Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 5, No. 2           February, 1997


Our November hunt in Montana was most enjoyable, and all our freezers are full. Rifle Master John Gannaway used his standard 350 Super Scout, I used the Lion Scout, and Lindy used her Springfield with the new hopped-up Federal ammunition. Clearly we were all somewhat overgunned, but no harm came of that. Two shots were taken from vertical post rest, one from offhand, and one from sitting. Ranges were 40 paces, 83 paces, cross-canyon estimated at 200, and one quite long. It was impractical to pace the distance on this one.

There was nothing extraordinary about the hunt, but we are certainly enjoying the venison. Our long-time favorite method is fondue - bite-sized pieces skewered on long forks and seared quickly in hot oil. The Countess experimented with tenderloin tips marinated in our favorite Roman dressing (one-third olive oil, one-third soy sauce, one-third sweet sherry) and sauteed quickly. Superb! The sausage was particularly well composed and we have been enjoying it for breakfast on all suitable occasions.

We have not heard from Don Mitchell for some time, and Mitchell Arms was not present at SHOT. I must assume that the Mitchell pistol, about which I had high hopes, is not in the cards.

The SHOT Show and SCI Shows were pretty fascinating, though it does take a tremendous amount of walking to see all the necessary sights, and even then there is much missed. The most interesting thing that I saw was the Czech 97, a single-stack, single-action 45 caliber derivative of the Czech 75. This piece is in prototype stage at present, but it shares the necessary characteristics of a sound defensive pistol with the notably comfortable handling characteristics of its Czech ancestors. I have been invited to visit the factory in March in an attempt to clean up the act.

The Czech 550 series of rifles seems to be a promising development of the Mauser, but at present displaying an unsatisfactory trigger-action. That can be fixed, of course.

It is certainly difficult to render a calm and compassionate view of our current system of justice. After a legal friend of ours had his car trashed on the street, apparently just for kicks, he suggested that the proper solution to our inner city problem might be the mass drowning of street punks. Every month in a different big city we should sew up a thousand of them in a huge sack and dump it into the Mississippi. Such ideas may appear fanciful, but the decent people of this country are increasingly driven against the wall. We have now made clear to the world that you should not cut the throat of the mother of your children - for fear of being heavily fined. While the federal ninja drive around in their black uniforms and face masks, we note that they never seem to bother the street gangs. Kids who have parents seem to have no fear of chastisement, and certainly those without do not even consider the possibility of retribution for their sins. It is a bad scene, but as Bill Buckley recently put it, "Exasperation must never edge over into despair."

At the SHOT show Smith & Wesson introduced a bitsy 22 revolver that packs eight rounds and weighs just 9 ounces. Its concept is delightful, but its execution is severely handicapped by its trigger-action. The double-action pull weighs 14 pounds. (The DA pull on the Countess' M-60 goes at 9.) We had three different girls try it and each insisted that the action was much too heavy for precise shooting. If a 22 is to be used for defensive purposes, precise shooting is absolutely essential, since the only successful target is the eye socket of the attacker.

When we complained about this trigger to the management, we were told that it could not be smoothed up or lightened in view of the unreliability of ignition in rimfire cartridges. I shoot 22 rimfire regularly - several times a week - and I had not run across this problem until now. It may be that the quality control in rimfire ammunition has been degenerating, like many other things, while I was not looking.

We heard the Feds recently insisting that those are not black helicopters, they are dark green. Sorry about that.

Our good friends the van Graans from Africa tell us of a splendid procedure that they have set up at their hunting lodge for the indoctrination of their growing daughters, Tanya and Liezl. When the girls need spending money, they are permitted to go out on the ground and harvest a medium-sized blue wildebeeste. (They are forbidden to take trophy wildebeeste, which are reserved for visiting clients). They use their mother's 308 and they are allowed to keep all the meat and sell it on the market at Nelspruit for cash. They are required to do all the necessary work except driving the meat to market.

What a nifty way to raise children! Danie and Karin are to be heartily congratulated.

It has been suggested that a handheld laser range finder may be obtained on request in the "gun writer mode." The yards it measures are 20 inches long.

The winter meeting of the NRA in Arlington produced exactly the amount of bitter squabbling that we expected. The leadership spent practically its entire time in infighting, to the delight of the Schumer/Schroeder/Feinstein/Brady crowd. The "palace coup," of which you may have heard, was not successful, but the vote was so close that the losers survived to fight another day - presumably at Seattle.

Please do not regard the reduction in our cash reserves from 80 million to 50 million as a disaster. Our cash is not simply to keep, but rather to spend judiciously, and our progress has been considerable. The periodic reports from headquarters serve to keep you informed of battles we have won, as well as those we have lost. The war continues but we remain ahead of our adversaries in altitude, airspeed and gunpower.

One of the curious legalisms we discover back in the Darkest East is the fact that while New York state has an open season on deer and permits its citizens to take the field with a rifle, the state policy on training insists that a student may not even be allowed to touch a rifle that is not his. Apparently they do not mind if you take to the woods, but they do object if you try to learn how.

My special interest over the past months has been the updating and rewriting of the NRA Personal Protection Manual. The committee assigned this task consisted of T.J. Johnston, Leroy Pyle and Jeff Cooper. We put together what I think is a good paper, but due to certain obstructive proposals, we almost did not get it approved in the time allotted. Due to the outstanding efforts of T.J., who stayed up all night clarifying the documents, we were able to place the program in the hands of the headquarters staff for editing in accordance with headquarters literary policy. There remained a couple of obstructionists lurking in the shadows, but with good luck and a tail wind, I think we can present a new personal protection program to our membership which will bring NRA doctrine in line with the modern technique. High time!

Additionally we discover that that Bureau of Land Management nastiness is temporarily on hold and may well be terminated without further discussion. These people keep trying to slip things over on us when we are not watching, but fortunately for us the NRA is watching, and almost all the time we are informed.

The Steyr Mannlicher display was interesting, though, as we had been told, the production scout was not yet in evidence. Several of the features recommended on the scout, however, were included on the "sporting rifle," such as the double magazine-detent, the trigger-guard adaptor, and hammerhead sling sockets to accommodate the Ching Sling. The factory people suggested that they might be able to put on a demonstration of the production scout in the states sometime in the fall, possibly in connection with the proposed Scout Conference. We will see.

The proliferation of right-to-carry laws throughout the states has drawn plaintive complaints from the criminal element. They feel that it makes their profession too dangerous when the streets are full of "civilians" who may or may not be armed. Poor babies!

When discussing rifles we must take care to watch our terminology. In the matter of sights, let us make sure that we know that iron sights may be either open sights or aperture sights. The ghost-ring is a certain type of aperture sight which provides speed, full observation and precision. It is properly mounted well to the rear on the receiver bridge, the cocking piece, or sometimes on the tang. The open sight, on the other hand, is a notch mounted well forward, with resulting reduced sight radius, and it demands a triple focus on rear sight, front sight and target, which is physiologically impossible. Contrary to widespread belief, while it is quicker to use than the ill-conceived aperture sight on the Springfield 1903, it is measurably slower than a ghost-ring, and it obscures the lower half of the shooter's field of view, which can be distinctly dangerous under some circumstances.

I am very much in favor of the ghost-ring but I do not favor any form of open sight. The so-called "express sight," which is a certain variety of open sight, has been favored for a century for use on heavy rifles and dangerous game. It will do for this purpose, but it is not as fast as a ghost-ring, and life and death situations with dangerous animals take place at ranges so short that small increments in accuracy are meaningless.

(Incidently, a telescope sight is a poor system for use on dangerous game. Anything that is big enough to kill you is easy to see, and even the best telescope is excessively fragile for crawling around in the underbrush.)

A correspondent sent us a clipping describing a recent occasion in Louisville in which a group of old poker-playing codgers had their game interrupted by three masked, shotgun-wielding goblins who beat in the door. The geriatric squad neatly repelled boarders, leaving one dead. ("You should have seen the two that got away.") As we have taught for decades, a properly organized defender has a distinct tactical edge over an armed robber. By the time the goblin has discovered that his proposed victim is not going to do what he is told, it may well be too late.

Curiously enough, a very similar situation occurred with some friends of my father's at the LA Country Club back in the Middle Ages. When the goblin lined up the sportsmen and proceeded to search them for valuables, one old gentleman took the situation in hand and shot the miscreant neatly through the head with his Colt 45 "Double-Action Army." The NRA motto now is "I refuse to be a victim." So be it.

We took some time to check out the "Kimber Clone" at the SHOT Show. It seems to be a well-made arm, but it does not include any of the minor, but important, modifications which might make the 1911 better. Specifically it is not slimlined, and it retains the annoying grip safety.

When I put out that list of Good Things To Do in a previous issue, I apparently did not get my point across. Several correspondents have written in to extol various acts of heroism, which are certainly good things to do, but which are not for just anyone. I intentionally excluded from my own list those acts which are beyond the reach of the ordinary citizen, such as quarterbacking the Super Bowl, climbing the north face of the Eiger, or killing a buffalo with a spear. Some of the items on my list do call for a certain amount of money - spending a weekend at the Connaught, for example - but it costs nothing to write a sonnet, or memorize Kipling's "If", or study Greek. The list that I prepared was one of pleasures; heroics are another matter.

When some time ago I opined that "The kindest words of tongue or pen are these: It has already been taken care of," I was taken to task by a correspondent for utilizing a terminal preposition. I was taught in sixth grade English a preposition is properly placed in front of something, rather than behind it. Understood. However, we should be careful not to confuse a preposition with a proposition. An example of a terminal preposition is "Where are you at?" For a terminal proposition we like daughter Lindy's suggestion: "Feeling lucky, punk?"

"The best thing that government can do is get out of the way."

Milton Friedman
Nobel Prizewinner in Economics

We do not know whether to be amused or annoyed by the repeatedly held injunction of the lawmen to the miscreant that "Somebody may get hurt." It has always seemed to me that was the idea. The bad guy ought to get hurt, and he should understand full well that he is the "one most likely." We would have a much better society if those who choose to prey upon us understood that the proper response to a homicidal threat is a bullet up the nose.

In observing our political scene, it is necessary to remember that in any democracy the absolute goal of the politician is power. Not money, power. This means that the only thing of any consequence to a politician is re-election. He will walk on eyeballs to be re-elected, and the only time that principle means anything to him is when it happens to coincide with what appears to him the best course towards his own re-election. Now the only way to get power is to take it from someone who already has it. Under our system, the theory is that the people at large are sovereign and have the power, but the only way the politician can achieve power is to take it from the people who already have it - or should have it. This makes for a permanent conflict in principle between the voter and his representative. This is not cheerful, but it is nonetheless a fact.

Of the three systems of government enunciated by Aristotle - monarchy (tyranny), aristocracy (oligarchy), and polity (democracy) - polity (democracy) is the best, not because of its inherent virtue, but because of its basic lack of efficiency. An inefficient government is best for the people, simply because it is inherently incapable of doing anything well, and the less it does the better.

The following nifty anecdote from our old friend Ian McFarlane, the professional hunter from Botswana:
"About 03:00 we received a radio message that a Bushman tracker had returned to one of the camps with a chest shot from an AK and was brought into Runtu Hospital by helicopter. On notification that the patient had arrived and was in theater, we found him standing there smoking a cigarette. He had a wound on the left chest in front and in the back. We took X-rays and found indeed that it was through and through. We cleaned and closed the wound, and kept him for a week in case of infection. This did not happen, but during that time we found out that the Bushman had been wounded early in the morning of the previous day. He tracked his antagonist during the day for about twelve hours. He said he could have shot his man a few times during the day, but he wanted to shoot him in the abdomen so that he would die painfully and slowly. Just before sundown, he got his shot properly placed, and then walked another eight hours back to base."
The wound, of course, was delivered by the 30 caliber Russian Short cartridge of the AK47. Presumably the bullet had an iron core and a copper jacket, allowing no deformation. Still, getting shot through the chest with a 30 caliber Russian Short might be thought to be enough to spoil one's appetite, but these Bushmen are great little guys. I have associated with them just enough to appreciate their admirable qualities.

"Hunting inculcates patience, demands discipline and iron nerve, and develops serenity of spirit that makes for long love of life."

Archibald Rutledge

"The fear and hatred of crime and criminals by the right, and the fear and hatred of the right by the left, serve to enlist both sides of the conventional political spectrum in promoting the new police state. The avoidance of publicity about the abuses of federal police agencies tends over time to normalize such behavior in the minds of citizens; to legitimatize it and to render it a routine part of government functions."

Samuel Francis
in Chronicles

After sitting through three days of long winded and often acrimonious discussion in Arlington, we come back to the truth of the venerable aphorism, "The trouble with politics is people."

We repeat Colman's law to the effect that in any sidearm the probability of hits is inversely proportional to the number of rounds in the magazine. The more rounds you have available, the less likely you are to hit anything - unless, of course, you are an expert combatant. There are not many expert combatants, and so we see the increasing popularity of fully automatic handheld fire using pistol cartridges. I will not forget that the last time anyone tried to kill me (whom I could see trying to do it) he had a 30-round magazine in his machine pistol and he went dry and lost the fight. There is one important advantage to handheld automatic fire and that is intimidation. A great many people are seriously upset when anyone starts to hose them down with a "machinegun."

On the occasion when our son-in-law Bruce had the night watch up on the line with I CORPS, his first response when someone reported a penetration was to make sure that everybody in the command had his M16 set on the semi-auto mode. He got his medal for keeping his head when a lot of people around him might have been expected to do otherwise.

Our usually impeachable source from the Washington scene insists that there is no truth in the rumor that Hillary is pushing O.J. Simpson for Attorney General.

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