I have recently read two books on rifles. Interestingly, both are written on the subject of hunting large animals. They were written some sixty-three years apart and they seem to agree about many things. Time has indeed changed some of the technical differences, but they are remarkably in harmony regarding much.
The first (earliest) book is Keith’s Rifles for Large Game, by none other than the late Elmer Keith; published first in A. D. 1946. The second (later) book is Dangerous Game Rifles (Second Edition) by Terry Weiland; 2009.
Elmer Keith is a legend in shooting history. He was an experimenter in the development of cartridges and firearms design (he didn’t design them, just told designers what was needed and wanted). He wrote a great deal about what he learned the hard way, Like slogging through snow and actually killing large animals; some who would eat him if he failed. His biography isn’t hard to find and should be explored by those who fancy themselves knowledgable of firearms.
Terry Wieland is not as well known (to me, anyway) but has a goodly amount of shooting and hunting experience. He has hunted and killed all manner of large game such as North American large critters and a couple of Cape Buffalo and Elephant in Africa. He has experimented with large game bullets and discussed shortcomings with makers and designers of such bullets. He is a skilled observer and a good writer. Look him up as well.
Keith’s book is somewhat dated. Published – this edition – in 1946 – the book does not address developments following. F’rinstance, the .308 Winchester is not mentioned. A number of currently made bullets are absent and some of the bullets (for reloading) he mentions are no longer made. Still the idea of what is needed for various types of hunting is discussed and the concepts are still quite valid. A rifle for heavy brush and timbered areas must be fast to shoulder and fire. A rifle to be carried all day should be light (relatively). Nothing shocking when one considers the ideas, but some ideas possibly not considered previously. Some views contrary to views assumed.
One should understand that Keith grew up in a time and place where one hunted to eat. Perhaps a trophy might be collected as well, but the primary reason for killing an animal was to supply dinner to self and family. Not taking game meant eating oatmeal all winter. Or not eating at all. Keith’s attitude was when hunting, one had to succeed. When an animal was only wounded, one needed to follow it and finish the job. To do otherwise was to fail in one’s endeavor and to allow a game animal to die slowly and or be wasted was inhumane and dishonorable.
Weiland is more contemporaneous. He most likely does not have to go find an animal in order to eat. He does have the hunter instinct, which he channels into hunting dangerous animals. This is the same drive which others channel into crime, violent crime and other less threatening pursuits like street racing and climbing buildings and statues. He is also aware the dangerous animals can easily kill him should the opportunity arise. I presume he is motivated to NOT allow the opportunity.
I note there are many similarities.
They both prescribe reliable rifles. Not exactly the same rifles, as the times and technology is different. Both writers prefer ‘simple’ mechanisms as the more complicated the clockwork, the more chance of malfunction. Both seem to suggest matching accuracy to the target involved. No point to demanding a rifle that shoots one inch groups at three hundred yards if the target is a six inch circle at one hundred, fifty yards. Especially if that extra accuracy makes the arm or ammunition less reliable.
Both authors like heavy, large caliber rifles for most uses. Interestingly, both authors show a preference for the same quality by do not mention it by name: Sectional Density. Both talk of ‘heavy, long bullets’, but do not mention (directly) the relationship of bullet weight to bullet diameter. Keith even mentions the 6.5 Mannlicher-Schonauer with ‘heavy’ (one hundred sixty grain) bullet as a serious large game caliber. Both authors speak of bullet and velocity combinations which penetrate deeply.
Both books cover subjects like types of actions and to some degree, sighting systems. Both present some ideas counter intuitive, like iron sights are superior to telescopic sights (in some conditions) and ‘faster’ is not always better than ‘slower’ (again depending on conditions).
Both are quite readable given the reader is interested in the subject. The Keith book is perhaps the more difficult as the language is based on American English prior to the Second World War. Which is not to say Wieland speaks slangy or in ‘rap’ style. Both are quite detailed when the subject demands. Both are well worth reading for any rifleman.
Both books are available from Amazon at various prices depending on one’s tastes. I do not think either are still in print although the Wieland book is available new. Just for transparency, I have no financial interest in the sale of these books, but I do think the information is incalculable.