I had to land for a four hour layover in Dubai during my recent flights to and from South Africa. On the way to SA as soon as we landed I went to the Duty Free which actually is the entire airport area near the boarding gates in Dubai Airport now. I needed cigarettes. Wasn’t going to buy them in California at 8 dollars a pack and I was told they were 2-3 dollars a pack in SA. I didn’t figure they’d have any of the rather rare smokes I like though so I checked around the Duty Free and found cartons of Djarum Black for $13.26US and immediately bought a carton and headed to the nearest smoking lounge.

After I’d finished my first smoke another guy, middle eastern looking, walked in and sat at the next seat over around the same ashtray as me. We exchanged greetings and queries of where you going, where you from and such. The were are you coming from question for both of us had the same answer, San Francisco Bay Area. Our destinations couldn’t be much different. He was going to Afghanistan and I to South Africa.

Whiskeys of Scotland in airport of Dubai. My budget almost vomited. There are $30,000 bottles in that case.

Turns out the guy worked with our boys in brown over there during the war’s heyday and had moved at the first opportunity to California where he loves the climate and culture and clean & safe everywhere sort of feeling. The last remnants of his family, I gather, are in Afghanistan taking care of the last of their property holdings.

We chatted for a long while about religion, politics, war and sports and found that despite our mutual distaste for each other’s system of beliefs that we were perfectly happy to be in each other’s company and to talk, entertain and educate each other. After a while both of us were hungry and we retired to the nearest place where one can get shawarma. Having never really had an authentic regional copy I asked if I should get the sandwich or Arabic version (a wrap lightly grilled). He suggested the Arabic version and so we ordered. The food place had nice seating but didn’t serve alcohol so we both had what they called tea though it was doped with sweetened condensed milk and cardamom so heavily that it really resembled the taste of horchata more than tea. I was unused to the flavors but tried to enjoy them without a preconception. The tea worked to soothe and really broke the shawarma flavor up. The shawarma was, according to my companion, terrible if edible. I thought it would be spicier but was otherwise getting the distinct sensation that a Greek had introduced them to the gyro but called it shawarma so they wouldn’t get offended at it not being a local delicacy.

Arabic style shawarma. Broiled thin sliced meat, flatbread, salad, wrapped & grilled.

In the end we ate till just before my boarding time and then I ran full out to my gate to make my flight. My companion, whose name is Ghani, turned out to live not 20 minutes from my house so we traded contact info and agreed that we’d try to find a decent shawarma and continue our conversation upon our respective returns to the States.

In almost every way, the pair is incompatible. Opposites in so many ways. The salve for that problem though was to simply leave aside distaste and to engage in open and honest conversation where we didn’t bog down in the rote definitions of words. We defined the words with contentious possible meanings ourselves and left the “well that’s not what I call that” over to one side. It really made the conversation entertaining and educational.

If countries, religions, political movements and most of all groups of people could accomplish what we did there would be no international conflicts and fewer conflicts within individual nations. Live and let live gets you only so far. Sometimes you really need to deliberately set aside distrust or dislike and simply coexist.

Hi Ghani! Be safe in your travels and let me know when you’re back in the States. This time the dinner is on me.

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My recent trip to South Africa was partly to do a couple hunts and partly to see what the long range precision rifle scene there was all about and how it could be well served. What products and services were available, what are needed and what just won’t play there. They have their own competitive rifle sports that are very like some of ours but different enough to have special needs. They also have a budding long range precision scene in the more common American influenced sports like F-Class.

Along the way I met a huge number of people: Gunsmiths, Knifemakers, Suppressor Makers, Farmers, Competitive Shooters, Guides, Importers, Exporters, Collectors, Legendary Hunters & Soldiers and 3 of the toughest, most well behaved polite & intelligent teenagers it’s possible to raise in this world.

I took some time to teach a few basic ballistics classes for some friends and we even got down to doing some long range live fire work complete with challenging drills and tests of both bravado and ability. Shots under 500m were there but we focused on shots over 500m and I have to tell you, these guys in South Africa are not fooling around. They’re motivated, well educated and not afraid to spend money if it’s going to return results.

I learned not only what biltong is but how to make it and why it throws jerky straight into a cocked hat. I saw fully 15 species of antelope, along with warthogs, ostrich, cape buffalo, and more. I got to experience what it’s like to be an ethnic super-minority and a chance to learn a little Afrikaans.

Afrikaans is a lot like Dutch but to the ear it sounds like there’s a lot of Hebrew or Arabic language influence with some of the sounds. I found it greatly difficult to understand spoken Afrikaans with my hearing loss eliminating vast wadges of the audio inputs and lip reading it is right out, much like Hebrew and Arabic. I did manage to toss a bit of surprise around when I picked up a book about wildlife which was written in Afrikaans and I started translating it to English on the fly, out loud.

For those that don’t know, modern English decends from Old English with tons of Norse, Latin and French tossed in. This is why English seems to lack a coherent set of rules… there’s nothing but exceptions to the rules it might otherwise have because all the languages it’s based on have different rules. Old English itself is largely descended from Dutch, or a Dutch relative and a surprising number of the words they use are pronounced identically (cheese, bread, meat, beer, blue, etc…) but are spelled in a way that would make Chaucer giggle. Once you figure out how they use vowels and some odd uses of the letter “g” though translating the language to English is almost unnecessary as it’s so much the same as English and the rest you can get from context pretty well. For someone that truly sucks at languages, this was a nice experience.

If you’re thinking of a trip remember that you don’t have to know a lick of Afrikaans to get along. Everyone there, EVERYONE, speaks English pretty fluently if with various accents and sets of commonly used phraseology. All the signs are in English. The retail infrastructure is quite a lot like a mix of European and American. It lacks the number of big box stores and has oodles of smaller more specialized shops (though big box stores are there).

It’s almost like visiting San Diego in a lot of ways, especially in the visual appearance of the landscape. Apart from the racial makeup (who is in the minority) you’d have trouble figuring out you’re not in a city in the American southwest somewhere, other than all the cars are diesel powered and they drive on the other side of the road.

Also, for your first time especially if you’re an American: DO NOT RENT A CAR TO DRIVE THERE. You really need a primer trip where you get driven around first so you can see how the locals actually drive or you most definitely will find yourself in a surprising situation or two and may piss someone right off by trying to be safe instead of polite. If you’ve driven in India you’re probably not going to be surprised as much but otherwise, take the first one with a local driving you around.

PICTURE TIME!

Knife made for me by Danie Joubert.

My Eland.

.308 150gn Sierra Game Kings working springbok innards.

Draining blood and guts from my eland.

One of the two toughest little girls I’ve ever met.

My eland on the ground.

Tracking my eland as it walks off to die.

Rough country doesn’t mean you can’t prone out properly.

Filling my guide in on where the eland went to die.

Getting our stalk on.

Africa is as austere a place as it is beautiful.

The tall thin trees are actually aloe’s. 3m tall aloe. Just wow. Never knew they grew into trees!

Authentic South African Boer recipes. In Afrikaans of course.

A braai of livers, hearts and sausages. OMG that was good.

My springboks getting their cool down on.

That’s a happy hunter.

With a poker face carved in stone.

My trophy springbok.

My first springbok.

Egyptian geese.

Wildebeest

Bontebok

A landscape that says, “You’re totally alone here. Don’t get injured.”

Outline for a little classroom ballistics session.

It wasn’t a formal class, actually greatly condensed. Still, we wanted everything to look nice.

Sakkie and his bride. A more amazing pair of honest, hard working, kind and generous people I have not met. Only James Yeager comes close (if you haven’t met James, you don’t know him).

It’s winter in Africa. And quite cold and windy.

Landowner warthog trophy.

Landowner bushbuck & caracal trophies.

A caracal trophy.

Kudu trophies.

My impala ram.

My impala ewe.

The buckey (what South Africans call a pickup truck)

Jacques confirming zero.

Black giraffe not 100m from our accommodations.

Ostrich

Johannesburg, SA suburbs. They name restaurants very strangely there.

Teaching ballistics eventually leads to a range session.

Dubai looks cool from the air.

Russia looks greener than I ever imagined it.

Teaching a little ballistics to a few friends.

Cruising through acacia trees on dirt roads. Like being a kid again.

These guys are great people, great shots and great students.

A landscape you just can’t find anymore. Empty of apparent human activity.

I just got back from South Africa and thought it might be nice if my followers got to see some highlights before I get into the weeds with longer articles on smaller subjects.

Africa is weird. You find the strangest places there. And the strangest things. And the strangest things in the strangest places. And the strangest people in the strangest places doing the strangest things to the strangest other things.
Take this for example. Not the movie I would have named a coffee shop after but to each their own. Still, it’s a really neat coffee shop inside. We elected to look at the sign but not stay or visit directly as parking long enough to properly patronize the business would have meant leaving the buckeys (what they call pickups) unattended for whole minutes with our stuff inside, which is not a recommended behavior.
My first springbok. Very nicely curving horns. 240m in 20mph winds with gusts quite a bit higher. I waited for the wind to peak and held on the nose. It ran 20 feet and piled up. Right through the lower bit of the heart with a 150gn Game King from a suppressed .308. Bullet performed nicely with minimal meat damage, decent penetration and good expansion. I took another springbok about an hour later with even a nicer rack yet and the dark stripe was much closer to black. That one was at just over 100m in the same wind. The SGK opened up much more vigorously at the closer range but didn’t ruin any meat to speak of. Another heart hit on the second one but smack in the middle of it instead of at the base leaving very little heart to eat from that one. We ate the livers & heart that night and ate some neck that was braised into pulled springbuck rolls that looked like meat filled cannoli (and which were amazing).
I got a ewe and a ram impala as well. The ram I’m told is a trophy grade example despite the fact we were meat hunting. Great spread, great length and big bases. This guy took a .300wsm stoked with TMK’s to the lower back. The bullet came apart in the chest and liquefied the pumping and gas transfer stations within. It hit the ground where it stood, wobbled side to side and pretended to be alive but was clearly very much done in one. We put a cut on the neck to be sure and no blood came out. The ewe impala was my first African game harvest. This ram was my 2nd. Both taken from the back of a buckey in driving wind and very surprisingly cold weather. Africa gets cold too. Whodathunkit.
The smaller game hunts were really exciting but from the back of a buckey, as an American where such things are generally verbotten, it was a little weird feeling. Almost like shopping while doing a drive by shooting. Still very exciting but so different to what I’m used to I almost didn’t know how to feel about it. That was not to be the case for my big hunt.
For the big hunt, we were looking for kudu, eland, blue wildebeest or whatever walked onto the scene and we found examples of them all around the countryside. Oryx and blesbok and nyala were also around and I want to do at least one of those next year. After scouting some areas rich with oryx and blesbok, kudu, eland and wildebeest we decided on a hunting area and route to do a good ol’ walk-n-stalk. Hunting the hard way. About 3 hours into the walking (Where my friend who owns the place got his new nickname of Klipspringer Van Kudu. Man that guy can run up a mountainside!), we ran into a large herd of cow & immature bull kudu 200yrds+ away on the next hill with their satellite dish sized ears scanning their perimeter and managed to not have them bust us. A red hartebeest was not so easy to fool and it bounced well before coming into shooting range. We were able to get within rock throwing distance of a klipspringer which was super cool.
Then we got word from the other side of the property where there were oodles of zebra standing vigil that 3 eland bulls may just be heading our way so we posted up and waited while watching a variety of other species mill around. What do you know… a very little while later 1 super big trophy bull and 2 smaller but still impressive eatin’ size bulls wander in a half mile away. We wanted to save the big guy for now as he was the boss breeder and had another good year in him being dominant and with good genetics before it would be right to cull it out. I picked one of the lesser guys to fill some freezer space and we got within 50 yards stalking in before nature spoiled the shot and I came off the trigger rather than maybe wound one at a distance where a charging animal would be hard to stop.
I waited another few minutes and it moved to 100yrds away and gave a nice shot presentation. I put one in the monster’s chest from a .338WM with 225gn SST’s and boy, it noticed. Then it and its 2 friends calmly walked about 2km down to a wadi where the friends mosey’d off eventually leaving the hit one behind. I watched it like a hawk till we thought it would certainly go no further and we hiked down to it. As soon as we got the blood trail at the edge of the wadi it bolted out the other side and Klipspringer Van Kudu put another shot on it which while it only opened up the back leg a bit, it did put the big eland’s e-brake firmly into the on position. It made it another 150 yards down to another wadi and holed up under a tree. We stalked close enough to guarantee a downing shot and I put the .338 over my buddies shoulder and put the final hit on the bull eland. It pulled a spun-n-run which didn’t go far at all, just a few steps really, and piled up doornail dead.
Once we ran over to it we took a knife to the neck to start the blood draining and then I was sure that I’d hit the vitals hard as not a drop of blood came out of the neck’s blood vessels. When we got it back to the farm and took the feathers off we noticed the thing had no blood really outside its chest cavity at all as the first shot clipped the top of the heart and punched both lungs. So, when the 2nd 225gn SST hit the chest it hydraulic’d the blood filled space hard and the thing took 3 steps in surprise and gave it up. Minus head/guts/feet it scale weighed 276kg (which if I’m doing my math right is ~700lbs) meaning a live weight of ~900-1000lbs. When we opened it up for processing it poured literally gallons of blood from the chest cavity. We ate the liver braii’d nicely as liver patties with onion and herbs (a tradition in my family and my guide’s family) along with some of the heart and then finished up with a tenderlion grilled whole and to perfection and sliced at the table. The meat was fork tender with zero elaborate prep. Open flame, salt & pepper and bango, epic chow.
Some perspective and soda about the size of this beastie.
Heads are being done European mounts. Skin from the best springbuck is being made to hide and the skin of the eland tanned to leather.
While in country I managed to pick up the most singularly amazing knife I’ve ever owned made by knifemaker and gunsmith Danie Joubert as well as a new kind of sizing die which I promise will 100% change the game of precision rifle reloading forever.
Lots more pics and juicy details in the video. Enjoy!
-meccastreisand

In a continuation of our re-launch from the close call earlier this year, we’re launching our new logo. This new logo will begin adorning the website and all new versions of BallisticXLR, BallisticPRS, BallisticRexLR and our latest product being announced separately. Big thanks to my ever present partner in crime Wouter for crafting this killer logo.

Remember: Don’t run. You’ll only die tired.