Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 4, No. 11          September, 1996

Zeroing Time

All of the faithful maintain perfect zeros all throughout the year. But for those of us who are not perfect, now is a good time to get out to the range and get those rifles to hitting exactly to where they are pointing. It is true that when our chance comes the range may be so short that an inch or two one way or the other is not important, but we must not count on that; and besides, zeroing is fun. We must remember, of course, that zeroing at home does not preclude zeroing at base camp. Scope-sighted rifles can easily go cockeyed between residence and hunting camp.

The technique of proper zeroing is too extensive to go into a newsletter, but for those who are interested, I cover it in proper detail in the forthcoming "The Art of the Rifle."

And the first touch of fall is a lovely time to be abroad in field, stream and mountain. The leaves are beginning to turn, there is refreshment in the breeze, and we have our fall hunt to anticipate with renewed delight.

The joys of summer are fresh garden tomatoes and corn right off the stalk, but the joys of autumn are enough to replace those of summer.

So raise the glass and sound the horns - a hunting we will go!

At the meeting of the NRA Board of Directors just past it was pointed out that the legislative victories of 1994 appear to have created a certain smugness amongst our friends who think they have won the fight. They, and we, have not. Our adversaries are well organized and wealthy, and they are confident that they can win back both the House and the Senate. Your vote can make a difference, and don't forget it. In addition, remember to write your Congressman, your Senator, your newspaper editor and your television station no less than once a week. A loss in the November election may be impossible to recoup.

We note with amazement that Bill Clinton has had the chutzpah to pose as a devotee of Theodore Roosevelt. For a draft dodger to presume to align himself with the hero of San Juan Hill is possibly the crowning impertinence of the 20th century.

As it has been mentioned, the Clinton administration may be quaintly characterized as "the evil of two lessers."

Thomas Sowell, whom we consider to be the most perceptive of current commentators, states that the majority of his hate mail comes from school teachers and "conservationists." The material from the school teachers makes the least sense, and that from the bunny huggers is the most vituperative,

The lefties have been making a great to-do recently about this matter of separation of church and state, which appears nowhere in the Constitution except in the sense that the federal government is prohibited from establishing a state religion. Mr. Jefferson seems to have invented the idea of a "wall of separation" which he thought desirable in avoidance of something such as the Church of England.

Considering the present state of our educational system, it might seem that a wall of separation should probably be erected between school and state. At the present time, our schools appear to be run essentially by the teachers unions, to the disastrous ignorance of our young people. It is by no means clear that the church could do worse than the state in running our schools. About the only way they could go would be up.

You may have heard about the cop who was killed in a training accident in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was shot with a pistol that was presumed to be unloaded. See Rule 1.

You noticed that Federal Cartridge brought out a line of what might be called "hopped up" rifle cartridges at the SHOT Show this year. By means of "magic loading", the 308 is raised to the power of the 30-06, and the 06 is raised to the power of 300 Magnum. Now Hornady has entered the lists with a hot loading for the 375. This is curious in view of the fact that for our last 30 years commercial cartridge companies have been loading their ammunition down, presumably to avoid litigation. You may remember that before the war one could purchase a hot 45 ACP load from Remington that claimed to reach 960f/s with the 230-grain bullet. At that time the standard 30-06/150 loading left the barrel at an honest 3000f/s.

I have investigated this matter and the answer seems to be that one can obtain higher velocity without increase in pressure by means of a flattened power curve, in which peak pressure is maintained over a longer interval. We assume that neither Federal nor Hornady would have touched this problem with a 10-foot pole without first checking safety limitations at great length.

The thought that occurs here is "Why?" All cartridges so far developed in this line have sufficient power as they stand, without accentuation. The 308 may be an exception, but it does not appear to me that either the 30-06 or the 375 stand in any need of boosting. Naturally the idea that "more is better" is accepted as a patent sales item, but in an era of hysterical litigation, it does raise a question.

Be that as it may, we intend to take the Federal 30-06/180 - as presumably hopped up - on our forthcoming elk trip. I very much doubt if we will discover anything exciting, as I have satisfied myself completely over the years that the 30-06 will do anything that needs doing in North America, in standard loading. It will do fine for Africa as well, but I would like to see the 220-grain bullet revived and used in connection with the newly developed hot loading system.

Another cartridge which could stand a bit of acceleration is the 458, which might get it up to the useful level of the 460 G&A - of song and story.

We are informed by presumably good authority that 90 percent of the young men now recruited by the Marine Corps have never handled a rifle in their lives. If I were king, the Marines would not recruit anybody until he could shoot "expert" in a prescribed course with the service rifle.

Ah, yes, "Assault Guns." The first piece I saw that was called an assault gun was a self-propelled and lightly armored 6-inch Howitzer which the Germans used in street fighting to blow away urban strong points with short range direct fire.

Then the Germans came up with a term Sturmgewehr, which was sort of a cross between a battle rifle and a machine pistol, and which was the direct parent of the now renowned Kalashnikov family.

Then, of course, the hoplophobic media latched onto it and started calling anything that they could think of an "assault gun." They even invented a term "assault pistol," whatever that might be!

Today, therefore, we have a series of hybrid weapons which are neither rifle nor pistol, but something in between. The designers have totally abandoned the idea of stopping power in favor of the notion of armor penetration. In the military chancelleries of the world armor penetration has taken the place of jogging as the bureaucrat's most popular sport.

Where all this leaves us is unclear, except that as we realize that we cannot predict the nature of future formal combat, any fancy we may come up with will probably get produced. Some of these things may even work.

In World War II we had the magnificent M1 rifle, and later on we acquired the misbegotten M1 carbine. Whether handheld gunfire contributed to our victories in Europe and the Pacific is not clear, but look at all the fun we have had playing with it!

Please note that the official dates for the 4th Annual Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial are scheduled for 18, 19, 20 October, that is Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (Regardless of what errors I may have made in previous announcements.)

In response to a couple of queries, I must point out that while all Orange Gunsite graduates are welcome, we may not allow people to shoot weapons on which they have not been trained. If you have not taken the pistol course, confine yourself to rifle, and if you have not taken the rifle course, stay with the pistol. This injunction does not apply to the shotgun, since we will be shooting recreational shotgun rather than tactical shotgun. We understand that sign ups for the Reunion are coming on amain. If you have not booked any reservation yet, please call
Brad Schuppan at Whittington Center, (505) 445-3615.
There is no entry fee for the event, but you are expected to provide your own ammunition, musical instruments, and printed original literary work, if any.

(No one has yet spoken up for "Over There!" or "The Soldier's Chorus" from Faust. All sorts of goodies are still open.)

For those who are proud of their lifetime shooting record, we learn of an old geezer, aged 96, who at the end of his life in the Transvaal boasted that he had taken 341 elephants, 187 lions, 40 kaffirs and two Englishmen. It will take some doing to top that.

From family member Paul Kirchner of Connecticut we receive the following anecdote:
"I recently had an interesting conversation with a Polish immigrant who was driving a cab. I have met about a half dozen Polish immigrants in recent years and I have been consistently impressed by them - they are better educated and more politically sophisticated than the average American. When I asked this fellow what surprised him most about the United States he said, 'l. Affirmative action, 2. Bad manners, 3. The fact that we are more relentlessly propagandized by our mass media than he was in Communist Poland.'"

From what I read in the hunting magazines, we are entering an age of giant kudu - a giant being one bearing horns with a 70" curl. Such have been encountered in Mozambique and reported from Namibia and Botswana. When we remember that Ernest Hemingway would have given his fortune for a 50" kudu back in the early part of the century, it does seem that some things have improved, and game management is among them.

As the century draws to a close piracy alters its location and technique. It has diminished in the Caribbean, stayed about the same in the Mediterranean, and grown radically in the South Seas. On any water between Palawan and Java any small or medium craft, or light transport, is a ready target. It is doubtful that any family members intend to go yachting anywhere between the Solomon Islands and Hong Kong, but if they do, they should be properly armed and in Hot Yellow the whole time.

Family member and pistol master Gabe Suarez of California has now released his second book, this one on the "Tactical Shotgun." His previous work, as you know, was the "Tactical Pistol." He has two or three other pieces in progress and is being coaxed by his wife to take up the writing of fiction. Certainly he has enough personal action experience to fill out the plot. Both of Gabe's books are available from Paladin Press, and we hope to see more of them in the future.

Orange Family Member and Riflemaster John Gannaway has dredged up some very interesting material on the so-called "Battle of Adobe Walls," which took place in June, 1874.

You will recall that on this occasion Billy Dixon, the buffalo hunter, was observed to take a Comanche off his horse, shooting from a rest with his 50-caliber rifle at some fantastic distance which has never been precisely established. You can go to the site today and find the position from which Dixon fired, but just where the Indian fell is now impossible to determine with precision. What we know is that it was a very, very long shot - "Way out past Fort Mudge."

The distance of record has often been printed as "7/8 of a mile." That would be 1,320 yards. Another figure we often see reprinted is 1,538 yards. Another is "some 1,400 yards." A minimum estimate has been given at 800 yards.

Clearly one cannot use the sights on a buffalo gun to hit an individual human target at any such distance. Dixon could hardly see an individual Indian at that range, but this problem was somewhat simplified by the fact that the Indians were riding in a bunch. What Dixon did was to hold somewhere in the sky above the saddle where the Indians were riding and squeeze off. He always maintained that it was a lucky shot, but it did nothing to damage his reputation,

In an unhappy appendix to that tale, we learn that the only woman on station during the incident - the wife of one William Olds - saw her husband killed by a negligent discharge of a rifle in the hands of her husband as he was coming down from a lookout post. We cannot recreate the tragedy at this late date, but obviously there was a violation of Rule 2, and possibly Rules 1 and 3 as well.

On a considerably less tragic line we may consider a case which happened not long ago here in Arizona in which a felon undertook to engage the police from a sixth floor balcony. The police smothered the target (with their Glocks) who came down airborne to his death. When it was attempted to find out how many shots the felon had taken, it was discovered that it was the fall that killed him - no bullet wounds.

I have been referring people who have inquired about the availability of my book "Another Country" to the NRA book service in Virginia, but now I discover that a better source may be
Blacksmith Corporation, PO Box 1752, Chino Valley, AZ 86323, (520) 636-4456.
I consider this work to be my best up till now, and since it is narrative rather than technical, it will certainly remain more amusing than "The Art of the Rifle," which has yet to be released.

According to our official informant from the Smallarms Development Division, we learn that the proposed personal arm of the individual soldier will be a two-phase, handheld weapon basically equipped with night vision. Its lower barrel will be a semi-automatic 223 for use against individual targets up to perhaps 200 meters. Its top barrel will be a 40-millimeter grenade launcher utilizing laser sight setting and good for proximity hits out to 1,000 meters.

This is just one of many proposals which may be due for experimental adoption, and all of which seem to run on batteries. Our informant, who spent much of the Gulf War racing around trying to keep people supplied with batteries, advises us to invest in Duracel. (Which was just recently purchased by Gillette.)

With all these uppity bears chomping on people in all parts of North America at this time, we are treated to all sorts of bear remedies, varying from playing dead to rattling keys. In a recent issue of Time magazine a woman correspondent pointed out that she had the answer. She had read all of the various measures to be taken when confronted by a bear in the woods, but when she finally ran into one she forgot them all and shouted to her daughter, "Oh look, a bear!" The bear split with exemplary alacrity, so obviously the system works. When next you stumble upon a bear (presumably because you were thinking of something else) and are foolishly unarmed, simply remember to shout, "Oh look, a bear!", and all will be well.

"I have never seen my civilization as clearly as on the plains and in the jungles of East Africa. There, in a few remaining wilderness areas, life exists in evolutionary balance much as it did millions of years ago. The values of traveling to the wildness first appear in a mounting awareness of the senses. I notice that especially when I select my campsite. Sweating, I search for shade from the sun. Wanting a night's sleep, I look for drainage in a rain. Hungry, I need deadwood for a fire for cooking. How fresh are the tracks on the animal trails? Is a water source nearby?"

Charles Lindbergh, via family member Bill O'Connor

Family member Ric Wycoff promises to bring his 8-year-old daughter and his autoharp, together with other musical instruments, to the Reunion. The faithful will take note and emulate.

Einstein's dictum was that everything should be kept as simple as possible - but no simpler. Following that lead we may say that a race driver must always drive as fast as possible - but no faster. For the marksman this becomes one should always shoot as quickly as one can - but no quicker.

Cases in point will occur to you. One that I remember involved a contest in which I became matched against Thell Reed, who was a true master of the quick draw. I was pretty quick myself in those days, but it did not seem possible for me to catch Thell on speed.

It came to pass that we were matched on the "FBI Duel," which is a man-to-man contest in which the two contestants advance side-by-side against a recording target starting at a range of 25 meters. It is entirely up to the match director to call the firing signal at any point he chooses on the advance, except that there are to be three firing signals at each bout.

So we started at 25, at which distance I thought I might be able to catch Reed; and I did so, since the first came very suddenly - at about 22 yards. The second call came at about 12 yards, and I lost that one. So we were one apiece as we continued the march. The match director was John Plahn, and he decided to put the matter to a brutal test. Ten, nine, seven yards - and no signal. I felt that there was no way I could catch Reed at arm's length, but I had to try. The interesting thing about this was that the pressure got to Thell too. The firing signal must have come at about 3 paces. I went as fast as I could and got a hit. Thell went just a hair faster than he could - and he missed. He came out of the holster like an electric spark, but his shot went well over the head of the target.

Nerves get to all of us, but at that time and that place they got to the quicker man more severely.

Moral: Go as fast as you can - but no faster

I am glad to report notable progress at the meeting of the Education and Training Committee of the NRA last week. The committee decided to update the Personal Defense Program of the association by rewriting and expanding the current training manual. This work will need editing and revision at several levels before it becomes official, but the direction seems right at this time, and the momentum is considerable.

Winston Churchill is quoted as saying: "if I had charge of the education of the young people of England, I would first teach them English. Then I would teach them Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat." I am not properly grounded in either Latin or Greek, though I have some nodding acquaintance, but I can certainly say that if currently produced reading matter is a guide, even our well-educated people seem to have lost the knack of English. Oddly enough, if you want to see the language properly used you only have to go back to material published in the first half of the 20th century. Even pop writers understood our tongue better then.

"Man is a predator whose natural instinct is to kill with a weapon. The sudden addition of the enlarged brain to the equipment of an armed already-successful predatory animal created not only the human being but also the human predicament."

Robert Ardrey, "African Genesis"

Riflemaster John Pepper - one of the five riflemasters in the world - is beginning to notice the onset of the years, and iron sights are beginning to give him trouble at distance on unmarked targets. He has been helping the Swiss Embassy recently in setting up a means for them to qualify on the Swiss target at 300 meters annually, which is necessary for a Swiss citizen, whether or not he is residing in Switzerland.

When John set up the Swiss qualification target on the rifle frames at Fort Mead, he found that he could not make out the delineations of the target, which is colored grey, brown and green in a sort of camouflage pattern. John had the answer. He mounted the targets in the frames so that the 4" ten-ring was exactly centered within the frame. Then, knowing where the target was, even though he could not see it clearly, he proceeded to shoot high score for the day with the M1 Garand.

Rather as in artillery practice, you do not have to see it if you know exactly where it is.

From Chechnya via Time magazine:
"They are simply afraid of us. We saw it in their eyes during battle. They have very strong weapons - but not very strong spirits."
As always, it is the man, not the gun, that wins.

You may remember the attributed demand from President Jefferson for "men to match my mountains." In today's scene, the politically correct version of that might be "Send me mole hills to match my men-and-women!"

"Deep thinkers who look everywhere for the mysterious causes of poverty, ignorance, crime and war need look no further than their own mirrors. We are all born into this world poor and ignorant, and with thoroughly selfish and barbaric impulses. Those of us who turn out any other way do so largely through the efforts of others, who civilized us before we got big enough to do too much damage to the world or ourselves."

Thomas Sowell

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