Killer Baboons: Peter Capstick’s MAC-10 Submachine Gun

Peter H. Capstick was a dichotomous larger-than-life personality.

Peter Hathaway Capstick was born in January 1940 in New Jersey. A 19th-century man dropped incongruously into a 20th-century world, Capstick abandoned a successful Wall Street career in his twenties seeking adventure. Like Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway before him, Capstick found that for which he quested.

Capstick learned his trade simply by doing it.

Capstick started out in Latin America, earning his hunting chops while striving to master the Spanish language. With a few years of jungle experience, he returned to New York and started a business arranging guided hunting excursions for well-heeled clients. This led to a stint working for Winchester Adventures and, in 1968, his first trip to Africa.

In addition to his obvious hunting skills, Peter Capstick was a masterful wordsmith.

With that trip, Capstick found his true calling. For years afterward, he worked in Zambia, Botswana, and Rhodesia as both a game ranger and a safari guide. As a professional hunter Capstick mastered the nuances of stalking deadly game and, along the way, had some truly epic adventures. In 1977 he published his first book, Death in the Long Grass, and ignited the imaginations of countless youngsters comparably yearning for adventure. I was one of them.

Setting the Stage

Capstick went where the business, animals, and sundry African bush wars pushed him.

In 1975 Capstick was working in Rhodesia, the recent civil war in Zambia having run him out of that volatile country. He set up his headquarters in an abandoned adobe house some fifty miles south of Victoria Falls. The locals knew this area as Vlakfontein.

Capstick had an entourage of experienced native hunters assisting him in his wilderness forays.

Capstick had his loyal band of porters, gun bearers, and indigenous Zulu comrades, all of whom were integral parts of his hunting and guiding excursions. As they settled into their new digs they began having problems with the neighbors. Such social friction is an unfortunate aspect of the human condition. However, the neighbors, in this case, were a nearby 100+-strong troop of yellow baboons.

Almost Human

Yellow baboons are common throughout their African range. Their conservation status is listed as unthreatened/least concern by game biologists today.

The yellow baboon is a ubiquitous finding in south-central Africa. A large Old World monkey, these primates are complex social creatures and remarkably intelligent. They can live for up to thirty years.

Baboons are exceptionally intelligent.

A big male yellow baboon weighs some ninety pounds and sports outsized canines. They are immensely strong and terrifyingly fast. Baboons are omnivorous, eating almost anything they can catch. Their very intelligence is what makes them at times deadly.

Don’t let the cuddly demeanor fool you; yellow baboons can be fearsome in the close fight.

Like most of us primates, these have a natural cruel streak and will at times kill just for the thrill of it. Their predation on livestock and incursions into human settlements can make them nuisance animals. Under the wrong circumstances, it can be much, much worse.

The Crime

Childcare and career frequently overlap in the African bush. The kids may accompany mom to work, even outside in the fields.

The woman was weeding her garden with her four-month-old child swaddled to her back in the African fashion. She was unarmed and in a place where the sundry threats endemic to the African continent seemed distant and unimportant. Sensing in that weird way that she was being watched the young woman turned around to find four large male baboons stalking her as a group.

Baboons are highly organized pack hunters with formidable natural tools and a fierce disposition.

One of the big animals held her attention, while the other three circled around to gain an advantage. She shouted and flailed at the creatures, yet still they came closer. While the lead animal distracted her one of the other beasts ran in and snatched the child off her back with his jaws. She fought mightily as only a mother will, suffering grievous wounds in the process, but was unable to save the child.

The child’s body was recovered, but the baby was beyond saving.

Two of Capstick’s assistants were nearby and heard the woman’s cries. They killed one of the animals with a spear and dispersed the other three, but they were too late. After numerous close calls and uncomfortable encounters, the baboons had taken human life.

Stalking a Band of Killers

It was a simple chore to track the baboons back to their roost.

Capstick found the troop easily enough. They called a thick grove of Prince of Wales feather trees home, and the stench of their excreta was detectable for a great distance. In daylight, the animals would forage in search of food and mischief. At night they returned to their roost for protection and company. With the troop out and about Capstick and his men went to work.

Capstick and his men planned to use a ditch filled with gasoline to canalize the baboons.

They gouged a shallow trench all the way around the grove and sloshed it with some one hundred gallons of kerosene, gasoline, and old motor oil leaving a narrow opening at one end. As the sun faded Capstick and his spearmen posted themselves at this opening. In addition to small flashbang pyrotechnic noisemakers and a few parachute flares, Capstick also carried a remarkably specialized military weapon.

Guns in a Land with No Rules

The African continent is scarred by millennia of tribal conflict. Such violent internecine proclivities prevent the place and the people from projecting power commensurate with their resources.

Africa is a land awash in bountiful natural resources not altogether conceptually dissimilar to our own continent. Africa has space, minerals, oil, farmland, and manpower. However, the indigenous peoples cannot seem to stop killing each other long enough to get properly organized. If the continent could set aside its differences, join forces, and start projecting power we’d all be paying taxes to them.

Much of Africa is awash in weapons. Centuries of conflict fed by superpower patrons with agendas have left many areas cluttered with guns.

One of the odd attributes of living in a perennial war zone is the ready availability of state of the art military hardware. In 1975 this was the tidy little MAC-10 submachine gun. How the weapon got to the continent in the first place has been lost to history. However, Capstick bought the diminutive bullet hose with gold sovereigns from a local farmer who decided to move someplace safer. The gun came with a sound suppressor, 1,800 rounds of 9mm ball ammo, and thirty box magazines. Capstick kept the gun in a custom buffalo hide holster in the event of incursions by two-legged predators.

The Weapon

The MAC-10 was a revolutionary weapon for its day.

The Military Armament Corporation M-10 was a simple pressed steel submachine gun developed by Gordon Ingram in 1964. The gun was designed from the outset to accommodate a screw-on sound suppressor, a radical appendage for its day, and was available in either 9mm or .45ACP. The guns sold for $120 apiece retail. While we all refer to this compact stuttergun as the MAC-10, the company never promoted this term.

Special Forces units of several nations used the MAC-10 operationally for clandestine missions. Here we see the diminutive little subgun in the hands of a vintage Navy SEAL.

The MAC-10 saw limited employment by Special Forces in the latter part of the Vietnam War and was used operationally by the Navy SEALs, the Israeli Sayeret Matkal, and the British SAS. The gun’s small size and blistering rate of fire made it a formidable close-quarters combat tool. However, these same attributes also made it a poor general-purpose weapon.

The short bolt throw on the MAC-10 results in a fairly breathtaking rate of fire.

The MAC-10 weighed more than six pounds empty. This made the gun almost as massive as an M16A1 rifle. Additionally, the collapsible stock wobbled, and the stubby barrel invited the errant defingering. The 9mm gun’s greatest detriment, however, was its 1,250-rpm rate of fire.

It’s a very good thing that the US Army did not trade in its 1911A1 pistols for Gordon Ingram’s stubby little submachine guns.

The MAC-10 burns ammo at a profligate rate and is difficult to control. The MAC Company tried desperately to cajole the US Army into replacing their venerable 1911A1 pistols with MAC subguns. One can only imagine the number of perforated Privates that might have resulted had the Big Green Machine bought a couple hundred thousand of these rascals.

The Op

All of God’s creatures fear uncontrolled fire.

A flare conflagrated the combustibles, and the baboons went, as it were, ape. Spurred on by flashbangs fired from slingshots the beasts charged insensate for the exit only to meet the sputtering muzzle of Capstick’s MAC-10. He left the sound suppressor off so as to enhance the chaos. With a gun bearer providing fresh magazines the professional hunter cut the unhinged primates down by the drove. Those that successfully raced past were addressed by Capstick’s spearmen.

At close range, the MAC-10 is a formidable combat tool.

When the dust settled, Capstick had exterminated about a third of the troop. He wrote that he was filled with a mighty pathos later that evening by the uncanny humanity and intelligence of these animals. However, the troop was harassing the locals and had killed a child. Capstick’s crew and the local citizenry were thrilled at developments.

The troop of yellow baboons had decimated the local bird population. These creatures recovered in short order once the baboons had moved on.

The remains of the baboon troop retired to a more remote location. Years later Capstick came back through the area and noted that the population of birds and smaller creatures that had been pressed to extinction by the troop had made a robust comeback. The baboons had settled some twenty miles away and were no longer a bother.

Denouement

We don’t have stuff like this where I live.

Such pitiless primal carnage seems unimaginable to our sensitive constitutions today. I will admit that it surprised me to revisit this tale of my youth and appreciate that it happened well into the modern era. However, Africa is not Mississippi, and, unlike my particular corner of paradise, the animals thereabouts can legitimately kill you. Regardless, this was a simply riveting anecdote.

Peter Hathaway Capstick was a man from a different time.

Capstick masterfully authored some thirteen books. I‘ve consumed most of them. Those that I have read were truly superb. I’d start with Death in the Long Grass, but don’t blame me if you can’t put it down.

Capstick’s rugged lifestyle was ultimately his undoing.

Peter Hathaway Capstick was a hard-drinking chain smoker and a throwback to a different time. However, such a lifestyle comes at a cost. Capstick died of heart disease in 1996 in Pretoria, South Africa, at age 56. He was an archetype, a traditional man of action at a time when the world was ridding itself of such. We just don’t grow them like Capstick anymore.

It’s tough to find reliable tales of the MAC-10 in action. However, the John Wayne classic McQ is worth a watch just for the MAC action.

The MAC-10 is a fun range toy, but I wouldn’t want to go to war with it.

The MAC-10 should have been a forgotten footnote in the pantheon of modern firearms. Its ready availability and low price, however, made it a staple of the American machinegun community.

I once read that a machinegun shoot without a MAC-10 is like a day without sunshine.

A friend produces these images of a wide variety of automatic weapons using a CT scanner. They are available at www.xrayguns.com and make superb man cave décor.      

Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE!

About the author: Will Dabbs A native of the Mississippi Delta, Will is a mechanical engineer who flew UH1H, OH58A/C, CH47D, and AH1S aircraft as an Army Aviator. He has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning and summited Mount McKinley, Alaska, six times…always at the controls of an Army helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains. Major Dabbs eventually resigned his commission in favor of medical school where he delivered 60 babies and occasionally wrung human blood out of his socks. Will works in his own urgent care clinic, shares a business build-ing precision rifles and sound suppressors, and has written for the gun press since 1989. He is married to his high school sweetheart, has three awesome adult children, and teaches Sunday School. Turn-ons include vintage German machineguns, flying his sexy-cool RV6A airplane, Count Chocula cereal, and the movie “Aliens.”

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Ej harbet October 19, 2021, 2:42 pm

    Another excellent story and one reason I get the ga emails. I hope this triggers the Bambi freaks into strokes. Too many such oxygen wasters. As for the baboon genocide an mg42 and about 500rounds linked up would’ve been a better choice. But you roll with what you have. We’re not put here for food and a baby is more valuable than 1000 baboons

  • Daniel October 12, 2021, 10:43 am

    Whenever I get my weekly email from Guns America, I immediately search for Mr. Dabbs’ articles. I find them to be highly entertaining and educational “hidden gems of history” that invariably broaden my perspective. Usually, after reading Will’s articles, I find myself following his lead to do further reading on the subject. Thanks Will, for your work!

  • JohnS October 11, 2021, 10:59 pm

    I do not have all of his books but I still am searching. I have read most of his books and some of them twice.
    I have experimented with 00 buck and #4 buck. Capstick was right on the mark. Like Peter stated I do not understand America’s and most others love for 00 buck. #4 buck has more pellets, higher velocity, and more energy. But it is hard to find.
    Robert Roark’s “Something of value” is a true classic! I have read it twice and will read it again. It should be required reading for our “elected” officials.

  • dave brown October 11, 2021, 9:12 pm

    Just got in and I don’t have the time to read all the comments, but I want to add one as I have been shooting semi-auto Old Macs and newer MPA for years. I have only run 9mm and 45, and would like to try a 380, but I don’t want to it. Anyway, I have read a lot about them and about a year ago an article stated the John Wayne was introduced to the MAC-10 as a demonstration for his next movie. The story said whoever was running the MAC lost control of it and almost cut John down. It said John had been drinking and didn’t ever flinch! Is it True?? Some of my old MACs would burst fire when I did not want them to, and the 9mm can get away from you if your not quick. The Guys back in the day called it Climbing The Pole as the gun kept climbing. The ones I had that would Burst Fire on there own were fixed as I did not want them to do that, plus after the burst the trigger would not reset, so you ended up with an empty chamber. I have one all tuned up for 50 yards with the stock irons tuned a bit, and a small Red Dot. I have run 5000 rounds down its pipe, and have had a lot of fun doing so. Semi-Auto Only and no burst fire with that one which is a newer MPA gun.

    • Ej harbet October 19, 2021, 2:46 pm

      My first wife had 6rounds at once in a runaway m11/9 the hammer broke. Gladly it only spooked us instead of doing like true lies

  • jack October 11, 2021, 2:42 pm

    I read Hemingway, Rourk and Roosevelt when I was a kid then along came Capstick, once I discovered who he was I “gorged” on everything he wrote, one quip I remember always about the “equipment” preferred for going after a wounded lion in the thick brush was a 12 gauge pump shotgun loaded with #4 buckshot and slugs, he said it would set the beast on it’s rump long enough to jack in a slug and dispatch it with immediate results. Ever since I have used this technique to hunt bear in North America, I always bring my tactical Rem 870 loaded the same way, just in case me or my rifle mis-performs, luckily I haven’t had to use it……yet

  • James October 11, 2021, 2:10 pm

    Thanks for a great article. Chapstick was a interesting writer.

    I’ve read that baboons are extremely dangerous. They have teeth like a hyena and that’s not for eating grass.

    Reports tell of people being killed and eaten by baboons. Even reported that some young African girls being “raped” by male baboons.

    Of course these animal rights/ worshipping cults would tell big city people that they are harmless to humans and need donations to help save them from the no good hunters.
    Some, if not most of these animal rights/ worshipping cults are misguided. There was a case of one member going into a tiger enclosure at a zoo and guess what happened, yup, he got mauled.

    There have been reports of monkeys in parts of Florida to Texas, reportly set loose by owners who no longer want to care for them. The same with Burmese pythons.

    Monkeys are dangerous too. Remember the case of a woman who had one as a pet/child and a friend of hers came over to visit and the monkey attacked her and ripped off her hands and part of her face.

    There are hardly any laws in the USA about owning wild and dangerous animals.

    In SE Colorado there is a wild cat scauntary where they have hundreds of tigers and lions they have rescued.
    There is another one in Florida.
    There is also a hyena scauntary and a elephant scauntary in the USA too.

    Protect and support your right to keep and own all types of firearms and accessories and to go hunting, fishing and trapping.

    Don’t let the animal rights/ worshipping cults, Micheal Bloomberg, George Soros, the Chinese government, Russia, Mexico to restrict and ban firearms and accessories and hunting in America.

  • We the "Non-Critics" October 11, 2021, 1:58 pm

    Two guesses as to which critic posted these (seemingly forgotten) words just one week ago.

    “… In the future, I will gladly read more of your articles, and I will refrain from posting reviews in the future…’

    Some people just can’t overcome their own delusions of grandeur. (Wait for it… a childish response is forthcoming!)

  • Frank October 11, 2021, 1:45 pm

    Another good one, Dr. Dabbs. I remember reading the excerpts from Capstick’s books in the sporting magazines of my youth. I still recall the names of his two primary trackers… “Silent” and “Invisible”. The rendition of this tale as told in the magazine I read, had a Thompson SMG in Capstick’s hands instead of a Mac 10. It also mentioned the stick magazines being taped together for quick exchanges. Two of the baboons who avoided the hailstorm of bullets were said by Capstick to have “majestically sprouted spears” (courtesy of Silent and Invisible).

    Keep up the good work.

  • K.T. Locke October 11, 2021, 11:56 am

    Huge Capstick fan myself. Read about half his catalog. Very interesting story here. I also love his whole wounded leopard get up of armored leather collar and pump shotgun!!

  • Chris Martin October 11, 2021, 11:37 am

    Once again, great article Will! My father was a big Capstick fan and I have a copy of Death in the Long Grass that I have never read. I may need to rectify that soon.

    Thanks for the great writing!

    • JohnS October 11, 2021, 10:42 pm

      You MUST read it. You will be hooked. I love reading Capstick. Hemingway, Ruark, and Roosevelt are favorites too but I have a real fondness for Peter.

    • Woody October 11, 2021, 11:56 pm

      Chris….the shoe logo was a give away….You and I go way back…….all the way to Tallyrand ave in the gateway to the south….Jacksonville.

  • Timm Heisey October 11, 2021, 11:12 am

    As a former military officer who runs a newsletter as well (investments), I know that feedback is important. I appreciate your work to bring history back to life, to make it interesting, and you make it a quick read. Thanks buddy.

  • Big Al 45 October 11, 2021, 10:32 am

    I have Capstick’s complete collection, He is indeed a wordsmith, comparable to Ruark and Hemingway.

  • OldNumber5 October 11, 2021, 9:46 am

    I loved Capstick’s books, reading of his adventures in Africa and South America makes me wish I had gone there but that Africa is gone now and only lives on in his books. I can only go on my own very tame adventures hunting deer, turkey, and occasionally elk on my son-in-law’s land and hoping that one of my grandchildren take some time out of their busy lives to go with me.

  • Mad Mac October 11, 2021, 9:24 am

    A fine tribute to a man and to an era,
    the likes of which we are unlikely to ever see again.
    A most enjoyable read, Sir.

  • Tom Hart October 11, 2021, 8:41 am

    Seems as though Capsticks’ method of eradicating problem primates could be employed in some other locations…

  • Chris W October 11, 2021, 7:29 am

    Those Navy SEAL photos are of author Matt Bracken, a former East Coast team member.

    • Lance October 11, 2021, 6:04 pm

      Beat me to the punch. Matthew Bracken is one hell of an author. That would be a great interview!

  • Grumpy Old Biker October 11, 2021, 6:53 am

    Another excellent and entertaining article, Doc, but there are still a few thesaurus words and awkward turns of phrase that could be left out for the benefit of all. For example: “Africa is a land awash in bountiful natural resources not altogether conceptually dissimilar to our own continent.” Reading a pompously bloated sentence like that makes me want to barf. And what’s with the use of the word “conceptually”? Don’t you really mean that literally? Either way, one should adhere to the simple rule that double negatives should always be avoided. Or should I have written, “double negatives should never be unavoided”? And in another sentence I saw that trite, unnecessary old phrase: “as it were”, which always makes a writer look like he’s trying much to hard. If you would just tone things down a bit and write a good yarn instead of trying to “give birth to literature”, it would makes us all happy.

    • CPL_HARDCORPS October 11, 2021, 8:57 am

      @ Grumpy Old Biker:

      Hey, Grump, you’re pretty good at taking pot shots at the good Paratrooper-turned-Doctor. Where are your articles published? Or perhaps you’re an editor. For which publication, then?

      Sure, Dr. Dabbs’ style may be a bit more flowery than some would prefer. Why don’t you show us all how it’s done?

      Whatever flaws Dr. Dabbs’ writing may have, it certainly seems to have held YOUR attention.

      • Grumpy Old Biker October 11, 2021, 10:17 am

        CPL_SOFTCORE

        Yes, it held my attention. Didn’t you see how I began my comment with a compliment, or do you just like to blather in about the obvious? And I wasn’t taking potshots, pinhead, I was just offering a critique, which the doctor is free to ignore as he sees fit.

        I’m no professional wordsmith, dude, nor am I an editor. And even if I were, I wouldn’t feel compelled to divulge personal details on the internet to strangers. People are giving away their privacy and security these days, which is something I don’t care for. As for writing, if I thought I could do better, I might try to give it a shot. But I’m just some yokel who likes to read. I read a lot, always have. And with the development of the internet I have noticed an incredibly alarming increase in the number of halft-wits who think they should be writing for a living. Look at some of the crap you can buy on Amazon that they sell as “books”. It seems that every idiot thinks s/he can write a novel. Nothing could be further from the truth.

        I also firmly believe that editors no longer exist. Even in the media. I have read very few news articles that don’t have several typos and outright stupid errors. Most idiots (and I am not including Dr. Dabbs in this group) don’t even bother to proofread their own shit.

    • ME October 11, 2021, 7:07 pm

      F off prog. Go somewhere else.

  • Jack007 October 11, 2021, 4:50 am

    Always a great read, Doctor!
    Might add to the trivia, that the “model” for the pic with a blazing M10 and another one holstered, is none other than (a VERY young) Lt. Col. Robert K. Brown. Apparently professional models weren’t cheap, so he featured pics of himself in his then new and fledgling publication, Soldier of Fortune.
    Ironic, considering the good Col. and Capstick were/are BOTH larger than life legends.

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