Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 7, No. 11          October, 1999

Hunting Season

Now is the grand time. October is the finest month, and Autumn is the finest season. How nice that they coincide! Now is the time for all the faithful to re-read "Meditations on Hunting" by José Ortega y Gasset. It is a work that needs to be re-read once a year, and now is the best time. About every third line in "Meditations" deserves quoting. If you have any friends who dislike hunters and hunting, Ortega provides you with a perfect ammunition for return fire. Hunters know and understand things that non-hunters do not, and this fills the latter with envy and malice. As Sheridan put it, "There is no passion so strongly rooted in the human heart as envy." We may be sorry for these poor people, but we cannot let that bother us. "So hear the call! Good hunting all, who heed the jungle law!"

This year's Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial is also upon us (15-17 October). We assume you have made your reservations, but if not, you may make them at the front office at the Whittington Shooting Center in New Mexico (505-445-3615).

Daughters Parry and Lindy jumped the gun somewhat at the invitation of Steyr Mannlicher in Austria. They scrambled into the Alps to harass the Gams (chamois) and each took a nice trophy. The hunting thereabouts is strange, since, while the animals live way above timberline, they are not particularly wary. Getting up to them calls for some hard hiking, but once you are up there the beasts are not very shy. Despite the professional hunter's insistence that there would be long shots involved, the two animals were taken at 120 and 170 paces, respectively. The occasion is all very ceremonial, replete with all the Waidmanns Sprache. We can sincerely thank the management at Steyr Mannlicher AG.

The ladies also took the opportunity to hike the Eiger trail along the base of the terrible precipice. (It is said that any bodies you find there you may keep.)

As you doubtless know by now, the Gunsite Training Center has been sold, and is now to be known as The Gunsite Academy. The new owner announces that he wishes to restore the traditions and prestige of Orange Gunsite, which is certainly a worthy objective. There is much work to be done to repair the decay which was allowed to set in during the 7-year excommunication. But where there is a will there is a way, and we hope for a bright future. Classes are continuing at this time, but not under my supervision, and no certification granted by The Gunsite Academy will bear my signature of approval until all matters of faculty, doctrine and policy have been put in place.

When I was a lad a classmate of mine in junior high was asked to name the four seasons. His answer was, "Trout Season, Duck Season, Deer Season, and Christmas." Now there was a lad who was being raised right!

At the last class at Whittington we had a chance to examine the reflector rifle sight, which seems to have much going for it. It seems best suited to the battle carbine, and how it will stand up in the hunting field remains to be seen. I intend to install one on my G91, which is no sort of hunting rifle, but I can use it on the Whittington Rifle Walk and draw some preliminary conclusions.

Bumper sticker:
"My child is alive because a good man with a gun was on the spot."

Recent reports from Mozambique suggest that while there are plenty of buffalo there, this is not a good place to hunt them. The forest is so thick that all the hunter can see is a fleeting patch of black hide, which cannot be analyzed nor evaluated. Shooting at what you cannot properly identify, at a range of 10 paces, can become pretty exciting, but it would seem to be an acquired taste.

The 376 "Dragoon" from Steyr is now available, but it has fallen into peculiar paths and deserves a certain amount of reservation. First, the company insists upon calling it a Scout, which it is not. Second, Steve Hornady was conned into producing a 225-grain load, which is unsuitable for a weapon of this type. This piece is not a deer gun, being suitable for targets of a thousand pounds and up. When I acquired one of the very first 375s from Winchester (in 1937!) I found out right away that a 235-grain bullet in this caliber is too short, both for exterior and impact ballistics. A 225 should prove just slightly worse. I was astonished to find that the Dragoon weighs exactly the same as the Scout, at 7lbs on the nose with telescope in place. As you might suppose, a 7lbs 375 is a bit on the brisk side and not for the recoil shy. I have made a date with Clint Smith in Texas to do a bison between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The new 376 Steyr cartridge should prove just about ideal for the task - using the 270-grain bullet.

It seems usual at this time to reopen the question about why men fight. Family member Frankie Lou Nicholson from Nebraska says, "I don't know why men fight, but I'm sure glad that the right men want to."

At the recent meeting of the Board of Directors of the NRA in Arlington, the first item on the agenda was the granting of a second term as President to Charlton Heston. While there is a faction which holds that Mr. Heston's politics are impure, he has proved to be the greatest single asset that the association has had in memory. He is a truly magnificent orator, and his words have changed the minds of people deemed to be hitherto unreachable. In a sense he resembles Ronald Reagan in being a convert who came to see the light. Converts, like St. Paul, are often more convinced ideologues than those born and raised in the true faith.

"Nobody is completely worthless. He can always serve as a bad example." That seems to have been said about Bill Clinton, but I cannot find out by whom.

We find it perplexing that there are people who do not realize that a right may be neither granted nor withdrawn by the State. If the Bill of Rights were repealed, the right to keep and bear arms would still exist, since it was to defend that right that the Constitution was established. (See the Declaration of Independence.) Thus the state may destroy me, but it may not rescind my right to self-defense. This all seems pretty clear, but frequently I find people who do not understand it.

And now Canada has gone ghastly. A law is now in place effectively to disarm the Canadians, as happened in England and Australia. Regardless of the best efforts of our enemies in Congress, the United States remains the last best hope of Earth. Those other people are going to do their very best to destroy us in the months between now and the next election. We must remember that this is the most serious trouble that our liberties have been threatened with since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They are going to work very hard. We must work even harder. Regardless of how senseless hoplophobia may be, it exists, and, being a true phobia, it does not respond to reasoned argument. We must defeat it by exposing it as a psychopathic threat to our cultural liberties. When we force our adversaries to the wall and make them admit that they do not care about crime or child welfare or "animal rights," but just hate us because we are morally better off than they are, we can pick up votes, and votes are what we must have.

In this connection, I proposed at the recent board meeting of the National Rifle Association of America that we post signs at all border crossings into Mexico and Canada warning travelers that they are leaving the protection of the Bill of Rights, and we must make it clear that those signs are the work of the NRA, which is far the most powerful defender of liberty in the world.

George Orwell predicted the future flowering of thought control in his book "1984". We are well past that date now and things did not turn out exactly as he predicted, but they are well on their way. As of right now, in the English-speaking world, you are not only told what you must think and what you must not think, but you also may be subjected to economic and social discipline if you think the wrong thoughts. That is not what the founders of this country had in mind, nor Voltaire in his ringing claim that "I disagree entirely with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

We were delighted recently with an anecdote reported to us by family member Sam Mantooth. It seems that a Finnish veteran of the Russian war was being interviewed about his experiences of those days.
Q: "You saw a lot of infantry action?"
A: "Much."

Q: "Did you ever engage in a fire fight?"
A: "Often."

Q: "Did you ever have occasion to shoot at a human being?"
A: "Yes, several times."

Q: "Did you find this difficult."
A: "Yes. You see they tended to duck, to get behind cover, and to run in zigzag."

I note with some annoyance that there are people who will claim they are Gunsite graduates when they are merely Grey Gunsite graduates. In my view, only Orange Gunsite credentials mean anything.

Note that the stock length on the Steyr Scout is adjustable. This is thought by some to be a good thing, but not by me. To get the best performance out of your Scout you should remove all those spacers and shoot it at its shortest length. The Scout is essentially a compact weapon, and should not be an inch longer at the muzzle or the butt than absolutely necessary.

Anyone can make up any doctrine he chooses as he goes along, but I wish people would not attribute changes to me without my approval. For example, there is no such thing as "Condition Black." In Condition Red you have crossed the final barrier. The decision to shoot has been made and there is nothing to be added to that. In all doctrinary matters it is essential to keep things as simple as possible. The four colors of white, yellow, orange, and red cover your mind-set. You can neither add nor subtract from those four conditions without losing a part of the exercise.

As we learned many years ago, happiness may never be pursued as an end to itself, because happiness is the by-product of accomplishment. That may be the reason why we see no element of happiness on the faces of people in the casinos of Las Vegas and Reno. Nobody has accomplished anything, and nobody is likely to. Hitting a jackpot may be fun, but you did nothing to achieve it, and it cannot bring you happiness.

Andy Garrett of Oregon has issued a couple of hot new loads for his large-caliber ammunition. As you doubtless know, Andy specializes in homogeneous hard lead, flat-point bullets. He now makes up a new load for the 44 Magnum, which should certainly serve the purposes of those who wish to use a handgun for bear defense. Additionally he puts out a new African load for the 45-70, starting a 530-grain bullet which will shoot right through a buffalo from side-to-side. It should be noted that the new heavy pistol bullet is only suitable for the Ruger Red Hawk and Super Red Hawk, and for Marlin rifles. Do not use it in your M29, and the 530 "Sledge-hammer" is not to be used in a trap-door Springfield. The 45-70 is a superb cartridge for large animals at short- to medium-range, and it is probably the perfect load for the bear or lion guide.

In a recent issue, we pointed out that we had never heard of a python swallowing a human being. Now it turns out that a couple of zoologists have reported to us that this occurrence, though extremely rare, is not entirely unheard of. By choice, the constrictor always engulfs the head first, and if he can get his mouth down over the face of the victim, death by suffocation is quick. The problem is getting the mouth parts over the shoulders, and this usually ruins the whole enterprise. But in some cases involving small, underfed, under-aged victims, the shoulders may be crushed in upon themselves sufficiently to permit engulfment. Unlikely, but not impossible.

If we think the schools (and the parents) in the United States are bad, consider the following: Recently a fighter pilot veteran who had fought in the Battle of Britain was invited to make a presentation on the subject to a high school audience. You may not believe this, but it is reported that nobody in the audience had ever heard of the Battle of Britain, and neither had the teacher. Obviously we have schools on both sides of the water, but I sure do not know what people do in them.

There are many grand experiences available to us in life, and, of course, their grandeur depends in large measure upon the personality of the individual. If I were to make up a list of the top ten, I would certainly list being completely alone in the wilderness as the sun sets. As the light dims and goes out, you become clearly aware of your significance as a human being. It is a pity that this profound experience is not at all common.

We are informed again that piracy is up in Southeast Asia. This has always been a good place for piracy, and the Indonesians take naturally to it as a profession. The situation was better in the 19th century, however, because then you were permitted by whatever government was in charge to fight back. Today the authorities take a very dim view of your attempting to arm yourself properly.

Must we say it again?
"Never do your enemy a minor injury."


I have been studying this matter of personal combat for many decades, and I have almost never run across a case in which outstanding marksmanship was influential in the conflict. There was that case of Bill Hickok at Independence (74 yards), but it was very exceptional. Ordinarily lethal confrontations take place from arm's length to across the table, at distances at which the quality of marksmanship is almost irrelevant. There may be more to it than that, however. In a recent discussion with family member Mike Waidelich, he pointed out that confidence in one's ability to put his shot exactly where he wants it, under all considerations of stress and time, is a powerful factor in proper mind-set. You may not have to shoot like a combat master in order to stay alive, but knowing that you can powerfully eases the mind. On three occasions in my own experience in which it appeared that I would have to shoot, I was greatly soothed by the fact that I knew what I could do, and that if my adversary played it wrong, he would have no chance at all. If it had been necessary for me to shoot I believe that I would have shot the better for this knowledge. Thus it is possible that good shooting actually does win fights - if not directly, then indirectly.

In re-reading "Pondoro" (John Taylor), I discover that he was a strong advocate of what I have come to call the "ghost-ring," though he did not call it that. Both he and Bell emphasize the speed and precision afforded by a large aperture with a thin rim. These two men were not congenial, but they reached the same conclusion. I believe it was I who first used the term ghost-ring to emphasize the fact that the rear aperture vanishes when you look through it rather than at it. However that may be, it works.

I was recently shown by Shooting Master Louis Awerbuck a 12-gauge short cartridge, which is just about 1½" long. Why a short? To permit more rounds in the magazine. I do not know if a fight is ever going to be influenced by the number of rounds in a shotgun magazine. If you have to use a shotgun in a fight you are unlikely to use it more than a couple of times. Having ten rounds available in the tube may make you feel good, but only if you are a bad shot.

There are now six members of the "Fossa Society," being those correspondents who have written in to enlarge my knowledge of the fossa. The last correspondent was the National Geographic Society, which did not tell me exactly what animal they were talking about (no Latin name was forthcoming), but did mention whatever it was it weighed about 25lbs. This is quite a bit larger than the little striped variety which has been extracted from a couple of encyclopedias. It seems that nobody really knows what a fossa is. (It is definitely not a civet, which some people believe.) Room for enlightenment here.

People keep telling me that the Steyr Scout is "too expensive." Now, just what does that mean? If it means that you have not got the price in your wallet, that is clear, but obviously the issue is relative. An object may only be considered too expensive if you can get something just as good for less money. A Ferrari is too expensive if you think that a Porsche is just as good. As of now, you cannot get a rifle just as good as a Steyr Scout for any price, and certainly not for less. So I do not know what the question is. If you want a cheap rifle, there are plenty of those in hardware stores. If you want a Steyr Scout, with all of its advantages, you will pay the price and never feel that it is too expensive.

A recent buffalo pounding is reported from Zululand. All I have is a newspaper account, which leaves much unsaid, but it appears the subject was not a hunter, but rather a farmer mending a fence in conjunction with a working party. The report says the man heard the buffalo approaching, and had time to run and climb a tree, whereupon the buff butted him out of the tree and proceeded to squash him severely. His workmen are said to have "driven the buffalo off" and the victim reached the hospital alive, though barely.

If this story is true, it is the second case that I know of in which a man survived a buffalo pounding. But stranger than that it would seem that here we have a case of an unprovoked charge. That is very uncharacteristic. Possibly the buff had a leg festering from a wire snare, but how did the man have time to climb a tree while this buff was in full charge? We await details.

We often hear of war described as if it were some kind of impersonal affliction, such as the Black Plague or famine. The fact is that war is not something that just happens, it is something that people make happen, and they make it happen for reasons. As Clausewitz said, war is the continuation of politics by other means. Exactly. War is neither a hurricane nor a flood. It is, on the contrary, the cutting edge of ideology.

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