Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 8, No. 13          December, 2000

Black November

Well, we will not have to sit through this sort of thing again! Socrates told us that most people have a slave mentality. He did not say the portion was exactly 50/50, however. It does appear that the human race, taken as a whole, is not bright enough to be entrusted with the organization of its own affairs. As I write this, we appear to have about a ten second lead, with five laps to go. That is better than an outright loss, but it is certainly not safe. The democratic process is all very well in its way, but it certainly does raise hell with the proper holiday spirit.

We are pleased to have been proposed as a medalist by the San Gabriel Possenti Society. San Gabriel, as you probably know, is the patron saint of pistoleros. We regret we cannot accept the award in person, since it is to be presented in Rome exactly during the Masters' Rifle Class which will precede the Safari Prep course. I have not been to Rome since childhood, and I am sorry to miss this opportunity to have my halo fitted. We will be present in spirit, of course, and try to hold all the right thoughts. The occasion offers a gleam of light in these dark times.

Several prospective students have written to ask just what rifle they should bring to the Safari Prep class. The answer, of course, is to bring the rifle which the client intends to take to Africa. By choice this should be only one. You probably need two telescope sights, but you probably do not need two rifles. Your trusty old 30-06 will do just fine. Your Steyr Scout will be even better if you have it to hand. If you feel that you need a medium-bore rifle for Africa, by all means bring it. But as it was explained to us by Pann Mallas long ago, the 375 is too much for 90 percent of your shooting, and not enough for the other ten. If you plan to take on buffalo, I strongly recommend a heavy (500-grains or more). You certainly should practice with such a piece before you take it afield, and you will have that chance in the Safari Prep course. But you do not need a heavy unless you are going to take on buffalo - or elephant. We have used the 308/180 with uniform success in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. The right bullet, of course, is necessary, and we will discuss that at the class.

Bill Buckley tells us of an occasion in Switzerland recently at which, when he asked his dinner companion the name of the current president of Switzerland, she confessed with some embarrassment that she did not know. The question was passed around the table until finally someone at the party was discovered who knew the current president. It took about seven tries. Now that is the kind of chief executive we can appreciate. The Swiss may not have their politics totally sorted out, but their system looks better all the time.

I must insist again to course designers on a rifle field walk that a pop-down target is superior to a pop-up target. I have run more than a score of rifle reaction courses over the years, and it is quite obvious that when a target pops into view almost anywhere in your sector, the motion itself catches your eye. You do not walk by a target that pops up. On the other hand, when a target is clearly within sight for perhaps five seconds and then disappears while you are getting ready to shoot, the experience is very helpful. Obviously the mechanical problem is a bit more challenging, but in these days of wireless communication it is not insurmountable.

One set of federal statistics establishes that a bastard is six times as likely to turn out to be a "bastard" as a legitimate child. Fancy that!

This from daughter Lindy:
"The sun shines bright
On the old Kentucky home
'Tis summer,
And all the African-Americans are homosexual."

Shooting Master John Gannaway was drawn ("drawed", that is, in Arizona) for elk, but could not bring himself to enjoy his hunt in the light of the misbegotten election. I suppose we should all be in mourning at this time, except, of course, for the British who sit over there giggling at our consternation. Daughter Lindy dodged the mess to some extent by voting absentee and being off in Oregon pursuing the elk. This did not help, of course, in this case.

We conclude that coating your bullet with molybdenum disulfide does not accomplish a great deal. It does make the projectile a tad more slippery, achieving a slight rise in velocity, but not enough to be worth the trouble. It also renders the bore a little easier to clean, but not much. It may be classed as sort of a good idea, but hardly startling.

From Africa Larry Pratt reports that while the murder rate is increasing, it is still 25 percent lower in Johannesburg than it is in the District of Columbia. As I understand it, it is still legal to fight back in Africa, which, of course, is not true in England.

Following the recommendation of family member Curt Rich, we propose a new code of misdemeanor on the books to be called SWS, which is, of course, "Shooting While Stupid."

We should announce that the grip safety on the birthday pistol is not blocked out on delivery - fear of litigation. I prefer it blocked, myself, and it is easy to do at home by fitting a short piece of piano wire between the heel of the grip safety and the mainspring housing.

This obsessive fear of litigation, however justified, is pervasive enough to be given a proper definition. Litigophobia does not come off well, since it derives from two different languages. Daughter Christy, who is our resident Greek student, has gone into this matter and has become somewhat bogged down. She has come up with the word dikadzomaiophobia! I do not think this is ever going to catch on, so we will just have to go on being terrified of lawsuits without knowing what is wrong with us.

Guru say: "Politics is too serious a matter to be entrusted to politicians."

Messner, who is the man who first summited Everest unaided (without oxygen) is now campaigning against the use of cell phones in the alps. I think his point is well taken, but I also fear that he is swimming against the tide.

As we hit Pearl Harbor Day, the most important date in my lifetime, I reflect again that Admiral Nagumo, who commanded the attack on Pearl Harbor, eviscerated himself on Saipan a couple of years later. I was heavily involved in that battle, and when he cut himself we could not have been more than a couple of miles apart. Had I been close by, I would have been glad to have helped him.

It appears to me that a good many people who talk about the 10mm pistol cartridge are unaware of the difference between the Full-house Ten of the Bren Ten, and the Demi-Ten, which has become its attenuated successor. These two cartridges are not equivalent. The Full-Ten is a very powerful round, theoretically exceeding the stopping power of the 45 ACP, and decisively outranging it. The Demi-Ten, now appearing in all sorts of guises, is a step up from the Nine, but it does not make it to full power.

It is with deep regret that I must report the demise of Mike Harries, one of the original stalwarts of the modern technique of the pistol. Mike was with us from the beginning in California, and his contributions to the art have been numerous. For many years he was "our man in LA" to whom we recommended citizens who wanted tutorial instruction in that area. He was of the younger generation and his death from a heart attack was premature; however, unlike many of us, he left his mark. God's will be done.

I imagine you have all noticed that Comrade Mugabe, current dictator of Zimbabwe, has defied his own courts in his expropriation of private farmland. The country has a supreme court, which has condemned his action, but he has told the court to go fly a kite. "It is our land and we will take it." This is barefaced Marxist banditry and serves as a good example of what happens when we "give the country back to the Indians."

The German language is great fun for one such as I who cannot speak it. Take the word stoff, for example. It is the same word as our English stuff, but has a much broader meaning. For instance, it is easy to render the Tenth Commandment as "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's stoff." Now in this age of preoccupation with gadgetry, we can coin the word stoffgierigkeit, which might mean, loosely, lust after possessions. It is the soul of marketing, and we inflict it upon our young at an early age. "Drink X! Get stuff!" It is a complication in the shooting industry, since once you have got the right guns you do not need any more - ever. That is impossible for the salesman to accept.

Things have got so bad out here in the west that people have taken to drinking water and eating shark meat. I have seen it for sale in the markets.

This from Curt Rich in Texas:
"Israel used to ban private ownership of weapons, but now encourages it and arms teachers. The result is that attacks on school children have stopped. This isn't a trend only because one country doesn't make a trend, but it does make a pretty good example."

Defensive pistolcraft does not only involve shooting. Our new grandson-in-law has already had two confrontations, which were satisfactorily settled by the possession of a handgun with no need to shoot it.

When people cannot agree on the meaning of words, communication becomes impossible. Take this matter of "education." Just what is education? Do we mean teaching little kids to read and write, or do we mean training for a specific job. At this point a great many people seem to think that education means the acquisition of a bachelor's degree, which no longer has any but administrative significance. A "college graduate" used to be an educated man. Now he is presumed to be basically qualified in some specific occupation. Anyone is entitled to call anything he wants whatever he wishes, but if we regard a bachelor's degree as nothing more than a meal ticket we will have to come up with some other word for education.

We now have machines to provide us with information, but I find to my annoyance that these machines cannot give me the answers to any questions I think important, such as, "What do we mean by education?"

Note the difference between the rifleman-hunter and the hunter-rifleman. Properly speaking, a man should be both, but things do not work out that way every time. There are plenty of citizens who never take their rifles off the target range, and I have met a number of hunters who can barely tell one end of the barrel from the other. To each his own, of course, but the rifleman increases his stature if he hunts, and the hunter doubles his gratification if he understands the art of the rifle.

This from family member Phillip Morgansen of Denver:
"I'm Jewish and I fail to understand how other Jews can vow 'never again' while opposing the only means by which they can assure that it never happens again."
Very well said indeed.

Family member Ronin Colman recently showed us a rare book by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, he of the baggy shorts and Smokey Bear hat who invented the Boy Scouts. It turns out that Sir Robert at one time was the preeminent pig sticker of the Punjab, and his book Pig Sticking tells us all about the game.

Under no circumstances does one shoot a pig, a beast which a gentleman must take with cold steel. "Any member who shoots a pig will be expelled from the club." Well, I have never claimed to be a gentleman, but I am duly chastised and I will henceforth not shoot pigs - except under very special circumstances.

"The age of information gives new responsibility to uninformed opinion."

John Lawton

"If I were king" I would make sure that no citizen could vote until he had read and understood the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Federalist Papers, and de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America." No chance of that, of course. Alcibiades was right!

The combat mind-set, which is an absolute part of defensive pistolcraft, has a certain parallel importance in the hunting field. Experienced hunting guides know how frequently the client simply cannot make the decision to press the trigger on a live target. This is not a matter of bambiism. The sportsman would not have undertaken the adventure unless he was emotionally prepared to kill his game. It is rather that he is mentally unprepared to do what he came to do. This is not emotion, it is simply a matter of being on the wrong circuit.
There is the target -
The guide says, "That one." Nothing happens.
The guide says, "Shoot."
The sportsman says, "Now?"
The guide says, "Yes. Now shoot."
And the client again asks, "Now?"
This is not pure fancy. Dalton Carr remarks about it in his new book, The Bear Hunter, and I have seen it myself in the field. The hunt requires mental preparation, which can be acquired from conversation, schooling, or reading, but which does not come unannounced out of the blue. The barefoot boy with cheeks of tan understands it well, but the city slicker who never leaves the pavement often does not.

Herodotus tells us that the Ancient Persians did not allow a young man of good birth to attend court or be noticed until he had learned to ride, shoot straight, AND SPEAK THE TRUTH. Of course the Ancient Persians knew nothing about modern democracy.

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