A Gun for Dinosaur
by L. Sprague de Camp
NOTE: Also available is the X-1 production of the story available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7edFWC-120
No, I’m sorry, Mr. Seligman, but I can’t take you hunting Late Mesozoic dinosaur.
Yes, I know what the advertisement says.
Why not? How much d’you weigh? A hundred and thirty? Let’s see; that’s under ten stone, which is my lower limit.
I could take you to other periods, you know. I’ll take you to any period in the Cenozoic. I’ll get you a shot at an entelodont or a uintathere. They’ve got fine heads.
I’ll even stretch a point and take you to the Pleistocene, where you can try for one of the mammoths or the mastodon.
I’ll take you back to the Triassic where you can shoot one of the smaller ancestral dinosaurs. But I will jolly well not take you to the Jurassic or Cretaceous. You’re just too small.
What’s your size got to do with it? Look here, old boy, what did you think you were going to shoot your dinosaur with?
Oh, you hadn’t thought, eh?
Well, sit there a minute . . . Here you are: my own private gun for that work, a Continental .600. Does look like a shotgun, doesn’t it? But it’s rifled, as you can see by looking through the barrels. Shoots a pair of .600 Nitro Express cartridges the size of bananas; weighs fourteen and a half pounds and has a muzzle energy of over seven thousand foot-pounds. Costs fourteen hundred and fifty dollars. Lot of money for a gun, what?
I have some spares I rent to the sahibs. Designed for knocking down elephant. Not just wounding them, knocking them base-over-apex. That’s why they don’t make guns like this in America, though I suppose they will if hunting parties keep going back in time.
Now, I’ve been guiding hunting parties for twenty years. Guided ’em in Africa until the game gave out there except on the preserves. And all that time I’ve never known a man your size who could handle the six-nought-nought. It knocks ’em over, and even when they stay on their feet they get so scared of the bloody cannon after a few shots that they flinch. And they find the gun too heavy to drag around rough Mesozoic country. Wears ’em out.
It’s true that lots of people have killed elephant with lighter guns: the .500, .475, and .465 doubles, for instance, or even the .375 magnum repeaters. The difference is, with a .375 you have to hit something vital, preferably the heart, and can’t depend on simple shock power.
An elephant weighs–let’s see–four to six tons. You’re proposing to shoot reptiles weighing two or three times as much as an elephant and with much greater tenacity of life. That’s why the syndicate decided to take no more people dinosaur hunting unless they could handle the .600. We learned the hard way, as you Americans say. There were some unfortunate incidents . . .
I’ll tell you, Mr. Seligman. It’s after seventeen-hundred. Time I closed the office. Why don’t we stop at the bar on our way out while I tell you the story?