Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 4, No. 7           June, 1996

Summer is Icumen In

June is busting out all over - as the song has it. May we now look forward to "a summer of roses and wine" - or is such an idea repulsive to the Puritans among us? The thing about summer is that it is usually too hot for comfort, a fact that bothers some people more than others. Excessive heat does indeed discourage trips to the range and hikes back and forth to the target area, but we must steel ourselves to this and continue our shooting practice as conscientiously as we do in spring and fall. Shooting skill is lost more quickly than we would like to admit, and unless you keep up your practice you cannot expect to maintain your command of the situation. I find this to be more true of the pistol than the rifle, but this may be because bench rest precision is a talent of a lower order than rifle snap or a par Presidente. Be that as it may, try not to let the heat of summer discourage you. The "one-box-a-year" hunter may never aspire to the laurel wreath.

We were somewhat startled recently to see a "Springfield Scout" proclaimed on the cover of the American Rifleman. We investigated immediately and found to our relief that the piece referred to bore no resemblance either to the production scout now about ready for release in Austria, or to daughter Lindy's Springfield "pseudo-scout," which distinguished itself recently in Africa. Certainly no one owns a copyright on the term "scout," but I do my best to keep the concept consistent.

Those dismal people who make an issue of denying us our cultural heritage keep right on trying to censor the literary classics of the ages. This attempt at thought control, which was so forcefully repudiated by Thomas Jefferson as "tyranny over the mind of man" seems most rampant in those very places where freedom of thought should be held inviolate - specifically the groves of academe.

In this connection I would like to propose the descriptive logo NPC for "Not Politically Correct." This trade mark could then be stamped upon almost everything of value anyone of adequate liberal education should regard as required reading. The list would include, for starters, the Old Testament, the Koran, the Merchant of Venice, the Arthurian Legends, Huckleberry Finn, Jock of the Bushveldt, Denatured Africa, Greenhills of Africa, many of the works of Rudyard Kipling, most of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and (modestly) Another Country - amongst many, many others. If we could bring ourselves to label the good books of the world NPC, we might save a lot of wasted reading time. As far as I can tell when someone is careful to be "politically correct" today he talks like a fool.

I enjoy controversy, and I am annoyed by the fact that those who agree with me are the ones who write to me personally, whereas those who wish to discredit my preachings write to the editor of the magazine, in the possible hope that I will not take on their arguments personally. Fortunately the editors usually send the hostile communications right on to me, and I enjoy getting my teeth into them. When I am wrong I wish to learn about it, as only thus can I improve my awareness of the subject. On the other hand, when someone chooses to denigrate me when I am in actuality right, it is rather fun to deflate his hostile arguments with the rapier rather than with the axe.

In this line a correspondent recently complained to the magazine (not to me) about my mention of the "shot-cock" system as a means of operating the trigger-cocking pistol. This shot-cock system, in case you have not caught the argument, is a firing stroke by which the shooter plants his first round as quickly as he possibly can from the hammer-down position, cocking with the trigger. He pays little attention to precise control of the shot, but concentrates on getting it off as rapidly as possible so that he can place his second shot from the cocked position - with accompanying precision. The correspondent in this case claims that I must be out of my mind in that such a procedure is an invitation to negligent discharge. In the first place it is not, since the shooter fires his first shot in the general direction of his adversary. It may actually hit, though it usually does not, but it is not a negligent discharge. Certainly I do not teach this system, since I consider it a sloppy answer to an unfortunate mechanical contrivance, but to deny that it exists would be foolish. I have seen it work on the range, and I know of a case where it was used on the street in Phoenix with decisive success. On the range I once saw a student place second in the shoot off, though not once did he hit his target with his first shot. I had not taught him this but he had worked it out for himself, and I cannot condemn him for that.

Our critic goes on further to say that the thumb-cocking system, by means of which the pistol is cocked with the left thumb as it comes up on target, is technically unworkable. In class work I always permit any student who is stuck with a trigger-cocking pistol either to thumb-cock or to use the crunch-tick system, whichever seems best to him. Thumb-cocking wins almost every time.

It seems that my correspondent is operating from an unsound base, not having had the experience to see what works in practice, but rather worrying primarily about the deadly danger of negligent discharge. I have taught thousands of pistol shooters, and I cannot remember the last time we had a negligent discharge on the range.

Curiously enough, the hostility I detect expends itself in personal insult rather than attention to the facts. One does not win arguments by casting aspersions at one's opposition, but rather by careful presentation of the pertinent facts, but then we do not teach debating skills in schools anymore, as far as I know.

The question as to whether the 10-millimeter (40-caliber) pistol cartridge, in any of its forms, is a satisfactory fight-stopper remains open. I have no doubt that the original Ten, as made up and loaded for the Bren Ten, had all the necessary attributes, firing as it did a 40-caliber, 200-grain, flat-point projectile at upwards of 1,200 feet per second. The "Attenuated Tens," as now loaded and sold, are way short of this, but I suspect that they are still quite a bit ahead of the Parabellum cartridge. Time will tell.

"Environmentalists do not want to live in or work with nature, they want to manage it from a distance."

Chilton Williamson in Chronicles

By now seven correspondents have informed me about the theoretical operation of the muzzle-brake, and I thank all of them profusely. I wrote that I knew muzzle-brakes worked, but I did not know how, because the rearward impetus applied to the firearm must be completely exerted by the time the projectile leaves the muzzle, and therefore cannot be reduced by anything forward of the muzzle. The crux of this matter, as it turns out, is time. The rearward impetus applied to the firearm is indeed initiated before any sort of muzzle-brake can take effect, but time is necessary for the rearward impetus to be transmitted into motion. Recoil effect is produced by the rearward velocity of the weapon, and that velocity does not have time to build up before the forward impetus of the muzzle-brake takes hold. Upon discharge the weapon starts to the rear, but before it can really get started it is pulled quickly forward by the muzzle-brake. Thus it is.

Still, one gets nothing free. The drawback of the muzzle-brake is apparent blast as the propelling gases are deflected sidewise, and in some cases rearward toward the shooter. Whether a novice shooter is inclined to flinch more from recoil than from blast is a matter of the individual. I prefer to leave muzzle-brakes off the weapon unless they are definitely needed, and that need can only be really determined by the shooter himself.

We left the "Co-pilot", which is an 18-inch 45-70 with a muzzle-brake, with Danie van Graan in Africa. In firing it I did not notice a disturbing blast, but I did notice that the weapon recoiled somewhat less than I anticipated. In chronographing, Danie discovered a very interesting thing. It appears that his 18-inch 45-70 was starting 400-grain bullets about 60f/s faster than his 24-inch 45-70, which he has been using as a lion stopper for a long time. It does not seem possible that this could be a chronograph error since the comparison between the two weapons was done with the same machine, nor does it seem possible that the muzzle-brake itself would increase velocity. Danie's gun profits by the very latest in manufacturing technology, and it is possible that the barrel in the "Co-pilot" is a little smoother than that in his old gun, though this does seem unlikely. Fred Wells of Prescott is of the opinion that what we have here is bore friction, and that for each loading there is a barrel length which utilizes the power of the load most efficiently. Beyond this critical length the bullet is exerting drag on the rifling, thus reducing its initial velocity. This could indeed be the case. What is most interesting is that Danie has not only not lost any velocity in his short-barreled gun, but with his loadings he has gained a bit.

Who'd a thunk it!

Note that laser pointers for pistols are now verboten in Germany. That certainly should solve the crime problem!

As you know, the British subject is effectively forbidden the use of firearms in defense of his life. So now we read in the English press of one retired army officer who overcame this problem by repelling boarders with his sword. When three goblins broke into his house with knives, he produced his regimental sabre and gave battle. He ran those birds out of his house and well down the street, though the account does not say that he damaged any of them severely. Swordsmanship is effectively a lost art, but I doubt if the world's miscreants are fully aware of that.

Our man in Australia informs us that the Australian parliament has decided to banish all self-loading smallarms and all "military calibers." Prospective legislation also forbids the presence of minors on any shooting range and sets up a federal "gun police" organization to execute the disarmament of the Australian people.

Just how far this legislation has progressed we are not sure, but apparently this semi-auto ban has passed.

Do you suppose that the dubious social heritage of the Australian people has brought about this situation? When one considers that the previous prime minister was presented with a grandchild permanently addicted to heroin, we might lend support to this theory. Let us remember that "an armed society is a polite society" and a disarmed society is a rude society, as the history of the 20th century forcefully emphasizes.

"Better a 4-inch rifle with a fine trigger than a 1-inch rifle with a bad one."

The Guru

I take this opportunity to make known to all that the rifle match scheduled at Whittington Shooting Center must not be referred to as a "Jeff Cooper Bolt-Action Contest," despite advanced notice to the contrary. From the beginning I have utilized whatever influence I may possess to avoid categorizing marksmanship contests by action type, despite considerable pressure to do so. No match of which I approve will ever separate contestants by the action of the weapons they use, and in no case should mechanics be allowed to take precedence over marksmanship. The match will be held as scheduled, and I will present the Guru's Gold to the winner, but it will not be a "bolt-action" contest.

Those of you who are interested in rifle competition should note that one Harald Slemwag of Norway recently shot the first recorded possible (600x600) on the international rifle course. This involves 20 shots prone, slow-fire, at an x-ring 100 millimeters (about 4 inches) in diameter, at 300 meters (about 330 yards). We should note that this is not a bench rest record, but fired from the prone position, unsupported.

Note that piracy is up, worldwide. In this spineless age, in which the aim of the majority seems to be to produce a culture of spiritual eunuchs, this is not to be wondered at. When you are out of sight of land in your personal vessel you certainly should be prepared and ready to protect yourself against felonious attack, day or night, but if you try to prepare yourself for this you will provoke unwelcome attention from almost any coast guard service in the world. (A sword is not much use under these circumstances.)

Is it not annoying that in the Age of the Wimp the adjective macho, and its accompanying noun machismo, have come to be regarded as derogatory? There is no exact translation into English of this Spanish term, but it signifies a combination of dignity, elan vital, courage and "copability." An example that comes to mind is that of Rene Barrientos, who was at the time president of Bolivia. It appears that a political scandal arose when a couple of military aviators died when their parachutes failed to open. It was adduced by the political opposition that Barrientos was profiteering off of second rate parachutes discarded by the US

Rather than arguing the point, the president decreed a press conference at dawn the following morning. He arrived promptly, dressed in full flying gear, and told the assembled reporters to pick out a spokesman. When this was done the president escorted the spokesman to the storehouse in which all parachutes were stored and had him pick out any one at random. When this was done the president donned the parachute and climbed aboard a two-seater jet fighter plane, piloting it himself. He circled the field, and when ready, rolled on his back and bailed out. In the parachute he guided himself to a stand-up landing in front of the press corps, whereupon he shrugged out of his harness and said, "Now, let's everybody get back to work."

That was macho. Don't put it down.

"Without freedom there will be no firearms among the people; without firearms among the people there will not long be freedom. Certainly there are examples of countries where the people remain relatively free after the people have been disarmed, but there are no examples of a totalitarian state being created or existing where the people have personal arms."

Neal Knox

Family member and Orange Gunsite rangemaster Dave Harris reports a personal contact from up in northern California. He handled it perfectly, and he attributes this to his thorough indoctrination in the combat mind-set. On conclusion he was asked by his fellow police officers if he did not feel shock and distress after having disposed of a goblin. His answer was, of course, "Certainly not. I feel fine. How about you?"

But there are people who still push this "post operational trauma" foolishness, and far too many of them are in the police service. As we have sometimes said, "There is nothing wrong with winning a fight. There is a great deal wrong with losing one."

For many years we have been taught and believed that any sort of "take-down" system was to be avoided as injurious to practical accuracy. Perhaps times have changed, or perhaps the thesis was never fully correct, but we have used two take-down rifles recently which suggest that we may have been wrong all these years. Riflemaster John Gannaway recently ran a full test on the Blaser R93 rifle, which comes neatly apart for shipment. It is an astonishingly accurate rifle, and it loses no accuracy whatever by being dismantled and reassembled.

This matter may also affect our view on detachable telescope sights, which in the past have not proved satisfactory. It is possible that modern technology and modern metallurgy have changed this, and while we still think it a poor idea to take the telescope off a rifle without re-zeroing, we will have to study this matter more fully.

There still exists a certain amount of ignorance about the use of the rifle sling as a shooting aid. Evidently many shooters simply do not know how to use it, and the accessory suppliers are no help. Under the right circumstances, the shooting sling increases hit probability as much as a third. In well over half a century of field riflery I have used the loop to secure over half my kills. That is just one man's experience, but it should not be ignored.

A good many of the unenlightened feel that the shooting sling is too slow into operation, apparently never having practiced its quick acquisition. The military loop sling can be locked on in five seconds - the speed slings (CW and Ching) in about one. Clearly the shooting sling is of no value in the offhand position, nor from a rest, but in the tundra or the desert it comes on strongly - and often in orchard bush. (I once decked a running buffalo with Baby, shooting from "jackass prone" and using the Ching Sling. This was the longest buffalo shot I know of - 175 paces.)

Modern flush sockets, used with the hammerhead attachments, make a speed sling instantly ready to mount or to remove. "Don't leave home without it."

Lest we forget it on Memorial Day, the murderers of Nicole Simpson, Vince Foster, and Vicki Weaver still walk free - without risk or stigma. All we get from the media on this subject is a big yawn.

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