Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 4, No. 2           18, January, 1996

Shot Show

Well, the Mitchell pistol was (is) not ready. Don had a couple of items for display which had my signature on them, but they did not include a great deal of the necessary, and they are not for sale. The reason the item was displayed at the SHOT Show was simply to point out the virtues of the slimlining treatment of the 1911 frame. This is an idea dreamed up here at the ranch gunsmithy which has proven to be a really significant step forward in the service pistol. The only real drawback of the GI 1911 is that it is too big for small hands. When the butt is slimmed down in various subtle ways the piece becomes comfortable for the 25 percent of men and 50 percent of women who find the service pistol too big in the butt. Don Mitchell told me that the slimline job was uniformly admired at the show. The rest of the piece is about half ready, and with a little bit of luck and a tail wind the project should be completed by summer.

It is important to remember that the slimline frame is no disadvantage for a shooter with a large hand, but it is a decisive advantage for a shooter with a small hand.

The project continues underway. Stay tuned!

Please let us knock off this basura about "Condition Black". The color code, as I created it, refers not to the degree of hazard in which the shooter may find himself, but rather to his readiness to take the irrevocable homicidal step. In Condition Red he is ready to do that, and there is no need to go beyond that condition. The notion that the shooter will find himself totally flumoxed at this point assumes that he is not up to the problem. I deem it undignified for an instructor to tell his students they are cowards and incapable of handling an emergency. Perhaps they are, but they should not be encouraged in this belief.

Among the many extraordinary items we saw at the show was a 30-caliber US carbine sporting a muzzle brake! I would not have believed this, but I saw it with my own two eyes.

Did you hear about this Israeli chick who decided she wanted to become a fighter pilot? Zahal would not accept her, so she took the matter to court, and the Israeli supreme court finally decided that she had to be accepted. So they took her in and she washed out, solving the problem for the moment without reaching any conclusion about the morals, ethics or manners of deliberately placing a woman in harm's way. No man who is "properly equipped for reproduction," to use the Spanish expression, will do that, but of course there are other kinds of men in positions of authority.

If our sojourn in Dallas is an indication, Texas is a great country for "small beer." Nearly all bars offer a selection of this beverage, which was served to field hands at the lunch break during the Renaissance. (It is now called "light" or something of the sort.) Real beer is also available in most places, but only as an afterthought.

We are sure that all the faithful celebrated Dan Dennehy's birthday on the 15th of this month. We neglected to give you advance notice, and for this we apologize.

On the day before the show I conducted a meeting of the IPSC Rifle Committee. Those in attendance beside myself were: General Denis Earp (Regional Director for So. Africa) in charge of course design, Tim Anderson from Denmark, co-chairman, Peter Glenn from Australia, co-chairman, and Bob Chittleborough, the Regional Director for the UK.

The objective of the committee is to insure as far as possible that IPSC rifle competition does not go equipment-silly as pistol competition has. The committee could not agree upon a change in the weight ceiling, which now stands at 5kg. Two members wanted to reduce it, two members wanted to increase it, and one member wanted to have two different limits for the two divisions - self-loading and manually operated rifles.

We did agree upon a new target configuration, which may be displayed either in vertical mode for combat competition or in horizontal mode for hunting competition. This target may be used either in paper or in steel form.

The committee agreed that the largest possible latitude should be permitted the individual region, in view of the various national restrictions imposed upon rifle types. The committee also felt that careful supervision of course design must be enforced to achieve some measure of practicality.

The committee adopted the scoring principle invented by David Kahn for the Keneyathlon, and we will refer to it henceforth as the "K" system. This awards one point for a target shot at and hit with the first shot, no points for a target declined, and deducts two points for a target missed. The "K" system is not to be regarded as exclusive, but rather optional at the choice of the course designer. This is a distinct step forward.

Various other minor points were decided upon, but they are of interest only to those who are to set up IPSC rifle matches.

The report of the rifle committee will be submitted to the world assembly for approval in connection with the world shoot to be held at Brasilia in October of this year.

"Americans, both politicians and voters, may have become corrupted by big government beyond redemption. A virtuous government requires a virtuous people. A frugal government requires a self-reliant people. A free country requires people who value liberty more than money."

Charley Reese

We think it was rather unsporting of the Mossad to blow off that assassin's head with his own cellular phone. Now we may have to worry about government bans on cellular phones for use by "civilians." Much better they should have shot him. This high tech homicide may be the wave of the future, but it does take much of the fun out of life.

We did not expect to see the Steyr-Mannlicher production scout on display at SHOT, since we were told last summer that it would not be ready. However, we did have hopes for '97, but now we are told to wait for '98. Since no one has promised us tomorrow, this new delay is unpleasant, however unavoidable it may be.

On the good side, the project seems to be well underway and in good hands. Since the new gun will be equipped with flush swivels, we did a certain amount of scurrying around at SHOT to locate a supply for the factory at Steyr. I had thought that they would choose to manufacture these items in their own plant, but due to the low value of the dollar it seems to be more economical for Europeans to purchase parts in the US when they are available. This may also be true of the new rifle.

The new gun will make weight. It will feature the double-detent, and it will take detachable box magazines of either 5 or 10 round capacity with a spare 5 in the butt. As of now it will probably feature the new Leupold scoutscope. It will feature the Ching Sling in combination with an integral bipod.

God speed the day!

We all noted the passing of Arleigh Burke - the "31-knot Burke" of South Pacific fame - at the ripe old age of 85. Admiral Burke may be the last of the true fighting sailors, and we honor his heroic memory as something left over from a better day.

It would be nice if when people borrow ideas from me they would take some care in the matter. I certainly do not own the term "scout", but today everybody (and his brother) seems to think he is producing a "scout rifle" on no basis other than the intermediate eye relief position of the telescope, and not always on that. A true Scout remains a rarity, and its definitive current example - "Sweetheart" - is not quite pure, being about three quarters of a pound overweight and carrying no reserve sights. Note that a true Scout is available only in caliber 308 (7.62 NATO). It is made on a short action suitable for this cartridge, which is readily available in quantity all over the world.

On a second point, I now note that there are people referring to any sort of aperture sight as a "ghost-ring". The essential quality of the ghost-ring is a large aperture combined with a thin rim which disappears when looked through, thus a "ghost." This idea was not mine, as both Karamojo Bell and E.C. Crossman mentioned it back in the early twenties. The term "ghost-ring", however, is mine and I wish people would take care to use it correctly.

We were fascinated at SHOT to examine the "577 Tyrannosaur" from A Square. This piece is designed to end all discussion about stopping power. It is a bolt-action (1917), 3-plus-1, 13lb rifle which fires a 750-grain bullet at 2460 feet per second. It is said to be the first sporting rifle cartridge that "breaks the 10,000 foot-pound barrier."

In my opinion this is a definitive example of a piece which is made to own rather than to shoot. It is not at all clear that it will kill an elephant or a buffalo or a hippo any better than a well placed hit from a 470, and, of course, it will not do anything with a badly placed hit except annoy the recipient. As I see it, this combination should be referred to as the "577 Dundee." You keep it available in your armory so that when people start talking about the power of their rifles you can break yours out and say, "That's not a rifle. THIS is a rifle!"

The well-known knife-maker A.G. Russell informs us that a two-edged knife is illegal in some jurisdictions. Just fancy that! We are of the impression that the knife used to cut Nicole Simpson's throat had only one edge. Evidently some lawmakers feel that the murderer could have accomplished his job better if there had been an edge on the other side too. What will they think of next!

In this age of ridiculous lawsuits, we have another example for you. It turns out this bird was shooting on a range and was hit by a high-angle return ricochet. He was not hurt, of course, since a reverse ricochet arrives with almost no significant velocity, but he sued the manufacturer of the gun (for heaven's sake!) for $75,000 worth of "mental anguish." To such a depth we have sunk!

In the first place, the direction taken by a ricochet has nothing whatever to do with the weapon, cartridge, its design, or its manufacturer. In the second place, being hit by a spent bullet is rather exhilarating. In a long shooting lifetime I have been hit at least half-a-dozen times by spent bullets, none of which drew any blood. In each case I thought the experience rather fun.

The war cry, of course, remains "It's not the principle of the thing, it's the money!"

(He lost.)

The proliferation of pistols noted at the SHOT Show is rather puzzling. At almost every booth one was shown what purports to be a new and more desirable handgun. We must admit that the perceived need for defensive pistols in our degenerating society is evident, but do we really need this enormous variety? The fact that we may need more pistols does not mean that we need more different types, varieties, shapes, sizes and prices of pistols. I looked at so many new pistols at the SHOT Show that I cannot really keep track of them all, and yet I am perfectly satisfied with the arm that rides on my belt as I write this.

For two years now we have extolled the virtues of the excellent Blaser 93 rifle. It should be noted, however, that the straight-pull feature of this piece is by no means its sole claim to fame. The straight-pull (in which the shooter does not rotate the bolt, but simply pulls the handle straight to the rear) has been around since the beginning of the century. The Swiss Vetterli and the Canadian Ross and the American Lee were all straight-pulls, and now Mauser has come up with a new offering of this sort. I have now used the Blaser for going on two years, but when I examined the Mauser at SHOT I was not impressed. Essentially the Blaser is designed to be "right," while the Mauser is designed to be inexpensive. We all know what happens when an item is made to meet a price, and we are distressed to see the illustrious name of Mauser attached to such an item.

In my opinion the best feature of the Blaser (though it offers many excellent features) is its unique trigger action, which operates without a sear. This makes the R93 Blaser the most "hitable" production rifle available today. Triggers on other pieces may be customized to satisfaction, though in the US this introduces liability problems, but the Blaser has only one trigger action and it works only one way.

We were amused by two visiting Swiss shooters who noted loftily that the Swiss service rifle offered a straight-pull action way back before World War I, but a straight-pull per se offers little in the way of speed of operation, and usually exchanges it for complexity. A straight-pull is indeed a little faster than a turn-bolt, but not, in my opinion, enough to offer a serious advantage in the field. It takes a split second for the shooter to recover from recoil and get back on target (assuming he needs a second shot), but in that split second a good man can operate a turn-bolt as quickly as he can deliver his second shot.

This puts me in the way of a difficult decision. I must decide whether to take to Africa in March the Lion Scout, which I dearly love, or the Blaser, with which I am enchanted. Tough choice!

At the SHOT Show we were treated to a profusion of the coaxial lights and lasers. These gadgets seem pretty pointless on a handgun, though they may have some use attached to a shotgun. A pistol is an emergency device intended to be ready for unexpected use at all times. You do not enter an action deliberately armed only with a pistol if you can do better.

On the shotgun the coaxial floodlight may be a distinct advantage in a police entry through a darkened house. One should not use the light as a means of assuring hits, but simply to illuminate the target, which may be hit in more conventional fashion. On the other hand, the laser seems to me more of a hindrance than a help. We tested coaxial lasers at some length here at Gunsite several years ago and came to the conclusion that they tend to slow down the stroke as the shooter attempts to find where his orange dot is located. For specialized use at mid-range a coaxial laser does pretty well on a rifle, but this calls for some sort of target identification such as a star shell or flare gun operated by somebody else. Also a coaxial laser reveals the shooter in ways which may prove very dangerous upon occasion.

Spray-and-pray continues triumphantly unabashed. In New York recently a "suspect" was carted off to the meat locker sporting 14 minor-caliber wounds. Of course this is a newspaper account, and it is quite possible that many of the lesions were exit wounds. Still, the account claims that over 40 shots were fired in the engagement. It appears that the goblin in this case was on the run, dashed into his apartment and hid in the closet. When the police entered he commenced shooting through the door - with what object in mind I cannot say. Your average chimpanzee could be expected to handle the problem better than that. When I recently asked why it is that these goblins do not attempt even to get out of town after committing their depredations, the response was, "They don't even know where out of town is." Apparently in the Age of the Common Man we should understand the need to lower our standards still further.

One of the oddments that I have seen recently in the handgun line is the Baby Glock, which is a 40-caliber item hardly bigger than a well-filled wallet. It is not much of a shooting pistol, but when we remember that in over half of the defensive confrontations on record the presence of the pistol rather than its quality was a decisive factor, we have to admit that there may be some purpose for this Baby Glock. If one has to shoot it, of course, its 40-caliber cartridge is distinctly better than a 9.

Again I must wearily emphasize that Condition Orange is not "hot yellow." The difference between Yellow and Orange is that in Yellow the shooter has no specific target in mind, whereas in Orange he has. This makes a decisive difference in his mental ability to adjust to the fact that he may have to shoot. In Yellow the shooter says "I may have to shoot today." In Orange the shooter says to himself "I may have to shoot him right now." No matter how much danger you think you are in, no matter how near the enemy or how great his numbers, unless you have picked out a particular target at which you are prepared to shoot you are not in Orange - you are in Yellow. Sometimes I despair of getting this point across, since I frequently receive correspondence from students I thought I had educated indicating that they were not listening when I made the point on the platform.

Well, I intend to keep trying.

"Television makes dictatorship impossible, but democracy intolerable."

Shimon Peres

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