Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 5, No. 5           April, 1997

The Sowers of April

Our working schedule for the immediate future has become so crowded that it is going to be difficult for us to keep up the production of this paper on any regular basis. Right now we seem to be booked up practically back-to-back until late July. We will do our best, however, to keep the material coming as best we may.

Note down September 24, 25 and 26 on your calendar. On these days we have reserved the Ben Avery Shooting Range just north of Phoenix for the kick-off party for the production scout rifle from Steyr Mannlicher. If obstacles do not intervene, Steyr Mannlicher, with their US distributor Gun South, will present an exhibit of the production prototype of the piece intended for commercial availability at the SHOT Show in '98.

This operation makes it convenient for us to announce the next Scout Conference, to be held at the same time and place. Plans are still tentative at this time, but insofar as we can predict it, all systems are go.

Naturally this news fills me with delight. I have messed around with firearms design for much of my adult life - without conspicuous success. This time, however, I may be able to leave a "footprint in the sands of time." I praise the management of the venerable Steyr Mannlicher organization with total sincerity. Unlike most industrialists, they are prepared to take a bold, innovative, forward step and hope that the market will respond. The action of the production scout is mainly the work of Ulrich Zedrosser, long-time chief design engineer for the organization. The rest of the piece, in both major and minor aspects, is my own brainchild. Riflemen are a conservative lot and mistrustful of new departures, but it is my earnest hope that the radical nature of the scout rifle really does constitute "a better mouse trap."

Whether it will succeed on the market or not remains to be seen, but the important thing is that it is there, and at last those who understand riflecraft will be able to buy this unique and excellent exemplification right over the counter. Sound the trumpets and beat the drums!

In addition to the foregoing good news, we can report that the development of a really new and excellent service pistol is underway at Uhersky Brod in Moravia. If past experience is any guide, this item will take some time to perfect, but if all goes well, it will combine my own design concepts with the proven excellence of the Czech tradition of weaponry. That should really be a distinct forward step available for the next breed of pistoleros.

Over and above that, we can now look forward to the "Chessbro Baby," which, while in no sense a large-volume item, ought to develop into the prestige piece for the coming generations of hunters of dangerous game. Naturally I can say nothing about production dates or prices, but bear in mind that price must always be a secondary consideration in the purchase of a personal firearm. A good gun lasts forever, which is a lot more than you can say about a car, an airplane, a steak dinner, or a house. A cheap gun, like a cheap wife, is not likely to enhance one's living standard.

Our nomination for the 1997 Waffenpƶsselhaft Award goes to the police carbine utilizing the 9mm pistol cartridge. Large numbers of people - especially those in public office - seem to have lost track of the idea that any firearm must strike a blow sufficient for the task. They seem to feel that as long as a hit is achieved the results of that hit are unimportant. Thus we were all wryly amused watching minor-power pistol bullets bouncing off the body armor of those two clowns in the Laurel Canyon shooting. The "V" in DVC stands for vis, which is power. If you do not strike with sufficient power, neither speed nor precision will do you any good.

There is a Marine Corps slogan to the effect that the purpose of a Marine is to do whatever needs to be done, to do it right, and to do it now. This notion can be extended to a much wider range of experience. If there is something you think needs to be done, get on with it now. No one has promised us tomorrow.

And that notion brings up the subject of the 22 pocket pistol. Obviously the 22 rimfire cartridge does not dispose of any considerable power; however, it will penetrate the skull of a human being (most of the time), and if it is properly placed, it may render good service. A pocket 22 pistol in the hands of a delicately constructed lady with slender wrists and modest musculature may indeed suffice as a personal defense weapon, especially when one considers that a defensive pistol serves its purpose more than half the time by its mere presence, regardless of whether it is fired or not. The 22 rimfire cartridge offers a much larger opportunity for practice than any centerfire round. When the ladies and children of your household discover how much fun it is to plink with a 22 pistol, they may well practice enough to develop the sort of skill necessary to render the little gun quite serviceable for personal protection.

The leaders in this category for much of the 20th century have been the Walther PPK and PP - in caliber 22 long rifle. I now discover, to my dismay, that these little pieces are almost impossible to locate for sale in this country. Their clones, manufactured in Hungary and Turkey, are equally hard to come by. Many years ago when we were living in California I purchased four PPKs for distribution to various ladies in our immediate circle. Would that I had bought fifty! For that reason, I put forth at this time to the recipients of this paper a request that if they can locate a Walther PP or PPK in 22 LR, they grab it at once and let me know.

The new Smith & Wesson development in this line, which is a 9oz., eight-shot, double-action revolver, has great possibilities, but not until its trigger action is extensively modified. If the 22 is to be used in a defensive mode, a high degree of precision is necessary in its bullet placement, and the trigger that comes on that piece now works against that. If some member of the Gunsite family locates a smith who can do a good trigger job on that little gun, I hope he will let me know immediately.

Family member Jack Buchmiller sends us an article from the Wall Street Journal pointing out that our current reliance upon gadgetry seems to be decreasing human competence. People are now taking to the woods with one of these satellite position locators under the impression that that is all that is needed for their safety and safe return. They do not know terrain. They do not understand topography. They rarely have a map but they often do have a cellular phone, believing that if they get in trouble in the woods they may simply ring up somebody and produce a helicopter. The article even mentions a bizarre case in which a hiker was found in dire straights in the wilderness without any sort of competence and no canteen. What he did have in his pack was a laptop computer. Now where do people like that come from!

We are invited by the faithful to boycott the Jack-in-the-Box food chain because of their policy on personal weapons.

I find it most curious that there are still people - even people of some cultivation - who object to the metric system. I discovered as far back as grade school that the metric system of measure makes sense, whereas the English system does not. In case it was not explained to you in your childhood, a meter constitutes one ten-millionth of the distance from the pole to the equator, measured along the curve. With that as a base, we proceed to convenient measurements such as a kilometer (1000 meters), a millimeter (one thousandth of a meter), and so on. Measuring distances in feet, inches and miles seems to be just silly. (I do remember from my Basic School days that there are 63,360 inches in a mile. Pretty fascinating?)

Do you know what the "Big Twenty" is? The Big Twenty is the placement of 20 shots in a 20-inch circle in 20 seconds at a 1000 yards. Old time target shots claim that this is impossible, but then for most of the 20th century it was held that it was impossible to run a mile in 4 minutes.

We have been enjoying a delightful response to our comments about our encounters with the weird Czech language. One correspondent wrote to tell us that the Czech language has three genders, five plurals, seven cases and very few vowels. It appears that it is possible to write a complete sentence in Czech without using any vowels at all.

And on the matter of the famous brew "Pilsner Urquell," we discover the reason why nobody in Pilsen knows what Urquell means is that it is not a Czech word, but rather German. Quell in German signifies spring or fountain. And Ur, as a prefix, indicates venerability. (The word for grandfather in German is Grosvater. The word for great grandfather is Urgrosvater.) Thus Pilsner signifies origin in Pilsen, and Urquell signifies, approximately, "venerable fountain." The suggestion is that it's the water that makes the beer so good.

We were recently treated to a bizarre exchange between a hapless Englishman and some BATchick in some front office in Washington. Our English friend was inquiring about bringing his arms into the United States, and was told that he could not import a Peacemaker (Colt Single-action Army) because it had no "legitimate sporting purpose!" Now, apart from the fact that "legitimate sporting purpose" is a blatantly unconstitutional interpretation of the Second Amendment, it is apparent that these poor souls who are confined to the District of Columbia cannot keep up with the times. Clearly the girl involved had not heard of the proliferation of "Cowboy Action Shooting." I stuck my oar in to tell her that this sort of bureaucratic behavior gives ignorance a bad name. I guess I can expect the black helicopters any night now.

In regard to daughter Lindy's book, "The Soul and the Spirit," I must point out again that this book was not my idea. I did not write it. I did not edit it. I did not proofread it, and I do not have any copies for sale. Lindy tells me that the book is selling very well, which is comforting to both of us, but I cannot get one for you. For your copy contact
Wisdom Publishing, Inc., 1840 E Warner Rd., Box 238, Tempe, AZ 85284.

Examples of evil judicial behavior continue to grow. Here in Arizona, a group of innocents who were endeavoring to prepare for Der Tag were busted by the BATF and their head man was sentenced to nine years in the slammer, with others receiving lesser sentences. Now what these people did was apparently against the law, but they did no harm. They threatened no one. They damaged no property. They deprived no one of liberty. They did not march nor demonstrate, but they were treated by this particular judge as atrocious felons, evidently for what they were thinking, rather than what they did. I can see how a citizen might justifiably be fined or even given a short jail sentence for messing around with firearms against the regulations of the BATmen, but nine years is more than a lot of people get for murder! The judge in this case obviously lost his marbles, and I fear that there is nothing we can do about it.

Colonel Bob Young, our neighbor to our immediate west, appears to have located a cougar in his close vicinity. This is the best news we have heard since the appearance of the desert bighorn sheep in the Bradshaw Mountains near Prescott.

As we understand it, it was the aim of Karl Marx to achieve a classless society. What the Clintons have achieved, however, is a classless White House.

Sport hunting is unquestionably the preeminent recreation of man, but sport hunting comes in so many forms and in over such a tremendous period of time that it defies classification. Some years ago the good old boys on the Hunter Assistance Committee of the NRA sat around and quizzed each other as to what was the finest hunt they knew. The discussion covered a lot of ground, and while I was not at all surprised to learn that the bighorn of the American Rockies stands among the highest on everyone's list, another hunt that I knew nothing about claimed almost equal eminence. This was the southern plantation bobwhite. We all admit that the hunt is a ceremony as notable for its atmosphere as for its results, and apparently a Sunday morning on a southern plantation, complete with grits and red eye gravy, handcrafted corn whiskey, the mule wagon, the dogs, and the traditional hunting staff must build up into a very enjoyable occasion. To go farther afield, many opine that Syncerus caffer (the "joined-horned infidel") is the top experience. Others may choose the canvasback duck, the favorite of Diamond Jim Brady, and a good many Europeans would place the Auerhahn at the top of the list. And then there is Panthera leo, the king of beasts. To my mind it is all good, and the more different ways I have enjoyed it, the richer my life has been. If any readers would like to put forth their particular choices in this matter, we would be glad to discuss them further.

It seems that our military forces are well aware of the nature of the enemy. The enemy is not Russia, nor Iran, nor Algeria, nor China - it is Bubba. Bubba is the good old boy who knows his way around the countryside, packs grandpa's 30-30 in his pick-up truck, and will not be pushed around. The Army at Fort Bragg recently conducted an anti-Bubba operation against a small town in North Carolina. They told the mayor they were coming, but asked him please not to tell the townspeople, which seems a very foolish request to me. In due course the ninja swept in, properly airborne, and landed all over the place. The amazing thing was that nobody was killed. Perhaps Bubba is not really as dangerous as the ninja think.

Family members who have completed the rifle course with credit should remember that if they intend to hunt buffalo and are somewhat intimidated by the cost of buying a buffalo rifle they only intend to shoot a few times, I have down in the Armory an excellent heavy gun on the Kimber action taking the 460 G&A cartridge. This piece is available as a loaner on demand.

Remember the axiom that you are only "outgunned" if you miss. Only the old-timers among us remember the deserved adulation heaped upon Butch O'Hare, after whom the Chicago airport is now named. In his magnificent exploit he was the only Navy fighter plane available in the air when nine Japanese Betty's were observed in attack formation heading for the Lexington battle group. These Betty's were twin-engined medium bombers with rifle caliber machineguns forward and sideward, plus a 20mm automatic cannon as a tail stinger. The Nip formation was a V of V's flying very close together and protecting each other with their own guns. O'Hare was flying an F4F-3 armed with four 50-caliber Brownings and packing 200 rounds per gun. In plain sight he tore into that Jap formation and destroyed five bombers before he ran out of ammunition and the fight broke up.

Let our current handwringing journalists observe that he was not "outgunned."

I regret to report that the revised personal protection program of the NRA has run upon shoal water. I previously reported that we on the Education and Training Committee would have the staff work finished by the forthcoming meeting in Seattle, and that certain National Rifle Association policies would be brought up abreast of the times. I reckoned without the obstructionism which is the essence of life in Washington. If you live and work in the District of Columbia or environs, you discover that the only way to succeed is never to give a straight answer to anything. Back in our younger days in the military, "yes" meant "yes," and "no" meant "no." That is no longer clear.

Question for your next philosophy class: "Does competition automatically destroy ethics?" This would have been easier to answer one hundred years ago when we had a full allowance of gentlemen. Today it is somewhat more complicated.

Principle: Competition is the most valid evaluator of technique, but only if it is relevant to the goals the technique seeks to achieve.

The United Nations Organization proceeds to evolve from the silly to the sinister. As long as it just met and paid exorbitant salaries to flakey delegates from graustarkian countries, it was little more than wasteful, but now various of its members propose serious attempts to transfer national sovereignty incrementally to this bizarre agglomeration of ineptitude.

What hits us squarely between the eyes is the proposal that the UN step in and mandate the production, trade and transfer of smallarms by its members. Now this is a line on which we must stand firm. When such nations as Japan, Britain, Australia and Canada presume to tell the United States that we should abrogate the God-given rights of our citizens the way they do, it is time to cry Halt! The evil thing is that these international destroyers of liberty have a full share of advance-men in our own camp - and unfortunately in some positions of power. The ultimate definition of political liberty is the right to keep and bear arms - the right of the individual to keep and bear his own personal arms. Without that right all other rights are meaningless. We must make that point clear to everybody on both sides of the argument - only thus will we make our enemies aware that we are very serious about what we preach.

Among the other terms it would be nice to see disappear is "plains game." I do not know who thought that one up, but I wish he had not. In truth some game lives on the plains, but a good amount does not. Certainly the Tragelaphus people (bushbuck, nyala, kudu, situtunga, and bongo) are furtive forest dwellers, not to be found on plains. Today, however, if you are not hunting elephant or buffalo, some people like to say you are hunting "plains game." I guess terminology should never be taken seriously.

As to that, it might be suggested that we replace the vulgar barbarism "hiorshi" with "it."

We have discovered a proper use for this communication system newly termed "ebonics." We discovered that when we asked the question, "What is Windows 95?," it sounded wrong; and when we changed that to, "What are Windows 95?," that also sounded wrong. By using ebonics we can say, "What be Windows 95?," and now we are all right. (We asked someone who knows about such things just exactly, "What be Windows 95?," and his answer was, "Windows 95 be cooool.")

We have had recent occasion to mix with the bright young people on a university campus. We discover that now everyone is supposed to be entitled to a "college education," the term has lost its meaning. Today college can be regarded as "remedial high school." The four high school years are apparently spent doing something, but being educated does not seem to be it. This makes the position of the visiting professor pretty entertaining. These bright young people in your class appear to be astonished when confronted by even an elementary awareness of what used to be called "common knowledge." Out in the corridor one overhears variations on, "Well, I never thought about that before," all the way to the parking lot.

Note that "The Art of the Rifle," my latest effort, is now being serialized in Guns & Ammo magazine, starting with the May issue. The book itself ought to be available by early summer.

Now we learn of a new pistol cartridge formed by necking the 45 ACP down to 40 caliber and calling it the 400. Just what is to be gained by this is unclear, but when you ask people "What is it good for?" you often make yourself unpopular.

From darkest New England we learn of what may be called "punk repellent," which is, quite simply, good music. When these grubby types assemble on street corners or in parking lots, they can be quickly dispersed by a solid dose of Bach, Beethoven or Brahms. Real music is unbearable to people conditioned to rock. Thus we now have what may be called "the defensive boombox."

At Nurnberg I had occasion to examine the new Heym straight-pull rifle. This incorporates an innovative "ball lock," which is very smooth to operate, but which calls for a rather obtrusive bolt handle. The Heym people have a good reputation and we must assume that their bolt system is thoroughly tested. At this point I have no grounds for critical opinion.

I am encouraging daughter Lindy, "the publisher," to undertake a hypothetical autobiography of the wife of Sir Samuel Baker, who accompanied him on the discovery of the source of the Nile - among numerous other adventures. She derived from the Hapsburg aristocracy, but was abducted by brigands during a revolution and put upon the slave block in Constantinople, where by sheerest accident she was discovered by Baker, who purchased and subsequently married her. She was a remarkable person who led a wildly romantic and adventurous life, but to our great dismay she never put pen to paper. The story needs to be told, and from a woman's viewpoint in the first person. I do hope that Lindy will give it the full blast. Her name was Florence von Sass, but she was always referred to by Baker as "Flossy," and that should be the title of the book.

The news may be too late to reach you, but Saturday the 19th of April has been designated "Patriots' Day," on which all patriots are invited to display their right to keep and bear arms just as far as the law allows. Carry your piece openly and exult in the knowledge that you remain a citizen of "The Land of the Brave and the Free" - the last best hope of Earth.

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