Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 13, No. 4          April 2005

Torrents Of Spring

And Spring has definitely sprung - in the Northern Hemisphere. We enjoyed a spectacular demonstration of it here in the Continental Southwest, augmented by Autumnal reports from Africa. Daughter Lindy's account of her ladies' party from the Eastern Cape has provided much of interest regarding generalized antelope shooting, and given us much to study in regard to logistics and technique. We were amused by her pungent observations upon the "long, old fashioned, wooden rifles mounted with moonscopes." It is evident that beginners who can afford it set forth after "plains game." Some of our graduates are deer hunters who have started from stand-shooting on Texas whitetails. Any sort of stand-shooting from a blind allows or encourages the use of what is essentially a shooting-range rifle, as opposed to a true hunting rifle. When you shoot from an elevated blind, as is customary in both Texas and Europe, you need not concern yourself with the handiness or friendliness of your weapon. In effect you simply sit there and ambush your target. The field convenience of your rifle is not an important element in this sort of hunting. Neither, for that matter, is the power of your cartridge. Most shots are taken from a fist rest at a stationary target, and the hunter's fieldcraft and field marksmanship are not critical.

All sorts of hunting for medium game is rewarding to those who practice it conscientiously, but this sort of "bean field hunting" is more of a social arrangement than a challenge. These parties are great fun and less expensive than many realize, but the skill required and satisfaction afforded are somewhat of a secondary nature than those of a major enterprise. The African hunt is always a splendid adventure, but it can provide its own special thrill when conducted properly and with proper regard for the proprieties. True big game hunting graduates from the simple to the sublime. Its rewards are always there for those who understand it.

"What is popular cannot be good because not enough people are qualified to judge."
The foregoing idea may be attributed to Alkibiades, Heinlein or Winston Churchill, depending upon your choice of philosopher.

We were treated to all sorts of new and ingenious items on display at the SHOT Show, and the NRA Annual Exhibits. While much excellent equipment has been introduced to us this year, there still remains a number of unanswered questions, one of which is the availability of a really satisfactory rifle case. Balancing weight and bulk against the protection of the item itself remains to be solved. Many strong and secure items are readily available but portable they are not. All sorts of wondrous materials are available to us, but at the price of excessive weight and the impractical utility. Titanium is both strong and light as compared to steel, but for practical employment as airline luggage it does not suffice - apart from considerations of cost.

Some of our bright graduate engineers might do well to attack this problem. I am thinking of maximum strength plastic webbing, protected by titanium points and a steel spine.

There is a very definite need for this item, and whatever its cost might be that cost is less than might be met by ingenious engineering.

Let's see what we can do with that idea.

We wish that our current commentators would refrain from confusing liberty with freedom. Freedom is a material condition, whereas liberty is a political ideal. Note that liberty as an ideal is frequently honored in the works of our Founding Fathers, but freedom is not. This is not quibbling. If we do not know what we mean by what we say, we will never be able to know what we think.

Most of our big game animals are quadruped grass eaters. This means that those beasts we seek as game animals usually offer us broadside targets, since they tend to present themselves to a pursuer at approximate right angles. When so accepting a broadside target, we find that the vital zone of such a target is presented in the lower third of the target's thorax. This means that the kill zone of our target is usually located lower than the median line of the thorax. Consider then that when we are shooting at a quadruped grass eater, we must remember to keep our shots low. Furthermore we must remember that at any predictable distance, we are not shooting at a point but rather at a roughly circular pattern. Witness your target group. When engaging our target, we must place a theoretically circular pattern on the animal's broadside, and this in turn means that if we miss we will probably miss high, since half of our group size is going to be located above its centerline. To take this further, we discover that when engaging a game animal, our misses will tend to be high - assuming that we are pretty good shots. Most misses in the field, therefore, will be high misses, since we subconsciously tend to "help the bullet." Since our misses on game animals tend to be high, we must remember to avoid "helping the bullet" and seek to keep our pattern low on the target.

This may seem pretty abstruse, but long years of big game hunting have shown us the need to place our group size lower rather than higher on our (quadruped) target. Bear this in mind when next you are offered a target; the duffer's misses tend to be low shots whereas the expert's misses (if any) tend to be high. I have seen fine shots overshoot on mid-range targets, and the misses of the "masters" - rare as they may be - are high misses. (Of course, none of the masters ever miss under any circumstances ... do they now?) Be that as it may, just remember that you are shooting at a circle rather than a point, and keep the group low.

It turns out that there are four blood types discernable upon Ötzi the Iceman. It suggests that our Neolithic ancestors in Eastern Europe may have been as ethnically diversified as they are now.

Must a youngster be necessarily started with a 22? I think that depends a certain amount on lifestyle. If you live in open space where you may shoot in your backyard, it is probably better to start with a rifle, since the rifle is the easier weapon to learn. If, on the other hand, you may have to travel many miles to find an indoor shooting range, the pistol is probably a better bet - at least a more practical one.

We have not found that it is necessary to start a youngster with a 22. In my own family we began, in one case, with the 30 caliber and suffered no difficulties with that. Much, of course, depends upon the methods of the instructor.

And I do not yet understand all this public acclaim for volunteers and volunteerism. There is nothing extraordinary nor heroic about going to war when your country is involved. It is simply a fact which serves to repay the privilege of being an American citizen. The millions who strive with only moderate success to immigrate into this country can explain that if asked.

This letter comes from a distinguished Gunsite graduate now serving as an assistant division commander in Iraq. It may clear up our national position now somewhat obscured by our news media. It is not an official communication, but rather a private letter.
"Dear Friends,

"It isn't over yet, but today there was a resounding victory for freedom and democracy here in Baghdad. Having been here for a while now, many of us have grown weary of the hand-wringers, worriers, pessimists, whiners, and host of others who have been telling us for so long that all is lost in Iraq. Today we witnessed just how courageous the Iraqi people can be and how much they love their new-found freedom.

"After listening to the pundits tell us how terrible the Iraqi Security Forces are, today I watched the Iraqi Security Forces stand tall. They protected, 1,188 polling sites in Baghdad. Although there were a number of suicide bombers who attacked today, not a single one penetrated the perimeter of a polling site. There were several Iraqi policemen, and several Iraqi soldiers who lost their lives today. But they did not lose their honor or their courage; none of the 30,000 plus Iraqi Security Forces on duty in Baghdad ran away from danger today.

"At the site of our first suicide bombing of the day, voters did not lose their courage either. They quickly lined back up at the same site, spitting on the body of the suicide bomber as they passed by in line to vote. A woman came out of line and took the shoe of the bomber and put it on his face - a great insult to an Arab. The same was true at any polling site that had violence. Voters immediately lined up again to cast their vote. How many Americans value their privilege to vote enough to show that kind of courage?

"We have listened to many experts talk about how the Sunnis would not participate in the election. Polling sites in Abu Guyreb were moved to Gasaliya because the Iraqi Election Commission was concerned about security in Abu Guyreb. We watched thousands walk down the highway - Sunni Moslems - on the 7 mile round trip to the polling sites so they could vote. All under the threat that terrorists had been making that they would kill anyone who voted. How many Americans would do that?

"All over Baghdad the story was the same and I could tell a dozen stories of great courage and determination. Despite the enemy's campaign of terror, despite danger, threats, intimidation, and the sporadic incidents of violence and terror today, Iraqis turned out in determined, large numbers to vote. The excitement was moving. Even though the terrorists have said they will kill anyone with a "marked finger" (when you voted your finger was dipped in ink to keep people from voting a second time), voters paraded down the street holding their fingers up in joy and overwhelming pride.

"When I told one Iraqi I was sorry that people had died or been wounded today, he just said `freedom has a price, and this is the price that we must pay.' And every Iraqi I talked to said thank you to the United States for this opportunity, for this freedom, and how grateful they were for our help.

"I am sure it will only be hours until you start hearing all the `experts,' most of which have never been to Iraq, start trying to convince us that today was flawed, failed, or somehow less than a wonderful day and a blow for freedom. They are the same people who say we are failing here, that you couldn't do an election on the 30th of January, and on and on. It is true we haven't `won' here yet. It is not predetermined that we will win, and it will take continued sacrifice and determination on our part. Those who hate freedom and democracy will still fight, many to the death, to try to stop this march to freedom and prosperity by the Iraqis with our help. They are terrified of the thought of a free and democratic Iraq that leads this whole region to a democratic future.

"But despite this, I encourage you from here in Baghdad, for at least one day, to ignore the pundits and experts, to enjoy a day where a blow for freedom was struck. Know that somewhere in the world, because of the sacrifice of your friends, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and countrymen; good won over evil, freedom over terror, and democracy over despotism.

"Last June 30, Iraq was given its sovereignty. Today, they earned their freedom. And we should all be joyful for that."

We have yet to receive any reports of the use of the leopard light on the Steyr Scout rifle. The rail is there and ready to go, but as yet no one has taken after a night-baited leopard with a Scout. It is one of those various progressive features of the weapon there to be used, if not fully appreciated.

Whence this sudden anti-Christ! The US is a Christian nation. Followers of other faiths (and atheists excepted) are welcome abroad, but they do not make policy. The moral and religious foundations of this country are absolutely Christian as is easily discernable from the written efforts of our founding fathers. It may be that a general lack of history is destroying our sense of morality, but that need not be happily accepted. The nuclear family with church on Sunday is the groundwork of our social righteousness. Times may change, but that does not mean that we cannot tell right from wrong.

I have as yet no valid opinion about the 45 short cartridge. This should take about a year's worth of field evaluation.

What British police condemn as "vigilante" behavior has produced an American burglary rate less than half the British rate. And while 53% of English burglaries occur when someone is at home, only 13% do in America where burglars admit to fearing armed homeowners more than the police. Violent crime in the US is at an all-time 30-year low.

Remember to schedule 23 - 25 September for this year's Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Reunion. All seem to be in readiness and we expect our usual pleasantries in honor of our hero and great President. Make your reservations with Chad (or whomever is on duty) at the gatehouse at Whittington Center (505-445-3615, ext. 207) to secure a room in Competitor Housing Building #1. Our function will precede the opening of hunting season and should be free from the shooting restrictions previously encountered.

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