A quote and testament

Discussion in 'Smoothbore' started by Brokennock, Jul 21, 2019.

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  1. Jul 21, 2019 #1

    Brokennock

    Brokennock

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    I am reading "A Hunter's Wanderings in Africa," by Frederick Courteney Selous. Taking place towards the end of the muzzleloading era, just after our War between the States. I found the following statement about a shot taken on elephant with a 4 bore muzzleloading smoothbore "elephant gun" interesting regarding accuracy and range regarding heavily charged large bore smoothbore guns,

    "120 yards of the herd. At this moment the old fellow, being nearer than the others, must have caught an indistinct glimpse of me behind the bush; for, with head erect and ears cocked, he now gazed intently at the spot where I crouched concealed. Seeing that it was useless to attempt to get any nearer, I noiselessly raised myself to a kneeling position, and, taking a careful aim at his chest, fired. At the shot he fell on his knees, but, recovering, sprang up and bounded off at full gallop after the retreating herd; but his race was short, for, after rushing along at full speed for about 100 yards, he staggered and fell, and in a few moments the remorseless assegais of my Kafirs had quenched the last sparks of vitality that still remained. On coming up I found that I had made a very creditable shot, considering my weapon (a smooth-bore elephant gun, carrying a four-ounce round bullet, backed by fifteen drachms of coarse powder)."

    He doesn't further define "very credible shot," but the elephant did drop within 100 yards, and the shot itself was over that.

    If anyone can do the math, I'd be interested to know how his 4 bore load compares to our common 20 gauge roundball loads which seem to run between 80 to 100 grains of powder.
     
  2. Jul 21, 2019 #2

    Grenadier1758

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    27.34 grains in a dram.

    15 drachms (drams) =410 grains

    His 4 gauge ball = 7,000/4 = 1750 grains
     
  3. Jul 21, 2019 #3

    shane a gress

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    What would the round ball be in inches?
     
  4. Jul 21, 2019 #4

    SDSmlf

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    1.052”
     
  5. Jul 21, 2019 #5

    Griz44Mag

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    That's in punt gun class. I wonder if it was a single or a double barrel. Doubles were very popular for big game, for a very good reason!
     
  6. Jul 22, 2019 #6

    fleener

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    when I googled it I came up with: drachm, a unit of weight formerly used by apothecaries, equivalent to 60 grains or one eighth of an ounce

    Fleener
     
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  7. Jul 22, 2019 #7

    Zonie

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    Googling "weight + drachms" , they say it is, "equal to one eighth of a ounce or 60 grains".

    Using that 1/8 value I calculate a drachm would weigh 54.68 grains.

    15 drachms of powder would therefore weigh 820.31 grains. :eek:

    That leads me to wonder if the author of that quote didn't do as many authors do when they are writing about things they don't understand. Perhaps it meant to say 15 drams? Since a dram weighs 27.344 grains, a 15 dram powder load would weigh 410.157 grains. IMO, that would be closer to what I think would be loaded under a 1 1/6 inch ball when hunting elephant.
     
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  8. Jul 22, 2019 #8

    Brokennock

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    My impression is that it was a single barrel gun made for the purpose of hunting very large game. The author had 2 with him and at one point lamented not having anything smaller for other game, a few guns had been stolen earlier in his time in Africa.
     
  9. Jul 22, 2019 #9

    tenngun

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    I don’t recall the writer, but he hunted with a four gage double that weighed about two tones or so ( maybe I exaggerate just a little) and said it was a race to see who would get up first him or the elephant. I shot a blunderbuss with four oz OO buck and 200 grains 2f, only shot it once from my right shoulder once from my left, now I can clap my shoulder blades( hat tip Pat Macmanus).
    In reality I only shot it once and very unpleasant.
     
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  10. Jul 22, 2019 #10

    Brokennock

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    I think you could be correct in it being drams and not drachms, but mostly I'm thinking loose spelling rules of the time. Many things are spelled a little differently in any of the books I read from this and earlier time periods. He most likely spelled it that way not realizing he was referring to a different unit of measure.
     
  11. Jul 22, 2019 #11

    tenngun

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    Drams, drachmas, and grains used to be used a lot in medicine. When I was in nursing school we had to learn all the conversions, but it had long before been left out of medical school as it was too easy to misread. Still had a few docs use grains when when I started nursing.
     
  12. Jul 22, 2019 #12

    wiksmo

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    What gauge would be consider minimum size for being in the "punt gun class?"

     
  13. Jul 22, 2019 #13

    Treestalker

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    Sir Samuel Baker described shooting his four guage double 'Baby' with up to 14 drams of powder and a 1/2 lb projectile as being recommended for use on the Goliath of Gath, but he was afraid to fire it, and only used it on elephants and such. He said it was not suitable for men of A.D. 1866. This from a large, powerful man who was rumored to be able to break iron chains across his chest by merely flexing his muscles. I personally fired a 4 guage hand cannon with 280 grains of 2f and a handful of buckshot (about 2 oz) from the hip and it spun me around. That was a stout 10 guage load. I don't want any more than that. I can only imagine the strength of men who shot elephant back in the percussion era with shoulder fired weapons. The punt guns I have seen were about 1 1/2 to 2 INCH bore. Hallelujah!
     
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  14. Jul 22, 2019 #14

    Griz44Mag

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    So he DID have a double barrel, they were just independently operated!
    I know if I were shooting at something that big and temperamental, I would want something really big, and a backup just as big!
     
  15. Jul 22, 2019 #15

    wiksmo

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    Thanks for the gauge info, Treestalker. The size of these very large shotguns is fascinating.

    I've read some about punt guns. As happens when looking at internet topics, I always end up following many different trails. One article I read on punt guns led me to a rare historical picture of a punt gun taken in 1910. It compared the gun to the stature of a man. How these huge firearms were handled is amazing to consider!

    I agree with you that a 10ga is more than enough to handle.


    punt_gun_size.jpg
     
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  16. Jul 22, 2019 #16

    SDSmlf

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    But one must wear proper attire. upload_2019-7-21_22-1-19.jpeg
     
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  17. Jul 22, 2019 #17

    Brokennock

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    Yet, punt guns are not elephant guns. Punt guns are for taking out massive numbers of sitting waterfowl, with massive charges of shot.
    I guarantee Selous and others of his era were not hauling guns like the punt guns shown over hill and savannah for weeks to months on end. And running with them to catch up to fleeing herds of elephant, or a wounded one.
     
  18. Jul 22, 2019 #18

    Brokennock

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    Geez, Commiefornia thinks lead ball ammo is bad, try this quote from a few chapters after the last on for size (or weight).
    "although my first gun was loaded again, I had no time for another. However a four-ounce round bullet, hardened with zinc and quicksilver, is no trifle,"

    Mercury in one's bullets? That would drive the lead ban promoters out of their minds completely.
     
  19. Jul 26, 2019 #19

    The Crisco Kid

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    Mercury in one's bullets? No big deal. I have a bunch of it in my teeth. Selous also mentioned that shooting those huge charges ruined his shooting for the rest of his life.
     
  20. Jul 26, 2019 #20

    Griz44Mag

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    Most of us older folks have silver colored fillings, and yes, they contain toxic heavy metals.
    I got mine as a young teen, and since I have only made it to my my upper 60's, I am waiting to see if it has poisoned me...
    Shooting heavy loads has made me a better shooter. You learn to hang on to your sight picture and follow through.
    But that's just me, I am a recoil junkie....
     
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