin

The Other Autoloaders

by Nick Hahn

Unusual Remington Military Rolling Block Rifles

by George J. Layman

The Bull Dog Pack: Variations of the Breed

by Gordon Bruce

Life Begins at .40

by Dr. George E. Dvorchak, Jr.

A Robert Hillberg Cornucopia

by Robert Hillberg

Resurrection of the .500 Jeffery

by Tom Tabor

The Old & Newer Winchester Model 88 Rifle & Carbine

by Bernard H. DiGiacobbe, M.D. and George E. Dvorchak, Jr, M.D.

The Colt 1911: The First Century

by John Malloy

The .38 S&W: The Little Round That Refuses to Die

by David J. LaPell

The West and the Gun

by Jim Foral

Light Cartridges for Deer

by L.P. Brezny

All About the .45 Auto Rim

by Robert H. Campbell

The Return of the Krieghoff Luger

by Jim Dickson

Rifle Sights of Iron and Their Management

by Sam Fadala

Military Rifle Accuracy: A Comparison

by John T. Butters

The Top 20 Cartridges

by Wayne Van Zwoll

An Inside Look at an American Classic: Speer Bullets

by Steve Gash

The Smallest Revolvers

by Jeff Quinn

Buying Bullet Alloy on the Internet

by Kenneth L. Walters

The Other 1911 – The Winchester 1911 Shotgun

by John Malloy


Revolvers and Others

by Jeff Quinn


by Tom Tabor

Semi Auto Pistols

by John Malloy

Guns and Gear for Women

by Gila Hayes


by Wm. Hovey Smith


by Wayne Van Zwoll


by John Haviland


by Tom Caceci

Editor’s Picks

by Dan Shideler

Gunsmithing Products

by Kevin Muramatsu


by Larry Sterett

Ammunition, Ballistics and Components

by Holt Bodinson


Pappy’s Squirrel Gun

by Steve Gash

My Nine Lives Mauser 98

by Andy Ewert

My Sporterized Mauser – At Last

by Harvey T. Pennington

Only One

by Andy Ewert

Marlin’s 1894-CL Classic

by John W. Rockefeller

The Mossberg 146B

by Eric Matherne


The New S&W Shotguns

by Dr. George E. Dvorchak, Jr.

The 4"-Barrel .45 Colt Ruger Redhawk Revolver

by Jim Dickson

The Model 392 Benjamin/Crosman Air Rifle

by Chris Libby

Pocket Parabellum: The 9mm Kel-Tec PF-9 Pistol

by Jim Dickson

.22 LR Ammunition: CCI Standard Velocity

by Mike Thomas

The Lyman Plains Pistol

by Chris Libby


Average Centerfire Rifle Cartridge Ballistics & Prices

Centerfire Handgun Cartridge Ballistics & Prices

Rimfire Ammunition Ballistics & Prices

Shotshell Loads & Prices

Catalog of Arms and Accessories Contents




Double-Action Revolvers

Single-Action Revolvers



Centerfire – Autoloaders

Centerfire – Lever & Slide

Centerfire – Bolt-Action

Centerfire – Single Shot

Drillings, Combination Guns, Double Rifles

Rimfire – Autoloaders

Rimfire – Lever & Slide Action

Rimfire – Bolt-Actions & Single Shots

Competition – Centerfire & Rimfire



Slide & Lever Actions



Bolt Actions & Single Shot

Military & Police


Single Shot Pistols – Flint & Percussion


Muskets & Rifles




Long Guns


Web Directory

Arms Library


Manufacturer’s Directory






President Rootsevelt’s

Holland & Holland

Double Rifle


TR and his son Kermit, who also carried an H&H double Rifle on Roosevelt’s famous safari.

President Theodore Roosevelt was a man whose life was lived on the stage of world affairs on a grand scale. In a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris, on April 23, 1910, he remarked:

… credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

TR was a rancher, politician, statesman, soldier, historian, and Nobel Laureate (he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his mediation of a settlement of the Russo-Japanese War), a strong-willed leader of men who lived the credo he preached. Less than three weeks after leaving the White House in March of 1909 after more than 40 years in the arena of public life, this vigorous and virile man took up a new challenge: a massive safari to collect specimens of African wildlife for the Smithsonian Institution and the New York Zoological Society. His year-long trek is perhaps the best-known and certainly one of the best-chronicled hunting trips in history, a grand adventure on a scale to suit the tastes and abilities of America’s 26th President.

Hunting was in TR’s blood, a passion he indulged during his days in the western US, and in more sedate settings in the east. He had an abiding love of the outdoors, expressed in the preface to African Game Trails, the book that describes his safari:

…there are no words can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm. There is delight in the hardy life of the open, in long rides Rifle in hand, in the thrill of the fight with dangerous game. Apart from this, yet mingled with it, is the strong attraction of the silent places, of the large tropic moons, and the splendor of the new stars; where the wanderer sees the awful glory of sunrise and sunset in the wide waste spaces of the earth, unworn of man, and changed only by the slow change of the ages through time everlasting.


Royal Grade Double Rifle with Case and Accessories, Presented to Theodore Roosevelt, 1909. Holland & Holland, Ltd. English (London). .500/.450 Nitro Express Caliber. Serial Number 19109. Frazier International History Museum. Museum Purchase, 2001.32. Holland & Holland, Ltd. Photo courtesy Frazier International History Museum.

These are words of a romantic, a semi-mystic who is also a visionary. TR was all of these things and more. His love of the outdoors life led him to become the founder of the National Parks System and a founding member of the Boone & Crockett Club as well as the New York Museum of Natural History, testimony to both his love of the hunt and his respect for the hunted. He is justly recognized as one of the fathers of the modern conservation movement. As a hunter, he well understood the basic principle that preservation of wildlife requires that economic value be afforded to it, game and non-game species alike; that a species’ very survival depends on its value to man. He undertook his safari with this vision in mind:

Wise people…have discovered that intelligent game preservation, carried out in good faith, and in a spirit of commonsense as far removed from mushy sentimentality as from brutality, results in adding to the state’s natural resources…. Game laws should be drawn primarily in the interest of the whole people, keeping in mind certain facts that ought to be self-evident…. Almost any wild animal…if its multiplication were unchecked...would by its simple increase crowd man off the planet; and that far short of this…a time comes when the existence of too much game is incompatible with the interests of the cultivator. There should be…sanctuaries… where game can live and breed absolutely unmolested; and elsewhere…allow a reasonable amount of hunting on fair terms to any hardy and vigorous man fond of the sport…. Game butchery is as objectionable as any other wanton form of cruelty or barbarity; but to protest against all hunting of game is a sign of softness of head, not of soundness of heart.

The first animal to fall to TR’s H&H double: the Kilimakiu rhino.

Planning such a safari necessarily started well in advance, as it was a complex logistical and scientific undertaking as well as a grand adventure. He was accompanied by scientists and specialists from the museums involved, as well his 19-year-old son Kermit, then a freshman at Harvard University. Many of the arrangements were made through two of the world’s most famous big game hunters, Edward North Buxton and Frederick Courteney Selous. Other famous hunters who joined him on arrival included R.J. Cuninghame and Leslie Tarleton, hard-bitten Englishmen who were Old Africa Hands. The expedition’s ponderous equipment included motion picture cameras and technicians, too, as this was the first safari to be filmed. The equipment and supplies for such a trip required no fewer than 150 porters and assorted gun-bearers, askaris, and of course their camp followers, all of whom had to be fed on the march. TR, in charge, had his work cut out for him and had no lack of hunting opportunities.

Among his preparations was the assembly of his famous African Battery: a pair of Winchester rifles in .405 caliber; Springfield rifles in the then-new Army caliber, .30-06; and the most powerful rifle in his collection, a Royal grade double rifle made by Holland & Holland of 98, New Bond Street, London, recognized then as now as The Royal Arms Maker, whose elite list of customers included not only Presidents, but King Edward VII, numerous Indian Rajahs, many members of the European Royalty and the American plutocracy, and those lesser notabilities who could afford their prices, people who demanded – and got – the best.

TR’s rifle is now on display at the Frazier International History Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, the centerpiece of a fabulous assemblage of artifacts focused on American and British arms of the Colonial to modern period. In addition to the collection of guns from the frontier and western eras on this continent, one floor houses a stunning array of weapons from Britain, a collaborative effort with the Royal Armouries in Leeds. The Frazier is one of the premier arms museums in this country and for anyone with an interest in history and the role arms played in this nation’s development, a visit there is an absolute must.

Best Gun double rifles are rightfully considered the very apex of the gunmaker’s art. While double rifles were and are made elsewhere, English ones are universally considered superior to all others; and H&H is acknowledged to be the Best of the Best maker of this unique type of firearm. The firm’s origins go back to 1848 when Harris John Holland set up shop as a gunmaker in London. By 1876, he had been joined by his nephew, William Harris Holland, and the new firm, Holland & Holland, was located at 98, New Bond Street, London W1—as fashionable a shopping district as could be found in Victorian times. Holland & Holland are still very much in business today. While the names of their clientele may be different, neither the quality of their guns nor their stratospheric prices have changed. They are still the Royal Gun Makers in every sense. TR’s Royal grade double, serial number 19109, was a product of the best efforts of the best craftsmen in the world, a monument to H&H’s artisans, their skill, and the firm’s traditions, as much as to its one-time owner’s passion for the hunt.

Scratches on the barrel show that this is a working gun and was used as intended.

The flip-up rear sight leaves, made to TR’s directions. Express-caliber double rifles are meant for close-in work onbig animals; a 300-yard leaf (especially for a man who admits At long range...I never was really good for anything) is pure optimism on someone’s part! Note also the barrel inscriptions. The Field was an important sporting publication of the day.

The elongated tang of TR’s double rifle, intended to strengthen the stock against the battering of the .450/.500 round. Note the cast-off of the stock, which brought the barrel group in line with TR’s right eye. (TR was blind in his left eye, the result of a recreational boxing injury he incurred while President.)

Working through the office of the Honorable Whitelaw Reid, Ambassador to the Court of Saint James, and with Mr. Buxton acting as liaison to H&H, President Roosevelt placed the order for the rifle in the Spring or Summer of 1908. It was, of course, stocked to fit his personal measurements, which had been taken in America in August of that year and sent to the firm. A copy of the original order is present in the Frazier’s records. It specifies:

A best quality .450 bore double Royal H’less non-ejector Cordite Rifle, long top strap cheek piece pistol hand stock recoil heel plate, loops for sling, pull to be light, say right 3-1/2 pounds, to measurements rec’d 21/8/08.

As you’d expect, the workmanship is flawless. According to the documentation, this rifle weighs over 10 pounds, but as with any fine double, it feels much lighter and is perfectly balanced. I took the very considerable liberty of raising it to my shoulder and found it pointed as fluidly and as instinctively as a shotgun.

TR’s special-order front sight.

It’s a hammerless sidelock with small floral and scroll pattern engraving on the locks and the receiver, all of which were left in the white. The engraving is elegant but subdued, and actually as functional as it is decorative: it effectively breaks up the highly polished steel with what amounts to a matte finish from a distance. Despite the profuse coverage, there is very little in the way of embellishment otherwise. The cocking indicators are inconspicuous bands of gold inset into the ends of the hammer pivots, and the word SAFE is inlaid in gold on the top tang but there is no other ornamentation. Per TR’s specifications, the long top strap tang extends halfway down the length of the stock, a way to strengthen the wrist against the very substantial recoil of the cartridge it fires. The heavily-engraved grip cap has a spring-loaded lid, inside which is a spare set of strikers.

The stock is a stunning example of the woodcarver’s art, although again, it isn’t ornate. The beautifully grained walnut has no cracks or splits, and its London Finish is a bit worn, but it’s completely sound. As with the barrels, the stock shows handling marks, especially on the wrist, whose left side checkering is noticeably worn. TR was right-handed; there is a cheekpiece on the left side and the proper amount of cast-off to bring the sights into alignment with his dominant right eye. The pull length is 14-3/8 inches to the front trigger, with a drop at the heel of 2-1/2 inches.

Inlet into the left side of the stock is a golden medallion bearing the Presidential Seal and the initials TR, which I believe to be a post-1909 addition. I’m certain the butt plate is a replacement: it’s an incongruous red rubber pad that would be more at home on a double shotgun from Sears, Roebuck than a London Best Gun. I contacted H&H about this matter of the butt plate because correspondence in the files indicates that it was sent back to H&H for work in 1986. (In 1989, a film was released starring the Roosevelt double: In The Blood tells the story of TR’s great-grandson and his hunting experience in Africa. The film, directed by George Butler, interweaves documentary footage from the original expedition with modern images, tracing the route TR followed and bridging the time span of four generations.) The medallion may have been inlet at the same time. I was told by a Mr. Guy Davies that H&H have no record of installing either the medallion or the butt pad, but I’m absolutely positive the latter isn’t original. I can’t believe that H&H would have put something like it on a gun like this one.

Load data was also engraved on the bottom of the rifle’s receiver.

The fore-end assembly isn’t original either. It too was replaced in 1986. The correspondence from that time indicates that the original was in very bad condition and couldn’t be salvaged. Not only did H&H replace the wood, they made new metal parts as well, later distressing both to match the level of wear the rest of the rifle. I never would have guessed this from my examination: H&H’s craftsmen matched the level of distress of the new and old parts perfectly.

The sights are an example of how a customer for a London Best Gun gets what he wants. The front sight is an elongated gold bead on a short matte rib. The bead is rather small to my way of thinking, but TR had specified the sights he wanted in a note (on White House stationery) to Mr. Buxton:

I have never used a peep sight. I do not know whether it is just a prejudice of mine, or whether it is really that my eyes are not suited to one. At long range, I am sorry to say, I never was really good for anything. I enclose you the type of front sight I like most. The rear sight I like very open, but with a little U that takes the bead of the front sight.

The rear sight, also on a matte rib, was made exactly to this description and the sketch provided in the note. It’s a 3-leaf type with one fixed leaf for 100 yards, and flip-up leaves for 200 and (with amazing optimism) 300 yards.

The blued 26-inch barrels bear H&H’s name and address and the inscription, Winners of All The ‘Field’ Trials, London. Despite coming from the workshop of the premier Bespoke Gun Maker and being as perfect an example of Best Gun standards as could be imagined, this is indeed a working rifle. Moreover, it’s one that has obviously been used as its maker intended: both barrels have scratches in the finish, the sort of wear-and-tear you’d get from leaning it against various dead mud-crusted pachyderms or carrying it in a scabbard. However, it’s still in remarkably good condition, fully functional, with the action crisp and tight. Although TR carried and used it extensively for a year in very remote places, where access to proper cleaning equipment was limited to what his bearers could carry and conditions were not those the modern hunter enjoys, one could run a patch or two down the bores and it would be ready for action. Moreover, H&H can still supply the correct Cordite-loaded rounds they intended it to use: these are made by Kynamco, successors to the famous firm of Kynoch, who made TR’s ammunition.

The engraved grip cap holds two extra strikers in case of emergency.

TR had much experience with dangerous animals in North America. Moreover he had the advice of professional ivory hunters who well understood the essential requirements for a weapon to be used on very large animals that not infrequently fight back; undoubtedly he took their counsel seriously. Although Terry Wieland’s Dangerous Game Rifles and John Pondoro Taylor’s African Rifles & Cartridges were published long after TR’s death, this rifle meets these authors’ criteria perfectly in all respects. Both are strongly of the opinion that a rifle for dangerous game should have neither ejectors or an automatic safety. Ejectors are complicated mechanisms prone to malfunction; and if the hunter is facing a charge and must hastily reload, the safety will be on from the moment he opens the breech. He is under the stress of mortal danger and an automatic safety may well get him killed. TR’s rifle has a non-automatic safety catch and extractors, not ejectors. (Correspondence implies that originally TR wanted a hammer gun – of which choice Pondoro would have heartily approved – but H&H had no hammer action on hand. To build one from scratch would have delayed the safari for a year or more.)

Double rifles are fiendishly expensive in part because each is essentially not one, but two rifles, joined together by a common stock. The real art of building one is to get both of the barrels to shoot to the same point of impact at some specified distance. This process of regulation is laborious but essential, and it demands that only ammunition with specific performance characteristics be used. The ammunition for this rifle was made to H&H’s specifications. Pasted inside the case (and engraved on the underside of the action) is the specific load for which this rifle is regulated: a 480-grain .450 caliber bullet fired with a charge of 70 grains Cordite. The production records include a notation that the rifle was test-fired with this load on December 12, 1908, five days before delivery, and achieved the accuracy H&H considered acceptable: a group of 2-1/8 inches by 1-1/2 inches at 100 yards. This is about 2 MOA, which even today is pretty good, and for a Rifle to be used on dangerous game at close range, entirely adequate…especially out of two separate barrels using open sights!

H&H was seriously concerned lest any other ammunition be used, with inferior results in terms of accuracy or point of impact: the ammunition label carries the warning that H&H will not guarantee the accuracy of this rifle unless their ammunition be used, and another informing the owner that ammunition could be obtained from Messrs. Walter Locke & Co., Ltd., Calcutta & Lahore. That ammunition was available several thousand miles away in India probably wasn’t much of a comfort to TR, so he brought a substantial supply.

As with the matter of the safety catch, extended top tang and extractors, the caliber was selected with care and upon expert advice. The .500/.450 Nitro Express is based on the 3-14-inch long .500 Nitro Express case, necked down to hold a smaller .450 bullet: the standard British nomenclature for this caliber is .500/.450-3-1/4, and it’s still catalogued as the .500/.450 Nitro Express by Kynamco. It’s still regarded by modern hunters as an outstanding choice for dangerous game. People who hunt big animals understand that it is bullet momentum and, above all, deep penetration that make a rifle effective, not high velocity. Taylor speaks highly of the .450-calibers in general and the .500/.450 NE in particular, noting that its roomy necked-down case causes it to develop much lower chamber pressures than comparable rounds, a matter of very real importance in tropical countries. Standard chamber pressure of the .500/.450 NE is 15-1/2 tons per square inch, a little more than half that of a .30-06.

The .500/.450 NE cartridges Ky-namco makes today are identical in performance to TR’s. Only one loading is available, a 480-grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2175 fps out of a 28-inch barrel (it would be a bit less from the 26-inch barrels on TR’s gun). To Americans who are geared to think in terms of lighter bullets at higher velocity, +/- 2000 fps isn’t very impressive, but that big bullet has better than 5,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Taylor measured a rifle’s effectiveness by what he referred to as Knockout Value, noting that, …it’s the weight of the bullet that matters when it’s a case of knocking down some beast at close quarters. The .500/.450 NE has momentum and penetration to spare and served TR well in some very tight spots.

The complete order included a heavy best leather case, in which were stored two slings, cleaning jags and a cleaning rod, a funnel, a bottle of sight black, and sundry other accessories. Inside the well-beaten-up but still intact case remain two sets of jags in small leather pouches, the cleaning rod, a bottle of Rangoon Oil and a jar of Rangoon Jelly, plus two wide slings with narrow ends for the 1-1/4-inch swivels. A Kynoch cartridge carton contains two fired shells and one live cartridge.

The rifle was a gift to the retiring President from many of his friends and admirers: a large label pasted into the lid contains a list of the names of all the individuals who subscribed to the fund. The names are a Victorian-era Who’s Who, many of the names still remembered today. In addition to F. Courtney Selous, various Dukes and Duchesses, the Earl of This and That, are many names of people who would play major roles on the world stage in the coming decade: Sir Edward Grey (Foreign Minister at the time of the First World War), Lord Curzon (Viceroy of India), and a name any reader of famous hunting stories will recognize: Colonel J.H. Patterson, author of The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.

This is a rich man’s gun: H&H was paid 85£/13s/6d for it, about $500 at the then-current rate of exchange. This was the equivalent of a year’s wages or more for an English working stiff. Prices have gone up a bit, but H&H will be happy to build a duplicate today for anyone who has about a half a million dollars to spend.

African Game Trails, the delightful book that showcases TR’s prowess (not only as a hunter but as a man of letters), is a nearly day-by-day account of his progress through eastern Africa. In it he recounts numerous kills he made, including those with the Holland &Holland. Here is his recounting of the first kill made with his Big Stick:

A Wakamba man came running up to tell us that there was a rhinoceros on the hill-side three-quarters of a mile away…I immediately rode in the direction given…In five minutes we had reached the opposite hill-crest…. The huge beast was standing in entirely open country, although there were a few scattered trees of no great size at some little distance from him…. I cannot say that we stalked him, for the approach was too easy. The wind blew from him to us, and a rhino’s eyesight is dull. Thirty yards from where he stood was a bush…it shielded us from the vision of his small, pig-like eyes as we advanced towards it, stooping and in single file, I leading. The big beast stood like an uncouth statue, his hide black in the sunlight; he seemed what he was, a monster surviving from the world’s past, from the days when the beasts of the prime ran riot in their strength…. So little did he dream of our presence that when we were a hundred yards off he actually lay down.

The case for TR’s .450/.500 double, showing all supplied accessories.

Walking lightly and with every sense keyed up, we at last reached the bush, and I pushed forward the safety of the double-barreled Holland rifle which I was now to use for the first time on big game. As I stepped to one side of the bush…the rhino saw me and jumped to his feet with the agility of a polo pony. As he rose I put in the right barrel, the bullet going through both lungs. At the same moment he wheeled, the blood spouting from his nostrils, and galloped full on us. Before he could get quite all the way round in his headlong rush to reach us, I struck him with my left-hand barrel, the bullet entering between the neck and shoulder and piercing his heart…Ploughing up the ground with horn and feet, the great bull rhino, still head[ing] towards us, dropped just 13 paces from where we stood. This was a wicked charge, for the rhino meant mischief and came on with the utmost determination…. [T]he vitality of the huge pachyderm was so great, its mere bulk counted for so much, that even such a hard-hitting Rifle as my double Holland – than which I do not believe there exists a better weapon for heavy game – could not stop it outright, although either of the wounds inflicted would have been fatal in a few seconds.

Of course, the Holland was also used on elephant, occasionally with some assistance:

…looking over the heads of my companions, I at once made out the elephant…. The leader was the biggest, and at it I fired when it was sixty yards away, and nearly broadside on, but heading slightly toward me. The recoil of the heavy rifle made me rock, as I stood unsteadily on my perch, and I failed to hit the brain. But the bullet, only missing the brain by an inch or two, brought the elephant to its knees; as it rose I floored it with the second barrel…. Reloading, I fired twice at the next animal. It stumbled and nearly fell, but at the same moment the first one rose again, and I fired both barrels into its head, bringing it once more to the ground. Once again it rose – an elephant’s brain is not an easy mark to hit under such conditions – but as it moved slowly off I snatched the little Springfield Rifle and this time shot true, sending the bullet into the brain.

During the expedition, TR personally killed 13 rhinos, his son Kermit taking another seven. Eleven elephant – eight of them by TR’s hand – fell to his double rifle. Many more animals were killed with this and the other guns in his battery, either for the Museums or as food for the hunting party. The Holland did yeoman service in the taking of thousands of animals over the year-long trip.

Upon Rosevelt’s return to America, the Smithsonian Institution received almost 800 examples of various African animals, large and small. One of them, a white rhinoceros TR killed at a place called Kilimakiu, is the only one on display today, in the Hall of Mammals. A sign placed next to it identifies its donor. A comparison of the original photo taken at the time of the kill, and the horns of the animal on display, confirms that they are the same beast.

A hundred years have passed since Roosevelt made his grand safari. The world has changed greatly in the century since: two world wars – the first of which claimed Kermit’s life – have been fought as well as several smaller ones and innumerable regional conflicts. The world of 1909 with its political and economic issues, its imperialist conquests, its good and bad, all of it, has vanished into the mists of the past. Yet the H&H double still is here, a tangible link to that world and its mighty figures.

This rifle symbolizes in its substance not just a hunt, but the twilight period of the only sort of world in which such a hunt could be made. It is emblematic of the exploitation of Africa and its resources, but as well, of the embryonic environmental conscience of western societies, embodied in the rationale for the hunt itself and the words of its commander. TR’s safari may be considered in some sense the watershed event in the development of modern-day conservation and preservation ethic. The rifle’s true value is therefore as a historical artifact joining today’s hunter/ conservationists with those who came before them, by virtue of its one-time ownership by a major player in the history of America and the world. It is the best-known and best-documented firearm ever made, beyond any conceivable monetary valuation; a unique example of the pinnacle of the gunmaker’s craft, a symbol of a lost era, and a tribute to a man whose legacy lives on still in our game laws.

Resources & References

Roosevelt, Theodore. 1910. African Game Trails. Syndicate Publishing Company, New York.

Taylor, John. 1948. African Rifles & Cartridges, Special Edition for the Firearms Classic Library (1995).

Wieland, Terry. 2006. Dangerous Game Rifles. Country Sports Press (Camden, ME) ISBN 0-89272-691-1.

The Innovative Winchester Model 59

This close-up view of the right side of the receiver shows the carrier lock button located below the ejection port. The button in the anterior bow of the trigger guard is the cross bolt safety.



Supposedly, if you build a better mouse trap the world will beat a path to your door. However, this was not the case with the Winchester model 59 autoloading shotgun. While it was certainly a better mouse trap, the shooting public ignored it. Sales were so poor, in fact, that Winchester stopped production in 1965 after selling only 82,085 of them. As so often happens, shortly after production ceased the gun enjoyed near-cult status, especially among upland game hunters.

Then as now, if a shotgun barrel becomes obstructed with mud or snow, it is likely to burst when the gun is fired. Sometimes this causes the muzzle to split. Other times it causes the barrel to split all too close to the shooter’s hand or face. Increasing the thickness of the walls of the barrel would make the barrel stronger. Unfortunately, the extra weight would ruin the gun’s balance. To try and solve this dilemma, the Winchester engineers experimented with aluminum alloy and titanium barrels. While these metals allowed for stronger barrels, they could fragment, resulting in an even more dangerous situation. After more than five years of research and development, the engineers settled on a then new material, fiberglass. This material had recently demonstrated its strength and durability in boats and car bodies. Each barrel had a full 500 miles of glass fiber wound circumferentially around a 0.020-inch steel liner. The glass fiber was then bonded under heat and pressure in a polyester matrix. To achieve a conventional appearance, the outer surface of the barrel was wrapped with color impregnated fiberglass cloth. This outer layer was then machined to a smooth finish. The finished barrel, although shiner and slightly larger in diameter, closely resembled a conventional shotgun barrel.

In addition to serving as a mandrel for winding the glass fiber, the steel liner also later protected the fiberglass from the intense heat of the burning powder and the abrasion of the shotgun pellets. Remember, this was before shells were loaded with plastic shot cups, which is today the norm. As an added bonus the steel liner also contained the interrupted threads for attaching the barrel to the receiver!

This photo demonstrates the spatial relationship of the floating chamber to the barrel and the receiver.

In fiberglass boats and car bodies, the glass fibers are randomly arranged. This results in the fiberglass being of equal strength and – unfortunately – equal weakness in all directions. However, on the Win-Lite barrel (as Winchester called it) the strength was maximized circumferentially where it was needed the most. This resulted in a barrel with almost twice the hoop strength of a conventional steel barrel but with only about half the weight! As an added bonus, in the unlikely event of catastrophic failure, the circumferentially wound glass fibers restricted fragmentation. Factory testing revealed that when the barrels were deliberately blown up, they would split lengthwise without fragmenting. This gradually released the contained pressure.

The fiberglass also offered some more practical advantages. Like fiberglass boats and car bodies, these barrels were dent resistant. The impregnated color also made the scratches less visible. Unfortunately, the chamber area could turn yellow in color with sustained usage. Reportedly, the muzzles could start to unravel if subjected to continual abuse. But then again the muzzle of any abused shotgun can be a sorry sight. At this point one has to wonder: was the Win Lite barrel the inspiration for today’s high-tech carbon fiber Rifle barrels?

While the model 59 was available only in 12 gauge, different barrel lengths were available initially. The improved cylinder barrels were 26 inches while Modified choked barrels were 28 inches. Full choke barrels were available in 28 or 30 inches. However, by 1961 only 26 inch barrels were available. Earlier barrels had the front sight mounted directly on the barrel in conventional fashion; later barrels had a pad placed at the muzzle to mount the front bead slightly higher. Surprisingly, none of the Win-Lite barrels was fitted with a top rib. Presumably one could have been easily glued to the barrel. This would have been considerably easier than soldering a top rib to a conventional steel barrel.

The external fiberglass surface of the barrel made it virtually impossible to install one of the then-popular aftermarket external collet type external chokes. Remember the PolyChoke? To compensate for this, in 1961 Winchester introduced a removable/interchangeable choke, threaded into the muzzle end of the steel liner of the barrel. An inch or so of the removable choke extended beyond the muzzle. The external portion had a series of transverse slots serving as a muzzle brake, as was common with many of those external collet chokes. While Modified chokes were fitted as standard, extra Versalite (as Winchester called them) choke tubes were available in improved cylinder and full constrictions, for an extra $4.95 each. They were supplied with a flat stamped sheet metal wrench for easy removal. In actual practice they could be easily changed by hand. Yes, the model 59 introduced the now ubiquitous choke tubes! And after the passing of the Model 59, that idea lay dormant for decades.

In addition to its lightweight barrel, the Model 59 also had a lightweight aluminum receiver. These advances resulted in a 12 gauge autoloader that weighed only a little over 6 pounds! The gun’s predecessor, the Model 50, weighed about 7-3/4 pounds. Incidentally, there was also a lightweight version of the Model 50 with an aluminum receiver, which weighed a little less.

The 59’s receiver was not only streamlined in size and shape but was also devoid of external screws and pins. The sides of the receivers featured a roller-impressed hunting scene: perhaps a bit crude by today’s standards, but in all fairness it was Winchester’s first use of the technique. As with other aluminum receivers of the time, those receivers were prone to developing cracks at points of stress. On the Model 59 this was most likely to occur on the right side just behind the slot for the operating handle. If buying a used Model 59, be sure to inspect this area very carefully! Fortunately the engineers at Winchester learned to solve this vexing problem by peening (stress relieving) the receiver in this area. Reportedly, the receivers could turn white after hard use. While I have observed at least one cracked receiver, I can’t remember ever having seen a receiver that turned white.

Not only were the receiver and trigger assembly made out of aluminum to save weight, but even this small stock reinforcement was made of aluminum. All this resulted in a gun that weighed less than the trigger pull on many other guns!

The remainder of the Model 59 was a carry-over from its predecessor, the standard-barreled Model 50. However the Model 50 was also a very innovative gun. It was probably the only shotgun to use the floating chamber system of operation. Back then, gas operated shotguns were available, the first successful one having been the High Standard Supermatic, released under the J. C. Higgins brand name. Unfortunately those guns were unreliable, especially if their gas pistons weren’t cleaned regularly. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that their gas pistons were difficult to dissemble and clean.

The Model 59 introduced the now ubiquitous concept of interchangeable choke tubes.

The quick detachable trigger mechanism featured several design features that resulted in one of the best trigger pulls ever offered on an autoloader. Unfortunately the complex shapes of the components meant that they could not be economically stamped from sheet metal but rather had to be investment cast. This significantly increased the cost of production. Why did Winchester color the assembly gold? Perhaps they just wanted to flaunt some of the many innovations in the mechanism.

The more successful autoloading shotguns of the time were recoil operated, generally utilizing the long recoil system of operation. The old hump back Browning A-5 is a good example of that system of operation. The barrel would telescope approximately 5/8 of an inch into the receiver. This relatively long motion of the barrel would result in an undesirable double-shuffle pattern of recoil. The barrel travel also complicated the fitting of a top rib. Worse yet the gun had to be adjusted when switching to or from magnum loads by removing the barrel and reversing the friction ring.

On the Models 50/59, however, the floating chamber, which included the forcing cone, telescoped into the chamber end of the barrel. The bolt locked directly to an extension at the back of the floating chamber. Thus immediately after firing, the floating chamber and bolt would recoil backward while still locked together. After .09 of an inch of rearward travel, an abutment within the receiver prevented further rearward travel of the floating chamber. By that time, the cam of the bolt carrier would have unlocked the bolt from the floating chamber. The unlocked bolt was then free to continue traveling rearward. A small coiled spring and plunger within the receiver would return the floating chamber to its full forward position. Compared to the previously described long recoil system, the short travel of the lightweight floating chamber didn’t have enough inertia to cause the undesirable double shuffle. It didn’t even have enough inertia to operate the gun! To increase the bolt’s momentum, it was connected via a rod to a weight contained within the buttstock. The rearward motion of these components was resisted initially and subsequently reversed by the recoil spring, which was also contained within the buttstock. The combination of the light weight barrel in conjunction with the extra weight in the buttstock resulted in a uniquely muzzle light balance. This resulted in a very responsive swing that some hunters, especially quail and grouse hunters, preferred.

The system would work with all standard American 2-3/4-inch shells, including 2-3/4-inch magnums, without external adjustment. Malfunctions could occur with light loads or shells with a slow pressure buildup. This was more common with European loads, and Model 50s sold in Europe ultimately had to be Modified for reliable operation. According to the physicists, you don’t get something for nothing. It took a fair amount of energy to operate the mechanism and compress the recoil spring. Fortunately this energy came from the recoil generated from firing the gun. According to Winchester, the gun had 20% less recoil! In addition, the recoil was more comfortably distributed over a long (relatively speaking) push as opposed to a sudden jolt. Extending the recoil pulse has the effect of decreasing the shooter’s perception of recoil.

So, while lighter guns generally kick more, the Model 59 actually kicked less. The effect was further enhanced by the muzzle brake configured into the Versa Lite choke tubes. As such it was an ideal beginner’s gun, light to carry and shoot with the effectiveness of a 12 gauge! And of course the same features endeared it to experienced hunters. Supposedly, the gun would jam if debris accumulated between the exterior surface of the floating chamber and the corresponding surface of the barrel.

Certainly any gun can jam if enough debris accumulates in the wrong place. However, one of the 59s that I examined for this piece had quite a bit of crud lying within the bottom of the receiver. When questioned, the owner stated that he couldn’t remember the gun ever jamming. The U. S. Treasury Department, however, found a definite problem with the floating chamber. Shortly after the Model 50 was introduced, they discovered that the gun could be fired without the barrel attached. As such the gun could be used as a sawed off shotgun. To prevent this, Winchester was required to recall their initial production and modify them so that they couldn’t shoot without the barrel attached.

The right side of the gun. It seems ordinary enough until you pick it up.

The floating chamber system was also used in some other firearms. It was used in the Colt Ace, a .22 rimfire adaption of the Colt 1911. In that gun, the floating chamber was utilized to increase the recoil of the .22 cartridge, allowing it operate the heavy slide of the gun. In the Remington Model 550 autoloading rifle, the floating chamber selectively boosted the recoil of the .22 Short cartridge, allowing .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle cartridges to be used interchangeably. These guns, as well as the floating chamber itself, were the brainchildren of the legendary Marsh Carbine Williams. He is, however, best remembered for having developed the short stroke gas piston used in the M-1 carbine of World War II. He was a genius at understanding the momentum dynamics of autoloading guns and went on to perfect the short recoil system of operation. Surprisingly, he wasn’t a formally trained engineer. In fact he had little formal education at all. However he managed to work out the principles of operation of those guns while serving out his prison sentence at the Caledonia Road Camp in North

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