Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 12, No. 3 March 2004
At this time of year people always ask if
there was anything outstanding to be seen at the SHOT Show. There
is always something, of course, but what impresses some people is
not the same as what impresses others. For our part, we always make
a straight line for the Perazzi display. Looking at their
top-of-the-line offering is delightful. It shows that people are
still ready to do things like that, both to make them and to buy
them. The four-piece special now on display at Perazzi goes for
four hundred thousand dollars - four over/under shotguns in
four different gauges. They are absolutely beautiful, and while one
would hardly want to own them, they are indeed a joy to behold. Why
one shotgun is better than another is not an easy question. A
commonplace sort of Perazzi, at about $20,000, is beautifully made
and perfectly suited for its task - feathers or clay. What
makes the magnificent Perazzis magnificent is the combination of
unequaled engraving and unequaled wood. It is said that there are
specialists in Anatolia who spend the year searching the forests
for walnut trees suitable for this sort of production. Certainly
the engraving and the walnut are wondrous to behold, and it gives
us great pleasure to behold them.
On a much more practical level, we noted a
profusion of what may be called "1911 clones" manufactured by
various sorts of gunmakers in response to the understanding that a
properly designed, major caliber service pistol answers an ongoing
need. Most of you who read this now own one or more serviceable
pistols of this type, so reproduction has little appeal for you.
However it is interesting to see how the handgun revolution of the
20th century evolved. In 1920 no one had any use for the "Yankee
Fist." Today it is obvious that the need is there. I am often asked
which manufacturer I favor, and I have no clear answer to this.
Quality control changes from time to time, and I do not have
sufficient statistical base for an opinion. We have long maintained
that the only accessories that a 1911 needs are a trigger you can
manage, sights that you can see, and a dehorning job. That still
Let us remind ourselves again that the
Second Amendment of the US Constitution should be referred to as
the Statute of Liberty. That practice has not caught on,
as we wish it had, so let us keep up the fight.
Preliminary response to the "Apollo
Challenge" (20 shots in a 20-inch circle in 20 seconds at 1,000
yards) seems to me is that the exploit is achievable -
As you might suppose, such commentators as we have heard
concentrate on the mechanical aspect of the challenge. Naturally
right equipment would be a help, but success will be attributed to
the shooter rather than his rifle. If this project takes shape, its
administration will be complicated, but I would like to be granted
the right to appoint the committee. As with so many things, success
will depend upon money. The permanent trophy must be
magnificent - not cheap. The administrative work will involve
considerable operational expense, and the suggested first prize of
$5,000 will be necessary to get the right people interested. If the
project succeeds it will establish for all time the world's
greatest marksmen - as a matter of record rather than legend.
The task is barely possible, which is just as it should be. If it
were out of reach, no one would try for it, and if it were easy, it
would not mean anything. Marksmen are a dying breed at this time.
It would be nice to recognize them before they become
Jim West, of Anchorage, Alaska, tells us
he is no longer going to buy his base parts from Marlin, but rather
to make them himself. I think this is good news. Marlin has
contributed greatly to shooting engineering over the past century,
but it has been plagued by quality control problems in recent
years. The Wild West "Co-pilot" is one of the few steps forward in
recent rifle design, and it should be encouraged.
We have recently had in attendance here at
Gunsite a group of outdoorsmen from the Geological Survey
Department. It appears they spend a lot of time out in the bush
with bears, and they would like to be properly prepared in case of
hostile contact. Bears are not normally a hazard, but they
certainly can be, and people who encroach upon bears in their own
country should be aware of that. One of our students recently had
occasion to spend some survey time in the vicinity of Lake Baikal
in Siberia, and he informs us that the situation there is somewhat
fraught. There are plenty of bears and there are a good many
people, but people under Russian control have no access to
firearms. (Russia may no longer be a military hazard to the free
world, but that certainly does not mean that it is a free country.
No guns. Lots of bears. Check 6.)
For bear defense the "Co-pilot" stands by
itself, but though it is very handy, it is still a rifle and must
be managed with two hands. Various outdoor jobs call for the use of
both hands, and the big pistols - 44 Magnum and up - may
be worn on the person with both hands free. A 12 gauge shotgun with
proper slugs may deal with this job, if that is all you can lay
your hands on, but you should not count on it.
Remember then the Gunsite Bear Rules
- Be alert.
- Remember that bears are not cuddly.
- Never enter bear country without a powerful firearm and the
skill to use it well.
- Never camp on a bear thoroughfare.
- Be alert.
Rich Lucibella has been picking away at
the chance to organize a hunt for Hydrurga (the leopard
seal) in Antarctica. While this beast should definitely be included
in the category of dangerous game, the various authorities
controlling the South Pole are violently opposed to any sort of
sporting proposition. Various sorts of scientific societies may be
enlisted in this project, but so far nothing much
Reports from the field, both here and in
Africa, continue to emphasize distressing gunhandling, especially
in Africa. The rich kids continue to take the field without any
preparation at all. People show up to go hunting who have never
handled a gun, amazing as that may seem. Just because you can
afford it does not mean you can do it, but the professional hunters
need all the business they can get. It is obvious that attendance
at rifle school should be a prerequisite for the big hunt, but many
of the people who undertake the adventure are not even aware that
preparatory education is available. The life of a professional
hunter is distinctly hazardous, not from dangerous game, but from
dangerous clients. It must be a great relief for our good friends
in the African hunting trade to discover that they have signed up
people who know what they are doing.
The continued use of shooting sticks by
big game hunters is most annoying. They are encouraged in Africa
because of the total lack of marksmanship skills displayed by
clients. This is understandable, but it does not make sticks a good
idea. For a hunter always to be accompanied by a henchman of some
sort who can carry things for him is wimpish.
I understand that in the great days of bison hunting in the
American West the professionals used sticks because they often
found themselves in high grass. Because of this I whittled out a
set for myself when I was an adolescent, but after taking them
afield I discovered them to be a nuisance. Now we hear of a client
in Africa who protested vigorously when he heard he was expected to
shoot without a rest. Just what he was doing there remains
We note that there are those who object
to our referring to Japanese as Nips. However, the Nips have no
reticence about referring to me as a gaijin. I do not know
why we have all suddenly become almost hysterically touchy. The
Krauts refer to us as Amis, and I do not mind. Nor do I
object when Jews refer to me as a goy. "Sticks and stones
may break my bones, but names can never hurt me."
We note that Gunsite has stopped serving
up "Safari Prep." Certainly this is not because it is not needed,
but rather because the people who need it never seem to realize
that they do need it. Your African trip will be vastly more
enjoyable if you understand a few things about how to make it so.
It is continually reported from Africa that quick assumption of
position is absolutely vital in the bush. We used to emphasize that
here, but it is not taught anywhere else, as far as I know -
certainly not in the military.
Thus it is that we are especially delighted with a recent action
report in which the African PH particularly noticed this skill on
the part of his customer - who had been exposed to it
At the SHOT Show we did not see anything
resembling a cell phone Derringer, for which it seems to me there
is a particular need. Today everybody walks around with a cell
phone at the ready. If that meant that he might be armed with a
single-shot 41 rimfire, this might be a positive discouragement to
Quality control in personal firearms
seems to be on the decline. Up to 50 percent of students here at
Gunsite must be sent immediately to the gunsmith to tidy up their
personal weapons, insofar as this is possible. First-rate fit and
finish are qualities you must pay for, and too many customers do
not understand this. They still go for pseudo-scouts and the "guide
gun" because they cost less than the Steyr Scout and the
"Co-pilot." This error is usually rectified in time, but it costs
more money than acquiring the right piece in the first
We were pleased to be singled out by some
members of the New York City Council as one of the sort of evil
person who sits on the board of directors of the National Rifle
Association. I did not know any of those other people were
listening, but I certainly enjoy following the lead of Theodore
Roosevelt in disdaining hyphenated Americans, and thus preferring
assimilation to diversity. I do wish these people would stand up
and fight, as I relish this sort of thing, but I cannot swing at a
target if I cannot see it.
We are amused (to some extent) by the
concern expressed by some commentators about the exposure of
children to violence on the tube. All kids, but especially little
boys, are much tougher-minded than their parents. (I was a little
kid once and I know.) We did not go to the Saturday afternoon movie
to watch what we called scornfully "love stuff." We went to see the
fighting, and I do not think it hurt us. The Tolkien epic has been
decried by one of these people because it frightened his little
boy. This must have been a pretty faint-hearted little boy, and his
father should have set about correcting that rather than
complaining. This increasing emasculation of our youth may be due
to television, not so much because of the content of the programs,
but because it has been used to take the place of the father in the
household. Of course, many of our modern young people have no
fathers, but that cannot be the whole story, since a properly
oriented mother can step in and take over the role if she realizes
that she must. We cannot raise heros if we let our children be
scared by images. Fear was not allowed in my block when I was a
little kid. The worst insult you could employ was to suggest that
your playmate was a coward.
There is nothing especially heroic about
suffering. It is not that you are hurt that matters, but rather
what did you do about it. People frequently get hurt in war, but
that is hardly the object of the exercise. The object is to inflict
rather than to receive, and medals should be awarded on that basis.
Purple Hearts are all very well, but Bronze Stars are
is now at the
printers and should be ready for distribution by the time of the
NRA meeting at Pittsburgh in mid-April. I really like the way it
looks, enhanced as it is by the splendid artwork of Paul Kirchner.
I had not thought of what might be called a prefabricated
collector's item, but Lindy has put it together in the form of the
special leather-bound edition, and to our considerable
gratification half of those high-priced items have already been
sold. Fancy that! If you are interested, order direct from,
Wisdom Publishing, Inc.,
1840 East Warner Road,
Box 238, Tempe,
Shooting Master John Pepper showed
us an interesting report from the war zone suggesting that the
ragheads are pretty inferior soldiers, being sloppy, lazy and
disinclined to run risks. Fifteen hundred years ago the Arabs
fought well, but times have changed.
Reports from the war zone suggest that
few of our people are engaging one-on-one with enemy troops. Those
who have personally struck blows have done so mainly with
Back during World War II, it occurred to me that if each one
of our soldiers could account personally for one enemy, the war
would be over. I proposed a black-and-gold fouragere worn to
denote this achievement. I dropped that in the suggestion box, but
nothing came of it.
Clearly most casualties in today's wars are inflicted by
crew-served weapons, but if the weapon accounts for more of the
enemy than the number of its crew, the object would still be
achieved. I served for 30 months on what may be considered a
crew-served weapon, our crew numbering 2,200. We certainly
accounted for more than 2,200 of the enemy, but nobody kept score.
At the other end of the line, a young friend of mine flying a
Corsair got in at the end of the line over Japan and shot down one
Japanese aircraft, thus we both slew enough for the proposed but
We are gratified at the response that has
come into our Project. We prefer to call it "The Project," rather
than to attach my name to it. We need sponsors to put up the money,
so if any individual or group wishes to prime the pump (lavishly),
we can use that name to define the test.
I think there is a need for this Project. Sporting literature is
full of lore about remarkable accomplishments, from William Tell on
down. I was recently reading about Billy Dixon at Adobe Walls again
and discover that while some sort of long shot was indeed achieved
on that occasion, details are impossible to verify. We do not
really know who did it or what he did. If The Project takes form,
we will then know who and how, and so will posterity.
I hold no command authority over this enterprise, of course, but I
do have suggestions for the committee, such as:
- A weight ceiling. I suggest 15lbs, all up but unloaded. I would
hold still for 20, but I do not think it necessary.
- Abstract accuracy will not win this test. We have barrels,
actions and ammunition that will achieve 2 minute angle results at
1000 yards-in perfectly still air. The object of this exercise is
to discover if there is a man who can do it.
- I think either 30-06 or 7x57 would be the appropriate caliber.
Those work well in currently available 20-round magazines, and both
are highly developed experimentally.
- A muzzle brake is probably desirable.
- A heel extension on the butt will serve to maintain the piece
into the shoulder between shots, as will a left-hand hold
- A system will be needed to control the possibility of doubles
(two shots in the same hole).
- The 20-inch group need not be scored in the X-ring. If all
shots are in 20 inches, that will suffice.
- Timing will start with the firing of the first shot, rather
than in response to a signal, and end with the 20th.
- Neither the bipod feet nor the butt stock may be bolted to the
base. (The weapon must be "portable".)
- I think three attempts per entry would be sound, entries to be
separated by at least ten (10) days. Each entry to call for a new
- Three witnesses should verify each attempt, one of which to be
an officer in good standing of the sponsoring organization,
preferably the National Rife Association.
- Other considerations will occur to you and they will be
considered when the committee is first convened.
The idea seems to have attracted interest, and I hope that more
will come of it than Internet chitchat. With this effort we could
establish beyond any doubt the identity of the World's Greatest
Rifleman, or Riflemen, if successors can make the grade. The reward
shall be permanent official recognition, inscription on the world
cup, a reduced replica for personal ownership, and a fairly large
money prize, amount to be determined.
For the moment, you may address any questions you have to me;
thereafter, we will have a committee for you in Washington, I
This is not the place to get personal,
but I must admit to great pleasure at being singled out personally
by some anonymous group of anti-gun activists as a bad guy. A man's
worth is often determined by the stature of his enemies, and while
these people do not seem to have much stature, they did go to a lot
of trouble in fabricating a printed flier denouncing me and all my
works. I am flattered. According to my old comrade Colonel Paul
McNicol, USMC, "If you're not making anybody mad you're not getting
anything done." If these people would come out from behind
anonymity, I would be pleased to go to the mat with them. For the
moment I must be content to reflect, though I have now
"arrived" - according to my granddaughter.
Our outstanding ground attack aircraft,
the A10, has been rendering excellent service in Mesopotamia. It
has been nicknamed the "Warthog" because it is pretty ugly. I guess
handsome is as handsome does, and that A10 is pretty handsome to
people on the ground who need it in support.
I know something about swords, having
studied them for most of my life and fenced in competition for a
good many years. It is interesting that the depiction of
swordsmanship on the screen poses almost insuperable obstacles to
the cinema director. When one man faces another under controlled
conditions, his problem and its solution are totally different from
group actions in combat. The fencer or duelist drives his scoring
stroke off his left leg, whereas the brawler fights with his right
arm and, insofar as possible, helping with his left hand. Each
attack is intended to land, and if it does so it stops the fight.
Each attack is delivered with absolute maximum effort on the part
of the swordsman and he cannot keep this up without rest for more
than a few seconds, anymore than a tennis player can keep serving
as fast as he can get the balls. The relative utility of the point
versus the edge suggests that the point will kill but deliver no
shock, whereas the edge may knock a man down or out without
necessarily delivering a serious wound. Thus the celebrated duel in
the terminal scenes of "Rob Roy" is emotionally satisfying but
technically unrealistic. I congratulate the director, but I cannot
use his demonstration as an example of how it was.
Does anybody have any use for the
three-shot burst? It seems to me that is simply a good way of
wasting two shots, but somebody, or some committee got it attached
to various handheld weapons. If anyone has a good use for this
arrangement, I would like to hear about it.
We emphasize again that freedom and
liberty are not interchangeable ideas. Freedom basically denotes
the elimination of restraint - the breaking of shackles. It
was used as a conspicuously successful morale builder for galley
slaves, among others. It was promised to the slaves on the
Christian side at the critical battle of Lapanto, 1574. They were
told they would be freed if their side won. Since the existence of
a galley slave is about the closest approximation of hell that
humanity can devise, freedom from it was an unequaled objective.
Liberty, on the other hand, is a political idea denoting the right
of an individual to do whatever does not interfere with the
activities of his neighbor. Men also fight very well for liberty,
but that objective is less well understood and may not even be
prized by persons lacking the spirit for it. Most of today's
governments are socialist in which liberty is mostly lacking, and
the people in those states do not seem to mind. Thus it is somewhat
annoying to hear exhortations which do not differentiate between
those two words.
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.