Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 4, No. 6           May, 1996

Spring is Here


As we expected, the month of April turned out to be impractical. They say behind us, but the call of duty does not grow less. As soon as I get this that it is great to be busy, but this could become ridiculous. April is now issue polished off, we will be off again to darkest Louisiana, and thereafter back to Colorado for another short stay. I will work my writing commitments in as best I may, but things certainly have a way of coming up unexpectedly.

The NRA annual meeting at Dallas was most encouraging. The presidency of Marion Hammer, the first woman in that office, has attracted great national attention. And while Marion is in truth an excellent executive, this is not because she is a woman, but rather because she is excellent. Still, the feminists have taken due note, and the fact that the most prominent American freedom fighter is female is certainly not lost upon the feminist movement.

As usual the media did their best to denigrate the Association, partly by ignoring it and partly by malicious rumor. There was no notice of our activities in the Dallas Morning News, and rumors were circulated to the effect that we are losing membership and going broke. We are doing nothing of the kind. Membership is up, and the treasurer's report shows us well in the black.

It was amusing to encounter a small group of anti-gun activists outside the convention center. When approached by various spokesmen for our cause, these people shriveled up and took refuge in misdirected vituperation. It is so easy to destroy the logical position of a hoplophobe that such people do well to avoid debate. They are quite ready to publish their foolishness, but they wisely shrink from debate. Hoplophobia is, after all, not a reasoned position, but rather a mental aberration. Being basically emotional, it is a feeling rather than an examined forensic position.

On our recent African adventure we tried a system which we had never used before. This was a sort of smorgasbord hunt in which, rather than spending our entire hunting time in one area with one outfitter, we browsed around. We hunted gemsbok and springbok in the Kalahari with Ian McFarlane, blesbok and impala in the Waterberg with Alf Adami, and zebra and impala down at Engonyameni with Danie van Graan. This sort of thing can be enchanting, and one meets new people, sees new country, and savors a different sort of hunting at each location. It is not always possible to arrange, but I am very glad we were able to do so on this adventure. The only trophy that daughter Lindy really wanted was an imposing big zebra hide for her living room. This she put away nicely with the 30-06/180. Her Springfield combination is absolutely "enough gun" - in the hands of one who can shoot it expertly.

So now we have the Daewoo triple-action pistol, which can be fired in three ways, rather than just two, as in double-action. Like so many aspects of gadgetry, it is not clear what this feature is intended to accomplish, other than to introduce something new to the sales force. It is sometimes hard for me to realize that I have got through most of my adult life using the single-action, self-loading pistol personally and instructing thousands of people in the use thereof - without any sort of mishap. I must have missed something along the way.

With surprise and disappointment we learn that Steve Young, the outstanding quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, is a hoplophobe activist. One would not expect such an attitude in a good Mormon boy. Note that this is not a rumor, but was verified by a spokesman from Mr. Young's office.

I regret to report that the annual Keneyathlon has been cancelled, at least for the time being, by its originator, Dr. David Kahn. It appears that it is not possible to arouse sufficient interest through normal public channels, and while the Keneyathlon was the best practical rifle contest so far devised, not enough people know about it to make it economically viable.

Since we have already fabricated the Guru's Gold ring as a prize for the best performance in the Keneyathlon, we will undertake to present this to the best performance at the practical rifle match scheduled for 13, 14 July at Whittington Center. This means the best performance by a practical rifle, as opposed to a target rifle. Contact:
Brad Schuppan, (505) 445-3615.

Note that the NRA book service still has a small supply of "Another Country," which I think is my best work so far. Contact:
NRA Sales Dept., PO Box 5000, Kearneysville, WV 25430-5000.

We are now expecting the chance to examine a new version of the "Thumper" concept, which is now being developed in Phoenix. This piece takes a full 44 Magnum cartridge but is said to deliver very little felt recoil. We will look into this and report back.

The battle cry at the NRA convention was sounded as "Safety, Responsibility, Freedom." These words must be trumpeted to the best of our ability in this vital election year. It is up to us to convince the people at large that a vote for the left in this forthcoming contest is a vote against political liberty. Let not personalities obscure the problem. If we are forced to endure another four years such as those just past, the tradition of American liberty may be so badly damaged as to be irreparable. I do not know anyone who intends to vote wrong in this forthcoming election, but then I do not know enough people. We just must put out the word.

In a somewhat similar parallel, a forthcoming election in South Africa may result in an ironclad, one-party Marxist majority if the Zulus help the ANC. If they do not, some sort of reasoned equilibrium may be established for the foreseeable future.

Colleague and multiple Orange graduate Naish Piazza has asked me rather wistfully why I have not mentioned his Front Sight operation in Bakersfield, California. The main reason is that I was waiting to hear that the operation was in full operation. Naish knows the doctrine and has acquired the services of two excellent educators in Gabe Suarez and Brad Ackman. For detailed information address
Front Sight, Incorporated, PO Box 2619, Aptos, CA 95001.

We note with irritation that our enemies are fond of referring to us shooters as "extremists." Extremism in the eyes of some is a negative characteristic, but I have never found it necessarily so. As Goldwater put it some years ago, "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice." Nonetheless the mood of the times changes, and it might be well for us to reverse the pitch here and start talking about those who would deprive us of our political freedom as extremists. They are indeed that, and they deserve to get their own insults back in their faces.

Having been raised back in another age, I have always been rather puzzled at the concept of "catch and release" fishing. In my day we ate the fish we caught, and if we did not want to eat them, we did not bother to catch them. To each his own, of course.

Now I note the term "catch and release" hunting applied by the admirable outdoor writer John Barsness. This refers to the act of passing up a viable shot to wait for another day. I have practiced this various times in the past, but never without simulating the shot. When a good rifleman feels the striker snap forward he knows, because of what he sees in his sights, where his shot is going to go. If he does not simulate this, the point is not made. Therefore when I have encountered a situation in which I had the rifle and was unwilling to take the animal, I have always carefully removed the round from the chamber, assumed the best possible firing position, and pressed the trigger. This, I think, is the proper method to use if you like the idea of catch and release hunting.

For pistol instruction at Whittington Center 15-20 July contact
Rich Wyatt, 3430 Wright St., Wheat Ridge, CO 80033, (303) 232-0542.

Note now that a new Berreta pistol features a rotary lock, somewhat similar to that on the old Obregon pistol from Mexico. This may be a good idea, though one is tempted to observe the old maxim, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I do not think current Berreta pistols are in the habit of blowing open, so whether they need the extra strength of a rotary lock is unclear. However, progress is progress, and we should not sneer at it.

Our good friend and fellow board member Al Rubega is entering the lists for the governor of New Hampshire. Al is a good man and we have admired his work often in reading of it in New Hampshire. If he makes it to the office of governor, American shooters will have placed a strong building block in freedom's wall. If any of the family are able to vote in New Hampshire I urge them to vote for Al.

At the NRA show we were interested to examine the new graphite barrel sleeves from Christensen Arms. The idea here is to produce a very stiff barrel without increasing weight. The Christensen barrels consist of a thin sleeve which takes the rifling surrounded by a thick graphite tube which gives the piece the approximate contour of a bull-gun. Whether or not barrel stiffness is a real asset to a practical rifleman is moot, but the inventors claim great things with this device and we wish them success.

A newly elected director of the National Rifle Association, who happens to be a woman, approached me at the Dallas conclave with the notion that she is new to rifle work and can use any help available in perfecting her skills. When I asked her what sort of rifle shooting she enjoyed, she replied, "Big Bore," which suggested to me that she was going in for 30-caliber military target shooting. Further inquiry revealed, however, that she is very keen on big game and had, therefore, recently acquired a 300 Weatherby magnum (!!!!). One does not disparage a new acquisition, whether automobile, rifle or wife, but I cannot think of a worse place to start for a lady novice than with a big-bottle 300. As I have often opined, boosting the velocity of the 30-06 provides little in the way of efficiency in return for a certain amount of bother in bulk and blast. If you want more power than the 30-06, you want more bullet, but this woman does not suggest she needs more power. One would wish there were more schools around for shooters where the true doctrine could be expounded. As of right now, however, a rifle school is a rare thing, and only a couple of those are prepared to set forth proper doctrine. I have been so gratified at the results achieved by my students, both male and female, in Africa, that I feel justified in my opinions, and for a shooter to commence his studies with a medium-bore rifle is probably a mistake.

Perhaps you may have noticed a piece by our colleague Finn Aagaard in the current American Rifleman on the topic of "Point Blank Shooting." This is an excellent article and fully covers a basic lecture in the general rifle class. If you are going to take up rifle shooting seriously, you should cut it out and put it where you can refer to it.

One of the sillier gadgets now available for sale and presented at the various gun shows is an actual cartridge counter for a pistol, which is incorporated into the starboard stock and which reads the number of rounds left in the magazine to a shooter if he glances away from his sights. There really is such a thing! On a rifle it may make some sense. We have always been pleased by the cartridge counter on the receiver on the early models of the Savage 99 rifle, though I have never heard anyone tell me that he put it to practical use in the field. The rifle and the pistol are conceptually different instruments, but in either case it is well to remember that if you shoot carefully you will never run dry. (If you were actually attempting to repel boarders in the form of hoards of knife-wielding Malay pirates, I imagine you would run dry anyway, with or without your cartridge counter.)

Have you noticed that this weird group calling itself "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals" (PETA) is now agitating for a ban on the use of baboon marrow transplants into people? Whether such transplants are successful or not I cannot say, but I have observed baboons at some length and I can assure all and sundry that ethics are not their strong point.

We learn from the Clinton administration that there is now a move afoot in the United Nations to ban all international traffic in smallarms. This turns out to be a Japanese idea whose time, God help us, has not yet come, but Bill and Hillary are all for it. It can be said a fanatic is defined as one who doubles his efforts after he has lost sight of his goals. Examples will occur to you.

We are pleased to announce that both Dan Predovich and Finn Aagaard earned their Scharfsch├╝tzenabzeichen at the just concluded rifle school at Whittington. Congratulations! That antique emblem featuring the hawk's eye peering through the bushes is not common, and in view of current operations it has become even less so. If you see a man wearing that badge, take note - he can really shoot.

We read of an interesting case up in Salt Lake in which an armed robber was killed in attempting his crime, after having stabbed his intended victim who ran him down with a van as he ran.

Now it appears that "the authorities" are attempting to pin something on the victim, on the grounds that while one is entitled to defend himself, he is not entitled to retaliate. This view point, while widely held, strikes a very sour note with those of us who were raised to revere the dignity of the common man. Following this reasoning, if a goblin walks up to you in a mall, sticks you with a stiletto and then flees, you are supposed to burst into tears and call the police. This seems to me a poor idea.

I call your attention to the book "No Duty To Retreat" by Richard Maxwell Brown, published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1991. In this work the author explores the legal basis for the idea of retaliation, and he concludes that both historically and legally the idea that one should retreat from violence, rather than take preventive action, has no basis in fact. This does not end the argument by any means, as in today's climate of opinion certain social workers seem hell-bent to protect the perpetrator from his prey. The book, however, provides excellent ammunition for those of us who feel that a man is not a rabbit.

It is interesting to note that in South Africa at this time lethal force may be used by the victim of a crime if it is necessary to save his life - or if it is necessary to prevent the escape of the perpetrator. There it is held that a citizen is duty bound to arrest the perpetrator of a violent felony committed in his presence. It must be established that the victim was actually endeavoring to make an arrest. This is most easily accomplished by shouting "You are under arrest. Stop!" at the top of your voice. Since it has been proven that the only thing a violent criminal has to fear is his victim, it would certainly seem that this South African procedure has much merit.

Rifle Master John Pepper of Maryland offers a correction to our forthcoming work "The Art of the Rifle," which I sent to him for review. John points out that one does not look through a telescope sight, rather he looks at it. The image of the target and the reticle is located within the tube, rather than out in front of it. Good point John, and thanks very much!

While in Pretoria Colonel Ancker and I had the opportunity to examine the new Vektor compact service pistol. It has very nice lines and it feels good in the hand, but the trigger on the one we examined was disastrous, and, after all, the piece is still only a 9. One looks long and hard at new technical developments before one finds one that truly answers a manifest need.

The machinations of the liability lawyers have done grievous harm to the American industrial capacity. The notion is that if a customer does something stupid and hurts himself with an instrument, the manufacturer of the instrument owes him a whole lot of money. This means that you cannot find proper steering in American high-performance streetable autos, and that it is equally impossible to find an acceptable trigger in a currently manufactured American rifle. You are not only most unlikely to find a good trigger in such a piece, but you are forbidden by the manufacturer to improve it for fear of invalidating the warranty. There are even some gunsmiths who will not do a trigger job for you because of their fear of the ambulance chaser.

If you want a good rifle trigger out of the box you will have to look for it overseas. As we have mentioned, the trigger on the Blaser is the peak performer in the world at this time, but it is also true that Steyr Mannlicher will put a trigger in a production gun which is so good that the shooter really cannot ask for anything more.

In that connection we have great good news from Steyr Mannlicher regarding progress on the Scout project. This is fully underway, and the component stock, which we did not see last year in Austria, is now visible on various prototypes. The Scoutscope is in position. The integral bipod looks good. Stock length is adjustable. The spare magazine is contained in the stock. The double-detent is featured in the magazine latch. The sling sockets accommodate the Ching Sling, and the whole piece will make Scout weight, which is 3 kilograms, unloaded but with sight in place.

I am pleading with the manufacturer to place the weapon before us in 1997, but as of now the release date is '98.

This item, as now examined and photographed, is not just an improvement, but rather a great leap forward. It should constitute the practical rifle of the 21st century.

I have sometimes remarked that while I am willing to admit that a muzzle brake does reduce recoil, I still do not know the theory behind the structure. It would seem to me that by the time anything has passed the muzzle the rearward thrust of the weapon would already has been fully delivered. Apparently this hypothesis is not right, since we see a variety of muzzle brakes on both field artillery pieces and tank guns which would not be installed merely for fashion's sake. We were told in Pretoria that the muzzle brake on the G6 self-propelled gun, which is the pride of the South African arms industry, reduces recoil by as much as a third, and recently a correspondent wrote explaining to me that I did not understand about rocket propulsion in this regard. This is true. I do not understand, but I am certainly willing to learn.

I note that the mighty 120 smooth-bore gun of the Abrams tank has no muzzle brake, but then a smooth-bore weapon recoils distinctly less than a rifled piece of the same power. One of these days we will have to set up a lecture program at one of the gun shows on this subject of recoil reduction.

Our man in England kindly provides us with "The Week," an excellent periodical on the current scene. From it we pass on the following observation on the state of the British military establishment:
"The navy is overrun with officers trying to be gentlemen, the army with gentlemen trying to be officers, and the RAF with neither trying to be both."

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