Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 6, No. 5           May, 1998

The Rite of Spring

We all cruised back to Quantico to see grandson Tyler commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. It was a very fine occasion, as we expected. Out of 308, there were 223 men who survived Officer Candidate School, the largest group since Viet Nam.

The new lieutenant had his bars pinned on by his father and grandfather, and now looks forward to an interesting time in basic school. We were delighted again in observing that there are indeed a few good men left in the country. You would not get that impression by watching television, but a visit to Quantico is enough to convince even the skeptical.

In view of all the excitement about that sad business in Jonesboro, we should note that fatalities from firearms mishaps are at an all time low today. More people die each year from medical misadventures than from accidental shooting. (Source: National Safety Council.)

Following our visit to Quantico, we ran off a pistol class at Whittington. I could not do the job full justice, since I am not yet on full duty status, but with the expert help of Colonel Bob Young, Rich Wyatt, Pastor Tom Russell, and Eric S.H. Ching, the program went pretty much as planned.

The new "Sporting Rifle Walk," laid out over to the north of the IPSC range at Whittington, has been scraped out and leveled off, but the roadways have not been surfaced as yet. The new reactive targets contributed by the family are on station, but not yet set up. We hope to have this operation ready by the September rifle class.

Regardless of what you may have been told at the SHOT Show, it is indeed possible to put a respectable trigger on that fly-weight Smith 22. It is not an absolute that one should never take anything seriously he is told by a counterman in a gun store, but one should always be careful about the statements made by salesmen of any sort of product. Whenever you find a salesman who is interested in your problem rather than sales, you have found a rare jewel.

As I rather suspected, the vote as to which is the better police weapon, the shotgun or the carbine, runs just about even. Naturally a great deal depends upon what sort of police one is talking about. A good many people wearing badges are simply not interested in shooting of any sort, and really have no business being armed.

Last year we had high hopes from Czechya about the possible productions of a new idealized service pistol, along with a fancy heavy rifle for those who need such a thing. That line has gone dead, and I do not advise anyone to wait around for anything new and startling from Ceska Zbrojovka.

The problem with the construction and marketing of new handguns is the fact that we have good handguns now, and have had for most of the 20th century. The 1911 Colt, for example, is just about right today. It may not be perfect, but it takes only a little work to make it all that anyone can want for serious work. The 230-grain JTC bullet is a more satisfactory missile than the regulation hardball, but the difference is not great. About the only major thing wrong with the 1911 is that it is too big for small hands. Oddly enough, new and highly promoted substitutes do not seem to have given that matter much thought.

We have been advised to make a point of what follows, so we dutifully comply:
At the Quantico commissioning ceremonies I was astonished to note that the "drum major," or whoever it is who struts out in front of a military band controlling both its movements and its music, was, in this instance, a female. I was profoundly shocked. In my cultural development the man out there in front of the band was by tradition the mightiest warrior in the clan, who by choice stood six feet five, measured about four feet across the shoulders, and had more combat ribbons than anybody in the regiment. So, here we had a girl doing his job! Well, she was quite splendid. I have observed and participated in a good deal of military ceremonial worldwide and I have never seen that duty performed better, if as well. The more I saw her do her stuff, the more I swallowed my preconceptions. ("And they were very great.") So much for the gender gap! I do hope that girl never gets killed in action, but if she does, she will have contributed more with her grande baton than she ever could have with her puny little M16.
I see that I am not as hard-nosed and moss-backed as I had been told.

Now our 1998 trekfest is mounting up for departure. We have far too many people aboard, but I could not find it in my heart to turn anybody down. One cannot step into the same river twice, and I cannot be sure that this excursion will be as delightful as those that have gone before, but we have the highest hopes. Among other things, we will be demonstrating the Steyr Scout, in three examples. Among its many other outstanding and radical features, the SS may be mounted with a "leopard light" on that rail underneath the fore-end. I do not plan to do a leopard myself, but having a coaxial flashlight available on your hunting rifle after dark in the African bush has many advantages. I have a feeling that this feature should be most impressive to the Africans.

Speaking of which, if I had not already known how disgusting was the historical grasp of the Chief Executive, I would have been further disgusted by his trip around the Dark Continent. I guess nothing that fellow may do can surprise us. As it is now commonly accepted, it is not Clinton's depravity which insults the nation, it is rather the fact that the people do not seem to care.

So, of course, they get the government they deserve.

To turn to the pleasant side, we recently received a marvelous letter from a friend who had just taken his 14-year-old daughter out on her first deer hunt. She had trained for the experience and she did everything right. It was Sunday, but the pair did not make church that day. When it was obvious that there was not time to get back for service, young Jesse told her father that "if God had wanted us in church he would not have blessed us with the deer." Out of the mouths of babes!

In a previous issue I spoke of Butch O'Hare's heroic defense of the carrier Lexington against the formation of nine Japanese Betty's. A correspondent who served on the Lexington at that time wrote in to explain to me that Commander O'Hare preferred to use four rather than six 50-caliber BMGs because of the ammunition supply. He could carry only 200 rounds for each of six guns, but he could carry 400 rounds for each of four guns. Damage to the target was roughly the same, assuming sound marksmanship, but more rounds per gun allowed more time on target and more passes per engagement. Here again we notice that marksmanship is a massively important factor even in modern times and using modern weapons.

The word from Ireland now suggests that "the peace process" will continue - to the last man.

Joe Sledge, who is one of the heroes attempting the forthcoming trekfest, has requested politely to be allowed to hunt in shorts in the Okavango Delta. This, of course, is against Gunsite policy (Orange Gunsite policy), as we have often pointed out. Joe, however, has been dreaming about his African adventure for most of his life, and he has read everything on the subject, most of which insists that the proper attire for an African hunter must bare the legs. So it's okay with me. The bugs, rocks and thorns won't mind, and Joe can police himself up on his own time.

We note that "The New South Africa" has now abolished universal military training. This is not a surprise. UMT (as demonstrated in such countries as Switzerland) is the bedrock of political liberty. But the new South Africa is not really interested in political liberty.

For the future of Puerto Rico our cry is "Independence, Si! Statehood, No!" The Puerto Ricans are not "American" and they do not share in our culture. They do not speak English. They did not establish the Constitution. They did not participate in the Westward Movement. And they never heard of Bunker Hill. By all means let them go their own way, as with the Philippines, and join the other independent Caribbean Islands. Doubtlessly they are good people, but they are not "us."

Please do not hang junk on a scout rifle. Among the principle attributes of the scout is compactness. What is wanted is less, not more. Already we hear of people talking of recoil reducers and flash hiders and target sights. Wrong direction!

In reading around, we discover you probably should not consider organizing a hunt in Namibia. These people are now proudly proclaiming their allegiance to the United Nations Organization, thus throwing more and more restrictions on hunting and firearms. I enjoyed a good hunt in Namibia when it was a protectorate of South Africa. At that time it worked under South African rules, which were very good. Today there are better places to go for your kudu, gemsbuck and hartebeeste.

Family member and Orange Gunsite instructor Ty Miller of Alaska must now be considered Chief of the Fireplug Club. He has taken 18 moose with his 660/350. It is indeed sad that the nifty Remington 350 Short Magnum cartridge never caught on. Today it is a hand-loading proposition, but if you have one, hang onto it. There are other medium cartridges which are as good, but none is better.

Not long ago a "new Marine" jeered at the picture of me on the cover of Lindy's book because I was not wearing my hat squared. The new Marines are very big on square hats, but as an old Marine, I am not. I have always considered the Marine Corps to be a dashing organization, and a square hat is not dashing. My first boss at basic school was Colonel Clifton Cates, one of the heroes of Belleau Wood, and he was not one to square his hat. Later I met Chesty Puller and Herman Hanneken. No square hats. In my view, if the Marines insist upon squaring hats, let them wear helmets. A helmet will look pretty good even if it is square. Meanwhile, I am not going to apologize.

Jack Furr, who was an Orange Gunsite Rangemaster, reports that one of his Mexican students last year had a most successful engagement south of the border. When set upon by two goblins, he precisely acquired the kneeling position, as taught here, and put two rounds in two targets each. One was dead on the scene, the other was dead on arrival. Though he was using only a 9mm pistol, his technique was exactly as put to him by Jack, and he came out in complete charge of the situation. This is elegant vindication of the technique.

On that subject of repelling boarders, we discovered recently that Ty Cobb, the legendary baseball player and notorious curmudgeon, was once hit upon by what today would be called a mugger in a dark alley. Cobb relieved his assailant of his pistol and beat him up with it so badly that his face could not be identified in the morgue. Street punks should be careful to pick on the right people - or the wrong people, depending upon your viewpoint.

"So the Clintons went down to the vet to have the dog neutered. Please compose your own jokes."

The National Review

In running the class at Whittington, we could not avoid comparing the conduct, posture and carriage of our students with the young men we had just seen graduated at Quantico. It seems that people who watch too much television lurch, rather than walk, and slouch rather than stride. I guess the Marines start out with the right people and take it from there, but whether they can do anything much with the louts I see hanging around city streets in baggy shorts, loose t-shirts, clod hoppers and reversed baseball caps might prove a challenge even for them.

I have assured all prospective members of the trekfest that they will not have to hold hands with Nelson Mandela.

Before leaving the British scene, we can point up the case of a career goblin with a rap sheet covering 55 felony arrests who was bitten by a police dog while resisting arrest. He complained, and believe it or not, he was paid off, since he now claims that he is psychologically terrified of dogs, a factor which may interfere with his career. Hard as it is to believe, I got this tale out of a British magazine, The Week. I hope it is not true. (Perhaps we should blame this sort of thing on El NiƱo, like everything else.)

In looking for a proper term for the tyranny of the busybody, one of our pernicious current social problems, I consulted with our associate Greek scholar, Jan Libourel, who is an editor for Petersen Publications. Jan took his advanced degree at Oxford and should know about such things. It turns out that the Greek term for a busybody is polypragmaton. If you tag "ocracy" onto the end you get a big one - polypragmonocracy. It is used to denote a social condition in which people charge madly around tending to other people's business. This is rife in the US today, but it is even worse in England, where the Brits, who have no Bill of Rights, are continuously passing garbage regulations infringing upon the behavior of the private citizen. As I understand it, you even have to have a national permit to acquire a pet. The human race got along for centuries without this concentration on regulation of all phases of life. There are some cases of this in classical Athens, and of course, we have the example of the Puritans in New England, but generally speaking, respectable behavior was a private matter, not reasonably actionable by law. Certainly throughout the world we have far too many people, and "percentage-wise" that means we have too many lawyers. When you have too many people and too many lawyers you have polypragmonocracy. (Thanks, Jan.)

Anybody yet know who killed Vince Foster?

Have you noticed that women who spout off about things they do not understand usually hyphenate their last names? In my opinion, a hyphenated last name is evidence of violation of Rule 5, which is "Thou shalt not take thyself too seriously." As the Countess puts it, "Life is funny, and life is tragic. If you don't see the joke you are not getting full value."

There will now be a hiatus in the distribution of this publication while we charge off to the Land of Golden Joys, to re-enforce our morale. We will get back to you in early June - God willing!

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