Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 14, No. 2          February 2006

Winter Set


Family member and cousin Steve Lunceford is recently back from Mozambique with all sorts of sea stories gathered up in the Zambezi Delta. There are a lot of animals there for the taking, but not especially for the trophy hunter, as they run generally small. Steve was using Baby 6, and as you might expect, with consistent success. Whether one needs a heavy rifle for buffalo remains an open question, and an experienced hunter of dangerous game such as Steve probably does not. With perfect placement and the right bullet even Syncerus caffer will go down to the shot. This bolsters my enthusiasm for the 376 Mannlicher, which I like to call the Dragoon. Using the 300-grain solid bullet, this cartridge will do whatever is needed, though I would not recommend it as first choice for the pachyderms. Its delightful friendliness renders it a joy to handle in the low veldt, as well as in Alaska. The ammunition must be made to order, which is a drawback, but not a serious one. Most serious hunters make up what ammunition they need (and return with plenty to spare).

I now have the original Baby in my armory, along with my cherished "Dragoon." My cup sloppeth over.

We now have two different sources of information regarding the current international scene. First there is that furnished by the media, and the second is that given to us by returning combat veterans from the Middle Eastern front. The media seem to insist that we are doing it wrong, especially that the current administration is doing it wrong. The men back from the war zone insist that we are doing the best possible job, and that while the battle is not yet over, the situation is well in hand. I prefer to put my faith in the word I get from the troops. I know those people better than I do the journalists.

It is an uphill struggle, but I wish that we could distinguish more carefully between freedom and liberty. These conditions are not the same, though they are certainly related. Freedom is the absence of restraint - a physical circumstance. Liberty, on the other hand, is a political situation denoting the lawful capability of the citizen to defend himself and his near and dear without interference from the state. Note that the Declaration of Independence forcibly and particularly establishes the blessings of liberty upon ourselves and our posterity. I like to carry a pocket copy of the Declaration, plus the Constitution, in my travels. It is a good thing to have in hand when discussions arise.

The continued sales triumph of the Glock pistols demonstrates the virtues of skillful marketing. The Glock pistol is okay. It is generally reliable, it is comparatively inexpensive, and it is available in respectable calibers. Above all, its after-market service is superior. The great part of its sales comes from police departments where maintenance and quick service are of primary importance. It may not be the best choice for the private pistolero, but such people are not in the majority. For those who feel that only the police establishment should be interested in sidearms - which includes all of the socialist states of Europe - this is a major advantage.

We must face the fact that the pistol is an emergency device. Very few people - even the most adventurous - run into a need to shoot to save their lives. Statistically, there is no real need to shoot a pistol, only to have a pistol, since the mere possession of a sound firearm is nearly always enough to stop a fight. However, one's state of mind dominates the scene here. The man who is carrying a pistol and is fully aware of his ability to use it well, can solve the problem. A higher degree of practical marksmanship is an essential tool to the proper combat mind-set. If you know that you have the upper hand, you almost always do have it.

We are annoyed by the assumption on the part of certain public figures that the citizen should be able to prove the need for the citizen to acquire a means of protecting himself. The citizen's personal needs are no business of the State. Liberty, when in place, grants the right of the citizen to do what he chooses, as long as he does not stamp on the rights of others. Nobody needs caviar, or a pleasure boat, or opera tickets. Whether or not he wants these things is no business of the State. On this side of the prayer rug, the Jihadies do not see it that way. That seems to be the main reason they have declared war upon us.

We made the proper effort to catch the opening ceremonies for the Super Bowl, and we were reminded that some sort of penalty should be exacted for mangling the National Anthem. Vocalists who cannot carry a tune should reserve their attention for listeners who cannot tell the difference.

Our proposition that federal income tax be remitted for holders of the Medal of Honor continues to meet with a resounding silence. No one has told us we are wrong. They have not told us anything - at the top of their lungs. Can it be that they are not sure of their philosophical position? This proposition has much to recommend it and nothing against it. Its drain upon the budget would be practically indiscernible, and it would grant a powerful reward for those who deserve it. But I cannot get up an argument. If there is something wrong with the proposition, I would certainly like to hear it. I guess I will just have to shout louder.

The SHOT Show was a tremendous enterprise, as usual, covering more ground than was easy to survey. There was much more there than could be seen in a couple of days, and we spent more time discussing daughter Lindy's forthcoming books than we did talking about new equipment. As to that, there was not much in the way of new equipment to merit our attention. On a somber note, we had to remark upon the termination of the illustrious Winchester Model 70, which was one of the few noteworthy personal firearms of the age. We hope you got yours, because (Semper Fi) I got mine. This one is serial number 4522 in caliber 375 Holland & Holland. I acquired it from my first major big game hunt in Jackson Hole in 1937, and a lovely thing it is. It is hard to believe that this individual arm was strictly stocked over-the-counter offering a lovely 3┬Żlb single-stage trigger that never needed any sort of customizing. Oddly enough that rifle never needed customizing of any sort and shot one-hole test groups at 50 yards on its first day on the range. It is there in my armory today and certainly merits a pride of place in my forthcoming museum - when, as and if.

This rifle is slightly off-center, mounting a 25-inch barrel with no step-down, since it was made at the factory by simply boring out a 300 Magnum target barrel. It is hard to answer the question about what it is for, since I do not see a real purpose for a 375 prairie dog gun. Nevertheless it is a great pleasure to have aboard - if just to admire.

In this sense it offers a very high degree of the "fondle factor."

This term - the fondle factor - is an offering of our friend and colleague Roy Skagen, retired Chief of Detectives for Seattle PD. It need not become involved in the erotic, since all sensual pleasures are not necessarily those of the flesh. Fine guns, among several other things, may demonstrate the fondle factor to a high degree. Baby, for example, now in my armory, is a masterful example of the art. It is a true heavy. It has no utilitarian function, except as an "elephant gun." Nobody needs an elephant gun anymore, but a good one is there to be admired - and fondled.

The Perazzi shotguns always add to the glamor of the SHOT Show. It is nice to know that they are there and have been manufactured with tender, loving care for those who can appreciate such things.

In looking further into colleague Barrett Tillman's studies of the Pacific War, we are staggered by the achievements of our carrier battle groups. The agglomeration of technical excellence, marvelous equipment, literally incredible expertise, all the way from the admiral commanding to the hook runner, is astounding. Getting those fleets into position and then getting their deadly weaponry into position, and then using it with consummate skill, is hard to believe. (And right near the top of the list perhaps is the great 50 BMG cartridge, which when used properly simply exploded Japanese aircraft.) Those men who performed these exploits are nearly all gone now. It is their grandsons, rather than their sons, who are properly to render "glory and love to the men of old."

It is annoying to note that the press, in general, cannot seem to differentiate the cartridge from the weapon that fires it. Continuously we hear of "the 45," as if that signifies only a weapon made to take that cartridge. This is as if the carrier could handle only one type of aircraft. There are good pistols which take only inferior cartridges, and there are good cartridges which are only available in inferior launchers. I suppose that expecting technical competence from journalists is too much to hope for, but a bit of study helps us to straighten this out.

We fortunately obtained a tape from the Marianas Turkey Shoot which gave us a marvelous picture of the wonderful power of the great 50-caliber BMG cartridge. In the great days of propellor-driven aircraft, both the Germans and the Japanese favored acquiring a target by the use of rifle-caliber tracers, and then delivering a knock out blow with a heavier cartridge. This system works, but it does waste time - especially when employed by a master fighter pilot. The greatest of the piston fighter pilots were able to develop a one-shot kill system, which was a great advantage employed by a pilot who was skillful enough. Joe Foss, for example, favored opening fire with four of his great 50 calibers while reserving two guns for his opening heavy blow, as well as providing reserves to handle both intruders and malfunctions. For the big guns did malfunction when subjected to side-loads, and it was nice to have two guns available for the unforeseen circumstance.

This reminds us that most of the aerial killing in the piston days was carried out by a few of the very best practitioners. Those were good men to have on our side, and as the war continued, we had more of them on our side all the time, due to normal attrition.

J.P. Denis, ex-president of IPSC and master pistolero, has developed a drop-in trigger system for the 1911, which requires no gun smithing. It is available through FNH USA in McLean, VA, and is just the thing for the man who has no access to remedial work. It is intended to be used for the 1911 that has the worst trigger that you have encountered.

People who have trouble with semantics cannot separate a smallarm from a sidearm. A sidearm is a weapon which may be carried on the belt ready for immediate defensive use by the wearer alone. A smallarm, on the other hand, is usually a crew served weapon which may be operated by one man but which is normally operated by a small crew. Sidearms are immediate defensive instruments. Smallarms may be put to complete combat use by teams with several men operating the gun and others dividing ammunition and mounting systems. The 1911 and the wheel gun are sidearms. A light machine gun is a smallarm.

We have had occasion to play around at some length with the Broomhandle Mauser during the last few months. We find this to be a curiously efficient instrument for its task, which is a very curious task. It was never a GI sidearm, but it was available on private purchase by officers who were called upon to buy their own sidearms, and it worked pretty well for this, since it was never a proper defensive pistol, but served as a sort of "kit gun" for officers who packed it in its wooden shoulder stock and had available an emergency carbine for unusual situations. Used this way, and fired normally from the carbine mode, it did a pretty good job for the junior infantry officer. You carried the weapon normally in your luggage in its wooden stock, but only went to war as the circumstance demanded. This was not the way it was employed by Churchill at Omdurman, but it did him well, nonetheless, on that occasion.

Of course the 30 caliber cartridge for the original Broomhandle is not much of a combat round, but neither is the 9mm Parabellum. They both go bang when you press the trigger, and you do have the carbine option available.

Whenever there is a mishap with a firearm, one of the four basic safety rules has not been properly observed. Recently, therefore, a lot of excitement has resulted from lack of observation of Rule 4, which is simply, be sure of your target.

We note a new set of stamps featuring a group of outstanding Marines from our previous wars. They show off John Basilone and Chesty Puller. These men were a credit to both themselves and the Corps, but they hardly cover the subject When I went aboard as a second lieutenant at Basic School in Philadelphia, my commanding officer was Clifton Bledsoe Cates. The war burst over us before school was out, and Cates was wafted off to Guadalcanal to command the 1st Marines with distinction as a full colonel. He went up to the Marianas where he commanded the 2nd Marine Division on Saipan as a two-star general. General Cates then commanded the 4th Marine Division for the reoccupation of Tinian.

General Cates got his start at Beleau Wood in France in World War I where he won his Croix de Guerre and his Navy Cross. At Basic School we noted that the only thing he wore on his greens in the way of decorations were his shooting badges, and this is a custom which has been honored ever since. You will note that the senior Marine commanders now on duty in the Holy War follow this example. They wear their shooting badges without the addition of fruit salad.

The twentieth century was distinguished by the careers of a full set of outstanding Marines, beginning perhaps with Hanneken. It was my distinct honor to have served with some of them. The banner still waves.

We are just in receipt of a batch of new artwork from Paul Kirchner for use in daughter Lindy's forthcoming publications. This is great stuff as usual, and it bids fair to decorate the new books in proper fashion. We are now working on captions, among other things.

Among other new elements which offer an outstanding fondle factor is now the defunct Savage Model 99. We have always admired this weapon and had occasion to work extensively with it way back in our college days. We set up a 99 for a fraternity brother who happened to be left-handed. We acquired it in caliber 300 Savage which was practically identical with the 308 and topped it with a Lyman Alaskan telescope. Its usually inferior trigger action was corrected by the late Bob Chow of San Francisco, and the result was a very advanced weapon indeed. It went off to war with good results, so far as I know, but I have lost track of it, and I can only hope that it is now the proud possession of the son and grandson of my college chum.

I set up a Model 99 in caliber 250 3000 for the Balsas Expedition, and it rendered excellent service throughout, being superbly accurate and powerful enough for anything we might encounter in Latin America.

Amy Heath, Jeff and Janelle Cooper's granddaughter, is running for the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association. The NRA must receive your ballot before the April 30th deadline.

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