Don’t ask where it is now. But in Christmas hols 1966 I needed a sawn off shotgun.  The year before I had hitchhiked to the Katherine River Crossing, NT and my mind was swept down to the Daly River and images of giant crocs.  So had to go back and go down that river.

I was that young and stupid I tried to make a paper mache canoe (sealed water-tight with varnish). A student who saw me test it in the Moulamein lagoon nearly wet himself as it quickly went soggy and sunk. But the big stupid was the shotgun.  It was a good single shot 12 gauge and when you opened the lock if force ejected the cartridge for quick reload. Reckoned might need that in a croc attack.  Threw the wooden stock away and made a new one out of a willow limb, just to fit in the palm with a flair at the end for grip. Put the barrel in the vice in the school woodwork room and sawed the barrel down to 10”.

That was when Lionel Brown walked in, the Headmaster. He knew what I was up to (going croc hunting 2000 km away, and it wasnt in the syllabus), but he just raised his eyebrows and turned away.

I need to test the magnificent  pirate pistol I made. I took it out to a claypan and lined up an oil barrel.  To kill a croc quick I figured you would need the top cartridge. A Brenneke slug – single one ounce projectile. Lined up coolly and fired. Holy shit, I thought, that must have been a freak load. I had a blue bruise diagonal across my palm where the recoil burst all the blood vessels.  My hand had ended a meter behind my ear, but thanks to the good grip I had rasped on, I still had the gun.  OK. Reload, this time will be normal. Same thing. Dawned on me. Recoil, 1 ounce lead at 1000 feet a second means opposite thrust of the 1 pound gun at 60 feet a second, or 68kph.  Better rethink this.

The solution was to carefully unwrap the wadding holding the slug in, pick out the pads, and then empty about half the powder out. That was fine then when I shot left handed.  Pity I had 12 days of rowing ahead of me down that river with a very sore right palm.

Used the gun a few times with the half powder load. Never in danger from crocs.  Took it camping with the young family and on one occasion a big croc was very interested in our camp.  Nice to have the gun handy then.

Sawn off shotgun at ready

Sawn off shotgun at ready


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