Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 1, No. 5           3 August 1993

Dog Days

We can tell that these are truly the Dog Days when all the dogs and cats are afflicted with what we used to call "the hot floppsies." This is not a simulating time of year, but it does afford such luxuries as vine ripened tomatoes and corn fresh off the stalk, which are certainly enough to make up for a good deal of unpleasantness. The heat wave seems to be general throughout the lower 48, and we can't think of a really enjoyable place to go shooting. I suppose it is better to be too hot than too cold, but still we welcome the forthcoming turning of the seasons. I expect to be in England in September for the Tenth Annual World Shoot of the International Practical Shooting Confederation, and I feel reasonably sure that whatever it will be at Bisley it won't be too hot.

Did you note the piece recently about the concept of the Makarov 380 as the perfect defensive pistol? I might put this forth as an excellent candidate for the Waffenpösselhaft Award for 1993, except for the intrusion of the Springfield Armory single-shot target pistol in rifle calibers. What will they think of next?

Recently a family member (who does not wish his name broadcast since he is a full-time lawman) was in attendance at a military smallarms school. This was considered an elite organization to which only the crème de la crème were invited. It was conducted by the Defense Department, which might have put us on the alert.

When our friend showed up for work with his 1911 it was immediately explained to him by the teachers at the school that what he was carrying was obsolete, irrelevant and immaterial. It would handicap him in the conduct of the training. Naturally, being one of the enlightened, he stated that he would try and struggle along. In the final shooting exercises our friend was so far ahead of the rest of the school that he was, in effect, in a different category. This did not endear him to the management.

In view of the continued propaganda effort on the part of our ill-wishers who insist upon our poor health - both mine and that of the countess - I was given some excellent advice by Dan Dennehy. He advises me to take two aspirin and call him back in a year. Eventually, of course, we may indeed come down with something. As of right now, however, we feel positively "bully."

To those of you who have not yet seen it, we most strongly commend the tape "Waco: The Big Lie" produced by,
The American Justice Federation,
3850 South Emerson Avenue,
Indianapolis, Indiana 46203.
Telephone: 317-780-5204
Fax: 317-780-5209.
This is the unexpurgated record of the atrocity at Waco, and while it does not have all the answers, it certainly poses all the questions. To see the federal ninja pouring a torrent of minor-caliber pistol fire into the side of a building with no targets certainly raises one of the questions. To see one of the boys shoot himself in the leg while climbing a ladder asks another. But the big one, of course, is why the United States government, in its majesty, saw fit to declare war upon a group of citizens guilty of no offense.

The only defense that the feds have suggested up to now is that the whole thing is a hoax. When you look at the tape, see if you think that it is.

If there are any members of the family who have not yet read "Meditations on Hunting," by José Ortega y Gasset, it is certainly time to remedy that defect. This is the classical answer to the bambiists, and it is stated in such clear, powerful prose that it leaves no response other than maudlin emotion.

Did you note that Bill Sessions was fired as a Director of the FBI for the wrong reasons? His disregard for the Constitution of the United States was not called to question, only the fact that he seems to have been caught in some small financial transgressions. This suggests how we finally put away Al Capone for income tax evasion.

Now we need the heads of Reno and Higgins. Note that Senator Larry Craig of Idaho is hard at work on that one.

In that connection, note the following private transmission from Bill Berlat in Tucson, Arizona,
"An incident you might appreciate. Upon my return to the office I found that the BATF, with the assistance of the local SWAT team, broke into a client's home, unannounced, late afternoon, concussion grenades and all. My clients are very reputable folks living in a fine townhome project near their restaurant. After pinning my client to the floor (a 79 year-old lady) they proceeded to extract a daughter from the shower with her children. The son, who was not discovered, and who saw no identifying markings nor any announcements of police, was about to shoot the man who was guarding his mother when the BATman lowered his weapon and he could see the marking on his chest. I can only imagine, with some horror, what would have happened had Jimmy shot him. Needless to say all were emotionally damaged. Response - sorry, we had the wrong address."
(At least they said they were sorry. Usually they don't.)

I have had several inquiries about the slide-action 223 now being built in South Africa. This piece is a clear-cut evasion of the South African prohibition of semi-automatic center-fire rifles - an expedient designed to control the profusion of AK47s smuggled down into the Republic from the communist nations to the north. As far as I can see, it has no advantages over any other 223 except that it is legal in South Africa, and in Britain where a similar prohibition obtains. If anyone in this country feels he needs a street sweeper, I strongly suggest, as I have in the past, the GPR (Gunsite Police Rifle), which is a Model 94 Winchester in 30-30 or 44 Magnum, equipped with proper sights.

From family member Vern Foreman the following anecdote about the Texas Rangers,
It seems that on 10 May 1920 Ranger "Kiowa" Jones filled out his scout report. The form called for various things, such as number of miles traveled, arrests made, names and so on. And one of the blanks called for "disposition of prisoner." Jones wrote in long-hand, "Damn bad I had to kill him in a gunfight."
(See how lucky Rodney King was to escape with his life.)

What does one do when he finds himself inadvertently involved in a bank robbery? We had a family member recently who handled this problem well. When people started shooting next door, he ducked out to the street, produced his piece and took cover behind a parked car. Oddly enough, in this case the police arrived before the bad guys got away. Whereupon our friend simply holstered and cleared out. He did not get involved, yet he did not abandon his duty as a good citizen. He tells me he would have shot if circumstances had called for it. In any event, he was ready, and that's what he learned at school.

Do you think that authors should know something about the subjects they write about? The answer to this question used to be an unqualified Yes, but standards have slipped in this area as in so many others. When fiction writers get involved in weaponry they apparently take the view that since their readers don't know anything about it either, they can speak freely. I suppose this doesn't matter much in a day when nobody reads anyway.

We all ascribe to the doctrine of the one-shot kill. Icing one's target instantly and painlessly with one round is a noble goal. Be aware, however, that things do not always work out as planned. Whatever you are shooting at, be instantly ready with your second shot. You need not use it, but have it ready. In the case of the bolt-action rifle, the piece should be reloaded and back on target by the time the empty hits the ground. Granddaughter Lisa demonstrated this, to the delight of all concerned, last year in Africa.

The matter of the idealized bolt-action keeps coming up. None such is available today, probably because very few people understand the bolt-action rifle, and the manufacturers are unwilling to take a chance on the production of anything unusual.

Not that there is anything mysterious here. It would indeed be odd if we were unable to improve upon a concept which was basically a creation of the 19th century. It is certainly true that a dozen or more "modernized" bolt-action rifles have appeared in the last couple of decades, but oddly enough they do not seem to have been designed by people who shoot much.

Let us consider a few of the desiderata which should be available in a bolt-action designed for the 21st century.

A bolt-action should be glassy smooth and instantly operable. The bolt should have a 90 degrees throw, but it should start at 45 degrees below horizontal, as in the Krag, thus obviating the need for a bent bolt handle to stay out of the line of sight. Reduced rotary movement offers illusory advantages in that it increases camming pressure and sacrifices ease of operation.

A modern bolt-action should be instantly convertible from right to left-hand operation. About one customer in six is left-handed, and should not need to put in for special consideration.

The bolt-action should use two, horizontally-opposed locking lugs. Its extractor should not interrupt the circle of the bolt-face, nor should its ejector. (Again, note the Krag bolt-face.)

The modern bolt-action should include a magazine cut-off, a device which I have found eminently useful all my shooting life (which goes back a long way).

The modern bolt-action should feature a rotary box magazine with a shoulder detent to avoid masking soft-point spitzers flat while waiting their turn. (Personally, I would prefer something on the order of Savage 99, but the Mannlicher-type - if made of steel - would do as well.)

The modern bolt-action should permit direct feeding into the chamber without use of the magazine.

The modern bolt-action should feature a strong, simple, single-stage trigger, releasing without apparent motion at 50 oz or a bit less.

While I have certain reservations (along with my good friend and mentor Ian McFarlane of Okavango) about mechanical safety latches, it would be impossible to sell a rifle that did not include one. It should be operable with either hand. It should not extrude from the rifle to catch on things (as is the case with the Winchester three-position safety.) And it should disconnect the trigger and sear from the striker, while at the same time positively locking the striker. (People who count upon a safety latch to render a firearm inoperable are living in a dream world.)

The modern bolt-action should be available in three lengths - short (308), standard (30-06), and long (505 Gibbs).

And last but not least, the modern bolt-action should be factory-fitted with an integral ghost ring aperture sight mounted in the receiver bridge, as was the case with the old ZKK. Telescope sights are here to stay, but they do not invalidate the need for reserve iron sights, and those iron sights should be efficient, as opposed to the V-shaped arrangements now considered factory standard.

There are a couple of extra considerations involving the fitting, bedding and trigger adjustment of the modern bolt-action, but they go into the shop manual.

I don't suppose anyone is going to pay any attention to this sort of thing. Marketing will always be a more important factor to the manufacturers than excellence of design. Besides, the weapons we have been using since the turn of the century have given us excellent service. Still, it is nice to speculate upon the search for excellence, Even if nothing comes of it, it makes good campfire conversation.

The following quotation was sent to me by Marti Tueller (Mrs. Dennis Tueller) and I find it most comforting during this troublesome interlude.
"As to the abuses I meet with, I number them among my honors. One cannot behave so as to obtain the esteem of the wise and the good without drawing on oneself at the same time the envy and malice of the foolish and wicked, and the latter is testimony of the former. The best men have always had their share of this treatment, and the more of it in proportion to their different and greater degree of merit. A man, therefore, has some reason to be ashamed of himself when he meets with none of it."

Benjamin Franklin, 1767

We get the following information in a clipping furnished us by family member Dr. Sylvain Fribourg.
It seems that only last June on the "Miracle Mile" (an area that the Countess and I used to frequent in our early days) a goblin attempted to break into an apartment armed with a pistol. He ordered the man to lie down on his face so that he could be bound. I have always wondered how you manage to tie somebody up when you have a firearm ready in your hand. This problem hadn't occurred to the goblin who could think of nothing better to do than to stick the piece in his belt. When he then attempted to proceed with his enterprise, the woman of the couple simply hauled out his pistol and killed him with it.
The news account remarks in some amazement that the woman in this case "had never used a gun before." She didn't have to, since the piece was a crunchenticker and all that she had to do was haul back on the trigger. This is the second case we have heard of in which the good guy destroyed the bad guy because the bad guy had opted for a double-action automatic pistol. Such goings on!

Family member Ken Pantling, from Norwich, raises an interesting question. When you "black-ball" an applicant for admission, are you being racist, or sexist, or both?

Family member John Schaefer, of New Jersey, warns us of forthcoming action by Hillary Clinton against lead. She is evidently agitating the EPA in this matter. The idea is to shoot down small shooting ranges.

Theodore Roosevelt Day at Whittington Center, New Mexico, is now quite firm. The program seems to be expanding and we will now endeavor to program "The Wind and The Lion" as well as other tapes of consuming interest. Our seminars will discuss several of the psychological aspects of weaponcraft as well as the future of the art with rifle, pistol, shotgun and squirt gun. Contributory ideas are most welcome as we hope to honor TR in a manner which would bring him satisfaction.

The dates, again, are: 30, 31 October.

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