Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 8, No. 10          September, 2000


Indeed, these are the times that try men's souls. We mistakenly attributed that to Patrick Henry in a previous issue, but the author, as several people have pointed out, was Thomas Paine. I cannot excuse the error, or even promise that it will not happen again, but regardless of who said it, the message is one to be taken seriously. The United States of America now faces the threat of the loss of its sovereignty to the United Nations Organization. Those people are serious about this, and there are even traitors in our midst who support their view. Our own Department of Justice has stated officially for the record that the Founding Fathers did not mean what they said, and that the Bill of Rights is effectively invalid. We have used federal military strength against unarmed citizens who were not even charged with any sort of felonious transgression. And now we face the threat of re-instituting the regime in Washington that has countenanced these atrocities. Trying times indeed!

The effect from the left is serious indeed, at least according to the media, who report that a majority of American voters are simply not interested in liberty. Those of us who do so believe stand amazed and unbelieving at the result of these "polls." Who asks those questions, and whom do they ask? Nobody we know. Any individual's personal experience is too trivial to count, but we have asked around at length and we find no one who asserts that he will vote left in this next election. But there must be some people out there who will. We must find them and talk to them. The issue now is to make a strong attempt to locate one of these people and turn him around to the path of righteousness. It is hard to hit a target that you cannot identify, but the attempt must be made. The Nation is in deadly danger and we must leave no stone unturned. God save the Republic!

The autumn meeting of the NRA board of directors was refreshingly "upbeat", considering the peril in which we stand. NRA membership is now well over four million and continues to grow. I think this reflects the mood of the times better than these polls we read about. The head table at Arlington was roundly applauded by the directorate, and exhorted to work twenty-six hours a day from now to November to pull the nation back from the edge of catastrophe. Our financial situation seems more sound than it has been for many years past, and our various propaganda campaigns are producing excellent results. Charlton Heston proposed from the chair that an electoral victory for our adversaries in November will produce a socialist nation in two years - but that victory shall not happen. From where I sit this country has had enough socialism to pass as "socialist" since FDR. Socialism is a lousy idea based on the notion that the state is better able to look after people's private affairs than they are themselves. Sometimes it seems that, Mr. Lincoln to the contrary, you can fool all of the people all of the time. But perhaps "all" is not necessary. Perhaps "most" is enough. Well, let us pray that the unthinkable will not happen and that we will survive this crisis, as we have survived others from Valley Forge to our defeat in Southeast Asia. Those who attended the meeting at Arlington came away refreshed, despite the strong headwinds and heavy seas we now face. We are now bound to put lesser matters aside and devote all our energies to victory in November.

On the cheerful side we report that the good people at Swift Bullet Company now have a proper bullet suitable for the Dragoon. This is a 270-grain 375-caliber partition bullet, just right for the 376 Steyr cartridge.

I have no word yet on a 270-grain JTC bullet for the same cartridge, but this was under development in South Africa at last notice.

You all remember that striking footage released by Linda Thompson in connection with the Waco atrocity. We are alarmed to learn that Linda Thompson seems to have vanished and cannot be reached by any previous address or number. We got this information from the New American magazine, but we hope that it is not properly founded. We do not quite yet live in a country where political opposition simply disappears. If anyone has any information about this, it would be good to let us know.

It is curious that in the midst of all this excitement about the Olympics, almost no publicity has been concerned with the nature and history of the Olympics. How many "sports fans" know what "Olympic" means? It has always been interesting to me to note that the contest as originally conceived was almost ostentatiously non-national. Contestants represented themselves and not their nation or city state. These city states were at continuous warfare with one another, but for the duration of the games borders were opened and hostilities were suspended. The ancient Greeks esteemed individual excellence above almost anything else, and they made a strong effort to divorce the games from current politics.

Times have changed, and sports today sometimes seem to be warfare "carried out by other means". This is not good, but at least we should be aware of how things got to be the way they are. That, of course, is the study of history, and history, in Mason Williams' immortal epithet, is a thing of the past.

Have you noticed how many people seem to think that the deal is more important than the product? Such people would rather get a good discount on a Suzuki Sidekick than to pay list price for a Ferrari - assuming that they had the cash in the first place. People with this viewpoint probably wind up spending less money for a warehouse full of second-rate gadgetry. To each his own, of course, but my father always maintained that the quality of the product was more important than the price. If you cannot afford it, do not buy it, but do not think that you can deal your way to a better life.

Things proceed on an upward path here at Gunsite. The changeover to the new concept instituted late last year has not been without certain difficulty. Trying to run one school on a marketing basis along side another devoted to superior output is tricky, but we are getting there, and I think we will have things pretty well straightened out in the months to come.

Part of this changeover in policy has resulted in the "Masters Series" of rifle and pistol classes, conducted by me personally six times a year. The concept here is to expose each student to the attentions of the very best possible staff instructors, each of whom is fully qualified to run his own school. We made a couple of mistakes in trying to run too many people at one time, but that will not happen again. From now on, the student in the Masters Series will benefit from the personal attention of a small group of preeminently qualified Master Marksmen. "Master," of course, means "teacher," not necessarily expert, but the people we will have in forthcoming Masters classes will be both master marksmen and master teachers. Classes will be kept small and attention will be personal.

"Website? Website! We don't need no stinking website!"

To my utter amazement I am informed that Saburo Sakai's ruined eye has been rebuilt, replaced, and renewed, and that the great ace can now see perfectly out of both eyes. Sakai, you will remember, was Japan's foremost fighter pilot, but was hit in the face by one 30-caliber round from a TBF Avenger he was pursuing. He made it back to base in fearful agony and was, of course, taken off full flight duty. When Japan began losing the air war, he prevailed upon his chiefs to let him fly again, and he saw action in the Mariannas and over Iwo, where his superior flying skill was still apparent, despite the loss of his eye.

Saburo Sakai will be in Washington in mid-October, where he will engage in conversations with Joe Foss. To have these two legendary air warriors discuss matters face-to-face should prove a truly historic occasion.

I talked to Joe Foss at some length at the last meeting of the NRA board, and, as always, I learned various fascinating things. For instance, I had not known that Joe was a "point shooter" who removed the sight from his airplane after a friend of his had his face mashed in by the sight on a forced landing. Joe thereafter simply pointed his airplane reflexively and thus became the all-time hero of unsighted fire - but I will not tell anybody in the pistol class about that!

The people at Steyr are under no obligation to do what I tell them, but I do wish that when they choose to make major changes in a weapon of my design they would tell me about it. As an example, they appear to have changed the composition of the stock on the Dragoon, apparently to strengthen the rear magazine well, which did have the disconcerting tendency to drop the reserve magazine if the weapon was improperly mounted into the shoulder. This has caused an increase in weight of a full pound. My Dragoon weighs 7 pounds 1½ ounces. Eric Ching's weighs just over 8. Extra weight does not invalidate a Scout, but it does diminish the concept.

You have doubtless noted that the factory has almost stopped advertising the Scout rifle, and I believe this is due to the fact that the new boss at Steyr is a marketer rather than a shooter. Witness the fact that we now have a curious artifact known as the "Poodle Scout" in caliber 223. I now await the Luftscout, which is an airgun riding in a Scout stock. Well, as I have said before, I've got mine, and thank you very much.

At this point we are being pestered by persnickety peccaries. A recent phone call for the Countess elicited, "She can't come to the phone just now. She's away chasing wild pigs out of the garden." The Game and Fish people frown on our popping pigs for the pot, and we always obey game laws, but we are sore tempted. To quote an old hillbilly reaction, "Who's gonna know?"

As you know, the people usually referred to as "Neanderthals," but preferably termed "Ancients," disappeared completely from the record, replaced by what we have called "Cro-Magnon," or more properly "Moderns." There was nobody around to tell us how this happened, but I have a theory. I think that the Moderns wiped out the Ancients by the use of the bow. The Ancients were stronger and heavier (and smelled worse, if you can believe the Sasquatch stories), but they fought and hunted at arm's length. The Moderns seemed to have developed the bow, and though the two races lived contemporaneously for a while, there is no way a rock thrower can stand up to an archer. This is just a notion, of course. Doubtless future digs will illuminate the matter further one way or another.

Africa is still dangerous, and do not let any bunny hugger tell you otherwise. Here we learn from family member Jim Sutherland of Namibia about a group of unarmed animal watchers who got out of their car to watch the elephants. The "alpha cow" took offense and avenged Bambi. One tourist was killed, one was seriously injured, and the third just made it to cover. The danger in Africa is what makes it Africa. Danger, as we have always preached, is the spice of life.

I guess one should not watch old movies. It makes for esthetic sorrow. The Arabs maintain that a beautiful woman is proof of God's existence. But even the most beautiful woman must fade with time, if she does not die first. This seems unkind of God. (Sorry about that.)

We have scheduled our first Safari Prep course for 5-7 March of next year. This idea has been kicking around for some time, but now we are going to put it together and see what happens.

Accounts from Africa suggest that too many people are undertaking the great adventure without any clear notion of what they are about. No one, of course, is required to enjoy himself, but it is certainly unfortunate for people to take the time and money to attempt the African hunt without reading into the problem. Shooting is only part of this problem, though certainly an important part. In the Safari Prep course you will shoot your African rifle, under field conditions, and you should have details like position assumption, bullet placement, bullet selection, and sighting system pretty well sorted out before you take off.

There are several other considerations, not the least of which is the selection of your outfitter and the type of hunting you wish to enjoy. Your relationship with your professional hunter is a delicate one, and no two people will ever approach each other in exactly the same way. He will do his best to see that you have a good time, but just what is your idea of a good time?

I suggest that the student in the Safari Prep course be pretty well qualified with his rifle before he comes to school. We will only be in session for three days, and we cannot teach rifle marksmanship in that short a time. Probably you should have a 270 ticket Gunsite, but the approximate equivalent from Clint Smith will get you through nicely. It will do no harm to address the problem of hunting area and weapon selection with us by mail in advance before you spend money on the wrong things.

There are certain considerations of mind-set in the hunting of big game, and especially in the hunting of dangerous game. About the only dangerous animal we are able to hunt today in Africa is the buffalo, and I do not suggest that you go to Africa with the idea that it is buffalo or nothing. There are many grand things about the African hunt, and while a trophy buffalo is certainly a great goal, such is not necessary to the success of your trip. The notion that you are only going to do Africa once is misleading. Doing one African hunt is like eating one salted peanut. It can be done, but it is hardly satisfying.

So if you are contemplating enjoying the tail-end of one of our culture's overwhelming personal experiences, come see us here at school. We will discuss these matters at length, and I think you will have a better time in Africa. Sign up now.

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