Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 8, No. 1           January, 2000

January 2000

Never thought I would see the day! Literally. In my school days we occasionally discussed the matter of the turn of the 21st century, but no one of us expected to see it. To make the date we would have to be 80 years old, and whoever heard of anybody 80 years old? In Porgy and Bess, the song goes, "Methuselah lived 900 years, but who calls that liv'n when no gal will give in to no man with 900 hundred years?"

Be that as it may, here we are. Politically, socially, and morally the scene may be gross, but the weather is nice, the hunting is good, and the prospects for a turnaround in the next election are not bad. Therefore, let us be of stout heart and good cheer.

The bison hunt in Texas was a huge success. It could not have been more gratifying if I had written the script in advance. One shot from offhand at 72 yards put the bull down within 20 paces of point of impact. While the range was short, the shooting at an unsteady target, intermittently visible, was challenging. That is first blood for the "Dragoon" (Oops! For the "376 Scout.") Its tactical niche may be somewhat obscure, but it is certainly an ingenious and admirable artifact. Note that it neither replaces nor augments the Steyr Scout, which remains in place as the "Rifle of the Century." (Here we go again!) In all seriousness, the three really interesting rifles of the turn of the century remain the "Co-pilot" of Jim West, the Blaser 93, and the Steyr Scout.

Have you seen the brand new "Siamese Sig"? It seems that they took two Sig 210s, split them down the middle and somehow bolted the two halves together into a true double pistol. Then, of course, they painted it gold. Now let's not complicate the issue by asking what such a device might possibly be for. It seems obvious that the engineers did it just to see if they could do it. Why they should do it, was obviously to catch your eye. Well, they certainly caught mine. I do not think that I need any further Waffenpösselhaft candidates for the year 2000.

It appears that piracy is on the rise again in South East Asia, and the issue, as you might expect, is confronted by the "authorities" with the maxim, "Don't fight back. Somebody might get hurt." Where have we heard that before? The way to combat piracy, as all of us learned back in the early part of the 17th century, is to kill all the pirates. Simple isn't it?

It is amusing to hear some of the culturally deprived types maintain that "no one needs an assault gun." According to the founding fathers, all adult males are members of the militia, except for a few public officials. As members of the militia, we need to be checked out on the M16. This piece is not my idea of a good gun, but it is the official personal arm of the US Armed Forces, and it is our business to understand it. Thus we have need of it, whether we like it or not.

We can wholeheartedly recommend ranch hunting in Texas. It may not be pure, in the historic sense, but it is there and it is very satisfactory. It is as challenging as you wish to make it, and it puts good meat in the freezer. The blackbuck and axis deer and mouflon are all charming trophies. We have sampled the bison meat, and find it to be particularly toothsome.

There are several well-run hunting ranches in Texas, and having taken our bison on one, we can recommend it highly. This one is the Indianhead Ranch, Del Rio, Texas. The proprietor is Laurent Delagrange, and his telephone is (210) 775-6481.

We are informed by a family member in Anchorage that the situation there is getting so bad that pretty soon there may be more neckties than handguns in the average residence. We hope that is an exaggeration.

Note that Blaser has now come up with what may be called a "Super Drilling," which is a three-barrel job with an ingenious locking system that circumvents the geometric problem of radial breech opposition. There are places in the world, though not many, wherein a drilling is the perfect answer. Hermann Göring thought that such a piece would be ideal as survival equipment for a downed aviator. This would seem to be a limited market at best.

Gun crime is up 10.9 percent since the ban in Britain. Well, what else would you expect?

Having just finished wishing "peace on earth" to all and sundry, we may note that there are now no less than 65 wars in progress throughout the world. This depends upon what you call a war, but however you define it, that is a lot of fighting.

During the Christmas holidays in Britain a sales girl was fired for wishing a customer "Merry Christmas." Thus we welcome the millennium.

Few people pay much attention to the meaning of the words they use, and this does lead to a certain amount of confusion. For example, what is a "blood sport"? I have always held that a blood sport is a voluntary competitive activity in which the penalty for ineptitude may well be death or serious injury. By that definition, blood sports must include mountaineering, motor racing, the hunting of dangerous game, and certain kinds of skiing. In Britain, however, the little old ladies of all ages and both sexes regard fox hunting as a blood sport. By my definition, the blood sports are a fair test of manliness or machismo. In the British sense, the blood sports are simply the ostentatious affectations of snobs and toffs. In Britain it is currently fashionable to hate toffs - for obscure reasons.

This Internet business tends to bring out the worst in some people. I suppose that obscene and anonymous objurgation has always been popular with the dregs of society, but the Internet makes it possible for the masses to engage in this sort of thing. I have no objection to argument, even high-spirited argument, but I cannot respond to accusations hurled by faceless adversaries who are ready to use epithets, but unready to pose arguments. It is clear that I hold strong opinions on various controversial issues relating to firearms and their use. I enjoy supporting those positions when I get the chance, but much as I enjoy a fight, I find it impossible to fight against an opponent who will not reveal himself. Only recently one Internet activist called me all sorts of evil things, apparently because of my advocacy of the Scout rifle. Hardly seems worth getting all that excited about - or does it?

There are people who do not mind the fact that O.J. Simpson walks free. There are people who do not mind the fact that Lon Horiuchi is not only not punished for his atrocity at Ruby Ridge, but he continues on the public payroll. There are those who know who killed Vince Foster, but are not bothered by the fact that the subject has been dropped officially. I mind those things. Do you?

I note that some of my commentary that appears in Guns & Ammo magazine is censored for political correcttude. This group sensitivity is both ridiculous and childish.

The town of El Cenizo down there on the Mexican border goes on its merry way in defiance of the laws of these United States. This is the business of Mr. Bush as governor of Texas, but he is most unlikely to do anything about it, since all candidates are terrified of block voting, and if he were to take any action that might offend the Mexican vote in this country, that might hurt him in the forthcoming elections.

It has been suggested that we have now established our public schools as safe zones for felons who can be relatively sure that no one on campus is going to shoot back.

Shooting sticks are apparently enjoying a comeback among riflemen in open country - especially in Africa. I have never cared for the idea, though as an adolescent I once fabricated an elaborate set in high school woodshop. I tried carrying them afield on several occasions, and found that they got in my way. In Africa, where you always have one or more henchmen available to carry stuff, this unhandiness is not too serious. But I do not think counting on the presence of an artificial aid which may not be there when you need it is good procedure. Besides which, while shooting sticks do limit vertical variation, they do nothing to diminish side sway, which may be more serious. A solid sitting position, using a shooting sling, offers more precision than shooting sticks for less bother, but only a few people today understand about the shooting sling.

Note that the 376 Steyr cartridge is derived from the 9.3x64, rather than by 9.3x62.

The scientific name for the American bison, as you probably know, is Bison bison. Perhaps you did not know that the name for his European cousin is Bison bonatus. I just found that out myself.

Michel Röthlisberger, who will be coaching in the Masters Series at Gunsite, has a nephew who recently climbed the north wall of the Eiger, in Switzerland - fully covered by camcorder. This is one of the meanest mountains on earth, with a score of 54 deaths to its credit ten years ago - probably more since.

It will be interesting to see the preponderance of the Steyr Scout in the Masters Series Rifle Classes scheduled for this year. We all know that it is the shooter and not his rifle that places the hits on target. Still, the almost unanimous appearance of the Scouts up front in both instruction and competition indicates that the little gun is easier to hit with. Only insiders seem to know that, and it is possible they are not spreading the word around for fear of giving away their advantage.

If you are having difficulty in getting hold of a Scout, note that Rich Wyatt, of "Gunsmoke" in Denver, can put one in your hands faster than most. Rich, who is not only a family member but a member of the Gunsite African Rifles, can tell you all about it.

We were much amused in Texas to run across what may be called computerized deer hunters. You can tell a computerized deer hunter because he carries a digital deer gun. A digital deer gun is one mounting a Harris bipod. Those two prongs hanging down below are the digits.

We note the appearance of the Ruger Super Red Hawk in 454 Casull. This is a mighty instrument, if hardly one I would select for house defense. The late, revered Uncle Elmer once built a peacemaker for the 45-70 cartridge, and I am told it worked very well, though what you would want one for is somewhat obscure.

I guess it had to happen, but we hardly expected it. It turns out that a pedestrian has now been killed "by his cell phone." He was talking and walking rapidly and ran right into a tree and broke his neck.

Shooting Master John Gannaway has now broken down and ordered his Italian gun. Apparently there comes a time in the life of every shotgunner when he simply must have that Italian gun. John's piece should be in his hands by next summer, and we look forward avidly to seeing it. John wants it with exposed hammers, which I think is a good idea, since hammerless actions are necessarily less robust than those with exposed hammers.

We had a neat story down in Phoenix involving a creep with a long record who attempted to hold up a cab driver. The cab driver neatly killed him. The nice thing about this story was that no charges were filed and the cab driver was not inconvenienced. Would that we could hear more of that sort of thing from Great Britain!

We issued the dressed bison meat to the worthy on 7 January, so I have now tentatively designated 7 January as St. Hubert's day. (Of course I will have to clear this with the Pope.) This is the day on which the product of the hunt is distributed to the needy.

We dutifully thank Joe Sledge, Gunsite graduate and member of the Gunsite African Rifles, for providing us with our Christmas dinner of leg of pronghorn antelope. The bison meat did not come in till later.

We expect to feature the Leopard light on the Scout at SHOT Show. A lot of people do not even know it is there, probably because it is non-regulation in the States. For leopards, or for house-to-house inner city work, it should be a great advantage.

Note that the extension magazine version of the Steyr Scout is useful primarily in IPSC competition, and possibly in guerilla action. For normal work, a rifle does not need a lot of ammunition aboard.

One J. Noble of IDPA has announced on the Internet that Jeff Cooper is unfit to hold a firearm. That is an interesting idea, and I am not going to say it is absolutely wrong, but it is certainly worthy of debate.

We were somewhat startled recently in reading a British publication which supported the anti-toff position by pointing out that Diana disliked hunting. Diana? Disliked hunting? We always thought that Diana was the goddess of - ... Oh, that Diana. Sorry about that, but somehow or other I keep falling into the wrong century.

We were forced to expand the rolls for the first Masters Series Rifle Class to 24, rather than 16 students. I dislike doing this because I like to maintain very close personal contact with the students, and three relays of eight each will use up too much time. Thus we will try two relays of twelve, put on another Masters coach and hope for the best. I can but hope that the supply is equal to the demand.

As of now, I can report no progress on the production of an idealized scoutscope. You may be sure that I will let you know the minute I have something to say.

Those students coming onboard in the year 2000 will note that the range facilities are all dolled up due to diligent enthusiasm of the new owner. Electric power at the targets and running water in the johns! Fancy that! If we get snowed under in February, we will at least be snowed under in comfort.

Having been devoted to the concept of excellence all my life, I react with dismay to the understanding that a lot of people do not care at all about excellence. Among other things, unless a person has put his mind to it, he may have no real idea of just what constitutes excellence in his own surroundings and equipment. You have to know something about rifles to know why rifle A is better than rifle B. This is true of automobiles, airplanes, boats, and houses. There has always been a tendency to equate price with excellence, resulting in that proverbial man who knew the price of everything but the worth of nothing. These people are generally found in the marketing business, which may be regarded as a necessary evil, something like lawyers.

We have little use for "solids" in the US, so little ingenuity is devoted to their design. A recent report from Africa, however, suggests that the conventional round-nosed, full-jacketed configuration is somewhat less than ideal, as it tends to slide through rather than smack and chop. The suggestion is that a proper solid should have a flat point or "meplate" and then a cutting shoulder at bore diameter somewhere forward. The man who came up with this idea has extensive experience on culling buffalo in Africa - much more than might be encountered in a normal hunting career. I think the idea is worth exploring, but since there is obviously scant market for this, I do not expect much industry interest.

I hope people will remember that the Scout is basic, whereas the "Dragoon" (Oops! The 376 Scout) is peripheral.

In a long hunting career, I have never before had an occasion to use the "nudge" in controlling the trigger, but that is what I had to use in Texas on that bison. Amazing! Learn something every day.

As we hold discussion about errors in millennia and such, I propose the following titles for recent centuries. The 18th century was the Century of the Superior Man, producing as it did the minds of the Founding Fathers of the United States. The 19th century was the Age of the Industrious Man, during which machinery and machinists took over the world. The 20th century was (God Help Us!) the Age of the Common Man, so designated by Teddy Kennedy. And now the 21st century may be regarded as the Century of the Superfluous Man, since now we have machines to do our thinking for us. Surely you have noticed the extent to which thinking is going out of style.

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