Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 12, No. 11         October 2004

Hunting Season!

Here we are in the finest month of the year (in the northern hemisphere). The trouble with October is that it is too cluttered. People want to cause too many things to happen at the same time. We suppose it was characteristic of our hero Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. to want to be born in hunting season, but however that may be, that is what happened. Earlier we thought to hold our Annual Memorial Reunion on TR's birthday, but we found that the national TR society holds too many big things up there at Sagamore Hill. Be that as it may, we all look forward to our Reunion of the Faithful, and hope to be able to enjoy a suitable celebration. Clearly you should have your reservations at Whittington in by now, so we will see you there.

It is embarrassing for those of us enjoying October to take advantage of its sparkling advantages while our best citizens are out there in Iraq. We are immensely proud of those people in all services, but here at Gunsite we get most of our information from the Marine Corps side, and such information tells us again and again how splendidly the globe, eagle and anchor is being held on high. It is gratifying here to learn how much of our personal doctrines have been acquired by the Marines. Method of carry, conditions of readiness and combat mind-set have all been adopted by our active duty Marines, and we are proud of having had this influence. Every little bit helps!

I assume that the faithful all know that "C Stories" is available either directly from Lindy Wisdom or from the Gunsite Pro Shop. (Wisdom Publishing, Inc., 1840 East Warner Road, Box 238, Tempe, AZ 85284, (Gunsite Academy and Pro Shop, 2900 W. Gunsite Road, Paulden, AZ 86334, 928-636-4565,

The 376 Steyr cartridge has proven conspicuously successful in the bushveldt, hardly to anyone's surprise. This cartridge is ballistically very similar to the 375 Holland, but its virtue is that it can be had in scout configuration, as with the Dragoon. The local people in Africa all seem very much impressed with the Dragoon, and immediately inquire about acquisition.

We have had several reports of functioning failure with the various micro 45s. I think this matter is worthy of consideration, and I intend to stick to the Commander version for personal carry.

Functioning of all sorts of weapons has been a plague in the sand box. It is so widespread that it leads us to assume that certain kinds of troops who feel that they are rear echelon people are not sufficiently interested in their personal firearms to keep them running. The sand out there in Iraq is certainly more of a hazard than in any other place where we have fought in recent wars. This is all the more reason why company-level personnel should insist upon meticulous care of their gear.

Everything has its own particular weaknesses, and we now have found that the bolt of the Scout action is capable of unexpected disassembly if the stud on the left side of the bolt cap is inadvertently depressed. This is not easy to do, but we now have one case in which the bolt cap was fired to the rear.

We have heard nasty rumors now about lock failure with the R93. We cannot discount them completely, but they are pretty rare. I am a poor critic of these things since in a long lifetime of shooting I have never had any of my firearms fail to function in my hands. I have never had a tire blowout either, so I guess I worry about that less than I should.

It is a pleasure to report that Barrett Tillman's monumental history of the climax of the Pacific War is now set for publication. I have scanned the first draft and I am immoderately gratified to find myself mentioned by name. I guess that means I have now gone down in history, as I am going down in various other ways since my broken back does not want to get better. This is only to be expected with advanced age.

It is interesting to learn from the front lines that taunting works very well against the ragheads. Under many circumstances they can be teased into taking suicidal action.

Mind-set is a peculiar problem in the Iraqi theater. We are trying to be friends, but we do not know that they are. We have one report back from the front saying that when you contact a civilian, you should be courteous, friendly and unthreatening, but instantly ready to kill him if necessary.

It seems to us that under most circumstances if you are kidnaped it is your fault. You should not be caught unarmed and you should be alert at all times. These various contractors in Iraq do not seem to understand that. We are sorry about their misfortune, but they should not have let it come about.

Paul Kirchner's book on the Code Duelo will be available shortly. On reading of these episodes, we cannot help feeling that if modern politicians were free to use that course of action our political campaigns would be conducted with more dignity. Candidates should not say things about adversaries when they realize they are going to have to live with their words after the election, no matter how it turns out. A personal duel might handle the situation nicely.

Probably it does not matter, but "terror" is an unsatisfactory adversary, since it is a mental condition rather than a tangible foe. You cannot fight against "terror," since you cannot shoot it or sink it in the sea. In addition, terror is an undignified emotion. Young men should be conditioned to rise above fear at the earliest possible age, and to the extent that this happens, they cannot be terrorized. Nobody likes to look right into the cannon's mouth, but he need not squeal about it. George Patton had some very good things to say on this subject. Nobody is immune from fear, but nobody should let fear affect his conduct.

I had been given to understand that what I prefer to call the "Steyr Dragoon" had been discontinued at the factory. I find that this is not the case. Both the factory representative and the American distributor told us this week that the Steyr Dragoon, which is a Scout rifle in caliber 376, continues in production and sale. This is welcome news, since the piece itself has proven more popular, case by case, since its introduction. Nomenclature is complicated. "Scout" applies mainly to light cavalry. If you change to heavy cavalry you come up with the term "Dragoon." The factory, however, decided that there are too many things termed Dragoon for sale, and stamped upon the weapons "376 Steyr." This is fine, except that it complicates things for me, since I have a rifle upon which "Steyr Dragoon" was clearly engraved at the factory. It may be the only item of its kind in the world. However that may be, it is an excellent weapon, and I expect the same excellence from its siblings otherwise inscribed. So a 376 Scout is available for sale at this time. If you need a medium rifle of this type, sign up for yours now.

If anyone is still interested in the Color Code, I would like to point out that this psychological footpath does not refer to a state of peril, but rather to a psychological condition. There exists a strong, prominent reluctance in the minds of most people to taking lethal action against a living being. This exists in the gaming fields, but it is much more pronounced in personal confrontation. With most people there exists a strong "thou shalt not" against pressing the trigger when the sight is on the target. The Color Code overrides this, not because of danger, but rather because of readiness. I know of some very fine warriors who can be counted upon to hit what they shoot at, but only if they are emotionally prepared to shoot at it. The civilized "super ego" asks the question, "Shall I really shoot now?" And a strong, positive "Yes, shoot now" will result only if it has been prepared in advance. I do not own the term, and I cannot say that people who differ with me are wrong, but I can say that overcoming the mental block is what I hold to be a solution.

One aspect of the battlefields of World War II was its profusion of 50-caliber empties. In any place where the going was heavy, the terrain was asparkle with brightly gleaming cartridge cases. You could also see this extravagance from the air. I was particularly impressed by it at Guam, when just as the landing craft started in, the F6s went for the beach, and up there against that beautiful blue sky each airplane was suddenly accompanied by a shower of gold as it commenced strafing. This is one of those rare things in war that is not sufficiently enjoyed.

It may be that when the 20mm cannon was employed airborne it retained its empties in the aircraft. I am not familiar with this action, but its feeding must have been beefed up considerably over that of the smaller caliber weapon, since hauling a belt into position against side loading could pose a problem. Joe Foss was emphatic about this with the 50 caliber, insisting that where there had been much heavy maneuvering in aerial combat the 50 caliber Browning tended to malfunction. Thus it was his practice to reserve two guns.

We are supposed to keep this paper as non-political as possible, but I simply cannot resist feeling that that carrier landing was a true Beau Geste. This is the sort of thing a commander-in-chief ought to display, but often does not.

The proper management of firearms is by no means as widespread as we might wish, either in the hunting field or in war. The day is past in which every young man was instructed in gunmanship by his father, or in some cases by his Uncle Sugar, before venturing out into the world. But it is depressing to note that an otherwise reasonably competent young man may prove to be "a disaster looking for a place to happen" when handling a firearm. Gunhandling in Africa is increasingly unsatisfactory, and this is not a matter of marksmanship, but sheer common sense. Among other annoyances is the tendency of some of these people to go afield carrying the rifle over the shoulder, muzzle forward and butt to the rear. On a recent trip our hunter saw one man carrying a rifle thus who turned quickly in response to a question and smacked his assistant heavily in the face with the butt. I have spent some unhappy times looking right up the muzzle of a heavy-caliber double, right over the shoulder with muzzle to the rear. Too many people in the field feel that the safety is the answer to all this, and as long as the safety is on nothing can go wrong. This is a nasty error, but I cannot change it just by writing annoyed comments in this paper.

When I was a tad, you did not call anyone a liar unless you expected a physically violent reaction. The term provokes violence. You do not call a man either a liar or a coward unless you are prepared to face forceful response. Remember that "An armed society is a polite society." We should steer in that direction.

A correspondent recently told us that he did not have a source for the classical opinion that a fool may learn from his own experience, but that a clever man prefers to learn from the experiences of others. That line is attributable to Prince Bismarck, whose full name was Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck Schönhausen, which is a bit long for convenient use

These are tough times, though probably no tougher than they have seemed to a lot of people at other times. Long ago, Henley's inspirational verse was emphasized in the eleventh grade. Henley was blind, which is about as crushing a condition that can be faced. "Invictus" stands as a triumph to moral courage, and was memorized in full by anyone expecting an "A" in English.
INVICTUS by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

We still have no details about that buffalo fatality up in Tanzania. Obviously a serious error was involved. We will keep after it.

One need not be a warrior to be an Honest-to-God man. But it helps to get a long start.
"Ottmar H. Friz, a master mariner whose seagoing career began in the days of square rigged sailing ships and who lived in three centuries died of the infirmities of age in Piedmont on April 23. Capt. Friz was 105.

"Capt. Friz, who was born in Germany in 1896, sailed out of San Francisco Bay for more than 30 years. He was for many years master of a succession of troop transports sailing for Far Eastern ports.

"Later, he became port captain for the Military Sea Transportation Service, a post he considered the pinnacle of a career at sea. He reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 1966.

"`I retired from a job,' he wrote later, `but not from life.' When his wife, Carolyne, died, he remarried, and took up cross-country skiing. He moved into a retirement home, then moved out when he found the people there were too old for him. He published his memoirs when he was 96, continued to drive a car until he was 102, and at 103 joined E Clampus Vitus, an organization that admired drinking and history in equal amounts.

"Capt. Friz was a man of few words. Asked the secret of his long life, he said, `Genes and moderation.'

"Ottmar Friz quit school to go to sea in 1911 aboard a German sailing ship as a deck boy, the lowest rank on board. He sailed around Cape Horn when he was 15, and sailed before the mast on three other large commercial sailing vessels.

"`He is the last of the old Cape Horn sailors,' said Ward Cleaveland, port captain for the sail training ship Californian and a friend of Capt. Friz's for many years.

"In all Capt. Friz served on 34 deepsea ships, most of them steamers. During the depression in the United States he even served as a seaman and later an officer on Key System ferryboats on San Francisco Bay.

"It took him 33 years to become master of his own ship, the US Army transport Will H. Point. He later was skipper of seven other ships, sailing around the world and serving in the US maritime service in three wars.

"`He was respected by all, and he earned that respect,' said retired Rear Adm. Thomas Patterson, former West Coast director of the US Maritime Administration. `He was a tough but fair master, and we won't see the likes of him again.'

"Capt. Friz was preceded in death by his wife, Carolyne, and by his second wife, Edna. He is survived by two daughters, Janet Kruse, of Bend, Ore., Georgia Rosseau, of Atlanta, eight grand children, 18 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. The last great-great grandchild was born the day before his death."

via Jim Foley

The war in the sand box is ugly enough, but it does teach many people many things which are very useful to know. The war of ideology is harder to prepare for and to understand than the conventional war of armies. Our people are looking just fine at this time, despite the general tenor of the press. Our people manage fights and score amazingly well in the absence of the sort of political conviction that has supported us in the past. Far too many rear area types do not seem to get the picture, but we must now make sure that they do, so that our front line warriors realize how completely they are supported at home. We must tell them that we did not start this, but that it was handed to us by evil-minded fanatics who do not want to be reasonable. It is our antagonists who thrust the innocent into harm's way. It is our antagonists who are "in love with death" by their own admission. This is a nasty fight to force upon a peace-loving people, but we did not choose it. It is now up to us to demonstrate that we indeed have the will.

Guru say:

The goal of "higher education" is to make the strong wise and the wise strong.

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