Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 4, No. 15          December, 1996


Now the chilly season is upon us. We ran up to Montana to evaluate this and found it was indeed so. For three of our days up there in the Belt Mountains the daily high temperature did not rise to zero, Fahrenheit. According to our hosts, however, this is not cold weather for Montana - that sets in at 30 below and colder.

We can claim with some professional justification that we went hunting in order to test certain cartridges and their loadings. Five hits does not form much of a statistical base, but both the 350s and the 30-06 worked out just fine (to nobody's surprise). As expected, the "360 Special" was somewhat excessive for mule deer, but the Federal 30-06 "High Energy" load, using the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw 180 bullet, proved out more than just adequate for elk, going clear through on a raking shot Way Out Past Fort Mudge for a one-shot stop.

For the statistically inclined, one lot of Military Match 168-grain 30-06 clocked 2691f/s from a 24-inch barrel. Out of the same barrel the 180 Federal High Energy averaged 2909. Out of the 20-inch barrel of Lindy's pseudoscout the FHE 180 clocked 2850. It is not clear to me that a hopped-up 30-06 is going to prove more efficient in the field than the garden variety ammunition we have been using for several generations, but I am told that this improvement will show up well in the sales figures - and that's were it counts.

Note that the Billary gang back in the White House is now attempting to ban re-importation of US military firearms from Europe. And with their customary twisted reasoning these folks seem to feel that only high tech assault weapons are dangerous, implying that World War II material is obsolete. Perhaps they know, but will not admit, that the M1 Garand and the 1911 pistol still lead all the rest in combat efficiency. It may be adduced that if each household in this country was equipped with one of each we would have no need to worry about either the crime rate or "the jack-booted terrorists."

Now is the time to start making your hunting plans for 1997. A year without hunting is like a dinner without wine.

Have you seen the ads for that gold-plated Winchester 95 being introduced to honor Theodore Roosevelt - at $3,750 a throw? This would certainly make into a grand prize for our next Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial next October, except that it is in the wrong caliber. TR's lion medicine was issued in caliber 405 Winchester, while this successor comes in 30-06. There is certainly nothing wrong with the 30-06, but it is nonetheless the wrong cartridge for this particular collector's item. (Just for that, we will not buy one.)

Did you all see "The Ghost and the Darkness," a sort of wacky cinematic treatment of the famed man-eaters of Tsavo? It bore only the most casual relation to the truth, but the photography was marvelous. Among other things, the movie caused a good many aficionados to go back and re-read the true story again.

"The brave and generous have the best lives. They are seldom sorry."

Havamal, "The Sayings of the Vikings" via Finn Aagaard

A great deal of excitement and fury has been arising out of public notice of the recent federal bill depriving those convicted of spouse abuse of their civil rights. When this matter comes to court the law may be characterized as an ex post facto bill of attainder, forbidden in this country. Essentially one cannot punish a man for an act which did not prescribe that punishment when the act was committed. Of course, this brings up the essential problem of our time in the United States, and that is what is to be done when the government sees fit to break its own laws. That may be the principle question before the house in the 21st century.

Barry Miller, our man in Africa, is now serving on the executive committee of the Natal Hunters' Association. In his opinion too much of the attention of the Association is devoted to competitive prize-giving. He is of the opinion that this is in conflict with ethical hunting, not dissimilar to the problem faced by practical shooting, wherein objectives are lost sight of in the race for prizes. In response to his request, I faxed him the following statement:
"Dear Barry,

We are entirely in accord on the subject of hunting-trophy prizes. In my opinion, hunting is not a competitive occupation. Rather it is an essentially "inner-directed" activity in which success is achieved by and for the individual hunter, without regard for the opinions of his peers.

Among other things, trophy size is almost never a function of hunting skill. Normally the hunter just happens upon a record head. (I have several record heads, all encountered by chance.)

The trophy is a souvenir of a memorable experience, and its importance is unrelated to competitive judgement.

This is an unpopular viewpoint, but it should be enunciated."

We hear from our British periodical The Week that "Americans have ceased taking their Presidency seriously." Could well be!

As you know, there is no numerical speed limit in Montana at this time, motorists being required to drive their cars at a rate which is "reasonable and prudent." We discover there is a movement in the state house up there to re-instate the numerical speed limit. As a reason the highway patrol spokesman maintained that without a speed limit Montana drivers do not now sufficiently respect the highway patrol. Shucks!

In a very peculiar recent incident one of the faithful reported that the marine guard on duty at the memorial honoring the Marines who died in the car bombing in Beirut had no magazines in their rifles. A possible cause for that disaster was the fact that the sentry on duty in Lebanon did not have a magazine in his M16.

It has been said that once the government does not trust you, you may be disinclined to trust that government. Expanding that, it may be said that when the government does not trust its own soldiers, it has no need of soldiers.

In a recent adventure appearing in one of the science fiction magazines, the author postulates time travel and suggests that his protagonist, when wafted back into the late Stone Age, was able to bring along his own personal fancied-up Colt Commander in 45, and that his subsequent adventures gave rise to the legend of Mjðlnir, the Hammer of Thor. That's an entertaining thought, as it re-states the question that many of us have considered in our reading of time travel fantasy in general.

Knowing what you do about smallarms, what piece that you now own would you choose to accompany you back into days gone by? This may be worth a small bull session.

In the development of the scout rifle concept I am embarrassed to admit that I have never given proper consideration to shooting in conditions of reduced light. Since the scout rifle is by essence a general-purpose weapon, it should be suitable for as many different sets of conditions as possible. I have used the scoutscope on several occasions in conditions of dim light, but I have never submitted the matter to careful testing. The Europeans are partial to huge telescopic sights suitable for shooting in the dusk. Since one is never justified in shooting at anything he cannot see, it is not entirely clear to me if these "moon scopes" actually do increase the hitability of the rifle. It is thus interesting to note that the receiver of the production scout prototype from Steyr Mannlicher is slotted for conventional scope mounting to the rear. If the new owner of this projected instrument wants to fit it up for night shooting, he can do so without recourse to a gunsmith.

In an age of gadgetry, it is common for the inexperienced to put their faith in gadgets. The problem with that is that the gadgets don't always work, and we now have all too many cases in which the uneducated shooter assumed that once his weapon was placed "on safe" it absolutely would not fire, and the result was death or serious injury.

Manual safety devices must never be trusted absolutely. Firearm safety rides between the ears, not between the hands.

In a recent case reported to us the 40 caliber Hydra Shock bullet came apart at impact, leaving the jacket on the near side of the target, while the core penetrated the body to the opposite hip. Bullet integrity is not ordinarily an important factor in pistol cartridge loadings, but this does suggest that, in this one case at least, the Hydra Shock bullet was too fragile for dependable performance.

We are now informed that the new South African constitution bans the death penalty. This is explicitly contrary to the wishes of the great majority of South African citizens - of all colors and races.

But we could make the same observation about England, where all polls indicate that the people want the death penalty re-instated, but their parliament puts itself above such lower-class agitation.

It appears in New Orleans recently the citizens became upset because of the proliferation of murder in the French Quarter. Groups gathered in the street to protest. Just how an activist group protests against murder is unclear. These people evidently feel that the New Orleans police department is both undermanned and underpaid, but murder is not a problem to be solved by throwing money at it.

In the big cities we put up with violence because we wish to. There are two options, neither of which we are prepared to take. One is a police state, and the other is a totally armed citizenry. If we do not like either of those two choices we can take to the streets and wave our arms. This may relieve our feelings, but it will not help the situation.

Daughter Lindy expects us to sign some pilot issues of her new book on this coming weekend. I find it hard to believe that the publication will be ready at that time, but I am looking forward to it nonetheless. Lindy is taking orders at
Wisdom Publishing, Inc., 1840 E. Warner Road, Box 238, Tempe, AZ 85284.

It has been suggested that in my rifle teaching I place too much emphasis on the snap shot, and not enough on recoil.

As to the snap, I am certainly ready to admit that it is rare in the field. A hunter might spend his entire experience in the field and never have occasion to use it, but then a man could drive all his life without a seat belt and never have occasion to use it. In my opinion a qualified rifleman should be able to bring off the snap reliably, whether or not he ever needs it. I have had need for it twice, and it was vastly comforting.

As to recoil, I do tend to dismiss it. It is there and it can be measured, but its effect on the shooter is about 85 percent mental. Once that is explained, the shooter simply does not let it bother him. This is within certain limits, of course. There are pieces which actually do kick more than is practical for serious use, but such pieces are very rare, and when I see people putting muzzle-brakes on light and medium rifles, I conclude that the shooter involved is the principle cause of his own problem. Over re-acting to booze is called "gun decking" in the Navy. Maybe that term applies elsewhere.

Roy Coneen was our host on our recent elk hunt in Montana. After observing the Lion Scout and John Gannaway's Fireplug, he decided he must have one of his own. He is going to start with a short-action Winchester 70 and take it from there. This is a delightful project, and we wish him well. (His finished piece will still have that idiot swinging door safety of the Model 70, but we cannot have everything.)

Bear in mind that "Meditations on Hunting," by José Ortega y Gasset, is the Old Testament of the hunter. You must look for it in old bookstores, unless you want to go the presentation route, in which case you should apply to Wilderness Adventures in Montana who will supply you with a gift copy at $60 a throw
PO Box 627, Gallatin Gateway, MT 59730, 1-800-925-3339.

I have not as yet been particularly impressed with the idea of a field range-finder for the rifleman. When the target is in sight I always have more important things to do than to take range readings on him. However, I have discovered another use for the gadget, and this is to determine the exact range at which the shot was taken - after the target is down. We could not step off the distances on the two longish shots we took in Montana, and a modest instrument carried in the hunting car would have been nice to have.

In perusing my youthful journals in connection with daughter Lindy's new book, I discover that our Yukon hunt in 1940 cost us the daunting sum of thirty dollars a day.

Today the same service runs about one thousand. That is the normal procession of socialist economics.

We have been informed that the Glock sales people maintain that the Parabellum cartridge is effective to a range of 20 to 30 feet, underwater. I am not about to put this to a test, but at Catalina Island as a boy I shot into water with all sorts of cartridges, and I very strongly doubt this Glock statement.

We noted that 7 December was remembered, if at all, as a day of mourning. I have never thought of it as such, though it is indeed proper to honor all of our war dead on Victory Day. I prefer to think of Pearl Harbor Day as The Day of Awakening - the birth of the era in which all Americans worked together. Admiral Nagumo put it right - "We have awakened a sleeping giant!"

"Without a homemaker, there is no home.
Without a home, there is no marriage.
Without a marriage, there are no morals.
Without morals, there can be no civilization."
The Guru

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