Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 5, No. 13          December, 1997

Pearl Harbor

December 7 goes down in history as the Day of Awakening. Upon this date in 1941 the United States of America opened its eyes and got its act together. We set forth on a quest that could have changed world history permanently for the better. The fact that we did not know what to do at the end of the fight, when we held the world in our hands, does not render our quest meaningless. A Pax Americana was within our grasp, but that grasp proved to be limp.

But 7 December, nonetheless, was the date to remember.

The fight for liberty goes on. We win some and we lose some. England, Australia and Canada seem to have gone down the tube, but our victory in the remote northwestern state of Washington serves notice that the American people have not yet lost their viscera. The interesting thing about that case up there in Washington was that it was a referendum - an exercise in direct democracy. Political representatives may not be much concerned with freedom - they have more important things to worry about, such as getting re-elected - but in a referendum nobody is up for re-election, and the decisive victory for our side should give notice to our enemies that the great majority of the American people really do understand about the rights of man.

I was much amused at the fury that arose when some hired hand in the Pentagon scornfully referred to the Marines as "extremists." Since our friend Brute Krulak is the father of the current commandant of the Marine Corps, who appears to have got all frosted by this exchange, we fired off the following letter:
Dear Brute:

I must have got it wrong. It was impressed upon me in my youth that a Marine is supposed to be an extremist. (Along with such citizens as G. Washington, P. Henry, and T. Roosevelt.) "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!"

Semper Fi!
I have as yet no response from the general.

Several commentators have complained about the cost of the new Steyr Scout. Our standard response has been to the effect that Porsche could indeed build an economy car, but it would not be a Porsche.

After considerable testing and discussion, we have concluded that the proper answer for a pistolero whose eyes have begun to go is not a pistol ghost-ring, but rather a pistol express sight. The express sight, as you know, was pretty standard on the British heavy rifles of the Great Days. It consisted of a shallow "V" rear sight, mounted well forward on the barrels, in combination with an ample round bead on the front. This sight was intended for very quick use on very dangerous animals at very close range, and it served its purpose well. It was by no means a target sight, but it was a superior defensive sight.

Consider then that a pistol is intended for very quick use at very close range against very dangerous targets. The similarity is inescapable. I am not content with the pistol ghost-ring, for a number of reasons, but the pistol express sight just may be the only important development in pistol sightings in modern times.

We have just been shown, by Ashley Emerson of Fort Worth, a sleeve system for mounting a scoutscope on standard-type rifles without recourse to a pedestal barrel. It looks fine, though I have not yet used it on a rifle. I suggest you look for it at the SHOT Show forthcoming.

Now that we are well through the '97 football season, we have concluded once again that this prancing and capering displayed by the heros after any successful effort on the field strongly suggests the behavior of baboons in the African bush. From what we can learn, stone age man was much given to self-congratulation, whereas a civilized gentleman enjoys his proven battle heroism with quiet satisfaction. Those who have observed baboons in the wild note that they manifest most of the bad habits of the human race, with almost none of its good qualities. Of course, gentlemen (and ladies) have almost gone out of fashion in the Age of the Common Man, so this sort of thing is only to be expected.

About when we had thought that we had heard everything, we now get a note from Africa about a gent whose careful aim at a prized nyala was upset by a phone call on his cell phone. Honest to God! Along with people who venture into the wilderness without a map, and go on extended hikes without a canteen, we now have hunters who hunt with cell phones at the ready. No puede ser!

We have a letter from Monty Sagi, who is superintendent of police in Israel, correcting us on the matter of the use of the "flat stance" by the Israeli security establishment. We all have seen this bizarre technique illustrated on the screen, and I took it to suggest that the Israelis were actually shooting that way - and that is with the pistol rotated 90 degrees to the left. The truth of the matter is that Israeli security forces are trained to carry their sidearms in Condition 3, which demands that the action be racked as the pistol is presented. They are taught to rack the slide with the pistol so rotated, but to come back to vertical when firing.

I see the point here, but I recall that when I had something of the same problem in training honor guards who stood outside the doors of important people with their pistols in Condition 3, we wiped the slide on the way between "Clear" and "Point." It worked pretty well, and surprising speed could be achieved even from a full flap military holster.

The idea, of course, is to carry the pistol in the holster in Condition 1, but that seems to be "against regulations." So change the regulations!

Our good friend and Orange Gunsite student, Ulrich Zedrosser, who is mainly responsible for the new Steyr Mannlicher SBS rifle action, is now at work on a totally new and different action of his own. I have pointed out to him that it is important to produce a bolt-action rifle system which is easily convertible from right to left-hand operation. As of now, the Blaser R93 is convertible by simply exchanging bolts, but the Steyr Scout, unfortunately, is not. Time marches on!

The following comes from Orange Gunsite graduate Curt Rich and pretty well puts the case regarding this publicity activity surrounding land mines:
"Now I probably know a little more about land mines than the President, and I do despise them. I put too many young boys on helicopters with limbs missing. I spent a year dreading stepping on a land mine, and I was injured by an antitank mine. Come to think of it, the SKS rifle I brought home was booby trapped by antitank mines, and if the string hadn't gone slack I wouldn't be writing this. But they're a necessary evil. I would far rather see North Korean soldiers dying from American mines than American soldiers dying from North Korean bullets."

"Remember there are no rules in war. The side which imposes the most rules on itself loses."

"We lost in Vietnam because of self-imposed rules."

The so called "Holoscope" is getting good reviews, but I have yet to check it out. It would seem perfect for the combat shotgun, if not quite so desirable for rifle or pistol.

News from Ceska Zbrojovka tells us that the excellent reserve rear-sight, which was standard on the Czech 600 series, now discontinued, will be revived in all calibers on their new rifles. They also suggest that the proposed heavy rifle they have in mind ("Jeff Cooper's Baby") should be available in medium as well as heavy calibers. They push for 416 on the proven renewed popularity of this round. For my part I am against it. As I see it, the 416s are halfway measures. If you want real power, you had best go for at least 500-grains of bullet. My own recommendation for this rifle is that it be offered in 458 Lott, 460 G&A, 470 Capstick, and 505 Gibbs. There is a problem in making any wood to stand up to the recoil of a heavy caliber without splitting, but it is certainly not a problem which cannot be solved.

A friend of ours recently had a fantastic experience right up in the hills not very far from the Sconce. He had staked himself out overlooking a cattle tank, which is a popular source of water for our wildlife. His position was 55 paces from the water's edge. In due course, who should come down to drink but a very nice 7 point bull elk! (Naturally our friend had only a deer tag.) While the bull was drinking his fill, over the lip of the berm came padding a prime tom cougar. The elk saw the cougar. The cougar saw the elk. Neither saw the hunter. The cougar finished his drink before the elk did and quietly strolled off a little way to lie down peacefully in the sun. Presently the bull, having drunk his fill, nodded politely to all concerned and wandered off.

Our friend sat there, rifle in hand and deer tag in his pocket, but he was no way dismayed. That experience alone was worth more than a trophy on the wall.

In the German magazine Visier, we see the new H&K SOCOM as "Zu viel des Gutes," which means "Too much of a good thing." Are any of you old enough to recall what Mae West had to say about that? According to the legend, she said "Too much of good thing is ... marvelous!"

Watching the behavior of many friends and acquaintances on shooting ranges recently, I get the impression that if an emergency arises all we have to do is shout "Ears!" if we want to lose the fight. It is true that I no longer hear well, and that my ears have been abused by decades of shooting, but I do not think that anyone is going to hear well at my age regardless of how he wore his ear protection. Certainly it would appear that this racket which is called "rock music" in some circles should do more to deafen the aged than mere battle noise.

It is commonly held in nature films and magazines that the cheetah is the world's fastest four-legged animal. Such a claim is pretty hard to establish, but I can say from first hand experience that an impala can outrun a cheetah in a short sprint - because I have seen that happen. The impala normally travels in graceful arching bounds, but when this particular impala discovered that the race cat was on his track, he stretched out full length horizontally and shifted into afterburner. The pursuit lasted about 70 yards, and the cat gave up. Perhaps he had not read the textbooks.

We set off quite an intellectual turmoil when we asked about "the purpose of education." This is indeed a fine subject for discussion, but before embarking upon it, all concerned must agree upon the terms employed. Surely we cannot discuss what the purpose of education may be until we agree upon what education itself is. Whatever it is, it would seem that we are not doing much with it now. We note a comment by one mother of a ninth grade girl who did not know that 25 percent is the same as one-fourth. We hear of another student who proposed to his class that dihydrogen oxide should be banned worldwide. God only knows what is going on in the classrooms! Something must be happening there - but what?

I guess we are just going to drop the subject of Nicole Simpson and Vince Foster, and it begins to look as if the murder of Vicki Weaver is going to be dropped too. Is that the way justice works? Do we just forget about crimes because we would rather not hear about them? Apparently that is just what we do in the Age of Sleaze.

I am by no means sure that legalizing drugs would be a good policy, though there are some very good thinkers in the country who hold just that view. However, in view of the fact that the so-called drug war is used to justify the excesses of the federal ninja, it might be proposed that if we abolish the drug war, we could abolish the ninja too. The thing that keeps the drug trade going is the enormous amount of money involved. We must remember that both narcotics and stimulants were readily available over the counter during the Victorian period. We had very few junkies, and as far as I can tell, we had no ninja. One cannot turn the clock back, but we might give serious thought to some feasible means of turning it forward.

It is gratifying to know that the attempt in the Pentagon to de-activate the US Army Marksmanship Unit has been abandoned. I realize that the modern army has very little concern with marksmanship, but it does seem important that it at least be given lip service. One cannot but wonder how a president who "loathes the military" (exact words) feels about being its Commander-in-Chief. Well, we elected him.

We note with gratification that 1903 was a particularly good year. (Of course, we were somewhat younger then). That year saw the introduction of the great Springfield rifle, the classic Mannlicher-Schoenauer 6.5mm carbine, and the 600 Nitro Express from Holland & Holland. I cannot remember when three such noteworthy pieces of technology all appeared in the same year.

Among the "Darwin Awards" that we get from family member Cas Gadomski in Alaska, we note the following:
In Calcutta on 2 November, two sportsmen came up with the curious idea of placing a garland of flowers on the head of a 13-year-old male royal Bengal tiger in the zoo. This may even out-score the man who went hunting with his cellular phone on "go."
(Only one of these two clowns was killed. The other was just torn up a good deal.)

(Note: The "Darwin Award" is issued, after careful thought, to those who are doing their best to prove that evolution works backwards.)

We learn from NRA/ILA that those curious people in Handgun Control, Inc. took it upon themselves to assign a letter grade to each state based upon what laws it feels are essential to protect children from gun violence. (It is implicit in their philosophy that guns are out to get children.) The states were rated A through F, A meaning strongly controlled or prohibited, and F indicating relatively free from regulation. Not surprisingly, the eight states with the lowest violent crime rate in the nation were rated either D or F, while the state with the third highest crime rate received a B. HCI did not grade Washington, DC, since it is not a state (yet), but under the HCI grading system the district would have been given an A despite having a violent crime rate nearly four times higher than the nation as a whole.

These Sarah Brady people insist upon trying to make sense, so far without visible results.

The following note is from National Review, Bill Buckley's brainchild, and one of two or three periodicals in the nation directed at people who think:
"It is not ignorance, but an accurate perception of reality, that lies at the root of much of what is now called "white racism" - which is why race relations will not be improved by exhortations that the majority adopt more enlightened attitudes."

It is indeed fortunate that people have varying tastes, and shooters are no exception. We have run across several enthusiasts recently who love guns to the extent that they feel the more they have the merrier. These people would rather have twelve commonplace, pedestrian weapons than one or two really good ones. We may thank God that people's tastes vary so much, otherwise all the men in the world would aspire to one particular wife.

Sometimes it seems to me that people simply do not pay attention. Just last month, for example, I got an after-action report from a couple who have taken our advice and made the African hunt. It turns out that this gent was wandering about in the bush in company with his PH - neither of whom was armed. Well, they did not run onto a lion, but they did run onto a nice trophy buck who was evidently a good deal smarter than they were.

Sometimes it seems that a hunter will go to a lot of trouble to acquire a proper education, and then when he gets to the field put himself completely in the hands of his PH, who usually has all the answers, but sometimes does not. Witness the number of PHs you see running around in shorts. Gunhandling is the activity in which it seems to me the professional hunter too frequently falls short.

The continued denigration of this term macho (the adjective) or machismo (the noun) is continuing evidence of the attempted emasculation of society. "Machismo" is a definite plus, and it has a negative connotation only when, as with almost anything, it is carried to foolish extremes. The term does not translate very well from the Spanish, and this is the probable reason for its misapplication in English. The closest single equivalent we can find in English might be "manliness," and, of course, manliness is a no-no in the wimp society. It is useless to try to teach people to be careful about their terms, but this is one more people should think about more often.

Dave Lauck up there in Gillette now proposes we shoot at an egg at 500 yards. Of course, you cannot see an egg at 500 yards, but Dave has constructed a target which will show you where the egg is. Personally I prefer the venerable Boer contest in which the contestant shot from offhand at a chicken egg placed on the top of a termite mound at 100 paces. This, it seems to me, would not only be more fun, but it would certainly take up a lot less room.

Guru Say -
Let us remember that the one thing we can acquire which will not wear out is learning.

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