Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 11, No. 8          July 2003

Independence 2003

"We hold these Truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness - That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it …"
Very rough talk, wouldn't you say? The founders of this republic insisted that the rights of man are not granted, nor may they be abridged, by the state. Neither the US Constitution, nor any other, can grant you a right which comes from God - nor can it abrogate such right. If either the people or its representatives were to abolish the right of the people to keep and bear arms, such action would be both invalid and immoral. Let us bear in mind when we celebrate our national holiday that we acknowledge and invoke the presence of God in our social structure. Americans who do not believe that are welcome to stick around, but not to have their arguments taken seriously. We face desperate times ahead, and we need all the help we can get, both below and above.

The foregoing item is a little late, but we were off station overseas for much of the month, and we thought any patriotic expression is better late than never.

On our trip abroad we discovered the new Sphinx 3000 pistol, designed and produced in Switzerland. It is a fairly standard service sidearm available at present only in minor calibers, but shortly to be had in 45 ACP. It displays a number of desirable features, clearly derived from practitioners of the modern technique, but one which stands out is the coaxial light rail in the frame below the slide. The idea of a flash light in unit with your sidearm seems to me a good one, too long overlooked. The bedside house defense pistol really ought to incorporate a light, and this seems to me more apparent in the private than the public sector, though the military is at this time seeking this feature in a replacement sidearm. I did not shoot the Sphinx, but I look forward to testing it as soon as it becomes available in major caliber.

Our grandson Captain Tyler Heath, USMC, has returned from combat, and he is writing it down. This is most gratifying, for what is not written down might well not ever have happened. The second Iraqi war was of just the right size, violently enough to be serious, but not long enough to be tiresome.

Captain is the best military rank, low enough to be immediately involved, yet not high enough to be removed from the nitty gritty. A captain is important enough to influence matters, but not yet so high as to be irrelevant. Joe Foss did his thing as a captain, and I did my little bit in the same rank. Tyler can tell us all about it now.

The coaxial illuminator is, of course, a feature of the Steyr Scout, which I have called the "leopard light," since leopards are normally taken at night on a bait, but this feature improves the utility of the Scout in certain forms of law enforcement activity. The following item I quote from Ed Head, late of the US Border Patrol.
"I took my SS out on patrol along the border the other night and was astounded at how well it works as a patrol rifle. I had attached the flash light mount to the rifle and found the light to be very effective for looking into dark areas. The scope allowed me to see clearly into areas of varying levels of light provided by the border lighting and ambient light sources. Our current patrol rifle, the M4, has proved itself to be woefully inadequate for medium to long range shooting in night conditions and it is best limited to pistol engagements. However I won't hold my breath waiting for the Border Patrol to allow me to carry a Scout on duty."

Frankie Lou, "our man in Nebraska," passes us the following illuminating anecdote. It seemed that an Army wife at Fort Bliss was so upset by the forthcoming assignment of her husband to combat contact that she had difficulty in sleeping, so along about midnight she drove to the convenience store to acquire some unaccustomed sleeping pills. The parking lot of a convenience store at midnight is a war zone, as everybody knows. As she was locking her car, a voice behind her said, "Give me the purse, bitch, or I'll kill you." She gave it to him all right, squarely in the face, smashing his nose and knocking out most of his front teeth. As it is not unheard of in our current social comedy, the goblin is now bringing suit against the girl for some obscure reason dreamed up by his attorney. Regardless of any legal angle, this further emphasizes the importance of attitude in combat. Mind-set is what wins.

This pointless proliferation of commercial rifle cartridges verifies certain axioms of American marketing. What is good is what is new, regardless of utility, artistry or function; and logically, therefore, what is old is not good. We have had the 30-06 since 1906, and we have not been able to create a better cartridge, but it is old. Pfui!

It is related that when the ship was in deep but not obvious distress the captain could not persuade the passengers to man the life boats, so he resulted to cultural remedy. To the Germans he said, "It is an order." To the English he said, "It is a game." To the French he said, "It is sinful." To the Italians he said, "It is forbidden." And to the Americans he said, "It is new."

It is true enough that some of what is new is excellent, notably automobiles, metals and fabrics, but a lot of what is new is lousy - notably clothing, "pop noise," and journalism.

We have had the cartridges we need since World War I. It is the guns we can improve.

In our continued study of the art of war in the 21st century, we note the photograph of a female British corporal in Iraq going to battle with some sort of 22-caliber squirt gun in one hand and an umbrella in the other. As I remember, Wellington had this same problem in the Peninsular War, and he did not even have any girls in the ranks.

While we did enjoy our recent trip to Europe to the utmost, we reflect that we still live here in the best of all worlds. From Colorado our daughter Parry was recently sponging off her boots on the porch when a nearly full-grown cow moose ambled leisurely around the corner, nodded politely, stamped through the flower bed, and disappeared through the trees. Parry and Bruce have deer, elk and cougar in Morrison, and moose and bear at Lake City. Christy and Chick, in Prescott, must be content with javelina.

We note with some annoyance that current usage describes any sort of unexpected infantry attack as "an ambush." This is a bad habit, because the essence of ambush is surprise, and being surprised is the unforgivable sin of the junior officer. My esteemed Colonel Clifton Cates (later commandant) hammered into us that we might be forgiven for being defeated, but never for being surprised. Semantics decay with the times.

Here in the middle of 2003 it is evident that what we used to call "the modern technique" is not so modern anymore. People who were not born when I coined the term are doing very well at this time using techniques originated long ago.

What then may be called the "elder technique" was essentially bullseye shooting, a demanding art still practiced widely today. A good bullseye shooter is much to be admired, since he can demonstrate superior eye/hand coordination and excellent nerve control. He is not, however, properly acquainted with the firearm as either a combat or a game harvesting device. Since the inception of the new system in the 1960s, organized competition has raised an irrelevant head. Competition designed to replicate field conditions was a good idea when it was started, but in my opinion it has today served its purpose. The competition game is just that - a game, and attempts to relate it to reality are dismissed as either dangerous or irrelevant. So be it. The knowledge is there and the craft is there and it is nice to have had a hand in it.

This preoccupation with safety in gunhandling has assumed truly ridiculous proportions. I have been associated with personal firearms, both in and out of the service, for all my life, and so-called negligent discharges have never been any sort of a problem. (There is no such thing as an "accidental discharge." If a weapon is fired inadvertently, somebody has violated at least one of the four basic rules - and usually more than one.) Safety is an illusion, since life itself is not safe. We avoid hurting ourselves, or each other, insofar as this is practicable, but when we redouble our efforts after having lost sight of our goal, we become ridiculous. I have worked with thousands of fighting men, all of whom were armed with deadly weapons, and I never saw a reason to place safety above efficiency. In the first place, it cannot be done. And in the second place, it should not be attempted. The following from a lieutenant colonel of Marines now on active duty:
"When traveling between these kabals (most only a few kilometers apart), one is permitted to have a magazine inserted in his weapon (but no round chambered, of course, as that would be far too dangerous), but, upon entering a kabal, one is required to make Condition Four. As you might imagine, traveling from kabal to kabal (as I must do daily) the constant loading and clearing is absurdly frustrating and time consuming. We are supposed to stop and exit our vehicle in order to clear our weapon(s) at each kabal. The time wasted with this idiocy is substantial. To add insult to injury, there is no place for us to `load' (insert magazines) on the way out. That is apparently unimportant.

"All of this because our `leaders' unconditionally distrust warriors with loaded weapons. They are afraid of guns, and apparently are afraid of us having them. Knowing the poor training that most military personnel receive, I understand their fear, but instead of providing proper training, they order everyone to carry an unloaded weapon or no weapon at all. The `cannon fodder mentality' is alive and well over here.

"Tired of this nonsense I started carrying concealed under my cammie blouse in a Blade-Tech kydex holster. Most gate guards just assume I don't have a pistol and thus give me puzzled looks, but wave me through anyway. Kydex is proving to be a great product for this environment.

"I met our main body yesterday. They all arrived from the aerial port of delivery (APOD) in (of course) Condition Three. The first thing our unit S-4 (a VMI graduate no less) asked me, `Sir, where is the armory? These Marines have loaded weapons, and we need to turn them in before they have a negligent discharge.'

"I looked at him indignantly and replied, `I'm sorry, Major. I've obviously been misinformed. I thought you were a man of honor, integrity, a fearless warrior, ready and eager to defend our country. I see instead that you are pitiable and afraid of our own guns! No. The Marines will keep their weapons in Condition Three.' Not a word was said in reply, but they all slept with their weapons last night, and there were no NDs. Imagine that!

"Anyway, I wish officers who were afraid of Marines carrying loaded weapons would find another line of work, preferably in the UK. I, for one, wear my (Condition One) pistol constantly. After only one day of being screwed with, my Captains all do likewise. We're slowly spreading the sunshine here!"

Since the founding of Gunsite so many years ago, we have established our totem as the raven, which is the bird of Odin. To the Norsemen the raven was the bird of wisdom, and wisdom is what we have sought to impart here at the school as long as we were able. Now it appears that a good many people are interested in how the term should be applied to our students. It does get complicated, but it may be summarized thus:

People who have been to Gunsite and have been personally instructed by me are properly referred to as Orange Gunsite graduates. Those who have been here after I left the podium are referred to as Grey Gunsite graduates. They may be highly competent, but I did not certify them so. Next are the people who have been instructed by me at other locations, both here and abroad and who may properly call themselves Gunsite graduates. Then there are people who have been taught abroad by a select group of masters, whom I have endorsed as such. These are also certainly members of the brotherhood. And lastly there are people who think they know what they are talking about and like to use the title. All of the foregoing groups, except the last, comprise the "Ravenfolk" and they are now found throughout most of the world. Those in the first category bear my signature - the others my good wishes.

"Islam is a religion in which Allah (God) requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sent His Son to die for you."

John Ashcroft

Our travels remind us again of the linguistic advice that one should do business in English, diplomacy in French, command troops in German, make love in Spanish, and sing in Italian. In amplification one should do his cursing in Arabic, though this is complicated by the diversity of that tongue. Iraqi Arabic is not Egyptian. Syrian is not Saudi. And Jordanian is not Pakistani. Presumably the Koran is written in authentic Arabic, but only a high level scholar can say so. This may account for the curious doctrinary inconsistencies and contradictions that clutter up current political discourse. The teachings of the Prophet (may peace be upon him) seem oddly childish to Western ears, but they may be due mainly to linguistics. As I understand it, the Prophet banned translation of his book - evidently with good reason.

Despite the venerable injunction, you can get away with murder. Consider O.J. Simpson. Consider Lon Horiuchi. And consider those experts who did away with Vince Foster. Of course it may be that those last did not get away with it, having been taken care of Mafia style by those in charge. But in that case those in charge are presumably walking free - and probably in pretty high places in both Arkansas and Washington.

Where's the body? Without any corpus delicti we don't really know if we won.

Reflecting upon the recent unpleasantness in Mesopotamia, not yet quite concluded, we are reminded of the 200-year-old refrain of the US Marines:
"Sure it's a lousy war, but it's the only war we've got!"

The practical use of the pistol is a study equally applicable to male and female, since it is conceptually defensive. In these days of aggressive feminism, women are often expected to be unprotected by men, and thus should be able to protect themselves. Consequently it is not difficult to motivate most women to educate themselves in practical pistolcraft. With the rifle the matter is somewhat difficult since the rifle is an offensive weapon. If you stop fights with a pistol, you start fights with a rifle - or that is the theory. Thus it is not always easy to encourage a woman to study the rifle. Killing things is not exactly ladylike, and while ladies are out of fashion in today's culture, they still exist, and thank God for that. A woman may enjoy shooting a rifle, not because it is a killing instrument but because it is fun, and rifle shooting is fun. It is important, however, to be sure that a woman should not be introduced to the rifle unless she clearly and distinctly wishes to be. If she does not have a natural drive in that direction, forget it.

The Reunion at Whittington is set for 17,18,19 October. We have planned several innovative events, including a couple for juniors, and we hope for even better dramatic presentations than before. `Tis always an occasion for emotional refreshment.

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