October 01, 2011
When talk turns to the great gun writers of all time, the discussion usually turns around two figures: Elmer Keith and Jack O'Connor. But there's another writer more than deserving of consideration: Finn Aagaard.
Aagaard grew up on a farm in Kenya, where he developed a love for hunting, and eventually he became a professional hunter — which him allowed him see the effectiveness of various rifles on big game, and the ability of hunters to handle said rifles.
When Kenya was closed to hunting, Aagaard packed up and moved to Texas, where he began his gun writing career. Much of that writing was done for NRA's American Rifleman and American Hunter publications, and some of his best work has been collected into a book, Guns and Hunting, published by Safari Press. Over its 36 chapters readers are treated to some of the best, in-depth gun writing that appeared anywhere from the early 1980s until the early '90s. Much but not all of the collection is devoted to African game and cartridges, and there are some excellent insights into cartridges from the .280 to the .30-06 to the .458 Winchester Magnum.
I was a fledgling editor at American Rifleman for several years during Aagaard's tenure, and I learned so much from working on his pieces. In the years since, several writers have asked if they could write an article discussing which is faster: scopes or iron sights. I always told them no because, in my mind, Aagaard had already closed the book on this topic with his "Which Is Faster, Scope or Irons?" a 1987 American Rifleman article included in this collection. Aagaard didn't simply pontificate on the subject, which he certainly could've given his extensive experience. No, he got a bunch of targets and sights and armed his son with a stopwatch — running a series of tests that challenged his and others' notions regarding sights.
It's just one example of his willingness to go the extra mile in his quest for knowledge about rifles and hunting — and why this book is a worthwhile read for like-minded shooters. Limited to 500 numbered, hardcover copies, signed by his widow, Berit Aagaard.