Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 4, No. 8           July, 1996

The Glorious Fourth

As we look forward to our celebration of our 220th birthday, it is interesting to consider how much we may have achieved in the search for the optimum balance of order and liberty, which the Founding Fathers sketched out for us.

Certainly, in terms of physical well-being, we have surpassed any political achievement in history, but whether we have made much progress in our search for personal liberty remains an open question. We can still vote, but sometimes one wonders whether that is enough. No king or emperor from the past ever attempted to heckle, harass and regulate the personal behavior of his subjects the way our bureaucracy does now. On top of the millions of authorized busybodies on the public payroll, we now have seen erected a sort of informal "thought police" which makes a joke of the idea of free speech. Only those who do not hold jobs may now speak their minds without fear of administrative punishment. It was Socrates who was put to death (gently) for speaking too freely in ancient Greece. We have not yet begun to execute the politically incorrect, but the example of Marge Schott certainly gives us cause for alarm.

So let us by all means celebrate our nation's Independence Day (without privately operated fireworks, of course), but while we take pleasure in what we have achieved, we must not forget what we have lost. The handwriting is certainly on the wall. Let us take heed!

Family member Barrett Tillman tells us that he recently caught a segment on the tube portraying girl soldiers undergoing bayonet training. We had been told that obscenity on television was growing out of control, but we did not realize that it had gone this far.

A correspondent recently brought up the debate over the matter of embellishment of arms. He pointed out that he had a friend who thought that the decoration by engraving, inlay or other ornamental work was inappropriate to a firearm, which is essentially a utilitarian instrument. To my mind this is entirely a personal matter. The Romans, who were accomplished swordsmen, never seemed to have decorated their swords, regarding them rather as a gardener regards a spade. In the Dark Ages, on the other hand, the Vikings, among others, went to great lengths to ornament their swords with gold, silver and jewels, turning some of these into brilliant works of art. Today we see gorgeous Italian shotguns and German rifles that one would hesitate to take out of a glass case for fear of getting them dusty or finger printed. I rather like the idea of a pretty gun, but the piece I carry for daily wear is absolutely plain.

The matter is worth discussing.

Just last week up in Denver we were treated to an example of the handgun training procedures now apparently in widespread use amongst the feds. I was holding rifle school on a range back-to-back with the contingent of agents from the Health and Human Services division. Their training procedure was strictly in accordance with regulations handed down from on high, and the officer in charge was a copchick in the range tower manning a bullhorn. Naturally she could not do much supervising up in that perch, but she had the training manual in front of her and she proceeded with great precision. Instructions were given out verbally over the horn, and the students were expected to follow these instructions individually on each of several firing points. One exercise which fascinated me consisted of firing six rounds, three barricade-right and three barricade-left. Two shots were to be fired at the body, and then a single at what she referred to as "the groin." The objective of this drill leaves me without a clue. Presumably it was some sort of degeneration from the classic Mozambique Drill, in which the student fires two shots as fast as he can at the center of mass, then, after pausing to observe the effect of his first two shots, he slows down and places one round carefully in the head. The idea is that if the first two shots do not quiet the adversary, this is either because he is not interested in the cartridge employed or he is wearing body armor. Speed is no longer a dominant consideration, but turning the adversary off is. The way one turns his adversary off is with a shot to the brain. A shot to the pubis, even if perfectly delivered, is unlikely to stop the conflict. It may annoy, inconvenience, or enrage the adversary, but it will not stop his shooting. Only a head shot will do that.

Thus we have the Mozambique Drill derived from an actual circumstance in Mozambique many years ago, in which the victorious contestant was one Mike Roussou, later killed in action in the Rhodesian War. The Mozambique Drill is a very definite addition to the repertoire of any qualified pistolero. What was being taught on the range up in Denver does not seem to follow any reasonable pattern.

I do not suppose it is relevant, but these Health and Human Resources people were able to achieve at least one negligent discharge behind me. We may assume that was due to violation of Rule 3, but fortunately no one was hurt. Just what these HHS people need with pistol training is an open question, apart from the truism that everybody needs pistol training if it can be made available. The more armed citizens we have, the better, but I do not see the need to single out one batch of federal bureaucrats among the population at large.

The British, who are about twenty years ahead of us down the road to serfdom, have now decided to take still further steps in the emasculation of the British subject. We get the report now that the British police have called for a complete ban on the private ownership of handguns "to prevent any repetition of Dunblane." (This last was an atrocity committed by a madman against a flock of school children up in Scotland.) Just how a ban on the ownership of handguns is going to interfere with the activities of a criminal madman is not discussed.

According to Orange Gunsite stalwart Ronin Colman of Texas,
"Hits vary inversely in proportion to the number of rounds in the magazine."
That is well put.

It appears that the hippopotamus is growing increasingly uppity. The Barry Miller/Steve Lunceford boating excursion on the Zambezi got too close on several occasions last month, and while the hippo bull did not actually reach the canoe he certainly looked as if he had it in mind. Here is another beast which is definitely not cuddly, regardless of what the Disney people seem to think.

Did any of you catch the testimony of the handwriting experts in the Vince Foster case who established that the so-called suicide note left by the deceased was a forgery? The New York Times did not exactly censor this item, but placed it where it could hardly be found in the back pages of the financial section. When quizzed about this, the editor stated that he thought implications to the effect that Vince Foster was murdered lead to inappropriate attitudes on the part of the reading public. I am sure that the White House is in full accord with this policy.

War Cry: Second Term or Second Amendment. Take your pick!

Somewhat to our astonishment we have been informed that the 18-inch barrel on Danie van Graan's "Co-Pilot" does not lose anything in velocity over the 24-inch version of the standard M95, but rather it increases a bit - about 60f/s. These figures are taken from Danie's chronograph, using the same identical hand loads in the two guns. It has been suggested that his loading has in effect burned out in 18 inches and is simply encountering bore friction in its last 6 inches of interior travel. For whatever reason, the result is comforting and adds one more plus to Danie's lion stopper.

It is interesting to note the clamor in the liberal press to the effect that Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is likely to hinder "the peace process" in the Near East. It seems that the idea of "trading land for peace" is a fundamental element of this peace process. As we have mentioned before, one cannot trade land for peace any more than he can trade tanks for poetry. Land is there. You can walk on it, fortify it, and defend it. Peace is an abstraction, and a rather pointless one at that. Peace may be defined as the absence of strife, and it is the easiest thing in the world to obtain. To achieve peace, all you have to do is give up.

The new bolt-action designed by our good friend Ulrich Zedrosser of Steyr Mannlicher has now been displayed for review in Europe. It is entirely different from any bolt-action now in use and will be incorporated into the conventional rifles offered by Steyr Mannlicher at next year's gun shows. This action, known as SBS (for "safe bolt system"), will be used in the forthcoming Steyr Mannlicher scout. It appears that the factory does not wish to introduce the scout at the same time as the SBS is shown in a more conventional system. I find this a bit sad because the production scout should in truth be the general-purpose rifle of the 21st century, and it should not be offered as an alternative to a conventional weapon. However, I suppose we should be happy that the scout project has come along as far as it has, even though not as rapidly as we would wish. I asked the factory directly if they would show me the production scout in marketable form at IWA in March of '96. They hemmed and hawed.

Did you know that the Viet Nam War Memorial was designed by an anti-war activist? One wonders what the Arc de Triomphe in Paris would look like if it had been designed by Mahatma Gandhi.

In this dreary period in history where cowardice is a virtue, prevarication is normal, perversion is flaunted, and even our thoughts are censored, my own principal escape lies in hunting. When you get out in the woods, rifle in hand, in pursuit of noble prey, you can put the evils of the age to one side and dismiss them from your thoughts for the duration of the experience. Fishing doubtless provides a similar release, though I am not enough of a fisherman to know, but I must feel sorry for the non-hunters (and fishermen) for whom there is no window on the real world.

We have admired the Blaser R93 straight-pull rifle for a couple of years now and have used it successfully both on the range and in the field. The straight-pull feature is admired enough so that now there are two more offerings of the same type, though they are not mechanically similar. The first is the Mauser, which was visible at the SHOT Show last January, and the second is now offered by Heym in Germany. This action features eight hemispherical forward-mounted lugs which are withdrawn into the body of the bolt when the bolt handle is pivoted horizontally to the rear.

A straight-pull bolt-action is not a new idea since the Swiss Veterli, the Canadian Ross and the American Lee were all in action prior even to World War I. Its primary advantage is speed of successive shots. Its disadvantage is complexity. I admire the Blaser very much, but not because of its straight-pull feature. The primary advantage of the Blaser is its radical trigger system, which is unmatched by anything I have seen.

I look forward to testing the Heym at the first opportunity, but I will be quite happy with the turningbolt system on the Mannlicher production scout as soon as I can get my hands on it.

The suicide of Mike Boorda came as a thunderclap to those of us on the outside of the naval establishment. This business of the improper display of the Combat V on a ribbon was simply not enough to account for tragedy and disgrace. The Chief of Naval Operations simply does not do that, and his act has done irreparable damage to America's first line of defense.

On going more deeply into the matter, we discover that there is more here than meets the eye. The naval establishment - most specially the naval air arm - constitutes the republic's first line of defense, and when it is pilloried by feminist activists such as Pat Schroeder and its traditions are thrown aside in the face of "sensitivity", it had become impossible for Boorda to look himself in the mirror. Turning our mighty fleet carriers into floating brothels, and the erosion of the iron discipline necessary to fighting efficiency are rapidly wrecking, if they have not already wrecked, America's status as a world power. Mike Boorda apparently could not face the prospect of presiding over this calamity - by the direction of the sleazemaster in the White House. The business of the Combat V was seized upon by the media as a reason, when in fact it is no such reason. This is a bad business, and improvement is not currently in sight.

I recently ran across a curiously pungent remark in one of Stuart Cloete's African novels. When at the beginning of the first Boer War the British colonel boldly exclaimed that
"These undisciplined farmers will never stand up to trained Redcoats,"
the inferred response was
"No, we will not stand up to them. We will just shoot them."
Those comments are impossible to verify, but we know what happened in the ensuing conflict. Discipline is an excellent thing in war, but practical marksmanship can be even more important under the right circumstances.

We thought that everybody knew that you do not point toy guns at people, but it appears that an awful lot of people do not know what everybody should know. Some loony recently made this mistake in Phoenix and got himself shot dead by the police. Another thing we thought was common knowledge is that if you choose to fight with the police, you should be aware that the results can be pretty serious - like fatal. We just had a junkie attempt to take on the whole legal and judicial establishment by extraordinary force and violence, including spitting on the judge. Our most prominent journalistic bleeding heart in Arizona professed to be much put out when the miscreant wound up dead. He declaims that being a junkie is not a capital offense. It is not, but fighting with the police very well may be.

It appears that everybody wants to get into the firearms training act. Various groups large and small are springing up hither and yon, offering weapons training to all and sundry, with or without qualification. It takes more to be a professor of arms than most of these people are prepared to offer. Back in the days when I ran Orange Gunsite, the qualifications for an instructor, just as coach not a range master, were as follows:
  1. He must be better than just good with his own weapon. He need not be an international champion, but he does need to be able to do anything he asks of a student, easily and on demand, and more besides.
  2. He must be possessed of a powerful desire to impart. He must want his students to be, if anything, better than he is. It is not enough for an instructor to be a good shot, he must be able to produce good shots.
  3. He must display an adequate command presence, since he has no military or administrative authority over his students. This means that his bearing, posture, voice, general appearance, and patience must be such that he can command without rank. This is not a common attribute.
  4. He must have "seen the elephant" either in a military or a law enforcement capacity. He must have been shot at and shot back, so that he can tell his students that he knows exactly how it feels.
  5. He should be reasonably fluent in one language other than his own, since this business is international in scope.
From the foregoing it is obvious you cannot just whistle up a firearms instructor, nor can you create a firearms academy with personnel from the employment agency. Too many people are trying to do this and it is not only dishonest, but definitely dangerous. We have many examples.

How many rounds should ride in a magazine of a hunting rifle? Since most military-style bolt-action rifles which have been converted into sporting rifles are equipped with five-round magazines, I have always thought that five was the normal count, even though in most of my hunting experience smaller capacity would have been no handicap. Now we see that the majority of new sporting actions coming from Europe carry only three rounds, and that many domestic models are limited to four. A reduced magazine can make for a slimmer, trimmer weapon, and a single-column feed system may be made somewhat more satisfactory than the traditional Mauser double-column. As to the first consideration, I personally find the extension magazine on some of my weapons to be attractive to the eye, besides offering me a handy fingerhold when I am carrying the piece at the balance in one hand. Both Baby and the Lion Scout feature extension magazines, and I like their looks, but after all, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. The production scout offers either option to the shooter, and I think that the magazine housing for the ten-round detachable box gives the finished piece a very purposeful air. It comes off with a screw driver for those who wish a flush magazine.

A recent constitutional referendum in South Africa produced nearly 250,000 responses. Form questions involved desirable features of the new constitution, and the enormous majority of answers favored re-instating the death penalty. Far behind were those who wanted animals to have rights and those who wanted the right to own firearms. The proportions were 186; 17; 14.

It is unlikely that anything serious will result from this referendum, but it is nonetheless interesting to know how high up on the list desiderata is the re-institution of the death penalty. The public has been clamoring for this in England for many years, but those in the know claim that it has no chance at all of becoming the law. As in the US, it is quite possible for the elite to enforce their will over any sort of majority.

It is interesting to observe the number of manufacturers who claim that a given rifle barrel or a given rifle action will produce "guaranteed" results on the target. It is clear that the barrel of a rifle, while extremely important to its accuracy, is only one element that makes up the total result. A good barrel must be fitted to a good action, and the combination must be bedded into a good stock. These things are essential, of course, but what is even more essential is good ammunition. No manufacturer can say that his barrel, his action, his stock or his sighting system will produce accuracy in and by itself. It is the total combination that produces accuracy, and in my opinion the quality of the ammunition is the single most important component of the overall effort. When I took over my first SSG I was implored by the factory to use only premium ammunition in it. I did so and I got good results. Later I ran across a gent out in the far Pacific who had an SSG which he said would not stay on a copy of Time magazine at 50 yards. As I rather suspected, he had been using trash ammunition in it. We rustled up some Hirtenberger Match rounds and the piece shot exactly as it should with that.

On the subject of concealed carry, it occurs to us that the occupation most in need of this asset is that of trained nurse. A nurse goes on and off duty at all hours. Most nurses are young, trim, reasonably attractive females. They must necessarily make their way from the hospital door to a parked car out on a darkened parking lot in all kinds of weather. It seems to me that a trained nurse should be issued a concealed carry permit - and her tuition-free application to a reputable pistol school - when she gets her RN certificate.

I must look still further into this matter of recoil suppressors. They do work, but their accompanying disadvantage of increased blast must be taken into consideration. A good many people are more upset by the noise of discharge than by the jolt of recoil. Gadgeteers seem to be the heart of trade however, and now we see such weird applications as muzzle-brakes on the 30 caliber carbine, and finally (Heavens to Elizabeth!) on 22s. Just go ahead and build it. Some innocent will buy it!

We note with despair that the British tax people have now decided to regard the two free pints issued daily to workers at the Guinness brewery in Dublin as taxable income. What is the world coming to?

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