Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 12, No. 5 15 April 2004
The Greening of the Desert
Arizona is a dry country - an "arid
zone" - and prizes water above all else. ("All Hell needs is
water.") We were fortunate enough to receive a good supply of
gentle spring rains in early April, and the grateful countryside
now reveals a green luxury that may not last very long, but gives
us new hope for each succeeding year. The flowers are up and the
fruit trees are in blossom. We do not begrudge the three mile road
to the highway. Mud is better than dust, or so it seems throughout
the dry months. This is a nice part of the world. It may not be the
Swiss Alps, nor the garden island of Kauai, but it has a definite
charm for those of us who live here.
The proliferation of teaching facilities
authorized to grant a concealed carry permit poses a problem of
instructorship. Who shall teach the teachers? We recently got a
report back from an Orange Gunsite graduate telling us that the
official who granted his permit was not only mistaken as to facts
but given to the use of gutter language. One woman in his class got
up and walked out, preferring to lose her permit rather than be
exposed to obscenity. We will touch upon this later.
"C Stories" was available at
Pittsburgh and on order. Distribution is now being arranged by the
Any worthwhile experience should be
studied before attempting it, if possible. Much of the great
African hunt is lost upon people who decline to read into it before
taking off. There exists a mountain of literary production on the
African adventure, and some of it is very good indeed. However for
a man to get off his airplane and state in effect, "Now then, tell
me what I need to know," is getting less than half of his money's
worth, no matter how successful his hunting may be. For those who
do not know where to start, I suggest "Hunter" by James
Hunter, "Wild Beasts and Their Ways" by Baker, "Green
Hills of Africa" by Hemingway, and "Denatured Africa" by
Streeter. None of these describes the current scene, but the
atmosphere is well pictured. This is only a beginning. I read
"Afrikana" for thirty years before I made my first trip, and
it made the experience complete.
It is curious to observe that much of the
press seems particularly fascinated by the idea of automatic fire.
Many reports seem to think that spray-and-pray is not only more
efficient but more powerful than aimed fire. I suppose a person who
never thought about the matter may not realize that the power of a
piece is a function of its cartridge, rather than its
We seem to be currently in The Age of
Celebrity, but we do not know what to celebrate. Television has
produced a culture in which getting one's face on the tube is the
measure of his importance. Young people especially can put face to
name respecting totally inconsequential individuals, but cannot
name a true hero if called upon to do so. Private Jessica Lynch is
evidently a very nice girl, but her only noteworthy act was being
at the wrong place at the wrong time, and she did nothing whatever
to win the war. At the same time there were hundreds and perhaps
thousands of Americans who distinguished themselves in battle and
were decorated therefore, and only their immediate families know
anything about them. This is a catastrophe of values.
Note that Black is not part of the color
code. The code does not describe either the immanence or the degree
of lethal action, but rather the capacity of the individual to
cross the psychological barrier that inhibits his ability to take
deadly action. In Condition Red he has already crossed
that barrier. There is no farther he can go. Anybody can say
anything he wishes (except, of course, what may be "politically
incorrect"), but I invented the color code and I know how it
Lest we be thought regressive in regards
to innovation, we can think of several modernisms that await
development. Consider the Savage 99. This was well-conceived and
nicely executed. For a long time it was the only satisfactory
answer for the left-hander. It could mount its sights low and was
available in two excellent cartridges, the 250 Threethousand and
the 300 Savage. The first was a very superior round for game of
300lbs or less. The second was in effect a precursor of the 308
cartridge, lacking only the long throat necessary for the violence
of extended self-loading. I have set it up and used it at some
length, and I find no fault with it, but somehow it just did not
catch on. Its revival might be a good thing, but only if the piece
featured some curious modern cartridge of promotable charm.
And then I would consider the Krag. This is the sweetest and most
user-friendly bolt-action we have seen. It has been slighted
because it includes only one locking lug, which resists recoil
pressure asymmetrically. This could be corrected by skillful
engineering, but it probably would not sell simply because it is
"old," and we cannot have that. Again this might be changed by the
introduction of some weird new cartridge, which need not do
anything significant as long as it is a novelty.
The commercial problem is that we really do not need anything new.
Weapons we have had for a hundred years do everything required of
them, and they exceed the capacity of the user. I do not know any
way around this, but "I got mine" and Semper Fi.
It would help our understanding of the
problem if people would cease confusing liberty and
freedom. These words are not interchangeable. Freedom is a
condition, whereas liberty is a political ideal. Our constitution
was designed to secure the blessings of liberty upon ourselves and
our posterity. It says nothing about freedom. Patrick Henry did not
exclaim, "Give me freedom or give me death." That statue in the
harbor is not the Statue of Freedom. It would be nice if we learned
how to say exactly what we mean.
Lord Clarke, an Englishman of some
consequence, terms Islam "a Medieval basket case." That is well
In Europe they are now producing several
different kinds of Kalashnikov clones in 308. Kalashnikov's
original effort, generally known as the AK47, was a good enough gun
for the peasantry, but hardly worth producing in a legacy version.
Still, it has a name, and people will buy it. It is interesting to
observe that in Europe, where private firearms are held strictly to
the standard of "legitimate sporting purpose," a 308 Kalashnikov
hardly answers that description, whereas in our industrial society
what is excellent is what will sell, and saleability is largely the
result of promotion. Those who pursue excellence for its own sake
think along different lines.
We now discover that "tactical" has taken
place along with "digital" as a synonym for "improved," "more
efficient," or "better." I suppose this is because any suggestion
that any article may have fighting as its purpose is unprintable,
so we see tactical flashlights, tactical clothing, and, we can
expect, tactical running shoes. Well, we keep up the struggle for
clarity of expression. It is all uphill, but well worth
By the time you see this,
"C Stories" will be available for sale. Two years ago I
suggested that the work might be ready by Easter, but did not say
Easter of what year. Well, this Easter it is, and it looks good to
me. I am not the one to evaluate my own work, but I can certainly
extol that of Kirchner, the illustrator, Wasserman, the printer,
and Lindy Wisdom, the publisher. Curiously enough, the limited
leather-bound luxury edition, which will not be available until
June, was nearly sold out before the regular edition was available
for sale. This is most gratifying. I hope the content is worthy of
METALLURGY (with apologies to Mr. Kipling)
Gold for the mistress,
Silver for the maid,
Copper for the artisan clever at his trade.
Stock, said the financier, tallying his sheet.
Stock, said the cattleman, spurs upon his feet.
Fine, said the epicure, pondering his life.
But the best of all the destiny to find the perfect
We learn of a cheerful incident in
Bahrain prior to the running of the first Grand Prix motoring event
in the Middle East. It appears that a group of Islamic nitwits
resented the serving of booze to Westerners at a local restaurant.
They burst in waving knives, whereupon one of the Westerners
relieved one of the thugs and cut him down with it. The answer to
aggression is, as always, counterattack.
Perhaps we should give the Osama bin
Laden problem over to the Israelis. They seem to handle that sort
of thing expertly.
Those of you who enjoy target shooting
with a 9mm pistol will be interested in the appearance of a new
version of the notable Czech 75, this time manufactured by
SIG. It is a very pretty gun, beautifully fit and finished, but its
special features are too refined for heavy-duty defensive use, and
its cartridge is too small. I would think that target shooters
would stick to 22s.
The Oath of Office, which those of us who
have worn the uniform have taken, calls upon us to defend the
Constitution of the US against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
The Moslems are foreign, but we have a conspicuous example of the
domestic variety in the figure of this George Soros. If you do not
know about him, you should. He is a financier of enormous wealth,
which he admittedly intends to use to achieve the destruction of
American liberty. Money has great political power, as Alkibiades
pointed out sometime ago, and this man is more of an enemy of the
Constitution than anyone outside the borders of this country. We
did not know about the Jihad until after they started it,
but we now know about Soros, who is a greater threat. We adjure you
to read up on the subject and act accordingly.
We have been asked by several serious
people to set forth the desired characteristics of a superior
pistol coach. We know something about this, having wrestled with
the problem for more than thirty years. Nobody knows all the
answers, but a good many shooting schools are not even aware of the
questions. We submit our opinions as follows:
The Master of Arms
When I founded Gunsite here in Arizona (1975), I sought to
establish the fountainhead of information and doctrine on the
serious use of the service pistol. To do this I tried to enlist
those competitive shooters who had distinguished themselves over
the previous fifteen years in California. Not all were agreeable to
the proposition, and some who were agreeable were unable to handle
it. I did discover, however, over the opening period, the qualities
which make for a proper Master of Arms. In the classic sense a
Master is not a practitioner, but rather a teacher. Being an expert
at any practice does not necessarily mean making a good teacher.
Various champions who have attempted to set up schools have met
with no success because, while they could certainly do what was
necessary, they could not properly explain to others why they
could. So in the course of time I have concluded that the essential
characteristics of a pistol or rifle coach may be stated as
To begin with, the instructor should know his subject thoroughly.
That may seem obvious, but knowing how to shoot well is more
important than being able to shoot well. Naturally the instructor
must be able to demonstrate personally all elements of the
techniques he teaches. He cannot expect his students to do what he
cannot do. It is certainly not enough, however, to demonstrate an
expert stroke and then simply tell his people "Now you do that."
The physiology and geometry of the human body as it serves as a gun
mount must not only be demonstrated, but clearly explained. The
instructor must invite both question and criticism, and be able to
The qualified smallarms coach must possess, besides complete
knowledge of his subject, a strong desire to impart. Not everyone
who performs well with his weapon possesses this attribute. I have
known people who were excellent shots who rather resisted teaching
anyone else how to shoot, even professionally, because they
evidently wanted to keep such skill to themselves. But a good
instructor, above all, must seek his student's excellence. He must
place more value on his ability to teach a man to shoot than on his
own ability to shoot. His work gratifies his ego when his student
becomes a good shot, and improvement is more satisfying than
excellence. It is fine to raise a B
shooter to the
category, but it is far better to raise a D
to a B
. Shooting excellence at all levels, however, is
what makes his work worthwhile.
The shooting instructor must understand correct training
procedures. He must know the order in which the essentials are
presented and understand the need for time intervals in which to
allow information imparted to sink in. He should know when students
are more perceptive and why, and he must realize that matters which
are quite obvious to him may be complete mysteries to a novice.
This sort of knowledge is not inherent and must be acquired through
experience. This is why a man should put in valuable time as coach
before he may become qualified as Range Master.
A shooting coach must possess what may be called Command Presence,
since he has no military authority over his class. Command Presence
is demonstrated by carriage, voice, demeanor, and tact. Under no
circumstances should the shooting coach conduct himself like a
drill instructor with a recruit. I have had students from the law
enforcement establishment regard me as a sort of military superior,
and I had to explain clearly that I was there to help them improve,
rather than to force them into a pattern. It is absolutely
necessary for a shooting coach to avoid the use of gutter language.
He may think that this makes him sound authoritative, when all it
actually does is display boorishness and a limited vocabulary.
The successful instructor should be careful of his appearance.
Slovenliness is proper cause for disrespect.
The staff instructors must not argue with each other in front of
the class. If there are points of disagreement, they must be
resolved privately, and preferably before they are discovered to be
The instructor should be friendly without being impertinent. You
learn better from a friend than from a boss, but you do not learn
well from a comedian.
It is particularly desirable that the pistol instructor "have seen
the elephant." That is to say, he should have at one time engaged
in a gunfight, been shot at and shot back. Only thus will he be
able to explain to his students what it is like to engage in lethal
Finally, the instructor must be articulate, able to convey his
ideas clearly and concisely.
The search for properly qualified instructional staff in any
shooting school is an unending task. When any training institution
begins to hire its staff carelessly without quality in mind, it
becomes a mere shooting gallery rather than an institute of higher
All this thrashing about in Washington
seems to be pointlessly misdirected. It is not what we may or may
not have done prior to 9/11, but rather what are we going to do
about it now. We would like to turn the mess over to the Arabs, but
that seems to be an invitation to chaos, possibly, however, chaos
is what they deserve, but defeat is not an option.
We have not fully realized until recently
that personal firearms today are more toys than tools. People do
not want to use them so much as play with them, and therein lies
the essence of the firearms industry. Every periodical reveals
pointless innovation for its own sake.
We came up with the 30-06 ninety-eight years ago, and we have not
produced a better tool since. On my first time with it afield, it
achieved four one-stop shots on caribou, sheep, goat and moose.
Three of these animals did not move out of their tracks, and the
caribou made less than ten paces. That load was Western Super X,
starting a 180-grain spitzer hollow point boattail at 2700f/s. "Who
could ask for anything more?"
But business demands turnover, and survives on its efforts to make
people unhappy with what they already have. This puts the critic in
an awkward position.
This preoccupation with equality is another symptom of the
degeneracy of The Age of the Common Man.
In the first place
it is an illusion, since men are not created equal, except in the
political sense. Everyone is better or worse than someone else in a
particular example of his capacities, and pretending that this is
not so is simply silly. Excellence, not mediocrity, should be
everyone's goal, and it is hard to think of anything, from
gardening to crossword puzzles, at which someone may not excel. In
some cases, such as Benjamin Franklin or Theodore Roosevelt,
excellence is quite obvious. But excellence need not be obvious in
order to be worthy.
This dim-witted passion seems to be a product of the French
Revolution, but it diminished in the 19th century, and did not
reappear with full virulence until about the time of the Vietnamese
War. It is the battle cry of the losers, who do not want anyone to
appear good at anything, lest that make some other person feel bad.
These people value "self-esteem" as anyone's individual
prerogative, rather than "self-respect," which must be earned; and
self-respect is by definition not something which may be granted by
other people. Self-respect, like happiness, is a by-product of
accomplishment, and accomplishment is available to all in some line
of endeavor. But accomplishment does not come without effort, and
the person who gives up because the struggle is hard deserves
neither achievement nor happiness.
There are a couple of developments in the
firearms line for which I can see a distinct demand. One is the
Steyr Dragoon - a Steyr Scout in caliber 376 Steyr -
which offers proven medium ballistics in Scout configuration. This
weapon was not promoted properly and has been discontinued. You are
lucky if you got yours while you could. Another item is the JTC
bullet for the 45 ACP cartridge. This also was offered at one time,
but it is hard to get now. The most desirable true innovation that
I can think of is a sight-mount combination of medium eye relief,
featuring an etched fixed reticle and making all sight adjustments
in the mount. This is a difficult development to achieve since it
requires the collaboration of the optics people with the people who
make the mounting system. This was attempted some time ago by
Bausch and Lomb, but it did not succeed on the market.
Unfortunately, too few people who buy guns know very much about
We are informed by people returning from
Iraq that while it is not overwhelmingly difficult to bring along
your own personal weapon, it is intimidating to try to bring it
back. I guess we can attack this out of pure generosity. Most of us
have two 1911s, or we can arrange to have. Take one of them over
and leave it there. This will delight the heart of the recipient
and simultaneously help with the war effort.
This promises to be a brutal summer,
during which the conflict at home cannot fail to be anything but a
distraction from the prosecution of the Holy War. We do not need to
adjure you to vote right, but you can vote often if you can
persuade vacillators. I do not know any such, but perhaps you do.
Preach to those people and save the Republic.
People keep asking about the proposed new
6.8 military cartridge. At this time I know nothing about it except
its caliber, which is somewhat peculiar. We know a lot about the
7mm caliber, and we have amassed a great deal of information about
it. I do not see how reducing it by one-fifth of a millimeter can
improve it. We may assume that the new cartridge will not be
full-length like the 7x57, but will rather be something like a 7x35
or 7x40. The information will be made available in due course, we
Progress on The Project moves slowly but
surely. Shooting Master John Pepper is willing to help with
administration on the east coast, and thousand-yard facilities are
available at Gunsite, Whittington, Camp Perry, and in the vicinity
of Denver. We need a sponsor, and I intend to look into that at
Pittsburgh. I see it as a worthy endeavor, and probably tax
deductible if the sponsor has anything to do with the gun business.
Whether the goal may be achieved is problematical, but that is the
way with goals. At this point we have one aspirant, a man of wide
experience in long-range target shooting who is bold enough to
stand up and be counted. I think the entry fee will be one hundred
dollars, but that depends upon the administrative squad yet to be
established. Suggested first prize is $5,000. Let all those
long-shooters we read about sign up.
Reports back from Iraq continue to
emphasize the value of properly aimed fire, despite the tendency of
the untrained to spray-and-pray. One case we have is that of a 50
caliber machinegun across the street, but set on single fire. One
round of 50 is more than plenty.
Without struggle there is no success.
Without strife there is no victory.
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things;
the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which
thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.
"A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight; nothing he
cares about more than his own personal safety; is a miserable
creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so
by the exertions of better men than himself."
John Stuart Mill
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.