Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 5, No. 6           May, 1997

The Rites of Spring

So much has been happening in the first half of 1997 that it becomes very difficult to sort things out. At the head of the list of new goodies in weaponry, we still have the Blaser R93 rifle, the "Wild West" Co-pilot carbine, the various "pocket rockets" giving us major caliber in miniature pistols, and, of course, the forthcoming production scout rifle from Steyr Mannlicher. We should also include the souped up 30-caliber ammunition from Federal and the tiny 22 revolver from Smith and Wesson. We can expect at least one major innovation from the Czechs later on in the year, but we will have to wait and see how that comes out.

In addition to new equipment, there is now an infusion of new blood at the NRA, which may be an excellent thing. The appearance at the head table of Holy Moses (Charlton Heston) may be startling to some, but it should turn out to be a major forward step in the long run. Heston's "gun politics" may not be entirely above reproach in the eyes of the pure, but his public image is very powerful and may serve to impress numbers of those in the middle to whom we need to appeal.

At this point I wish to thank those who voted for me as a director of the NRA. I have not been able to accomplish as much in that capacity as I had hoped, but I intend to keep up the pressure for at least another term of office.

Certainly any hunter should be an active member of the National Rifle Association. Without the efforts of the NRA, he would no longer be a hunter. There is some difficulty in getting this message across, since it is estimated that there are 20 million hunters in the United States and only 3 million members of the NRA. In exploring this odd situation we run across the attitude held by a great many outdoorsmen that the NRA is in there fighting for American shooters and is doing a good enough job on its own. Well, the NRA is doing a good job, but think how much better the job would be if we recruited even half of those 20 million hunters. There must be a way to attack this problem. As a member of the Public Affairs Committee of the Association, I promise to give it my full attention.

In my continued search for the design of a general-purpose rifle, I have been attacked by a couple of correspondents who feel that the ideal is to have a whole lot of cheap guns - one for every separate occasion. The idea is that any well-made firearm is too expensive, and that the answer is to explode into diversification. Well, everyone has a right to his own opinion, but I am surprised to hear the matter of price brought up in this connection. One of my critics in this regard is a coal miner whose communications suggest that coal miners command a good deal more ready cash than stock brokers. Personally I deplore the idea of specialization - in either people or firearms. I remember Heinlein's dictum that "specialization is for insects."

Recent vote tallies at the National Rifle Association suggest that I am esteemed by the troops, but disdained by the officers. This does not bother me. I have more than enough to do with business as it is than to look for additional special committees or executive assignments.

The AK47 has long been the weapon of choice by the bad guys of the world, and especially by those in South Africa. The supply is not inexhaustible, however, and now the violent felons in South Africa have begun to show a distinct preference for the baseball bat. In recent attacks on rural homesteads, the baseball bat has proven ubiquitous. The goblins usually go straight for the face, leaving the victims, if they survive, permanently disfigured. Clearly if the farmer can put his hand on his gun, nobody with a baseball bat is going to get to him, but farmers do not always display the warrior mentality necessary for survival in a troubled world.

After reading an unconscionable number of windy organizational reports recently, we have propounded the dictum:
"If it won't go on one page, it needs a synopsis."

The Laurel Canyon shoot in Los Angeles recently has brought forth a torrent of commentary - most of which demonstrates an almost unbelievable level of technical ignorance.

To begin with, a whole platoon of journalists insists that the LA police were "undergunned." Now, as we all know, one is undergunned only if he misses. It may be suggested that the standard 9mm pistol cartridge is not sufficient to penetrate body armor and that, as a result, the police should go to a major caliber, such as 45 ACP. Anyone who is qualified to have an opinion on the subject knows that a 45 ACP provides less, not more, penetration than a 9mm. For years we have pointed out that if your first two hits to the body do not suffice, you shift your aim to the head. This is, of course, the renowned Mozambique Drill, taught by that name at all reputable schools of pistolcraft.

Another body of journalistic opinion has held that the LAPD needs more and better training in marksmanship. I know something about the level of marksmanship training in the Los Angeles Police Department and I do not think that the technical ability to hit a target is the issue here. What wins in a gunfight is "mindset." Here in Arizona we have access to a ludicrous camcorder tape which shows the minions of the law kicking up dirt around the target at short range, when, of course, they can all hit a beer can reliably at such distances.

One man armed with a Model 1894 30-30 deer rifle could have stopped that Laurel Canyon shooting within seconds after its start, but he would have had to display the proper mindset called for by the circumstances. I am convinced that it can be taught, since I have taught it successfully for about twenty years. Why it is not taught is a sociological rather than a technical question.

"In this country we have no place for hyphenated Americans."

Theodore Roosevelt

At the Whittington Shooting Center we are in the process of laying out a field rifle range to be called a "game walk." John Gannaway and Larry Larsen have collaborated in laying out the trails and target positions involving a right-side walk and a left-side walk, which will enable shooters to return to base down a defiladed trail between the two arcs, allowing continuous operation on steel targets.

The facility will include a range house for shelter and storage, a couple of portable rest rooms, and ample parking.

I blush to admit that it is tentatively to be termed the J&J Game Walk, and that family members who wish to have their names displayed in the range house may achieve this for return of a tax deductible contribution of $1,000 or more. At this time we have accrued two fivers and a handful of oners. We are at work on the design of reactive steel targets and should have a nearly complete facility in time for the Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial in October.

"If you can get closer, get closer." Indeed, yes, but a couple of years ago I discovered that when optical sights are used it is quite possible to get too close. The Lion Scout carries a scoutscope, and when I mounted the rifle at a range of eleven paces, all I could see was an indefinite expanse of yellow hair. I had to switch back to my tracking eye in order to discover an aiming point. Now in a recent account of the Yom Kippur War on the Golan Heights, I read of an Israeli tank commander who ran into exactly the same problem on a much larger scale. He encountered a Syrian tank at range so close that through his sight he could not tell what part of the tank he was looking at.

It is my considered opinion that a telescope sight has no place on a rifle intended for dangerous game. Just what kind of sighting system is appropriate for arms-length tank combat is an interesting question.

In this age of political correctness, it begins to appear that believing is seeing. The truth is irrelevant to those who operate on "gut feeling." If it is true, as the saying goes, that the truth will make you free, what may we expect when we no longer seek the truth nor care about it?

However, we must not give up the fight. To sigh that that is just the way things are is cowardice, which is, of course, the most repulsive of the Four Horsemen of the Modern Apocalypse.

Note that the "Gargantuan Gunsite Gossip" is available, for the time being, at the Rutgers Book Center for $40.00.

Growing up back in the Middle Ages, we young people were taught to dress in a manner appropriate to the circumstances appertaining. Our mothers insisted that we appear neat, clean and moderately dignified in public. On today's streets there seems to be a strong movement on the part of young people to dress to disgust. Such oafishness is apparently accepted in certain levels of society. Fortunately this trend is not entirely universal. We just attended the graduation ceremonies at the University of Mississippi, deep in the Heart of Dixie, where the student body was making a conscious effort to tidy up. It may be that the Deep South is the last locus of gentility.

You have doubtless heard of the grim command, "Kill them all. Let God sort them out!" This has been attributed to a number of military situations over the years, up to and including Vietnam, but I have run it down, and it looks like this:

The Albigensian Crusade in the south of France in the early part of the 14th century was conducted jointly by the French King and the Pope, with the intent of stamping out the Donatist heresy. Among the various "heretical" towns and cities beset by the royal troops was Beziers. When this walled city refused to surrender, the chief of the besiegers - one Amal Ulric - gave orders that the town should be sacked and all survivors put to death. One of his henchman remonstrated, saying that there was an appreciable number of "good Catholics" inside the city. The chief of the besiegers was reported to have responded, "Kill them all. God will know his own." Now, he could not have said this because he could not speak English (the English language not having been invented at that time). We do not know exactly what he said, because no one was taking notes, but several months later a German monk reporting on the incident put the equivalent down in Latin, Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet.

Horrible as that sounds today, it made quite good sense in the Middle Ages, at which time most Christians felt that life on earth was simply a brief interlude in preparation for the hereafter. If one led a Godly life, God would know of it, and the reward would be eternal paradise. Thus Amal Ulric was making good sense according to his concepts of righteousness. If all those in Beziers were killed, the good would go to Heaven and the bad would go to Hell, and thus he was doing God's work.

I regret to report that no progress was made with the NRA's Personal Protection Plan, by which we on the Education and Training Committee had set much store. In my opinion, the prescribed chain of command has been temporarily circumvented. We on the committee will not give up on this matter, but we can expect a delay to continue as long as anyone can be found to delay it.

New parliamentary rules laid down by the Guru: This is easy to enforce since the microphone can simply be timed to shut off as appropriate.

I might take this opportunity to point out that I as a director never considered Neal Knox to be "too radical." As the man said, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." The media would have you believe that Neal lost his vice presidency because he was too much of an activist. Such is not my view of the case.

Rule: Never shoot your rifle from the offhand position unless you have absolutely no other choice.

In this age of ostentatious ignorance we hear continually of the reprehensible nature of "antigovernment" propaganda. We repeat the wisdom of the Father of Our Country:
"Government, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."

"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it."

Abraham Lincoln, 4 April 1861

We would appreciate any detailed reports available on the Davis Mountains shoot. As we understand it, one of the rebels took off into the hills, but was killed by police action without any effective resistance. We have no opinions about the morals of this case, but it would seem that an armed fugitive in wild country should be able to score at least once before he gets it. Perhaps the subject was simply incompetent, since he seems to have a record as a fairly unsatisfactory citizen. But still, we would like to know details as to calibers, ranges, number of shots fired, and such like. Family members are invited to fill us in on this.

A liberated society. As of now you may keep the guns you have, but you will never be able to acquire any more. Let freedom die of old age.

And now that the Brits have gone down the tube, our publishing houses discover that no periodical displayed in Britain may show a handgun on the cover. Guns & Ammo, for example, is now producing two different covers for at least half of its issues.

In the last issue we asked for suggestions about particularly fine sorts of hunts. What we have received up til now is from family member Walt Mansell in California, who tells us that the "jacksnipe" is his very favorite. A jacksnipe is evidently a sort of woodcock, and I have always heard that woodcock constitute an extremely demanding target for the wingshooter. I do not know any place where either woodcock or jacksnipe are plentiful enough to hunt at this time, but the idea is worth putting on the list for further consideration.

If Lon Horiuchi has killed himself, the press has done a marvelous job covering it up. Certainly he has a much better reason than did Admiral Boorda, the ex-Chief of Naval Operations, but maybe he just does not have the viscera to handle the job. Speaking of viscera, Horiuchi's Japanese ancestors have long had a proper solution to this difficulty.

Though it is not yet June, we must still start thinking about next year in Africa. Providing we are still here and Africa is still there, this may be set up for the month of May. I confess that my own blood lust is somewhat slaked by now, and I have no special targets in mind, but all hunting is good hunting and I particularly enjoy showing friends the African scene.

You do not need a special gun. Your 30-06 will do just fine - with the right bullets. Of course, if you want buffalo, you will need a buffalo gun, but it just happens that I have one available for loan to distinguished Orange Gunsite graduates. But the buffalo adventure is expensive and probably should not be attempted on one's first visit. You can have a fine hunt without buffalo, and you can always reserve that beast for your next time around.

If you hold with the Founding Fathers, you know that rights can neither be granted nor repealed by the State. Neither can rights be abrogated by those to whom they are granted. If we were to repeal the Bill of Rights in legal fashion, the God-given rights of man would not be negated. What God has granted, let not man deny!

In our recent rifle class at Whittington, a student showed up whose right arm had been amputated about 8 inches down from the shoulder. I certainly could not have shown him how to operate his rifle with that handicap, since I simply do not know how it is done - but he did it. He used an extendable bipod without a sling, but worked the bolt with his stump. It was an inspiring performance, and renewed our faith in the human spirit.

We continue to hold the notion that recoil effect on the shooter is about 85 percent mental. Actual recoil can be measured, of course, but what the shooter feels is more what he thinks he will feel than the actual weight of the blow. From my youth I remember that Osa, the diminutive wife of the photographer Martin Johnson, steadily backed up her husband with a 470 Double Holland. She was about the size of Marion Hammer yet she never complained about recoil. Stock fit has a lot to do with this, of course, but the actual cartridge involved is less important than a lot of people think.

Now we hear of a mature lady of 70 years in Moldavia who carried a hand grenade in her purse "for self defense." Nobody told her those things shoot both ways.

The consensus of the masters at the last Whittington class was that stainless steel does not rub well against stainless steel. There are various sorts of stainless steels and some do better than others, but generally speaking, while both black-on-black and black-on-white will do fine, the galling of white-on-white promotes premature wear.

"Liberals don't care what you volunteer for, as long as it is compulsory."

National Review

Now that we have a production scout nearly in our hands, several people have suggested that a production version of the Lion Scout might be a good idea. Right now my Lion Scout is strictly a one-off proposition, with no means of replication. However, our new friends in the Czech Republic may very well be prevailed upon to produce what may be called a field carbine for the "350 Short Magnum, Improved," which could give us excellent medium-power performance in a very compact weapon. It would not be a true scout, of course, because it would take a peculiar cartridge, but that problem might well be handled by the proximity of the Selliers & Bellot organization up in Prague. When the ammunition factory and the arms factory are in close proximity, marrying the cartridge to the chamber is no great problem.

Just what the medium "Fireplug" cartridge is good for is moot. It is too much gun for deer, but it works splendidly on moose, elk, bear, and all African game short of buffalo. We could probably get its overall weight down to 8½ pounds - "all up." If you like this idea, let us know.

We have now discovered why we let Saddam Hussein get away. We ran out of batteries.

As the hoplophobes in public office continue to rant and rave, I should point out that three places I know of still have excellent gun laws - Switzerland, Bolivia, and Czechia. Here in the US we still have some nifty state laws, most particularly those of Vermont. If you mention Vermont to the gun grabbers in Congress, they will not argue with you. They simply change the subject.

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."

John Adams

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