Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 8, No. 8           August, 2000

High Summer

Fresh garden tomatoes, ripened on the vine, and corn only minutes off the stalk! What luxury! Summer is not our favorite season, but we certainly enjoy the good things about it, and these are those.

The European gunmakers are turning out new-model 45 auto-pistols in startling numbers. What, then, have these people discovered? Having been married to the 9mm Parabellum cartridge for most of a century, it seems unlikely that they now regard the 45 ACP as a superior round. It is probable that the Parabellum is increasingly prohibited for sale to civilians since it is considered to be a military cartridge. The result, I suppose, is good, but I see none of the new guns as needful improvements over what we already have. As you have noted over the years, the Parabellum cartridge is effective about 50 percent of the time, where the major-caliber pistol is up there closer to 90 percent. Of course if you place your shot with particular care, a 22 will do the job, but sometimes one gets excited.

The curious indifference of many Americans to the fate of Elián Gonzales may be due simply to ignorance. As stated in a recent issue of The National Review, "Most Americans do not know what life is like in a communist country." Certainly they will not learn about that from television, and that seems to be the only evident source of information.

We note that Eric Hefnerr, the new world champion of IPSC, shoots from what may be called a modified isosceles position. Both arms are slightly bent, but the support arm does not seem to be used to apply counter pressure. This hardly matters since the weapon involved generates almost no recoil whatever. It is long and heavy, with a bulky optical sight and an elaborate recoil suppression system. It also shoots the least powerful cartridge that can qualify as "major caliber." Does this matter? Probably not, since the "practical" element has been long removed from practical pistol competition. This does not mean that we shall start teaching or justifying the isosceles position, since we regard the service pistol as a weapon, rather than a chemically-operated paper-punch.

For those of you who have asked about the recovery of our pistol from the Swiss customs, we can report that the weapon was returned to the South Carolina club and issued as a prize as promised. Of course it had not been used to harvest an impala or a warthog as planned, so just say that it might have been.

We are informed by our friends in Switzerland that this annoying affair has been traced to the incompetence and inexperience of a particular administrator. We find those from time to time in all countries.

Perhaps you know of the book "Unintended Consequences," by John Ross, which narrates the fictional account of violent resistance to the infringement of the right of the people to keep and bear arms in the United States. Turns out now that the BATF is doing its best to suppress the book, since those people care no more about the First Amendment than they do about the Second. We hear mutterings from several sources about the possibility of a serious backlash against these obnoxious people in their unconscionable behavior. The BATmen should be, of course, abolished, but let us pray that this can be accomplished without violence.


Due to circumstances beyond our control, the 8th Annual Gunsite Reunion at Whittington has been moved one week back to 20, 21, 22 October. We hope that this announcement does not come so late as to wreck your schedule, and we hope to see you all there.


We hear of a fatal hyaena attack somewhere up in Bechuanaland. We are asking for details, but information on this sort of thing is not easy to get. Many people in Africa feel that news about the dangers of the bush are bad for the tourist business. I find that odd. The crowning zest of the African experience is that Africa is still Africa, and non-combatants should stay out of the good locations. There are plenty of game-viewing lodges and regions where the non-hunting tourist can look at the animals. Such people should go there and stay out of those last hunting edens which are still available to us.

New Goreism: "You're taking me outside my depths with this." Would that we could leave him there!

We imagine you are familiar with the tale of Sir Samuel Baker's hyaena contact. It appears that he and Lady Baker were asleep in cots in a tent, feet toward the open fly. Flossie took first notice of the dog-like head and rounded ears silhouetted in the opening. She stealthily nudged Baker, who picked up his rifle and fired, one-handed, between his toes - laying out the beast in fine style.

Moral: Do not get separated from your rifle.

We will mention again - and keep on mentioning it - that practical rifle instruction is a somewhat vigorous activity. Do not sign up for it unless you are in reasonably good physical condition, or you will embarrass yourself.

I have sometimes been asked what I consider to be the prime attribute of a gentleman. One may not pick singly, but certainly one of the more important elements is that of an adventurous mind. Adventure is an important part of life, even though, as Bilbo put it, it sometimes makes you late for dinner. Not everyone has the luxury of indulging in adventures, but without an adventurous mind it does not matter whether he has the opportunity or not. I think one acquires an adventurous mind from reading. I have not read as broadly as I might have, but I got a good dose of adventure from the works of G.A. Henty, Sir Walter Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, Zane Grey, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Of course few people read for recreation anymore, so we find that adventurous minds are increasingly rare.

It seems that the concealed carry policy now in effect in 30 states is unfair to goblins. They cannot tell who is armed and who is not, and when their intended victim shoots back it hurts their feelings - along with other things.

It has long been accepted that not even God can change the past, but this point has not got across to the film makers, especially Mel Gibson. His recent movie "The Patriot" seems to have upset the limp left to a great extent. These people appear to be much concerned that a patriotic American revolutionary might arm his adolescent sons in order to fight for the cause. The movie has many good points, and establishes Gibson as a real master of the tomahawk. Perhaps we can get him to hold a class over here.

"The more convenient the medium, the crummier the message."

The Guru

All the family were pleased to learn that the Defense Department has got around to awarding the Medal of Honor to Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. The papers have not been signed yet, and signing will be a painful act for our current president, in view of his announced revulsion with the military.

We note that the new CEO of Smith & Wesson opines that we shooters are a "vulgar and radical minority." Well now, ain't that a shame!

One reason that many people do not understand about proper stock length on a rifle is that very few people study the snapshot, and pay attention only to slow-fire shooting. Much mountain and desert hunting is slow-fire, but sometimes the hunter finds himself in scrub, orchard/bush, or even deep forest. Here the need for the snapshot becomes obvious. It also would appear to be useful in urban infantry warfare, if reports from Somalia may be credited. We have seen a lot of snapshooting recently in Africa, where we have hunted largely in bushveldt, and we find that the snapshot may be practiced empty to good effect. You do not have to go to the range to practice your snaps. Just stand at Standard Ready, across the room from that postage stamp, and count "one," two," and "three" as the striker goes forward. If those cross-wires are exactly subdividing that postage stamp when the striker moves, you have a pretty good handle on your snapshooting.

We note with some amusement that the colorful local magazine, "Arizona Highways", was banned in Moscow in 1965 on the grounds that it propagandized the idyllic landscape and lifestyle of Arizona. This apparently made the poor suffering comrades unhappy. Shucks!

In the last rifle course we had four Savage scouts, which did not work out well. Curiously enough the owners of these rifles felt that they were being discriminated against - apparently by me. Well, I did not buy them their guns. Clearly this is no time in history for anyone to be sporting a thin emotional skin. Homemade scouts are interesting, instructive and expensive. Some work better than others, but that is hardly a reason to complain to the management.

I now have in my possession the first prototype of the new 80th Birthday Gunsite Service Pistol, and a very nice item it is. The line forms on the right.

I have always been an amateur historian, and in German-speaking countries I am properly designated an "Historischer." But history has fallen upon evil times. Both fiction writers and film makers seem to make it up as they go along; the reason, I suppose, is that history is "politically incorrect."

What the Clinton administration has done to the unisex army is dreadful to consider. Training standards have become so low that anything that is hard tends to be rejected. People are getting out of the service because the training is hard. Throughout history recruit training has always been hard. Men have reserves of endurance that they do not realize, and this must be illustrated to them personally or the other side is going to win. Remember that saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going?" The current version seems to be, "When the going gets tough - cry!"

The Department of Overdone Adjectives

One morning last week I leaped out of bed and into my computer-programmed shower. Then I enjoyed my award winning breakfast, checked the condition of my digital pistol and fired up my tactical tricycle in order to get on with the day.

It is said that when Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald were cleaning up their technique in Paris they used to read each other's manuscripts and strike out adjectives and adverbs. Only if meaning was lost did they put them back in. This is an excellent exercise in English composition.

I must insist there is a better word than "girl friend" for one's current mistress. "Paramour" works pretty well, but if that sounds too dressy there is always "concubine."

We rarely go to movies anymore, and when we do we are impressed by the fact that the people who seek to portray violence have apparently never seen any violence. In Mel Gibson's "The Patriot" we note that it is policy to snarl when you are loading your handgun. Maybe we should try that on the range. When you change magazines you should grimace in order to get the proper effect for your director.

Anyone who thinks he is going to get the Israelis and the Arabs to sit down at peace together should first try arranging a peaceful settlement between the fossa and the lemur.

The best rifle stories I know are "Brown on Resolution" by C.S. Forrester and "The Sergeant and the Bandits" by John W. Thomason. Strangely enough I have not read any really good pistol stories, though there is a convincing if minor incident in "For Whom the Bell Tolls." I have by now personally acquired quite a lot of good pistol anecdotes. The trouble is they have no plot. I must look into this matter and write something worthwhile while there is still time.

The Safari Prep course is now scheduled for early spring of next year. People have been asking what it covers. We have a tentative syllabus on our desk, but it needs polish. Essentially we will discuss the things you need to know in order to get your money's worth out of your expensive venture. We will include shooting with your African rifles, but shooting is only a part of the exercise.

We may be a "vulgar and radical minority," but perhaps we are not actually a minority.

I do not know if I can believe it, but I am told now that a two-star general is being disciplined for the "sexual harassment" of a three-star general. Should this be listed under fantasy or science fiction? I have known a couple of three-star generals, and maybe half-a-dozen two-star generals well enough to form an opinion, and this news is in-comprehensible. A three-star general constitutes a major element of military power, suitable for bringing about changes in the political structure of the world. Making a pass at a three-star general is somewhat akin to pouncing upon a carrier battle-group. Sex is one of God's better ideas, but this is ridiculous!

Is it possible that an honest-to-God backlash is taking form in the sticks? We hear mutterings and we devoutly pray that those unintended consequences of John Ross may never be forced upon us by people who just do not understand about liberty.

We were recently told by a correspondent that a self-loading pistol which cannot be cocked is perfectly okay because he uses one and he shoots up a storm. Well, Jack Weaver never shot anything but double-action and he wiped out first-rate auto-pistol users by the score. Clearly anything can be done by a man who starts with a great deal of talent and then applies himself to it for much of his life. Thell Reed can hit those iron chickens at 50 meters reliably from a waist-high-point without using the sights. I have seen him do it. I have also seen pool sharks at work, and I have watched Pete Sampras play tennis. Marvelous things can be done "the hard way," but that does not mean that the hard way is automatically the good way. If you are a good-enough swimmer you do not need a life jacket when you go boating, but take one along anyway.

The trouble with the gunmaking business is that guns are too permanent. When you acquire a good gun you probably never need to buy another. Hence the faddism we see in the magazines and the shows. When everybody who needs a rifle buys his Steyr Scout, the market can shut down - except for elephant hunters, buffalo hunters, and prairie dog specialists. I guess we shooters will just have to breed faster.

"I miss civilization - and I want it back."

Marylynne Robinson

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