Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 1, No. 2           June 11, 1993

Editor's note:
Items enclosed by [ ] were editorially removed from the Gunsite Gossip, Vol. XIII, No. 10. To the best of my knowledge this is the last issue of the "Commentaries" that were published by Gunsite. (Barry)

Summer Solstice, 1993

It may not be exactly couth to open this commentary on a personal note, but the situation seems to call for it. I discover, to my disgust, that certain squalid fictionalizers have started circulating rumors about my health, for reasons that escape me. However, to set the matter at rest, I had a full physical in March of `93 and seemed to disappoint the examiners a bit when they could find nothing wrong with me, apart from a cataract in my left eye. I have now been told, by various rumors, that I have had a stroke, that I have meningitis, and that I have a terminal cancer. All these people need is a voodoo doll to stick pins in.

[There is nothing physical whatsoever to interfere with my continued performance of duty as I have done it for the past seventeen years. The issue in this private war is not physical nor economic nor professional rather it is moral. Time will tell.]

Note that Para-Ordnance is now promoting a "slimline", version of their double-column 45s. The effort to slimline a double column frame would seem discouraging, but slimlining per se is an excellent idea, as we have developed it at Gunsite. The only thing wrong with the 1911 pistol is that it is just too big for some hands. The only thing it really needs is a smaller butt, as with some entertainers we could name.

Members of the old Gunsite family will be interested to learn that one of their number, Dr. Peter Goldman, late of Springfield, Massachusetts, has now pulled up stakes and emigrated to one of the country suburbs of Cape Town. The Countess and I know that country fairly well, and we agree that it is one of the most desirable places in the world in which to settle. It marvelously combines a beautiful rural lifestyle with all the necessary appointments of a big city. In Cape Town there are magnificent hospitals, great libraries, a symphony orchestra, and a ballet troop. In the countryside, the fruits and vegetables are outstanding and contribute to some of the finest wines in the world. The precipitous skyline in all directions is a never ending delight to the eye. There is marvelous deep-sea fishing in False Bay, and medium game is available in profusion at a couple of hours drive.

The drawback, of course, is political. We simply do not know what sort of a constitution will define life in South Africa in the immediately forthcoming years. When you see, however, what is being done to the United States' Constitution in Washington even as you read this, it might lead you to consider taking your chance in South Africa.

The only other American expatriate I know who lives in South Africa is Peter Hawthaway Capstick. He may not be a Gunsite family member, but he certainly qualifies for honorary status.

We wish good fortune to all concerned, and we expect to be visiting with him down that way in less than a year's time.

[Many people have asked us why the last issue they got of "Gunsite Gossip" was limited to four pages. The situation is complicated but basically it goes thus: I prepare a full six page issue at the regular times. This goes first to Guns & Ammo Magazine, which has the rights of first refusal upon what I used to call "Gunsite Gossip." Then I issue a full paper to the new owner here at Gunsite and to several dozen people on what is temporarily referred to as the "select list." It is only those people who will read what you are reading now, since I can count on the new owner to delete anything from my copy which does not please him. That is the reason why "Jeff Cooper's Commentaries" filled six pages last issue, but "Gunsite Gossip" only four. I am bound by contract to write "Gunsite Gossip," but what I write for my friends is my own business.

Note that the copyright restriction on the last page of "Gunsite Gossip" does not apply to "Jeff Cooper's Commentaries." I am a preacher, not a tradesman, and the further my word is spread the better I like it.

Guru teach, Guru not sell.]

I wish to thank those two dozen or so readers of Guns & Ammo who wrote in to tell me the source of Theodore Roosevelt's quotation about "golden joys." As I said the first time, I thought the statement must have come from the ancients, but if it did it was borrowed by Shakespeare and put in the mouth of "Ancient Pistol" in Henry IV. It is interesting that the character speaking the line in the play had nothing in mind similar to the feelings of TR, thus the quotation comes across at a higher artistic level than it did in its original guise.

In Detroit, not long ago, a suspect was beaten to death by cops with flashlights, so immediately the chief of police forbade his cops from carrying four-cell flashlights. Presumably a three-cell light is all right. Here we have a classic manifestation of definitive hoplophobia, "It's not the act, it's the instrument!" How people can behave this way with a straight face is beyond me!

Wasn't it depressing to note how D-Day passed with no observation except by a couple of old codgers who went to Omaha Beach in a memorial visitation. As the twentieth century slides into its closing years, it seems obvious that society as a whole has lost all sense of proportion. Can it be that the whole human race is in need of another world war in order to sort itself out? Ugly thought.

It turns out that representatives of the Moscow Militia Trade Union believe that they should keep their weapons at all times. They expressed the opinion of all personnel for reasons that there have been more frequent attacks on militia workers off duty. They are resisted by supervisors who feel that allowing firearms off duty would lead to massive numbers of lost weapons finding their way into the black market.

Militiamen, however, insist that by that way of thought citizens should have their cars impounded each day after work, since many of them drive while drunk.

Let us devoutly hope that reason may eventually pervade the bureaucracies of Eastern Europe. We in the West, however, are not setting them a particularly good example.

Down in Texas recently, we discovered the magnificent "hill country." We had heard rumors, but we had never visited before and we can attest that what is said about this marvelous region "is all true, and more and better besides." High, green, rolling and well-watered, it is uncluttered with people and thickly populated with wild game. In addition to the native Texas white tails, there are fallow deer, sikh deer, axis deer, aoudad, mouflon, black buck, and nilgai. In contrast to the usual visualization of Texas, there is so much water that it sometimes gets in the way. The wild pigs are threatening to get the upper hand. The occasional towns are strongly Germanic in tradition and given to beer, pretzels, wurst and umpah music.

I refuse to tell people how to get there. Better they should find out for themselves.

The media, with full aid and comfort from the administration, are endeavoring to sweep the Waco atrocity under the tug. We must not let that happen! The best treatment of the episode I have seen appears in the periodical "The New American," Vol. 9, No. 12 for 14 June, 1993. This is a magazine that I rarely see, but I suggest you go out of your way to obtain a copy.

Their address:
"The Review of the News Incorporated,"
770 West Hill Blvd, Appleton, WI54915.
"Make no mistake about it; Gun control laws increase the power of government and the criminal element over the average citizen, and serve no other purpose. The Branch Davidians hadn't assaulted anyone. They lived peacefully in the community. Except for the federal gun laws, they would all still be alive."

"FBI Director William Sessions asserted that `the American public expects that law enforcement will deal with those people who have broken the law.' He is right. And that explanation includes - and indeed should begin with - those federal officials who violate both the spirit and the substance of the constitution they are sworn to uphold."

It is a painful subject, but has anyone at all seen anything resembling an autopsy report on the four BATmen who were killed in the opening assault? If they would tell us what exactly killed those people we would be better able to decide the critical issue of who shot first.

[I wish to thank most profoundly the innumerable family members who have written in to express their concern over the way circumstances have altered at Gunsite. Your thoughts are very comforting and I wish to reassure all hands that all is not lost. There is a way out of this morass and the Countess and I will find it.]

A group of us old codgers recently got to kicking around the important questions about the reasons men fight. Fighting, of course, can be hazardous to your health, and when one puts himself deliberately at hazard he must have a reason. We came up with the following tally:
  1. Protection of the home. This is probably the best reason, and cannot very well be faulted on either political or religious grounds. Men fight their best when they see strangers invading their native fields, farms and cottages.
  2. Religion. Absolute faith in absolute truth is more powerful than self-interest, and when God is on your side you need have no fear of death.
  3. Professionalism. Elite units, such as Napoleon's Old Guard, the British Grenadiers, the United States Marine Corps, the Spanish Legion, have always distinguished themselves out of a sense of group superiority. They were taught from the first that they are better than other people, and it is then necessary for them to demonstrate that fact beyond doubt.
  4. Loot. Men have always fought for fortune, and as much as it is frowned upon in some circles, the loot motive lead the armies of the steppes to conquer the world.
  5. Escape and Excitement. The life "of quiet desperation" which seems the lot of so many can be alleviated by running away to sea or joining the Foreign Legion. Men do not often choose to die for the sheer excitement of it, but once they have fallen into the cauldron they often do very well.
  6. Patriotism. The love of country is a difficult thing to identify, especially when one is called upon to fight at vast distances from one's country. Nonetheless, political idealism has often served as a very good motive. The American Expeditionary Force in World War One is a good example. It must have been pretty complicated for a doughboy to explain to a Frenchman or a Belgian just what he was doing in Europe, but he must have had some notion that he owed his life to the Stars and Stripes.
  7. Pride. Pride is not quite the same as professionalism since it is an individual matter. The Medieval knight, the Renaissance duelist, and the fighter pilot are examples.
  8. "Peer Pressure." This is the lemming instinct, "Everybody is doing it." I do not believe that this motive stands up well in the face of terror, but it can certainly get people in the right place to experience it.
Your contributions on this matter are invited.

[A good number of enthusiasts have checked in to ask about the possibility of another Heroic Recitation, but not enough to activate physical preparation. A site must be selected, and one at which some shooting is possible. Out of the wreckage I have salvaged some thirty odd acres over in Ravengard which might suffice. And then, of course, there are other schools where I am not forbidden to perform.

I am thinking of a date on or about Theodore Roosevelt's birthday, which is 27 October. At such time as I have two dozen applicants reasonably firm, I will proceed further.]

Nothing is interesting if you are not interested.

Ian McFarlane, our man in Botswana, reports that the bureaucracy in that third world country has performed as expected by lousing up its new hunting regulations. They took so long to decide on what everything that was to be done was going to be done that it was impossible for the outfitters to sign up clients in time. They have now gone back to the previous system, which worked very well, but, of course, invited tinkering by the pencil pushers.

The African nations realize, of course, that hunters are a better source of income than tourists, but when you start turning things over to committees it is unreasonable to expect good results.

In what may be the ultimate parody of the age, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has prepared a medal to issue to the BATmen of Waco (so help me!) I have seen it pictured in the press. It is in the form of a star. Shouldn't we refer to it as the "Herod Star?"

[On that subject, I reported a while back that Gunsite had never trained a BATman. I was wrong. Under the new administration, one was certified, but not by me. The change should read,
"No BATman has ever been given a diploma signed by Jeff Cooper."]

We bear sadly of another fatality with dangerous game. According to Howard Pollock, past president of the NRA, Sam Foure, a park ranger, was killed in Kruger Park in April by an elephant.

According to the story, Sam was backing away from a bunch of cows and calves while escorting his fiancee, and in doing so he practically backed into a bull. According to policy he whirled and tried to fire a frightening shot over the head of the animal, but he was inside critical distance and it just reached out and grabbed him.

At long last I had a chance to spend some time with the distinguished gun writer Finn Aagaard. Among the many good things resulting from that meeting was the discovery of how to pronounce his name. I was informed that in Norse the double "a" sound is pronounced "aw," as in paw, thaw, claw. Also, in Norse, the terminal consonant is silent. Thus Finn's last name is pronounced "Aw-gore."

Have you noticed how modern adventure action depends to a huge extent upon the notion of the unarmed victim? If the adventure writer could see himself clear to fit out his protagonists with proper firearms and the skill to use them, however, he might not have any plot to work with. I note specifically that no guns were permitted on the island featured in "Jurassic Park," except in the hands of the PH, who naturally wasn't there when needed.

I have never been taken with the idea of selling a gun. When you possess a firearm, you possess something of importance. If you trade it for cash, you have lost it - and the cash in your hand will soon be gone. Sell something else!

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