A Mauser Rifle in Africa

By Carl Labuschagne

 

In 1920 my late grandfather, Len Labuschagne, bought himself a Mauser Sporter, in calibre 9.3 x 62mm. One of the best – if not the very finest all round calibre for the average hunter in Africa. It was then, and I believe it is still today.

 

This was only a few years after the Anglo-Boer War in which he had fought until the surrender. He had survived hardship in the veldt with his horse – the saddle was gone after all the years in the rain, and only a makeshift bride remained. Clothes and shoes had also worn away but his trusty 7 x 57 Mauser was still as deadly as ever, by someone who was a magnificent shot and who helped give the Boers the well-deserved reputation of a “nation of marksmen.” After the surrender at Vereeniging he returned to his farm in the Wakkerstroom district and found it burnt to the ground and all the livestock destroyed by the “scorched earth policy” of lord Kitchener of Khartoum.

 

Within a few years he had built the farm up again to where he was in a position where he could afford the luxury of a hunting rifle. By 1922 he had started to build on his extensive trophy collection, which was remarkable for that time frame. Bob Ivy of Pretoria did all his trophy mounting. This collection, now part of my own trophy room and still in perfect condition after all these years, considered the techniques used in those years used in those years with plastic of Paris.

 

I have now been the proud owner of Grandpa’s rifle for the past 40 years. The rifle having been in our family for 87 years. The rifle had passed on to me in 1967 after both my grandfather and father had stopped hunting. By then the barrel had been shot to its limit over many years of much use and sadly my grandfather when he reached his eighties, had not cleaned and oiled the barrel regularly as in his younger years.

 

The moist climate of the Eastern Transvaal Highveldt had accounted for a layer of rust inside the barrel. As the accuracy had deteriorated, I decided in 1970 to replace the barrel. At that time – locally made 9.3 x 62 ammo was not yet available and obtaining supplies had become a problem to me. My choice fell on a 30-05 barrel. The Musgrave factory in Bloemfontein fitted an identical contour 30-06 barrel with no change to the bolt face or the feeding ramp as both these cartridge cases are just about the same size except the bore diameter. I plan to have the rifle re-barreled to the original 9.3 x 62 in the near future.

 

My own father had learned to hunt with this 9.3 rifle and I was privileged to do so much hunting with it as I pursued Africa’s wild animals. Then my own son, Herman, shot his first game with it after it had been rebarreled. This rifle will be undoubtedly still enable generations to come to hunt Africa’s bountiful game herds.

 

My grandfather, who was in his nineties, had retired and lived in the town of Wakkerstroom. On his visits to me on his original “winter farm” in the Piet Retief district where I then farmed with game, he often would ask me to show him the rifle again.

He would stroke his hand lovingly over the stock and say: “Son, I could shoot very well with this rifle!”

 

He would then re-tell me the story how he and some friends were hunting along the banks of the Pongola River where the Jozini dam wall was later built. Every time the excitement would rise as he related how they saw a crocodile on a sandbank about 400 yards away.

 

His friend said to him: “Len, you are such an excellent shot, why not show us how well you can shoot that Mauser by shooting that crock that is so far away!”

He said he took aim – somewhere in the blue sky above the croc – by instinct developed over many years of hunting and in the battlefields. He shot with open sights and killed the east with an amazing fluke shot – a perfect brain shot!

 

He said the croc never moved an inch.

He would tell me then with a glint in his eye: “Son, after that, I almost believed that I could not miss with this rifle!”

He would look at me and say: “You now look well after this rifle. I had great success with it. You should too!”

 

After I had become the proud owner of this rifle, the very first animal I shot with it, in the original 9.3 calibre was a mountain rheebuck. I only had ancient DWM 285 gr. bullets with their corrosive mercuric primers that I had received with the rifle. I can’t remember how far the rheebuck was on the mountain behind the house. As a young man the distance was not an issue, but afterwards I had to conclude that it was indeed a “fluke shot” if there was one with an old rifle with a rusted barrel.

 

Still, I gleamed with pride and cocky self-assurance. If Grandpa could shoot that long range with this old rifle – well, so could I! I concluded it must just be in the genes of the old warhorse. Having good genes just is a hell of a start in life.

 

From the photos you can plainly see that this rifle had been lovingly kept for the past 40 years by someone who is a stock maker and can only be described as a “gun nut.” You may cuss and swear at me, call me a nasty old bugger. If you atone sufficiently, forgiveness can be forthcoming, but “die hel haal jou” if you should ever dent or nick my beloved rifle!”

 

After just too many years that my overseas clients used it on too many hunting trips and the absolute nervous tension all those long days that they carried it, convinced me to buy a stainless steel, synthetic .300 Winchester Magnum rifle for them to use. I then retired my beloved rifle for my own exclusive use and very special friends.

 

In the course of the past 35 years that my clients from all over the love used it to put trophies on the walls of all those far off trophy rooms, it has accounted for over 230 trophy animals of which I have record. I never used it in culling operations – only some biltong hunts and bait – animals shot for lion and leopard.

 

One of my past clients used it very successfully to bag an impressive range of trophy animals. He was euphoric about the rifle which he had shot so well with and begged me to sell it to him for a mind-blowing amount of US dollars. I would rather have sold him half my fingers – he almost ruined the friendship!

 

There is a bumper sticker that says: “When guns are outlawed, I will be an outlaw.” You will find such a sticker on the back of my truck. No regime, present or future, will ever separate me from my beloved rifle that came from my dad and granddad. Now that is a deadly fact that you can bet your life on.

My father posing with the Mauser with which his grandfather had brain-shot the crocodile next to him at 400 yards.