Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 13, No. 8          August 2005

Shooting Weather

Considering the various kinds of shooting in which the Gunsite family is now engaged, we note that the variety is conspicuous. The Holy War offers various sorts of its own. And here at home we are entering into the annual zeroing session. This applies, of course, to long arms, since once you have achieved a satisfactory zero on your most useful handgun there is seldom much need to play around with it. Back in the pioneer days of the handgun revolution, we gave a lot of thought to adjustable sights on pistols, only to discover with the passage of time that except for certain kinds of specialties, pistol shooting does not call for much sight adjustment. Though I think that the adjustable sights on a pistol are pretty much an affectation, I am certainly open to contributions from family members who disagree. The elegant super revolvers now being marketed in extravagant calibers may be an exception, but somehow I think that once you have obtained a solid factory zero, you need not fuss around much further. Practical pistol shooting is a short-range proposition, and once your pistol is hitting where it is pointed out to distances pertinent to its purpose, only radical changes in ammunition type call for alignment verification. But this is not true of long guns, and now is a good time to get out to the range with your rifle and check out your currently favored ammunition package.

Your Steyr Scout is probably pretty happy with your chosen medium loadings, probably in the 150 to 168 range combination. The seasonal rifleman is best served with a precise 200-meter center of impact, though 200 yards is ordinarily quite satisfactory, especially if that is what is most readily available at your Schiesstand.

Note that the city council of Columbus, Ohio, has now banned the personal use or ownership of semi-automatic pistols. Presumably revolvers are okay. Apparently being bright is not a qualification for public office in Columbus. We note that there are some pretty good revolvers now available on the market. Any dastardly thing a self-loading pistol can do (quite on its own accord), a revolver can do just about as well (or as badly), depending upon what public office you hold. It is behavior like this which shakes one's faith in democracy.

(Note that Taurus of Brazil is now putting out a very nifty titanium service revolver in a variety of calibers. And note further that Smith's new 7-shot revolver has much to recommend it.)

These city council meetings must be quite something to attend!

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has concluded somewhat officially that it is not cartridge power but rather bullet placement which stops fights.

The United States of America constitute the last best hope of Earth. The National Rifle Association of America is the firmest and most dedicated guarantor of liberty in the United States. We have only four million members, where we should have forty million more. Thus it behooves every member to recruit himself one new member at least every year.

Marine Colonel Christopher Bourne is not only a distinguished Gunsite graduate, but also a combat officer of broad experience in the sand box. He is particularly articulate in his observations about the progress of the Holy War. He is there. He is doing extremely well, and he expounds with exasperation on the media coverage of the war. Colonel Bourne is explicit and vociferous in pointing out that while we are winning the jihad, the world press and the US press would have us believe otherwise. Just why it is that the leftist media insist upon giving us such a bad press calls for explanation. These news people are simply committed to the viewpoint that the American Right must be wrong. Among other things, it wins elections, which is intolerable to a socialist. Colonel Bourne is very positive of his position. We are delighted to honor him as an Orange Gunsite graduate and a US Marine. May God grant us more like him!

If you are fortunate enough to have access to a broad and ample backstop, a good zero can be obtained very simply and easily using a sort of artillery system of split differences. If you are a good shot and understand your weapon, you need not expend a lot of ammunition or patches in zeroing. Get as solid as you can on a fist rest or bipod, and fire one shot. Call it. You should know where that piece was pointed when the primer popped. Your partner will observe the strike and call the hit either coarse or fine. (Let's assume that you have not pulled off a pinwheel with that first round.) Correct the first round for deflection only, and apply a correction ample enough to jump across the target. Apply a coarse correction with a quarter turn of your deflection wheel, and try again. If your correction was properly ample, you will have straddled your target by means an observed strike in the dirt. Note that no paper is involved and no fine inspection of the target is necessary. When applying your initial deflection corrections, be sure that you split the difference on each attempt. Three shots will usually get you on for deflection. Do not correct your elevation until your deflection is on. Even with the finest quality optics, you may achieve a correction in your uncalled-for plane. That is to say, you may get a slight elevation correction when all that you moved was your deflection wheel. Now and only now you may shift to paper, and if you are a good shot, you may achieve a pretty tight zero with three attempts. Be careful to call each shot. If Apollo favors you, you should be on zero with only a few rounds. You should be set for the occasion using only one paper target and one test group. If you wish to make your supreme effort, you may choose to go to a clean paper and fire a 5-shot group, being careful as always to call each shot, using a firing position you expect to use in the field and allowing the piece to cool between shots. Disregard shots called wild.

Using this system and commencing with a cool, dry bore, you are ready to go. Today most outfitters have available some sort of zeroing facility on station which you can use if any long-range firing is anticipated. (The built-in bipod of your Steyr Scout gets you off to a good start.)

Fancy shooting at medium to long range is rarely an element of practical marksmanship - but it can be, and it is up to you to be prepared for the unexpected. Dangerous game is almost never attacked at ranges greater than half a football field, but quick assumption of position is, and it is irresponsible to open hostilities under circumstances which call for match-winning efforts. This does not mean, of course, that you should not take to the field as good a zero as is practical for you under the circumstances expected. Hunting season approaches (in the northern hemisphere). And good shooting is something we should be prepared to deliver. The Gunsite family has proven marvelously adept in this department - I am glad to say. So let's keep at it and continue to deliver the goods.

In our current emasculate culture, valorous behavior is somehow regarded as inappropriate. The Spanish term machismo is, for example, often regarded as insulting rather than complimentary. This is by no means as intended. To be macho, in the classic sense, is to be manly, rather than boastful. False modesty is no particular virtue. When you earn both ears and the tail in the bull ring, you are fully entitled to take a bow.

The award of military medals can be a complex business. The more we see of it, the more complex it becomes. George Washington instituted the Purple Heart simply for getting hurt in the War of Independence. Injury has never seemed evidence of excellence. In one view it might be said to be more evidence of incompetence. It takes no special talent to get shot, despite the emotional impact of "The Red Badge of Courage." We may note that in the great age of air-to-air combat, most of the real experts made it through without getting hit.

(What military medals are awarded for varies from time to time and place to place. Valor is a word commonly used in this regard, but without much satisfaction since valor is almost totally a subjective consideration. What seems valorous to me may not seem so to you, and leaving the matter up to a committee has tended to obscure matters. The Japanese would not issue military medals, since they thought that all of the Emperor's warriors were equally meritorious. The Germans, on the other hand, attempted to use some sort of numerical score as qualification for decoration.)

It is quite apparent that in many conflicts the purpose of military medals has been the bolstering of home front morale, irrespective of the action or actions concerned. At Command and Staff School, when I attended, an entire instructional period was devoted to the awards of medals and decorations, but it did not serve to clarify matters much. Our old friend the late Colonel Bud Reynolds, USMC, opined convincingly that there could be no action above and beyond the call of duty, since if anything could be accomplished to further the cause, that in itself was definitively "the call of duty." Our colleague and historian Barrett Tillman points up a case to the contrary in which a crew member of a B-17 bundled a comrade into his parachute and rode his airplane to his death. "Greater love hath no man than this."

But what is it for? This is the question that rocks the boat, and in this respect Rudel stands alone, having been the sole recipient of the special medal struck for his sole benefit.

So it is futile to discuss the fairness, justice or suitability of military awards. They are nice to have, and they certainly do brighten up the uniform, but that hardly cleans up the act. The attempt at this time to stratify military awards as denoting some of them higher or lower than others is silly, but I guess we are stuck with it.

Just as professional does not mean expert, freedom does not mean liberty. There are people who insist that the proper meaning of words does not matter. These are people who can get us into serious trouble. For example, a kudu is not a "plains animal." A kudu is a woodsy beast with habits somewhat like a whitetailed deer. So people go on insisting "it doesn't matter." The fact is, however, that it does matter. And those who think that Jidhadists are insurgents might go to Mexico City and drive on Insurgentes, the main drag. In modern Mexican history this boulevard extolls the insurgents.

There seems to be something fascinating about the range of 1200 yards in regard to a sniper kill. This is a long, long way, and not much is to be gained by quarreling with it. It is interesting, nevertheless, to see how many 1200 yard kills are now being reported back from the sand box. I think this figure is gained by simply setting the sights on the sniper rifle to that distance. If you deck somebody a long way out, you look at your sights and see that you shot this guy at 1200 yards. I am certainly not qualified to judge, but I think the long shooters deserve full praise regardless of statistics. The late revered Townsend Whelen opined that anything over 300 yards should not be responsibly attempted by a sportsman. This figure, of course, is not properly applied to a soldier. I guess we all know about Billy Dixon at the Battle of Adobe Walls, but I have never seen a long shot brought off properly with the rifle in the field. That certainly does not mean such things do not happen, but I do use Colonel Whelen's index with regard to my own adventures. On game animals 300 may be the maximum responsible shot. On Jihadists we deal with a different set of considerations.

But best not brag about long shots. Shooters are not impressed, and non-shooters do not know the difference.

It is bothersome to see our defense department continually disregarding marksmanship training. It is true that we have an unsatisfactory personal arm as standard issue, but that does not mean that we should drop the subject. We note that the military is no longer teaching the use of the shooting sling, which under some circumstances can boost hitting capacity by as much as a third. We note the continued reduction in ammunition allowances for training, and see no evidence of recognition for good shooting in the field - certainly not in the press. The ragheads insist upon their readiness to die. Let us then help them along.

We have been having trouble with parts availability on the Steyr Scout. Because there are people who feel that the traditional Mannlicher bolt handle is not easy to handle, the new versions of the SS have been coming through with a ping pong sort of arrangement. I do not fancy this idea myself, but let each have his own. I do, however, feel that the true SS should be sold with the original bolt handle. On another point, the marketers have felt that the item would be more saleable if they issued it without the prescribed Leupold fixed-power intermediate-eye-relief telescope. So an interesting little side play has developed. The original concept of the Steyr Scout featured a left-handed action on option. The factory refused to acknowledge this, so you cannot get a left-handed SS. Now a curious variant has developed, particularly for left-handers such as family member Tom Russell. He is left-handed, but he finds that the ping pong bolt handle renders the piece easy to operate from the wrong shoulder. So now you can get a left-handed version (somewhat) if you go for the ping pong handle and forgo the telescope. Since the 376 Steyr cartridge is a very powerful one and suitable for dangerous game using the 300-grain solid bullet, this works up into a sort of pocket 375 Holland, which would seem to fill a definite, if restricted need. So the Tom Russell package features the ping pong handle and does without the telescope sight, utilizing the reserve ghost-ring on the classic scout. Odd goings on, but not without merit.

We continue to apply the question, "What is it for?" when examining handheld firearms. We received a very interesting contribution recently regarding this matter, which I believe is worth analysis.
"The second matter is your question as to whether `digital' is necessarily better than `analog', which led me to do considerable thinking. This is a question that nobody bothers to ask nowadays, which means that few people are prepared with an answer that's accurate, informative, and concise (kind of like the question of iron vs. steel). The matter of digital electronics vs. analog electronics is, in fact, quite complicated. In some ways, digital is better than analog. In other ways, analog is better than digital.

"This issue presents many interesting aspects along with some wonderful opportunities for analogy (no pun intended), one of which leads me to regard the Steyr Scout as a `digital' weapon and the machine pistol as an `analog' one.

"Hence, the analogy to firearms. The machine pistol may, as you've pointed out, be the optimal firearm for repelling pirates at sea, but doesn't seem particularly well-suited for much else. The Steyr Scout, on the other hand, is suitable for a wide variety of shooting activities and may be usefully employed in diverse situations by a skilled rifleman, with his brain providing the necessary `software' to adapt to each situation. Nonetheless, for certain exotic and narrowly defined uses, the SS might be slightly outclassed by specialized weapons.

"Like a digital computer, the Steyr Scout is general-purpose and highly economical. You can have one SS and use it for many things, or you can have a whole golf bag full of specialized niche weapons, which, in the end (once you include the purchase price, the cost of gunsmithing, the expense of accommodating multiple calibers, etc.), could cost a lot more than a single Scout. By the same token, buying a good digital computer with a few hundred dollars' worth of software is much cheaper than buying a typewriter, a movie-editing machine, a drafting table with a full set of drafting tools, a darkroom full of photo-processing equipment, etc.

"Hence my assertion that the SS is, in a certain sense, a `digital' firearm while the machine pistol is an `analog' weapon.

"Perhaps the boys in the marketing department can come up with a way to pitch the SS as `the ultimate digital rifle'. If they do, I hereby grant them full permission to freely use this concept in their marketing efforts as they see fit."

Nelson Clayton, Sandy, Utah

Those of us who simply cannot bear the idea of gender differentiation in our pronouns might remember that in English we have a perfectly good neutral example. Rather than saying, "he or she" or "him or her," we may simply use "it," which serves the purpose quite well. Winston Churchill was positive in his observation that in the English language the male pronoun embraces the female, which is, as he said, just as it should be.

One sort of personal weapon which performs many useful tasks in a rural household is the compact, rimfire semi-auto pistol. With this little gadget you may reach out and touch various small targets at will, either for sport or for tidying up the place. The ubiquitous 22 ranch rifle is usually at hand for this purpose, but it is unhandy in the sense that it is too long always to be there when circumstances arise. The compact 22 pistol, on the other hand, may be worn around the place daily, and while it does not hit hard, it hits hard enough for housecleaning and it is always there when you need it. Many mistakes come to mind in this regard, though certainly they are rarely encountered. A snake's head is a small target, of course, but not impractical at ranges of 6 or 8 feet. The ranch pistol for this use should mount precise sights and incorporate a target trigger. Such features are frequently found on 22 target pistols, but the target pistol, as a rule, is too bulky to be packed around from breakfast to dinner. The practice target for the "ranch pistol" may most conveniently be an empty box of 22 rimfire ammunition. By constant use of this (and always remembering Rule 4), you may discover just how useful your little gun can be - even if you do not live on a ranch. It is more practical than your service pistol, most of the time, since its ammunition is much cheaper, usually does not upset the peasantry, and it may be both smaller and lighter.

Our stout-hearted commentator, Oliver North, calls his selection of memoirs "War Stories," which is okay, but we acquired the term "C Stories" early on in Basic School, where Snuffy Puller, younger brother of the renowned Chesty Puller, was our mentor. Snuffy, who was killed on Guam, had quite a bunch of C stories of his own, as, of course, did his brother. Those of us in that class came away recounting our adventures as C stories, relating to, but not exclusively, the sea going service. It is thus that I decided to call a collection of my own as "C Stories" which is the title of the book now offered for sale by daughter Lindy Wisdom. We did not mean to imply that such anecdotes as we recount originated at sea. Sea duty is sometimes regarded as somewhat non-regulation by infantry officers, but it can have its points. One of my classmates earned the Navy Cross in action at the battle of Cape Esperance while serving aboard one of the ill-fated cruisers. You do not have to be a squad leader or a fighter pilot to pull off your share of heroics. Those things just happen, and the circumstances involved are hard to predict. Any Marine is expected to be appropriately valorous, should the occasion arise. If you are not prepared to buckle the swash, you should not join the Marines.

We are getting a full share of combat anecdotes from the sand box, and some of them are very good indeed. The Jihadis do offer us a target-rich environment, but our uninspiring news media are reluctant to illustrate it. We continue to rack up the bad guys very stylishly, but it would seem that all the press people find interesting is the butcher's bill. We are at war, as the enemy has declared upon us and as the President has announced. People get killed in war (as they get killed on the city streets). This is to be acknowledged with appropriate respect, but not regarded as proof of strategic error on our part. We are proud of our heros, living and dead, and we do better to salute than to wring our hands.

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