Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 8, No. 4           April, 2000

Springtime 2000

The blossoms are at their best and the buds show promise of an excellent fruit year. We had very little winter, but we look forward now to a furiously active spring and early summer, both here and abroad.

Construction proceeds apace here at the ranch, and though we are not quite ready yet for the new era, we will do our very best to bring things up to scratch as rapidly as the new construction will allow. We have conducted one Master Series Rifle class already, and are set to do a pistol session next week. There will be more of these as the year passes, and we hope each one will be better than the last. I plan to be imparting classic Gunsite doctrine, as perfected in the past, with the masterful help of our Master Series faculty. A number of critics have called in to explain to Colonel Bob Young that we have the message all wrong, and they, as former members of various sorts of special forces units, stand ready to step in here and straighten us out. On the matter of marksmanship doctrine we are not inflexible, but we wish to be convinced in person by those who claim to be able to show us the right path. The core issue in combat weaponcraft remains the combat mind-set, as always. We study this matter continuously from the field, preferably by means of first hand experience, though to a lesser extent from press reports. Newsmen as a group do not understand fighting, though they show no reticence in pretending to, but we at least can get things like time, date and number from their reports. (Isn't it fascinating that the news people are so concerned with the caliber of smallarms and the mechanical nature of repeating actions? This seems to be a new thing, as I do not remember this degree of technical preoccupation before.)

There will be a hiatus now as we head off for Africa again for a period of several weeks. Sorry about that, but we will be able to bring back various interesting anecdotes and observations upon our return.

Here at Gunsite we have always been more interested in the performance of the individual than of the group. When the individual shooter is shown that his individual performance can be brought to near perfection, we feel that we have done our job. Sad to say, there are those who remain convinced that fighting is correctly and exclusively a state function, and that the individual citizen has no business learning how to involve himself in it. This notion is widespread but fortunately not universal, and thus we stay in business.

We ask again if you have any interest in a "Safari Prep," course as we hear continuously from Africa that it is customary for the usual African sportsman to manifest truly shocking incompetence in many important areas. We will not put on a Safari Prep course in 2000, but we will set one up for 2001 if the world is still in one piece by that time.

It would seem obvious by now that if you want to get the most out of your Gunsite rifle instruction you should bring a Steyr Scout to work with. Hits are achieved by the shooter, not the rifle, but why not make it easy on yourself?

The rejection of basic American tradition by the (British-owned) firm of Smith & Wesson is irritating but not unexpected. It does appear that the company is in the process of phasing itself out of business, but then it has not been a true leader in the sidearms field for some time. I suppose those of us who pioneered the modern technique of the pistol may be held responsible for the gradual abandonment of the revolver principle in American law enforcement circles. Years ago I might have thought better of this development than I do now. Certainly the self-loader is a more efficient sidearm than the wheel-gun, but it has brought about the flowering of the "spray-and-pray" principle, to the intense disgust of all serious shooters. Seen in this light, it may very well be that the police should have stuck with the revolver.

Getting information off the Internet is like getting a glass of water from Niagara Falls, according to Arthur C. Clarke. Maybe he has a point there.

"Thought control." We thought we were fighting against it, as exemplified by Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, but now a strident cadre of busybodies is doing its best to inflict it upon us. No person of dignity will submit to being told how to think, but dignity has all but gone out of style in The Age of the Common Man. Freedom of speech may be guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, but that does not mean that we exercise it. Just try calling a spade a spade and see what happens!

May it be suggested that a man who does not hunt is like a woman who does not cook? Okay, I said it and I am glad!

The Gunsite gunsmithy is now at work on the production of a custom clone of the 1911, built to my specifications on a Springfield frame. Eighty of these pistols will be produced and serialized 0 through 80 in gold out of respect for my venerable 80 years. (Note, this is not to be confused with the announced Gunsite Service Pistol 2000, which is similar but not the same.)

I intend to take a few of these new fangled "spray point" bronze bullets on a forthcoming pig hunt in South Carolina. According to photos that I saw at the SHOT Show, this bullet configuration combines radial tissue disruption with full penetration in a very unusual way. Of course, I first have to find the pig.

Note that there is no such thing as a "wall of separation" between church and state stipulated in this country. We do not have it and we do not need it. What we may need, however, is a wall of separation between school and state. The state has no business brain washing our children, despite the fact that that seems to be what it does at this time, or attempts to do. Education is not the state's business.

Recently a certain ineptizoid got stuck in the rocks up on Camelback Mountain near Phoenix. He was rapelling down when he discovered to his astonishment that he had run out of rope. Municipal rescue attempts were able to fetch him down off the rocks without damage, but now the question arises as to who is to blame for this mishap. (According to modern sociology no victim can be responsible for anything.) It occurs to us that some smart accident attorney might bring suit against the rope maker for making the rope too short. That idea is not sillier than many we have seen as The Age of the Wimp carries on.

"Yes, we did produce a near perfect republic, but will they keep it, or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the surest way to destruction."

Thomas Jefferson

I suppose you know that the British have recalled all of their SA 80 service rifles, which were discovered to be unreliable in operation under severe conditions of dust and precipitation. That piece was apparently British designed, but insufficiently tested before adoption. The SA 80 took the now standard 223 cartridge, which never should have been adopted by any serious military power.

Which brings us to the subject of poor old General Pinochet of Chile. This man saved his country almost single handedly from communism, but that in itself is largely a negative attribute in the eyes of the international left.

After some period of examination it appears that the European Union is a rather evil organization. The Swiss have been trying to avoid entanglement with it, but they are pretty well surrounded. It seems that the EU has now decided to ostracize Austria, presumably because the Austrians are not terrified of the ghost of Hitler. The members of the EU are evidently not terrified by the ghost of Stalin - but that is another matter.

We have given the matter a good deal of thought here at Gunsite, and our conclusion is that a prospective hunter of big game should put between one and two hundred rounds through the weapon he intends to take afield before taking off. This could prove somewhat burdensome if your weapon of choice is a 416 (at $6.00 a shot), but then we have never been very much impressed by the 416. If you choose to hunt with a really heavy rifle, you must be prepared to face up to the expense. Of course you can practice with a lesser round without losing too much in the way of preparation. One option might be to put in your 200 rounds with your 308 and about 40 rounds with your heavy. Not many of us shoot a lot of buffalo, so this does not seem to be a serious problem.

You all saw those pictures of Mozambique under water. We hear from our good friends in the eastern Transvaal that no serious damage has been done, away from the Zambezi Delta. We expect to be down that way next month and should wind up with some pretty good sea stories on this subject.

Family member Ted Ajax has put forth a nomination for the Waffenpƶsselhaft award for 2000. This is a gadget which sets up an additional barrel and action for your M16, but which takes the 50-caliber BMG cartridge. Just what one might do with a piece of this sort is by no means clear, but as we have often mentioned, if you ask what a weapon is for you may make a lot of enemies.

We can report no progress on the matter of an idealized sight system for the Scout rifle. Conversation is friendly, but progress is not forthcoming. "These things take time," I was once told in Austria. I believe it.

An Australian correspondent has introduced us to a creature we had not run across in all our wanderings. This is nicknamed the "Borneo beetle" by the Australian Air Force people, and it is pretty alarming. It hangs out in trees at the edge of clearings and walkways. When it detects approaching movement on the part of a creature of any size, it launches to the attack. If a target is small, like say a song bird, it kills it in the air with its powerful mandibles and devours what nourishment it can find from the wreckage on the ground. If it hits something too big, like say a man, it rips out a piece of meat as large as it can handle, about the size of a small French fry, and flies off with it. This can be pretty annoying to the troops, who were forced to resort to a stratagem. On field exercises they would pack pockets full of steel hex nuts. When the troops heard one of these assault bugs approaching (which was not too difficult because his flight was noisy), they would throw a hex nut in the air in front of him. With luck he would grab the nut, and finding it too heavy to carry, he would be forced to land, prey in hand. This little beasty would seem to be an excellent target for a 22 shot round, but, of course, the troops did not have such things at hand while on duty in Borneo. I suppose a badminton racket would be a handy defensive instrument under these circumstances, but here again we do not usually pack badminton rackets in our jungle warfare kits.

The Borneo beetle seems to be a most interesting creature. Perhaps we should cruise down there and investigate.

In this era of the decay of good English usage, we point out that the terms woman and lady are not inter-changeable. "Woman" is a specific definition, similar to "cow," "mare," or "hen." "Lady," on the other hand, is an honorific, the feminine equivalent of "Lord." Consider, for example, the significance between the adjectives "womanly," "girlish" and "ladylike." Not the same, are they?

Pop English may truly be a lost cause. I have gone back and scanned several volumes of my collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan, etc.) And then I compare the usage in these pieces to that in modern journalism. I need to make no corrections, either typographical or grammatical, in any of the Tarzan books or their companions. They may be considered juvenile by some standards, but reading them carefully is a good way to improve your English.

More or less by accident, we recently ran across a small snippet at the end of a movie in which we discovered the world's greatest marksman. The name is Whoopi Goldberg (!). This one can shoot any sort of firearm, under any sort of pressure, from any position, against the clock, without sights - and she never misses! We heard she also took third prize in the Ugly Woman contest. Show business is marvelous indeed!

"Under the administration of Rhodes, there were the fewest laws, the widest freedom, the least crime, and the truest justice I have ever seen in any part of the world."

Frederick Russell Burnham
Burnham was writing at about the turn of the 20th century, but we have made much progress since then, haven't we?

We hear of another croc hit up in Chobe. It seems this lad was walking down to the river bank to do his laundry. He was a tourist, not a local, or he would have known better. The way these innocents wander around the world with no understanding of nature or life in general is what we used to call a scandal for the jay birds. Well, at least they will not reproduce, and I guess that is all to the good.

In keeping track of special agent Lon Horiuchi, we note that the television people are understandably reluctant to show his face. After killing Vicki Weaver with one round to the face up at Ruby Ridge, he was put in charge of a sniper team which went on down to Waco. Just what a sniper team might be good for in that action is not clear, but Horiuchi has maintained that his team never fired a shot at that time. Recently released television coverage of that action shows four empty cartridge cases on the ground at the sniper post occupied by Horiuchi and his team. Apparently, someone else came in after the battle and dropped the four empties at the spot where Horiuchi was located. If he says no shots were fired, I guess no shots were fired. After all, Agent Horiuchi is a West Point graduate, and we can trust him implicitly.

We suggest that you do not bring to school here any equipment which requires batteries to operate it. (That is apart from your ordinary flashlight.) These dry cells have a marvelous way of being dead when you need them. A friend of Colonel Bob Young had the job of replenishing dry cells in the Gulf War. He spent all of his time in his helicopter racing from one point to another dumping off sacks full of dry cells, some of which worked.

I am sure you all caught the story of that excellent performance by a teacher in a class beset by some loony student with a pistol. Where her male opposite number in the other room hysterically told all of his students to hit the deck, and did so himself, our heroine just walked up to the perpetrator and took the pistol away from him. This girl has earned the Gunsite silver medal for common sense. Way to go, teach!

For those planning to come to the new Gunsite this year, we have several suggestions. First, get in shape. Second, do not bring a nipping dog to the campground. Third, do not bring a pistol which cannot be cocked. Fourth, read the book.

A correspondent recently sent us a novel he had written on the subject of the breakdown of liberty in this country. This work was fiction and, as you might suppose, it included a good deal of high-toned violence, including gunfire. The trouble is, the author evidently has never been in a fight and knows nothing about the mechanics of fighting. He gets his cartridges and calibers right, but he probably got those simply out of reading gun magazines. He does not, however, know what happens when a man gets shot. I suppose there are fewer and fewer of those who do understand about this, as our wars recede into the past. Still the number of street fights which occur regularly in today's embattled society would seem to provide enough observation to clean up this matter. My suggestion is that if an author chooses to write about street violence, either with firearms or without, he send his typescript to somebody who has been there for a technical review.

As I write this, I look forward to bison short ribs for dinner tonight, prepared as the Countess can prepare them. I reflect that we should shoot bison more often. It may not provide the best venison in the world, but if our experience can be useful, it is certainly among the best. Moreover, you may collect about 400 pounds per shot fired.

Historian and family member Barrett Tillman discovers that there are more than 30 incidents involving the 1911 pistol in which the Medal of Honor was awarded. That instrument represents a triumph of design, and it was just one of John Browning's triumphs. Oddly enough, John Browning never heard a shot fired in anger. (But then, Beethoven was deaf.)

1932 - 2000

With deep sadness we must report the death of our dear friend Finn - hunter, rifleman, author, distinguished outdoorsman and Gunsite family member. Finn was a Norseman who became a PH in Kenya in its great days and then resettled in Texas after the demise of tropical Africa.

In the US he wrote freelance for various shooting periodicals and his work was remarkable for both modesty and absolute honesty - qualities somewhat rare in "specialty journalism."

We had the pleasure of taking the field with Finn on a several occasions in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. He was a splendid companion and we will miss him sorely.

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