Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 5, No. 1           January, 1997


So here we are in the new year, the acknowledgment of which is always a matter of good cheer for the optimists and gloom for the pessimists. Our best advice is to ignore the scruffy and extol the exemplary. This is not easy, of course, since that which constitutes news is uniformly bad, while good behavior does not attract attention. We can do it, however, if we put our minds to it. 1997 will probably not rid us of the Billary menagerie nor of O.J. Simpson, but game management continues to be successful, automobiles continue to improve, South African wines continue to delight the palate and Lindy's new book has taken off like the proverbial big bird. In regard to this last, I must repeat that the book was not my idea. I did not write it nor edit it. I do not own the copyright, and I have no copies for sale. This is Lindy's operation exclusively, and all I can do is sit back and cheer.

We have never been enthusiastic about the use as a battle round of the 223, which is essentially a varmint cartridge, and our view is shared by most of the people who have used the M16 in close combat. However, we ran across an amusing anecdote from Vietnam which suggests that there are two sides to most questions. It appears that this marine sergeant became involved in a short-range daylight firefight in which his people were supported by two M48 tanks mounting 90 millimeter guns. As things developed the sergeant noticed a gook a short way off armed with a bazooka (RPG), which was aimed precisely at one of the supporting tanks and well within rocket range. The sergeant assumed a classic offhand firing position, right elbow high, left elbow under the piece, and with his weapon placed properly in the semi-automatic mode, he squeezed off his single round. At precisely that moment, the other tank, having noticed the same gook, touched off one round of 90 millimeter main battery ammunition, but there was so much going on at the time that the sergeant was not aware of the tank round. The gook was totally scrambled, and our marine looked wonderingly down at his little poodle shooter in amazement. "Jeez!" he said.

It may indeed be time to plan another scout conference - to be held this year. The YO Ranch in the Texas hill country has been suggested as a site, which can provide both conference facilities and a bit of shooting. If this activity indeed comes to pass, I propose the following agenda, which is fully tentative and open to all suggested corrections and additions:
  1. The history of the concept
  2. Dimensions
  3. Actions other than bolt
  4. Sighting systems
  5. The shooting sling
  6. Calibers
  7. Stocks
  8. Magazine capacity
  9. Bipods
  10. Pseudoscouts
I clearly have no copyright on the term "scout rifle," and a great many people have seized upon the term and put it to what I consider to be erroneous use. However, I am convinced by now that the scout concept has proved itself in the field, and that everyone who has taken this weapon into serious action is convinced that this, indeed, is the way a rifle should be.

Still, we do not have a perfected example, but its evolution is a truly worthwhile project.

From family member Don Davis we get George Contor's Law of Conservation of Ignorance, to wit:
"A false conclusion once arrived at and widely accepted is not easily dislodged, and the less it is understood the more tenaciously it is held."
Put in the vernacular, we might repeat the old saw, "My mind is made up. Don't confuse me with the facts!"

We read a notice from Canada to the effect that
"The purpose of anti-gun legislation is to establish criminal supremacy over the citizen by awarding the goblins the status of being the sole armed caste of the population."
The publisher has gone on to state that the time has come to ask ourselves what is behind all this.

Well, we know what motivates the hoplophobe. He simply envies the man who can cope where he, the hoplophobe, cannot. A skilled, armed man lives on a plane of security and contentment different from that of others. This is not egalitarian! The man who cannot cut it, envies, fears and sometimes hates the man who can. This is all very clear, it is just a pity that so many people choose to hide their perfidious motivation behind what they claim to be "crime control."

From England we hear of a lady on the way to attend a theater performance who was accosted with the snarl, "What innocent, helpless creature had to die so that you could wear that fur coat?" Answer, "My mother-in-law."

I find it curious that various people find time to write me to the effect that popularity equates to rectitude. This has to do with my expressed annoyance of the barbarism of using the word "decimate" to signify "devastate." It seems to me essentially presumptuous to publish a lexicon in the first place, and, of course, we find that lexicographers disagree amongst themselves. The notion that if enough people do things wrong that will make a wrong into a right is essentially immoral. To say that a good many people use the word decimate incorrectly, and that therefore it is all right, is to justify such other phenomena as lying, infidelity, and public indecency. A decimal is a decimal. See "decimal point."

I was wrong about that "decimation" in the Texas War, as a number of correspondents have hastened to tell me, but I am not wrong about the correct use of the word.

We note with some dismay in Bill Buckley's National Review that the consensus of observers is that South Africa is going to crash after Mandela dies. Nelson Mandela's effective beatification has led many to believe that he has succeeded in solving South Africa's serious social and racial problems. He is not immortal, however, and the people around and behind him do not give the impression that they are the proper crew to achieve "peace in our time."

I hope the Buckley paper is wrong, but I still advise friends who intend to make that African trip to go now, even if they have to borrow the money.

Anyone who studies the matter will reach the conclusion that good marksmanship, per se, is not the key to successful gunfighting. The marksmanship problem posed in a streetfight is ordinarily pretty elementary. What is necessary, however, is the absolute assurance on the part of the shooter that he can hit what he is shooting at - absolutely without fail. Being a good shot tends to build up this confidence in the individual. Additionally, the good shot knows what is necessary on his part to obtain hits, and when the red flag flies, the concentration which he knows is necessary pushes all extraneous thinking out of his mind. He cannot let side issues such as fitness reports, political rectitude, or legal liability enter his mind. Such considerations may be heeded before the decision to make the shot is taken, and reconsidered after the ball is over; but at the time, the imperative front sight, surprise break must prevail.

Thus we have the paradox that while you almost never need to be a good shot to win a gunfight, the fact that you are a good shot may be what is necessary for you to hold the right thoughts - to the exclusion of all others - and save your life. This may come as a shock to a good many marksmanship instructors, but I have studied the matter at length and in depth, and I am satisfied with my conclusions.

The SHOT Show is upon us now, and we hope to learn much that is new and interesting thereat. There should be discussion of new products, and beside that, the occasion will afford the opportunity to renew all sorts of pleasant contacts from both stateside and abroad. We will take notes and keep you informed.

Note that our old friend Jim Cirillo has just released his long awaited book entitled "Guns, Bullets and Gunfights." Jim's vast experience as a street cop is well expressed here, though his multicultural New York accents - of which he commands at least six - cannot be done full justice on the printed page. Jim Cirillo was the grandfather of the famed April Fool joke, which I have sometimes recounted myself, though with nothing like the expertise that ol' Jim can give it. "Guns, Bullets and Gunfights" is a welcome addition to the reference library of any fully qualified pistolero.

"A MiG at your six is better than no MiG at all."

Anonymous F4 pilot in Stephen Coonts' book "War in the Air"
Well, there speaks an honest-to-God aviator!

Again we recommend to you "Unlimited Access" by Gary Aldrich. It is unhappy reading, but it is absolutely necessary for an understanding of the workings of the Clinton menagerie. The American people voted those sleazemasters in, by due process, and in so doing they committed a deadly insult to our forefathers who made this country great. It is too easy to shrug the matter off with the opinion that politicians are basically unsatisfactory people. This outfit we now have in the White House is much worse than that. According to Aldrich - and I take his word for it - the prevailing mood in the White House is fear - not fear of death, as with Stalin - but simply fear of losing one's job. And these White House staff jobs do not even pay very well. The staffing policy appears to be to bring in battalions of incompetent camp followers and then threaten to throw them out again.

Having digested Aldrich twice, I conclude that Lucrezia Borgia ran a considerably more respectable court than Hillary Clinton. At least no one ever asserted that Lucrezia was a garbage-mouth.

Not long ago an old friend from Southern California cut us a snippet from the Los Angeles Times which presented a list of "Good Things To Do," setting forth various experiences which the author deemed contributory to a happy and fulfilled life. We read it over and, not surprisingly, we did not agree. Just what constitutes the good life is obviously a matter of opinion and, fortunately, people have different opinions. However, the exercise is rather fun. So I sat down to tally up a list of my own, which turned out as follows:


What say we have a friendly little Schützenfest on the 4th of July at Ravengard? I have a couple of artifacts for which I can foresee no possible use, but which might make jolly good prizes.

I suppose all sports fans are aware of the case in which some Texas stripper claimed that she was "raped at gunpoint" by a member of the Dallas football team. What a quaint notion! The technical procedures involved in rape at gunpoint would seem exotic, to say the least. How does one do that?

As it turns out the whole thing was a hoax, which is not unusual in the circles involved, but it is curious that nobody in the press thought to ask any questions about that.

The United Nations has always impressed us as a frivolous extravagance, but sometimes it can be dangerous. Note that now there is a move afoot in the UN to disarm all "civilians," who constitute an obstacle to good government. Naturally, none of the little two-bit principalities that make up the majority in the UN have any interest in political liberty. Your normal Third World bigshot regards his position mainly as a means of enriching himself, and naturally the notion of an armed peasantry upsets him. The thing is, those people are a majority, and they may be able to obtain decisive assistance from hoplophobes in major powers (such as Britain) and this could result in some very serious infringements - such as the total prohibition of international trade in smallarms. At this time I do not have any real notion of how powerful this foolishness is or may become, but it is there on the horizon. Take heed! Another such piece of oppressive regulation appears much closer to home - specifically in the Bureau of Land Management of the United States federal government. Some bureaucrat therein has suggested a total prohibition on the discharge of any firearm within 150 yards of any habitation or structure on BLM land. (Why 150? Who knows!)

Now why do these busybodies come up with foolishness like this? Is it that "civilians" (here's that dirty word again) have been doing things on BLM land which are endangering the republic and giving rise to various forms of health hazards? I cannot think of a single action which might be covered by this proposal that needs government restriction. We already have a plethora of laws forbidding murder, assault, criminal negligence, and property damage. (Interestingly enough we do not have laws against shooting other hunters by mistake.) Apparently the people at BLM do not have enough to occupy their time. Perhaps the bureau is ripe for "downsizing."

I have wondered a bit about the purpose behind the handheld laser range finder in the hunting field. I do not remember having the opportunity to take a range reading while I was getting ready for a shot, but if I had I do not know what difference it would have made. If you have a good rifle and a good zero, you hold right on out to the point where your group size is too large to be risked. However, we have now discovered an answer. These lasers are a great means of measuring the distance after your animal is down, which is frequently difficult or impossible in certain kinds of terrain. Also it obviates "short pacing" - not that any of us would ever be guilty of such a thing (!).

We are shipping the Bushnell offering off to Africa shortly, where it should prove most useful.

My professional correspondence includes a full measure of after-action reports, which I prize very highly, since only by continuous evaluation can I maintain the quality of my research. However, we do need an improved level of report writing. To the standard journalists' queries of who, what, when, where, how and why.

I need:
  1. What range?
  2. How many shots fired?
  3. How many hits achieved?
  4. With what effect?
  5. What cartridge?
  6. What bullet?
  7. What firing position?
  8. What mode of fire?
Please, amigos, keep the reports coming, and please fill in the details.

At least one major gun store in our big town has now instituted a procedure which radically increases its security. An unobtrusive but flashing blue light is turned on whenever Gunsite graduates (Orange Gunsite, of course) are present on the floor. The goblins may not know the significance of the signal, but staff and customers know that all is well.

We have discovered a marvelous use for the laser pistol sight. It is a nifty toy for pet dogs, who can spend many happy hours chasing that orange dot all over the living room.

We have been informed by our friends in the UK that it was not the Guinness Brewery in Dublin that was compelled to list as taxable income the two complimentary pints each worker rates per day. It was the Guinness Brewery in London that was required to commit this atrocity, which unfortunately tends to confirm the generally held opinion of the English by the Irish.

The awarding of military decorations is a subject open to considerable philosophical discussion. Different cultures in different nations have instituted various ways of honoring heros, by military medals in modern times. What it is that is honored differs conceptually from country to country - in the US we put a premium on suffering, while the Germans primarily reward damage done to the enemy. The renowned French Croix de Guerre was issued in both world wars and one notable British-French heroine was awarded it twice. Mary Lindley, Comtesse de Millevilles, was a nurse in WWI and an escape agent in WWII, and she distinguished herself. But she refused both medals, on the grounds that the medals were rewards for bravery, and that she could not be brave since she did not know how to be afraid. Aristocracy has its points!

"Today's challenge is to raise a new generation of Americans who treat their fellow citizens with dignity and respect, a new generation that struggles for freedom - the very rock on which this nation was built. If that's the challenge, I have just the family for you. An American family committed to safety, responsibility and freedom. This American family - the NRA. When this American family wins, America wins."

Tanya K. Metaksa, Executive Director NRA-ILA

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