Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 2, No. 14          10 November 1994

Thanksgiving, 1994

From Ken Pantling, our man in Norwich:
"Republicans are cummin' in,
Ludly sing whoopee!
Slick Willy's looking very glum
And so is Hillary.

The Senate's gone, they've lost the House,
Cuomo's on the rocks.
Little Teddy's hangin' in
But only by his socks.

Poor Ollie didn't make it
But he would have done I fancy
If he hadn't fallen at the post,
Tripped up by darling Nancy.

The White House, it was shot up,
It was only tit for tat.
Shame on the fellow with the SKS
He shot like a Democrat.

But the White House now stands empty,
Nobody there, one hears,
But getting rid of jerks like that
Will take two more whole years."

It has been sagely observed that while every hunting trip is a qualified success, every election is a qualified disaster. We may render pious thanks for the reversal of forty years of leftist domination of Congress, but we note that the people returned egregious miscreants to office in Massachusetts, California and Florida, and thus have got the government they deserve.

On the whole, the election turned out well, so let us enjoy our traditional Festival of Gratitude with due appreciation.

This from Bill Buckley's National Review:
"Binkymania is taking over in Alaska. Binky, a 30-year old polar bear in Anchorage Zoo, recently munched on an intrusive tourist and two drunken teenagers who went for a midnight swim in her pool. Citizens are touting her for office ("Binky for Governor - Take a Bite Out of Crime") and urging zookeepers to set aside a day for people to play with Binky as a means of reducing her food bill and upping average test scores in Alaskan schools."

Let us consider the "L-shaped Pepper Popper." The standard Pepper Popper goes down when it is well hit, and stays down. This makes it necessary for somebody, usually the shooter, to step forward and set it up again. This is fine for pistol activity where the ranges are short, but when one uses the Popper as a rifle target the problem of getting it to come back up again becomes "labor intensive." At the recent Gunsite Reunion at Whittington Center, John Gannaway showed us some heavy-duty Poppers which were designed to bounce but not fall when struck solidly by a rifle of adequate power. They worked quite well, but they were somewhat difficult to judge at 300 meters - or even 200. Now then, let us consider the provision of a forward-extended counter-weight affixed to the base of the popper. This could be a smooth metal rod on which a sliding weight could be adjusted for calibration. When properly set up this popper would flinch to a hit by starting over rearward and then it would come back to vertical due to the adjusted weight on the rod. Such a device would be more complicated to manufacture and hence more expensive than a standard popper, but it would be more useful for training and practice purposes, and if made of proper armored steel it could be made reactive for almost any caliber, even including the 223. Why didn't we think of this before?

Justice Robert Bork, who in spite of his reputation as a distinguished legal mind has never quite understood about the Second Amendment, has now opined that if we were to observe the Tenth Amendment, as it was written, we would practically wreck our federal system, as it now functions. Exactly! Let us get on with it!

On the subject of power, I have been recently amused by an exchange between riflemaster Ross Seyfried and a correspondent who decries Ross's scorn for the 350 Fireplug cartridge. So do I, for that matter. I and John Gannaway and Mervyn Ullman have enjoyed vast success with the Fireplug in Africa, as have Bob Crovatto and I on moose, and a whole sock-full of sportsmen on elk. Les Bowman, the Godfather of all elk guides, hailed the 350 Fireplug when it came out as the ideal piece for the American elk, combining as it did decisive power with truly extraordinary handiness. The Fireplug did in my lion exactly in the act of charging with a paralyzing end-for-end blow. For Ross to scorn this rifle and cartridge combination as a "dinky little woods carbine" is not to my mind giving us his most considered opinion. Ross, like his mentor Elmer Keith, is very fond of great big guns, and these gentlemen should not be castigated for that. Differences of opinion, of course, are what make for horse racing, and we all enjoy discussions, but to say that I like "A," therefore "B" is bad, is foolishness, unless backed up by irrefutable documentation.

Speaking of differences of opinion, we have seen the Waco atrocity characterized in the press as a "mass suicide." We thought it was properly referred to as a "ninja massacre." Clearly there is a broad difference of opinion here. As I understand it, we still have the survivors of the Waco atrocity in jail, though it has never been made very clear just what they are in jail for. I certainly do not maintain that the Branch Davidians were not pretty kooky, but I have read most of the accounts and I still do not know what they did that was evil. I guess I should bear in mind the legal axiom that "being right does not assure victory."

We note that old buddy Cameron Hopkins, Editor of Guns magazine, has finally been able to convince a manufacturer to produce his "425 Express" rifle. The cartridge is "lightheavy" short enough to work through standard length actions, and should do very well for buffalo, being very similar to the 416 but with slightly greater impact area. (Personally, I will continue to hold out for 500-grain bullets in a full-sized heavy for this sort of thing.)

And here we have yet another "Big Seven." As I understand it, the seven millimeter Remington Magnum was designed by Warren Page as a means of beefing up the proven 270 Winchester. It did this, but why this needed to be done was an open question. Now we have a series of new 7 RM cartridges with even bigger powder bottles than the 7 RM, but nobody has bothered to tell us why we need anything like that. To most of us, the 270 is pretty much the ideal deer cartridge, and in good hands it will do up African antelope in fine style, as proved by Jack O'Connor, Ian McFarlane, Steve Lunceford, and many others. In inept hands, a jazzed up 270 is not only no advantage over the original, but may indeed be a disadvantage in that the unenlightened shooter may feel that power may make up for placement - which, of course, it won't.

If you need more power than you can get from proven light bores such as the 270, 7x57, and the 30-06, you need more bullet - not more velocity. All of the good lights will shoot flat enough to do a proper job out to ranges beyond which the shooter cannot be trusted to hit his target, and all retain enough power at reasonable ranges to penetrate the vitals and bring down even a tough target. So what is the purpose of the brand new "7mm Star Wars Magnum" to be introduced at the SHOT show? Well, the purpose, of course, is to sell. The sucker will always fall for anything that is new, and he is the proper prey of the marketeer.

The consensus seems to be that we really should have music at the next Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial. I do not think we can arrange a piano, but we should be able to come up with a guitar or two. Let us put our minds to that.

How often do you remember hearing various pernicious politicians opine that only the police and military should have access to firearms. As has been clearly stated,
"When only the police are armed, what you have is a police state."

I am sure that you have heard more about the Simpson case than you need, but I simply cannot resist relaying to you the following comment from Bill O'Connor, of Kensington, Maryland:
"The authorities had nine shots at O.J. for wife beating. They either held fire or missed every time. Second, the 911 call took 13 minutes. When Nicole hung up, the police had still not arrived. Conclusion: Ordinary citizens don't need guns for protection. We have the police. They should be here any minute."

I am continually amused at the standard journalistic practice of claiming that "studies have shown" something or other to be the case, when the journalist has no rational reason for making his point. Personally, I prefer reason to statistics every time. With this in mind, I present the following list of things that my own "studies have shown" to be true.

The date for the rifle class at Whittington has been penciled in for the fourth week in April. I would like to get at it sooner, since I like the job, but Rich Wyatt is concerned about weather in the spring - and with good cause. If there appears to be a demand we may run two rifle sessions back-to-back. Rich has promoted some excellent disappearing rifle targets for the field course, and barring accidents I will have two of the nation's most distinguished riflemasters to support me.

I was recently scolded by a correspondent who said that I was violating my own principles when I said that it is a good practice before the hunt to sit before the televisor and snap in on all zeros or ohs which appear in the commercials. He said that this violated Rule 2, which states that you are never to allow the muzzle to cover anything that you are not willing to destroy. I take his point, but after my recent stint in the meat locker, during which I was exposed continuously to daytime television, I have lost any affection I might have ever have had for televisors. I have not blown any away as yet, but there may come a day!

As we proceed with our work on "The Art of the Rifle" we ponder upon such definitions and standards as may be established. We think much more about successful field marksmanship than about target marksmanship. Not that we decry the skills of the target range, which are of a very high order, but which are often different from those skills necessary in the field - either in hunting or in combat. Our African expedition last May gave us much food for thought, both in the hunting examples we witnessed at Engonyameni and in the military examples we were able to recreate at Sandlwana, Rorke's Drift, Majuba Hill, and Spionkop.

Self control is obviously the essence of good marksmanship of any sort, but self control under conditions of extreme hazard may more properly be referred to as "stress control." We learn of people who fail to shoot well in the field because they were excited. We hear of people forgetting their basic principles in conflict because they were frozen with fear. These are not acceptable reasons. When you are holding a firearm, you have the power to surmount stress. The killing expression, as those who have seen it know, is one of complete calm. Regardless of what you may see on the screen, one does not grimace when he is shooting for blood - with pistol, rifle, tank gun or fighter plane. Thus it is that a great field shot may or may not be a great target shot. He must be a good target shot, but not necessarily a master. What makes him a master field shot is his ability to control stress so that he can put his targeting abilities to proper use, regardless of his personal hazard or excitement. A good hunter is nearly always a good soldier. Let the bunny-huggers bear that in mind whenever they feel threatened.

It is a pleasure to learn that Lt. General Victor Krulak's son has now received his third star. We all share the Brute's pride in this distinguished family record.

Reading in a copy of the Journal of the National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom, sent to us by a British correspondent, we discover that for quite a long time aimed fire on the part of soldiers was held to be "illegal, immoral, and probably fattening." In the day of the Brown Bess the infantryman's weapon was employed in mass with an effect rather like that of a giant shotgun. The weapons themselves were so inaccurate that it was almost pointless to fit them with sights at all, but they were not supposed to be fired individually, but rather on command by the entire infantry unit. Blasts of musketry of this sort were quite effective as long as there was a suitable target available, preferably a similar unit of massed infantry standing within range at close order. Victory, of course, would go to that side which got the blast off first.

When rifles appeared the capacity of the rifleman to pick out an individual enemy and deck him became apparent. This was considered to be a VBT (Very Bad Thing) in many military circles. Among other things, it placed the lives of officers in particular danger, which was considered to be an antisocial development. During the Peninsular War, for example, the matter came to a head:
"During the Peninsular War the British employed sharpshooters where they were used to great effect. During one seven-day period these marksman killed 500 officers and eight generals. This resulted in the order that rifleman were to be given no quarter if captured on the grounds that their fire was aimed, a practice that was considered unfair."
Thus it was that for a particular set of circumstances if you set about killing your enemy on purpose you were held to be a war criminal, at least by the French Revolutionary Army.

We learn from the armed forces publications that the future of military marksmanship is placed increasingly at hazard by the official assumption that troops cannot be taught to shoot well, and that, therefore, the infantry weapon of the future will probably be some sort of short range, high-explosive grenade-launcher. No one worries about the problem of ammunition supply anymore since the assumption is that we will always have complete command of the air. This has been happily true in our recent military adventures, but as we look to post cold-war speculation, in which the enemy is no longer the Evil Empire but more probably the liberty loving citizen, two aspects of this debate become apparent. It may come to pass that the weapon of the oppressor will not need the same characteristics as the weapon of the resistor, and vice versa. This may be the reason why rifle marksmanship training, as well as the military rifles themselves, continue on their downward path. As the day of the master marksman follows the day of the master sailor, we are forced to the alarming conclusion that the good shot may eventually become politically unacceptable. Fancy that!

On one of the "fish wrappers" at the check-out stand, we note that our people in Haiti are being increasingly menaced by zombies. Now zombies pose a special problem for the troops because since they are already dead you cannot kill them. It is possible, of course, that they may be inactivated by means of silver bullets, though whether or not there is enough silver in the projectile of a "poodle-shooter" to do the job is a question yet to be answered. We would prefer to try our luck with any one of the new 45-caliber hollow-point bullets, with the cavity filled with silver.

The more sinister of the new rulers of South Africa are suggesting that no white man has any need for more than one gun. This does open the interesting discussion about how many guns a citizen of any color actually needs. Well, of course, if a man is not a shooter he does not need any guns, and that takes care of that. But it is interesting to speculate about how many guns a shooter needs.

I would like to open the seminar with the proposition that a shooter needs a rifle, a pistol, a shotgun and a 22. Now then, will one center-fire rifle do or must every man have a spare in each category? Does the shooter need a 22 rifle and a 22 pistol? Does the shooter need a fowling piece, an upland bird gun, and a combat shotgun? The subject broadens. Contributions are welcome.

(Of course, the citizen's need is none of the government's business. This is a purely theoretical discussion.)

"I do believe that where there is a choice only between cowardice and violence I would advise violence."

Mohandas Gandhi

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