Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 10, No. 3          March 2002

Never The Twain Shall Meet

Well, they finally got Jonas Savimbi. There was possibly the greatest unsung hero of the Cold War. Savimbi fought the Communists to a standstill in Angola for decades, with no help from us. He was not "African-American" (unsatisfactory term). He was, on the contrary, a first-string African, and he will go down historically with Chaka as one of the great heros of his people. I never had the honor of meeting him, but I got pretty close on two occasions, and I regret the loss.

The upgraded version of "The Art of the Rifle" is now available for sale. The illustrations are properly in color, but there is still some trouble with the captioning. The book may be, some critics have said, "The best thing of its kind," but that is not wonderful when we remember that it is the only thing of its kind. There may be another or two works on general rifle marksmanship, but we have not seen them.

We admired Jim Cirillo's new "general-purpose revolver" built to his specifications by Dan Wesson, Inc. It features interchangeable barrel lengths and calibers from 44 Mag on down.

On the subject of wheel guns, I tend to fancy the feather-weight 22 introduced last year by Smith & Wesson. At risk of sounding loony, I maintain that the 22 long rifle is a considerably more practical cartridge than the 38 Special, or for that matter almost any other handgun cartridge. The advantage of the 22 is that you will shoot it a lot, and thus learn to hit what you are shooting at. While stopping power is certainly an essential of a sidearm intended primarily for defensive use, we must remember that a 22 in a tear duct tends to stop more decisively than a 9 in the wish-bone. Of course to use a 22 in a combat mode, the shooter must be well trained and in total charge of his nerves, and that may be too much to expect. However, as we have often taught, more than half of handgun confrontations are successfully concluded by the appearance of a handgun, rather than the shooting of one. Nobody wants to get shot with anything, and most people cannot tell one handgun from another. The 1911 still constitutes the defensive handgun of choice, and the more sea stories we get back from the wars, the more this point is proven. But in the big picture it is attitude that wins fights. Naturally we want the right equipment, but what we need is the right attitude.

The gold-finished presentation piece from Investment Arms was demonstrated at the SHOT Show. This is a fairly regulation 1911 clone, heavily loaded with gold ornament, plus my monogram and other illustrations. I do not believe that anyone will want to shoot a piece like this, but it is nice to have, if only to hang on the wall. It will shoot, of course, if circumstances call for it. $2,500 a copy. Phone Jesse Herron at 877-994-4867.

We have an incident to report from Montana logging three clean, one-shot kills on prime bull elk with 30-caliber rifles. There was one with a 300 WM, one with a 30-06, and one with (what else?), a 308 Steyr Scout. As Karamojo Bell pointed out so well, it is not what you hit them with, it is where you hit them.

Still, the merchandisers keep trying to make us discontented with the cartridges we now have. This is rather like making us discontented with sex. I mean, what is there to improve! On my very first elk hunt, so very long ago, I took my beast with four shots from the 375, whereas my partner took his with one shot from the 30-06. Then as now, it is skill, rather than gadgetry, which wins the game.

This is not to say that gadgetry properly understood and employed may not be a big help. Jim West's outstanding "Co-Pilot" may be considered gadgetry, but actually its merit lies in its convenience rather than in technology.

This talk about bringing our traitor Johnnie Walker to trial is tiresome. It seems to us that there is no need to bring a traitor to trial. All a trial does is bring attention to a circumstance better left unpublicized. There is really no reason for ceremony. All that is necessary is to discover exactly what he did, after which he may be dispatched without ceremony.

As to the righteousness of this procedure, it was impressed upon us as junior officers that if a man is innocent he should seek a military court. Only if he is guilty should he demand a civil court. The purpose of a military court is to find out what happened. The purpose of a civil court is to get the accused off, if possible.

The movie "Black Hawk Down" has become required viewing for those of the military outlook. It has been so long since I have heard a shot fired in anger that I am in no position to criticize the actions displayed in this movie, so I won't. The overall effect, however, is most gratifying to the people we may term "hairy-chested nut-scratchers." Without intending a put-down, it does show to a certain extent how wars have changed in the 20th Century. You have probably heard the story about the British exchange officer on duty at one of the United States senior service schools who was asked to define the mission of the cavalry. His response: "The mission of the cavalry, my dear sir, is to lend a touch of class to what would otherwise be merely a vulgar brawl." Quite so. However well that scuffle in Mogadishu turned out, it was notably deficient in class. Not theirs.

We are now looking into Bill Ruger's new double shotgun, and we expect great things. New products in firearms are not often designed to fill a productive niche, but perhaps this one is. Bill insists that a really superior double gun hitherto priced beyond reach of the peasantry can be achieved by means of modern technology. We have asked shotgun master John Gannaway to examine this for us and tell us about it. A really good double shotgun at a "reasonable" price is something the world really needs even more than a good five-cent cigar.

We continue to be bombarded with marksmanship tales which seem to be impossible. This is no new thing, as these stories have been around since the very inception of missilery - witness little David and the three smooth stones. It is odd, however, to hear people relate as truth episodes which, while intended to impress the ignorant, simply provoke scorn. We have long taught that inherent accuracy that one cannot appreciate is useless. Robinhood, as you know, was supposed to be able to split an arrow lengthwise with a second shot after placing the first one in the target. (On demand yet!) I am now told of people doing things on the range with M16s which cause the listener simply to change the subject. Parlons d'autre chose, as the French put it.

Why people do this sort of thing is a matter for the psychiatrist, rather than the journalist. There is no harm done, but it discourages the gentleman marksman in discussing skills. I think the next time I hear an example of this sort of thing I will tell the storyteller about the time I was able to accelerate from zero to 60 miles-an-hour in minus 2 seconds, thereby arriving before I started out.

(Well, they did that, as you may recall, with the Blackbird some years ago when they landed in England before they took off in California. The thing is, of course, that due to our time conventions that really happened.)

Family member and hunting master Charlie Putman tells us that one should always shoot his pronghorn at 100 yards or less, thereby establishing his hunting skill. A point to heed.

In perusing the sporting press, I see that the shooting sling on rifles has been abandoned, at least by the general public. Before I made my first big game hunt on elk in Wyoming in 1937 I had shot a number of feral goats on Catalina Island, plus a few jackrabbits in various parts of the Southwest. I had been shown the shooting sling on the rifle by our esteemed Sergeant Lawson, mentor of the LA High School ROTC battalion, and I used that shooting sling in the field whenever possible. It worked, and it still does. It does nothing for you if your shooting position affords no support for your left elbow, but it increases your hitability factor by a value of about one-third in other circumstances. I found this out for myself in the field after being shown the technique on the range, but if I can believe what I see in print, it is now a lost art. But then these heros today who bring down running mountain sheep at 450 yards were never introduced to the art. Here at Gunsite we do have the privilege of introducing newcomers to these things, and this is a source of great satisfaction, though we certainly have not reached reported perfection.

The new activity program being fostered by the National Rifle Association is a TV series emphasizing victors as opposed to victims. This program will reenact actual occasions on the street where the proposed victim of street crime turned the tables upon his attacker and won the day. This is the best idea to come forth in a long time. Whether internationally, publically or personally, grief is an unproductive emotion. As Shakespeare tells us, we should replace grief with wrath. The enemy cannot be taught to like us or respect us. What he must be taught now is to fear us.

Those of you of the old school will remember that we threw the Moors out of Spain in 1492. Trouble is that we did not throw them far enough. In searching through the records for ragheads of consequence, I discover Haroun-al-Rashid and Saladin, and then my sources begin to dry up. Our current crop of Extollers of The Faithful would have us believe that what we may refer to as the Arab Culture was way ahead of the West up until something mysterious happened along about 1450 or so. These people had shown us such things as numerology, algebra, cotton fabric, and coffee, but suddenly something went wrong. Maybe they lost their push and civilization left them behind. The cultural structure of Islam must have a strong appeal, otherwise it would not be proselytizing throughout the world as it is. How is it that the West copes and the East does not? Allah has fallen short somewhere along the line.

We have long thought that people should pay more attention to what they say, but we are not getting very far. What, for example, is meant by "innocent"? What is an innocent civilian? Apparently the journalist feels that a man wearing a uniform is guilty, but if he is not he is innocent. I do not think this distinction will hold up in court.

It appears that the Mannlicher organization of Austria has not only changed hands, but severed its connection with Gun South in Alabama. Mannlicher has an elegant tradition and deserves more appreciation than it now enjoys. I hope that its new arrangement for exporting to the United States works out to everyone's advantage. (If you have not got your copy of the Scout in 308, or the "Dragoon" in 376, better grab it quickly while the prices are good. If you need a rifle, you need one of those - quick before it is too late.)

To fight with the sword may be brutal, but honorable. To fight with a germ is merely disgusting.

I suppose any kind of hunting is better than no hunting at all, but I fear I can take no pleasure out of hunting from a blind. I have done this on several occasions and I cannot recommend it. It certainly may be productive, but it does not provide the hunting experience that I prize. I love the woods and the prowl, and while I certainly do not insist that other people share my feelings in this (especially since my crippled condition cuts me back now), I do not see that sitting solidly in a blind waiting for something to walk by provides any thrill. It seems to be that really to hunt one must do just that, get out in the wilderness and wander about seeking tracks or contact. Ortega maintains that the best form of hunting is with hounds, spirited and emotional contact with the dogs themselves. If we accept that, hunting with hounds should be given first place. After that, prowl and stalk. After that I would put ride-and-spot (which is what is done mostly in the Western US). Only then I would place sit-and-wait. (Not always, of course. Corbett had occasion to ambush a couple of man-eaters in a way that was sporting enough for any six people.)

As everyone should know by now, one cannot translate Arabic into English with accuracy. Also there are various forms of Arabic which do not translate very well even into each other. So we would like those who keep talking about what the Koran says to stop talking about it. I do not know what the Koran says, and I do not think these journalists do either.

Among the other signs of times we discover that coping is unfashionable. As far as I can tell, today's young people are taught not to handle problems but rather to call for help. This is very bad race conditioning. As a boy I led a privileged life, but I nonetheless often got into jams beyond reach of assistance. I never called for help, and my father would have sneered at me if I had done so. At age seventeen while driving alone I blew a tire. I had never seen a wheel changed but I figured the matter out by myself. This is not to boast but only to point out that young men should be expected to cope.

We are pleased to report that Craig Boddington, possibly the most notable "gun writer" of recent years, has been promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General USMC. Not only that, we hear that he has been given a command somewhere in the embattled Near East. Confusion to our enemies and hurray for our side! Go get `em, General!

If you have a 22 and a good 30-06/308, you really do not need anything else - but do not tell the merchandisers that!

Technology will not win the Holy War, though it may certainly grant us some satisfying temporary victories. Spiritual strength is what we need - and it is available. There are a lot of people who think God is on their side. Well, let's see about that.

A friend of ours who is troubled with a nagging form of recurrent carcinoma makes a practice of visiting a Mayo Clinic regularly to keep ahead of the game. He reports that over the last couple of years the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, has been so completely patronized by Arabs that treatment therein begins to resemble some sort of cult practice. The waiting rooms are solidly populated with people wearing bed sheets. Treatment at the Mayos is not cheap, but this does not trouble the ragheads.

On our new electronic communication systems, we notice a profusion of what may be called "electronic punctuation." Correct punctuation serves a real purpose, and when you short-circuit it you usually lose meaning.

The new self-loading 22 pistol from Walther seems to be a good idea. We will report.

It would be nice to think that the niche concept guides our technical and industrial progress. This is the idea that the producer should find a need and then build a product to fill it. This is sometimes the case, but not always. Contrarily, there is a certain kind of maker who builds a product and then figures out a job for it to fill. In the gun world which is our specialty we see both examples. For instance, the Glock is enormously popular, but it fills no niche. We were better off with what we had before. On the other hand, the Steyr Scout does more things in more ways than in any other current rifle design and thus fills that niche. Both systems seem to depend more upon marketing skill than upon excellence.

These people on the other side turned out to be a bad lot, but they are not as annoying as those on our side who keep trying to apologize for them. Our enemy in the Holy War turns out to be simultaneously deadly and silly. They can kill us, of course, dead, but it is hard to take anyone seriously who announces continuously five times a day that God is Great. Is it that "milady doth protest too much"?

As the British philosopher once put it, there is hardly any product in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell for a little less, and the man who makes price his only concern is the natural prey of this man.

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