Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 5, No. 7           June, 1997

Summer Solstice

So now June is busting out all over, as it says in the song. The hot weather has already hit us here in the Southwest. School is out, and the African hunting season is at its best. Householders are comparing the progress of their tomato crops throughout the land, we are still enjoying last year's venison, and doing what we can about the delights of fresh mountain trout - despite the heckling of the catch-and-release fishermen.

As to this matter of "catch-and-release", it seems to have permeated all sorts of our social activities - sometimes to the good, and sometimes not so. Catch-and-release fishing is probably OK, albeit puzzling to the non-fishermen. We have heard that it upsets the fish, but that is a rather hard point to establish.

Personally I am rather fond of a form of hunting which has some similar aspects. In this game one stalks and squeezes with maximum care, but with chamber empty. When the striker goes forward in the rifle of a good rifleman, the point has been established, whether or not the piece was loaded. If you can shoot, you know where that bullet went - or would have gone. I rather like this game, though certainly not to the exclusion of the real thing.

I suppose we could call alcohol-free beer an aid to catch-and-release drinking. Now it remains to produce alcohol-free whiskey.

On the bad side is this current custom of catch-and-release law enforcement. The cops catch'em and the courts release'em.

Being an old codger, I tend to disdain these half-baked procedures, in most cases, as a form of social anemia.

As we approach the Glorious Fourth, we are increasingly distressed to learn that large numbers of our young people in school simply do not want to hear about it. They seem to have been taught that war is so bad that even victory is to be deplored. Such people are slave-minded, and they will not survive as a race through the 21st century.

The first after-action reports from this year's African adventures have begun to trickle in. One correspondent, Bob Dickerson from Ohio, did all his proper reading and preparation, and then went down there to get the full blast. He says that his adventure started out great, progressed to fantastic - and then got better. In our experience the only really bad thing about the African adventure is the trip home.

Bob's outfitter opines that the 35 Whelen is definitely the best all around choice for an African cartridge. He had not heard about the 350 Remington Short Magnum, which provides the same ballistics in a more compact package.

We hear good reports about the new Kimber clone of the 1911 pistol. It appears to include a number of good features, if not all those most desirable. Additionally, the length of the front end of the frame prevents the press check. This is not an important point, but one wonders why the designers would introduce an unnecessary backward step.

We will doubtless see a number of the Kimbers at our forthcoming pistol session at Whittington in July.

The Scout Rifle Session, to include both the 4th Conference and the introduction of the Steyr Mannlicher production scout, remains on the schedule for late September. We will keep you posted.

Department of Absolutely Essential Information

The Czech word for beer is pivo. More than one beer is piva. Five or more beers is piv. Fancy that!

The question "What is a good shot?", which I address in "The Art of the Rifle," has been producing various interesting responses. There is an association of descendants and admirers of Alvin York who have informed me that I need look no further than their ancestor, who is established in their minds as the ultimate good shot. Certainly Sergeant York could shoot, and he put his rifle skill to proper use as the occasion demanded, but marksmanship skill is a talent with such varied aspects that I cannot consider the matter closed. We stand in awe of the demonstrated marksmanship of Alvin York and Sam Woodfill and Billy Dixon and Marseilles and Rudel and Bell, not to mention Jack Weaver, Elden Carl, Thell Reed, and Ray Chapman; or Harry Reeves and Bill Blankenship. Our admiration does not settle the case. I suppose all that can be said with certainty is that the man who can do everything with his weapon that his weapon is capable of doing - every time - is truly a good shot.

Department of Bureaucracy Amok

Part 1
"The National Marine Fisheries Service has recommended that Congress allow the shooting of protected sea lions off the Pacific coast in order to protect the endangered salmon, which is a favorite meal of sea lions. The problem is the sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, but the salmon are protected under the Endangered Species Act."
Part 2
Seems this girl wanted to go out for baseball in the capacity of pitcher. Current rules require that any youngster playing as pitcher must wear a codpiece - a tin cup protecting the testicles. Trouble is, this girl does not have any testicles to protect. No matter. Rules are rules. Wear it on your ankle, dear.

We hear continuously of shooting failures by the police because these items make news, whereas victories do not. Thus it is refreshing to read of a neat tactical achievement on the part of the Phoenix Police Department, who stalked a professional bank robber for several months, finally catching him in a traffic jam through full and accurate communications, and neatly settling his hash when he chose to shoot it out. It is nice to be able to cheer for the winners now and again rather than sneering at the losers.

Doubtless you know that Swarovski can now provide you with a telescope sight for your rifle which includes a built-in laser range finder. The item is huge and expensive, and its utility is highly specialized. You do not have to know the exact range in any form of hunting that I know of, except for the prairie dogs of the High Plains. This activity does not require any hiking, since you conduct it from your car, so bulk and weight are not important. On the other hand, the target is very small and the range is whatever the shooter wants to make it. It does seem problematical for that laser to range in on the head of a prairie dog out there a third of a mile away, but perhaps it works. Here we have a nifty birthday present for the kid who has everything.

"Diplomacy is the art of saying 'nice doggy' until you can find a rock."

Will Rogers

We hear of a contest now being held on the public sector side for an arm known curiously as a "police rifle". This seems to be the proper niche for those curious instruments which are in effect semi-automatic machine-pistols. (Note the oxymoron.) I felt that there must be something you could do with a semi-automatic squirt gun, and now I know.

Immersed as we usually are in Civil War history, it is interesting to note how few of the men called up for service in that war were able to provide their personal weapons - especially at the beginning. Consider, for instance, the case where Stonewall Jackson put a totally unarmed brigade into infantry action with the mission to follow close enough behind the assault elements so that men could pick up the weapons of those who had been hit in front of them. I would have thought that the mythical "average man" of that era would have brought his own personal rifle to war. Here we have evidence again of the fact that a disarmed citizenry is in deep trouble - at home or abroad.

A couple of correspondents have asked us recently what we think of the Israeli "flat stance" in defensive pistol shooting. If you have seen the training films you know that the Israeli procedure is to rotate the pistol 90 degrees to the left so as to make it easier to operate the slide when the pistol is pointed at the target. It has been pointed out to me that a number of cinema presentations have featured this technique - apparently in an attempt to latch onto anything new.

It happens that Mossad, the Israeli attack squad, fancies the use of the 22 pistol as a murder weapon. This is quite sound when the pistol is used in a totally offensive mode, since the subject is confronted just out of arm's length and hit ten times quickly in the chest area. Ten 22-caliber holes in the thorax are fatal, as any qualified thoracic surgeon will tell you. In employing this system the weapon is carried in Condition 3 until the moment of confrontation, whereupon it is drawn, pointed straight out and the action is racked with the left hand. This is somewhat easier to do if the weapon is held flat rather than vertically. Accuracy does not matter and sights do not matter. Ten quick hits will do the job, whereupon the agent drops the pistol at the scene (for the laboratory to puzzle over) and walks quickly away.

Since the pistol is a totally defensive weapon, this Israeli flat technique is of only academic interest to us.

In our political discussions we note a certain confusion between the terms "liberty" and "freedom". The semantic problem here is not insignificant because both liberty and freedom are abstracts for which men are ready to die - some men at least. I think this is one of those cases where we really should understand our terms, but I wonder if our professors of political science are fully prepared to tackle that question.

"Consumerism is a virulent form of materialism developed in the United States, in which advertising insures that demand is created for products for which there is no real need."

Michael Gardner
So now we have a rush in Congress, presumably at the behest of the manufacturers, to require that American shooters install "trigger locks" on their firearms. A trigger lock is another example of a solution in search of a problem.
"Americans don't need the federal government to tell us how to store our property in our homes. That is our responsibility and it is one that we are willing to accept."

NRA Fax Alert 27 May 97
Furthermore, we Americans do not need the manufacturers of gadgets prodding Congress to buy their products. And still further, we do not need Big Brother to save us from ourselves.

We have an amusing case from England recently in which a woman driver was attempting to light her cigarette at a stop light with the window down. When a street goblin stepped up brandishing a handgun (as you know, handguns are illegal in Britain), the lady driver proceeded to set him on fire with her cigarette lighter. Now we may expect new regulations by the leftist government in England banning cigarette lighters.

"We have now won the Cold War. It now remains for us to win the war with ourselves."

Carlos Widmann
Yes, indeed. As Pogo said,
"We have met the enemy and he is us."

I coined the term "hoplophobia" in 1962 in response to a perceived need for a word to describe a mental aberration consisting of an unreasoning terror of gadgetry, specifically, weapons. The most common manifestation of hoplophobia is the idea that instruments possess a will of their own, apart from that of their user. This is not a reasoned position, but when you point this out to a hoplophobe he is not impressed because his is an unreasonable position. To convince a man that he is not making sense is not to change his viewpoint but rather to make an enemy. Thus hoplophobia is a useful word, but as with all words, it should be used correctly.

So now we hear from family member Steve Munden in Maine of an affliction called "hooplaphobia". Our analysis would seem to be an unreasoning panic in the presence of excessive partying or dancing in the streets.

It certainly would be nice if we all made an effort to find out what we are talking about.

The State of Vermont, "land of green mountains", remains the state with the best gun laws in the Union. This is a dreadful fact for the gun grabbers to face. It would be nice if the State of Vermont printed on its license plate "Sweet Land of Liberty" so as to proclaim the triumph of good over evil.

In a new biography of Nathan Bedford Forrest I discover that the general preferred his recruits to show up with shotguns. Forrest was a great believer in close shock calvary action, and one can see how a double-barreled fowling piece might be just right for this sort of thing.

Forrest spent his war well over on the Western Front near the Mississippi, where, it seems, most of his recruits provided their own armament - as opposed to the more civilized Virginia boys on the Potomac.

Family member Colonel Sverker Ulving from Sweden reports that his scout rifle provokes astonishment amongst the Scandinavian hunters. They insist that it is too small, too short, and generally too untraditional to be efficient in the field. And then they see it work - and they go away muttering.

This is certainly a major consideration in the forthcoming issue of the production scout from Steyr Mannlicher. We can expect prospective customers to divide themselves among those who consider the scout concept to be too utterly radical, and those who see it as the wave of the future. It will be fascinating to find out which view has the larger following.

Reports back from the Gulf War suggest that the single-column, large-bore magazine of the 1911 stood up well to the intrusion of sand, whereas the double-column, small-bore magazine of the Beretta did not. I do not have inconvertible proof of this, and I am not likely to get it, but common sense would tend to support the point.

More on semantics. I have always held that a "blood sport" is one in which the practitioner voluntarily places himself in physical danger, and he does so for fun. You engage in a blood sport for your own recreation, but if you make a mistake you may well die.

Now, especially in England, it seems to be customary to call a blood sport any activity in which blood may be shed, voluntarily or otherwise.

According to my view, motor racing, rock climbing, and dangerous game hunting are blood sports. According to the other view, any form of hunting, plus such activities as cock-fighting and rodeo are blood sports.

(Bull-fighting is not a sport, but rather a demonstration, and thus does not fall into either category.)

To no one's surprise, the newly elected leftist government in England is out to forbid any form of hunting - and possibly fishing - in the UK

Well, "You pays your money and you takes your choice", but we really should define our terms before we choose up sides.

When a commissioned officer takes the oath, he swears
"To support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic."
We know about these foreign enemies of the US Constitution, but who are the "domestics"? For my money the most conspicuous domestic enemy whom I have sworn to confound is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. (Note how they have tried to avoid the B in that title. They are a bureau, but apparently they do not like to be referred to as "BATmen". I understand they do not like to be called the "F-Troop" either.)

It is not clear to me that the BATF does anything that needs doing. Contrarily, it does a great deal that does not need doing. I do not know how many people are currently employed by this unpleasant agency, but I do feel it to be my duty to support the US Constitution against domestic enemies by advocating abolition of the BATF. I have been told by people in Washington that when I make statements like this, I am laying my head on the block. So be it. Better men than I have done just that.

We understand that cattle rustling has taken on full military status in Africa up north of the Zambezi. When thievery is conducted by hundreds of well-armed men and results in the death of scores of people and loss of herds of cattle numbering in the thousands, banditry has become elevated to the scale of warfare. This sort of thing requires a command structure, communications, supply, and reasonably competent administrative procedures. That is apparently what is going on in Kenya and Tanzania, but we do not go to those places anyway.

We are annoyed at these bleeding hearts who whimper aloud over what they call to be "the sending of American boys overseas to die under the command of foreigners."

First, the profession of arms is traditionally hazardous to one's health. When one puts on the uniform he accepts the prospect of his death in action. Ours is a volunteer army and people are not at this time drafted into it. When they join up of their own free will, they know - or certainly should know - that they may well be killed in the line of duty.

Second, no one sends soldiers "out to die". Soldiers are sent out to kill. As Patton put it,
"I don't want you bastards to die for your country. I want you to make those other bastards die for their country."
The critical issue here is that of sovereignty. We would have thought the case of Michael New would have brought this matter to a head, but obviously it did not, and the government is still weaseling on the question. Spc New was clearly guilty of insubordination when he refused to go fight on a UN team. A much larger question, however, is whether he could legally be ordered so to fight. If United States troops are placed under the command of foreign nationals, United States sovereignty is annulled. This apparently does not matter to the Billary crowd, but it certainly should matter to all Americans who pledge allegiance to the flag and pay their taxes to the government of the United States.

Forget this dying bit. The question is, "Who is in charge here?"

Personal reports from the scene in South Africa suggest that life is going on much as before the revolution, but continues to degenerate in several specific areas. Television has gone almost completely under, but our correspondents suggest that this is not so bad a thing. Public education has decayed quickly and radically, as has public health service. Corruption, which used to be fairly commonplace at the upper levels, is now less on high, but has increased by leaps and bounds at the lower or local levels. Street crime continues to increase, but the good thing about African street crime is that you can shoot back. There are, to be sure, certain legal responsibilities to be observed, but you can still carry your personal arms and you can still legally shoot a runaway, providing that you can establish that was what he was.

The situation is probably not going to get better, but people learn to live with what they must. A good man can face up to almost anything as long as he is adequately armed.

On the subject of street crime, we understand that a region in southeast Los Angeles around the intersection of Pico and 37th street is now being considered by the city council as a prospect for isolation as a war zone. The cops cannot do anything in the face of massive civil resistance, armed or otherwise. The presence of an armed enemy camp within the borders of a free state is something rather new. It is possible that this is something a free society cannot endure.

Interesting times we live in!

Our Arizona newspaper reports that the Gila River Injuns - sometimes referred to in the vernacular as "pesky redskins" - are now objecting to the proximity of the newly titled "John Wayne Highway". Seems to us that if we can have a "Cochise County", we can certainly have a "John Wayne Highway". (It might be a good idea to declare a 100 year moratorium on racist peckishness.)

Recently Rifle magazine devoted a whole issue to varmint hunting, which was a good idea except that it ignored the prince of varmints, which is the baboon. This beast is plentiful, destructive, obnoxious and dangerous to women and children. (Consensus holds that he will not attack a full grown man.) He is intelligent and wary, and the shooting is apt to be at long range. His upper canines are longer than those of a leopard, and in a group he can wipe out your whole corn crop overnight. There are those who hold that it is uncouth to shoot baboons because they are "so much like people". There are others who maintain that this is the principle reason for shooting them.

In any case, babejaan is a very sporting target. 'Tis a pity that he lives so far away.

The new name for that region of the Transvaal surrounding Johannesburg and Pretoria, is "Gauteng". Some wag has noted that in view of the current street crime situation in Joburg, the appropriate anagram for Gauteng is "get a gun".

Our family member Walt Mansell of California reminds us that big game hunting differs from most other sports in that its triumphs are re-livable. Your score on a deer or an antelope or a lion is an event that does not die out of your memory. When you sit in your living room and consider your trophy, you can call back the occasion at length and exult in your performance yet another time. It is possible that big game fishing can match this, but I cannot call to mind anything else that might. Victory in a tennis match or a motor race or a giant slalom is a wonderful thing, but you cannot replay it. With your buffalo you can.

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