Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 10, No. 10         September 2002

High Summer

Well, we are in it, not because we chose it, but because they did. Now it is our business, as Clausewitz said, to know our enemy. Just who are these people and what is their motive? Historically wars have been fought for political purposes with the object of forcing defined courses of action upon hostile groups. What then is their objective? I cannot believe that even they feel that the enforced conversion of the Western world to Islam is a practical objective. What then is their objective? It seems to be dead infidels. The true believer apparently achieves personal satisfaction and religious merit when he kills an infidel - man, woman or child. This killing achieves no political purpose, but it makes the killer feel good.

To fight this kind of an enemy calls for powerful philosophical leadership. We cannot just pick at them. (Remember Machiavelli's dictum that one must never do his enemy a minor injury.) But rather we must bring about a change of thought on their part. That is not easy. We must hope that it is not impossible, but we must reconcile ourselves to its difficulty. I must suppose that the underlying motive in this Holy War is simply envy - the root of all evil. We can punish it, but that will not eradicate it. Here is the consuming problem of the 21st century.

Our present service rifle is either the M16, or the M4, which is a shortened version of the same piece. Both are referred to as "rifles," but to my mind the M16 is to a rifle as a banjo is to a guitar.

The issue of unsighted fire in defensive combat keeps cropping up. Its advocates suggest that since people are going to use it anyway, we might as well encourage it. I think this is wrong. What people are "going to do anyway" is hardly a proper reason for teaching it. It may be that most people will fire without sights when confronting lethal hostility, but that is a reason for the atrocious missing that we read about in the newspapers. Here at school we do not care about how things are done wrong. We do care about how to teach people to do things right. The modern technique gets the hits. If only a few people understand the modern technique that is regrettable, but that should not lead us astray. In the large view it is always only a few people who do anything right. We can increase that number, and that is why we teach marksmanship.

It is time to make plans now for the Tenth Reunion (18, 19, 20 October) where you can do your lofty recitations and get your name on the painting.

Note that riflery is not an exclusively masculine province. The ladies can shoot right along with the gentlemen, if they wish to. Driving, on the other hand, does seem to be a man's job. I know some women who drive very well, but as of now I know of only one who was able to defeat the best men in her endeavor. That was Michelle Mouton, and she has now retired.

We have noted an increasing number of so-called express sights on pistols here at school. This is the large, round dot front site and a broad, shallow v-rear. This sighting system works quite well for coarse shooting, and it does help those of us whose eyesight is not what it once was. But we notice on the range that students using it tend to print high groups. This is not a serious objection. Group placement is not a decisive factor across the room.

Note that the traditional firemen's pole used to drop quickly to the lower deck has been deemed "too dangerous" by some committee of the European Union. The European Union appears to be pretty silly in all sorts of aspects, and they seem to be stuck with it. But not over here. We are not about to surrender our sovereignty to a European criminal court. This annoys some Europeans, who believe that we, the United States, should properly submit to world majority rule. I very much doubt if they would not accept our position if our positions were reversed.

Those of you who fancy dangerous game might consider the Antarctic leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx). He is twice as big as a lion, very fierce and quite fearless. I am now at work on a feature piece on this beast.

It does seem that we are acquiring a group of cartridge fetishists in this country. Every time you look at a periodical you note the appearance of some new cartridge, which serves no specific purpose other than ostentatious redundancy. It seems clear that our rifles of today are more toys than tools, the only purpose of which is to display something that one's neighbor does not own. It is hard to discover a purpose for which the 30-06/308 is not a clearly adequate answer, but I guess it is fun to play around.

We recently saw a news item in which a flier had been honored for saving his crew after his B-17 had been "decimated." It is to wonder how one divides a B-17 into ten equal portions.

It has always seemed to us that every household, and especially every household which habors an extended family, should include a defensive pistol. Some have suggested that a short and handy shotgun may be superior to a pistol. Out West, where there is more open space around the house, it may be that a good grade of 22 self-loading pistol would be even better. In every case, of course, it is necessary for all inhabitants of the household to know where the weapon is, how it works and how to use it.

It is our sad duty to remind ourselves that it was George Bush, Senior, who let Saddam Hussein get away when we had him. Where was Theodore Roosevelt when we needed him? (And where is he now?)

We notice a tendency on the part of the young uneducated to refer to this matter of "seeing the elephant" without fully understanding its meaning. We have spoken of this before, but herewith the traditional and authorized version: When rural America was truly rural, farm boys were expected to stay home at the farm to grow up and become farmers of the same land. They did not get around much. Entertainment visited the countryside in the form of traveling circuses, which featured all sorts of wonders from acrobats to exotic animals. Any respectable circus always included an elephant, which is, you must admit, a pretty remarkable creature. It also included a number of diversions of other sorts for the edification of the yokels. Legend has it that when a farm boy reached mid-adolescence his father called him aside, told him to go visit the county seat, go to the circus and see the elephant. Traditionally he gave the lad two dollars for expenses. Among the other things the boy undertook was getting somewhat drunk and renting himself a girl for his first erotic experience. When he returned home it was assumed that he had "seen the elephant."

In recent times the situation has altered radically, and today it is more customary for the elephant term to apply to lethal combat. By this standard a man who has been in a fight, been shot at, shot back and hit has "seen the elephant." Such a man has a certain "leg up" in today's embattled society.

In regard to our recent and continuing war-like preparations, I am put in mind of a scene up in Idaho at the beginning of World War II. A band of about two dozen Shoshone, having been informed that the country was at war, trooped down to the county seat carrying their 30-30s and asked where the war might be. "If there's a war, let's go fight it." This reminds us of the behavior of a recently retired and little known president of the United States. Red brother gottum right attitude!

I learn from the late Jack O'Connor that the markup on guns is on the order of 400 percent. That is to say, the list price of a firearm is about four times the cost of production.

A good friend of ours, who shall remain nameless, lives in a big city, which will also remain nameless, where he is pestered by pestiferous urban pigeons. Being a master marksman, he has turned to pneumatics. In order to dodge the polypragmatoi, our friend has resorted to subsonic instruments. These, of course, have curved trajectories, and since the pigeon must be taken with head shots only, various interesting ballistic problems arise. Most of the shots are taken post-rest at ranges of 20 yards and under. To increase success range markers, such as McBride employed in World War I, are placed in the backyard,. Our friend knows the exact drop for all those places where a pigeon may choose to alight, and his success rate is high. Unfortunately the urban pigeon is not good to eat. Its flavor may be acceptable, but its texture is that of an old rubber tire. There are, however, satisfactory ways of disposing of pigeon carcasses without waste, and a good time is had by all (except the pigeons).

"There is hardly a product of our culture that someone cannot make a little worse and sell for a little less, and the one who puts price above all other considerations is the natural prey of this man." (pp)

John Ruskin

We hear from Namibia that a German tourist's holiday down there came to an end when he was mistaken for a baboon and shot by a local farmer. If this poor fellow looked enough like a baboon to be mistaken for one, he may be better off dead.

We note without gratification that the demand for rifle training is not great. It appears that many citizens feel that the need for a defensive pistol is obvious and the need to know how to use it is also obvious. But those people who buy rifles do not seem to think that they need to know how to use them. Unfortunately, however, the need is there. There is such a thing as a self-taught rifleman, and he is about as common as a self-taught pastry cook. One only has to look at the illustrations in the magazines to note that the correct technique of the rifle is not only not common to the public at large, but neither with those who read and write about it. I even note with some dismay that various people who set themselves up as instructors in rifle marksmanship are apparently unconcerned about the procedures involved.

Well, the material is there for those who want it. I am sorry about those others.

We are pleased to report that the pipeline for Steyr Scouts is once again full. You can now get true scouts ready to go in 308, as well as Dragoons in 376. Of course I recommend the 308, since it is so much easier to feed, but I must confess to a sneaking affection for the Dragoon cartridge - for residents of Alaska. In either case you can get them over-the-counter in well-established gun stores.

Must we keep reminding the faithful that it was Thomas Jefferson, not the Constitution, who proposed a "wall of separation" between church and state? All clients at the Gunsite Academy are issued pocket copies of the US Constitution. Would that this could be said of all members of the United States Congress!

This talk of "friendly fire" is interesting. Having some personal experience in these matters, I can attest that in a major battle it is next to impossible to determine whence gunfire is coming. The single most colorful instance that comes to mind in my own case involved the destruction of an LCI (landing craft, infantry) that I had been unable to board in time for the shooting. That boat was blown up while I watched from close alongside, and it was almost certainly hit by a 5 inch shell from one of our destroyers. It is faintly possible that it was hit by a Nip mortar, but if so that was by accident, for the Nips had few of that type in place at that time. I can relate a good many other examples of this sort of thing. I think that if you are hit in a modern major battle your chances are that you will be hit by one of our own weapons about one-fourth of the time. This is nobody's fault, it is just the way things are. Under conditions of terminal violence, surgical precision is just not possible.

Does it not seem that one of the first important casualties of the Holy War is the loss of our sense of humor? If you think that you cannot joke about matters of life and death, I am sorry. (Because as the war drags on you are going to need to.)

I am amused to hear of miscreants in the Holy War being "brought to justice." We can certainly attempt to punish a man for his misdeeds, but we cannot bring him to justice unless we know what justice is, and that is a tough thing to define. Plato started out by saying that justice is "giving to each man that which he deserves," and that is a reflexive definition without meaning. It may be vulgar, but the tried-and-true battle cry "Let's get the bastards" seems much more to the point.

A 357 snubby may not be an especially high-class firearm, but it will certainly do for unsighted fire across the bar. High grade firearms can only be appreciated by those who understand them.

This talk about reparations for slavery is so silly that one could expect it to fade of its own embarrassment, but people keep after it. In the first place, it is unreasonable to ask anyone to make reparations for something he did not do, nor cause others to do. In the second place, if you study this subject you will realize that slavery may be considered a natural condition of civilized man. As our favorite columnist, Thomas Sowell, has pointed out, there is hardly anybody on earth whose ancestors have not enslaved or been enslaved at sometime in the past. It is a lot more sensible, as well as more humane, to put the losers to work than to kill them. I have been amused by the tale of Richard Burton, the famed explorer of Arabia, who was a crusader against slavery but went to considerable trouble to acquire the necessary slaves of his own when setting forth for Mecca. As even Al Sharpton should note, the Negro slaves who were brought to America by the colonists had one and all been enslaved by their black brothers in Africa. Perhaps these activists should put in to Nigeria or the Congo for their reparations.

But, of course, to understand this problem calls for a certain elementary knowledge of history, and in the well-known dictum of Mason Williams, "History is a thing of the past."

The people who murdered Vince Foster and Nicole Simpson are still out there running around loose, and no one has even suggested that we "bring them to justice."

Those of you who read Afrikana are aware that the local people down there are fond of hanging personal names from their own language on visitors from abroad, especially hunters. When I checked into this last time I discovered that my own sobriquet, derived from the occasion on which I slew my one and only lion, is "The old man who fell in the ditch." Quite true. I did slip and fall in the ditch on our approach. (It was a slippery ditch.) And I duly thanked Danie's chief hunter for hauling me out.

After that event, I endeavored to find out what each of us remembered most about it. Unsurprisingly, each of the three of us remembered something entirely different. Eyewitnesses are like that.

I guess we will have to drop our notion of the Osama bin Lottery. He is probably dead, but they are not about to tell us how he died or when. We will not throw away our applications yet, however. I guess you will just have to stay tuned.

Perhaps you will not believe it, but I recently picked up from a British publication that some movie producer is now contemplating making a movie about the man who crossed the Alps with the elephants - casting Denzel Washington as the man! So much for public education!

"If you can't join `em, lick `em!"

L.C., 1965

In perusing our periodicals, as well as our recent more permanent publications, we cannot avoid the conclusion that good English is not only unfashionable, but even in many cases unintelligible. The rules of punctuation and syntax are there for a reason, and if the reader must come to a crashing halt and cry "Now what in earth did he mean by that!" it is time that the author took his schooling more seriously. And certainly the "electronic punctuation" that we see at the top of much of our electronic communication is no help.

It may be that the 21st century will go down in history as The Age of Illiteracy.

"To be well informed one must read quickly a great number of merely instructive books. To be cultivated one must read slowly and with a lingering appreciation the comparatively few books that have been written by men who lived, fought and felt with style."

Aldous Huxley

Have you noticed that adulation is not dependant upon the adulated? People need to worship heroes regardless of whether they can find heroes or not. Just place anybody up on a pedestal where he can be seen and you will find thousands of people who will scream and yell and beg for his autograph. Thus we have "mass movements."

"A nation of cowards can neither prosper nor survive."

Family Member Art Robinson

Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal use only. Not for publication.