Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 2, No. 5           May 1994

Maytime, 1994

Spring has definitely sprung, and the garden here at the Gunsite Sconce is bursting into bloom. Despite the miserable state of the world and the nation, it is impossible to be downhearted in this time of renewal, especially as we are looking forward to our departure shortly for Africa. This adventure may be the first of its kind in which all members are fully qualified in both marksmanship and gun handling. We will not be hunting buffalo this time, so all of our rifles will be of the 30-caliber persuasion, or thereabouts. After considerable experience and a great deal more study, I remain convinced that if you cannot do it with a 30-06, you probably cannot do it. (Naturally I exclude buffalo and elephant from this concept - not that untold numbers of both of these animals have not been taken neatly with military calibers.)

Now it happens that our elected government, after a fifteen year hiatus, has resumed the destruction of 1911 45s, M1 Garands, 03s, and Springfield 22 Trainers. Note that this has nothing whatever to do with crime. This is aimed directly at obviating the armed citizenry which is historically the only guarantee of human liberty.

Act on this at once. If you have not got a 1911, get one. If you have not got an 03, get one. If you have not got an M1, get one. (If you can possibly afford it, get two.)

Do you know about the Korth revolver? I have been approached with a prospect for promoting this piece in the United States. In essence the Korth is a luxury 357, built of the finest materials with the most meticulous craftsmanship and no manufacturing shortcuts. It is sometimes referred to as the Rolls Royce of handguns.

Much as we enjoy handling all sorts of firearms, we try to examine them with some sort of reference to their essential usefulness. I have not yet wrung out the Korth, and while I am willing to admit that it is probably a beautiful piece of ordnance, I am not sure of its "tactical niche." It doubtless shoots very well indeed, but then so does the Smith, Colt or Ruger. For those who enjoy "conspicuous consumption for prestige" it has a distinct appeal, but as far as I can tell, the shooters who go for this sort of thing are almost entirely shotgunners. Long observation suggests that shotgunners tend to be rich, whereas riflemen tend to be broke, and pistoleros tend to be more like riflemen than shotgunners.

There are plenty of people who will buy cars for no reason other than that they are expensive. This is true of shotguns as well. It may also be true of clothing in certain circles. Whether it is true of pistols is a matter to be explored. I have not yet held a Korth in my hand nor fired it. Possibly the chance will come in Europe this summer.

On that subject, the IPSC Rifle Conference, which is intended to find the proper way for international practical rifle competition to go, has been moved from Bohemia to Catalonia, mainly because of administrative difficulties in moving arms and ammunition across certain borders. I was looking forward to Bohemia more than I am able to do toward Catalonia but, of course, tourism is not part of the exercise. Both President Jean-Pierre Denis and I will do our best to insure that rifle competition worldwide will not be diminished by gamesmanship, as has happened with the pistol, but there are many obstacles in the way and all we can do is our best.

Note that the infamous traitor, Aldridge Ames, had donated five thousand dollars of his Russian payoff to the Democratic National Committee. No comment!

I am just back from Thunder Ranch in Texas, where I assisted Clint Smith in the conduct of the general purpose rifle class. This was a distinct pleasure for me for various reasons. First, is was nice to work on Clint's fancy new ranges, where he has installed some target systems which truly constitute a great leap forward. Second, it was pleasant to get back on the podium again, where I have not appeared since my excommunication by the Gunsite Training Center. Teaching is what I do, and when I do not do it I am frustrated. Third, our granddaughter Amy was a member of the class and it was necessary to get her checked out thoroughly before her participation in the African expedition in May. Naturally she will be using Sweetheart, this time loaded with 180-grain short-point Noslers.

I hope to be appearing with some regularity at Thunder Ranch, teaching both rifle and pistol classes. That Texas hill country is a nice part of the world, and there are interesting things down there in addition to the school. For example I would like to line up a nilgai for next winter.

Have you noted that the Heckler & Koch branch in Sterling, Virginia, has now received an order for 7,500 new service pistols for the United States armed forces? Our new "weapon of choice" will be in caliber 45 ACP, with a laser aiming module and a sound/flash suppressor. We do not know much about the design at this time, but at least it is of a good caliber.

At David Kahn's suggestion, I have undertaken to sponsor a special trophy to be awarded at the Keneyathlon at the NRA Whittington Shooting Center each year. This award will be in the form of a massive gold ring, a la Super Bowl, properly engraved and inscribed and known as "Guru's Gold." The idea is to award the contestant who does well in a way most nearly in accord with the practical use of the rifle. This year it will be presented to the shooter who, placing amongst the first five, uses the lightest rifle of the group. Next year we may reward the best man to use iron sights. Thereafter we may award to the highest placed grandfather, the highest placed junior, or the highest placed husband-and-wife combination. The list goes on.

"Battle is the sensation of life. A human being is never so alive as he is in combat. He may feel terror or he may not, but the prospect of losing his life makes it surge and flare within him. At no other time do his senses more acutely perceive the world. At no other time does his nerve fire with such spark. Never again will he weld as tight an emotional bond to others around him."

Philip Edwards, in SOF Magazine

The media insist that crime is the major concern of the American public today. In this connection they generally push the point that a disarmed society would be a crime-free society. They will not accept the truth that if you take all the guns off the street you still will have a crime problem, whereas if you take the criminals off the street you cannot have a gun problem.

In the larger sense, however, the personal ownership of firearms is only secondarily a matter of defense against the criminal. Note the following from Thomas Jefferson:
"The strongest reason for the people to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against the tyranny of government."
That is why our masters in Washington are so anxious to disarm us. They are not afraid of criminals. They are afraid of a populace which cannot be subdued by tyrants.

I noted with some astonishment in Texas that Sweetheart printed exactly to the same point of aim with both the 150-grain boat-tailed Federal premium ammunition used by the school, and with John Gannaway's 180 Noslers. This little rifle has really no right to do this sort of thing, but there is a definite magic about the piece which seems scientifically inexplicable.

Correction I erred in a previous issue by referring to a Scout Rifle as a "proscope," deriving from the word proskopos, which is Greek for "the one who looks out before." David Kahn, who is up on his Greek, informs me that the proper word is proskoplopon combining proskopos (scout) with hopolon (weapon). The Scout Rifle is, therefore, properly termed a proskoplopon, and long may it wave!

In teaching the rifle, we discover again that most sights are mounted too far to the rear, and most rifle stocks are too long. While it would be nice if each weapon were fitted personally to each shooter, the fact remains that a lanky rifleman can get along very well with a short stock, but a shorty will find it very difficult to do well with a long stock. Those of small stature should note that Savage currently offers its 110 CY rifle designed especially for ladies and young people. It is available in a variety of calibers, including both 270 and 308. This is an excellent item and should enjoy wider publicity than heretofore. (We had two southpaws in the first class at Thunder Ranch, and we reminded them that the excellent 99 Savage lever gun is available in 308.)

As an example of the state of modern journalism, one Mary Gotschall, writing in National Review for April, refers to "bullet piercing ammunition" in her essay on currently proposed disarmament legislation. Now what do you suppose bullet piercing ammunition might be? The depressing thing about this is not that Miss Mary was paying no attention to what she said, but that a whole series of editors and proofreaders did not catch this matter either. The problem is not so much that the writer was ignorant, but that she was paying no attention to what she wrote - and, what is worse, neither was anyone else.

One of the things we are looking forward to with great pleasure is the fact that we are not required to wear "hunter orange" in the African bush. Making oneself conspicuous is never a good idea, but trying to be conspicuous in the bush has always seemed to me to be defeating the whole purpose of the enterprise. That is just one reason why I love to hunt Africa.

In Texas we ran across one of the more curious pieces of ordnance to come to our attention. This was essentially an M1-A1 of Garand ancestry, which had been reworked into a sort of "bull-pup" with the action tucked back under the shooter's face and a telescope sight mounted way up there over the bore. I understand its selling price was about thirty-five hundred dollars. Here is a classic example of the German term Schlimbeserung which we noted in a previous edition. The unfortunate owner did his best to keep up with the class, but it was a hard fight.

When I make observations of this sort about new equipment, I am accused of Ludditeism, a generally fuddyduddy tendency to disdain the new and stick by the old. I admit being conservative in matters of weaponry, but I resent being packed into a package, in view of all the innovations which I have personally created. I might accuse the people who refuse to produce a production scout or a really good telescope sight of fuddyduddyism, but I won't. Ideas and innovations should be examined on their individual merit and not on their current fashion.

Did you catch that recent piece in the Atlantic Monthly on the subject of firearms ownership? It did not say anything we do not already know, but its appearance in a magazine with notably left-leaning tendencies was very refreshing.

Family member John Schaefer of New Jersey asserts that,
"We act as if comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to be happy is something to be enthusiastic about."
Does that explain the overwhelming passion of a large portion of the American public for the trivialities of professional sports? People who know almost nothing at all about the activity being demonstrated on the field can go practically hysterical in their enthusiasm for it - having nothing else to be enthusiastic about - it would seem.

We are straining at the administrative leash to get our hands on the Blaser M93 rifle, which is promised us for Africa. As I write, the chances of its arrival in time for checkout are about 50-50. If I do not have it ready I will fall back on the Lion Scout, which is a most comforting thing to fall back on.

"Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist."

Edmund Burke

I have been recently asked by several correspondents about the difference between "Orange Gunsite" and "Grey Gunsite." When the Countess and I moved over here many long years ago, she selected as our official colors orange and chocolate brown. All of our signs, notices, and banners were thus rendered in those colors, establishing a tradition which we intended to follow, rather like those of "Navy blue and gold, or forever and forever Stanford red." When the current owner purchased the estate he decided to wipe out that tradition and change the colors to drab grey and black, and repainted all the signs. This was rather a favor to us, since it marked a clear-cut dividing line between the Gunsite tradition and the GTC operation. Now we can call Orange Gunsite that institution which the Countess and I created. Grey Gunsite is whatever the current owner desires to make of it. Hence in conversation Orange Gunsite means one thing and Grey Gunsite another. (And never the twain shall meet.)

We see that the Bahutu and the Watutsi have resumed their age-old hostilities. Truly they enjoy this sort of thing, and what they may lack in aptitude they make up in enthusiasm. This, of course, is one of the rewards of independence. The Belgian administration did not put up with it.

From Australia I received the following newsclipping from the Brisbane Sunday Mail:
"Customer at a one-person Brisbane suburban post office last week passed a note over the counter demanding the contents of the cash drawer. Quick thinking postie said she'd just banked the day's takings and the drawer was empty. Bloke grumbled a bit, but said that while he was there he might as well pay his telephone account, which he did, handing over his bill and the cash. Cops say their job is made so much easier when a crook leaves his name and address at the scene of the crime."

As the New American Revolution looms on the horizon, we hear its echoes. Here is Walter Williams, syndicated columnist, in Conservative Chronicle:
"I don't know about you, but if you hear that Williams' guns have been taken, you will know that Williams is dead."
Shades of Patrick Henry!

Recently we read some wet-behind-the-ears journalist referring to a self-loading pistol as "high tech" as opposed to a revolver, which was thought to be "low tech." Since successful self-loading pistols were in common use before World War I, this does not speak very highly for current technological innovation.

From Business Week, March 14, 1994, page 33, via Bruce Heath:
"Talk about talking out of both sides of your mouth at once. In late December `93, the Federal Gov't approved the massive (approaching $100M) sale of US made "pump" shotguns and shells to Russia. Almost simultaneously, the Treasury Sec. announced domestic gun control restrictions on three types of semi-automatic shotguns. Could the good Sec. please explain why one is less dangerous than the other?"

"Commerce justifies the exports to Russia by saying they are for home defense and hunting. Whoops... Seems like the Russian gov't isn't doing too well lately in providing food and protection for its citizens. And now, of all things, the common Russian wants to be able to feed his family and personally protect them from criminals. Sounds like a standard anti-gun control defense to me! Alive & well in Russia of all places."

"Oh well... we should be used to this type of inconsistent behavior from Washington. All this from a gov't that attempts (among other things) to tax cigarette sales to pay for socialized health care and ban smoking in public places while simultaneously subsidizing the growers of tobacco."

There will now be a hiatus, while we scurry around Africa. With luck I may get a new edition out before I leave, but don't count on it.

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