Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 13, No. 7          July 2005

High Summer

The world toddles along in its customary random fashion. Looking back over the past couple of generations, we do not see much to celebrate, apart from all this digital technology. Apparently what is digital is good, and what is good is digital, or something. We are pleased, of course, with the notable success of certain outstanding sporting rifles in the field, but that hardly compensates for the annoying continuation of the jihad in its many pernicious aspects. To pursue this Holy War in which we are now engaged will need an objective. If we can identify a clear-cut target, we certainly have the means by which to defeat it, but our avowed adversaries, at this time, persist in screening it to the extent that we have total confusion of our targets. On the one hand, the wahabis insist that they seek nothing but peace and good will, and on the other hand, they insist on indiscriminate murder as their fundamental tactic.

I do not pretend to have an answer to this question, but I am convinced that surrender is absolutely not the answer. These people maintain that they do not fear death, and some of them at least act as if they mean it. They do, however, seem to fear pollution, and that just may be an objective of sorts. Tradition has it that the Ay-rab is horrified by anything swine-like. If this is true, we may possibly resort to pig-like pollution of these murderers and their survivors. It would hardly seem couth to drench these people in bacon fat but, for lack of any other option, we might give it a try. Our adversaries are very nasty people; perhaps they will respond to very nasty tactics. Two wrongs do not necessarily make a right, but on the other hand the lesser of two wrongs might achieve an improved confrontation.

Did we note that 50 percent of the people you run across are below average?

On the good side, we hear of very satisfactory field results with our recent developments in both cartridges and sporting weapons. For example, we now have a recorded 63-inch kudu taken with the Steyr Scout; as well as with the 376 Steyr cartridge - in proper Scout configuration, of course. This last combination (which I like to call the Dragoon) is as close to perfection as is possible to obtain for both the Low Veldt and Alaska. Neither the factory nor the importer seems to be aware of this, but then marketing is a subject so arcane as to be beyond the understanding of us country boys. Right now, for example, it is difficult to obtain either a Scout or a Dragoon with the proper Mannlicher bolt handle. Somebody suggested that a ping-pong ball offers a better grip for the proper operation of the bolt, and somebody bought the idea. It is not a good idea. Speed of the second shot is more a function of recoil recovery than of bolt work. We see illustrations in the popular press of people who seem terribly concerned with speed of the second shot, but who persist in removing the butt from the shoulder when operating the weapon. Any reputable school or training system insures that the butt remains in the shoulder when the bolt is operated, but then as the Marine said in the fighting top of the Bonhomme Richard, "There is always some S.O.B. who never gets the word."

It is not surprising to learn that the red dot sight on the M16 works pretty well in war, as long as the range is kept short.

From my early youth we have marveled at the grandeur of the great sheep at the roof of the world. These are the Marco Polo sheep and the various subspecies of argali. Certainly those great 60 inch spirals are truly awe inspiring, and should cap the collections of the dedicated hunter/naturalist. There is, however, another aspect of this, and that is atmosphere or background. The great sheep of the Himalaya or the Pamir are normally found above timberline, grazing on relatively flat gravel slopes above vegetation and waterfall. The American Rocky Mountain bighorn, however, inhabits some of the grandest and most dramatic scenery in the world. Just barging into his preferred terrain is a joy in itself, with or without successful harvest. I've come to think that the Rocky Mountain bighorn is the grandest of all trophies, possibly excepting one which we will discuss shortly.

We have one more buffalo disaster from Kenya (where hunting is forbidden, as you know). I do not have details yet about this case yet but, of course, buffalo will not bother you if you do not hunt them first. (Everybody knows that.)

As to trophies, I would place Shinano as first overall. Shinano was the world's greatest warship. It was the ultimate carrier, based upon the frame used for the Yamato and Musashi, the two ultimate battleships. Japan attempted to sweep the seas by the creation of three unmatchable battleships. The project was undertaken in the late 20s or early 30s and was completed with the Yamato and Musashi. But then the Japanese decided that the weapon of the future had to be the aircraft carrier, and they converted number three of the super team and called it Shinano. It was brought to near completion in Japan's inland sea - but not without the knowledge of the US Navy. We knew what was going on, and when time came for time trials of the super carrier, we had it on our submarine screen as the super target. When Shinano emerged from the inland sea and cruised right around the bottom of the Japanese chain, we had a submarine waiting for it. This sub was the Archerfish, and while it could not hope to cruise with Shinano even at trial speed, it could wait in ambush. And so it did. The carrier completed some tests and then headed back to its home port, where Archerfish was waiting. By superb submanship, Shinano was intercepted, and since it was unaware and unprepared, it was sunk by four well-placed torpedoes which caught it without the protection of its water-tight integrity.

Now there is a trophy. Joe Enright, the skipper of Archerfish, could not very well hang Shinano on his trophy room wall, but he knew what it was to be the greatest trophy hunter of them all.

We have very good reports from Mesopotamia regarding our current weaponry. It turns out that if you hit a man two or three times in the upper chest area with a 223, you will take him cleanly out of the fight. Of course one such hit with a 308 will do the same.

We also hear that the endurability of the old 1911 stands still unchallenged. If you need a pistol, you need a real pistol. The best available 9mm serves best as a badge of office.

In an example of where our current public schooling system is taking us, we recently overheard a comment from a middle-aged woman to the effect that the Nips would not have attacked us at Pearl Harbor if it had not been that we hit them first with the A-bomb. (Honest to God!)

In connection with all of the excitement about the forthcoming London Olympics, we might remember that the original Olympics were specifically and forcefully non-national. Any athlete on his way to or from the games had free passage through all city states, and free hospitality.

It is time to remind ourselves again that O.J. Simpson and Lon Horiuchi are still running free as of now.

If you are serious about big game hunting, here, there or elsewhere, practice your off-hand. Remember that you can do this without recourse to the range. Dry firing does wonders once you have learned the basics.

I did not put any material concerning the fist rest or Hawkins position into "The Art of the Rifle." I intend to remedy this with an appropriate short piece in due course. The fist rest, in which the bight of the forward loop of the sling is used as a sort of forward pistol grip, is extremely useful and should remain where your built-in bipod is inapplicable. More than half of recent field reports emphasize the fist rest.

The bench rest, on the other hand, is not really a field expedient. It is a means of overcoming a very bad trigger action, from the bench or on the range.

Income tax remission for holders of the Medal of Honor is an idea which seems to be gathering momentum. Whoever gets this put across rates a gold star for the year.

Such reports as we get back concerning The Project suggest that most people seem to think that this should be attacked by way of highly esoteric equipment. The Project, for those who came in late, consists of the placement of 20 shots in a 20-inch circle in 20 seconds at 1000 yards. There are those who claim that this is impossible, and certainly it is very, very difficult, but then so was the 4-minute-mile until somebody achieved it. We have the equipment necessary for The Project right now. As far as I know, however, we do not yet have the man.

All systems are go for the Reunion at Whittington in September. Please remember that your "theatrical"contribution should be regarded as the price of admission. Dream up something appropriate to the great Theodore Roosevelt (or from Rudyard Kipling). You do not have to memorize it, but it is better if you do. My father required me to memorize "Horatius at the Bridge" by MacCaulay when I was in junior high school, and I still have that whole thing pretty much to memory. Those family members who have sons are reminded that heroic verse is one of the great gifts that may be given. Poetry surpasses prose in this because it sticks in the memory better. Kipling's "If" has served as a moral guide for young men for over a century, and in the current unisex world it may be equally applicable to daughters. (Brother and sister teams facilitate memorization.)

For those who are thinking of equipping your own private army, the Socom 16 appears to be the best thing now available. It has not been excessively tested, but it seems to be assembled from proven elements.

Question: If you are only going to have one firearm available in your home, what should it be? Comrade Mugabe, up there in what used to be Rhodesia, has decreed that the answer is zero - no private firearms of any sort. One wonders how that bird manages to survive. I suppose that the prospect of a retaliatory blood-bath intimidates a lot of people. Possibly this is true, but what intimidates many should not intimidate all. The men who signed our Declaration of Independence put their heads in a noose in so doing. It would be nice to think that there are still men of that sort available today. "By my troth I care not. Man owes God a death, and he that dies this day is quit for the next."

It would be nice if we could prevail upon people to refer to a "cougar" rather than to a "mountain lion." A cougar (puma, panther, painter, etc.) is almost nothing like a lion, apart from sharing approximately the same color. Lions are fierce, cougars are not. Cougars have been known to attack people, especially children, but not as a normal thing.

There is a great deal of foolish discussion bouncing around concerning the proper arm position for serious pistol work. Jack Weaver's classic contribution consists in power control. If you crank that left elbow down and pull positive counter-pressure, you dampen recoil very considerably. If you use mechanical means of reducing recoil, and if you lay great importance upon very rapid bursts of succeeding shots, this may matter, but in the overall picture, I do not believe it does. It hardly matters whether you use the Weaver Stance or the Isosceles "with both arms straight" as long as you get hits, and those hits should be delivered with a major powered sidearm under controlled conditions. The argument is silly, and I wish it would go away.

You must remember that with the rifle it is not how far away the shot was, but how close you were able to get. I have been shooting seriously since my late teens, and I have taken just six long shots that I remember. (By long shots I mean shots 300 meters or over.) I do not mean to set myself up as an example, but I need to point out that if one is forced to take a long shot, he owes himself an explanation. "There was no way I could get any closer."

This has been a pretty active year for bears in all sorts of places. It is not surprising to hear of bear incidents in Alaska, but we have others, both in the Continental US and in such an unlikely place as Rumania. Bears are not cuddly, wherever you find them. They are not what anyone would call ferocious as a rule, but they can turn hostile quickly, and a full-grown bear of any species must be taken seriously, no matter where found. We have published our Gunsite Bear Rules several times, and I see no need to do it again, but bears kill (and eat) people with fair regularity wherever they are found. I have no personal case studies of bear defense, but it is clear that all principles of personal defense apply to bears as fully as to other large animals. Clearly, bullet placement is particularly important with any large, strong animal.

You will recall that it has been suggested that the reason for the production of the 700 Nitro Express was the unavailability of anything bigger than a 600. For the same reason, we now see offered a 50 ACP pistol.

Let us bear in mind that a court martial is not a punishment. It is a means of determining the guilt or innocence of an individual charged with breaking the law. A court martial can impose a severe sentence in the due course of inquiry. In World War II, the United States found one man guilty of a capital military offense. That is to say that he did something which would not have been a serious offense had it not been committed under combat conditions in time of war. This was the notable case of Private Eddie Slovik, and he was shot for refusing to fight. That was one incident not previously encountered and unlikely to be repeated. But a court martial must be understood to be just that - a court in which evidence is presented for and against the accused party, who may be punished if found guilty by anything from a literary reprimand to death. To "court martial" a man is not to punish him. It is, on the contrary, a means of deciding whether or not he should be punished.

So now the Bantu bosses of South Africa have decided to change the name of the traditional capitol, Pretoria. The new word is Tshwane. This seems to us to be a conspicuously lousy idea. Andries Pretorius was one of the outstanding heros of modern time. Changing Pretoria to Tshwane suggests changing the name of Washington, DC to Nat Turner City. South Africa was one of our favorite places prior to the revolution, but time has a way of marching on.

Having invented my own personal color code for individual response to personal danger, I like to feel that I ought to know just what it implies. This is, of course, not obligatory. I may have designed the code, but nobody is obliged to observe it as I declared it. Still I wish people who wish to use it would use it as designed, rather than as improvised after the fact. Specifically, I would like to insist that my own four-stage color code refers to decisions to take deadly action, rather than a degree of danger. As I have designed it, the color code designates that psychological condition which enables you to take action which is very unusual in your experience and which may result in lethal violence. A reasonably well-adjusted human being finds it very difficult to take lethal action against another human being. It is so difficult that it may prevent him from saving his own life. I have described it, taught it and written it up several times, and I am satisfied that it works as I have created it. It has on several occasions saved the life of the individual who had used it correctly. Put as simply as possible, the color code runs White, Yellow, Orange, and Red. It does not need amplification, but it does cover the subject in hand completely. That is putting it as quickly as possible, and we can go into it further at your convenience.

As the English language continues to be bollixed up by various sorts of mechanical innovation, we would like to point out that "access" is not a verb.

Does it not seem strange that the ancient Greeks were able to achieve a totally painless courtesy death, or courtesy capital punishment, by means of an infusion of what they called "hemlock." We have impeccable eyewitness proof of this in Plato's account of the execution of Socrates. Personally, I do not see any need to be particularly tender to an atrocious felon, but modern penologists do not seem to have read any history.

Unyielding events in South Africa suggest that the children have been placed in charge of the bus - or did we say that already.

Recent "kindergarten" sessions have been conducted here at Gunsite with conspicuous success. Kinder, accompanied by their parents, make wonderful students. They want to learn, and they apply themselves with more enthusiasm than their parents often show. I must admit that this never occurred to me when I was teaching here, but if the current management is content with very small classes this development is most gratifying.

Of all the words of tongue or pen the kindest are "It has already been taken care of."

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