Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 5, No. 12          November, 1997

Hunting Season

Well, that was a month that was! We expected October to be a barn burner, and that is the way it turned out. October is normally the finest month of the year (in the north temperate zone) and some way should be found to extend it so as to provide more of the Golden Days of Autumn.

To present a full account of all of our adventures in the wonderful month just past would require a very thick log book. Let us just say that we had a nifty time touring the great mountain states in the lovely S4 and seeing them at the peak of their spectacular fall colors. Not only is the "mountain redoubt" (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho) beautiful to see, but in addition it constitutes what may be the last refuge of dignity, decency and common sense in the United States (e.g. a bumper sticker we saw in Cody, Wyoming, announced, "Stop honking, I'm reloading.").

The place names up in that country are a delight in themselves: Spotted Horse, Wounded Wolf, Recluse, Medicine Bow, and Dead Swede - among others.

This is indeed a grand region, but it is lonely. "People who need people" should look elsewhere.

The press party for the Steyr Scout was most entertaining. The little gun is truly a jewel, and a great tribute to the ingenuity of the engineers at Steyr. I take satisfaction in the knowledge that this modern version of the scout rifle concept is largely my idea. The little gun is a great pleasure to shoot and, in my opinion, it is indeed a great leap forward. A couple of minor modifications were agreed upon at Whittington and will be incorporated in the production model to be displayed at the SHOT Show in January. These include a somewhat lighter bolt-lift, a black rather than nickel bolt, and a seamless stock juncture. I am doing my best to actuate the left-hand version to be offered ASAP. One out of six shooters is left-handed, and four personal friends of mine have stated vigorously that their money will be forthcoming just as soon as a left-handed version is on the market.

There is already talk of variations in caliber. The basic piece will be offered in 308, and plans are already afoot for a 7-08 version for jurisdictions where 30 is forbidden. Also there is talk of presenting a medium-bore version of the piece, taking a proprietary cartridge to be used in those parts of Africa where the hunting of dangerous game is restricted to cartridges of 375 bore size (9.3mm). It is fun to speculate about future possibilities, but I would like to see the conceptually pure 7.62 NATO item prove itself on the market before we start messing around. In my opinion, the left-hand version of the piece should take first priority.

Invariably the subject will come up: "How does the Steyr Scout shoot?" Well, it shoots very well indeed. Why wouldn't it? The Steyr Mannlicher organization has been producing superbly accurate rifles since before I was born, and I do not see why they should change now. There are those who feel that no weapon as short (37 inches) and light (7lbs flat including the sight) can possibly shoot alongside a bull gun. Well, it does! You may prove that to yourself the first chance you get, which, incidentally, should be along about March of next year.

We shot Pepper Poppers at 100 (off-hand), 200 (sitting), and 300 (bipod), and those Poppers took a terrible beating. That lovely trigger, with its clean, 30-oz break, actually seems to make it hard to miss.

Listen to me purr!

Incidentally, we set up the Billy Dixon shot at Whittington (plus or minus 1340 yards), and I was amazed at the modest amount of holdover necessary with the little gun using boat-tailed target ammunition. We had difficulty observing the strike of the 30 caliber bullets at that extravagant distance, but what we could see was astonishing - to me, at any rate. The drop at that range is, of course, considerable, but somehow when actually shooting it seems less than it should be.

After the press party we cruised up to Gillette, Wyoming, where we were the guests of Dave Lauck, the renowned custom gunsmith. We had deer tags, but we were only moderately successful, since these Gillette mule deer seem to favor a sagebrush environment, and a Wyoming mule deer at this time of year is exactly the color of sage. Nonetheless, I was able to bounce a modest little "double 4" with the new gun. The range seemed very long to me, but the laser logged it at 215, a humbling experience! That was first blood for SS#6, and now we intend to take it to Africa next April and to fill up a fairly elaborate shopping list in the Okavango Delta.

From Gillette we cruised over across the Big Horn Mountains to Cody, where Dave Lauck presented a custom 1911 pistol in my name to the Colt Collection at the Buffalo Bill Museum. Heading back down towards Whittington for the reunion, we encountered a startling piece of serendipity at the Holiday Inn at Thermopolis, Wyoming, which houses one of the finest collections of big game trophies I have ever seen. I am astonished not to have heard of that display before this, and I encourage all the faithful to make a stopover at Thermopolis whenever you may find yourselves up in God's country.

At Whittington we all got a chance to shoot Dennis Lunt's 50 caliber (50 BMG) at the Billy Dixon target. "It shoots good, like a 50 cal should." However, someone talked Dennis into setting a 25 power telescope on it, which is almost entirely useless as a sighting device. All of us who tried it found that the light pencil is much too thin for convenient positioning of the head. The maximum practical magnification for a telescope sight is about 10 power, such as that on the Abrams tank. At 10 diameters you can see all that you need to see, unless you are looking for the moons of Jupiter. Be that as it may, we all enjoyed shooting the big gun, and most people when shooting the 50 discover that it does not kick as much as we expect it to.

We now have set up five of the new steel reaction targets on the J&J Game Walk, and they seem to work very well. These targets cost $280 apiece, and as of now we have sold five more targets, each of which can be inscribed with any name the donor feels appropriate. In prospect, the completed range will have 12 steel reactive targets in position and two more in reserve at the range house. Of course, we have to build the range house first, and I have seen no firm plans for that. This game walk, when ready, will be about the only thing of its kind, and its only administrative drawback is that it will take quite a bit of time to run. If things work out properly, we will have two courses side-by-side and in defilade with each other so that two shooters can be in action at the same time. Time will tell.

We note with considerable interest the appearance of a modern automatic revolver now in production in Germany. It comes in caliber 357, and as with the old Webley-Fosberry, the barrel and cylinder recoil together, rotating the cylinder one notch and cocking the hammer. Just what this piece is good for I cannot say, but I look forward to shooting it as soon as possible.

Up in Wyoming we were treated to a spectacle of a Blaser R93 packing a Harris bipod. Daughter Lindy suggested that this reminded her of mounting a bicycle rack on your Ferrari.

Danie van Graan from Engonyameni reports continued success with his 45-70 "Co-pilot." In his capacity as a professional hunter he is most unlikely to ever need a long shot, but the authoritative wallop of a 45 caliber, 500-grain lead bullet could be decisive up close, and the weapon is so compact and handy that Danie reports that he has had it at the ready on two occasions when he just would not have had predictable reason for packing a full-sized rifle.

If any one of the faithful has handled one of the new Tanfoglio 45s, I would appreciate a report. On paper the piece looks good, but I will have to have it in hand before I can come up with a valid opinion.

Have you noticed that we old geezers seem to be too tough for the street punks. In Jacksonville recently a 17-year-old goblin attempted to stick up a diner, only to have one 70-year-old and one 80-year-old (actually 69 and 81) saddle up and blow him away. It is hard to figure out what motivates these adolescent punks, but it is not hard to figure out the motivation of us feisty old dudes. We would just rather win than lose.

The proliferation of state concealed carry laws has evidently reduced the rate of violent street crime to a considerable extent. When the goblins do not know who is armed and who is not, their professional enthusiasm declines. Now that Britain has made sure (insofar as any law can so insure) that everybody is disarmed, the streets are given back to the bad kid with the baseball bat. We hope they are satisfied.

The newest gadgetry for the metallic silhouette people are color-coded, preset sights. They look pretty, but whether or not they work remains to be seen.

Every year I am amazed at the amount of histrionic talent displayed by the brothers at the annual Theodore Roosevelt reunion. Among other notable performances, we were delighted with Colonel Clint Ancker's rendition of the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V. I do not believe Sir Laurence Olivier ever did that as well, but then, Sir Laurence was not a warrior, whereas Clint Ancker is.

During our recent motor touring, we noticed on several occasions the road sign "Gusty winds may exist." Now I find that pretty fascinating. The notice that gusty winds may exist suggests some thought be given to the relationship of reality to existence. Whether such winds may or may not exist opens the door to questions about what constitutes existence. Descartes declaimed, Cogito ergo sum (I think: therefore I am). Whether winds may or may not really and truly exist calls for serious thought. I almost ran off the road considering this matter.

In going into the matter of Theodore Roosevelt's Roughriders, we discover that those lads had never fired a shot out of their Krag carbines until they fired at a live enemy. The notion of sending a man into combat armed with a weapon he did not even know how to load is strange, indeed. As it turned out, things went pretty well (from our standpoint), but the circumstance is no less remarkable for that.

Note that after the emasculation of both VMI and the Citadel, there is now a move afoot to establish a "Southern Military Institute" in the hill country of northern Alabama. This academy is projected as male, Christian, private and white, about as "politically incorrect" as one can get. It will be interesting to see whether it actually gets underway. If this is truly a free country, as we keep telling ourselves, there is no reason why it should not.

We hear continuous complaint about the quality of the illustrations in "The Art of the Rifle." Let me point out that all those pictures were shot in both black-and-white and color, doubling the amount of effort involved. It did not occur to me that the finished book, using only the black-and-white pictures, would look more like a proof sheet than a finished product. The publisher, however, rejected the color on grounds of expense. Here we have the classic viewpoint of the "businessman" - "Better cheap than right." Somewhere down the line I may be able to persuade another publisher to do the job up as it should have been done. This will not be true, however, of the first ten thousand copies.

We hear that the Brits have now re-activated some horse units for use in the hills of the Balkans. Interesting, if true.

We are now given to understand by a police firearms instructor of wide background and experience that lesbians make lousy shots. Normal girls, on the other hand, tend to do rather well on the range. Is there a point to be learned here?

We plan to take Federal "Plus P" 308 ammunition with us to Africa in April. This hot loading effectively turns a 308 into a 30-06. In conjunction with the "Trophy Bonded Bear Claw" bullet featured by Federal, this should turn our delightful little scout into a truly all-around African rifle. We will check this out and report back.

So much good stuff was declaimed at the GR and TRM that I cannot include it all in one issue. We will just go one at a time in forthcoming issues. In this one we will lead off with the following original poem by Joe Sledge (edited very slightly by the Guru).
"The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Thomas Jefferson
The Walking Rifleman
By Joe Sledge

When a man takes his rifle a walkin'
it adds not a bit to his load.
It makes him in fact somewhat lighter,
for he walks as a free man, unbowed.

When a man takes his rifle a walkin',
he's master of all he can see.
A good man won't abuse the position,
for a master's a fine thing to be.

When a man takes his rifle a walkin',
he'll keep his eye sharp, his wits keen.
That's not just a tart he's escortin'.
No, that lady beside him's a queen.

When a man takes his rifle a walkin',
its condition doesn't matter to me.
He can load it however he chooses
so long as he lives by Rule Three.

When a man takes his rifle a walkin'
and he needs a second shot quick,
he'll be glad of the time spent on homework,
that he mastered reflexive bolt-flick.

When a man takes his rifle a walkin'
and he's hunting, to feed him and his,
well, he's living the way God intended,
and that's just the way that it is.

When a man takes his rifle a walkin',
as some say he should not be allowed,
well, they'd better be saying it softly,
for a man with a rifle is proud.

So if you take your rifle a walkin',
realize what you're saying, my friend.
You're saying that you are a free man
and woe be to him who butts in.

So let's take our rifles a walkin',
with pride - defiance if need.
If we don't want to be the last riflemen
we've got to re-sow freedom's seed.

Yes, let's take our rifles a walkin',
and we'll walk in the light, so they'll see.
And if they come to tell us we cannot,
then we'll water the Liberty Tree.

We get the following interesting commentary from family member Barrett Tillman:
It seems that during the first part of the European War Hermann Goering, who was the chief of the German air force, ordered a prominent group commander to outline all of the group insignia on his aircraft in red; the reason being that the previous group commander had been married to a woman of dubious ancestry - read Jewish. The new group commander was a German soldier, and he obeyed orders, but he went one step further. He dutifully outlined the group insignia in red - and then had all of the swastikas on the aircraft fins painted out. You see he was "politically incorrect," but he appears to have been less afraid to express himself under the Nazis than his opposite number would be today in the US Navy. German fliers of that era seem to have been less intimidated by Hitler and Goering than our present aviators are by Pat Schroeder. Freedom may be interpreted in different ways.

Up until our recent trip up into God's country, I had not given adequate thought to this matter of shooting the boy's dog at Ruby Ridge. To us it seems impossible to imagine a case in which a man would shoot a boy's dog. A boy's dog may be his closest companion in life, dearer to him than his own family. For the Fed to shoot and kill the dog right in front of the boy is pretty unthinkable. Do you suppose he was motivated by some sort of death wish? Considering the fact that the famed Pleasant Valley War in Arizona was initiated by the shooting of a pet dog, we are given further reason to ask of the Feds the question, "Just what goes on here?" This is not to suggest that a dog's life is of more basic worth than the life of a man, but it does suggest that this sort of provocation may well have been just what touched off the string of homicides at Ruby Ridge. And without sufficient cause.

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