The Model 8 in Africa

August 29th, 2022 by admin

Big Enough for the Biggest Game:

The Remington Autoloading Rifle in Africa

By: Cameron Woodall

The Remington “Autoloading Rifle” piqued the curiosity of the American outdoorsman when it was introduced in 1906.  Operating a semi-automatic action by way of long recoil, and firing a legitimate high-powered cartridge, many initially questioned the scope of this new rifle’s usefulness.  But inventor John Moses Browning envisioned a self-loading rifle suitable for a wide array of quarry.  Remington manufactured the rifle for the North American hunter, and Fabrique Nationale for the European hunter.  Touted as being able to shoot through 5/16” of steel, Remington’s 35 caliber autoloader quickly proved itself with hunters as a capable, hard-hitting rifle, albeit expensive.  The gun, destined to be named the Model 8, offered a unique advantage…speed.  The hunter could now fire multiple shots “quick as lightning” without any necessity to manipulate the action or remove their face from the stock.  This advantage was a principal selling point for Remington as their advertisements often featured hunters squaring off against charging brown bears, wolves, or mountain lions.  Situations where speed was critical!  Soon enough, there was not a game animal or apex predator which the autoloader hadn’t faced in the USA or Canada.  But when considering a firearm that claims is “Big Enough for the Biggest Game”, visions of Africa come to mind.  Could the Model 8 fare against the largest carnivores and thick-skinned game of sub-Saharan Africa?    At the time, the big bore, side-by-side “express” double was the quintessential African big game rifle. These, however, were unaffordable and undesirable for most American hunters.  Who then would be the first to give Remington’s new big game rifle the trial-by-fire against the world’s biggest game? 

It all starts with Teddy…

It would seem obvious that the starting point for the Autoloading Rifle’s debut into Africa would be Teddy Roosevelt’s famed 1909-1910 Smithsonian expedition.  This year long trip included Teddy’s son, Kermit, along with several others for the purpose of collecting a vast assortment of animal and plant specimens for the Smithsonian Museum and the American Museum of Natural History.  The Autoloading Rifle was in its 3rd year of production and Mr. Roosevelt himself was no stranger to the gun prior to 1909.  George Walker Jenkins, President of M. Hartley Co (and future vice President of Remington Arms Co) sent a letter to Roosevelt’s office on July 26th, 1907, offering an Autoloading Rifle in the caliber of the President’s choice without any obligation to advertise.  Jenkins asks the President’s secretary William Loeb “we believe (the Remington) to be the great sporting rifle ever invented…if I may send one to him for his examination, of course I don’t want him to buy it…but I simply want the pleasure of having a keen, expert sportsman see our gun”.   It’s not known whether the President accepted that offer, but Remington’s rifle began to find itself more and more in the public eye. 

Leading up to Roosevelt’s expedition and all throughout 1909, public interest in the ex-President’s journey to the dark continent was mounting.  The Remington Arms Co was wise to ride the public attention in Roosevelt’s safari and created advertisements that claimed their new Autoloading Rifle (specifically in 35 Rem. caliber) was “Big Enough for the Biggest Game”.  A two-page ad in the November 1909 issue of Scribner’s Magazine, depicts a hunter armed with an Autoloading Rifle ready to deliver five “one-ton knock-down blows” to two charging African lions. 

Scribner’s Magazine, November 1909

Remington continued to suggest the Autoloading Rifle’s suitability for the biggest game by their advertisement in LIFE magazine in late 1909, titled “GOING INTO AFRICA”.   These advertisements may have played a role in sales, as 1909 became the year with the 2nd highest production in the 30-year history of the Model 8.

Aside from Remington’s direct advertisements, newspapers and magazines were laden with articles on the details of Roosevelt’s year long trip.  Many newspapers listed his firearms inventory, some included the Remington, and some did not.  Two weeks before he set sail, one interesting article, reproduced by at least a dozen newspapers across the US, is so heavy on the Autoloading Rifle one wonders if Remington funded it!  “Chief among the guns will be the death-dealing automatic Remington 35-caliber, which can stop anything from a tiger to an elephant” – The Plymouth tribune, March 11, 1909

The Plymouth tribune, March 11, 1909

Infamous big game hunter and journalist later turned Nazi spy, Fritz Duquesne was a big fan of the .35 caliber autoloader.  In a Field and Stream article from 1909, Fritz lavishes on the rifle, “the Remington Arms Company is noted amongst hunters as the makers of that wonderful piece of American ingenuity, the autoloading rifle, a remarkably ingenious and powerful weapon which, on account of the simplicity and strength of its breech-action and its accuracy and rapidity of fire, has found favor amongst the African hunters”.  This favor he speaks of, he claims Roosevelt shared during a personal visit with the President prior to his expedition, ”the 35 Autoloading Remington, the other American rifle that Colonel Roosevelt is carrying, is an excellent weapon for all-round use… The most powerful automatic rifle made, it is a fine arm for jungle work and closer quarter shooting when there is danger, as one has five shots at his command by merely pulling the trigger after each shot. The rifle will be used on leopards, giraffes, and Kudu. In an emergency it could be used on hippos, elephants, and rhinos by a good shot who could place with certainty his bullets in the head or the heart”.  Fritz, whose reputation for truth telling was spotty at best, mentions killing a leopard in May, of 1908 or 1909 in the Congo with a “35 autoloading rifle”.  His article first published in December 1909 titled “Hunting Ahead of Roosevelt” may have been an attempt to share in the fame of Roosevelt’s upcoming hunt as it’s written in a “been there, done that” manner.  

So, did the expedition party actually use a 35 caliber Remington autoloader? Despite the press discussion of the rifle accompanying the expedition as well as Remington’s own advertisements, two points of evidence must be considered.  One, in Roosevelt’s own book, African Game Trails, he gives a list of his and his son Kermit’s firearms inventory and the Remington is absent from both.  His own personal safari diaries mention most of the other rifles but none regarding the Remington.  Two, despite all the other firearms finding themselves depicted in photographs during the expedition, no known photograph exists depicting a Remington, not in any fashion.  This being contrary to the press statement that the Remington would be Roosevelt’s “chief shooting iron”.  Meaning, beyond the contemporary press there is no indication that the expedition carried nor used an Autoloading Rifle.  Furthermore, Remington was known to capitalize on firsthand testimonials of their firearms by noted hunters, there is no account by Roosevelt or any of his party describing the rifle after the expedition, but there are many of the other rifles.  So, if no evidence exists of the Remington’s usage with Roosevelt’s party, was it really fit for safari?  Absolutely! 

“The Story of an Outing”

Without a doubt, the best documented use of the Autoloading Rifle in Africa is by Barton Hepburn (1846-1922).  Barton was a banker, politician, and avid outdoorsman.  Although his hunting ambition started out pursuing chipmunks with a muzzle-loading shotgun in upstate New York, it culminated in his pursuit of the biggest game with a 35 caliber semi-automatic Remington in British East Africa.  Unlike Teddy Roosevelt who kept firearm specifics to a minimum in his safari diaries, Barton Hepburn discusses his “35 automatic Remington” with great admiration in his book, “The Story of an Outing”.  Basing his camp out of Fort Hall (about halfway between Nairobi and Mount Kenya), Hepburn hunted the game rich Tana River valley in early 1913.  The majority of which was done via horseback, by locating and closing the distance to his quarry and then dismounting and getting in range by foot.  Hepburn brought 3 rifles to Kenya but only 1 never left his side, his “.35 automatic Remington”.  Although the Model 8 had been in production 7 years, it was about to make history facing some of the biggest, most dangerous game yet.  Here is Hepburn in his own words…


“Responding to the Major’s signal (that a large crocodile was spotted on the bank), we galloped up, leaving the gun-bearers in the rear.  I used a saddle scabbard, same as we do in the Rockies, and had my .35 automatic Remington always at hand.  To capture the crock, I realized that I must paralyze him.  I was six rods distant (approx. 33 yards), and from my shoulder to his level was a drop of eight to ten feet; he was facing me, and I shot to break his spine just back of his neck-joint, and succeeded.  I then shot the remaining four cartridges into practically the same place” p.50


“I climbed out of the last donga (dry creek bed) within seventy-five yards of the best bull.  The grass was up to my shoulders and was waving above his back, yet he stood broadside, and I could distinctly make out his outlines…I took the .450 and missed him standing, with the first barrel, and then missed him, running, with the second barrel.  I quickly changed to the Remington automatic and caught him, running, in the vitals, at one hundred and fifty yards, with the first shot, and broke his back with the second.  P.57-58

Top buffalo killed with a .450 double rifle; bottom buffalo killed with a Remington Autoloading Rifle


“The next day I shot a rhinoceros – broke his neck with the .35 Remington.  His head was only fair, but peculiar in that it had two equally developed horns, eleven inches in height, instead of having one very short one and the leading horn sixteen to eighteen inches, which is about the best obtainable in the Tana Valley” p.58


“Next day I shot an eland, through shoulder into vitals, with my Remington; the license permits only one, and a splendid specimen it was – horns twenty-six and twenty-seven inches; he weighted fully one thousand pounds.  The eland is the largest of all antelope, is excellent food, and is beautiful in a grand way” p.58


“After a while we saw three lions – two lions and a lioness – several hundred yards distant…we started in hot pursuit, but when we reached the donga, all but one had disappeared over the skyline.  The temptation was great, and I could not help shooting three times with my Remington with point-blank sights, as there was no time for readjustments.  It was all useless; I replenished my magazine…

…then commenced a mile long up-grade.  I fully realized that the chance offered to make my trip a great success was squarely up to me, and that the next two minutes would determine…

…that tawny streak gliding through the grass was distinctly visible.  I covered it with my gun and, swinging well to the fore end of it, fired.  He went down in a heap and was up in an instant and faced me with a roar, head erect, mane bristling, and tail vibrant…I never took my eyes from the first lion nor my gun from my face, it being automatic.  Towering up in all his majesty, his neck afforded a splendid mark, and I broke it with the second shot; the first had gone through his vitals and broken the opposite shoulder and would have been fatal, of course, after a little time.  I turned to the other (lion), sixty to seventy yards distant, towering well above the grass directly facing me; with distended mane, swishing tail and fiercely growling, he made himself as warlike as possible.  I had three cartridges in my magazine; I decided to give him a fatal shot in the breast with the first one, and if he charged depend upon the other two to break some of his on-coming bones.  Only a single shot was needed; it entered the breast a trifle high, traversed the lumbar regions, and lodged in the backbone, back of the pelvis, almost to the tail.  He fell and never moved” p.64-68

Two male lions killed with a Remington Autoloading Rifle within seconds of each other

Although Hepburn’s safari is shadowed by Roosevelt’s, they were no strangers.  Both served in the political world, and both used the famed R.J. Cuninghame as their guide in Africa.  In fact, upon Hepburn’s return from Africa, he received a letter from Roosevelt on November 16th, 1914, petitioning him, “some point or other I wish you would motor down here for lunch or dinner.  I would like to talk over East Africa with you”.  No doubt such a conversation would have been filled with hunting stories and the rifles that accompanied them.  Hepburn certainly wasn’t the only hunter to bring a Model 8 to Africa, but most other stories are now untold or forgotten.  In recent times, 95 years after Hepburn, Marc Davis from Texas brought a Model 8 in 35Rem to Namibia and downed this spectacular eland with a single 200gr bullet at 100 yards distance. 

So, was the Model 8 fit for safari?  Whether the hunter found himself putting venison on the table or stopping a charging lion will ill intent, the Model 8 proved itself as advertised.  The rifle was neither over sold, neither did it under deliver.  It’s reputation as a robust and powerful autoloader bears witness, still today, to the inventor and the great company who manufactured it.  With these final words, Hepburn concludes not only his memoires but really the larger question whether the Model 8 in 35 Rem was “big enough for the biggest game”…

“Personally, for dangerous game I want an automatic rifle, so that the whole magazine will be at my fingers’ end without the trouble or delay of working a bolt or lever action…I have used for years with great satisfaction the .35 Automatic Remington…equal to any game on the North American continent, and with moderate exceptions any game anywhere” – Barton Hepburn, 1913

*special thanks to Bob Creamer for his contributions

For questions or comments the author can be reached at

John 11:25-26