President Teddy Roosevelt was a big fan of silencers. The only silencers available to him were made by Maxim. A silencer for his takedown model 94 Winchester .30-30, above, cost a whopping $9.70 in 1909. He used the rifle frequently on his Sagamore Hill estate on Long Island, New York.
Whenever Winchester introduced a new model, Roosevelt was quick to put it through its paces. He acquired an 1894 similar to all his other rifles in extras and embellishments and used it on an antelope hunt. His “little .30” as he called it, was able to knock down a good sized antelope at a distance of more than 180 yds. After witnessing the fantastic shot and the irrefutable and immediate results, his guide said that the gun was just “aces” in his book. He also used a Model 94 outfitted with a Maxim silencer at his Long Island home “Sagamore Hill” so as not to disturb neighbors when varmints were in need of culling.
The Sagamore takedown .30-30 wasn’t President Roosevelt’s only silenced firearm. When he traveled to Africa for his specimen collecting safari, he took two other silenced rifles.
The ship left port in 1910. Notice that crate #15 contained two rifles fitted with silencers. They were a “U.S. magazine rifle, M’ 1908 chambered in .30 Govt. It was fitted with illuminated sights. The other, an M’95, would be a lever gun chambered in 405 W.C.F. The 405 Winchester is a powerful cartridge, as made clear by President Roosevelt’s use of it to collect the rhinoceros pictured below. It is unknown if the rifle pictured was the M’95 that was fitted for a Maxim silencer.
From Theodore Roosevelt Hunter-Conservationist, published by Boone and Crocket, 2009, page 253, Loeb informed Winchester in 1910:
“And so on the 27th of February Loeb let Winchester know they would be receiving “from General Crozier [US. Army Ordnance] a Springfield rifle and a 405 Winchester rifle, both fitted with Maxim’s silencers, and one of them with an arrangement for shooting at night, together with 200 Springfield cartridges. Please add to these 100 cartridges for the 405 Winchester and the cleaning apparatus, with oil, and have them put in a case that will enable the President to use them on the steamer…”
TR knew full well that he could hardly spend some three weeks at sea and resist the temptation to open his tin-lined cases and shoot. The two rifles with silencers would solve that problem nicely.
President Roosevelt understood and appreciated Maxim silencers. He used them for their intended purpose; to prevent annoying his neighbors and fellow travelers.
Silencers serve the same purposes today. And we know too how important they are in protecting hearing when hunting or target shooting. When the Franklin Roosevelt administration later made silencers prohibitively expensive and absurdly regulated for the common man, no one could explain why. No reason was given in the legislative history.
I suspect that if T.R. knew of the proposed legislation, he would say “Bully!” and heartily approve.
©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.