Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 4, No. 13          November, 1996

Venison Harvest

While we here in Arizona have not yet actually put any venison in the freezer, we are about to - with luck, of course. We have had the first freeze and the first snow, and the season of the happiness of pursuit is upon us.

Bear incidents continue to proliferate. One of the better ones is related to us by family member Bill O'Connor. He tells of a lawyer (this is not a lawyer joke) who told one of his law school classmates that he was heading for the Brooks Range in Alaska on a fishing trip. When asked how he intended to be armed he sneered Disney-wise at his friend and said that there was no need for that sort of thing. As you may have read, he and his friends ran into a mother grizzly with a cub and he was quickly killed. Friend O'Connor paraphrases Kipling thus:
"But the female thus accosted
rends the lawyer tooth and claw
for an agitated grizzly
is more mighty than the law."

Among the new 10mm pistol cartridges, the "Cor-Bon .400", as reported to us by Dick Davis of Second Chance, is supposed to put out a 165-grain bullet at 1300f/s. Dick comments: "If we open it up to a 45 caliber and increase the bullet weight to, say, 230 grains, we might have a real man-stopper."

We hear from neighbor Colonel Bob Young that the penalty for possession of a hollow-point bullet in the great state of New Jersey is $1,000 per bullet. Sometimes it seems that New Jersey should be treated as suggested for Somalia - surrounded by an impenetrable wall and allowed to stew in its own juice.

This is indeed a bad time for the Republic. We on the right have the issue of character available as our Sunday punch, and yet our party leaders decline to use it. You can't win if you don't fight.

I wish to thank all those good friends who signed petitions for my nomination to the Board of Directors of The National Rifle Association. As it turns out, I have been nominated by the Nominating Committee, somewhat to my surprise since I have been rejected by that body in the past. I have a feeling that I am viewed somewhat askance in Washington, since I have never been one of the boys, and I do not have a Washingtonian mentality. However, I am now up for election again, and we shall see how the membership feels about this.

Dr. David Kahn continues to struggle with the promotion of the Keneyathlon, or "Hunters' Rifle Course." The basic problem seems to be that this type of contest does not appeal to hunters, but rather to SWAT team members who insist on using target equipment in what is not intended to be a target shoot - but using it well. David feels that he may re-organize the whole enterprise into what amounts to a SWAT contest, since that seems to be what people want.

We have an interesting philosophical problem here. We know how the hunter uses a rifle (though he often uses it very poorly), but what exactly does a policeman need with a rifle? The only scenario that comes to mind is that of hostage rescue, since the rifle is not a defensive weapon and the police should use it only to save the life of an innocent being held at gun point. The totally egregious use of the rifle by the law enforcement arm looms as that of Lon Horiuchi, who appears to have murdered Vicki Weaver in cold blood when he himself was in no danger, and who now walks free and draws his salary on the taxpayers.

Be that as it may, Dr. Kahn plans to re-organize the Keneyathlon under the new title of Proskopathlon, signifying approximately a tactical shooting contest, of varying and unstandardized format. Tentative dates for the first offering are 28 - 30 June, 1997, and the location is Gillette, Wyoming. We wish it all success.

It has been suggested by family member Dan Predovich that it is about time for another Scout Conference. If we hear sufficient enthusiasm for this project, we shall try to set upon a date and a place. It would certainly be nice if we had the production scout from Steyr Mannlicher to show off at this occasion. I will agitate for this again at SHOT.

Among the various events conducted at Whittington during the recent Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial was the Rifle Bounce. This is an excellent enterprise and deserves standardization, being simple, quick and easy to administer. As the Presidente may be used as a quick and general test of pistol skill, the Rifle Bounce can be used as a quick measure of general rifle competence.

The test is conducted on steel Pepper Poppers placed at 100, 200 and 300 meters from the firing line. Three firing points are specified, three paces apart, and the shooter attempts to hit each target from a different firing point. The shooter starts outside the first firing point with his rifle at "Ready" and carrying six cartridges. On signal he leaps into the first firing point, knocks the 100-meter target down, bounces to the second firing point and takes down the 200-meter target, and then bounces to the third firing point and engages the 300-meter target. He is allowed six shots only, and if he does not take down all three targets with six rounds he has no score. If he does knock down the three his score is his time in seconds. An elapsed time of 30 seconds is good. Twenty seconds is excellent.

If the Rifle Bounce is used as a contest, shooting is entirely free-style in accordance with the principles of practical shooting competition. If it is used as an evaluation of rifle skill, the 100-meter target must be taken standing erect, the second target from kneeling, squatting or sitting, and the third target from prone. A shooting sling is permissible, but a bipod is not. As a point of caution it should be noted that a Pepper Popper will not be knocked down by a low hit if it is properly calibrated, thus a clang does not necessarily signify a valid hit.

If you regard yourself as a good rifle shot, I suggest you give this one a try. The world's record was held by Russ Showers at 18 seconds for quite a long time, but this has now been lowered to about 15. If you can produce a 25 on demand, you can join the club.

"Can it really be true that two-thirds of American women do not care whether or not the President of the United States is a habitual liar? If so, what is the chance that they will teach their children to value the truth? If a person is not truthful, then reliable communication with him becomes impossible. If children do not tell the truth, why teach them to talk and write? Yet, children learn primarily by example. If their mothers successfully support a liar for President, why should the children be expected to be truthful?"

Dr. Arthur B. Robinson in "Access to Energy"

Napoleon may have got off to a scruffy start as a Corsican corporal, but he did develop a good deal more class than Bill Clinton. When the Emperor wanted a special girl in Warsaw he sent a Field Marshal to pick her up. Clinton sent a couple of enlisted men.

I have gradually come round to the conclusion, over several decades of endeavor, that marksmanship cannot be taught "in bulk." To be an expert marksman the shooter must first of all possess the desire to excel. No matter how much the public sector may try, the individual may not be ordered to do so. If he does have the desire, he may be tutored individually by a skillful instructor, and he may, through diligent practice, eventually become an expert, but no training system designed for departments or armies can hope to develop artists - and marksmanship is definitely an art.

The study of history shows us that really good combat riflemen come from a cultural base in which rifle shooting is practiced as both a sport and a means of sustenance. See what the Boer farmers did to the British regulars at Majuba Hill! Those farmers had no discipline, no organization, and no training, but they had been conditioned from childhood to hit what they shot at. The Redcoats, on the other hand, were fetched off the streets of London and Manchester and taught what they knew about shooting in regimental drills.

It appears to me that fighting men are best recruited from people who have proved their weaponcraft in advance, as with Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders, or the law enforcement officers of the Old West. I should avoid getting personal, but I must point out that the very first time I fired the Marine Corps rifle course at Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania I scored 13 points above Expert.

As our civilization decays, we have lessening opportunity to acquire young men for our public defense who know anything about guns or fighting. Our consolation may be that our prospective enemies are no better off.

If machismo is lost, only money is left. One wonders if time may be ripe for a "male backlash" such as suggested in Sir Henry Rider Haggard's famous novel "She." Those of you familiar with that excellent fantasy will recall that "the people of the rocks" portrayed therein were a matriarchal society in which women made all the decisions and inheritance was traced entirely through the female line. According to the story, this procedure got totally out of line every second generation or so, and all the females except the very young were put to death. This seems rather extreme, but after all, the race portrayed was one of the "lesser breeds without the law."

The Countess treated us to an excellent quotation from Longfellow at the reunion, to the effect that man and woman may be likened to the bow and the bowstring - "useless one without the other."

Some years ago we encountered a young man who inherited from his father's estate the modest sum of $600 and a semi-sporterized 1903 Springfield. This was not much of a legacy, of course, but on examination it took on a certain charm. The line occurred to me: "They're ain't many troubles that a man can't fix with six hundred dollars and a thirty ought six." The monosyllable "six" needed addition, so I tried "seven." The line had a nice lilt to it and I thought it might serve as the basis of a somewhat nostalgic poem. I did not feel up to writing the whole poem myself, so I suggested the task to our number three child Lindy, and she came up with "Grandpa's Lesson." Herewith:
Pappy took to drinkin' back when I was barely three.
Ma got pretty quiet. She was frettin', you could see.
So I was sent to Grandpa and he raised me up real good.
He taught me what I oughta and he taught me what I should.
I learned a heap 'o lessons from the yarns he liked to tell.
There's one I won't forget because I learned it 'speshly well.
"There jist ain't many folk who live a peaceful, carefree life.
Along with all the good times there'll be lotsa grief and strife.
But ain't many troubles that a man cain't fix
With seven hundred dollars and a thirty ought six."
Grandpa courted Grandma near the town of old Cheyenne.
Her daddy was cantankerous - a very greedy man.
He wouldn't give permission for a fancy wedding day
'Til grandpa paid a dowry--biggest ever people say.
Her daddy softened up when Grandpa said that he could fix
Him up with seven hundred dollars and a thirty ought six.
Grandpa herded cattle down around Jalisco way.
Ended up behind some iron bars one dusty day.
Seems the local jefe craved my Grandpa's pinto mare.
Grandpa wouldn't sell her so he lit on out of there.
Didn't take much doin' 'cept a couple special tricks
plus seven hundred dollars and his thirty ought six.
Then there was that Faro game near San Francisco say.
Grandpa's cards was smokin' hot and he took all one day.
He woke up nearly naked in a ditch next early morn'.
With nothin' but his flannel shirt, and it was ripped and torn.
Those others were professionals and they don't play for kicks.
He lost seven hundred dollars and his thirty ought six.
He begged some woolen trousers off the local storekeep there
Who loaned him both a pony and a rifle on a dare.
He caught those thievin' cardsharks at another Faro game.
He got back all his property and also his good name.
He left one bleedin' badly and another mostly lame.
My grandpa's trusty rifle shoots just where you choose to aim.
Grandpa's slowin' down a bit and just the other night
He handed me his rifle and a box sealed up real tight.
He fixed me with them pale grey eyes and this is what he said,
"You're awful young but steady too and I will soon be dead.
I'll bet this here old rifle and this honest money too
Will come in mighty handy just as readily for you.
There jist ain't many folk who lead a carefree, peaceful life.
Along with times of happiness, there's always woe and strife.
But ... aint many troubles that a man cain't fix
with seven hundred dollars and his thirty ought six."
Lindy Cooper Wisdom

We hear from the British press that it is now "too late to disarm the US public." God save the mark!

Michael Howard is "Home Secretary" of the UK, sort of a national chief of police. In his words, "Gun ownership is a privilege, not a right, and the use of firearms in self-defense is not acceptable for civilians in this country" (presumably it is okay for a soldier). So much for The Land of Hope and Glory! Die if you must but do not shoot back.

Mr. Lincoln's famed dictum is doubtless correct, but we should remember that "You can fool most of the people, most of the time."

All the talk about "self-esteem" in kids is beside the point - when what they need is self-control.

Perusal of the current crop of outdoor magazines emphasizes the crying need for the release of The Art of the Rifle. Maybe all those "gun writers" in the illustrations really do hit what they shoot at, but if so they are certainly going about the task the hard way.

"Never do your enemy a minor injury."


The question has arisen as to why we seek all the power we can possibly control in a handgun but do not demand the same from a rifle. The answer hinges upon the difference in principle between the two instruments. A pistol is an emergency defensive weapon designed to turn someone off who is trying to kill you at close range. This is an emergency for which you cannot reasonably expect to be prepared. You will normally be extremely excited and possibly not entirely in control of your nerves. Your first shot must hit hard. It must prevent your assailant immediately from doing what he is trying to do - which is usually trying to kill you. Pistol cartridges are not very powerful, and to meet the violent emergency demand of a lethal, close range confrontation you should choose a pistol cartridge that will give you the best possibility of an instant stop, even if the hit is not perfectly placed.

The situation is entirely different with the rifle, which is essentially an offensive weapon used at a time and place of the shooter's discretion. The rifle shooter "freezes himself cool" and places his shot with surgical precision. If he has properly studied the anatomy of his quarry, he knows exactly where the vital zone lies, and he plants his bullet just there. Therefore it is rather pointless to push for excessive power in rifle cartridges, since almost any popular center-fire round will do a good job on either game or enemies if it is properly used. (I make an exception of the buffalo, whose extraordinary resistance to gunfire puts him in a special category.)

Thus when I hear, as I did at Whittington, that the 375 is the lightest cartridge which should ever be taken to Africa, I jeer long and loud. History tells us that it seldom has been lack of cartridge power that caused grief in Africa, but rather lack of shooting skill. Our daughter and our grandchildren have cleaned the slate in Africa, mainly with the 308/180. Jack O'Connor did likewise with the 270, as did our cousin Steve Lunceford.

I do not claim that rifle power is inconsequential, but rather that it is less important than the salesman would have you believe. Anyone who can't do the job with a 30-06, using proper bullets, probably just can't do it with anything.

By the time you read this we will have elected the government we deserve, or at least the government that a majority deserves. A view of the current scene, as depicted by the press and the tube, suggests that those people really do deserve what they got, but that does not make it any easier for you and for me to accept. As always, the important thing is to keep one's sense of humor - without which one had best never have been born.

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