Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 12, No. 12         November 2004

"A Near Run Thing"

And near it was, but not so much as the left-leaning media would have us expect. The important thing is that we did win, and now we have the chance to do something about this evil religious conflict that threatens to engulf the world. This is not a political paper, so we will avoid pushing political positions, but we may give thanks as Thanksgiving approaches in the realization that most Americans prefer to face up to a violent challenge rather than to cut and run. Hurray for our side!

I have little or no progress to report on The Project. Apart from its being very difficult to administer, it does not promise to reward gadgetry. If anyone ever does show that he can place 20 hits in a 20-inch circle in 20 seconds at 1000 yards it will be because he, the shooter, did the job, not that he could assemble an unprecedented collection of gadgets. My own way to creep up on the problem is to start at 400 yards and proceed by 100-yard increments. We will be happy to discuss this with anyone who wants to attempt the task. I have been told by people who should know that it is impossible. Perhaps it is, but so was the four-minute mile. The object is to let man's reach exceed his grasp. Only thus may we discover just what can be accomplished.

We have been approached on the subject of a book on mind-set. We have discussed this matter in various articles, but the job has not been completely attacked. A complete work on mental conditioning is probably worth producing. What we read in the papers and hear about on the tube suggests that most people have not faced up to the prospect of lethal violence in today's society. This is curious when we consider the astonishing prevalence of individual conflict as seen in the world in general. Neither the civilian nor the soldier seems ready to face up to this, and certainly it does not seem to be discussed in schools. This is not a world in which one can turn the other cheek. Doing so does not avoid violence, but rather encourages it. The bad guys threaten, but they do not seem to want to get hurt. They should be taught that their presumed victim is more dangerous than they are. This is not a matter of weapons, but rather of will.

At the Reunion we had an interesting presentation on the subject in which an elderly man, when approached by a goblin in a convenience store late at night, refused to be victimized. Though unarmed, he simply placed his hand in his pocket and told his would be aggressor to buzz off. The bad guy was defeated by attitude rather than marksmanship.

You cannot count on this, of course, but it is up to your dignity to make the attempt. It is more likely to succeed than to fail.

We just ran across a clean example of the Le Mat percussion revolver. This curious device is a percussion handgun combining a front-feeding revolving cylinder with a centerline shotgun barrel. It is a French design and was provided in some quantity to the Confederate forces in our Civil War. It is very large and heavy and suitable only for the horseman. It was said to be popular with Jeb Stuart, along with other prominent Confederate cavalrymen. This example lives at present in Prescott, where it is for sale at a fat price, as you might suppose. Please call me if you would like to handle it, or possibly to buy it. It is a very interesting historical artifact.

Our grandson Tyler is back from Mugabestan and is able to report sadly on the degeneration of that once charming country. Brutality is rife. Money is worthless. Guns are forbidden, and fresh meat is the principle item of exchange. It is hard to accept that Comrade Mugabe is still alive, but he has been able to turn right and wrong into a black and white conflict in a way that pretty well precludes fighting back. Moreover he is supported ostensibly by South Africa. We can only hope that the damage he has already brought about is reparable. There is plenty of game, but running the gauntlet at customs can be a dreary process.

For that matter, getting into South Africa with your personal weapons has become such a tiresome business that one may assume that the current government in power wishes to discourage the hunting business. It took Tyler five hours to get through the customs on the way in. This is commercial suicide, but the revolutionary authorities are not dismayed by it.

Now that increasing numbers of militant Moslems are showing up in Mesopotamia, their most effective groups are from the Islamic Caucasus. We always suggest that you check six wherever you may be, but now we may add the injunction, Check for Chechens!

This marketing mania for miniaturized magna sweeps the field. I can only envision it as pure fadism. Why do you want a short 30 when you have a perfectly good long 30? I realize there are technical responses of this, but they do not impress. Throughout the 20th century we have enjoyed a selection of calibers for sporting rifles that needs no improvement. The big 30 seems to be all the rage at the gun counters, for no reason that I can make out. In my youth I achieved total success with the classic 30-06 cartridge. I could not have done better with anything to appear on the market since. If this makes me a dinosaur, so be it. I probably am such in any case, but that does not justify going astray after strange gods. I do think there is a needed place in the middle between the 03 family and the heavy rifles. The 30-06 220 does just fine for all game short of the pachyderms, but the family of what may be called the 9mm rifles may offer certain advantages for both Africa and North America, when you consider that it may be had in Scout configuration. I took my one and only lion with the 350 Remington Short Magnum, and I doubt if I could have done better with the 06 220. On the other hand, you can now obtain a Steyr "Dragoon" in 376 Steyr, which produces fine medium-sized ballistics in Scout configuration, and Scout configuration is a true advantage, as anyone can tell you who has used the true Scout (rather than a pseudo scout) in the hunting field. You have to take the true Scout afield in order to discuss it properly, because its great advantage is what must be vaguely termed "friendliness." This is not apparent at the bench, but rather in the bush.

We now have on loan from the Great Gannaway his copy of the Broomhandle Mauser, and what a weird beast it is! It cannot really be described as a pistol, a carbine, or a sub-machinegun (!). It is about as unhandy (or unfriendly) as an individual weapon can be, and yet its exotic charm is undeniable. It was never adopted as an official sidearm by any major power, but in its early career officers were expected to provide their own sidearms, and the Broomhandle, with butt-stock attached, allowed a degree of hitability that GI sidearms did not provide.

I have acquired some ammunition for this piece, and I intend to do a photo study on it when circumstances permit. I will have to rig up some imitation Arab targets to engage from equine speed to duplicate as far as possible Winston Churchill's efforts at Omdurman. Stay tuned!

Down with shooting sticks! I realize that a disgusting number of African hunting clients cannot hit a barn from the inside with the doors shut, but the professional hunter must take what he can get, and if his clients have the money, he must grant them what success he can at little risk to himself and helpers. I see why shooting sticks are there, but that does not make them acceptable to a marksman. (So who is a marksman? I have forgot.)

It is continually explained to me that "the grass was too high." We have all seen high grass; also we have all learned how to shoot from offhand. Going back from over a long lifetime of hunting, I discover that when hunting in prairie or mountain as a youth I took most shots from sitting - looped up. In later years I have taken most shots from offhand, this being what was offered in the African low veldt. (I also took my one and only bison from offhand. I took the lion at eleven steps and the bison at 82 yards.)

So practice your offhand. You can do it at home without going to the range. Once you have learned how to shoot, you know where that bullet went when the striker struck.

While on the subject of shooting sticks, I am told that the early hunters of the western prairie used them for a specific purpose which was not overcoming bad marksmanship. These old timers chose long ranges on purpose so as not to spook the herd. Using a low-velocity cartridge, the old timer could put down a bull at sufficient distance to prevent the herd's discovering that it was being shot at. If the hunter could put down two, three or four animals out of the same bunch before they took alarm, his work in skinning his beasts could be vastly simplified. And he could choose targets deliberately, not so much because of the high grass, but because the distance chosen called for additional support even with a good shot.

As the war continues, we build up a fine series of personal accounts which will never appear in the press. Consider the following:
"And I know you don't have much use for female Marines (neither do I, but let's keep that quiet) but there is one out here who is pulling more than her weight and is doing things no one else could do. She is an educated Syrian-born Lance Corporal, an absolutely delightful and fascinating person. Because of her particular abilities, she can go with units on a variety of missions and help calm a situation by speaking to the women and children, which is something no male Marine can do effectively. She has also done yeoman's work as a translator for the interrogators. All of that is even more impressive when you hear what career she walked away from to enlist in the Marine Corps: she was a practicing physician. I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it myself."

The sooner we teach the young that recoil does not hurt, the better we will be able to teach them to handle powerful firearms. I think it obvious that some novices are more distressed by the blast of discharge than by the blow. This is one reason for commencing training with a 22. I have never found this to be necessary, but in some cases it may help. The student should be shown that discharging the firearm is more pleasing than painful. The sense of force delivered, at will at the whim of the shooter, is highly gratifying, but we must work around this with the novice. The US rifle of 1903 and the US pistol of 1911 were wrongly presented to hundreds of thousands of recruits over a long period. Too many young men were led to think that these powerful firearms would punish the shooter on discharge. This was a psychological error which should never have been allowed to grow. Now that we use the "poodle-shooter," the problem hardly exists.

At school long ago I was told of one of the early church fathers, Telemachus by name, who taught that one of the delights of the blessed in heaven would be looking over the ramparts and relishing the torments of the damned below. This struck us as a bit rough for a true Christian, but after our recent election I can see how it might apply to our current domestic scene. It also bears upon the discomfort of the European Left (but then we said we were not going to talk politics in this issue).

We are sad to report the demise of Dr. Albert Pauckner, of Ansbach, Germany. I met Albert in connection with some classes I held in Europe, and later on when he got down to Rhodesia with us before that country was wrecked by Mugabe. Albert was a good shot and a good friend, and we had many pleasant memories to share. He got his buffalo plus other assorted game, and was always a general help to the scene. We shared each other's hospitality, both at home and abroad, and were pleased to consider him a good companion. His spirit went wherever good spirits go, and we hope to join him there in due course. May he rest in peace!

Reports from Iraq suggest that studies in practical pistolcraft should include a certain amount of practice in shooting while moving in a vehicle. This involves what may be called "negative lead" and it does not come naturally. That is to say that you shoot before you are on target, the degree depending upon the speed of the vehicle. I discovered this in shooting from the tricycle before we got involved in the current unpleasantness. It also applies to swordsmanship, in case anyone wants to use his sword while underway. We intend to try this with Churchill's Broomhandle Mauser.

Gunsite is now teaching the use of the machine pistol, or "submachine gun." We never taught the machine pistol here at Gunsite when I was in charge, for various reasons. In my opinion, it is a slob's weapon, useful only by half-trained or poorly motivated troops. It hits no harder than a pistol and it is no more portable than a rifle. Fully automatic fire in a handheld weapon is a doubtful business, useful only to use up ammunition unnecessarily. But there are certain tasks for which the machine pistol may be recommended. One of these is boat-against-boat action in dim light, plus ship-against-boat action as in the repelling of borders. The machine pistol is also useful as a murder weapon wherein several unarmed victims are confined within an enclosed space. These uses never attracted me, and I did not think that Gunsite customers would be attracted either, but if machine pistol training is something Gunsite customers want, it will be provided. It has always seemed curious to me that European police have preferred the machine pistol to the shotgun, deeming the latter to be too barbarous, whereas in the United States the reverse is true, and the police prefer the shotgun to the MP.

Back when I was doing product evaluation for Uncle Sugar, I really enjoyed the machine pistol, since Uncle was providing the ammunition. In this job I got to be pretty good with the weapon, since I did a great deal of shooting with all sorts of models. The trick to managing fully automatic fire in a handheld weapon is to let the piece ride on its own recoil while the shooter releases vertical support during the burst. This is easy to learn, but it does not come naturally.

Perhaps we should note that the ragheads killed three times as many Americans in their attack on New York as the Nips killed at Pearl Harbor. Human lives are not properly treated like box office scores, but when we speak of "Weapons of Mass Destruction," we should note that they include three categories at this time - nuclear, chemical and biological. Saddam Hussein used chemicals on the Kurds, but no nuclear bombs nor induced plagues - not that he would not have done so had he deemed it useful. Comrade Mugabe, down there in Africa, is fully as evil as Saddam Hussein, but possesses no nuclear capacity. He remains in office, however, insofar as no faction has got around to eliminating him. One wonders why not?

Bears have proven uppity all this last summer and fall, both in Alaska and in the lower 48. Some people will not accept the fact that bears are not cuddly. They may seem so to the uninformed, but they are big, strong, dangerous animals, and they can kill you with very little effort. A recent incident in the Chugach Peninsula of Alaska was successfully managed with a 44 Magnum revolver. According to the story, this bear charged from cover without warning. The pistol did not provide a one-shot stop, but nevertheless it did the job.

We are always dubious about tales of unprovoked bear attacks, but we cannot simply dismiss them on that account. There are several sorts of things which may irritate a beast which are not duly apparent to an observer.

In considering how times have changed during the 20th century, it appears that in the early days of military aviation everyone knew that it was Captain Roy Brown who shot down Manfred von Richthofen (or he thought he did). Does anyone today know the name of the soldier who gathered up Saddam Hussein? Is it that we are afraid of retribution?! If so, our loss of respect for heroism suggests a triumph of national cowardice.

A correspondent recently asked me why I was "against" the pseudo-scouts now available. I am not against pseudo-scouts - which were, after all, the direct ancestor of the true scout. Scout I is an example. It now resides honorably with our number two daughter in Colorado. I killed my one and only lion with a pseudo-scout, which is now engraved as the "Lion Scout." It is just that you are no longer restricted to pseudo-scouts, since both the Steyr Scout and the Steyr Dragoon are available over the counter (the Dragoon now having been reset for production). When you can get the apotheosized Scout ready-made there is no need to put up with anything less.

The trouble here is that the virtues of the true Scout do not stand out on the bench rest at the rifle range. Those that I have tested shoot beautifully, but then so too do lesser guns. Group size is a worthy consideration, but if it is small enough there is no need to try to make it smaller, and no practical advantage is obtained if it is. It is nice to be able to shoot tiny shot groups on paper, but it is nicer to be able to snap a center hit from offhand on the quick count of three, which clocks at about 1½ seconds. A rifle and cartridge combination which encourages this performance is more serviceable and more important than a thumbnail three-shot group at 100.

It may be that I am beating this matter of the Scout rifle to death, if so I apologize, but a lifetime on the range and in the field has convinced me that I am on the right track.

This continued discussion of the proper rewards for valor should be directed toward recognition of damage done to the enemy, rather than distress suffered by the warrior. Being hurt calls for no expertise, but wrecking the enemy may do so. Old timers may remember the Maulden cartoon from World War II in which the soldier at the aid station announces "Just give me a couple of band aids, doc. I already have a Purple Heart."

The hunting season is not yet over, but the family freezers are full. Daughter Lindy put her elk down neatly at 182 yards with her Scout. One hundred and thirty-two pounds of dressed venison should certainly serve to hold us through the holidays.

Consideration of the gastronomic excellence of our wild game is a good subject for discussion in our forthcoming food book. In my opinion, it is not the species but the individual beast that should decide the discourse. When we have a choice of mule deer, whitetail, elk, pronghorn, bighorn, moose, and bison, we have room for plenty of discussion.

In my youth I decided that the Rocky Mountain bighorn was the tastiest of all wild game, but the splendid desert bighorn taken by John Gannaway did not measure up. Right now my own vote would be for the prime Texas bison taken at Indianhead. I am certainly willing to be shown the virtues of other offerings, and I really must get cracking on that food book. The clock ticks.

We continue to reflect upon the need to identify our objective in this Holy War. We certainly have the ability to destroy our enemies; but first, of course, we must be able to point out who they are. The fanatics cannot be intimidated, since tactical suicide is in their minds the pathway to paradise. Therefore they must be personally destroyed. The policy was set forth at the notorious Siege of Beziers. "Omnes moritatem. Deus suos cognoscet."

It occurs to us (in regard to this current rash of evil extortion), that the payment of ransom should be treated as a crime. We preached this on our various training sessions in Latin America. It is hard to tell the near and dear that they will be punished for trying to obtain the release of a kidnap victim, but nonetheless it must be done. Even if the kidnappers return the victim unharmed, paying them off only renders their atrocity the more atrocious. Neither individuals nor states should surrender to extortion, which foulness must not be encouraged by making it profitable.

Lest we think all Europeans lean to the Left, consider this from our man in Belgium:
"As most `normal people' I am full with enthusiasm thanks to the superb results of the yesterday's US elections and want to share with you my joy.

"I think that this may be the most important positive event for the near and even far future of humanity!

"The challenges are huge but I feel sure that Mr. Bush has the capacity of a winner and that the next four years will be extremely interesting."

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