Nine-Three Rifles I Have Met

By Hendrik van der Schÿff

Once, when meeting with the late Faan Zeelie at a Big Bore Association shoot, he introduced me to a man named Johan Zietsman. I wasn’t there to attend the shoot and was minding my own business having a quiet conversation with Faan, who owns one of the most extraordinary 9.3×62 rifles I have ever seen.

This person drifted into our conversation uninvited and Faan thought it polite to introduce me to him. Faan mentioned that I like most calibers but have a special feeling towards 9.3×62 rifles, when the guy got arrogant about his choice of big bore and told me outright that the ninethree is nothing but a “peashooter”.

I wasn’t offended in the least, because it really takes some to impress me. I’m just a simple person, but he did not make an impression on me, because I knew it was his lack of knowledge talking. He rambled on about his colored shooting glasses and the yellow stuff he has to put on his 460’s sights, because he can’t see the sights of his bruiser when he shoots it.

I quietly smiled, to myself, because I knew his closely guarded secret: he flinches as he braces himself for that big rifle’s recoil. By the time he recovers from the recoilinduced daze, he has to search for his sights all over again.

My father was a hunter of above-average abilities, who hunted in an era long gone, and so were many of our farm neighbors. They were practical, down-to-earth people. And like many a farm boy, I had literally cut my teeth on rifles, and grew up amongst men who lost their hearing as a result of the crack of their hunting rifles. They were pioneers who lived with rifles in hand on a wild and hostile front, who braved whatever dangers, deprivation, seclusion and hardships demanded from a frontiers-farmer. But never have I experienced grown men so full of themselves about their rifles and their hunting prowess like the modern-day hunter shooting mostly at paper targets. Big-bore hunters that cannot sharpen a knife, let alone skin their own fallen prey. Now that does not impress me in the least.

Later in my life I was trained in guns as heavy as 6000kg, shooting projectiles 45kg in weight, at enemy targets 20km away. There were lighter guns with projectiles weighing “only” 11kg. Then there was the 12.7mm (.50 Cal) Browning of which I fired so many rounds at targets more than 2 kilometers away, that by the time I changed barrels the wild grass caught fire when that hot barrel touched the ground.

A particular rifle I enjoyed shooting was a heavy sniper rifle with interchangeable barrels. It’s one barrel was chambered for the 14.5×114 Russian cartridge, that make the .50 Browning cartridge look entry level. This stomper shoots a 978gr bullet at 3280fps with 23 380ft/lbs of energy, whereas the 12.7 Browning round shoots a 710gr bullet at 2920fps with 13 438ft/lbs of energy. Even at 400yds the 14.5mm still clocks 2922fps with 18 539ft/lbs of energy and still outperforms the .50 cal at muzzle…

That particular rifle could change barrels from 14.5mm to shooting a 20mm explosive round in just a few seconds So, if you want to impress me with velocity and energy figures, you have to do better than a common big bore rifle used for games…

A .458 Lott and Faan’s 460 G&A that I once handled, were amongst the lighter calibers I had shot from the shoulder. None of them were classic hunting cartridges like the 9.3×62, however, they are just re-inventions of the original wheel.

I’m not making any claims whatsoever of me being a connoisseur of fine weapons or a knowledgeable ballistician who can quote numbers that baffle others. I am a cartridge collector, have been for a long time, and having said this much about big bores and really big stuff, I am a classic cartridge man, in particular a medium bore man.

The 8×60 Mauser and its track record in Africa excite me. So, does the 350 Rigby, the .375

H&H, and such. Cartridges like the “ten-seventy-five” (.404 Jeff), .416 Rigby, .425WR and 12.7 Schuler intrigue me.

But it is the well-used nine-three with an honest history that really interests me a lot, and I have met a few in my life.

When I was just a young boy, Uncle Ernst Jansen, father of a friend of mine, had a beautiful but well-used nine-three that will always have a special place in my heart. A particular quality about that rifle that intrigued me then was that its barrel was hexagon-shaped at the receiver but tapered out into a round barrel towards the muzzle, whereas our own nine-three had a normal round barrel. Uncle Ernst’s was a Mauser and as charming as an old piece can be.

Only later, when I stumbled upon the story and photograph of Maj. Bosman (on the front page), who passed away in a field clinic after an encounter with an angry, unwounded buffalo. The clinic in which Maj. Bosman died of his injuries, is not far from where I grew up. Only afterwards did I realize the possibility that the nine-three of my friend’s father could have belonged to the Major.

Before Uncle Ernst had the rifle, it belonged to another old Limpopo Valley farmer/hunter, Lal Fourie, who according to legend bought it from a visiting big game hunter, Jan Joubert, from Krugersdorp, who at some stage spent lots of time in the Limpopo Valley when hunting. In his turn, Jan Joubert bought a nine-three from the deceased estate of Maj. Bosman, but sold it to an unknown hunter in the Limpopo Valley. Could this hunter be Lal Fourie? It just so happened that my father knew Jan Joubert well, as he had also hunted on our farm. I got hold of Jan Joubert after some time, but he was old and frail and could no longer remember to whom he had sold the rifle way back then. Sadly, I could not convince the current owner to let me have a look at it again, handle it and take a few good photographs of it and, amongst others, its serial number, but he took a few photographs of it himself and sent it to me; the photograph appearing in this story is the best of the lot.

Although I am one of the few privileged hunters to whom the 9.3×62 cartridge was not unknown, I was ignorant about its origins. But that day when I was lucky enough to register my father’s nine-three on my name, I began to research the nine-three as it had never been researched in the past. I learned about its birth father, Herr Otto Bock, and also learned that he was a rifle builder of renown. In fact, the very first and finest 9.3×62 rifles ever built were built by Otto Bock himself, and a distinguished craftsman he was. I had the privilege to see and handle a genuine Otto Bockcreation in the gun shop of the late Dr. Lucas Potgieter. It was beautiful, well balanced and it fitted me like a glove.

That rifle was for sale and not for too grand a price. Like a longlost love, I found it, but circumstances were not in my favor, so I could not take the opportunity to own a real historic work of art. A love lost…

Marius Taljart has an A-Type Mauser similar to mine, except for having express sights where mine has ramp sights. He is the third generation in the same family-line that uses the same rifle. His grandfather farmed cattle at Manyeleti in the South African Lowveld next to the Kruger National Park. Lion have always been notorious for their taste for beef, and the old hunter used this 9.3×62 extensively to slay in the region of 200 lion in his endeavor to tame that wild country. After much use as a hunting tool, that old rifle is still used today by Marius to fill the larder. Being an A-Type, it has a familiarity to it every time I pick it up; it just has the right feel to it.

When it comes to that particular worn look on an old working rifle that I like, I have seen and handled 9.3 Journal contributor Adie de Beer’s nine-three. It was built by Wilhelm Piethe Halberstad, and is easily the longest nine-three I have ever met. Adie was born in Tanganyika and farmed in the Oldeane district near the Ngorongoro Crater. I took a shot or two with it, but if ever there is a rifle that put a fear for recoil in me, it’s this 9.3. It kicked the living daylights out of my cheek at every shot. Adie never had that problem but mentioned that it was exactly that wicked personality of the rifle that made his uncle present it to him on his 21st birthday when they still farmed in Tanganyika. Adie’s rifle came a long way. It once belonged to Kenyan farmer, Gert Pretorius, who scouted for the Allied forces during the East African Campaign. After the war, Gert got caught for ivory poaching in Tanganyika and he lost his 9.3 as a result. Adie’s uncle bought it from the police, but it had that nasty habit of kicking one on the cheek, and he consequently didn’t like the rifle and gave it to Adie. It was a match made in the hunting veld and it became part of Adie’s African battery that consisted of an 8×60 Mauser, 9.3×62 Mauser and a 404 Jeffries. Adie used it extensively on all game up to and including elephant until the late 1960s.

One dimension of the 9.3×62 centenary played off on the farm of Agom Prinsloo near Bronkhorstspruit. This took place on Friday the 6th of May 2005, when Agom prepared a 300m shooting lane for testing the 9.3×62’s ability over 300m. The whole idea was initiated and funded by the late Sampie Dippenaar, who also supplied two identical and similarly set up FN rifles, ammunition, a chronograph and distance metering equipment. It was, and still is to some extent, frequently said, and also believed by most that, as good as the 9.3×62 is on game on bushveld ranges, so pitifully it performs on openrange long shots. Sampie, a dedicated 30-06 and 9.3×62 owner himself, based the tests on averages and decided that it was time to see exactly how the 9.3×62 would stand its ground. He needed a point of reference and decided on the all-time popular 30-06 Springfield over 300m. The plan was to test the average possible setup ability of a 9.3×62 owner against the average 30-06 owner’s setups over 300m. With 30-06 ammunition in such abundance, we assume that the average 30- 06 owner would consider himself adequately equipped with the very versatile and alltime favorite 180gr factory ammo for his 30-06 whilst, for the average 9.3×62 owner, shooting his rifle was still pretty much a reloading option. For hunting in open terrain, it is much more likely that he would contemplate loading lighter than the normal 286gr bullets, but without going too light and losing too much of the 9.3’s ‘heavy-for-caliber’ magic.

For the 9.3×62, Sampie opted for the ultra-modern 250gr Nosler Ballistic Tips loaded with 63gr Somchem’s S341 propellant. I was privileged to have participated in this exercise, and it would be fitting for me to mention Sampie’s FN ninethree. Can the nine-three take long shots up to 300m? It can and Sampie proved it.

Being the initiator and organizer of the 9.3×62 centenary shoot, it would have been only fitting that Org Hamman must have a 9.3×62 of some sort, bought or borrowed. I was surprised when Org pulled the only Winchester 9.3×62 in the world out of his gun bag. Custom-built in South Africa, but a Winchester nevertheless. And what a fine piece it is. It shoots straight too, because Org won both shooting disciplines with his Winchester 9.3×62. His rifle can comfortably be viewed as “things to come”. Several European manufacturers started to add the 9.3×62 to their list of available rifles again, but from the American front Ruger arrived at the ball with a 9.3 – Roar!

Another special nine-three I have met, includes Harry Flederman’s Oberndorf sporter, complete with adjustable peep sights. Harry Flederman used this rifle extensively since 1929 and during the 1930s and ‘40s on all game up to and including elephant. [Read his diary elsewhere in this Journal-Ed.] Just before Harry passed away, he presented it to Mark Fisher of Magaliesburg south-west from Pretoria. During December 2015, Mark put it up for sale and sold it to its new owner, Scott Forester, who was not yet 11 years old at the time.

There were other rare pieces that crossed my trail, amongst others, Martin Joubert’s Spandau Mauser, and two old Husqvarna’s, of which one belongs to Frans Booyse of Pongola. There was also Journal contributor Nols Thiart’s beautiful hexagon-barreled Sühl Mauser. There is an engraving on the side of the barrel that reads: “On order for R Müller, Cape Town”. I wished that rifle could tell us more about its first owner’s hunting endeavors.

Then there was Pieter Oberholzer’s very rare 9.3×62 built by gun maker, Daniël Frazer and his collector uncle with the same name Pieter Oberholzer’s collection consisting of a single square bridge Neckar Mauser, a double square bridge Oberndorf Mauser sporter, and a magnificent Jurie Majoor – built 9.3.

9.3×62 Journal contributor Hendrik Diedericks’ rifle needs mention. He had it built during a time when the hunting public of South Africa and the world had forgotten the 9.3×62 cartridge altogether. His rifle gives real meaning to what a scout rifle should be: compact, quick handling combined with a cartridge that can hammer. And hammer he did and does with his little big rifle. Please take time to study his objective observations in “My Little Big Game Rifle” in this Journal.

Another beautiful rifle that I briefly met was that of 9.3×62 Journal contributor, former editor of The Big Bore Journal and gun-writer, Pierre van der Walt. It was specially built for Pierre by revered gunsmiths Bennie Loubsher and Danie Joubert. Not only does the result ooze professionalism, but it is soothing to the eye.

Possibly the most peculiar 9.3 find was Faan Zeelie’s 9.3 built by Hofbüchsenmacher Philip Reeb of G.B.P. (Gewehr Blätten Pulver) in Berlin. Faan bought it from once Kenyan farmer, Daan Prinsloo of New Castle [SA], who in turn bought it from another Kenyan farmer, John de Lange. Daan Prinsloo said that he hunted many lion and buffalo with it in Kenya during colonial times, and that he also hunted a lot of hippo with it along the Nile in Uganda. The rifle has an octagon barrel with full rib extending to the muzzle, with classy express sights. It is built on a military Mauser action and has a spoon-type or butterknife handle.

All steel components are beautifully engraved right up to and including the muzzle.

Constantly looking for fresh contributions for the 9.3 Journal, I sometimes stumble upon very interesting personalities. In recent years, I have met two such people. The one is oldtimer Nic Cronjé, who during his school years in South Africa in the Lowveld town Nelspruit dispatched a few problem buffalo with a borrowed 9.3 rifle.

An old cattle farmer who farmed beef along the Underberg bordering the southern parts of the Kruger Park wouldfrequently ask Nic to sort out adrifting buffalo or two from amongst his cattle herds. Buffalo being natural carriers of footand- mouth disease as well as bovine TB, farmers cannot allow buffalo to mingle with their herds for fear of transfer of these diseases. Nic would borrow the old farmer’s nine-three loaded with Brenneke TUG ammunition, with exact explanation of where to place the bullet for an effective kill without full penetration that might possibly kill one of his cattle.

Nic dispatched quite a few such ‘problem’ buffalo successfully with a single bullet to the heart and not as much as a hint of trouble from either the 9.3×62, or his buffalo customers.

In later years, when he thought about a rifle to hunt plains game with, Nic decided on the 9.3×62 without hesitation. Nic built his 9.3 with a Walther barrel on an old Mauser action, but what made this particular 9.3 special enough for me to remember was that Nic built and finished the rifle all by himself, and used it with customary success on plains animals as well as tough open-range dwelling animals such as gemsbok. What a fine piece of accurate hardware was I privileged to handle? Not many 9.3 owners out there can say that they had built their own rifles.

While chatting with Nic about the 9.3 that is emerging from obscurity, he mentioned a local hunter who has used his ninethree on anything from little red duiker to elephant with routine successes. I just had to meet this hunter, and after some years, opportunity allowed me to meet 9.3 Journal contributor Henk Coetsee.

Henk turned out to be a very refined gentleman with a hunting story or two to relate. [I documented his story and that of his rifle somewhere else in the book- Ed.] But what is peculiar about Henk’s rifle is that instead of having it built on the customary high-grade Juglans walnut of some variation, he chose to have his 9.3×62 built on a piece of indigenous Ocotea bullata (Outeniqua Yellow Wood), harvested from the legendary Knysna forests. What Henk wanted initially was an effective hunting tool, but the end result was a stunningly beautiful rifle that served him above his initial expectation. The 9.3×62 110 Year gathering is reported somewhere else in this book. This time around, the occasion was marked by the presence of quite a few new, factory built, 9.3×62 rifles. None of them new Mauser rifles though, but CZ, Voere and Mannlicher rifles were to be seen. Not in abundance though, but still there. Once again, old classic rifles and beautiful custom rifles were present. Some I had the privilege to see, handle and photograph, but too many not. Herman Bonsma arrived with two special rifles. One is a beautiful custom rifle built by Jurie Majoor and the other a classic AType Mauser that once belonged to former Kruger Park ranger, Piet van der Hyde who has culled thousands of buffalo with it during his career. Herman shot both his Jurie Majoor 9.3 rifle as well as Piet v.d. Hyde’s old buffalo slayer with excellent results on paper, that day.

No matter what who says about the nine-three, it is the only cartridge that was ever conceived with the sole purpose of being a general-purpose cartridge for use in Africa. The more nine-threes I meet, the more I realize the relevance of owning and hunting everywhere with a rifle chambered for the nine-three.

Good hunting!

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