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Winchester couldn't sell Teddy Roosevelt on the .32 Special
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September 4, 2023 - 5:58 pm
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As far as I can tell, Roosevelt never owned a .32 Special.  We know he used a variety of Winchester lever rifles – .30 WCF, .44WCF, .45-70, .45-75, 45-90, .30 Govt, .405 and others.

But no .32 Special.  This doesn’t mean Winchester didn’t send some words his way..  In reading Harold Williamson book where he covers the Roosevelt Africa safari trip preparations, it is amusing to read the various letter’s back and forth between Roosevelt and Winchester.  There were several examples where Winchester was not meeting Roosevelt’s expectation – and he let them know.

At point, in Roosevelt’s correspondence with Winchester, he mentioned a visit from one of his friends who was using the .405 in Africa on elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo and lion.  On two occasions a jam occurred, and on one of these occasions, it was with a lion.  Roosevelt requests Winchester to try the guns in advance to insure that guns will not jam for either himself or his son.  Winchester responds with assurances that they, “will take every precautions to see that your arms are turned out in such shape that no criticism can be found with them.”  They go on to state, “On the other hand, in the instance you bring to our attention, the user may not have taken proper care of the arms.  The Model 95 is generally in use throughout this country and complaint is almost unheard of.”

In that same letter, Winchester takes the opportunity to further tout the success of their rifle’s performance in Africa and there is specific attention paid to the .32 Special:

“It might be of interest to you to know that we have been advised by a Dr. Davies, of Brussels, who recently made a trip as medical advisor for a hunt under the auspices of Mr. Solvay, the Belgian inventor of the Solvay sodium carbonate process, that he is forwarding us 49 photographs of their trophies.  Mr. Solvay took steamer at Khartoun and proceeded by the White Nile to the neighborhood of Darbo, not far distant from Albert Nyanza, being gone from Paris 70 days, to of which were spent in hunting country, during which time the party (three guns) took 11 elephant, 6 rhinoceros, 8 buffalo, 1 lion, 7 roan antelope, 5 white eared cob, 10 reed buck, 6 bush buck, 3 aiaing, 3 hippopotamus, 3 wart hog and a considerable quantity of other smaller game which he refers to but does not mention as to the number.

All of their work was done with the .32 Winchester Special Model 94 rifles and .405 caliber Model 95 rifles.  Of the .32, it is with enthusiasm that he writes:

The .32 Special does very well and kills in a perfect manner although I should be afraid to tackle buffalo with it.  It killed one elephant with one head shot – the animal was struck (as) by lightning.  That arm is adapted for all game except buffalo and rhinoceros.  For elephant with body shots, aiaing, antelope, and even elephant if you shoot at the head, the .32 Special is correct.

The .405 with soft point makes a hole as big as the head of a man.  Out of curiosity I once shot into the flesh of a dead hippo’s shoulder.  The muscles are about 2 ft. thick, and the skin 2 in.  I opened it with my knife.  The bullet had made no expansion in the skin, in which a clean round hole was cut, but I plunged my hand and forearm, my elbow, my arm, in the smashed flesh and found a well expanded 300 grain bullet in the rib.”

In closing his nineteen-age letter he says:

If people ask me what arms for Africa, I answer two .405’s, but if you do not wish elephant, buffalo or rhino, take the .32 Special.  It is handy and light.  I myself should not be afraid to tackle anything with a .32.  I must say that the .405 is good for all game.  As to ammunition, take 80% soft point and 20% full metal jacket.”

Winchester follows with advising that the doctor is not an experienced hunter and, “the above must be taken with a grain of salt.  Certainly we would not advise the .32 Winchester Special in the place of the ’95 .30 Government Model 1903 cartridge, but about the best that could be said for it is that if compares favorably with the .30-.30.  From the doctor’s observation we are inclined to believe the .30-.30 a very handy gun.”

Winchester knows Roosevelt is planning to take his .30 WCF (or to use their designation – the .30-.30).  I noted they chose not to mention verbiage from the advertising of the .32 Special – such as how it was between the .30-30 and .30-40 in power.  For a .32 Special fan, it is fun to think about the outcome had Roosevelt taken a .32 Special along and had substantial success with it.  Of course, Winchester also didn’t want to see Roosevelt eaten by a lion with a Winchester in his hand.  

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September 4, 2023 - 9:20 pm
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steve004 said

At point, in Roosevelt’s correspondence with Winchester, he mentioned a visit from one of his friends who was using the .405 in Africa on elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo and lion.  On two occasions a jam occurred, and on one of these occasions, it was with a lion.  Roosevelt requests Winchester to try the guns in advance to insure that guns will not jam for either himself or his son.  Winchester responds with assurances that they, “will take every precautions to see that your arms are turned out in such shape that no criticism can be found with them.”  They go on to state, “On the other hand, in the instance you bring to our attention, the user may not have taken proper care of the arms.  The Model 95 is generally in use throughout this country and complaint is almost unheard of.”

 

TR’s son Kermit experienced a failure to eject after he’d wounded an eland.  Got it cleared & reloaded, but eland had run off, so had to chase it on foot 2 miles before finally killing it.  His ’95 was a .30-06.

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September 4, 2023 - 11:04 pm
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clarence said

steve004 said

At point, in Roosevelt’s correspondence with Winchester, he mentioned a visit from one of his friends who was using the .405 in Africa on elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo and lion.  On two occasions a jam occurred, and on one of these occasions, it was with a lion.  Roosevelt requests Winchester to try the guns in advance to insure that guns will not jam for either himself or his son.  Winchester responds with assurances that they, “will take every precautions to see that your arms are turned out in such shape that no criticism can be found with them.”  They go on to state, “On the other hand, in the instance you bring to our attention, the user may not have taken proper care of the arms.  The Model 95 is generally in use throughout this country and complaint is almost unheard of.”

 

TR’s son Kermit experienced a failure to eject after he’d wounded an eland.  Got it cleared & reloaded, but eland had run off, so had to chase it on foot 2 miles before finally killing it.  His ’95 was a .30-06.

  

I think three 95’s went to Africa – two in .405 and one in .30-06.  I think Kermit used on of the .405’s as well.  Kermit used the 94 in .30-30 as well – I’m not sure of the configuration.  Some of the letter exchange suggests it had a pistol grip.  I know TR liked matted barrels.  TR sent Winchester his .30-30 to have the sights copied as well as the stocks (“excepting, of course, the pistol grip”).  It’s interesting to note that TR requested an inch and a half recoil pad for the 95’s.  Winchester responded, “Silver’s recoil pads over 3/4 in. thick can not be had in this country.  The 1 and 1/4 in. pads which you specify we have ordered from abroad and should obtain in from four to six weeks time.  As we have no matted barrels in stock, as this matting should be done before the barrel is rifled, we should probably receiver them so that this special thickness of recoil pad will not delay the delivery of guns.”  

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September 5, 2023 - 12:16 am
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If you’ve got the time to search for it, a letter Steff found & posted her about a yr ago contained info on guns taken to Africa that I hadn’t seen published before.

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September 5, 2023 - 12:36 am
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clarence said
If you’ve got the time to search for it, a letter Steff found & posted her about a yr ago contained info on guns taken to Africa that I hadn’t seen published before.

  

I think this is back when I started an inquiry I made about the electric-sighted rifles TR brought to Africa.  In reading this again, it looks like TR brought four M1895 .405 rifles to Africa.  I knew of three .405’s.  After Winchester shipped two .405’s to T.R., he requested they make up a third one.  One of the electric-sighted rifles was a .405 – must have been the 4th one.  Some of these rifles were surely rifles TR was in possession of, prior to his order to Winchester for rifles specifically for the expedition.  In fact, early in the correspondence with Winchester, it was estimated that T.R. would be bringing his own rifles and the rifles ordered would be used by Kermit.

It is of interest to me that Roosevelt brought a .25-36 Marlin rifle on the expedition.  I suspect Winchester had an alternate suggestion.

https://winchestercollector.org/forum/winchester-rifles/question-about-teddy-roosevelts-winchester-m1895-with-electric-lighted-sights/

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September 5, 2023 - 1:41 am
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Good work, but keep looking–this isn’t the letter or other document (much more detailed) I was referring to.

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September 5, 2023 - 2:18 pm
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I have done some shooting with a M94 in .32sp. It’s a fine round and I prefer it over the 30 30. But in my opinion it’s a deer cartridge, not especially useful for ollyphonts. I’d much rather have a M95 in 30 06 in hand if I found myself in Africa. Of course, the .405 would be handy but would give me pause for ollyphonts.

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