Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 5, No. 11          October, 1997

Harvest Home

Autumn is upon us, that season of the year we most enjoy. My schedule for the next several weeks is such that I may not be able to get around to my desk much, either to answer my correspondence or to churn out the Commentary. Please forgive me if there is a hiatus between this issue and the next.

The Steyr party at Whittington is now here. As I write this, ten production models are on station and available for inspection, examination and shooting as of the 25th and 26th of this month. The weapon itself is a jewel, and I can only fear that it may be too advanced for its time. On the other hand, its very novelty will have a definite appeal to a good many people. The essential attribute of the Scout rifle is a "friendliness," and those who get a chance to handle it will understand what we mean by that. It has been suggested to me that the rifle is "too expensive," but that is a hard element to quantify. If one wants a cheap gun, there are plenty of those available over the counter in the local friendly hardware store. If one wants a good gun, he may find some outstanding bargains, but if he wants a really superior instrument, he must expect to pay for it. This is a dreary aspect of the commercial age, and applicable not just to firearms, but to automobiles, airplanes, boats, wines, boots, and tires - among all other items of interest.

Be that as it may, we anticipate a nifty time at Whittington, and since Steyr Mannlicher has launched an expensive gamble based on my ideas, I wish them a huge financial success.

"If no one is shooting at you, you have nothing to complain about. If someone is, shoot back."

Curt Rich

At the recent directors meeting of the NRA, we were treated to a splendid presentation by "Spokesveep" Charlton Heston in his address to the National Press Club. His eloquence, polish and obvious sincerity constitute the most powerful weapon for our side since the war to disarm us began.

As to the meeting itself, nothing much was accomplished, which is not unusual. Our enemies remain unconvinced about the nature of political liberty, and as entrenched as they are, they are very difficult to get at - but we keep trying.

We get this curious incident from a protected residential community in Orange County: In the wee hours, a 26-year-old woman pulled up at the guard booth. She was confronted with a pistol in the hands of the guard who got her out of the car and tried to handcuff her. The proposed victim briskly snatched the gun away from the guard and beat him savagely over the head and face with it while simultaneously acquiring his handcuffs. This guard was a curious product of The Age of the Wimp, among other things. Unhappy with the way things were going, he meekly asked the girl to give him his handcuffs back. She complied, and then drove home and called the police, who showed up shortly and found the guard to be "a bloody mess."

(As we continue to emphasize, it is neither the weapon nor marksmanship which wins the gunfight. It is mindset.)

"In one of the 'Commentaries' which you so kindly send me, you wrote that I hunt only with a .458 Win mag. This is not absolutely correct. So, just for the record, let me set things straight. When I am hunting in the Eastern Transvaal (now M'pumalanga) lowveld where Lion, Elephant, Buffalo and Hippopotamus are likely to be unexpectedly encountered, I hunt with a .458. This is for greater peace of mind. Impala, Warthog, Blue Wildebeest and Kudu are usually dropped as cleanly as with a 30-06 220 grain which is what I like to use if the dangerous game is not present. Usually. But I must confess (mainly because one of the witnesses is still living) that it once took me three solid hits with the .458 to collect a warthog. The second shot, at about five meters, put him down when he attempted to gnaw me! But it took a third shot to finalise matters. Perhaps this serves to illustrate the point that in Africa, if you expect the unexpected you will seldom be disappointed."

Lieutenant General Denis Earp, SAAF (R)

As our society decays, our principal objective must be the minds of the young people who, without properly indoctrinated parents, are at the mercy of an educational establishment that is out to get us. As a youth I was taught rifle marksmanship by the US government. Such goings on are unthinkable today, so it is up to us to make sure that adolescents get the message from their parents. If you are not a parent yourself, find a kid who needs the message and show him the way.

I now have over two dozen correspondents explaining to me that the trigger-action on the Bitsy Smith can really and truly be made shootable. It appears the word I got from the counterman at the SHOT Show was simply basura. This being the case, the idea of this cute little item being put to defensive use comes to the fore. It is obvious that a 22 long rifle bullet in the tear duct will stop a fight as efficiently as a 44 Magnum. The problem is hitting that very small target under difficult conditions and in a great hurry. If you plan to use a 22 to save your life, you must practice, and practice a great deal. You use targets the size of bottle caps or pingpong balls and work until you can always hit them at short range and at great speed. You should not do this on paper targets, but rather on a field range where you submit yourself to conditions of maximum stress. Do your aerobics on that range and when you are totally out of breath start hitting those bottle caps with your 22 - in a great hurry.

I have been informed that the two Czech prototypes - the idealized service pistol and the heavy sporting rifle - have been projected and are underway. We may expect the pistol prototype for examination by June of next year, and the rifle by September. For information on either of these two items contact,
CZ-USA, 40356 Oak Park Way, Suite W, Oakhurst, CA 93644.

I have been approached by a publisher with the idea of writing a book about African hunting experiences with particular emphasis on weapon types and riflecraft. Suggested title: "Some Golden Joys." I tend to like the idea, but if I launched upon it seriously I would have to give up answering my mail and writing this journal. There are simply not enough hours in the day nor days in the week. The more I consider men like Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt, the more I marvel!

A good example of this global dumbing is the concern about "global warming." Dr. Art Robinson, who may be the wisest man I know, suggests that we need a new national program to teach thermometer reading to the American people, as well as to convince them that it is unacceptable to argue that an effect has arrived before the cause has occurred.

Note that Dr. David Kahn is holding his famous Keneyathlon this year on 10, 11, 12 October at the Blue Steel Ranch at San Jon in New Mexico. (No, that is not a misprint.)

This is a hunter's test of varying and unstandardized format examining practical hunting fieldcraft and marksmanship as it occurs in the real world.

For information contact Dave Manning at (805) 521-1808.

We recently enjoyed a delightful semantic discussion among the wise at which we were challenged to differentiate between "liberty" and "freedom." Dictionaries consulted came up with nothing very much, maintaining that the two words were synonyms. I do not think they are. To me, freedom is a personal thing, involving absence of restraint. You are free when you break out of jail. On the other hand, liberty is a political condition, and is defined most correctly as the right to do anything which does not prevent or inhibit the free actions of your neighbor. These are just opinions, of course, but they are worth discussion, as I think precision in communication is one of our worthiest social goals.

As we have observed before, the Rocky Mountain goat (Oriamnos americana) is proliferating in the Middle Rockies to the extent that some hiker infused with bambiism is going to get killed by one. We have friends who are concerned about the introduction of the Mexican grey wolf into southeastern Arizona, but I will place a small wager to the effect that we are going to have a goat incident before we have a wolf incident.

The feminization of the armed forces continues, and now it is hunting back into history. When the US Constitution (Old Ironsides) was recently set seaworthy again, one of the officers commented "This frigate is a tribute to all the men and women who fought aboard her over the years." Italics ours. This statement evidently came from a commissioned officer of the US Navy, perhaps even a graduate of the Naval Academy. I get this information from family member Barrett Tillman, and I take it to be accurate, unbelievable though it may be.

A while back Jan Libourel, editor of Petersen's Handguns called to inform me that he had been sitting in on a bull session in which the participants discussed which of history's famous campaigns they would most prefer to relive via time machine, and he asked me for my choice. Well, now, this is a very difficult matter, and I hesitated before offering a quick answer, but since the telephone line was still open, I chose the conquest of Mexico by Hernan Cortez. With an exclamation of delight, Jan informed me that that was exactly his choice. We have both been teachers of history, and I find it fascinating that our views coincided so neatly. I know a certain amount about the Mexican conquest, having executed a major research paper on the subject in graduate school. No one can know all he would like about the great human adventure we call history that stretches into the past. Sadly enough, as the dumbing down of America proceeds, the splendors of our adventures seems to be totally lost upon the young.

We see that Remington has now introduced what they call a "Coach Gun," which is simply a short, breach-loading, double-12 shotgun. Unfortunately they have made it in hammerless configuration. A weapon of this type (know by the Sicilians as a lupara) should definitely have exposed hammers, since it is its destiny to be racked for instant readiness over the kitchen door - indefinitely. With exposed hammers the piece may be decocked when so placed, but a hammerless weapon of this type may be called upon to sit with fully compressed springs for a lifetime.

There seems to be much news over the issue of several M16s to the LAPD as some sort of solution to that Keystone Cops affair that occurred earlier this year in North Hollywood. I find it odd that this is regarded as new, since I know personally an officer who settled a hostage situation a good many years ago in Hollywood with just such a weapon.

The situation here seems to be that some people - principally the press - were concerned that the service pistols of the LAPD would not penetrate body armor. Almost any rifle cartridge will penetrate body armor, but if you are confronted with an armed felon who is wearing it, it is a simple matter to shoot for his head. At gunfighting ranges, the head is an easy target to hit. We teach it all the time.

Actually it has long been my opinion that cops should be allowed to choose their own weapons, from a rather broadly specified assortment. If this idea strikes you as old fashioned, I can point out that Colonel Wegener, the head of the renowned GSG9 counter terrorist force, employed exactly that policy. Any man will shoot better with a weapon in which he has confidence, and he should be allowed to choose the one that gives him the most confidence.

The word we get from one of our main sources in South Africa is that the political situation there would be hilarious if it were not so tragic. The post revolutionary government is now neatly described as "incompetent, incapable, and in power."

It appears to me that pistolcraft has now split along three separate and dissimilar paths: police shooting, rooney shooting, and cowboy shooting.

The police establishment is now properly devoted to the Glock, and this seems to be a good choice. The Glock is a difficult piece to shoot well, and its safety problem has been solved by issuing it with a trigger that only a gorilla would love, but it has been generally admitted that the police today cannot be trained to shoot well - not so much because of time and ammunition expenditures, but because of motivation. A man will do well only at things he enjoys doing, and today's police departments are reluctant to hire a recruit who enjoys shooting. Thus the Glock's "shootability" is irrelevant. The piece is relatively cheap, it is usually reliable, and the company's service policies are outstanding.

The rooney shooters, exemplified principally by IPSC, have now gone out over the edge with unrealistic challenges and "space age" instruments designed at great expense to meet unrealistic challenges.

The cowboy shooters are into the game entirely for fun, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it has little to do with what we have learned about practical pistolcraft over the past three decades.

Thus it is that the practical use of the defensive pistol is left stranded on the beach, to be practiced only by those individuals who wish to make a serious study of it. Back when we started the Southwest Pistol League, we had the objective of discovering which arms and which techniques were best suited for the saving of life in short-range, interpersonal confrontations. To the extent that we did achieve this objective, it has now been put upon the shelf and forgotten. The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is making an effort to get back on track, but competition being what it is, I predict that the gamesmen will win this round too.

All this excitement about the proposed trigger locks for firearms is another evidence of the dumbing down of the American people. If you wish to render your piece inoperable, you need only to take it apart. With the self-loading pistol and the Peacemaker, this is the work of seconds. With the solid-frame, double-action revolver it is a bit more complex, but one does not need it to buy a trigger lock for the purpose. A simple padlock snapped around the top strap when the cylinder is swung out will do the job without any politicking. Is it possible that there are people who do not know this? And is it possible that people who own guns do not know this! And yet the subject is discussed in Congress (for Pete's sake) at our expense! One need not be "computer literate" in order to think.

And since the whole purpose of the defensive pistol is instantaneous self-defense, deliberately rendering it inoperable is ridiculous. Rendering your pistol inoperable is rather like tying an anchor onto your life jacket.

Well, they seem to have got to Horiuchi. I asked Senator Larry Craig of Idaho whether Horiuchi could get a fair trial in that state, and his answer was an unqualified, yes. The trial, when it occurs, should finally reveal whether Horiuchi was incompetent (in which case FBI looks bad) or he was a murderer (in which case he looks bad). Those are the only two options.

My only contribution to affairs in Washington was a suggestion that we make a strong effort to abandon this term "extremism." Along with such words as racism, sexism, and terrorism, it is used as a crutch by people who are apparently deliberate in their desire to be unclear. In the current journalistic mood, to be an extremist is to be bad, in total ignorance of the fact that the men who gave us this nation were extremists in a very clear sense of the word. "Give me liberty or give me death!" is certainly not a moderate opinion, nor is "Government, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." These opinions we revere, and they are certainly the opinions of extremists. I suggest that we in the NRA, both the general membership and the directors, should give up the use of terms which mean whatever the user wants them to mean and have no precise meaning of their own. Let us by all means strive to say exactly what we mean. Who knows, we might even come to understand one another!

It is long been a principal of ours that one is no more armed because he has possession of a firearm than he is a musician because he owns a piano. There is no point in having a gun if you are not capable of using it skillfully.

The bad guys up in the state of Washington have now proposed an initiative (SI676) directed at Unilateral Personal Disarmament (UPD), which is extremely dangerous. They could not get its provisions through the statehouse so they are putting it on the public ballot. We must do all we can to publicize this operation and make sure that it is defeated when it comes to a vote. We must make sure to keep this foot out of this door.

This from George Orwell - of all people:
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

via Colonel Clint Ancker

If you have a copy of the Gargantuan Gunsite Gossip, I strongly suggest that you get it bound up in durable style. That volume is irreplaceable at this time, and you want it to last. The second volume will be forthcoming at such time as we get the copyright situation straightened out.

Considering the fact that, according to our Founding Fathers, all able bodied adult males are members of the militia, all able bodied adult males should be technically qualified with the personal arms selected by our Department of Defense. By this I mean that everyone who is physically capable of it should be checked out on the M16 as to its mechanism, operation, and use. I am no admirer of the M16, but there it is and we are stuck with it. The fact that it has the fully automatic option might serve to terrify those people who do not understand weaponry, but if that is the US rifle, the US citizen should certainly know how to operate it.

Also, in my view, everyone should know how to operate the slovenly AK47, not because it is good, but because there are so many examples floating around the world. If, God forbid!, the sewage actually does hit the impeller, you better know how to work an AK47, because that may be all you can get hold of. When a citizen applies for a concealed carry permit, these things might well be considered.

While in Washington I ran into a rather presentable woman of young middle age wearing the Marine Corps casual uniform. On her collar appeared three stars. As with Scarlet O'Hara, I do not want to think about that today. I will think about that tomorrow.

A couple of people in reviewing my works in the past have come up with a contradiction which I should correct. In one article I stated that the 308 cartridge was quite adequate for targets of up to 200 kilograms in weight. I meant that to read 400 kilograms, and I so stated in subsequent publications. Four hundred was a proper statement then, in my opinion, and it is even more so now that the 308 is being loaded to 30-06 potential by Federal, as well as others.

Having seen a great deal of field shooting over the years since I first started writing, I am now quite convinced that the 30-06 180 will do anything that needs doing, though I would not suggest it as first choice for buffalo and pachyderms. This is the reason, incidentally, that the 308 was chosen as a primary caliber offering in the Steyr Scout. If plans go as I expect, the secondary offering in that weapon will be the 7mm 08, expressly intended for those jurisdictions where the 308 cartridge is forbidden as a military round. You might be surprised at how many of those there are.

We recently heard of a wonderful challenge issued by our old buddy Fritz Huls, who was operations officer here for a time. When confronted by what was evidently a threatening wanabe stick-up man in his gun store, Fritz produced his pistol and sounded off with "Son, you're making me very nervous."

We hear of a new and very simple course of fire which may be set up and used with a minimum of equipment and range facility. It is called "Lollypop Shooting." It involves the placement of 4-inch steel disks at varying ranges from very short to moderately long. The object is simply to knock them down in any order in the shortest possible time. Obviously six disks constitute the maximum practical number. This makes up into a very neat contest with no trouble at all for the operators. Let's try it!

We repeat our counsel about your African trip. You need not take two rifles, but you should take two telescopes. Rifle failures are very rare. Telescope failures are all too common. (And remember the axiom, "Don't go to Africa unless you understand that once is not enough.")

And we now hear of a police officer back in Ohio who has been suspended for not being shook-up enough as a result of a successful shooting. The man did all the right things, and won - and now his department is seeking to dispose of him, apparently for being "insensitive." My good friends who read my stuff keep sending me information of this sort. I do appreciate their thoughtfulness, but sometimes I would like to get some good news for a change.

Another deep question for the wise: "What is the purpose of education?" You will not find agreement on this, but it is certainly important to try. The current consensus seems to be that the purpose of education is qualification for some specific trade. It is as if we were attempting to turn out generations of "hewers of wood and drawers of water." The idea of the production of cultivated ladies and gentlemen is not even understood, much less commended. It is quite astonishing to see the way in which journalists insist upon talking down to their readers as if there were no such thing as what used to be regarded as, "common knowledge." Recently a reporter felt it necessary to tell his readers what an aileron was, such as fell off that spook fighter last week. When I was in the 7th grade, I do not think there was a boy, and probably not a girl, who did not know what an aileron was. There are those who would opine that there is just too much information available to the student today for him to absorb any real amount of it. They insist that machines will always be there to provide the answers to any question. Of course, these machines cannot tell us the difference between liberty and freedom, nor the difference between envy and jealousy, even if they can provide us with the specific gravity of helium, or the average temperature at Riyadh. As some comic strip character once opined, "I would trade a ton of information for an ounce of wisdom." In my opinion, information is for the mechanic; wisdom is for the wise. So what then is the purpose of education? Let's kick it around.

Let us all remember that though the Bill of Rights contains ten articles, it is one of those articles which makes the others possible. Thus, as Charlton Heston said in his great speech, the Second Amendment is first among equals. Let us all bear that permanently in mind.

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