Mr Purdy's Spanner
Hi, Peter. Did you get the copies of the old C.A.C. adverts I mailed to you? I found them on the PapersPast website.
I did, and I enjoyed them very, very much. Thank you.
C.A.C. advertised a lot in the 1930s. Of course it’s all historic stuff now, but those ads were commonplace back then. We had two shops in Palmerston North. ‘Sports Goods Shops’ they called them, both of them in Broadway. As young men they were very important to us Leylands. We believed in C.A.C.
One shop owner was Norman Hansen. Very popular and well liked. We’d go and talk to him. He was a real ‘behind the counter bloke’ — always had a yarn. I remember he baled me up one day and said, ‘Peter,’ he said, ‘Peter, I saw the most incredible piece of shooting the other day.’
‘Tell me!’ I said. ‘I’m all ears.’ Us Leylands, we lived on Norm’s kind of stories!
So Hansen said, ‘I was down Himitangi Beach, visiting Pukepuke Lagoon, just taking a look, being curious, when along came this mob of ducks, flying in formation. It was the shooting season.’
You’ve got to understand there was a legal time for duck hunting, and you had to pay some money and get a certificate. You could buy a license to shoot from May the 1st.
Anyway, Norm went on to say, ‘I was near a maimai with some hunters hiding in it –– don’t know how many –– couldn’t see them, and these ducks came over. Eight of them! And I heard eight shots fired, BAM, BAM, eight times. And eight ducks hit the water. Now tell me, Peter, how could a bunch of hunters who had no time to communicate between themselves, because everything happened so quick, how on earth could they fire eight shots at eight different targets, and get a hit every time? They could have so easily doubled up, two guns on one bird, but there was no waste. Eight shots. Eight dead birds!’
Amazing! You can see why we liked Norm’s shop!
And Norm was the man who sold me my first shotgun, a double barrel of course. At one time you could get an automatic, pump action gun that would hold lots of ammunition, but the gun clubs banned them, and maybe the authorities too. They were too dangerous. Too many accidents. The sportsman’s law was to break the gun open when it had been fired, so it was visibly empty. You could never be sure just by looking at an automatic gun if it was loaded or empty. No way of telling.
The second shop in town was Tisdall’s, near the State Theatre. We liked them too, because every year they printed a catalogue with all their products in it. Lots of information. We were very keen to get one of those booklets. Initially they operated from somewhere down south, and sold to us by mail, but they eventually opened a store in town. Your dad and I used to haunt the place, to get information, it was so important to us.
What you need to understand is about the weight of shot. Lots of options. A dozen or so different sizes, and each for a purpose. C.A.C had a shot tower up north, to make all the sizes. For example if you were after quail, a small, fast bird, you used small shot. It spread out. But we always had a bit of a quandary, because small shot loses its punch quickly, but heavy shot stays lethal further. Oh yes, it’s an age-old business is the gun. It could be used for all sorts of purposes, and we studied it.
I remember though, there was a famous gun-maker in Britain who sold hand-made guns to wealthy farmers and royalty. Purdy was his name, and his guns were very expensive. Everybody took notice of what Purdy said. Hung on his words. And here we were down in New Zealand, studying different shot weights and the science of it, and this chap Purdy in England knew all about it too.
One day we heard that Purdy had thrown a spanner in the works! He’d analysed it all, mathematically, (and they can do this), and he stated, ‘If there was only one shot size made, there’d still be the same number of birds shot.’
We couldn’t believe it! Purdy said it! ‘If everyone used ‘Number 6’ — never mind the others — it wouldn’t make an jot of difference to the results.’
That worried us! We’d spent all our spare time learning the best size for any application. Gun-mad we were. But Purdy’s arguments convinced us. After that I always used Number 6. It didn’t make a scrap of difference to my results. And it made things so simple. Invariably, when you were out hunting you’d have the wrong shot loaded for the bird you spotted first.
I did a bit of mathematical study of it, of course. Just to check. A few calculations. It’s a science, you know. Ballistics. Anyone who is seriously into weapons, like the army, they study munitions. Ballistics. And that man Purdy, he put the spanner in the works.
Oh, that’s brought to mind one little world-famous tidbit that was of great interest to me. There were a couple of hunters, young shooters, doing a spot of hunting, somewhere in Africa. Of course, that’s a big place — lots of good hunting. And these two chaps had shot-guns — double barreled — and they were on the lookout for some birds, or small game, foxes or goats or whatever was the local thing, whatever they came across.
And their guns were loaded with number 6 shot. Bird shot. Purdy’s recommendation.
Now often, out in Africa, I’m told that the place to find your quarry is near a waterhole. That’s where the animals and birds go to get a belly full of water.
While these hunters were creeping along towards this drinking place, they didn’t know there were a family of lions that lived in the area. Two of these lions were coming the other way, heading home after getting their bellies well filled up.
And the lions and the hunters came face-to-face. No time to unload and reload, and the loaded shot was number 6 shot. Not designed for lions. You usually hunt big cats with a high powered, heavy calibre rifle.
So there was this face off — a dispute. And what to do? It all happened so fast.
The gunmen fired — both barrels each. It created a sensation. They were asked, ‘How the devil did you kill two lions with bird shot?’
‘Well, what you do is poke the gun down the lion's throat.’
So number 6 will kill a lion, if you shove your gun down its mouth.
I’ll bear that in mind.