Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 6, No. 8 20 July, 1998
The Rains Came
And they came right on the dot!
Traditionally the summer rains are to commence on the 5th of July
so as not to spoil the 4th of July parade. So that is exactly what
happened. Congratulations on excellent timing on everybody's
We were one and all dismayed at the murder
of Marion Carl, one of the great aviators and a true hero. There is
no need to recount his list of honors and achievements, but from
our standpoint it is especially sad to note that General Carl,
while unarmed, was shot dead by a goblin who broke into his house
late at night and threatened his wife. General Carl attacked the
intruder with his bare hands - and lost. As I understand it,
he had a shotgun ready in the bedroom, but no gun is of any use if
you cannot put your hand on it. This means, unfortunately, that you
must wear your pistol, or at least have it ready to hand when
anything unusual intrudes upon your home.
General Carl's murderer kicked in the door. Your door or doors
should be very difficult to kick in. General Carl responded without
his weapon. General Carl was a great man, and may God bless him,
but, sad to say, he was an easy mark.
As Barrett Tillman put it, Valhalla is now nearly full.
Excerpt from The Prairie Traveler
(the best-selling classic handbook for America's Pioneers) by
Randolph B. Marcy, Captain, US Army, 1859.
"Every man who goes into the Indian country should be
armed with a rifle and revolver, and he should never, either in
camp or out of it, lose sight of them. When not on the march, they
should be placed in such a position that they can be seized at an
instant's warning; and when moving about outside the camp, the
revolver should invariably be worn in the belt, as the person does
not know at what moment he may have use for it."
The proliferation of "pocket 45s" has us
somewhat bewildered. A pocket 45 is a good idea, but naturally it
must be well-made and easy to use. We asked Jan Libourel, our
colleague at Petersen's Handguns, for his recommendation and came
to the conclusion that a straight forward Colt Commander still has
much to recommend it, especially in the version with the shortened
butt. All sorts of service nines are being offered, especially in
Europe, but they are still nines. Using a 9mm pistol for
self-defense is much like using a 375 on buffalo. Most of the time
it will do - most of the time.
We have looked into this matter of coating
rifle bullets with molybdenum disulfide, and we conclude that while
it has certain proven advantages, such as a cleaner bore and a
slight improvement in coefficient of friction, these advantages are
minor. I will take it, if offered, with pleasure, but I will not go
out of my way to seek it.
It is never safe to say that one has seen
everything. Now, for example, we have seen somebody tack a
butt-cuff on a Steyr Scout!
Police in Britain using a radar gun noted a reading of
more than 300mph, just before their equipment fried. Seconds later
a low-flying Harrier jet hurtled past. The police complained to the
Royal Air Force about the damage to their equipment, but the police
were told to consider themselves lucky. The Harrier's target-seeker
had locked onto the radar and triggered an automatic retaliatory
air-to-surface attack. Fortunately for the police, the Harrier was
not armed with missiles."
We have all noted (all, that is, except
those people on the other side) that in states where it is now
possible to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon, street
crime has declined. The connection would seem obvious, but not, of
course, to the Brady Bunch.
This matter of terminology continues to
perplex. In activities requiring dexterity, endurance, strategy,
and skill it has become commonplace to refer to an expert as a
"master." If one looks at the record, it becomes clear that a
master is a teacher. He should be very good at what he does, but
mainly he should be good at teaching what he knows. Consider, for
example, the "headmaster" of a school. Thus a practitioner of
weaponcraft should properly not be considered a master unless he
regularly teaches his craft to others. In England in the Middle
Ages masters of weaponry were licensed by the crown, and one of the
interesting provisions was that once a master had attained that
designation he was forbidden thereafter to compete in his
Today almost anyone who has ever done well in a contest or been to
school sees no shame in opening his own school, thus placing
himself in the category of master, whether he knows it or not. The
country today is awash in two-bit schools of pistolcraft. They will
take your money and hand you a ticket, but whether you are any
better with your weapon after graduation will depend entirely upon
the competence of the master.
(Today I know of two proven and verifiable "shooting
masters" - John Gannaway and Louis Awerbuck.)
Times are tough out West. The peasantry
have been reduced to eating sharks, and the aristocracy to drinking
What does it take to be a master of
First, it requires demonstrated expertise with the chosen weapon. A
master need not be a world champion in competition, but he does
need to be a dangerous competitor. He must be able to do everything
that the weapon is capable of doing, and doing it on demand. He
must be able to show his students exactly what is expected of them,
while not, at the same time, intimidating them.
Second, the master must understand the theory of the technique of
his instrument. He must know the geometry and physiology behind the
shooting process. Generations of military and police instructors
have got by without this by simply emphasizing "This is the way we
do it!" While that may be good enough for government work, it is
not the best way to success. I remember from long years ago an
encounter with a great master of the saber. We youngsters depended
almost entirely upon speed, but this gentleman showed us that speed
was unimportant without timing. To demonstrate he would choose a
pupil and than say exactly how and where he would hit him -
and then do it. When your master can do that to you, you tend to
believe what he says.
Third, the master must have a genuine desire to impart. Here is
where the master differs from the mere expert. He must desire
excellence in his students more than excellence in himself, and
seek at all times to produce that. We have all known some very good
shots who have failed as teachers because of a lack of this
Fourth, the master demonstrates "command presence," which is a
combination of articulation, vocal tone, posture, and attitude. The
master must be able to command without rank.
Obviously, true masters of weaponcraft are not common. During the
time I ran the school at Gunsite, I sought continually for people
who displayed the necessary qualifications, but I did not find a
lot of people who made the grade. That is doubtless one reason why
really good marksmanship is so rare. Very few practitioners are
truly qualified to teach it.
The classic Luger pistol, which
introduced the now world-standard 9mm Parabellum cartridge, was
given the year designation of 08, since it was adopted by the
German army in 1908. Now, as we come onto its centennial, we see
advertised in Germany the "Sport Luger 2008." It seems to be set up
with all sorts of bells and whistles, including (for heaven's sake)
a muzzle brake. It should certainly have a strong appeal for the
"first kid on the block" pistolero.
Generally speaking, the rifle is a
slow-fire instrument. Hardly anyone gives serious thought to the
problem of getting into action quickly, although speed of the first
shot is by no means an inconsiderable attribute of the expert
marksman. This means that rifle stocks, in general, are too long. A
rifle with a short stock can be handled easily by a man with long
arms, but a long stock is a problem for a man with short arms. One
of the first things we do when we open a rifle class is to saw an
inch or two of wood off the butt. This often hurts the feelings of
the pride-of-ownership-people, but when they get to snap shooting
the pain is lessened.
The electronic disaster of Y2K
approaches. You still have 17 months in which to throw away your
In reading a new essay on Sergeant Alvin
York, the hero of World War I, we discover that his most
trying experience during the war was his trip home. He embarked at
Bordeaux and headed out across the storm-tossed Atlantic. He was
dreadfully seasick for five days. This is an awful thing to
contemplate. I know a certain amount about hardship, and enough
about pain, but I think that of all man's afflictions nausea may be
the worst. Even for a couple of hours it is terrible, but for five
days it would seem entirely too much.
Which brings us to considering another hero, Horatio Nelson, who
spent almost his entire life at sea and who was invariably seasick
whenever his ship got outside the breakwater. In his case, however,
the affliction never lasted more than 12 hours. Still, for a man to
devote his life to sea fighting with the ogre of seasickness
sitting in his lap takes a particular sort of courage.
As you may know, the gaboon viper is a
big, strong, beautifully marked, and long-toothed snake inhabiting
the low country of east Africa. In a recent anecdote we learn of a
client who asked his PH about first-aid kits. Among other things he
asked if there was any first-aid equipment for the bite of the
gaboon viper. The PH responded that if he got solidly socked by a
gaboon viper there would be no need for first aid.
The Mauser people in Germany have brought
out a brand new model which manifests no imagination at all. It may
be advanced that the Mauser 98 is so good that it needs no
modification. It is good all right, especially considering that it
is exactly 100 years old, but it is not that good.
A split infinitive is not a crime, but it should not be used by
accident, only to emphasize meaning where such emphasis is
We are now informed, by a good authority
from Texas, that you may not now enter the Alamo carrying your
pistol, even if you have all the necessary permits. "If'n that don'
beat all!" Here we have a memorial temple dedicated to American
fighting men, into which American fighting men may not bring
weapons. I know historical anecdotes are no longer taught in
schools, but I did not think that things were that bad yet in
As you know, the British have no written
constitution, and no Bill of Rights. Whatever the current majority
in Parliament says is what goes, and the current leftist government
in England makes no bones about its class hatred.
An English correspondent has told us the only man who entered
Parliament with the right idea was Guy Fawkes. You will remember
that he was the guy who tried to blow the whole place up.
On John Gannaway's triumphant desert
sheep hunt last fall, he targeted his beast at something over 300
yards, and John does not exaggerate. The specialty journalist would
have taken that shot, and later have expanded it to about 400.
John, on the other hand, who is a master hunter, wormed his way up
to 75. This can be done even with a mountain sheep by the right
We note that by mutual agreement the same
man may be at the same time a citizen of both the United States and
Mexico. This policy is called "dual citizenship." This would seem
to be politically and philosophically unsound. A citizen must be
prepared to risk his life for his country. Which country? If it
comes to blows - and it might - on which side will the
It seems the feds now are requiring an
accuracy test for federally-purchased handguns which calls for a
2-inch group (or is it 2.5) at 25 yards. Just what this has to do
with the subject is obscure. The service pistol intended for close
combat is going to be used at indoor distances by people who cannot
shoot for sour apples. Imposing an accuracy test on such arms
suggests the proverbial definition of a fanatic as "one who
redoubles his efforts after he has lost sight of his
And this bench group obsession seems to
have run away with a great number of rifleman who apparently think
that a small group diameter fired from a bench at a fixed range,
usually 100 yards, is the ultimate test of rifle quality.
Well now, small groups are fine, and we all like them, but bench
groups are essentially irrelevant. If you wish to evaluate a
rifle's quality, I suggest the MFR standard. MFR
stands for Maximum Field Radius, and it is established
The rifle is fired in two-shot pairs, standing-to-sitting, at 100
yards. Time is 10 seconds from standing looped to sitting (or
kneeling) position, unsupported. The ten shots thus achieved will
form a group, but its diameter is not its true measure -
rather group radius, from group center to the worst shot of the
ten, is the index of the combination. The lower the figure the
You cannot do a good MFR index without an accurate rifle,
but this index tests more than that. An MFR of 3 inches is
good. One of 2 inches is excellent. Bench group diameter does not
"If you look like a rabbit, and act like a rabbit, you
will be treated like a rabbit - prey for all predators."
Have you heard about the Communitarians?
Neither had we, but they exist. They are organized, and they
constitute something of a pain in the posterior. Their guru is one
Amitaj Etzioni, and his in-house propagandist is Abd el Malik.
These people have decided what is wrong with the United States, and
one of the things they find wrong is the popular possession of
personal firearms. Their idea of the way to go is Japan. (Japan?) I
do not know where these people originated (Turkey? Yemen?), but
their presumption in teaching political philosophy to Americans is
insufferable. They are so far off the track I cannot consider them
to be a menace, if it were not for the fact that they appear to
have several followers in that menagerie at 1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue - not pointing. Turks have always been something of a
problem, but let us see that these do not get over the
The more expert gardeners in our
neighborhood are already enjoying their off-the-vine tomatoes. The
Arabs maintain that a beautiful woman is evidence of the existence
of God - and one might also opine that a fresh garden tomato,
like an ear of corn fresh off the stalk, is also evidence of God's
benison. We have a short growing season here in the high country of
Arizona, but possibly we enjoy it all the more because of
Continuing in our hopeless struggle for
precise semantics we ask somebody to tell us just what exactly is a
"terrorist." My own notion is that a terrorist is one who is ready
to kill a third party, who is not involved in the discussion, in
order to coerce a first party by appealing to his humanity. That,
apparently, is not the generally accepted definition.
One of the most tiresome shibboleths
floating around is the notion of "a constitutional separation of
church and state." Anyone can read the Constitution, but in this
age of television I suppose very few people read anything. If one
reads the Constitution he will discover that "Congress shall make
no law respecting the establishment of religion, or interfering
with the free exercise thereof." That states very clearly that the
federal government cannot pass a bill saying that the Catholic
church, for example, is the established religion of the United
States. That is what it says. It says nothing about any separation,
which idea was the creation of Thomas Jefferson. Whether Mr.
Jefferson is right or not is irrelevant. There is no constitutional
separation of church and state. Read it!
I wish people would quit putting the
leopard in the category of "the Big Five." Up until recently
that was more properly "the Big Four." Certainly the leopard
is fast and scratchy, but he is not big.
These newfangled pop range finders are
very humbling. It was decided long ago in the American sporting
world that every hunter is morally bound to exaggerate the range at
which he took his animal. This has resulted in the idea that if you
cannot deck your animal way out past Fort Mudge, you are a
no-count. I have had students in rifle classes come up to me upon
occasion troubled by the fact that they did not seem to be shooting
as well as they ought to. As a matter of fact, they were usually
shooting very well, it was just that they had been reading too many
gun writers. The range finder might do something to correct this,
but I doubt it. A man can lie about his range finder reading as
easily as he can about the length of his pace.
A new passion in the firearms industry
seems to be the construction of so-called "sniper rifles." Just
what these are for is not easy to say, for successful sniping is
far more a matter of marksmanship than of equipment, but these
items are apparently easy to sell to various sorts of government
agencies, and if they will sell, the industrialists will make them.
A new entry into the field is a version of the elegant R93 from
Blaser - but this time made up in black livery and all sorts
of bells and whistles, including (for heaven's sake) a Harris
bipod. I suppose every rifle aficionado feels he must have a
specially made, long-range "bull" gun - not because he needs
it, but because he wants it, and after all, wanting it is the main
reason for the purchase of personal arms.
We have all sorts of candidates for the
Waffenpösselhaft award for '98, but one which stands out is
the exploit of the chief of police of Madison, Wisconsin, who opted
to store his service pistol in the oven - with foreseeable
results. There being no appropriate penalty for "terminal
stupidity" in his department, the chief put himself under hack for
"violation of department policy."
In reading continually into US history I
discover to my surprise that personal firearms amongst the pioneers
were not nearly as common as I had thought. For example, the
majority of recruits volunteering for Stonewall Jackson's command
in the Civil War showed up not only without shoes, but also without
guns. Evidently the only gun within reach had to stay at home with
pa and ma. In some cases, Jackson put unarmed men in his second and
third waves, instructing them to pick up weapons dropped by
casualties in the first rank.
We think of the American pioneer as invariably in possession of his
ax and his rifle. That was obviously the way it should have been,
but sometimes was not.
I have had such a response to my query
about the purpose of education that we might even be advised to
hold a true seminary on the point, preferably in Scottsdale while
the summer rates are still in force. Scottsdale may be a furnace in
August, but as long as you are indoors you do not suffer.
We hear overmuch about "self-esteem" as a
goal in elementary education. The older term "self-respect" seems
more to the point. The difference is that self-respect must be
earned by conscientious endeavor, but self-esteem seems to be
offered simply to any child who is alive and breathing. Teaching a
young person that he is excellent simply because he is there is not
the route to producing good citizens.
From family member
Ken Pantling in
England we get the following news item:
"During a bungled surveillance operation a policeman
opened fire on two innocent suspects thinking that he had been shot
by one of them. He later realized that he had, in fact, shot
himself, in the leg."
The Brits may be ahead of us on the way to total insignificance,
but not by much.
Now we have seen a brand new Walther 10mm
service pistol in bright green. What will they think of
"The generation that emerged to lead the colonies into
independence was one of the most remarkable group of men in
history - sensible, broad-minded, courageous, usually well
educated, gifted in a variety of ways, mature, and long-sighted,
sometimes lit by flashes of genius. It is rare indeed for a nation
to have at its summit a group so variously gifted as Washington,
Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, and Adams"
A History of the American People, by Paul
We note with some amusement that this
Viagra business has produced more than one interesting spinoff. It
has reduced the black market value of powdered rhino horn, and thus
reduced rhino poaching in black Africa. (Note: There is little or
no rhino poaching in the south.)
"Well, Bill [Bill Hickok] was a pretty good shot. But
he could not shoot as quick as half a dozen men we all knew in
those days, nor as straight either. But Bill was cool, and the men
who he went up against were rattled, I guess. Bill beat them to it.
He made up his mind to kill the other man before the other man had
Buffalo Bill (Bill Cody) in an interview conducted 10 January 1917
and written up in Outdoor Life via W.H.
That pretty well tells us what we need to know about
"If one does not fail at times, one has not challenged
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.