Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 4, No. 12          October, 1996

Hunting Season

We realize that all shooters are not hunters, and that all hunters are not shooters. This division of activity, while understandable, should be reduced insofar as possible, since the enemies of one group are also the enemies of the other, and they take advantage of this to divide and conquer. Target shooters are frequently not interested in hunting, but that should not lead them to denigrate hunting on principle. The innumerable hunters of whitetail deer east of the Mississippi, particularly noticeable in Pennsylvania, frequently express the notion that they are not affected by disarmament legislation, since it does not apply to them.

The hunter and the shooter need not become bosom buddies in order to realize that the foe of one is the foe of the other. A hunter who is not a member of the National Rifle Association is an ostrich.

Available on-campus accommodations are now fully booked up for the Reunion, but there is plenty of motel space available in Raton, which is only a few minutes away.

This new 9x23 pistol cartridge is an interesting idea, but one must question its basic purpose. To achieve more knockdown power one needs more mass, rather than more velocity, as anyone who has studied the matter is fully aware. But marketing is what dictates these things, as we all know, and when it comes to cartridge innovation velocity is what sells.

We heard of a road sign outside an inn in North Carolina announcing
"CCL's Welcome, Come On In, We All Have Them!"

Digby Anderson, who is the inhouse epicure for Bill Buckley, has come up with some very agreeable observations about this matter of "Lite" alimentation. To quote, "'Lite' is insipid, weak, denatured, flat, deluded, and easy: food for cowards and children." Producers produce what consumers desire, or what they think they desire. According to Anderson, the currently fashionable consumer of food is ignorant, timid, squeamish, and childish, and these tastes wash over into other methods of thought. For the most part our morality is light, childish and diluted. Our religion is insipid and undemanding. Schools make things easy for their pupils. Entertainment is fluffy and flimsy. "Is a foreigner allowed to suggest that the obvious description of the Republican candidate for the presidency is not 'Wrong, but lite?'" Dismally enough we are going to have to go to the polls next month and vote for a "lite" Republican.

Family member Bob Shimizu of Prescott suggests that violation of safety rules has become so prevalent in the popular press that we might make something of a game out of pointing out these errors to editors. It may be useless to attempt anything in the general press, but when gun magazines continually illustrate violations of Rule 3 in particular, they are doing the shooting public a dangerous disservice. Perhaps we should all make out a supply of form postcards and mail them to the proper desk whenever we see the need. Perhaps we shall set up a contest awarding a gold star to the reader who sends in the most postcards in any one month.

Among the other shortcomings of our current school system appears the evident fact that decimals are no longer taught. The division of quantities into tenths makes for very convenient thinking, but only for people who think about it. We find, for instance, that even presumably educated people today do not understand that the verb "decimate" signifies reduction by precisely one-tenth. It was used in the Roman army as a punishment for units which did not measure up in battle. The troops were lined up and every tenth man was killed. This act was repeated much more recently at Goliad during the Texas War for independence. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (who was one of the unusual historical figures about whom no good word has ever been spoken) required the survivors on the Texas side to reach into a bucket and extract one bean, there being one black bean for nine white. Every man who came up with a black bean was shot.

The point of this is that "to decimate" does not mean "to devastate." To decimate means to cause exactly 10 percent casualties - not nine and not 75. This proportion is easily determined by counting up the digits on both hands, for those who have difficulty with arithmetic.

We have put the new Federal "High Energy" rifle ammunition on the clock and we discover that it performs as advertised. The standard 30-06/180 has always showed consistent 2700f/s in a 24" barrel. The new Federal HE from the same barrel averages 2909f/s. From the 20" barrel of Lindy's Springfield the same bullet departs at 2850 - for a loss of just 50f/s in four inches of barrel length. This provides the performance of a 300 Holland and Holland Magnum (24") in a Springfield pseudoscout. Very interesting! I doubt if the elk will be able to tell the difference, but from the technical point of view the project has been so far an unqualified success.

In the decades we have spent teaching the arts of shooting it has been apparent that a shooter will ordinarily perform better on a target which reacts to the shot than on one that does not, and on exercises which are otherwise similarly challenging. The rifleman will nearly always smack a steel target which rings on impact more reliably than he will put his shots into a paper target of the same diameter. The pleasure of hitting seems to be a definite incentive, the results of which can be measured on the course. John Gannaway once told us bluntly that he does not enjoy mere shooting nearly as much as he enjoys hitting, and on reflection I discover that I feel the same way. Breaking things up and knocking things down may be childish pleasures, but they are nonetheless pleasures, and while the psychologists may disapprove they cannot deny the manifest results of controlled observation.

I cannot speak from personal experience, but I do believe the greatest shooting pleasure known to man must be the placing of a controlled burst from a gun into an enemy aircraft in a prop-driven dogfight. Now that such things are no longer possible, I would guess that the closest thing available now is the stopping of an angry lion in full charge with one round.

Back in the good old days (before the invention of the flour tortilla), the British came up with what they called a "Howda pistol," which was a 577 caliber double handgun intended for repelling tigers which were trying to climb up on one's elephant's rump. To me this instrument made a certain kind of sense, but I am darned if I can see where the giant pistol of today is heading. In the current issue of the Deutsche Waffen-Journal a revolver taking the 600 Nitro cartridge is featured. By exchanging barrels one can have this same item in 458 Winchester. The piece, which is featured on the cover of the magazine, appears to be about double the bulk of the 454 Casull, while not much longer. One might be tempted to ask just what this item is for, but I find that asking people what things are for can get one into trouble.

We learn from family member Barry Miller that at the forthcoming "Heritage Day" celebration at the Kings Park Rugby Station no firearms will be allowed. Specifically permitted are assegais, knobkerries and battle axes. It is good to know that the new administration in South Africa is giving multicultural weaponry the attention it deserves.

At the Reunion we will again discuss the fascinating question of why men fight. Family member Barrett Tillman's new book "Hellcats" has got us to thinking about that once again. Certainly men have always fought well in defense of their homes, and this does not require much explanation, but over the centuries men have fought equally well in foreign wars. It is fatuous to suggest that men can be expected to die for an ideological cause. Ideology is all very well, but it is of little interest to a corpse. It may be said that men have put their lives on the line for religious beliefs which provide eternal bliss as a reward for a hero's death, but the religious motive is certainly not ever-present in warfare. I was thoroughly involved in the war in the Pacific from before the beginning until after the end, and I never met a man who felt he was fighting for any sort of cause. And he certainly was not fighting for defense of his home. Moreover he was not fighting because he had to, since I am speaking here of heroes rather than reluctant dragons. I have seen men perform feats of valor which were quite astonishing, and I have heard accurate accounts of hundreds more. The question still stands as "Why?"

The Countess has a simple answer - "testosterone." Men fight because that is what men do, and while no one enjoys the hardship, the boredom, the privation, or the pain, most men light up like a Christmas tree when the guns crash and the trash flies.

We hear inspiring speech about giving "The last full measure of devotion," but I do not believe that many men actually do that. In battle they do not give up their lives voluntarily, they take as many lives as they can, and - dreadful as it may seem to say - they enjoy it hugely. This is the nature of mankind, and there is no purpose in wringing one's hands about it.

The subject is worth going into at great length, and I look forward to it with pleasure.

In a recent issue of this paper I called your attention to the appearance of the öberfliegeren in Europe. The development appears to have crossed the Atlantic, and now we have the Lazzeroni Arms Company in Tucson which is offering a whole new line of fancy rifle cartridges claiming wild velocities using conventional bullets. The list includes the 7.82 "War Bird," the 8.59 "Titan," the 6.53 "Scramjet," the 7.21 "Fire Hawk," and the 10.57 "Meteor." These glamorously titled innovations would seem to answer a whole series of questions I have not thought up yet. Now you are aware of the ideal Christmas present for any of your shooting friends who have everything.

Now then, our fellow board member Rex Applegate has been coming forward in various publications with a conspicuous backward step. He has long been an advocate of unsighted pistol fire, and without trying to put the man down I must insist that this question has long been settled. Certainly one can learn to hit reliably with a pistol out to considerable distance providing he starts with a lot of talent and has unlimited opportunity to practice. I, and the other old timers who originated practical pistol shooting, used to do a lot of belt-level point-shooting, and we enjoyed it very much. Ray Chapman, Elden Carl and I used it and demonstrated it at length, but the acknowledged master of the art was Thell Reed. Thell's specialty was not exactly "hip shooting," since he fired with the pistol at belt level and a forearm's length forward, but he could do amazing things that way. I do not expect you to believe it, but I have seen Thell hit that iron chicken at 50 yards consistently, without sights. I certainly admire his amazing talent, but I must point out that when Thell entered competition against any of the original masters he shot from the Weaver Stance.

The idea that one is quicker without sights has been thoroughly disproved. In the time it takes you to get the pistol out of the holster you can raise it to eye level. The fastest single shot I ever saw hit under controlled conditions in competition was shot in .45 seconds, and it was shot from Weaver. The only sensible reason for shooting without the sights is under conditions where the adversary is so close that he may deflect your pistol with a hand block, and here we are talking about a range of 2 or 3 feet - not yards.

Col. Rex is a good old boy, and I enjoy reading him, but this is one topic on which we definitely disagree.

Another pundit for whom I feel great empathy but with whom I must disagree is Ross Seyfried, who scorns my treasured Lion Scout. I have been working out with this piece at some length recently in anticipation of my forthcoming elk hunt in Montana, and I think a 36-caliber 250-grain bullet at 2500f/s is "enough gun" for anything short of buffalo. It will shoot crosswise through a moose, in one side and out the other, and it will shoot lengthwise through a lion from stem to stern, expanding to 60-caliber on the way. It will shoot tighter than I can out to what is essentially an unsportsmanlike range. It is short, light, handy, and a great pleasure to use. The only faults I can find with it are that I cannot replicate it, and it is a bit difficult to feed, but Riflemaster Gannaway has just prepared for me 200 fastidiously loaded rounds using the excellent Swift partition bullet. It is a treasure, and if Ross does not like it I just won't ask him to use it.

Family member and hot pilot George Olmsted is cheering on our work on the course design pamphlet. As he puts it
"If people continue to test using the wrong questions they will truly continue to come up with wrong answers. After all, if the answer is a 40lb bolt gun with two bipods it must have been a very stupid question."

I spend little time in big towns so I am not introduced to trends and fashions gradually, and they rather rock me when I encounter them for the first time. Just a week or so ago in the local big city I encountered a reasonably presentable woman of young middle age who was standing there awaiting a car with a flask of bottled water in one hand and a cordless telephone in the other. She evidently felt that a couple of minutes without water would be hazardous to her health, and without instant telephone communication with the rest of the world she would be left hopelessly behind. I did not mean to stare, but this episode caught me rather aslant. If she had been carrying a bottle of wine in one hand and a mandolin in the other I might have deemed it eccentric but understandable. As it was I felt more like retiring to the bar to steady my nerves.

In the past I have written up my experiences in firing the mighty 120-millimeter smooth-bore gun of the Abrams tank. This pleasure was provided me by Colonel Clint Ancker, an Orange Gunsite family member with a distinguished record in the Gulf War. In case you missed the account of that excellent experience, I presume to repeat it herewith:

The gunner sits on the starboard side of the tube, facing some 20 degrees to the left of the axis of the bore. To sight the weapon he places his head into the rubber-bordered face-piece which gives him a 10x view of the target in daylight mode, and a green-on-black duplication of it when the switch is turned to night mode. In his hands the gunner holds a double yoke, each side of which is fitted with a spring-loaded actuation lever, a finger trigger, and a thumb button on top.

When he goes into action, the gunner squeezes the lower three fingers of either hand, or both, which sends power to the turret. If he rotates the yoke to the right the turret traverses to the right. If he elevates or depresses the yoke, he elevates or depresses the tube. The view through the face piece displays an orange dot which the gunner can place upon the target by rotating either or both hands. If the tank is in motion this motion is compensated electronically.

Having placed the orange dot on the target, the gunner is ready to fire. If the target is moving he follows the movement by gently rotating the yoke in the direction of that movement. When the orange dot - usually called the "pipper" - is placed amidships on the target the gunner depresses a thumb button which actuates the laser which reads all necessary information into the shooting mechanism and corrects accordingly for range, wind and relative movement. When he has pressed the thumb button the gunner may assume that his piece is precisely on target, whereupon he squeezes the trigger with his index finger and the weapon fires.

I asked how long it took for the laser to transmit the necessary information into the tracking system. The answer was "You can't catch it!" Thus, the instant that the pipper is on target, the gunner presses the laser button, then the trigger, and he has a hit. He can fire visually or via the infrared mode, which may be actuated by a switch to his right. I was privileged to fire this mechanism six times under varying conditions of motion and illumination. I got six direct hits on a simulated tank at 2000 meters. We use the adjective "incredible" too often, but this shooting mechanism is just that. I literally cannot believe the technology that makes this possible.

Inside the tank, "buttoned up" and with talking helmet in place, the experience is surprisingly mild. The report of that huge gun is daunting to anyone standing outside within a mile or so, but inside the noise of the report is about like that of a 12-gage shotgun fired 25 meters away, and the jolt is rather similar to the slamming of a large old-fashioned two-door coupe.

To the right of the gunner, when he is in position, a bank of nine light switches lies easy to his hand. When he actuates the turret he glances at this bank of lights to see if all is well. If nothing is wrong no light will turn on. If any of the nine lights shows green, that means that that particular circuit is not working This is corrected by depressing that switch and the green light goes out. If that same circuit breaks again an orange light will come on, which is corrected in similar fashion. All circuits are triply redundant, and may be cured internally by the touch of a finger until the same electric circuit has been interrupted three times. This means that when the tank rides over a mine or is struck by a shell, any disturbance caused to its firing mechanism may be corrected instantly without interrupting the action.

I was somewhat troubled at the thought that the whole system is so easy to use that anybody can use it. I mentioned this to the officer-in-charge and he said that a shooting background was nonetheless an aid to the gunner. He said he liked to use farm boys when he could get them - lads who were used to shooting at rats or squirrels with the family 22. I cannot see what difference this might make, but I was assured that it does.

This device was put to enormous use in the Gulf War, and it leaves one almost with a feeling of pity for the enemy. Those poor fellows out there in those Russian tanks in the dark did not even know they were in danger until they were dead.

We congratulate family member Darin Nelson of California for her recent success hunting with Ian McFarlane in Okavango. Husband Bob could not accompany her, since he was under the weather at the planned time, but this gives them a fine excuse to go back and try again next year.

Our adversary press misses no opportunity to throw rocks at the National Rifle Association, which with whatever faults it may have, still stands as the largest and most efficient civil rights organization in the world. When we are asked what our opinions are following the recent directors' meeting in DC. I can do no better than to repeat the official position of the association on its current condition:
"With a giddiness all too often seen in the establishment media, press reports are claiming that a restructuring of NRA operations means the Association is weak and no longer able to block their 'gun control' agendas. But once again, the reports seem to be based more on wishful thinking than fact. Only in the minds of the anti-gun media could efforts to streamline our Association to better deliver [sic] our educational programs and services to our members be seen as a sign of financial ruin. In truth, to increase efficiency and meet the growing demands for youth, safety and education programs for our members, NRA has created a new division - the Community Services Division - to help empower members at the grassroots level to deliver safety and education programs in communities where members live. The decision to place greater emphasis on grassroots efforts was based largely on the success of NRA-ILA's Grassroots Network, which has helped bring about dramatic changes in America's political landscape with the help of concerned NRA members across the nation. NRA is as strong as ever, operating on a balanced budget, and ready to guarantee our members the best programs available will be delivered in the most efficient means possible."

This series of honorary postage stamps now being issued has included some rather dubious heroes, and perhaps we should do our little best to put forth suggestions for improvement. Specifically, a move is afoot to print up an issue commemorating Chesty Puller - the "Marines' Marine." I can certainly support the idea. Headquarters for the campaign is
First Sergeant B. Medina, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines, 1902 Old Spanish Trail, Houston, Texas 77054, (713) 796-1260, or 1261, or 1262 (ext. 251), fax: (713) 796-1263.
Sergeant Medina will be pleased with your support.

Our revered Founding Fathers revealed by their writings that they were cultivated, classically educated, penetrating philosophers. What they sought to give their new country in its constitutional forms was the optimal political measure of liberty without license. Now, two hundred years later, their unworthy descendants seem to have reached exactly the reverse. This is evidence of what happens when pearls are cast before swine.

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