Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 6, No. 12          November 1998

First Frost

The Sixth Annual Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial was an even more resounding success than the previous five. The amount of histrionic and literary talent possessed by the Orange Gunsite family is quite amazing. In addition to the various declamations, both as original work and selected from renowned artists, we had two renditions from Shakespeare that were quite enough to blow you off your perch - one by Amy Heath and the other by Colonel Clint Ancker.

The theme for this year's gathering was "honor," a word less frequently used by our citizens at this time. The words Duty, Honor, Country are inscribed above the portals of our service academies, and yet I wonder if our mythical "man in the street" would be able to define them. So we spoke about honor, especially as exemplified by our patron hero, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. We attacked the subject from various directions without, of course, coming up with a flawless definition of the term. But the fact that we have difficulty defining it does not mean that we ought not to think about it, especially at a time when our nation has been held up to ridicule throughout the civilized world by the behavior of a conspicuously dishonorable man. A very popular tattoo in the 19th and early 20th centuries was "death before dishonor." To make that statement today in or around the District of Columbia would be to provoke dirty jokes and raucous laughter. To this level we have descended.

The situation in which we find the United States of America - the last best hope of Earth - is the worst since Valley Forge. We cannot, on that account, give way to despair. We must fight back at every level and by every means. And the first weapon is the vote. The forthcoming election will demonstrate whether the people of America are worthy of what their forefathers gave them. Those forefathers were extremists in every sense of the word. Let us hope that we need not put the matter to a test again. However, if it comes to that, let us all vow to be worthy of the task.

It seems to be firm now that Steyr Mannlicher will not go to a left-hand version of their new bolt-action, as used in the scout. You lefties may just go to the Blaser R93, which is certainly no tragedy. The 93 is not a scout, but it is a delightful rifle nonetheless - one of the outstanding artifacts of the day.

The shooting games at Whittington were great fun, marred only slightly by unnecessarily brisk winds. The basic pistol tests showed very clearly how easy it is to lose one's edge through lack of practice. I emphasize again that one need not go to the range to conduct his pistol practice. The difference between a qualified marksman and a duffer is that the former knows where his shot would have gone if his weapon had been loaded. Thus he can put himself to very profitable exercise in his own quarters without firing a shot.

We noticed also that too many people seemed to think that elementary gunhandling is a superficial requirement. Part of this was due to the fact that a good many participants had not been to school. We have made it a practice in the past of allowing only those people to shoot who have been to school and acquired certificates. This year we thought to relax that a bit, and I was shocked at the result. Next year we will apply the basic rule - "If you haven't got your ticket, don't get on the line."

The balloons and the rifle clays are all the more entertaining for being a Whittington exclusive. I do not know of any other place where you can try flying clay birds with your rifle. (Marc Heim distinguished himself by breaking four out of five with his Steyr Scout.)

I must apologize to the great state of Texas for getting my story garbled about the decimation by the Mexicans of the Texan prisoners. I have made much worse mistakes than that in my time without attracting nearly as much rage from the bleachers.

On the tactical walk, which is operable if not yet complete, we noticed that the hunters had all the advantage. Hunters seem to develop a "situational awareness" that city slickers cannot match. People who do not regularly take to the woods can be counted upon to walk right by targets in plain sight. I guess city dwellers cannot be bothered with the perils of their surroundings.

On the subject of the perils of one's surroundings, we note that a young park ranger was instantly killed just last month in the southern end of the Kruger Park in South Africa. He had been given the job of protecting a bunch of tourists on a night game watch. The only sound the tourists heard was the clatter of his dropped rifle. One correspondent expressed surprise that the leopard had been able to get so close without being noticed. I do not know very much about leopards, but I do know that the leopard owns the dark. At night a leopard moves like smoke through a fog.

It is nice to know that tourists in African game parks are protected by armed rangers. There is some question as to what protects the protectors.

We have been out on a night prowl in just that part of Kruger Park. It was a very fine experience.

We hear of a Glock problem in New York caused by repeated failure to function in many different instances. This is rather interesting in view of the fact that the Glock appears to be a conspicuously reliable pistol. It does need, however, a stiff wrist. If you limp-wrist a Glock its slide may not retract fully. This suggests that probably there is no trouble with the pistol, but there may be trouble with the training staff.

Family member Paul Kirchner informs us that you can get the deluxe version of Ortega's "Meditations on Hunting" from "" for $40.00. The regular price is $60.00. Jump at the chance!

If you visit the Jefferson Memorial in Washington you will note that it is your civic duty to be politically incorrect. In gold letters around the inside of the rotunda President Jefferson declares unalterable opposition to "every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Political correctness is neither political nor is it correct. It amounts to social censorship, and the sooner we spit it out, the better.

The behavior of our federal and state ninja in their conduct of firearms investigations is quite peculiar. They seem given to explosive speech and foul language. In every case we have heard about recently the people who break down the door on the possibility that there may be an improperly registered weapon in the house give forth with language which makes law enforcement look bad. There is a curious violence about this whole matter which is hard for me to understand. In the two most flagrant cases - Waco and Ruby Ridge - all they had to do was ask, but when it appears that there may be even passive resistance to these midnight riders, they seem to lose all sense of balance. They not only disgrace themselves by their speech, but they frequently resort to physical force with no cause at all. Family member John Schaefer was on the receiving end of such an action in New Jersey recently, and he gave us a clear description of it at the reunion. And just last month in Taft, California, an honest shopkeeper, with no previous record of any kind, wound up dead behind his counter. The ninja reported that he had killed himself and then they had shot him three times after he was dead. I cannot put much credence in that story, but that is what appeared in the papers.

Apparently a certain kind of enforcement type in this country operates in deadly fear, warranted or not. Up till now I have not heard of a victim who shot back and killed the law enforcement officer. (An exception was the initiation of action by shooting a pet dog at Ruby Ridge.) These people seem terribly afraid. One wonders of what.

On 15 October USA Today ran a photograph of a Albanian militiaman in Kosovo packing a Steyr Scout. He was apparently leading his troops. I guess the word gets around.

"One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them."

Thomas Sowell

South Africa has long had a problem with illegal immigration across its borders from the north. This has grown since the revolution because of the almost total deactivation of the police and border guards. The army (the South African National Defense Force), is now in charge of patrolling the borders, and it arrested 2,601 illegals during 1997 and another 2,159 so far in 1998. It turns out that the army is now getting some help from the wildlife, as there are now eleven cases of illegal immigrants being scarfed up by lions in the dark as they try to sneak around check points. These are reported, and it is likely the total is much higher. In extracting somewhat out of context I can quote: "Three illegals were killed by lions within a matter of three weeks, and the KNP officials are concerned about their safety." To quote Dr. William Gerrenbach, "The problem is caused not by the lions, but by the illegal immigrants." Now, there is a man who has his priorities straight.

Colonel Bob Young, our neighbor from just up the road, has taken off for far places for a whole month devoted to enlightening the ignorant. This is a excellent way for a Master to acquire a pleasant amount of spare cash, but "Ya gotta know the territory."

"You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in their struggle for independence."

C.A. Beard, via Harold Hayes

On the way over to Whittington, the staff decided to define "The Four Wimps of the Apocalypse," as follows: Timidity, Avarice, Sensitivity, and Ignorance.

We got into some discussion about the matter of sensitivity, since it seems to be definable in several ways. We do feel, however, this exaggerated social tenderness manifest in the school system definitely deserves a place on the list.

Note that street crime is on the way up in Britain, whereas it is on the way down in the United States. We may attribute that to the attitude manifest in the two nations toward the personal ownership of firearms.

"Day by day, case by case, the Supreme Court is busy designing a constitution for a country I do not recognize."

Supreme Court Justice Antonio Scallia

My own personal SS rifle, which was previously designated "Old No. 6" after the original press demonstration at Whittington, I have now renamed "Galatea." Galatea is a true treasure, and one of her most outstanding features is a superlative trigger personally adjusted by Elmar Bilgeri from the factory. Now it comes to pass that the factory is unwilling to put triggers like that on guns to be sold over-the-counter. At 26 ounces on the final break, it is deemed to be "unusual" and an invitation to mishaps in the hands of the unenlightened. Therefore you are unlikely to have, at this time, that trigger in your scout. Solution: Send your piece to Gun South in Alabama and tell Einar Hoff that you want a "Jeff Cooper trigger" in your gun. There is a factory technician at Gun South who can do this job. Moreover when you take delivery on your scout, either before or after the tuning job, take the butt spacers out. One of the prime advantages of the scout is compactness. Extra stock length does you no good.
Gun South, PO Box 129, Trussville, Alabama 35173, (205) 655-8299.

I am now informed that there is a specialized security detail in evidence around the Pentagon after dark wearing black uniforms. Now black is an excellent color for a dress uniform, as demonstrated by the SS before and during World War II, but black is a very poor color for a fatigue uniform. It does not make the wearer look smart, it just makes him look scruffy. Plus that, a black fatigue uniform makes its wearer highly visible except in pitch black, where target identification is the main problem.

Bumper sticker: "Help Stamp Out Sleaze"

These bunny huggers used to be simply comical, but it appears they are no longer a joke. They feel they cannot make their case in the courts, so they resort to popular disturbance, including vandalism, arson, and serious property damage. It is getting to the point where if they do not like what you do they feel justified in preventing you from doing it by force. Anarchy has its points, but this is not one of the good ones.

"Who wanders unarmed deserves what he gets."

The Guru

It is not only the cats who are doing the killing in the African bush. We now have a case in which an American sportsman was squashed after dark by an elephant up in Zambia. From what I make out in the story, it was a clear case of Condition White. The first principle of personal defense is alertness. If you are not alert, decisive and fast, you should not be surprised if something gets you.

We now have 24 steel reactive targets either on station or in production for the tactical walk at Whittington. About half of them have been paid for by the faithful. Note that if you choose to buy a target your name will be attached to it for all to see. Everyone who tried the tactical walk enjoyed it, which is no surprise since we have used similar exercises before to everyone's satisfaction. The targets are expensive, of course, and they are subject to vandalism, but I think the situation at Whittington will prove satisfactory to all. As with our original "fun house" at Orange Gunsite, this sort of shooting exercise may become popular worldwide. As of now there are some excellent field reaction courses on military establishments, where money is no object, but as far as I know the private trail walk at Whittington is unique at the present time.

Family member Frankie Lou Nicholson of Nebraska tells us she ran across a counterman at a gun store who explained to her that high velocity in a rifle cartridge "enables you to miss quicker."

We note an unfortunate tendency on the part of the unenlightened to categorize firearms, particularly rifles, by caliber designation. The first question asked is, in examining a firearm, "What is its caliber?" apparently not realizing that most commercial offerings can be had in a variety of different cartridges. This habit, I guess, is the backbone of the industry, wherein a new cartridge is always greeted with glad little cries, regardless of whether it does anything that needs to be done. In my opinion, there is no reason at all for such items as the 264 Winchester, the 280 Remington, the 338 Winchester, or the 8mm Remington. Still, if you can tell your questioner that the rifle that he is looking at is chambered for a new and exotic cartridge, you have really grabbed his interest. I will doubtless be criticized on this very point when the 376 Steyr appears; however, I think that here we have something that is demonstrably useful. The 376 Steyr is ballistically very much the deceased 350 Remington Magnum, which, though it did not sell, was an excellent round. Its caliber is 376, rather than 350, simply as a rule-beating device - the rule being silly and worthy of evasion. The 376 Steyr has no belt, and it is no longer than the 350 Remington Magnum or the 308, making it suitable for use in a scout-type action. In a light rifle, it will kick. (As I was told the 350 RM would when I first bought it.) But those who are recoil sensitive are advised to stick with a lesser weapon. It may jar loose the reticles of telescope sights, but there are developments in the works to obviate that. The 376 Steyr cartridge is apparently ready for production, and it should be just about perfect for Alaska, as well as very handy in Africa.

We got into a pungent discussion with family member Larry Berry as to the curious fact that a great many people who consider themselves shooters do not shoot. Apparently a certain kind of personality enjoys owning firearms, but he feels that shooting them is not part of the play. He will quote you ballistics and group sizes, but he will very rarely go to the range and shoot recreationally. Very frequently he thinks that the number of guns he owns is the measure of his personal worth, whether or not they are particularly good guns. Hence a properly designed general-purpose rifle, such as the Steyr Scout, frustrates such a person. He does not want a rifle that will do everything. He wants to have a different rifle for every day of the month - not to shoot, but to talk about. Well, to each his own, and as long as a man is a recreational shooter and gun owner, he is on our side and we both vote the right way - or so I hope to believe.

Our great good friend Danie van Graan of Engonyameni reports two buffalo kills now with his "Co-pilot." That little gun is, like the Steyr Scout, a triumph of design. It is definitely a specialty item, but for people with that special need, it is the perfect answer.

We continue to be depressed at the level of weaponry skills manifested by our law enforcement establishment. Some cops are quite good with their weapons. Most are not. In the 19th century it was customary, especially in the western United States, for a peace officer to furnish his own weapons, and I think there is much to be said for that. A man has more confidence in the gun that he picked out and trained with himself. There is an additional advantage that there would be no need for police firearms training, since the officer would not be hired until he could demonstrate that he was fully qualified with the weapon of his choice. Now there is a way of saving money that no one has brought up till now!

We regularly see the English publication "The Week" and we admire it for the breadth of its interest in world affairs. It is filled with odd and curious notations about international activities and it is quite thorough in its examination of the United States scene.

We discover, however, a curious and unsavory aspect of the British culture, and that is the proliferation of foul language by people whom one would have thought to be "respectable." A good bit of the coverage in "The Week" periodical is given over to the activities of celebrities, and if we are to believe it, people in prominent positions today actually prefer to be disgusting in their speech. Obscenity does not lend force to one's language, it merely reveals a paltry vocabulary. When I was a lad, cadets at the military academy and midshipmen at Annapolis were required to memorize a speech made in Congress by a gentleman from Arkansas (what else?) in which he was taking offense at the idea of changing the pronunciation of his state. This declamation starts out, "Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker! May God damn your paltry soul to hell!..." And it continues for a page and a half using what must be considered a masterly command of objurgation. The gentleman does not use the same word twice. If you wish to use obscenity well, note his example.

During my years in the military it was customary to use gutter language under field conditions, if not on the platform. I suppose that is true today, but the monotonous use of four or five obscenities is more dull than forceful, and I gave up the practice as soon as I achieved some degree of sophistication.

But "The Week" analyzed this phenomenon and pronounced the idea that the use of foul language establishes the speaker as "one of the boys," and thus permanently identified with the masses, as opposed to the classes. I suppose a celebrity feels that his popularity is what makes him a celebrity, and he cannot be popular unless he appears to be a vulgarian. If this is the truth, it is certainly a very sad truth, for we who are fortunate enough to use the noble English language are personally befouled when we desecrate it. In my opinion, it is far better to be a snob than a slob.

Victims almost always die in Condition White. Do not let that happen to you!

Let us not forget about Spc New, who received a Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD) from the Army because he refused to obey orders to fight for a foreign power. We can hardly blame the Army for this action, because Spc New was clearly guilty of insubordination, and we cannot have an army in which the lawful nature of orders is open to discussion by subordinates. The principle here, however, is important. It is a perilous thing to dispute the legality of the orders of one's superior officer, but men of honor have sometimes felt the need to do it.

Election time is upon us. VOTE! Your dignity depends upon it.

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