Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 5, No. 8           June, 1997

The Big Year

The production scout from Steyr Mannlicher has arrived. The working prototype was brought over in person by the factory engineer, and it looks to be splendid. It has now gone back to Steyr to be set up on the production line. Demonstrators will be available at the Whittington Shooting Center on 24, 25, 26 September, and orders may be taken at the SHOT Show in January. I have no estimate as to selling price, since marketing is an art beyond the grasp of simple men, but I am led to believe that it will be "reasonable," whatever that means.

The completed piece is such an agglomeration of nifty features that its basic worth may be somewhat obscured by minor considerations. For example, it will be the first production piece to be completely fitted with a Ching Sling, utilizing 3-point hammerhead detachable sockets. It will feature a rounded heel to facilitate the quick mount. Its integral bipod is totally out of the way when not in use. It can be set up by the owner for either 5-round or 10-round capacity at a touch of a screw driver. The composition stock is fully adjustable for length. These are all fairly small matters, but the important thing is that the piece will be ready out of the box, without recourse to any tinkering or gunsmithing.

The rifle incorporates the new "SBS" SM action, which was the brainchild of Ulrich Zedrosser, who is no longer working for SM, but operates his own consulting service in Austria. His action is of the 90-degree turnbolt variety and includes enough special engineering to warrant a separate article. It does not resemble previous Steyr Mannlicher bolt-actions in any way. For people who are accuracy happy, we can say that barrels and actions from SM portray a tradition of excellence that is difficult to match. Naturally that clean, crisp, light, Mannlicher trigger is the primary aspect of the hitability of the weapon.

Whether this piece will sell is an interesting question. For some it will be entirely too radical. For others, its futuristic aspect may be its strongest point of sale. It has taken me about seven years to bring this artifact to life, and naturally I did not do it all myself. It is very hard to convince a major producer to take a bold leap into the future. All those genuine riflemen to whom I have introduced the various scout prototypes have been completely carried away by the delightful usefulness of the weapon - generally referred to as "friendliness" - but there aren't many riflemen around, and many of those are too specialized in their particular activities to understand the virtues of a truly general-purpose instrument. My profound hope is that "a better mouse trap" will deliver at the marketplace. The factory has taken a chance on this and we pray earnestly for its success.

We mentioned running across the "Bitsy Smith" at the SHOT Show. This is their neat little 8-shot aluminum 22 wheel gun. It was fun to handle, but its trigger system was enough to render it unserviceable as issued. Now, however, Giles Stock has shown me a piece on which the trigger-action is quite respectable. The work was done by Charley Crawford of Tucson, and he stands ready to duplicate this job for $75. For those who are in need of such a thing, the telephone number is (520) 896-2554. As properly set up, the piece is a sheer delight.

Well, McVeigh has been sentenced to death, as no doubt he should be, but we are reminded by our friend Glenn Jacobs that when you find a turtle on top of a fence post you can be pretty sure he did not get there by himself.

We extract the following comment from a presentation delivered by Dr. Andrew Tadie at a recent NRA gun collectors' committee meeting.
"G.K. Chesterton is much more concerned that children are being deprived from developing riches of nobility. For Chesterton, all boys must play games - cops and robbers, Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and cowboys and Indians. Boys must play at being the knight or the soldier in order to develop the noble virtues of courage, justice, discipline and self-sacrifice. If boys are not allowed to develop these virtues when they are young, they will not develop them later. To deprive children of bows and arrows is to form men and women without self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-regard. It is to form men and women without courage, conviction or commitment. For Chesterton, possessing bows and arrows, in fact, weaponry of all kinds, is not some sort of an eccentric, aberrant or deviant behavior. It is rooted in a most precious human attribute, the inspiration to act nobly. Chesterton admits that bows and arrows can be instruments of destruction, but the good they do is greater by far than their potential harm, because they are instruments by which children are naturally inclined to reach a higher human potential."

Work on the steel reactive targets for the new field range at Whittington is proceeding apace. We hope to have a set installed in time for the Mannlicher demonstration in September.

It is interesting to infer that Bill Clinton invented slavery - for which he is being called upon to apologize. If we antedate Bill somewhat, we discover that the only thing the United States government ever did about slavery was to abolish it. Perhaps that was a mistake, but I do not feel inclined to apologize for it. As Aristotle tells us, slavery is the normal condition of much of mankind, and has been a feature of all civilizations from the Bronze Age downward. Perhaps, while we are at it, we should apologize for gravity. That certainly causes a lot of trouble.

Among other fascinating information we acquired in our wanderings was that Flight 800 was definitely shot down by a missile. The most careful examination of all relevant facts by Accuracy in Media leaves no doubt about this.

It now seems an official policy of one of the obscure branches of the United Nations Organization to declaim that firearms in the hands of private citizens are a "problem." It seems quite obvious that privately owned firearms do not constitute a problem but rather a solution. Privately owned firearms are not only the strongest means of combating crime, but they are additionally the ultimate answer to tyranny. I suppose that idea is too difficult for a UN official to grasp, but it is all the more reason that the United States should resist the tendency to take the UN seriously.

Last week we were honored to deliver the dinner speech at the annual meeting of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness in San Diego. This association is the brainchild of family member Dr. Art Robinson, who is one of the distinguished minds of our time.

The program occupied two days, and included presentations by a selection of the most impressive savants of the country. We learned about global warming, the prospects for the stock market, the creeping horror of the rejection of objective reality in academia, the prospects for the colonization of Mars, and the "Chicken Little Syndrome." This last is the tendency of various sorts of people to wring their hands and view with alarm phenomena about which they have not the slightest technical preparation.

Those attending the conference were primarily scientists and medical men, and they were one and all dismayed by the sort of public hysteria promulgated by people who are not only ignorant of the subject at hand, but have no desire to correct their ignorance.

It is hard to assess the motivation of these Chicken Little types. There does not seem to be any financial advantage in crying that the sky is falling, but perhaps the simple desire to be noticed is at the root of these things.

The Countess and I felt enormously enriched by the entire experience, and feel doubly honored at the invitation to address a group of this distinction. It was a great weekend.

Rumor has it that the regulatory or "busybody" gene has been isolated. This is that aspect of the personality which compels the sufferer to keep stepping into other people's affairs and attempting to straighten them out. For example, the US Humane Society is now presuming to advise the Sub-Zambezi Africans in matters of wildlife conservation. Wildlife conservation south of the Zambezi has been one of the triumphs of late 20th century civilization. Those people know what they are doing, which would appear to be more than can be said of the US Humane Society.

Another example of the proliferation of the busybody gene is the Peace Corps, which spends its time sending people to remote parts of the world to tell the locals how to do what they already know how to do. The list goes on and on.

The FBI has got Lon Horiuchi teaching marksmanship at Quantico. In view of the fact that the party line there is that he was shooting at somebody else when he killed Vicky Weaver, it would seem that perhaps they have the wrong man in that job.

You doubtless caught that knot-headed remark by Sean Connery about firearms regulation in England in which he exhorted people to "remember Dunblane." What we remember most about Dunblane was that there was nobody around who was either willing or capable of terminating that goblin while he was killing children. It may be in the nature of show business celebrities to talk first and think later.

"The Art of the Rifle" has now been shipped and is available from Paladin Press in Boulder, Colorado. Please note that I do not have any copies of my own for sale. Likewise, I have no copies of Lindy's book. For that please address,
Wisdom Publishing, Inc., 1840 E. Warner Road, Box 238, Tempe, AZ 85284, USA.

As I may have mentioned, daughter Lindy pulled off a very superior shot last November in Montana. We could not measure the range at that time because of snow and difficult terrain, but Roy Coneen has now put a laser range finder on the site and discovers the distance to have been 287 yards. (That works out to about 625 gun writer's yards.) Target angle was about 090°, and the shooting position was the fist rest. A shot at this distance verges upon the edge of bad sportsmanship, but everything worked out for the best. The load used was the Federal "Enhanced Energy" 30-06/180. The bullet entered about midway up the barrel in line with the foreleg and exited with good expansion. The beast ran a few paces and fell. Lindy says that she would not have taken the shot except that it was nearing sundown on the last day of the hunt and she really wanted to fill her freezer. The elk was so far away that it was not feasible to pick out a particular aiming point on the shoulder, so she held dead center and hoped for the best. If she had had high magnification available, she could have seen her target better, but she could not have hit it any better. The rifle, of course, was the Springfield pseudoscout. At 8lbs it is a bit overweight, but - in the right hands - it shoots up a storm.

Family member Tom Graziano points out that he must be considered "a radical" - because he can read. He may have something there. Certainly the majority of our masters in Washington never seemed to have mastered the art. At least they have never read the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Among the recent Clintonisms is his ambition to forbid firearms to minors. It would not occur to the sleazemaster to reflect on the problems of marksmanship training, but certainly I think we all realize that adolescence is the proper time of life to take up shooting. I think rifle should come first, and then pistol, and then shotgun, but I do not feel strongly about that. In any case by the time a young man reaches the age of 18 he should be fully in charge of a number of physical skills - most especially shooting skills.

There seems to be some confusion about the dates for the forthcoming Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial at the Whittington Shooting Center. Put down 17, 18, 19 October.

We have been involved in some interesting correspondence concerning the concept of "personalized killing," which we mentioned in a previous issue. It appears that some people think it would be nice if we were to keep war impersonal. Each to his own opinion, of course, but this does not seem to be a good line of thought. In the first place it is impossible. People get killed in war, and while it is certainly true that in today's wars death is not frequently caused by the individual act of an individual soldier, to shy away from this concept is to diminish the soldier's motivation to do his duty. It has been so long now since we have had a full sized war that a large part of the population cannot remember the essential wartime propaganda which was fed to us. It is my own belief that hatred is necessary to the successful conduct of war. This may be unpleasant to contemplate, but I do not think it can be successfully denied. When a man is required by his duty to put his life on the line, politics is usually the last thing on his mind. I remember how I felt, and I feel that my emotions were more the rule than the exception. The Nips hit us without warning when we were sleeping in on Sunday morning, and our response, for the most part, was completely savage.

I think this has always been so. In a recent bit of dialog I dug up concerning Stonewall Jackson, he had just completed the evening survey of a battlefield on which thousands of men on both sides lay dead and dying. Jackson was a very reserved man, not given to outbursts, but as he returned to his tent he exclaimed:
"How horrible war is!"

His aide responded. "It certainly is, General, but what can we do? They have invaded our land."

Jackson's response was a shout. "Kill them! Kill them all! Every last man!"
War has got to be personalized. If you forget that, you will lose.

People attending pistol classes should remember that they should not show up with a piece that cannot be cocked. If only trigger-cocking is available on your firearm, you cannot be brought to the skill level you expect for your money.

Fred Wells, the famed custom gunsmith of Prescott, recently showed us a most curious artifact. Fred makes his actions up from scratch, and in this case he had incorporated the elegant old rotary magazine of the Mannlicher rifle into a Mauser action, seeking the best of both worlds. Those rotary magazines - Krag, Mannlicher, Savage 99 - have always appealed to us, but they are certainly not common. I suppose they are simply too expensive for modern industrial procedures.

Action reports keep trickling in from Africa. Family member Mark Feddern tagged himself a spectacular kudu, but more than that he became involved in a rather cozy confrontation with an elephant. No shooting was necessary, but there was a certain amount of acrimonious dialog.

One of our British correspondents reports with alarm that things have really gone to hell on Pitcairn Island way down there in the South Pacific. It seems that the 25 surviving citizens are disregarding their gun laws. What is the world coming to!

In that connection, we learn from a Greek correspondent that while private enjoyment of shooting is out of the question in Greece, it is very popular on Crete. On Crete, as in most of Europe, there are all sorts of restrictions on firearms, but the Cretans solve this problem neatly by simply disregarding the regulations. Let us hope that sets an example for the rest of the world.

While in San Diego we discovered that the town is very big on bumper stickers. Two we had not seen elsewhere were:
"Shoot hunters for food and sport."
And another announced:
"If we'd known they'd have been such a nuisance, we would've picked our own cotton."

Certain observers have recently raised a point about Thomas Jefferson's insistence on "a wall of separation between church and state." What Mr. Jefferson intended was the avoidance of a state church, such as the Church of England, but certainly not the abolition of any religious observance on government land.

More pertinent today might well be a wall of separation between state and school. We may not wish to be taught how to think by clergymen, but to me it seems much worse to be taught how to think by politicians.

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