Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 8, No. 9           24 August, 2000

Dog Days

Here at Gunsite the weather is fine. We have had plenty of rain, the fields are green, the tomatoes are ripe, and the cat is busy catching mice.

On the other hand, the social scene is more than a bit sour. It is okay to shoot an unarmed woman in the face at 200 yards as long as you are told to do it by somebody in authority. It is okay to cut your wife's throat as long as you are rich, famous - and black. It is okay for a special counsel of the federal government to decide that the feds did not fire into the Mount Carmel compound - even though we all saw the pictures of them doing so. It is okay to lie under oath if you are the chief executive officer of the United States. Patrick Henry said that "These are the times that try men's souls," but he never suspected how trying the times might become.

We hoped it would not happen, but it has. Steyr Mannlicher is manufacturing and Gun South is distributing the Poodle Scout. This is a scout-type rifle taking the 223 cartridge. One would ask what possible use there might be for that piece. An answer, of course, is "to sell!" I suppose people will buy it, but if anyone shows up here at the Ranch with one, he will be viewed with scorn. "If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build 'em up again with worn-out tools..." There is a certain parallel here.

The Gunsite "birthday pistol" is now in use and it shoots very well. Its primary feature, as you may know, is that it is slim-lined. The line forms on the right.

"An Iranian moderate is one who has run out of ammunition."


Our great good friend Tony Weeks of Salisbury reports to us now that Rhodesia is totally lost and that he is considering leaving the country of his birth permanently. It was a beautiful land, and I have many delightful memories of it. Comrade Mugabe has run totally amok and is doing his best to wreck the place. The farmers have been robbed of their farms and there is no one now left to grow the food. For our part we can revere the past, but we must mourn the future.

Defensive pistolcraft does not always result in shooting. Our new grandson-in-law is only 26, but he has already had two confrontations which were neatly solved by the possession, not the discharge, of his pistol.

The good people at Swift Bullets tell us that they expect to have a 270-grain 375 caliber partition bullet available for sale by hunting season. This is just what we need for the 376 Steyr cartridge. I have used the Swift 250-grain 36 caliber bullet extensively, with unvarying success. The Swift bullet for the 376 looks to be just what we need.

On the same subject, I have been in touch with a manufacturer in South Africa who is interested in producing a semi-flat-point, monolithic solid for the 376. This is especially designed for those who intend to take the Dragoon after buffalo. I do not recommend this practice, but the 375 Holland has harvested a lot of buffalo in Africa over the decades and the Dragoon is a great deal more user-friendly than any 375 I have seen.

We were up in the Colorado Rockies a short while back and discovered that the white goat (Oreamnos americanus) is proliferating successfully. A problem arises in that the goat seems to have a strong taste for peanut butter sandwiches, and hikers may have to tussle with him if he discovers their backpacks untended. This can be quite a tussle, for the Rocky Mountain goat is a strong, active and well-armed antagonist.

This character Schultz who is causing the trouble as CEO of Smith & Wesson gets worse all the time. He has already termed us shooters "a vulgar and radical minority." Now he has decided that the badge of those really bad guys who venerate the Bill of Rights are identifiable by gun racks in the back window of their pickups. We knew things were pretty bad up there in New England, but we did not realize that hoplophobia had become quite so rampant in those benighted parts.

We now note the appearance of what may be called the "giant trail gun." This is a great, huge eight-shot revolver taking the 22 Hornet cartridge. Evidently this piece is designed for hikers who have servants along to carry the loads.

We are informed by our friends at Vizier magazine in Germany that the word Mauser has pretty much lost its original connotation. Today it has no traditional implication. It is simply used as an advertising technique. We noticed the unfortunate quality control visible on the last "Mauser" we handled at the SHOT Show. This is a great shame, but we guess it does not come as a surprise.

Recently the governor of Texas treated us to a campaign presentation here in Prescott. It was a delight to us rednecks to note that a good many of the spectators were openly and legally armed - and that the Secret Service realized that here in Arizona this sort of thing is the way to go. We were charmed when the candidate announced loudly and clearly in regard to the forthcoming election that "Help is on the way."

On a further political note, we were startled to see the term "Jewish-American" in the popular press. To this level we have sunk! Hyphenated Americans are just as disgusting today as they were when Theodore Roosevelt pointed them out a hundred years ago. One is either an American or he is not, and hyphenated prefixes simply indicate that the bearer of the title is not really an American. To be a Jewish-American would involve bearing dual citizenship in both the United States and Israel. Many of our best friends and role models are definitely Jewish, but they are not hyphenated. If this keeps up, I will have to describe myself as English-Dutch-French-German-Swiss-American. We need hyphenated Americans the way we need typhoid fever.

One of the family reports from the Arctic that the cartridge of choice amongst Eskimos is the 243. This is a nice little cartridge, but we have never thought of it as a bear gun. Apparently the Inuit are congenitally recoil shy, but that may not be a problem if the shooter is always extremely careful to place his bullet in exactly the right spot.

Buy ammunition! Remember that a man cannot have too many books, too many wines, or too much ammunition. Our adversaries on the other side are reaching for the excuse of lead poisoning. If they can push that idea through, you may wind up still owning your guns but without anything to shoot in them.

In several countries in Europe the possession of more than a limited amount of ammunition is considered to be subversive. When laws are passed about it, it becomes necessary for "the authorities" to institute house searches. Things are not that bad yet in the United States, but much will depend upon the outcome of the next election. The beltway buzzards are out to disarm you, and if they win in November they will proceed accordingly. Buy ammunition!

As the lights continue to go out in South Africa, talk is now given to the changing of the names of the major cities. Some weird suggestions have been offered for Pretoria and Durban, and I hate to think what sort of a designation these racists will come up with for "The Fairest Cape."

We mentioned Mel Gibson's The Patriot in a previous issue, but not to the extent that it deserves. The issue is the obligation of a movie producer to history. Historical fiction is a legitimate artistic enterprise, but only if the fiction is confined within the boundaries of historical fact. In this movie the producers sought to avoid criticism by renaming the two protagonists. They changed Tarleton to Tavington, and they changed the Swamp Fox to the Ghost, even though anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of the American Revolution could not fail to recognize the characters immediately. The sticking point was the attribution of Tarleton/Tavington to the burning of a church with the congregation inside. Tarleton/Tavington was a brutal counter-insurrectionist and did many bad things, but neither he nor any other Britisher ever burned a church with the congregation inside. That sort of thing had to wait for the feds at Waco.

"Democracy has many definitions, but 'what's in it for me' is not an element of any of them."

The Guru

As the taxonomists insist upon redefining various forms of wildlife, they confuse the issue of bears even further. When I was a lad the park ranger said that in order to tell whether a particular bear was a black or a grizzly you were to kick him in the behind. If he ran up a tree, that was a black bear. If you ran up a tree, that was a grizzly. We all know, of course, that while black bears are usually black, this is not always the case, as they come in various shades of brown and amber. We were informed by our daughter Parry, who lives up in the Rockies, that the proper name for what used to be called a black bear (Euarctos americanus) may now be accurately designated as a "trash bear." These are the bears who keep getting into trash and demanding relocation. Ordinarily the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos and close relations) has always been regarded as ferocious, while the trash bear is considered to be mainly inoffensive. The human population explosion, however, has put so many more people into contact with trash bears that various unpleasant incidents have resulted. Trash bears frequently eat people. Grizzlies seldom do.

Bears of all kinds are a great ornament to the wilderness, but you do not want them in your lap. We frequently print up the five Gunsite bear rules. If you observe them, bears will be no trouble.

We learn that on one occasion on Guadalcanal when things were pretty rough, a subordinate commander reported to Chesty Puller that all of his officers were either dead or incapacitated, and as a result all command positions were held by sergeants. Chesty called back for the officer not to worry. "There is nothing better than a Marine sergeant." Here was the legendary "Marine's Marine."

Florence King, who is an amusing and outrageous commentator for National Review, recently came up with another jewel. When one candidate was asking that his opponent "look deep into the heart," Florence suggested that he whistle up an Aztec priest.

Is the so-called killer instinct a necessary and essential attribute of military command? I have been addressing this question for some time now, not professionally but rather for amusement. The first thing, as Socrates put it, is to define our terms. What is a "killer instinct," if it exists at all? I think the principal manifestation of the killer instinct is simply the enjoyment of killing. This is not an attractive idea for most people, and a great majority, if asked directly, will maintain that they do not enjoy killing either animals or people. And this may, of course, be true. Not always, however. In picking through history we run across all sorts of evidence suggesting that the enjoyment of killing is not as rare a phenomenon as most people would like to believe. If we go back to the earliest records we find there is very little to help us here, because prior to the popularization of printed matter any sort of psychological or emotional analysis was very difficult, and suffered decidedly from the attitude and prejudices of the historian. If we say that Attila, for example, enjoyed killing, we are taking our truths from the statements of people he pounded. Losers customarily abhor winners. But if we come up to reasonably modern times we can get much better depictions of the personalities of prominent military leaders who are professionally engaged in homicide.

I do not trust the historian too far in this matter because I doubt his objectivity, but I have some experiences of my own upon which I feel I can rely. I have on one occasion become reasonably close to a prominent Marine general who told me in confidence that the thing he enjoyed most in life was killing Japs. This may come as a shock to some people, but it did not shock me. We were fighting the same war at the same time, and our objective was the destruction of Japan, materially and biologically. This exchange was not confined to the general and me. I remember various bull sessions in the Pacific wherein the central topic was the mechanical problem of disposing of 80 million Japanese. This was what we were going to have to do, since we had discovered first hand that the Japanese would not surrender.

For purposes of this discussion, killing is not necessarily confined to homicide. A lot of us are hunters, and while we feel no enmity towards those beasts we kill, we cannot deny the visceral thrill that comes from a well-placed shot and an instant stop.

This is a very deep and very ancient attribute of the predatory carnivore which is man. While I always try to eat whatever I shoot, I do not hunt for food. Nor do I hunt primarily for trophies. I prefer the taste of wild venison to that of domestic stock, and I prize a prime trophy well taken, but that is not the whole story.

Western Europeans tend to be shy about this subject, but the Bantu are not so. In Africa today when the hunter places a clean hit and hears the Kugelschlag, the locals in his company customarily grunt out the shout, "Shakazulu!"

The bambiists and the bunny huggers naturally view all this with horror, and they are entitled to that attitude as their choice. They are wrong, however, in assuming that most people are horrified at the notion of taking life. Some are and some are not, but the notion that because A does not share the emotions of B he is automatically "illegal, immoral, and fattening" is unsound. Both hunters and soldiers kill normally and frequently. I think it may be suggested that they do it better if they enjoy doing it.

The killer instinct undoubtedly helps the fighting soldier. Whether it is an attribute of a senior commander is another matter. We know a lot more about our own recent wars than we do about others, and so we Americans have much insight into the personalities of our national heroes. I certainly do not wish to damage anyone's reputation when I say that I am convinced that Stonewall Jackson was a killer. Douglas Freeman insisted that Robert E. Lee was even more so. William T. Sherman almost certainly was, whereas Grant almost equally was not. Probably Patton was a killer, but I do not think MacArthur was. Most think of George Custer and Bedford Forrest as enthusiastic killers, and at sea we have John Paul "Jones" who was a notably fierce little man. Stepping across the line we note that one of Rommel's best known works is called "Krieg ohne Hasse" (war without hatred), and the majority of senior German commanders were conspicuously restrained in their commentaries, if not always in their actions.

The Japanese are more difficult to analyze, since their records were largely destroyed and such letters as exist are equivocal. Certainly they did their share of personal killing, and they took pictures to send home as souvenirs.

About all that I can gather from all this is that the killer instinct is not essential to senior command, though it may be desirable in lower ranks. It is neither shameful nor prideful - it is just there.

As we continue on into the year it appears that thought control has become the tune of the time. "Thoughts are free" was the great battle cry of the left during the upheavals of the 19th century, but apparently not any longer. Here in the US it is now considered that crime X deserves one punishment, but becomes crime Y when the perpetrator was thinking the wrong thoughts at the time.
"Die Gedanken sind frei, aber heute nicht in die Vereiningten Staaten."


The following missive, by Lawrence A. Bullis of Phoenix to the "Arizona Republic," was reprinted in Harper's:
"Everyday some new do-gooder is trying to save us from ourselves. We have so many laws and safety commissions to ensure our safety that it seems nearly impossible to have an accident. The problem is that we need accidents, and lots of them.

"Danger is nature's way of eliminating stupid people. Without safety, stupid people die in accidents...

"With safety, however well-intentioned it may be, we are devolving into half-witted mutants, because idiots, who by all rights should be dead, are spared from their rightful early graves and are free to breed even more imbeciles.

"Let's do away with safety and improve our species. Take up smoking. Jaywalk. Play with blasting caps. Swim right after a big meal. Stick something small in your ear. Take your choice of dangerous activity and do it with gusto. Future generations will thank you."

Notice recently observed on a private pool:
"Please do not walk on the water. It is politically incorrect."

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