Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 5, No. 10          September, 1997

Summer Storms

OK already, it wasn't Bowie, it was Hickok. I know that, and you know that, and how that slipped into the copy is going to remain a mystery forever. Unfortunately, the second printing of "The Art of the Rifle" was initiated without correcting that error. When we get around to setting up the book properly, with the illustrations in color (we have the negatives), we will clean up the copy.

Egg on my face department. As the man said, "Once I thought I was wrong, but it turns out I was mistaken."

Now we learn about the "45 Super," which by means of a heavier case and a modified barrel is designed to push the 230-grain bullet up to 1,000f/s. Just what this will accomplish is not at all clear, but the purpose of innovation is only occasionally improvement of the product. What is important is only to sell. Ask any businessman.

Just last week we saw the camcorder report on the Feddern family in Africa. These good people went out with Danie van Graan, and family member Mark secured a very splendid kudu. Cindy and the kids worked out on impala and warthog, but the supreme excitement of the trip was the encounter with a bull elephant on a narrow forest road. The old boy was annoyed and ordered them off the property in no uncertain terms. The elephant "demonstration," which is not a true charge but rather a threat, is one of the most impressive sights in nature. When he spreads his ears wide, screams like a steam engine, and starts towards you, the effect is marvelous. The Countess and I can recommend this experience to all those customers who enjoy scary movies. Usually you can differentiate a demonstration from a charge, but you have to know the body language, and even then the signs are not necessarily infallible.

We take great pleasure in goading our friends into undertaking the African adventure. Certainly it is expensive, but no one who has tried it has failed to get far more than his money's worth.

We are informed by J.P. Denis of Brussels that he is contemplating running for re-election to the presidency of the International Practical Shooting Confederation. IPSC has fallen upon parlous times, and it may not be possible to coax it back to the path of righteousness, but if anyone can, J.P. is the man. He not only has the means and the talent to take over the con, but he also understands the principles on which the confederation was founded. We wish him the very best of fortune in this endeavor should he decide to make it, and we will lend him all the help we can.

Have you noticed the beautiful new Remington ammunition, done up smartly in black and silver? One expects that it shoots very well, but even if it does not, it makes up a striking desktop conversation piece.

In perusing Bill Buckley's excellent new book, "The Right Word," we took delight in examining the abstruse subject of English usage. For example, should the currently popular putdown "bambiist" be capitalized or not? And is it common enough to be used without italics or quotations? Similar questions occur with "bunny-hugger" and "tree-hugger," and both of those involve hyphens. On another tack I would like to point out that the term "hoplophobe," which I coined back in 1962, does not designate simply a person who has an aversion to firearms, but rather to one who is afflicted by a mental illness which results in his considering an inanimate object to have a will of its own. Anyone who thinks that a gun has a personality that makes it apt for evil should admit the fact that he is not making sense, and therefore should stay out of adult discussions.

A phobia is an irrational, unfounded terror such as some people feel towards snakes or spiders. In current usage the solecism "homophobe" has begun to intrude. Upon analysis this term signifies an irrational terror of being the same. It is used to designate one who is disgusted by sexual perversion, in which sense it is quite incorrect, because fear or terror, either reasonable or unreasonable, is implied. Perhaps we should all brush up on our Greek.

At another point in Buckley, I was startled to find that the word "unalienable" as used by Mr. Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, or "inalienable" as is more popular now, was used incorrectly in the Declaration. The proper word in that context is "alienable" since those rights are. We need to take legal steps to protect our rights, because they can be infringed upon if we do not take such action. Rights given by God may not properly be threatened by man, but they certainly can be improperly so threatened, and are.

Nearly a dozen of the faithful have written in to us to explain that the trigger action on the Bitsy Smith can indeed be improved very considerably, despite protestations to the contrary from the factory representative, I know a fairly good trigger can be installed in a Bitsy Smith because I have had one in my hand and shot it. The question is not whether it can be done, but rather how much it may cost.

It is curious to note that while the English, the Australians, and the Canadians have gone totally bonkers on the subject of firearms legislation, the French have not. The French do have some extremely complicated rules about firearms ownership, but they do not imply that firearms ownership is in itself antisocial, as Mr. Blair does in England. In France, weapon types are indeed categorized as to their political acceptability - you may have two of these, or three of that, and so on - but they never fall into the popular error we see in this country as saying that "This gun is good, but that gun is bad." When there is a shooting in France there is an official inquiry as to justification, and in most instances the subject is dropped without furor. One wonders why those crazies in the British parliament did not at least study the matter before making such complete fools of themselves.

Note that the state of Louisiana has opened the season on "car jackers" - under proper controls, of course. The consensus of the legislature was that if someone chooses to approach a driver, gun in hand, that is sufficient reason to assume that he is a legitimate target. One commentator wailed that this amounts to no less than "a license to kill." Well, sure. Car jackers are not yet an endangered species, but it is high time that we made them so.

I have been using the Fireplug cartridge (the 350 Remington Magnum) for many years now with unqualified success. I think it is a nifty design, despite the fact that it has achieved no popularity in the United States. A lot of people who extol the excellent 35 Whelen cartridge, both in America and Africa, seem frequently never to have heard of the Remington "Short Magnum," which provides the same ballistics in a more compact package.

It seemed obvious to me on the first appearance of the Fireplug that the 250-grain bullet was by far the best choice. But strangely enough the manufacturers and loaders have fallen into the error of using the 200-and 225-grain bullets, which decrease the efficiency of the round where mass is required. I have used the Fireplug principally on good-sized animals - moose, kudu and lion - but I can report first-hand that it performs brilliantly on impala, tsessebe and mule deer as well. I have heard of bullet failure at short range with both Remington factory ammunition and Nosler partition, but the Swift bullet has proven totally reliable. If pushed to the wall I guess I would have to say that my favorite cartridge of all is the 30-06, but when I go hunting nowadays I usually go with the Lion Scout, not so much because it is better, but because I simply have developed an avuncular affection for it.

Those of you who are building rifles will be pleased to learn that family member John Cook, of
37 Sundog, Gillette, Wyoming 82718 (307-682-9149)
has acquired a small supply of Pachmayr hammerhead flush sling swivels. He is asking $6.00 for each combo (socket and loop). You will need three sets for one complete set-up. This is good news, and we thank John profusely.

The most recent studies of the matter estimate that the population of whitetailed deer in New England when the Pilgrims landed ran to about eight animals to the square mile. The best estimate now places that figure at 79 beasts per square mile. In some forested areas outside of Chicago the tally may well reach 100. This sort of thing must drive the bambiists up the walls. The wild deer are marvelous, and we thank God for their proliferation, but by golly we have too many of them now. These modern-day hip deer do not forage mainly in the wild. They prefer gardens and orchards. They are pretty good people, as a rule, but they are wild, and they are not only voracious feeders, but they can be pretty darn tough when crowded. Personally I am delighted at the increased wild animal populations of the Republic, but brutal confrontations do occur and will continue to do so. When I was a lad there was no recorded instance of a cougar attacking a human being. Now this sort of thing happens quite regularly, and bears get in the act as well. Coyotes have taken infants out of the crib in Southern California, and of course bison stamp on tourists every now and then. While we certainly feel sorry for the victims of these mishaps, we must insist that it is not the business of the state to intervene in these matters. A man should look out for himself and not depend upon Big Brother's henchmen. Let not the bunny-huggers worry too much about the beasties; they seem to be doing very well just as they are.

Perhaps you caught that essay in the Wall Street Journal by John Milius concerning his splendid TV presentation on Theodore Roosevelt. John covers the subject well, and one point that pleased me very much was his observation that whatever else he might be, TR was not cool. This current juvenile slang tendency to use the adjective "cool" as a synonym for "good" has long been due for recycling.

15 July 1997

Letters to the Editor
Arizona Republic
PO Box 2244
Phoenix, AZ 85002

Dear Sir:

In your letters column we note a continuing rumble on the part of certain people calling for the prohibition of chicken fighting in Arizona. While we must certainly admit the presence of ruffled feathers on the part of those who are distressed by chicken fighting, we must at the same time protest that it seems uppity for us to deny our Latino residents such pleasure as they may derive from the conduct of one of their public ethnic enjoyments.

Let us not wring our hands over the plight of the fighting cock. Roosters love to fight, and they do not need chemical encouragement. To suggest, as some correspondents have, that these roosters are somehow "drugged" in order to heighten their belligerence, is to talk foolishness. The breeders of fighting cocks are highly competitive, and even if it were feasible, the idea of somehow increasing a rooster's desire to fight would result in conflict amongst breeders which would extend well outside the arena.

I have attended various cock fights in both Latin America and the Philippines, and as with vodka, while I have not been enthused, neither have I been repelled. The birds lay into each other with unaffected enthusiasm. The end they suffer in the ring would seem preferable to that which they would otherwise suffer in the barnyard.

Besides that, if people enjoy attending cock fights, it would seem insufferably presumptuous to tell them they must not. To do so would be to accentuate cultural diversity in an arrogant and unnecessary manner.

By all means let the roosters have their fun!
(Note that the Arizona Republic did not choose to print my letter.)

Danie says that the thing prospective African hunters must cultivate is quick acquisition of position (QAP). Indeed, yes. I have always found it so and conducted my teaching sessions accordingly.

And I would add a point. The second principal of personal defense is decisiveness. The hunting shot is only seldom fired in a purely defensive mode, but nonetheless it remains difficult for the novice to make the life-and-death decision when necessary. Once you have acquired your target in your sights, do not dally, dither nor delay. Do it right, and do it now. This does not mean that you should rush your shot or mash your trigger, but that once you are on, you go for score. I have seen this practice neglected in the field often enough to feel strongly about it. I do not know exactly how to teach the matter of decisiveness to a student on the range, but the demand remains "If you are going to do it, do it now. Do it right, but do it now."

While I have never owned a 45-70, I was allowed to use one fairly often as a shark stopper on the Catalina Channel. This old bruiser has been sadly underrated ever since our adoption of the smokeless powder cartridges along about the turn of the century. It is, however, a great cartridge - probably unsurpassed to this day for the big bears and the great cats. It is also practically ideal for moose. Furthermore, you can get it in some extremely handy weapons, probably the best of which is the Marlin 95 in compact trim as made up by Jim West of Anchorage, Alaska.

While we have all shot our share of trophies, I have long been opposed to trophy hunting as an end in itself. I am even mildly opposed to the presence of a tape measure in the hunting party. An outstanding specimen of a princely quarry is a wonderful thing to have, but inches are to me of slight interest. The grand thing about big game hunting is the experience itself, rather than an artifact to hang on the wall. Certainly the trophy will serve to remind you of a deed well done for as long as you live, but this has nothing to do with where he stands in the record book.

It is essential to remember that big game hunting should not be regarded as a competitive sport. It is an activity of a very personal nature, being conducted by an individual - without concern for what some other individual may have done or may do. Among other things, the measurements of the trophy have almost never anything to do with the ability of the hunter, who carries out his sacrament to the best of his ability, and is thankful for whatever the spirits of the wild may grant him.

(Note that a triumphant achievement in the bull ring is never measured by the length of the bull's horn.)

Because of some sloppy communicating on my part, there are a good many who still are unsure of the dates of the Steyr party at Whittington. Officially now the press party is scheduled for Thursday, 25 September, and the conference proper for Friday, 26 September, both commencing at 0900. The press party is directed exactly at the new Steyr Scout itself as a production weapon for 1998. The conference may cover a somewhat wider field of theory, touching on the history, current status, and future of the scout concept in whatever form it may take. There is much to talk about here, and I look forward eagerly to talking about it.

This discussion of POT (post operational trauma) continues apace. I suppose it exists. I have heard a lot of people talk about it and write about it, but I have never experienced it myself nor have I seen it in another. One commentator recently observed that the wartime experience is so different from a peacetime gunfight that the respective emotional responses may not be intelligently compared. There is no doubt that the killing of an enemy soldier is a different matter psychologically from the killing of a sociopathic felon. It seems to me, however, that emotional shock after action should be far less in peacetime than in war. The enemy soldier one kills may be a particularly good man, doing his best for God and country. He may be a man you would like to go fishing with, or possibly to marry your sister. If you are going to get shook up about killing a man, it would appear that you would be more shook after killing an enemy soldier than after killing a repulsive criminal.

I cannot tell you how you will feel after action. I can only tell you how I felt, and how those around me felt. Never have I run into this POT thing, and I think it is a pretty good subject to drop.

No matter how unpleasant the idea may be, racism has a good deal to do with one's feelings in war. Certainly the interminable war going on between Jew and Arab is racial. These people hate each other with a passion, not so much because of what they do, but because of who they are. The same may be said to be true of the Irish feeling about the British, and certainly race was a paramount motivation in the Pacific War.

Racism, however, is not a necessary attribute of war. If it exists, the combatants will certainly use it to raise morale, but it is not necessary. One of the lesser known works of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel is entitled "Krieg ohne Hass" (War without Hatred).

It would appear today that Farrakhan's followers are doing their utmost to promote race hatred as an element in the furtherance of their political goals. We can do without that, but possibly they cannot.

Noting the increased attention to the lifting of small weights as a means of exercise conditioning by ordinary people (as opposed to weight lifters), I have broken out the rifle as summer declines and spend sometime before breakfast each day on what we used to refer to as "butts manual" in high school ROTC. The idea is to reach the point where that rifle feels like a feather in your hands. This not only helps your marksmanship, but it does good things for the appropriate muscles.

So the Horiuchi case is now officially closed! He is now free from legal retribution, but one wonders about the spiritual side of the case. The Greeks had a word for this, as they had for so many things. The word was nemesis. You may escape the law, but not nemesis. It will come, either in this world or the next.

"Since first the world began,
Two things have altered not:
The beauty of the wild green earth,
and the bravery of man."

Allen Clark

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