Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 4, No. 1 January, 1996
Happy New Year!
So here we go into 1996. I suppose 1995
could have been much worse than it was, but still it included fully
as much that was scruffy as that which was elegant. Its very
scruffiness leads to some hope at the polls, at least here in the
US, but the democratic process has not proved to be a guarantee of
either liberty or justice. As Churchill opined, it may be a very
poor system, but remains better than any alternative we have
thought up so far.
Be that as it may, we look forward to '96 with cautious optimism.
Many excellent things may turn up, so here is to good cheer for the
Have you noticed the frequency with which
journalists employ the term "a hail of bullets"? This is the wrong
term, since hail comes down from above, not from the side. The
proper term should be "blizzard," as anyone can attest to who has
been out in one. However, I have never seen an author use the term
"a blizzard of bullets," whereas I hear about "a hail of bullets"
with every second copy of the newspaper.
One of the things that we look forward to
in the New Year is the chance to confront an angry bull hippo on
dry land. Arrangements have been made.
The question will arise as to why the hunter should choose a hippo,
especially since over the great hunting days of Africa this beast
was never considered to be a game animal. He does, however, offer
some interesting possibilities. Shooting him in the water is not
exciting. While he has been known to attack and destroy a boat, he
usually simply sinks and dies under water. On the other hand, if
you can insert yourself between a night-grazing hippo and his
river, he may afford you as much excitement as you desire -
perhaps more. His bulk is enormous and the problem of proper bullet
placement is daunting. In his rush for water he is all but
unstoppable, and his bite can easily cut a man in two. (We know of
two outfitters who will not undertake this operation, believing it
to be too dangerous.)
If and when you get your hippo down, various positive features
appear. His hide is supposed to make the best leather in the world.
His meat is highly prized by the local people, and his rendered fat
is considered to be a sovereign remedy for everything from malaria
to sprained ankles. His ivory is distinctly superior to that of the
elephant for the manufacture of jewelry and accessories, being
denser and finer in grain.
Among other things, this adventure will give us one more excuse to
take Baby afield. We will use 500-grain solids, and when the
opportunity presents itself we will shoot with extreme
Now we observe the ultimate gift for the
man who has everything. This is a titanium-plated Anaconda. Here in
the tail end of industrialization we come across the manufacture of
items which are designed not for use, but only for ownership. Such
things were made historically on a one-at-a-time basis for kings
and princes, but now we make them up in quantity for anyone whose
wife (mother, daughter, concubine, secretary) has more cash than
It is interesting to me that while one cannot yet purchase a
production Scout rifle, which ought to be the most useful thing of
its kind so far designed, one can now purchase a titanium-plated
Anaconda. Food for thought.
(The "Anaconda" I refer to here is the long-barreled Colt revolver
in caliber 44-Magnum.)
Considering the recent Christmas
festivities we were reminded of an exchange that took place in
lowland Scotland in the early 17th century. The English visitor
looked around at smoking wreckage and disaster, ravished fields and
slaughtered livestock, and exclaimed,
"Good heavens, are there no Christians here?"
The response was,
"Nay, Sir, we be mainly Armstrongs and Elliots."
Now that so many states are issuing
licenses for concealed carry, and have had to come up with
something regarded as "qualification" for the issuance, we are
treated to the tiresome spectacle of the blind leading the blind.
Legislatures do not know what sort of law to pass, and the
qualifiers have no idea what it is they are trying to qualify. This
is okay in the big picture since it puts more armed citizens on the
streets, but I am receiving a flood of letters pointing out the
inadequacy of the qualification process. You cannot "qualify" a
shottist (or a pianist or an airplane pilot or a matador or a
dancer) in "six easy lessons." The only sensible thing you can do
is examine the applicant for his knowledge of the law as it applies
to his jurisdiction. You may, of course, make sure he understands
how to load and unload his weapon, but to try to turn him into a
pistolero is absurd.
The legislative efforts in this line
continue to be mysterious. According to the new Texas law, for
example, a nurse may not carry her properly licensed pistol into a
hospital. As we all know, a nurse is particularly vulnerable to
violent attack, not in the corridors of the hospital, but on her
way from the door to her car in the wee hours. If she really needs
a sidearm, this is when she needs it, but current Texas law seems
In answer to those of you who have written
in, the Whittington dates for 1996 appear as follows:
- General Rifle Class: 28 April to 3 May
General Pistol Class: 14 to 19 July
Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial: 18, 19,
- Rich Wyatt (303) 232-0542
- Keneyathlon: 17, 18 June
- David Kahn (303) 697-9495
Reluctant as we may be to compliment a
dictator who prefers to be addressed as "Comrade," we are compelled
to do so in the case of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. He officially
refers to homosexuals as "perverts who do not deserve civil
rights." In his words,
"Let the Americans keep their sodomy, bestiality,
stupid and foolish ways to themselves. Let the gays be -
gay - in the United States and Europe, but they shall be sad
How about that?
We have struck out on the Gunsite zeroing
target. Our printer here in Prescott has decided that marketing it
is not economically feasible. I think very highly of this design
and I think the target should be stocked on every well-equipped
rifle range. If anyone in the family is interested in
grabbing onto this opportunity, I hope he will get in touch with
With the increased popularity of the
"double-action" self-loading pistol we have come to instruct
students in four different presentations. This does complicate
matters, but we have seen all four systems work, under pressure,
and no self-respecting instructor can justify his omitting any one
of the four.
- The Weaver system. Here the trigger starts back as the weapon
starts up, arriving at full-cock exactly as the eye picks up the
sight system. This is the system that Jack Weaver used in his
mastery of the double-action revolver, and it is the most elegant
way of using the DA auto.
- The point-and-crunch system. This is the least efficient method
and the most common. It is practically universal with the
unenlightened. To use it the shooter simply points the uncocked
weapon at his target and cranks on through. You can hit this way,
but not quickly.
- The thumb-cock system. Here the shooter catches the lowered
hammer of his piece with his left thumb as his hands come together
in the ready position. He cocks the piece with his thumb as the
weapon comes up on target and fires his shot from the fully cocked
position. This works. It is as fast as the man can make his hands
work, and it affords a precise first shot. Its drawback is that it
needs both hands.
- The shot-cock system. This is not considered politically
correct by many departments, but it does work. I have seen it used
with startling efficiency on both the range and in the street. With
this system the shooter simply flings his first shot down range
with no regard for proper stance or sight picture. This cocks the
piece and it just may hit the target by accident. However, the
pistol is instantly readied for the second shot, which can be
placed with precision. I know of no one who teaches this system,
but it does work very well, and it is a mistake to pretend it does
Thumb-cocking is probably the way to go, unless you are a master,
in which case you will use the Weaver system.
Department of Pretty Arcane Stuff
"As the supernatural world is eternally at work behind
events in the natural world, so the world of man-in-nature
continues to operate behind the synthetic, abstracted, and unreal
world of man outside-of-nature. For that reason alone I shall
always hunt elk. (Though, of course, I really don't need any
Chilton Williamson, Jr. in Chronicles magazine
With abject apologies to Victor Herbert,
we submit the following lyric, which evolved out of our joyful
goings on at the Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt
Memorial at Whittington Center last October:
Give me a gun,
That's a stout hearted gun,
That sounds off with a soul-stirring roar.
Give me just one,
That's a stout hearted gun,
And I'll soon show you trophies galore, O!
(If it) has a good trigger,
I'll need nothing bigger,
As I load up and step to the fore.
Then, I'll show you man's best friend,
And I'll not ask for more.
One stout hearted gun
Can serve its master evermore.
(Sorry about that!)
I regret to report that an E-ticket from
Orange Gunsite does not necessarily mean that you can shoot. I hate
to report this, but I have examples. Marksmanship is one thing, but
crisis management is another, and gunhandling is still a third. We
should all give this matter further thought.
In what I have longed considered to be an
error, there are people who feel that the more shots they fire in
an instruction course the better the course. Firing a lot of
ammunition may only be an invitation to repeat original errors. A
second error I see in watching the conduct of instruction
throughout the world is a tendency on the part of the rangemaster
to put people into advanced work before they are basically sound. I
see people being exposed to fire-and-movement problems and priority
of target problems before they are able to hit any target at all
under simple conditions. All this does is convince the student of
his weaknesses, and a conviction of weakness is a serious handicap
in a serious confrontation.
As our native whitetail deer continue to
proliferate, they can become a serious problem to people with
gardens or orchards. A good many such people are forbidden by law
from decking a prowler or two and processing carcasses for the
freezer. For such people we recommend the "Wrist Rocket" or other
advanced version of the old fashioned slingshot. This instrument is
capable of astonishing efficiency in practiced hands, and should be
enough to convince the marauder of the error of his ways. Of
course, the householder may have to stay up all night now and
again, and that disadvantage may prove enough to let the deer have
Now we can all look forward to the SHOT
Show in Dallas, where many marvelous things should be placed on
display. I confess to a little confusion on the subject of the
profusion provided us by the pistol manufacturers. Where there used
to be about half-a-dozen good choices for the novice gunman, there
now must be fifty. The problem, however, remains somewhat simpler
than all this marketing effort would indicate.
The first requirement of a defensive sidearm is stopping power. The
shooter must have the best possible chance of terminating the
action with one well-directed shot. (It may be pointed out that
even more important than stopping power is the need for the weapon
to go off when the trigger is pulled. I will have to admit that,
but I do not think that failure to fire on the first shot is a
problem of any great consequence in current manufacture.)
The second requirement of the defensive pistol is reliability. It
must continue to function after the first shot, even though this
should not be given great importance.
The third requirement is handiness. If the piece is uncomfortable
to wear and to use, it will not be present when needed.
Despite the foregoing, we see a great deal of emphasis placed upon
"accuracy." Now certainly a shot which misses its target does no
good, but nearly all defensive pistols available today are quite
capable of placing all their shots in the center of a man's chest
at defensive distances. Correspondents continually write me about
systems they might use to increase the accuracy of their defensive
pistols, as if they could appreciate the difference between a 3"
group and a 5" group at 50 meters! Accuracy increments of this sort
are absolutely irrelevant. But the majority of "gun writers" do not
seem to see it this way.
And then there is a matter of magazine capacity. "If my piece holds
twelve rounds, while yours hold only ten, I win." Here again we are
dealing with irrelevance. The highest score I have ever heard of in
a pistol fight was five, and that victory was achieved with a
7-round magazine, without reloading. Our late companion Bruce
Nelson was once asked in the course of an interview at a police
station if it was not a good idea to carry a P35 because of its
high capacity magazine. Bruce's response was, "Well, sure, if you
plan to miss a lot."
We will see a lot more, of course, at the SHOT Show than a
profusion of pistol choices. I will pick out the things which seem
most interesting and report back to you in further issues of this
I do not know how many of you have ever
heard of the Mobius Loop, which is a mathematical demonstration of
the possibility of being in two places at once - in this case,
on both sides of a plane surface. Back when I was in full charge of
the Gunsite ranges I got to be pretty good at being in two places
at once, but this year it appears that during the month of April I
will have to be in three places at once. We will think upon
" - Sensitivity - makes cowards of us
News Item: In Fort Wayne, Indiana, Sutton
bit most of the ear off of Wallace during a barroom brawl. When
Sutton was arrested he swallowed the ear. He was charged with
battery and criminal recklessness. It would hardly seem that biting
is "battery," and we do not see how "recklessness" applies at all,
but the police could not find any charge applicable to
It would seem that if a police agency
relegates gunfights to 10 meters and under, and is limited to
students who do not care about shooting, good technique and good
equipment become pointless. If your technique is going to be
spray-and-pray, neither good trigger action, nor correct stance,
nor sights are really going to matter very much. Shooting skill,
and, more important, fighting skill, seem unlikely to outlast the
A good friend and client of mine, who
happens to be a hunting outfitter, has over the years developed a
serious mistrust of what he refers to as "Magnum Shooters." They
come to hunt with him with great big guns with which they cannot
shoot well. They talk about group size, when what they really need
is trigger control. They tend to be very taken with the 338, and
jeer at anything smaller. My friend has kept records and has
reached the conclusion that the standard range at which these
people take game is 85 yards. Unless restrained, they will try long
shots, but on these they will miss, or worse, wound. My friend
makes his living off these people, and he would rather not be
quoted in print, but he has no objection to my furnishing you with
his name on request.
A year and a half after the revolution in
South Africa, we are informed that one is well advised to go armed
there - just as in the United States.
In the Age of the Wimp we are apt
to forget that there really is such a thing as a hero. We call
people heroes who simply do what they are told, or put out fires in
garbage cans, or make statements which may risk their jobs. We
hardly remember the real heroes, a few of whom are still alive. On
June 4, 1943, for example, Dick Best flew two missions. He dropped
two bombs, and he sank two carriers - in the teeth of enemy
fire. If you will think for a moment of what it takes to blast your
dive bomber vertically down onto the blazing guns of an enemy
warship, hold your nerve, and plant your bomb squarely amidships,
you may reflect upon what it takes to do that once. Dick Best did
it twice on the same day. He is still alive and comparatively spry
at 85. Let us have no more talk about "football heroes."
For those who like to reiterate the
modern fantasy known as POT (post operational trauma), the example
of George Patton is illuminating. You will recall that he got into
a fire fight down in Mexico when Pershing was looking for Pancho
Villa. When asked later how it felt to kill a man, Patton
responded, "I felt exactly the way I felt when I landed my first
There may be such a thing as POT, but I for one have never seen
Attorney William Burkett of the Oklahoma
County Bar's education committee frequently speaks to school
children about legal topics. When he addressed a class of fifth
graders recently, he asked whether any of the students knew the
punishment for stealing in some countries.
"Yes," one boy said. "They cut off your hands."
"Could that happen here?" Burkett asked, and the students replied
with a chorus of "nos."
"Why not?" he said to a girl in the front row.
"Because," she said, "the Constitution gives us the right to keep
On the last day of 1995 our neighbors Bob
and Allie Young conducted a notable invitational Schützenfest out
on their Ravengard estate, for quite a nice crowd. They feel that
this is a superior way to celebrate New Year's Eve - and we
War cry of the 21st century, "I just wish
I knew more about what we're doing."
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.