Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 4, No. 5           April, 1996

Interim Sitrep

We can report here only briefly since we arrived home from Africa last night and take off for the NRA Annual Meeting tomorrow, but let no one think that we are remiss in our duty to our readers. We will be back on the line with a full-sized issue next month, barring accidents.

Well, we did not do our hippo, since I had not recovered sufficiently from my spinal compression to do any serious hunting. This was no tragedy, however. It is always nice to have something to look forward to on the next trip.

Neither did we actually shoot the renowned G6 field gun, but we did have a chance to explore it thoroughly in person, and we were treated to an excellent promotional film on the subject. Not much was lost, however. I ought to know by now what a canon sounds like when it goes off.

I was able to deliver the Marlin "Co-pilot" from Wild West in Alaska to its new home as a lion-stopper in Africa. This piece, as you know, is a cutdown and customized version of the Marlin Model 95 45-70. It was much admired in the field, and one of its most admired features was a sighting system I proposed, which consists of a brilliant red shrouded bead front and a Steve Wickert ghost-ring rear. This is about the fastest arrangement I have seen, and considering that the weapon will not ordinarily be used beyond a range of 25 meters, it is every bit as precise as the shooter can make it.

The action handled a sock full of 500-grain reloads without a hitch, and the muzzle brake holds recoil down to a surprisingly comfortable level.

Danie intends to use this piece on buffalo - just for experimental purposes. I cannot recommend the 45-70 cartridge as a buffalo gun, but up close and in the hands of a very cool marksman it may do very well. We shall see.

"Hunting is an intense personal experience. It is a conviction at the very core of our being, just as the love of our spouse or parents. Using men as an example, ask for a public testimony from most men about the wife they love, and their brains begin to melt down. They stutter, find themselves at a loss for words and generally are ineffectual, but let them be threatened by the loss of a spouse and suddenly even the most withdrawn husband can be eloquent."

Dr. Bill Morrill, in Safari Times

We enjoyed short shoots in the Kalahari, the Waterberg and the Onderberg and thus saw more of the country on this series of minor hunts than we would have on a major safari. The abundant summer rains have broken the drought, rendering the High Veldt verdant and the Low Veldt lush. This wet season was not without certain drawbacks, however, since the grass was so high that one could not see the warthogs, and the anopheles mosquito was buzzing forth in unprecedented profusion, making malaria a very serious matter in the low country.

Our companions on this adventure were Colonel C.J. Ancker III, US Army, and his wife Jan. Clint is a multiple graduate of Orange Gunsite, and though he has no previous hunting experience, he delivered exactly as one would expect in a much decorated war hero, taking springbok, blesbok, gemsbok, and impala with the Blaser.

Daughter Lindy performed as expected on her first excursion afield for blood. Having been put through the rifle school at Whittington, and having worked up her 1903 into a "pseudo-scout" she put everything away neatly with the same 30-06 180-grain cartridge that her father used back in the Dark Ages. We are now down into the last remnants of our original supply of Norma 180s, and these feature a semi-spitzer open-point projectile with a boat-tail. The combination flies with great precision and hits hard. It may be criticized as old fashioned, since it opens up rather quickly and does not retain its impact weight, but this is no drawback when the weapon chosen has sufficient power for the task. For example, the zebra (which is a very tough animal indeed) was taken behind the last rib at about 190 paces - target angle 130 degrees. The bullet fragmented in the boiler room, doing quick and terminal damage which brought the beast down only a few paces from the point of impact.

It was indeed delightful for an old codger, such as I, to watch his offspring deliver perfectly with an action designed in 1903 and a cartridge designed in 1906 - which is even before my time. On the other hand, the new technology was employed in a high-strength, light-weight composition stock from Robbie Barrkman, and the new Leupold scoutscope. This new glass, available only this year, took one extremely hard knock in the course of a wild ride in the hunting car, and when we rechecked the zero we found it had held solid without error of any kind.

I have been somewhat amused at the spate of indignation I have aroused by insisting that the proper word is "shottist" rather than "shootist". Several people have leafed through a series of dictionaries to tell me that I am wrong about this. Apparently it is a matter of English-English versus American-English. I have been presented on two occasions to audiences in Great Britain and in South Africa as a shottist, and I assume that a proper English language dictionary would support me in this. Our British cousins spell color with a "u" and refer to a fender as a wing. Other examples will occur to you. Personally I prefer shottist, but it appears that I cannot insist upon that.

The political situation in South Africa may best be described as unsettled at this time. While street crime has grown by leaps and bounds since the revolution, it is mostly committed by the underclass against the underclass, much as in the US, and then there is the good side in that the traveler may be always legally armed, which puts every confrontation in its proper light.

We were all saddened at the death notice of Peter Hathaway Capstick, one of the truly notable commentators on the African scene. His death was untimely at age 56, and we will miss his lively accounts of the wild. In mitigation it may be noted that he did get a great deal of his writing published where succeeding generations can enjoy it for the indefinite future.

The date for our recent African adventure was selected by Dick Thomas of Columbia, Missouri, who was the host of the original IPSC Founders meeting in 1976. The meeting itself was very pleasant, and we were delighted to socialize with many old friends from the past. We did not, however, see many of the founding fathers at the opening banquet, and I was unable to revive interest in the famous "Mason Williams Course of Fire," which distinguished the original Founders meeting in Columbia. This competition is most ingenious and I commend it to those of you who want to have an entertaining experience among friends indoors without the necessity of repairing to a pistol range. In this match a small-ring bullseye target is set upon the far wall of the dining room. Each contestant is given a notepad and an empty target pistol (I know, I know, no guns are empty, but read on). The contestant engages the target, slow-fire, one "shot" at a time from offhand. Each time the striker is released the shooter notes down where he thinks the shot went and turns the paper over. He does this ten times and the judges take his paper. When all contestants have had their turn, scores are tallied and three prizes are awarded - "Biggest Liar" to top score, "Most Honest" to low score, and "Grand Prize" to the contestant who scores exactly in the middle of the pack.

This contest is challenging, amusing, and can be hilarious. We did not actually run it at the Founders Reunion, but I commend it to all and sundry. ("Sundry" being those who do not yet have their concealed carry permits.)

We were able to show Clint and Jan a very choice morsel of the South African experience in the two weeks that they could spare. Two weeks, of course, is never enough, but then neither is two months. There is just too much of Africa to enjoy without making it a continuing avocation.

In a new account of the Lewis and Clark expedition, "Undaunted Courage", we note with satisfaction that while the heros of this mighty expedition had no idea what their requirements might turn out to be, they had their priorities straight. Before the adventure was over they had run completely out of tobacco and of whiskey - but they never ran out of gunpowder. In every respect these two men coped; in fact, they are possibly the two best copers I ever heard of.

As the new weapon of the common people appears to be the Chinese version of the Russian SKS, it has now become obvious that some kind of sight should be available for it, and the Lyman Corporation has leaped into the breach. Their new Model 66 SKS sight will bolt right on to both Russian and Chinese rifles and provide both a target disk and a ghost-ring.

On the subject of things Chinese we note that Norinco is now producing in their "Sportsman" an apparently exact replica of the renowned Colt Woodsman, which piece was the mainstay of the youth in those dear, dead days before World War II. I do not know how well the Chinese version is made, but the concept is admirable.

The "Fund For Animals" (FFA) is now campaigning to disenchant woman from both hunting and fishing, claiming these activities to be "old fashioned" and therefore beneath consideration. We may doubt that they will succeed in this. Most of the best things in life are old fashioned, and unlikely to be disregarded on that account.

I am often asked why it is necessary for a scout rifle to be a 308. Well, it is not actually necessary, but it is desirable on two counts. First, the scout must be a general-purpose rifle, taking ammunition which is available worldwide without handloading. Second, it must be a short cartridge so that it can be fitted into short actions, making it more likely for the completed item to make weight. The weight ceiling on a true scout is 3 kilograms (6.7lbs). The only one that I know that makes weight today is "Scout I" built on the Remington 600 carbine. The forthcoming scout rifle from Steyr-Mannlicher will make weight. I have been assured of this by the designers, who swore to it on the bones of St. Hubert. The prototype, which I held in my hands last year, ran a touch over 7lbs., but it had a wood stock. The composition stock on the production model will reduce this to the specified limit. (It says so right here.)

We learn from Soldier of Fortune magazine that when Senator Arlen Specter issued a request last summer for the names of all known militia members at least one citizen did what he could do to help. He sent Specter a copy of the local phone book. According to the Founding Fathers, almost everybody not in the military is in the militia.

Well, that is all for this short copy. After a 24-hour touchdown in Arizona, we are off to Dallas for the annual meeting of the NRA Board, and then to Ann Arbor for the wedding of granddaughter Lisi, and then to Whittington for the rifle shoot. One of these days the dust will settle and we can get back on schedule, but I cannot predict when that will be.

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