Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 1, No. 10          15 November 1993

Thanksgiving, 1993

As we celebrate our traditional festival of thankfulness, we Americans may ponder a bit on what we are being thankful for. I do not think it seemly to dwell, at this point, upon the individual disasters with which we are beset, since gloom-saying never accomplishes anything worthwhile. The times are indeed very dark - probably darker than any time since the founding of the Republic, but while we all do our individual best to hold back the tide of disaster, we should in truth take a moment to remember the good things that we enjoy. It is fitting that Thanksgiving should be celebrated at a feast, because come what may, we all have plenty to eat. In truth, there may be Americans here and there who are temporarily on the ropes, but they are exceptional and unusual. On the contrary, the thing that most foreigners observe first about Americans is that they are uniformly too fat. No, hunger is not our problem, but the loss of our liberty is. So while we do our best to hold back the political night which threatens us, we can enjoy our traditional feast with family and friends - realizing that the news is not all bad.

"Being a pacifist between wars is like being a vegetarian between meals."

Coleman McCarthy, via Pam Clapp

One affair which leaves us all with happy memories to celebrate was the First Annual Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial held at Whittington Shooting Center at the end of October. As Winston Churchill is said to have said of the Grand Canyon, "It exceeded my expectations, and they were very great." Likewise, our little party at Whittington Center turned out even better than we all expected.

Thanks to Dr. David Kahn, all hands were treated to a sampler of the Keneyathlon, which is an example of one form of practical rifle shooting which may become worldwide. The President of IPSC, Jean-Pierre Denis, has appointed me Vice President in Charge of Rifle, and l have promised to do my very best to prevent IPSC rifle shooting from becoming perverted by the gamesmen, as has been the case with lPSC pistol shooting. A conference has been scheduled in Prague for next spring, which l am to conduct. The problems facing international practical rifle competition are numerous, but I think with goodwill and intelligent application, much can be accomplished to overcome them.

Other outdoor events at Whittington included a rather simplified pistol contest, a session on sporting clays, and a clay bird rifle party set up in a box canyon. The consensus was that we must have two full shooting days next year, if not three, because a single evening's recitation session simply will not accommodate many more participants than we had, and next year we may double that number. Moreover, we were only able to touch lightly upon our seminar sessions and did not address some of our announced problems at all.

In 1994, we will simply have to expand the enterprise, which we plan to hold before rather than after Theodore Roosevelt's birthday. We will not be able to fit the entire operation into a weekend, so plan your autumn vacation now and find the time.

I am not going to hand out kudos at this point for the various extraordinary histrionic performances given us by the family. There is obviously more theatrical talent available amongst our shooting friends than we had dreamed of. I cannot avoid mentioning, however, Paul Kirchner's original verse competition, "The Ballad of Slick Willy," which figuratively brought down the house.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to Mike Ballew and his crew at Whittington Center, as well as to the national defender of our freedom, the National Rifle Association, whose efforts secured for us this splendid edifice with which Americans of the future may preserve their traditions.

"Americans have gotten the message that life is easier if they don't think straight."

Florence King, in National Review

As all members of the Fireplug Club are aware, the 350 short Remington Magnum was a superb idea that has been surprisingly unappreciated by the shooting public. It is, to my mind, the ideal medium-bore, striking a blow somewhere between the 30-06 and the 375 in a short, light, handy carbine nicknamed the "Fireplug" because of its squat appearance. Its cartridge fills a definite tactical niche in a way apparently few hunters, domestic or foreign, understand. It brought off what might be called a snow-job in Norway some years ago, and I have used it extensively in Africa since. A 36-caliber 250-grain bullet starting at 2400 foot-seconds from a "Super Scout" does what needs doing - on everything short of buffalo. Last year at Engonyameni, it penetrated a large and muscular lion end for end, entering his right cheek and coming to rest in his left hip joint. Using the Swift partition bullet, it mushroomed perfectly and lost no weight.

There is a little confusion about the ballistics of the Fireplug. The cartridge was designed for the very short Remington 660 actions, which require the 250-grain bullet to be inserted very deeply into the case, reducing its available powder capacity. However, when I built up the Lion Scout on the ZKK 601 action, we found that the bullet could be loaded an eighth of an inch farther forward than factory ammunition, permitting a slightly larger powder charge. I have nicknamed this cartridge the 350/360 Short Magnum, and the ammunition I took to Africa last year started that 250-grain bullet out of the I9" barrel at a measured 2500 foot-seconds (taken 15 feet from the muzzle). Riflemaster John Gannaway put this arrangement together for me, and he is of the opinion that 2500 feet in that short barrel is a bit much. Test cases showed extrusion into the extractor groove and could be used only once. However, John loads his own Fireplug to 2400 feet and finds that his cases stand up to repeated reloading. I do not know if that extra hundred feet is worth the trouble, but the results are very nice indeed.

I go into this matter at some length because I recently noticed in the "Shooter's Clinic" of Magnum Magazine that the 350 Remington Magnum was listed as starting a 250-grain bullet at only 2200 feet per second, which may not be a serious discrepancy but it does an injustice to the cartridge.

Our grandson, Tyler Heath, is now in the middle of his first year at the University of Mississippi. Tyler had a pretty good selection of universities, but he picked Ol' Miss partly because the authorities have no objection to his bringing his shotgun aboard the campus. Ty is a good wing shot, and the quail hunting opportunities in and around the university are not to be dismissed lightly. (The University has acquired the reputation - justifiably we hope - for its abundance of beautiful coeds. We advised our grandson to pick a rich one.)

"The two essential requirements for complete terrestrial happiness are a good appetite and no conscience."


Doubtless you have heard of the decision of the Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts to abandon the Minutemen logo as the university's symbol. A small but noisy group of protesters seem to have brought this about, maintaining that the American "minuteman" of the revolution was "sexist, racist, and violent." No doubt! And, if our 18th Century ancestors had not been sexist, racist, and violent, our nation would not exist. I guess that we really have met the enemy, and he is us, in Pogo's classic expression. Thanks to God, we Americans do not fit into stereotypical categories.

On a poster brought by Dr. Tom Berger to the Gunsite Reunion, we read the following:
"Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those people I had to kill because they pissed me off."

We pray that it will not come to shooting in South Africa, but if it does - God forbid - consider who is likely to win between a group armed primarily with AK47s and no skill in their use and another group armed with sporting rifles and considerable skill in their use. Numbers would not matter particularly in such a confrontation. Formal armies can defeat other formal armies, and they can put down mobs of agitators, as in China. They cannot defeat a population completely armed with simple old-fashioned rifles. What the disarmers never recognize is that episodes like Tiananmen Square can never occur if every citizen maintains his own rifle in his house, as in Switzerland.

That Federal Agent who deliberately shot an unarmed and defenseless woman in the face while she was holding her baby has not yet been brought to justice. Is anybody doing anything about that?

"A cooling-off period for handgun purchases requires a number of unlikely assumptions in order to work. First, the potential murderer - denied a handgun immediately - must then decide not to buy a rifle or a shotgun, which the Brady Bill will allow him to do. Then he must not know how to buy a handgun on the black market, or how to obtain one from friends, relatives or acquaintances. In addition, the type of murder he intends must not be one for which readily available alternative weapons, such as knives, automobiles, or bare hands, will work. Finally, the person who was literally ready to commit a murder on Day One of the waiting period must calm down by Day Seven and stay calm from that day forward."

David B. Kopel, in Policy Review

Having been mildly annoyed by the commonplace salutation, "Have a nice day!" for some years now, we were delighted recently when, after filling our tank and taking our money, our local friendly fuel dealer waved at us and said, "Shoot straight!" We intend to adopt that expression, and we hope that our friends will too.

As political darkness continues to fall, we admonish all the faithful to get an 03. Even if you already have an 03, get another one. The loonies on the left are so terrified of "assault weapons" (which they cannot define) and "handguns" (which they can) that it behooves the population to assure the nation not only of a chicken in every pot, but a 30-06 in every closet.

Note that you do not have to acquire a 03A3 at the gun show. The A3 modification, with its stamped, solid floor-plate and two-groove barrel, is not quite as good a rifle as the original 03, though it may indeed have a better sight. However, they both will do, and either will serve as a splendid base for a customized version of the "Pseudo Scout." Hit the next gun show and pick up yours while there is still time!

According to newspapers, Bambi has been having a particularly good season this year. It appears that three moose killed a driver who foolishly rammed them in the dark up in Maine. A 5-point buck muley took after a hunter in Wyoming and put him in a sick bay. And two men fishing in a north Texas lake were run over and scuffed up by a white-tail. I do not know whether the animals are becoming more inspired or whether the newsmen simply find more to talk about. I cannot help regard this development as rather cheerful. If you choose to go hunting, keep your guard up.

Now it seems that Voere of Germany is offering a self-loading sporting rifle in caliber 9.3x62 - this cartridge being a sort of junior grade 375. I cannot think what the tactical niche of a self-loading 9.3 might be, but there is probably somebody around who will buy one, if only to be the "first kid on the block."

At Whittington I was asked, quite reasonably, by family member Art Hammer if there was not some inconsistency in my emphasizing stopping power in handguns while favoring medium power in rifles (short of buffalo guns.) Good question!

The answer is essentially conceptual. A pistol is a defensive instrument, designed to stop a fight that somebody else starts. It is strictly an emergency device called for in an unpredicted emergency. The shooter has to respond to an action initiated by another, thus he needs all the emphasis he can properly control.

The rifle, on the other hand, is normally an offensive instrument with which the shooter has the initiative and is carrying the play to his prey. Hence the rifleman can shoot with great care, placing his bullets properly. He needs only enough power to insure proper penetration into the vitals of his target. Blowing down trees on the far side is an extravagance.

The pistolero defends. The rifleman attacks. The problems are different.

Evidently, what we need in Somalia is another Herman Hanneken. If you do not know about Herman Hanneken, look him up in "Fireworks."

At the SCOPE Conference we attended in Buffalo, New York, as guest speaker, a young man was honored for successfully defending himself and family after he had been shot twice in the forehead with a 22. We saw the pictures and the two holes were quite close together and almost centered between the hairline and the eyebrows. The victim fell down, but was able to pick himself up, move to another room, seize his shotgun, and dispose of the would-be murderer. I guess the moral is, do not worry about your condition, make your assailant worry about his condition.

"I can appreciate people who are scared of government. We ought to be scared of government."

Judge Bowers, Colorado

We encountered what may be the ultimate in chutzpah. Down at Whittington, we were shown a BATF baseball cap crediting the wearer with attendance at "The Waco Siege." Though we cannot believe it, it appears that at least some people in the nefarious organization are actually proud of what took place in Waco. One wonders if the KGB ever issued uniforms commemorating the massacre of the Katyn Forest or if the guards at Dachau or Buchenwald were issued commemorative T-shirts.

We note in passing the demise of Eric Hartmann, the highest scoring air-to-air pilot of all time with 352 confirmed victories. No one will ever match that record again, since the circumstances will never be repeated.

"The truth is that any good modern rifle is good enough. The determining factor is the man behind the gun."

Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

Several correspondents have asked us about the slide-action 223 from South Africa. This piece was produced to get around the South African prohibition of self-loading rifles. It is the Vektor H5 manufactured in Bloemfontein. I do not know how much it costs, nor whether it may be imported into the United States. Also, I do not quite know what you would do with it after you got it, but I will look into the matter further if you wish.

We are sorry to report that two Oriental visitors to South Africa were killed by lions in a game park last month. Apparently these people had been taught to fear tigers, but they did not understand that lions are not to be trifled with either.

On an inflationary note, we discovered at a motel in New Mexico that "free" ice now costs 25 cents a shot.

The legal discussion about whether a "fanny pack" constitutes a concealed carry received a setback in Arizona recently, when a local court decided that it did. We have been trying to get a respectable concealed carry rule in Arizona for many years, but every time a bill is presented it is amended out of all reason by the hoplophobes in the state house. Well, we keep trying.

George F. Will opines in Newsweek that Americans are a nation of cowards and shirkers, observing that we have surrendered our streets - as well as our dignity - to the goblins. He points out that, concerned with street crime, we choose to throw money at it rather than to fight. Money is not the answer. More cops cannot help. They can't be everywhere at once. More prisons cannot help. Modern prisons don't scare the bad guy. The only thing that can help is will - the will to fight back. If we have truly lost that, there is little hope for our civilization.

Hillary seems to be working on the notion that lead, in and of itself, is an environmental pollutant. You see where she is running with that? If this notion is not stopped at once, all small arms ammunition - not just bird shot - will be placed off limits.

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