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Diamonds And Dust: 36 - Francis And The 44 Magnum

…Francis was on holiday in South Africa in 1971 and saw the movie Dirty Harry starring Clint Eastwood. He liked what he saw, especially the big handgun that Clint used, the Smith & Wesson 44 magnum revolver.

So Francis went and bought himself one…

Malcolm Bertoni tells what happened when he was given the chance to fire that gun.

To read earlier chapters of Malcolm's vivid account of diamond mining in Namibia please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/diamonds_and_dust/

To obtain a copy of his book click on http://www.equilibriumbooks.com/diamonds.htm

Francis worked at Affenrucken from 1969 to 1971 and then went to Australia on a long holiday in 1972. He returned to Oranjemund and worked there in the late 70s and early 80s for a few years.

Before he went to Australia, Francis was on holiday in South Africa in 1971 and saw the movie Dirty Harry starring Clint Eastwood. He liked what he saw, especially the big handgun that Clint used, the Smith & Wesson 44 magnum revolver.

So Francis went and bought himself one and a few boxes of ammo. Now Francis was about 5 ft 6 and weighed about 60 kgs, dripping wet. Clint would have been 6 ft 3 or 4 and weighed 90 plus kgs. A slight difference which Francis forgot to take into account.

He told me that the first time he fired the beast the noise deafened him, and the recoil almost broke his wrist and threw him back 20 feet. He eventually learned how to fire the thing more effectively, but it was a tough learning process.

The first time I shot the gun was when Francis invited me up the riverbed to have a few shots at some 44 gallon drums lying around. He showed me how to hold the gun with a two hand grip for better control and how to stand and all that sort of thing.

So I got ready and held the gun as Francis had advised. I pulled back the hammer, aimed tentatively at a drum and pulled the trigger. There was a huge deafening blast and the gun recoiled as if on a spring. I felt a searing pain on my left thumb and as the smoke and dust cleared saw blood pouring from my thumb.

“F---. The thing has shot me.”

“What?”

“Have a look,” I said as blood poured from my thumb.

“Bull----. It couldn’t have shot you.”

I looked at my thumb. There was a deep gash on the top of the thumb and it hurt like hell. Is that white bit bone? I got a piece of rag and bound up the thumb to stop the bleeding. We looked at the revolver. There was a piece of skin hanging on the hammer.

It seemed that what had happened was that the recoil of the gun was so violent that the hammer had jumped back and came into contact with the top of my thumb. I probably wasn’t holding the gun correctly and my thumb was too close to the hammer. The gun was more a danger to the person shooting it that than to whoever or whatever it was aimed at.

I looked at it as we walked back to the single quarters. It was a real monster of a gun. I said to Francis that you didn’t have to shoot the thing; you could just throw it at its target. It was so heavy that it was bound to kill whoever it hit. That way you could save a fortune on ammo, eardrums and wrists. I also said that he dare not drop it on his foot; it was bound to break it. He was not impressed.

I still have the crescent shaped scar on the top of my thumb to remind me of that day. I never shot the gun again and was scared of it. I wonder if Francis still has the gun. It will make a very good doorstop or boat anchor.


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