In April of 1909, Teddy Roosevelt and his son Kermit headed to Africa for what would be a nearly year-long safari. They took many guns with them, and while TR had a bigger, more powerful .500/450 caliber Holland & Holland double rifle along he called his .405 Winchester model 1895 lever action rifle the “Big Stick!” With the .405’s he and Kermit shot the continent’s most dangerous game. The 1895 was never as popular as Winchester’s model 94 or model 1886 (which had been a favorite of T.R.). Given the drop of the stock and accompanying heavy load, the .405 was a real “kicker” and hardly a pleasant gun to shoot. In fact, the Russian Army purchased more of the rifles than were ever sold in the U.S. Nevertheless, Roosevelt liked the gun and used it extensively, along with his model 1903 Springfield in 30.06, with which he killed at least one elephant.
In addition to his rifles, Teddy also took along a 12 gauge Fox side by side, of which he said, “No better gun was made.” There are many nice Foxes on the secondary market, many responsibly priced. If you’d like a new, custom-made one (and have escaped the current economic problems) take a look at the Foxes being made by Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Company, but be prepared for some sticker shock.
In 2008, Winchester issued a T.R. Commemorative version of the model 1895, along with special ammunition to celebrate the 150th anniversary of T.R.’s birth. The 300 grain bullets leave the muzzle at just over 2,200 feet per second, which would prove lethal medicine for all the big critters in North America and many that Teddy and Kermit pursued in Africa. It’s engraved with a couple of likenesses of the 26th President and sports iron sites. It’s a top ejector and not well suited for use with a scope. But for gun collectors and history buffs the “big stick” is irresistible.