Nick Harvey obituary

Vale Nick Harvey, Australia’s legendary gun writer and hunter


Nick Harvey, one of the world’s most prolific and knowledgable gun writers, has died, leaving a legacy built on almost seven decades of dedication to firearms and hunting.

During a career lasting from the mid-’50s until his death, Nick wrote thousands of articles, published many books, was consulted in the development of new firearms, appeared as an expert witness in the Coroner’s Court, gave endless advice an all gun-related subjects and created a knowledge base that few shooters in the world could ever dream of matching.  

Australian gun writer and journalist Nick Harvey
Nick was always a passionate hunter and enjoyed taking a good trophy. This fallow buck was from Water Valley in the 1990s with the kind of rifle he loved: a Winchester Model 70 in .270 Weatherby Magnum

Nick considered his first published article to be his story about hunting roos for skins in the August 1955 edition of Australia Outdoors, though there were some that pre-dated it. He quickly took an active role in Australian hunting and shooting journalism.

He began testing firearms and writing well-researched, informative articles. Within five years, Australian Outdoors was describing him as “our expert” and had him testing “the world’s most powerful rifle”, the Weatherby Mk V. 

In that early part of his career, the structure, detail and thoroughness of his Weatherby test were exemplary and represented the standard Nick followed for his entire life. 

He wrote for Outdoors until it folded in 1976, after which he took up the invitation to become Sporting Shooter’s technical editor, a role he held for the rest of his life.

Australian gun writer and journalist Nick Harvey
Nick worked for a time as a professional guide in the Northern Territory

Magazines were Nick’s staple but he wrote a number of books including Nick Harvey’s Book of Shooting (c1970s), Nick Harvey’s Book of the .22 Rimfire (1980), Deer Stalking in Australia (1984), Deer Hunting in Australia (2023), and a series of reloading manuals beginning in 1980 and concluding with Nick Harvey’s Practical Reloading Guide 11th Edition in 2021. 

He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of firearms history, design and workings as well as an astonishing amount of experience in handloading. 

His love for handloading was evident right to the end. In 2023 he developed his own loads the new 300 PRC, for example, and worked up new loads for the .300 Win Mag. 

Nick travelled frequently to various parts of the world to hunt. In a letter to a reader in 1979 he wrote, “If you want to call in you are welcome but suggest you phone and find out whether or not I am home. I go on hunting trips all the time and have one lined up for the NT and Papua to hunt buffalo and deer with Charles Askins and Bill Jordan later this year. Then I am going on an extended shikar to India in November. Just got back from a red deer hunt and took three fine stags.”

Australian gun writer and journalist Nick Harvey
From left: Elmer Keith, Nick Harvey, an unidentified Winchester executive and Les Bowman on a pheasant hunt during the 1977 Winchester Seminar in the US

Askins and Jordan were well-known US gun writers with very colourful backgrounds. Being a hellraising larrikin himself, Nick got on very well with them. He also counted Elmer Keith, Les Bowman and other international gun writers as friends. He was heavily influenced by Jack O’Connor.

He travelled many times to the US and Europe for industry seminars, gun shows and firearm releases, and visited a large proportion of the world’s major gun makers and optics factories.

Nick’s skill with a rifle could not be faulted. One famous incident settled any doubts. In Europe for an industry event, he was using a .270 from a stand. Three deer were running away, already a few hundred metres distant when one of the hosts suggested they’d made their escape. Nick raised the rifle and fired, dropping one. 

The hunters with him were impressed but, of course, figured it was a lucky shot. Nick aimed and fired again, dropping another. The third, still on the move, was well over 400m away when he dropped it. No one there had seen anything like it before. 

Australian gun writer and journalist Nick Harvey
Nick hunted all over the world, taking this zebra on one of many African trips and this 13-point red in Australia

His letterhead described him as a “professional out-doorsman, journalist, field tester” but Nick also drove the school bus to and from Hill End, NSW, the town he called home for most of his life. The hours suited his hunting and testing. In an era very different from today, Nick would take a rifle on the bus and shoot feral animals out the window, much to the delight of the country kids. 

Among various accolades, Nick was awarded the Lifetime Hunting Achievement Award by the Safari Club International. 

As his health began to fade late last year, Nick completed his last firearm test, reviewing the Remington 700 SPS Stainless, and it was published in the March 2024 edition of Sporting Shooter

He was still writing features until a few weeks before his death. His Q&A column, Ask the Gun Editor, has run for nearly 50 years and is one of the most popular parts of the magazine. Indeed, we still have about two years’ worth of his answers and intend to publish them all, as Nick would have wanted. 

Australian gun writer and journalist Nick Harvey
Nick was a fine shot with a rifle and could comprehensively test everything from .22s like this Sako Finnfire to the largest magnums

Much of his writing will remain here on the Sporting Shooter website, sustaining his legacy long into the future.

It is a legacy that will probably never be equalled in Australian gun media of any kind. 

Nick died peacefully in Bathurst hospital on Wednesday, 21 February, 2024. He was 92. He is survived by his wife Nancy and three children, Nick Jr, Alan and Janice.

 

 

 


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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.

2 Comments

  1. Sad news indeed. A man amongst men with encyclopedic knowledge in his field. A consistent source of sound and expert advice I have valued his opinions and guidance on all gun related matters for 50 years. His life was a dream few get to live however many have experienced parts through his stories and adventures. Vale Nick your words and counsel will be missed.