28 Feb 1999, (Sun) 10:11am

As you know, I’ve just returned from South Africa. Let me tell you what I found:

In conjunction with my colleague of long standing, Henk Iverson, I conducted two Rifle/Shotgun courses while there, one in Capetwon and one in Pretoria. Our students were local cops, farmers, and other non-police. They were very anxious to learn and made excellent students. It’s a real joy to be able to work with people who have an immediate (rather than a theoretical) need for these skills.

South Africa now has severe restrictions on the private ownership of autoloading rifles. However, the local arms industry makes an excellent copy of the Israeli Galil (which is a copy of the Soviet Kalashnikov) over there, called the R-4. It’s in 223 Remington caliber, and it works very well! The nuclear plant rifle range where we did the first Course loaned us their inventory of R-4s, and most of the students used them. We also had an M-14, several FALs, and two bolt-action SMLE Enfields in 303 British. Shotguns were mostly 870 Remingtons, Winchester pumps, and a locally-made autoloader, which is a real piece of junk!

In Capetown, we used soft steel rifle targets, which we obtained locally. It was a mistake! Shooting soft steel with anything is always a mistake, and I should have known better. We were shooting from fifty meters, and we had no trouble with 223 rounds. However, the thirty-caliber rounds tended to strip their jackets upon impact and throw the stripped jacket back at the line. I continued, because they seemed to be mostly spent by the time they reached us. However, one finally hit a student in the middle finger with enough force to cause a nasty cut and hairline fracture of the finger bone. After that incident, I pulled the thirty-caliber rifle off the line. The injured student, after bandaging, went on the pass his test. He is a good guy and a hardy warrior, typical of my students there. The lesson here is: don’t shoot ANYTHING at soft steel targets. They are very treacherous.

In talking with my students and other people I met, white, black, “colored” (mixed race), and Indian, I heard the same message continually: The current president is little more than a geriatric terrorist (much like our president), who is talented at public relation but who is a notorious, bungling incompetent when it comes to governmental administration. Since competent people apparently make him nervous, he has surrounded himself with dithering bunglers like himself. The Country’s infrastructure is thus rapidly deteriorating. Governmental employees are either grossly underpaid or haven’t been paid at all. There is no money for salaries, promised retirement, maintenance, or anything else. I toured the National Crime Lab in Pretoria and kept hearing about a hopelessly large case load, combined with the fact that they are losing (to the private sector) all the people they can’t afford to lose: experienced evidence technicians and lab specialists.

The likely successor to the ailing president (who is probably going to drop dead before long) is a radical fanatic, and everybody sees the Country under him heading, by a short route, to anarchy. Actually, it’s slowly heading in that direction now. However, as was the case last year, everybody, and I mean everybody, I met there was polite, friendly, and genuinely good-natured. They are wonderful people! It’s really a great place to visit, and the US dollar goes a very long way these days, as the SA Rand has entered a period of relentless inflation. The violent crime rate is surely high there, but I didn’t see any of it, and I plan on continuing to go there as long as it is reasonably safe to do so.

While there, I went on the greatest hunting excursion of my life! Over three days, I shot five, record-class animals: two Springboks, one Impala, a Bushbuck, and a Blessbuck. Only the Impala required a second shot. My stellar success was mostly due to my wonderful guide, Wayne Rudman, whom I highly recommend to anyone going hunting over there. During the hunting trip, we lived and slept in the bush, but it was quite comfortable, and we ate very well, thanks to the camp staff. I used a borrowed, 300WM bolt gun, and it performed splendidly!

My shots were between 150 and 400 meters, and I reconfirmed that one really needs to hit the shoulder to get the animal down quickly. I used a rest for the long shots and the prone and sitting position for the shorter shots. Trigger jerkers will miss every time! One needs to have good trigger skills to get the one-shot kills after which we all strive. The only animal I was unable to get was the Kudu. They have specular, twisted horns, and I really wanted to get a shot at one. We saw several, but I declined to take a shot, because they were just two far away, there was no available rest, and I thus wasn’t comfortable with the hit probability. No matter how badly you want an animal, you must not take shots where the hit probability is below eighty percent. I hated to let him go, but I knew I had to. Hopefully, he’ll still be there next year. It was truly a great hunt, and I’m looking forward to the next time.

Anyway, it was all over too soon, and I’m back home now.