Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 2, No. 8           11 July 1994

July, 1994

Back in the land of the living, I reflect that I discovered many very interesting things during my time in sick bay - most of which I did not need to know. As I write this I am not quite ready for full duty, but improvement proceeds at a gratifying pace. For those who never thought about it, I can assure you that hiccups are no help to a broken back. However, let's always remember: Was nicht unterbringt, mock' starker.

I find it strange and discouraging to note that the design and production of pistols, which once was the field of the United States industrial establishment, has been relinquished to the rest of the world. For most of my life a handgun was made in the United States or it was essentially inconsequential. Now, of course, we find that the American military service is armed with a weapon of Italian design. This is not to denigrate the Italians, who have indeed designed some wonderful weapons, but the art of the handgun has always been essentially an American concept, and to see us drop the subject in favor of the Europeans is not cheerful. We are by no means chauvinistic in this. We admire German and Italian cars excessively, and we are particularly fond of South African wines and Germanic rifles, but the art of the handgun has always been an almost exclusively American achievement, and it is indeed a pity to see that era vanish.

Colonel Bob Young is just back from Saudi Arabia, where he found that the elite Arabs are much fonder of small calibers and minor cartridges than they are of the battle-tested 308. It seems that the 308 bumps them when they shoot it. Poor babies!

A lot of heated conversation has been flying these days in connection with the word "hero." Research indicates that the word can mean almost anything one wants it to mean. It is really no longer possible to elevate anyone by referring to him as a hero. The most commonplace examples are entertainers. A hired entertainer is worth whatever the lord of the manor wishes to pay him, but the fact that he performs his entertainments well does in no way establish him as a hero. Thus no professional athlete can be correctly termed a hero for doing what he is paid to do excessively well. Expert, possibly. Hero, no. A true hero performs noble purposes of great difficulty at immediate risk of his life. Warriors and fire fighters may indeed be heroic, but hardly simple purveyors of amusement.

Freshly back from Africa and from our stay in the meat locker, we discover that Janet Reno is still on the payroll, and Lon Horiuchi is still wandering around loose. Someone should have taken care of that in our absence.

Hornblower buffs will recognize Rosas Bay in Catalonia as the site of the epic battle in which HMS Sutherland was sacrificed and Bush lost his leg. It is now the heart of the "Costa Brava," the renowned vacation center for North Europeans. This is in a part of Spain technically, but culturally otherwise. Among other things, Catalan is not a dialect but rather another language more akin to Provencal, and the Catalonians do not share nor admire the Castilian tradition. Catalonia is plagued in springtime by the tramontane which is a violent gale-force wind sweeping down from the Pyrenees to the sea. These gales - recorded up to 100 miles per hour - had a decisive hand in my personal mishap.

The conference at Rosas Bay was intended to set guidelines for policy control over international practical rifle competition. The conference was in no position to dictate policy to IPSC, but we had hoped to find a consensus which we could present to the assembly at the next general meeting in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately we did not have a quorum and several important members of the confederation did not send delegates, especially including the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa. The result was that a rather strongly divergent view of the principles of practical rifle shooting was advanced at some length. At issue was the separation of objectives between the general purpose bolt-action rifle and the semi-automatic battle rifle. The question, of course, is whether these two types of weapons can be placed in competition with each other without giving a distinct advantage to one or the other. It was my hope to establish a single-class policy for the future, but it does not appear that this is going to work. There seems to be a sentiment that battle rifles and general purpose rifles should compete in separate categories, although on the same courses of fire. I do not think that this is a sound proposition, but it seems to be the opinion of the majority in attendance at the Rosas Bay Conference.

It seems clear that the appearance of battle rifles in international competition will cause certain doubts in the minds of those who would disarm the people. In view of the fact that courses of fire can be easily designed which give no advantage to a semi-automatic battle rifle, I would prefer that we put all of our weapons in one category, especially considering that battle rifles, as such, are forbidden in both the United Kingdom and South Africa - and may well be in the United States before long. Still we will get by with what we must, and the situation is not wholly disheartening.

One point that was established was the recommendation that general purpose rifles be limited to a weight ceiling of 3.5kgs. This, of course, is to obviate the appearance of special rifles designed for special competition under special circumstances, which has become the curse of pistol competition as now practiced.

We ask all concerned to consider these matters carefully and be prepared to have an opinion when the matter comes to a head in October.

Note that the new bolt-action Mauser is available in right- or left-handed form simply by changing the bolt. This is an idea whose time should have come a hundred years ago.

In the matter of cartridge design, things are no better. We really do not need new cartridges, since the 45 ACP has been around since the beginning and has not yet met its equal - for defensive utility purposes. Yet, we now have a selection of 9s, including 9x17, two varieties of 9x18, the 9x19, the 9x20, the 9x21, the 9x21.5, and the 9x22. This profusion of cartridge choices is obviously ridiculous. The purpose of a pistol cartridge is to turn your opponent off with one round. It is impossible to conceive how variations of 1mm of case length are going to effect this capability. If you want more stopping power than a 9mm affords you need a larger bore and more mass - you do not need more velocity. This conclusion was reached by the knowledgeable decades ago and it has not been successfully controverted. None of the various 9s is any more conclusive in a fight than any other. Why people just do not drop the subject is a mystery.

Note that the three-volume set of Deneys Reitz is now advertised for sale by Wolfe Publishing in Prescott. Anyone searching for a "role model" need look no farther than Deneys Reitz.

"Most of America's assault rifles are in the attics, basements, and closets of patriotic Americans who never fire them and to whom war against their own government would be an unthinkable nightmare."

"The problem is that millions of such weapons are now being stored in the homes of ordinary Americans, especially in the Western United States. Assault rifles have a military appearance and contribute in a subtle, psychological way to growing resistance to government oppression. Most farmers, ranchers, and loggers who see their lives and families entirely destroyed by Babbitt and retainers will never fire a shot. The existence of these weapons, however, makes resistance, even legal resistance, more thinkable to these victims."

"The bureaucrats and politicians do not fear armed criminals or armed political zealots so much as they fear peaceful Americans who will probably never use their assault rifles - but whose mental toughness may be enhanced by possession of military weapons."

"The gun controllers are not deterred by the facts about guns and crime, because their primary fear is not of criminals. They fear ordinary Americans whose lives and freedom their policies are destroying. In this fear and in their world, they are on target."

Arthur B. Robinson, Ph.D. Access to Energy, July 1994, Vol. 21, no. 11

"Slavery in the modern world implies the absolute deprivation of the individual's liberty, while possession of weapons and mastery of their use are means to the individual's liberation. We do not perceive how a man may be armed and at the same time bereft of his freedom."

John Keegan, in "The Face of Battle"

We have dissected the new Hornady enhanced performance ammunition for the 308 and we find that it does indeed perform as advertised. That is to say it raises the 308 to 30-06 capacity and the 30-06 to 300. How it does this is not clear, except that Lion Man John Gannaway found it impossible to get the powder back into the case once the bullet had been removed. Some sort of compression is involved here, which is all right as long as it does not raise pressures to dangerous levels, and it does not seem to do this. The 308 could indeed use a little extra oomph, but that is not true of the 30-06. ("If you can't do it with a 180 at 2700, you probably can't do it.")

The 458 and the 350 Remington Short Magnum could indeed do with a bit of enhancement, but the prospect seems unlikely since there is no demand for the 458 and the 350 Short Magnum is essentially obsolete.

More important is the matter of bullet design. We have concluded over decades now that impact performance by the bullet is more significant than flight characteristics. We can hardly point to a case of power inadequacy, but we know of numerous examples of failure in bullet performance.

I recently cut a video tape with Bruce Beers, of Quad Productions, concerning the tradition of personal weaponry in America and its legal status. This tape is entitled "Liberty's Teeth" and is available for sale now. I think it turned out rather well.

The following curious report comes from the Australian publication Nexus:
"When Goldstein opened fire with the Galil he used a technique virtually unknown to soldiers in conventional armies, but taught by the Special Operations groups of the US and Russia. Instead of firing at random with bursts of three to five shots in full-automatic mode, Goldstein fired very fast single shots with the weapon set to semi-automatic, releasing one shot every time that the trigger was squeezed. Goldstein is reputed to have fired at 90 shots per minute. Kill rates are much higher using this special high speed, semi-automatic technique, but only if the assassin has received extensive training. As a medical doctor from the nearby Kiryat Arba settlement, it is reasonable to ask where Goldstein gained his high level of special operations expertise."
Imagine a private citizen using aimed fire today! This highly secret and specialized technique is only known to a few on the inside of the Special Operations units. What is the world coming to!

The British have reached some sort of new low in the event of having a prisoner give birth in shackles. This preoccupation with handcuffs on the part of the law enforcement establishment has long exasperated us, but we did not think it would go this far. The woman concerned was possibly a very nefarious person, but how she could pose a threat to the police when in the process of giving birth is beyond even the most bizarre imagination.

On the 50th anniversary of D-Day in Europe, a great deal of editorial comment was submitted honoring and extolling the heroic behavior of the Americans who gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy in order to free Europe. Just among ourselves, I doubt that they did. In truth, I do not know why men fight, except to defend their homelands, but I do know that in the course of two wars and a good many informal conflicts, I have never yet met anyone who died or risked his life for a political ideal. I can tell you why I and my comrades fought in the Pacific, but of course that does not apply to our comrades who fought in Europe. Men fight for all sorts of reasons, but the best reason we have heard so far is simply that men like to fight. (This is a terribly politically incorrect attitude and should not be aired about.)

This year we plan the Second Annual Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial at the Whittington Shooting Center near Raton, New Mexico. The dates are 21, 22, 23 October. We plan three days of shooting and two evenings of recitation/declamation. Mark it on your calendar and plan to be there.

We are very pleased to report that the special prize - "Guru's Gold" - at the Keneyathlon was taken by Sergeant Allan Swanson, USMC, utilizing the same rifle that he shot in his basic rifle course last year. The prize was awarded to the lightest rifle finishing in the first five places and Sergeant Swanson placed fourth overall. The three rifles ahead of him weighed 9.5, 11 and 13 pounds each.

The issue here is that we must find a way to reward portability in rifles, since when anyone enters competition it is quite possible for him to gain a slight advantage by carrying a heavier rifle, which is useful on the range but less useful in the field, and field performance is what we aim for. The proposed 3.5kgs weight ceiling for IPSC practical rifle, if adopted, may help in this direction.

We intend to keep the same rules for next year's Keneyathlon.

"In the Supreme Court and elsewhere, blithe talk about "a living Constitution" conceals the fact that the constitution is in fact dying as it is being reinterpreted out of existence, whenever it stands in the way of the prevailing zeitgeist."

Thomas Sowell

I was recently characterized by a Swedish weapons instructor as a "moss-backed amateur." This causes me no distress. Moss-backed I certainly am, having seen more of life, strife and conflict than this young man as apt to no matter how long he lives. And as to "amateur," I prize the adjective. The amateur does it for love, where a professional does it for money. As we have often asked, who does it better? I have been in love with personal weapons since I was a child. I have used them, trained with them, designed them, and employed them for nearly sixty years, and I did this because I love them. There is no question but what I could not have been paid to do whatever I have done as well.

In our recent survey of the African battlefields, we discovered more positively every time that it was not Boer marksmanship that made the difference in those wars so much as Boer gun handling. Contrary to widespread belief, the Boers did not do significant damage at great range, but when they got into a firing position at a reasonable range, they shot carefully in order to hit rather than by volley in order to scare. It seems apparent that these men, while good shots, were not extraordinary shots. What matters is that when they came on to shoot they used their individual weapons purposefully rather than ostentatiously. Carefully aimed rifle fire at short range is overwhelmingly demoralizing. What happens, however, is as the range shortens improperly organized warriors tend to shoot carelessly. The difference is decisive.

An informal poll conducted in the area of Harare (ex-Salisbury, Rhodesia) indicates that the great majority want Ian Smith back in place of Robert Mugaby. If Mugaby finds out about this, Mr. Smith's head rests very lightly on his shoulders.

While the quiet revolution in South Africa seems to be proceeding without much trouble, at least trouble apparent from here, we note the following disquieting information. One Mr. Obed Bapela announced officially that under a government dominated by the ANC "whites" should be limited to owning only one firearm. Note that he did not say "people," he said "whites." That suggests an attitude that is overwhelmingly racist. Whether Mr. Bapela, who is listed as a Deputy Secretary General of the ANC, speaks for his government is not clear at this time, but while being a "racist" in most of the world today is considered to be reprehensible, this does not seem to be true in South Africa - at least in the leading circles of the African National Congress.

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