Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 2, No. 2           31 January 1994

Shot Show Issue


As we go crowding into February, which is usually thought of as the worst month of the year, we may soften the blow by considering various aspects of the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trades Show held this year in Dallas. This year's event was the best I can remember, but that may have something to with the fact that last year's version in Houston was unsatisfactory. For whatever reason, I saw more things and got more things done this year than ever before, partly because of excellent contacts made.

I was able to discuss certain revisions in the presentation of "Cooper's Corner" in Guns & Ammo magazine with the new editor, Kevin Steele, and can look forward to broader coverage in the magazine, beginning with the May issue. I was able to talk at some length with Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch and to arrange for various rifle qualifications at his facility prior to the Babamkulu expedition to Africa in May. I talked with the people from Brno about new production. It is possible that we may be getting something interesting from them in due course. Naturally I talked with Steyr-Mannlicher, but without notable success, on the prospects of the production Scout Rifle. I was able to foster a few plans with Jean-Pierre Denis, President of IPSC, and with the range officials at Prague concerning the forthcoming practical rifle conference to be held there in June. As you doubtless know, there are serious complications about the conduct of practical rifle competition on an international scale. We profoundly hope that they may be resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

In addition to this sort of thing, we were able to look at a greater than usual number of new products of interest.

IPSC had a booth at Dallas this year, conducted by Nick Alexacos from Canada and Jean-Pierre Denis, the International President. Many tapes of the Tenth World Shoot at Bisley were displayed and seemed to attract much interest.

I talked at some length with the Voere people from Kufstein to see how they were progressing with their caseless cartridge project. At this time they are pretty satisfied with their 22 version and are hard at work upon a 6 millimeter. The concept of the caseless cartridge has always worried me because of the possibility of inadvertent ignition. The Voere people, however, insist you can hold that cartridge by its bullet and light the rear with a torch and hold it in your hand while it burns. Nobody volunteered to do this, but it is a cute idea. The caseless cartridge may be "the wave of the future," but it is sometime down the trail. Not in my lifetime, certainly, and probably not in yours.

Don Mitchell, of Mitchell Arms, showed me a couple of very nice 1911 clones available with both standard and oversized magazines. This may be the way to look for the immediate future.

Now that the media are doing their best to cover up the Waco atrocity, they have been able to downrate the news with the forensic pornography surrounding the Bobbitt case. In response to this, Dan Dennehy, the renowned knife maker who has long been one of the stalwarts of Orange Gunsite, will now offer a special instrument to be known as the "Dan Dennehy Dick Docker," featuring a serrated edge and a pink plastic hilt. He will have it on special order for uppity feminists as soon as it is available.

Steve Hornady was showing off his newly designed "linear" tracer ammunition for pistols, plus a new chronograph and a line of center-fire rifle ammunition termed "Light Magnum."

The tracer was very interesting, using as it does a thin axial cylinder of illumination material, rather than a chunk in the base as is now customary. This ammunition is now available in 38 Special and 9mm P and is intended primarily for police training. I am not sure that I understand its advantages in this activity, but I am willing to be convinced.

The new chronograph shows much promise, and I have ordered one for my own use since I no longer have access to the Gunsite materiel I acquired during my ownership.

The Light Magnum rifle ammunition purports to obtain significant velocity increases with no increase in pressure. Here again I remain to be convinced, and I will certainly run tests as soon as I receive both the ammunition and the chronograph. The claim is that this loading system will turn the 30-06 into a 300 Magnum, and the 308 into a 30-06. This sounds like something for nothing, but modern science is indeed wonderful.

Personally, I see no need to upgrade the power of the 30-06 by increasing its speed. I have long held that if you want more power than is available in the 30-06, you do not want more velocity, you want more bullet. Three cartridges that might really use additional velocity are the 308, the 350 RM, and the 458, since each of these is hampered by a case capacity too small for optimum ballistics. (John Gannaway can indeed achieve full velocity in the 350 RM, but only by loading up to the point where the cases are not re-usable.)

In case you are thinking about building up a rifle, Scout or otherwise, be sure you check with Pachmayr in Los Angeles to be sure you have a proper supply of hammerhead flush sling-sockets. I was told at SHOT that they are out of production, and yet they are the only sensible way to attach a sling to the rifle. Come to think of it, you better get on this even if you are not thinking about building a rifle. Trade goods are always useful.

Note that Gunsite Orange stalwart and family member Walt Mansell of California is running by petition for the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association. This is a good man and we need all we can get.

Springfield Arms (now referred to as Springfield Inc.) is also making 1911 clones as fast as they may be produced, and Para-Ordnance is going ahead with their pioneer productions of the double column 45.

It has never been clear to me why increased magazine capacity in a defensive pistol is particularly choice. The bigger the magazine the bigger the gun, and the bigger the gun the harder it is to get hold of for people with small hands. And what, pray, does one need all those rounds for? How many lethal antagonists do you think you are going to be able to handle? Once when Bruce Nelson was asked by a suspect if the thirteen-round magazine in the P35 was not a big advantage, Bruce's answer was, "Well, yes, if you plan to miss a lot." The highest score I know of at this time achieved by one man against a group of armed adversaries was recorded in (of all places) the Ivory Coast! There, some years ago, a graduate student of mine laid out five goblins, with four dead and one totaled for the hospital. Of course there is the episode of Alvin York and his eight, but there is some dispute about that tale. (If you read it over very carefully you will see what I mean.) Be that as it may, I see no real need for a double column magazine. It is all the rage, of course, and like dual air bags, it is a popular current sales gimmick.

In shotguns we were again enchanted by the Perazzi display, including the top-grade works of art retailing for nearly seventy-thousand dollars. Even if I were very rich, I do not think I could bring myself to shoot a shotgun selling for the price of a middle-grade Mercedes Benz, but it is charming to know that such things exist. At the SHOT Show they will even let you touch one, if you are polite.

Note that while Steve Hornady has stopped making his excellent 230-grain JTC bullet for the 45 ACP cartridge, Nosler has taken up the torch and is now producing that bullet for sale.

The Republic is in very bad shape - probably the worst since 1776 - but it does us all well to remember that the principles of the Founding Fathers stand as sound and irrefutable today as yesterday. We must bear in mind that "they" cannot disarm us. They do not have the legal power, of course, but neither do they have the physical power. An army may be defeated by another army, but the people of a nation cannot be, as long as they are aware of their principles and maintain their determination to observe them. We hope, of course, that "they" never presume to try, because "they" simply cannot do it. What the American people need is the viscera to tell "them" No! God grant that we still have the courage!

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do children of humans as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

Helen Keller, via Chuck Lyford

The item that got my attention most forcefully in the entire show was the new Blaser rifle called the R93. Gehardt Blenk, the proprietor of Blaser in Bavaria, is well-known for his innovative approach to design, and the 93 is radical enough for the most convinced high-tech enthusiast. It features the quick caliber interchange of previous models, but goes much farther than that. It is a straight-pull bolt-action, but it is not related to the old Schmidt-Rubin and Ross straight-pulls in that its bolt does not turn. When the bolt handle is tugged rearward the entire radial locking system is withdrawn into the bolt proper, allowing the action to be opened and closed in a split second. Both right and left hand bolts are available, and a whole slew of calibers up to and including the 416.

In all Blaser models the telescope is mounted on the barrel, which would lend itself well to Scoutscope system if the necessary ingredients were fabricated - which will not be for the present.

More dramatic than the straight-pull action, from the utilitarian standpoint, is a radical trigger release which I do not fully understand now, but which I will when my personal 93 arrives in April. This trigger employs the action of a vertical pedestal and is claimed to require no adjustment or tuning whatever. The release on the demonstration gun was superb, and that is something very rare in the industry today.

The R93 is handicapped slightly by a small magazine capacity of three rounds. Current rifle magazines resemble the fuel tanks of current automobiles. Downsize, they do not hold enough. It is true that I have never shot a bolt-action rifle dry in action, but then I have never had occasion to use a life jacket either. The difference in the utility of high capacity magazines in rifles and pistols is the result of the different concept of the purpose of the weapon.

The Blaser R93 is not a Scout rifle, but it is a fascinating technical forward step. Who knows what the future may bring?

I speak to the Czechs regularly about the revival of that excellent pop-up rear aperture sight that used to be standard equipment upon the ZKK actions. They keep right on looking blank, so the installation of a proper rear ghost-ring remains largely a do-it-yourself proposition.

People ask me what progress I am making on "The Art of the Rifle" and I can only respond that it is slow going. With the convulsion here at Gunsite my literary output is cut back by more than half, while my professional correspondence seems, if anything, to increase.

Now, however, I must get serious. Regarding the example of Sir Richard Burton, who promised "The Book of the Sword" and then died before he got to the last two volumes, I cannot let that happen.

We hear of an unfortunate woman who, during an nighttime asthma attack, confused the small handgun she kept under her pillow with an asthma inhaler and proceeded to relieve her symptoms. It was not a fatal mistake, partly because she used a 25 ACP, which everyone knows is not sufficient to clear sinuses.

From John B. Hubbard of Bangor, Maine

We were amused to hear recently from Alvin Hammer, a rifle graduate from Old Gunsite and a prospective member of the Babamkulu group, that people in his area (at least some people) regard his prospective adventure in Africa as too dangerous. What a curious idea is that! If these people would like to avoid dangers they should take the precaution of not being born. (Might that be a good reason for abortion?). As someone once pointed out, none of us is going to make it alive. True, we might get shot in Africa. We also might get shot in Washington DC, or struck by lightning, or headed by some drunk in a pickup truck. No one who has lived through a battle will ever let such things bother him.
"By my troth I care not. Man owes God a death, and come what way it will, he that dies this day is quit for the next."
In any case, the Babamkulu adventure is setting up nicely. I will have to fax Danie van Graan, who will be our host at Engonyameni, to the effect that if anybody gets shot on this venture he will have to apologize to Jesse Jackson.

Charlie Putman of Colorado, who holds both the Gunsite Scharfsch├╝tzenabzeichen and the Gunsite Lion Badge, put in for one of the new R93 Blasers in caliber 416. I do not know what Charlie intends to do with that, but I will bet he is the first kid on his block to show it off.

"Consensus is the negation of leadership."

Margaret Thatcher, via Eric S.H. Ching

Mark Moritz recently introduced me to "the pistol that shoots everything." It is a Smith-frame revolver that accepts any known cartridge in the 9mm persuasion, from the 380 to the 357. It accomplishes this by means of a trick cylinder and ejector system that accommodates to any sort of rim. Mark tells me that this is the answer, in view of the dark times ahead when ammunition may be as hard to come by as good whiskey during Prohibition. Could be. In any case, it is a very interesting piece.

The run on arms and ammunition has caused shortages here and there throughout the country. In my opinion this phenomenon is a direct result of the passage of the Brady Bill. As everybody knows, that bill will do nothing about anything, but it does indicate that the hoplophobes now feel that they are free to go ahead with other and more ruinous action.

I have long preached that one should never be caught short in his personal armament, either in regard to the weapons or the ammunition. Keep up your supply, and do not neglect the 22 rimfire, which may well turn into the "ballistic wampum" I have spoken of the past.

If you have any loading equipment, stock primers, which may constitute the weakest link in the chain.

"The entire modern deification of survival, per se, survival returning to its self, survival naked and abstract with the denial of any subsequent excellence in what survives except the capacity for more survival still, is surely the strangest intellectual stopping place ever proposed by one man to another."

William James, via Roy Traband

That curious trial of the survivors of the Waco atrocity suggests trying the Christians for irritating the lions. ("Your honor, he just kept hitting me on the fist with his face!")

I have been annoyed enough to mention it before, but I wish people would stop using the word "professional" as a synonym for "expert." Anyone who does anything for money is a professional at whatever it is he is doing. That certainly does not mean that he is doing it well. You have only to look around you. An expert, on the other hand, is doing it well. Whether he gets paid for it or not is coincidental.

Do you enjoy recoil? A recent article in Magnum magazine from South Africa points out that the retroactive shock delivered by the shooting of a firearm is not necessarily punishment. The sock you feel when your racket centers a tennis ball, or when you floor the throttle on a highly-bred car in third gear, or when you hit the water from the boat deck of your fishing cruiser - these things are exhilarating. It seems possible that this tendency to mitigate the shock of recoil maybe overlooking something. Personally I enjoy shooting a full-sized weapon more than I do a 22, and if I can remember that far back, I used to anticipate with distinct pleasure an unavoidable tackle when running back a kickoff. Perhaps we should think further upon this.

We recently ran across an interesting new word, Schlimmbesserung. It describes the process of making something worse by "improving" it. That is a good word to have at the ready these days, since it covers the subject without the necessity of a long-winded explanation.

Those of you who are still looking for "Another Country," my best work to date, should know that the NRA Book Service still has a stock:
NRA Publications, 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030.
The current owner of Gunsite Press seems disinclined to reprint it, despite the demand, so it may be now or never.

Have we, the American people, truly forgotten the burning of the children?

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