Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 5, No. 9           August, 1997

High Summer

Now again we can enjoy two of the great luxuries of life - tomatoes fresh off the vine and corn just minutes off the stalk. The haute cuisine has much to recommend it, but no degree of artistry can improve on God's natural handiwork. We must take note of these things consciously and carefully; all too soon they will not be ours to enjoy.

Now we note a new 1911 clone from Israel called "The Bull." At first glance it appears to be excessively large and heavy, but it probably shoots very well.

5 August is "Lion Day," our own personal holiday commemorating the lion that Danie van Graan fetched up for us five years ago at Engonyameni. We note with gratification that Danie was able to bring off another specialty lion for Dan Predovich, our family member just returned from his great adventure. All members of the Predovich tribe had a nifty time "way down upon the Crocodile River." The van Graans have a masterful touch in organizing these affairs, and we consider ourselves very fortunate in having run across them. Family members who plan the Great African Adventure should take note.

We discover that Karamojo Bell in his last published article (The American Rifleman, December 1945) declared that if he were to go back to Africa he would go by choice with a 308. In view of the outstanding results my grandchildren have had with that cartridge in Africa, I have no reason to disagree with his choice.

If you plan to attend the Scout Party at the NRA Whittington Shooting Center in New Mexico on 25, 26 September you had best make your reservations now. I have no way of predicting the number of the faithful who will want to attend that event, but accommodations are not unlimited. Steyr Mannlicher promises to have ten of the rifles on hand for examination. (Some 40 have already been sold, without announcement of any price.) But while there will be plenty of opportunity to fire the pieces, much time must be devoted to the theoretical considerations involved in the scout concept. So many new and unusual features are incorporated into the Steyr scout that I discover it is going to take me a full page of copy just to list them. I believe what we have here may truly be called "a great leap forward," though I do not want to run the risk of building the idea too much. Let us just point out that the most outstanding attribute of the scout is a characteristic which may be termed "friendliness." This is very hard to describe, but it is quickly appreciable on contact.

Now it appears that we have a very popular movie being shown entitled "Men in Black." Naturally we thought that the men in black are the Ninja - cop spooks who show up in the middle of the night carrying squirt guns and wearing black armor. Apparently in Hollywood they do not think about such things.

We were impressed with Scalia's ruling on the Brady Bill, in which he pointed out that the purpose of the US Constitution was, as much as anything, to save us from ourselves. This is the point that the Political Left has never been able to understand, but, of course, many of its exponents never seem to have read the Constitution.

I am sorry to report that our ambitions for updating the personal protection program of the National Rifle Association have been vitiated by the new committee assignments going into effect in September. T.J. Johnston, Leroy Pyle and I constituted the sub-committee charged with re-writing and updating NRA defensive pistol doctrine and bringing it up to modern times. All three of us were fired, and I have no hope that the new committee (still under the previous chairman) will be able to wade out of the morass of antiquated precedent.

Well, we tried. I doubt if our failure will result in anyone's death or dismemberment, but it will probably serve to embarrass those involved in the personal defense program.

It is curious to note that it is practically impossible to acquire a firearm that is fully ready for use "out of the box". This means that when you buy a rifle or pistol you must take it immediately to a gunsmith before you fire a shot out of it. This keeps the gunsmiths in business, of course, but we find it increasingly difficult to get a gun back from a gunsmith once he has taken it aboard for modification.

(We hope that the Steyr scout will be ready out of the box. If so, this will be one of its most outstanding innovations.)

In a recent issue of Magnum magazine we were treated to the wistful wail of the African professional hunter. Where else, the author asked, can you find a job that keeps you out in the fresh air and sunshine from morning til night, endeavoring to please a stranger whom you do not know and who may kill you at any moment?

The life of a PH is indeed fraught. It appears marvelous at first glance, but it has its drawbacks. Our friend Ian McFarlane of Okavango once estimated that the job of an African PH was 50 percent public relations, 20 percent camp management, 20 percent motor maintenance, and 10 percent hunting. Ian once told us the tale of a customer who really did not want to get out in the bush, but rather to lie around drunk in his tent all day while the PH collected his trophies for him. Ian said that was the most fun he had on a hunt for many years.

Back in an earlier day, the term "role model" was not encountered. The term we used in my youth was "hero." Now that there are no more heros we point up entertainers as role models, and our appreciation of them is based almost entirely upon the amount of money they amass. Now I have nothing against money, (I think everybody should have some), but I cannot conceive of it to be admirable in itself. A very wealthy man may indeed be an admirable character and make use of his money in a way that may enlarge his true worth. Howard Hughes and Jim Hall are examples. But the idea of a role model seems personified in one to whom the youth can look up and say "I want to be like that." It seems tragic for the young to feel that the only thing worth doing is to make money, totally oblivious to the question of character. In that earlier day a young man could look at Theodore Roosevelt or Blackjack Pershing or Thomas Edison and say "I want to be like that." Today he is more likely to contemplate the wealth of some illiterate slob who plays games or makes tasteless noise for a living and say "I want to be like that."

Something is wrong here, and we cannot blame it all on television.

Liberation proceeds apace in South Africa. It would appear that mayors as a group are leading the march. Consider: I guess this is social progress.

Of course, there is a good side down there too. In Johannesburg recently, a felon fleeing from the police racked up his car in the zoo. In attempting to escape he jumped into the gorilla cage. What happened next is unclear, but the felon apparently felt he was unpopular with the gorilla and shot him three times (with his 9mm). The gorilla won this engagement and was congratulated by the police. He was not seriously hurt.

In further good news from South Africa we find that car owners are increasingly refusing to be victims. Two carjackers were shot dead in one week, as reported in Vuurwapen Nuus. The police response was,
"We cannot combat crime anymore now that our standing orders have been changed and we cannot shoot criminals. Our hands have been cut off. It is totally beyond us, so the public will have to do it for us."
Street crime has certainly been increasing in South Africa, but the good side of that is that you are encouraged to fight back.

In theory, one should acquire wisdom with age, but sometimes it seems to me that the older I get the more things there are that I do not understand. Among these things is recoil effect. When you shoot, your launcher bounces back in rough proportion to the momentum of the projectile and the weight of the weapon. We all know this and we accept it, but it seems to me that many people apply unnecessary concentration to what we used to call "fighting the problem." It is true, of course, that a very powerful cartridge fired in a relatively light weapon will kick. This kick can be measured, and obviously it varies from one weapon to another, but within reasonable limits its effect is far more mental than physical. Fred Wells of Prescott has been building very powerful weapons for many years, and I have fired a couple of them. Fred says that the effect of the recoil of the weapon on the shooter is 85 percent mental, and I am inclined to agree with him.

Recently a friend of mine, who is female and not at all used to rifle shooting, decided that she wanted to get a piece for her own use and was torn between the 308 and the 7-08. Somebody had told her that the 7-08 will kick less, presumably because its 7mm bore is smaller than that of the 30 caliber. If there is indeed any difference in recoil between the 7-08 and the 308, it certainly will be too minor for my friend to detect, yet she regards this choice of calibers as a major problem.

I have heard both sides of the discussion about whether a big man is better able to absorb recoil punishment than a small - or vice versa. Pointless argument.

The fact is that the blow delivered by the butt of the rifle or shotgun to a shooter is simply not heavy enough to bother with. Anyone who plays contact sports is subjected to heavier blows than will be delivered by the butt of his rifle, and more continuously.

The best thing to do about recoil is to ignore it.

Another thing I do not understand about is the shooting stick. It appears that shooting sticks are the rage now in Africa, probably due to the discovery by the professional hunters that their clients as a group are conspicuously lousy shots. In Africa, of course, one has a crew along to carry the water bottle and retrieve the game, if any. Such a crew can also carry shooting sticks. As it happens I whittled myself a set of shooting sticks as a youth and discovered they are far more trouble than they are worth. They can be useful in high grass, but ranges in such cover tend to be short, and a reasonably competent marksman ought to be able to handle the problem without cumbersome gadgetry. I have hunted in that high grass on several occasions, and I have always been able to find a convenient tree, shrub or fence post when necessary. I took my first three buffalo in high grass, but in each case the shot was taken from offhand without any artificial help. A buffalo at killing distance is a big target.

But now I have even heard of people using shooting sticks with a pistol. Gadzooks!

Family member and shooting master John Gannaway has finally realized the ambition of a lifetime. He has been "drawed" for desert sheep! For thirty years, John has put in unsuccessfully for a sheep tag, and now he has it. I can think of no greater challenge in the hunting field than the desert Bighorn. John has done everything else that an Arizona hunter might aspire to, and now has come the Great Day!

Tony Blair, the new Prime Minister of England, has announced officially that his government's grotesque gun laws are not expected to have any effect upon crime, but rather to eliminate what he calls "the gun culture." If he succeeds in eliminating the gun culture in Britain, he will presumably feel good. Isn't that sweet? Well, we ought not to jeer too loudly at the Brits. Just look at what we have elected!

From USA Today we discover that there is a Senior White House Advisor named Rahm Emanuel. In his words, "A gun in the hand of an adolescent is either an accident or a crime waiting to happen." Whether he intends to say that all adolescents are criminals, or just mechanically incompetent, is not clear. A man who can say that must be an inhabitant of another planet and thus cannot be expected to communicate accurately in English.

There may be a few people who did not catch family member John Milius' great work "Rough Riders" - but not many. John has rendered a distinct service to the Republic in presenting the case for heroism at a time when we sadly need it.

Theodore Roosevelt was without doubt the greatest American of modern times, and fully deserves his graven image on Mount Rushmore. The great events of his life are too numerous and cover too broad a scope to be rendered in one piece of cinematography, but his adventures in the Spanish American War are enough to fill one gigantic piece of movie making, and friend Milius has done full justice to the task.

One cannot escape the conclusion that we produced better men a hundred years ago - in all respects. To quote Chilton Williamson, Jr.:
"[The men who fought in those wars] were men indeed: offspring of a culture in which physical strength and stamina, resourcefulness, courage, and stoicism were balanced by cultivation, learning, fluency in self-expression (written or spoken), and the gentleness that used to be called gentility."

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