Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 6, No. 13          December, 1998

Harvest Home

Just as every hunting trip is a qualified triumph, every election is a qualified disaster. "The Last Best Hope of Earth" has not been in worse shape since the darkest days of the American Revolution. Our Founding Fathers put great hope in the wisdom of the electorate, but now it appears that, contrary to Mr. Lincoln's dictum, you can fool a lot of the people most of the time. Those of us who believe in liberty were not sunk in this last go round, but we did take a couple of major-caliber hits, the worst of which was Schumer of New York. This man will be in a position of power for the next six years, and he intends to use that power to the best of his ability to destroy the "gun culture." He cannot do that all by himself, but he now has considerable momentum, especially amongst the undecided. He shares with such notables as Tony Blair and Heinrich Himmler the conviction that the private citizen should not have access to arms. The people who read this paper constitute the gun culture, and he is out to get us. Perhaps we deserve it, and if we do not pick up the torch right now and fight the good fight, we will indeed deserve it.

Progress is being made on this project of a fixed telescope sight with all adjustments in the mount. We know of two people interested in making the telescope, and three people interested in making the mount. If this proposition works out, we will have achieved yet another distinct step forward in the design of smallarms.

Note that democracy is no guarantee of political liberty. The ancient Athenians are said to have invented democracy, and what they produced was a totally repulsive place to live. They developed into a nation of snitches in which everyone was invited to tattle on his neighbor. All such personal matters as how you dressed, ate, drank and slept could be regulated by a quick and simple majority vote. Believe me, you would not want to live there.

The Athenians are only the first example. In this last election, our native state of Arizona conducted a referendum on the subject of cock fighting. A majority of voters decided to prohibit cock fighting - in purely democratic fashion. So here we have majority rule triumphing over the cultural tradition of a minority. A majority - mainly Anglos - stamped upon the recreational customs of a minority - mainly Latinos - for no other reason except what must be termed whimsical distaste. If a majority can ban cock fighting (which in no way infringes upon the rights of other people) this would establish a precedent for prohibiting, for example, trout fishing. This referendum was pure democracy and it measurably set back liberty.

Liberty and democracy are not the same, and they often actually confound each other.

In California one must have a certificate from a safety course before he can get a hunting license, but this stipulation is not applied to people born before 1945. Presumably people born before 1945 are automatically wiser than those born since. If we accept that, would it not be wise to apply the same exception to voting?

In looking for a shaft of light, we discover that family member Norm Vroman was elected District Attorney for Mendocino County in California. Norm took on the IRS and, to no one's surprise, he lost. However, he fought for right and justice, and after he was released from prison he stepped into the ring and won his point. He has not destroyed the IRS, but he has certainly embarrassed them, and in this ongoing fight for liberty, every little bit helps.

Norm points out that he may be the only district attorney in California who is an honor graduate of Orange Gunsite.

We suppose you all saw that news photograph of the Steyr Scout on active duty in Kosovo. We tried to find out how it got there, but the silence is deafening. It is interesting to note that the high cost of the SS rifle did not keep it out of the hands of these ragged freedom fighters. Money does not seem to be their principal problem.

One of the our European friends pointed out that the SS rifle is a "sporting rifle." I guess that depends on one's definition of sport. The Albanians may hold that Serb-shooting is a very popular sport in their neck of the woods.

How about all this legal chicanery involving the Glock trigger? The ambulance chasers have decided that anything they do not understand must be dangerous to life and limb. One attorney called me and asked if I would be interested in a case against the Glock people because he had heard that I "didn't like Glocks." I responded that I did not fancy the Glock ignition system, but that if he wanted to find someone culpable he should sue the man who pulled the trigger. Dead silence. Obviously he had no interest in suing the man who pulled the trigger, because this fellow did not have any money. There is a moral to this story, and I wish somebody of influence would pursue it.

I think it would be a nifty idea to remit all taxes to holders of the Congressional Medal of Honor. This would cost the government practically nothing, and it would show that at least some of us are serious about our salutes on Veteran's Day.

The 376 Steyr seems to be on the way. It is yet to be decided who will manufacture the bullet and what shape it will take, but that matter is under discussion now, and we have reason to hope that the complete package will be ready by next year's hunting season. If so, I will endeavor to take it north after moose. The 350 Remington Magnum was the perfect cartridge for moose, in addition to being useful for a lot of other things, and the 376 Steyr should be slightly better than the 350 RM in all respects.

Incidentally, the 376 Steyr cartridge has been designed and tested. It is based upon the 9.3x64 cartridge case, which has no belt, and it should get a 250-grain bullet up to about 2600f/s.

Steyr Mannlicher has decided not to color-code the stocks, but rather to color-code the magazines. This seems a good idea to us.

What this country needs is more gun clubs. We need places where shooters can get together and discuss items of mutual interest at leisure. Such groupings might settle upon established shooting ranges, but not necessarily. Shooters should take the opportunity to clump together and to recognize that we all have the same problems and that our liberties are being threatened by people who do not respect our traditions and who do get together in auditoriums and meeting halls to do violence to our freedoms.

We have powerful national organizations, notably the NRA, but we tend to sit back and wait for the NRA to take action, when we should be taking the action ourselves. In my view, gun clubs should be discussion groups. If shooting is involved, so much the better, but discussion and debate come first, followed by political activism and votes. Shooters tend to be individualists, since shooting is an individual activity, but we must not neglect our social and political responsibilities. As the man said, "We must all hang together lest we all hang separately."

South of the border the government has pretty well succeeded in disarming the citizens, and naturally the rate of violent crime is climbing. In Mexico City recently when a group of bus bandits held up a vehicle, the passengers simply killed the leader. The police tried very hard to find out who killed him and with what, but nobody was inclined to say anything. Clearly the citizen is better qualified to protect himself than any police organization, but that view is difficult to establish with a socialist.

When we undertake to divide the world into two classes of people, one such system nominates the two classes as (A) Those who want to do things right, and (B) Those who want to make money. Any proper businessman will tell you that these two things are the same. If it makes money, it must be right, and conversely, if it does not make money, it must be wrong. The trouble with this attitude is that things do not work out that way. Many crummy enterprises do well financially, while a number of others, which are more interested in product excellence, go broke. In all the years I ran Orange Gunsite, I sought only for excellence and tried to make only enough money to keep the lights burning. The results paid off, and Orange Gunsite graduates have indeed "made the world safe for humanity." Just recently we received a marvelous letter from Kansas in which one of our early graduates (E-ticket type) worked his way up to Chief of Police, indoctrinating his people with Gunsite doctrines to the best of his ability. In February of 1997, two of his people interrupted a random gunman and stopped the war in brilliant fashion. Each of the officers told the Chief afterward, that when he saw that rifle barrel trained around upon him, his only thoughts were, "Frontsight, PRESSSSS!" All other thoughts were blanked out, and the fight was over.

Absolutely made my day!

A new leopard story from India tells of a cat who wandered into a house where the televisor was on full (as is usual in the homes of the workers and peasants). The program apparently attracted the leopard's attention, so he curled up in a chair to watch, but, not surprisingly, fell asleep. When one of the children discovered the situation he told his mother, who called the police. When they arrived they decided they could not handle the job and called off the mission. What went on thereafter, the news clipping did not say.

We now note that Taurus is offering a 50-caliber Peacemaker. The piece is supposed to shoot a 350-grain monolithic alloy bullet to serve as a backup for dangerous game. This may be a good idea, but I do not find it attractive. If you cannot stop a charge with your rifle, I do not see you stopping it with a handgun. The tactical advantage that a pistol has over a rifle is availability. There are times when it is inconvenient to carry a rifle with you, but when you carry a pistol which is large enough to do a rifle's job, that pistol is no handier than a rifle. I wore an 83/8" Model 29 on one African excursion and I found it more uncomfortable in my holster than a rifle in my hand. Any handgun that is so big and clumsy that it is better carried in a box than on your belt has lost its purpose. The purpose of the pistol is unprepared self-defense. If you know that you are in trouble, or that you are going into trouble, you are better off with a two-hand gun.

Our cousin Steve Lunceford, back from his honeymoon in Africa, points out again that what gets hits in the field is concentration. The ability to concentrate when the pressure is on is what differentiates a man from a mouse. It is also the reason why the meat eaters survive.

A new standard in journalistic vacuity appeared recently on the cardinal page of Rifle magazine. To wit:
"A new standard in homely big game hunting rifles might have been set by Steyr Mannlicher with its Buck Rogers-look Scout rifle. James Bond would like this gadget, and maybe my great grandson will too. Still, I'll take a Winchester Featherweight."
Let's see now, "Form follows function" and "Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder." Besides that, the Steyr Scout is not a "big game hunting rifle." It is a general-purpose rifle, designed to do everything. (Well, almost everything. I would not recommend it for elephants, although I have had one opinion back from Africa already saying that it would be "ideal for elephant culling.") Beauty in machinery, like beauty in anything else, is a matter of taste, but a machine which functions well always tends to look more beautiful the more it is used. The essence of the scout concept is "shootability" and here it reigns supreme - as "The unfair advantage."

The discussion brings to mind the first appearance of the Porsche sports car. It was greeted with howls of derision. "It's only got four cylinders!" "It's not a V-8, it's a flat four!" "It's even air cooled!" And worst of all, "It's engine is in the back!" "This is ridiculous, it will never get off the ground." Perhaps the Porsche is "homely." Personally I do not think so, but I do not think anybody cares.

I think that we may feel strongly about not shooting people's dogs. Killing someone's pet is a lot harder to accept emotionally than killing the person himself - at least by many people. Shooting the boy's pet dog is what started the bloodshed at Ruby Ridge. If you have trouble enforcing the law because of a dog, beat him off with your baton, or your belt, or even your bare hands, but do not shoot him. Gas sometimes works, but do not shoot him. Even if you are legally justified you will come out on the wrong side of cultural opinion.

We learn from South Africa of a tourist who was playing golf on the edge of a game park and was seriously killed by an elephant. I did not hear whether the elephant had been hit by a golf ball, but I would not be surprised. I suppose it is sad that these bambiist tourists simply refuse to take wild animals seriously, but perhaps it is all for the best.

We hear from a reputable glass man that degeneration of the reticle can be obviated by simply sandwiching it between two pieces of glass. Now, why didn't I think of that!

It is said that the admonishment to the defenders at Bunker Hill was, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes." Did you ever ask yourself how far away that is? Set that test up sometime in your own front yard and let me know the results. This may be established as the effective range of the smooth-bore flintlock musket on a man-sized target.

It seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that hunters make better soldiers. Their situational awareness is better and their control over their firing system is less likely to be affected by excitement. One attack of "buck fever" seems to provide permanent immunization.

We mentioned in a previous issue that the Glock action may not work properly if the shooter's wrist is too limp. We are now informed from police sources that Glock reliability is also a function of the power of the ammunition used, and much of ammunition purchased in bulk by law enforcement agencies is underpowered. Just buy full-house ammunition, Chief, and keep those wrists straight. It is true that I am no champion of the Glock pistol, but I think it unseemly to pick on this device when it is obviously satisfactory in most uses.

We have a correspondent who guides for moose in Maine. He has observed the performance of a great many different kinds of rifles, but his favorite is the 350 Remington (short) Magnum. I have never hunted moose in Maine, but I have hunted moose in Scandinavia and I have taken such husky beasts as zebra and lion with the 350 RM in Africa. It is a great cartridge, especially as slightly long-loaded. If you have one of those nifty Remington carbines taking this round, hang onto it. You may have to make up your own ammunition, but it is worth the trouble.

Doubtless you have heard of the character up in Kenya who attempted to milk an elephant and was harshly treated for his impertinence. I fear this tale "forces me to take refuge in incredulity." That mama elephant has far too good a nose to permit smelly peasants up within milking range.

Some time ago we mentioned a gent who had achieved a sort of nirvana in the American business world, which was established by his ponytail, the maintenance of a mistress, and three Cadillacs. As we now understand it, this was not enough. This man has discovered that the things of this world are unsatisfying, and has decided to go to Israel and become a rabbi. That is certainly a worthy ambition, but Hebrew is a difficult language. I wish him well, but I do not expect much.

"Kill them all. Let God sort them out!"
How often have you heard that? That grim exhortation has been kicking around in the special forces circles for some time, and a while ago I got so curious that I decided to look it up. It is attributed to one Amal Ulric on the occasion of the siege of Beziers during the Albigensian crusade of the 14th century. The crusaders were bent on stamping out heresy, and they felt that there were too many heretics in Beziers. When the command was given to destroy everybody there was a protest to the effect that there might be some good Catholics in the town, whereupon Amal Ulric put out the word. But of course he did not put out that word, because there was no such language as English at that time. Nothing was written down, but about two months later a German monk wrote out an approximation of the expression of the besieger in Latin. It comes out: "Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet," which translates, "Kill them all. God will know his own." This attitude is a little hard on our sensibilities today, but it made perfect sense to a crusader.

I ran this story down about ten years ago and published it somewhere. Now I see it set forth in the South African publication Firearm News. It was not attributed to me, so I assume that somebody else did similar research work. Either that or I must accept it as the sincerest form of flattery.

I think we are all happy to know that for the third consecutive year fatal gun accidents hit an all time low in 1996, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. (For the statistically inclined this works out to 0.4 per 100,000.)

I was sitting here, microphone in hand, minding other people's business, when a ray of inspiration came flashing down from on high and struck me just over the left ear. The voice spoke thus (in English yet), to wit:
"If you don't want the piece to fire, don't fire it."
Now why has nobody ever thought of that! I guess it is just too simple for a legislator or a bureaucrat to fathom.

(So much for double-action, single-action, manual safeties, grip safeties, chamber indicators, trigger locks, and voodoo locks. It takes care of everything except cook-offs, and we will consider those some other time.)

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