Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 9, No. 10          September 11, 2001


Obviously nothing to report as we post this notice, except the same words we used on Pearl Harbor Day - "You little bastards will be sorry you did this!" George W. Bush has now been handed a major role in history. God grant him the ability to handle it!

They have roused a sleeping giant. This has happened before.

Other matters seem trivial in view of last Tuesday's attack, but since the following notes had already been prepared, we send them along anyway.

Various people are attempting to set up an M16, or something similar, to take what amounts to a giant pistol cartridge - and to call the result "Thumper." We intended this term to apply to a more efficient order of infantry sidearm, but the concept calls for more than just a major caliber M16. While it is true that a very powerful, large bore, short-range, pistol-type cartridge might be just what the modern infantryman needs, he also needs less weight and less bulk. The configuration of the unlamented US 30 caliber carbine seems pretty good, and today Ruger makes that piece up in 44 Magnum. That appears to be about as close to "Thumper" as we are likely to get, since to make the weapon a success it needs to be ordered in large quantities by governments, and governments are not pulling in that direction at this time. This sort of weapon has certain utility in the sporting field, but in no sense matches the Steyr Scout. Remember that "Thumper" is a government gun, whereas the Scout is an all-purpose item.

By family member and master marksman Mark Heim of Switzerland we are reminded of the following:
"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child."


You may not believe this but we recently observed a Blaser R93 without a sling. Well, where is a beginner going to learn riflecraft in today's world? The theory is all there in the book (mine), but who reads? We do teach the subject here at the school, but only to a few hundred people a year. Obviously that is not enough.

How far away can you see "the whites of their eyes?" Check it out some time. That is effective musket range.

We recently acquired a copy of "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," which is the account of the expedition of the two Roosevelt brothers (Kermit and Theodore III) to Turkestan in 1925 in pursuit of the great sheep. This is fascinating. Among other things, you pretty well can not get to Turkestan. If you approach from the west, you will have to go through Soviet country, which was in large turmoil at the time of the journey. If you approach from the east, the distances are just too great. It took five months to get a letter from Tashkent to Peking. If you approach from the south, you have to go over the mountains, which puts you at the mercy of the weather. The Himalaya, the Karakoram and the Hindukush are only traversable for about six months in the middle of the year. You have to be in position to attempt the passes at the earliest date upon which you may expect them to be open. And at the other end, you must get out before they close again. The Roosevelt boys got all sorts of expert advice and assistance from all sorts of important people, so they had a lot going on their side. Still, it was a pretty wild excursion. The primary object of the exercise was the Ovis poli of the Pamir, but they collected various other animals for museum purposes. For rifles they packed a couple of 375 Hoffmans, which come across a little short of a 376 Steyr. Also they brought along Springfield sporters as reserve guns. All weapons were iron-sighted-this was 1925, and marksmanship was clearly not a primary consideration. The tactical move was to spook a bunch of sheep on some far off slope and open fire from off-hand, hoping for the best. They seem to have wounded more animals than they secured, but they did fulfill their museum quotas.

The northern part of their exploration was the Tien Shan, the Mountains of Heaven, about which we have special affection, since only last year family member David Bowden on a survey expedition in Kirghizstan named a prominent peak there after us. We have good pictures, but we are not thinking about summiting that mountain just now. It lies, as the book title goes, east of the sun and west of the moon, which is just too far away even for the helicopter.

It was altogether a nifty operation, despite the shortcomings of its musketry. The boys packed a little less than three thousand rounds of ammunition, and considering their tactical principles, this was just about enough.

Guru say: Good shooting will make up for poor gear, but superior gear will not make up for poor shooting.

As we have insisted for years, the most important single feature contributing to the "hitability" of a rifle is its trigger action. In the last rifle class only the Steyr Scouts showed up with triggers ready to go.

We have a marvelous story back from Spain, via family member and senior coach Ed Stock. It seems that a flock of bunny huggers descended on the peninsula from somewhere up north, intent upon suppressing the institution of the bull fight. A large swarm of them bought tickets, took their seats and then just before the trumpet blew, they swarmed into the ring and seated themselves on the sand, expecting to disrupt the entire affair. Well, they did in a sense, since autoridad simply ordered the red gate to open and released the bull into the screaming protestors. As far as we can tell, no one was killed or even hospitalized, but the action was hugely enjoyed by all - well, almost all.

Probably the most depressing man in public life at this time is Chuck Schumer of New York. This fellow has come out publically to say that the Constitution of the United States is valid only for people who believe the earth is flat. Schumer has sworn to support and defend that constitution! Even the electorate of New York should be able to detect some sort of contradiction here.

We had an interesting case in the last rifle class in which a student showed up with a very expensive weapon which was totally unsuited for anything but the testing of ammunition. It was an immensely long, heavy target rifle fitted with a moonscope. This client had been advised in Southern California that this was just the rifle he needed to take to the rifle class. Obviously rifle shooting has degenerated in the minds of many to bench-rifle shooting, and no one seems to think of it as weaponry. There is, of course, a contingent among sportsmen who feel that we should never refer to our weapons as weapons, but rather as sporting instruments. To such people a general-purpose rifle such as the Steyr Scout must be completely perplexing. The client in this case was a member of the Los Angeles Police Department, but clearly in his conversation, both professional and recreational, serious riflery was a subject never brought up. We do not know how to arrange it, but apparently the student should take a rifle class before he signs up for a rifle class.

As the mess continues in the Land of Canaan, we observe that a lot of that trouble could be avoided by simple observance of Hastings' fourth law, which reads: "Never throw rocks at people with guns."

There is no question but what the Romans were a pretty brutal bunch, but in some ways they seem less so than some other people. Consider that while they conducted a good deal of crucifixion, they never crucified a woman - nor a Roman citizen. Additionally, they would not shackle a Roman citizen. Kill him if necessary, but no handcuffs. Remember Heinlein's dictum, "It may be necessary to kill a man, but to incarcerate him destroys both his dignity and yours."

We hear from the FBI that the longest police sniper shot they have recorded was attempted at a range of 97 yards. It would seem pretty obvious that urban sniping is necessarily a short-range proposition. Note that this does not invalidate the 200-meter zero, which will do very well from zero to 250 meters.

Note that family member and colleague Paul Kirchner has just released a new adventure compendium called "The Deadliest Men." This is essentially a large number of biographical essays dealing with the lives of notable killers, from Alexander on down. Paul did not start, as I suggested, with David the King ("Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands."), because he could not dig up appropriate anecdotes from the Old Testament. It is amazing how diversified these sketches are, and Paul's readership is going to be all over him complaining about people he put in and people he left out. Bedford Forrest is properly considered a killer, but Stonewall Jackson was probably more such. Pizzaro is included, but oddly enough, not Cortez. And Audie Murphy, but not Hanneken. This is a book to be read with scratch pad at hand wherewith to note a limitless multitude of sea stories.

No matter what you may have read or heard, Steyr Mannlicher has not gone under. We remain in touch with Elmar Bilgeri at the factory, and while things are indeed a bit confused at this time, the supply of Steyr Scouts continues as before.

You may have heard that the second edition of the "Gargantuan Gunsite Gossip" is now available for sale - called G2 for short. It runs to 1,142 pages, which is a bit much for air travel, but it comes on pretty well. In our reasonably authoritative opinion, it is plagued by some pretty sorry proofreading in spots, but we never saw the galleys personally, so we must point the finger at somebody else. It is now available from the Gunsite Pro Shop and you should be able to find it in several other catalog selections fairly soon.

Rumor has it that George W. Bush's bed table security is a GSP. I have no way to verify that, but it does make a good story.

We recommend to the faithful that they look forward to a piece by family member Mark White, "Things To Come" in the Accurate Rifle magazine. Mark goes into admirable detail about developments in personal infantry arms, and he has studied the matter at great length. Catch it if you can!

From some correspondents just back from Turkestan we learn that an enjoyable pastime in those parts is long-range plinking at ice blocks. For those of you who must enjoy 1000-yard shooting, this seems to be a good place to go.

Family member Ed Detrixhe points out that when you overload the circuits on your computer the screen goes blank. Likewise, when you confront a hoplophobe with reasoned argument, his mind goes blank. We have so little contact with those other people that it is sometimes hard for us to understand that they exist - but they do. The media, the megalopolis and academia are lousy with them. Reasoned argument is entirely on our side, but sometimes it is hard to find anyone to reason with. That blank screen is hardly an interesting antagonist.

We are glad to report that the Korth operation in Germany has been revived. These people set about years ago to produce the highest quality possible revolver, made of the best possible materials and taking no short cuts. Such a piece is necessarily expensive, but it is there for people who prize such things.

It appears that in the southern Philippines the police authorities are having so much trouble teaching their boys to shoot a pistol that they have established that those who cannot qualify with a handgun be issued a bolo instead, which is probably a better solution in many locations throughout the world.

The extravagant excellence of modern weaponry continues to amaze us. Consider that the Israelis were able to snap a couple of rockets through the breakfast room window of one of the principle Arab terrorists, with terminal effect. Now, that is real precision. Of course the issue there was the determination of the target presence at the right place and time. This is more a triumph for combat intelligence than for combat weaponry. If we keep improving our weapons, we may reach the point where shooting them is not any fun anymore.

We read of what may be called "practical bench-rest shooting" at the siege of Potchefstroom in the Transvaal in 1880. The Boers were besieging the British and set up fixed rifle positions in daylight, to be used after dark. When sounds indicated movement at the target area the piece was fired - usually without hitting anything but keeping the defenders nervous.

We do not see or read much about anything exciting in the way of pistol innovation. About the only fault we can find with the ancient 1911 is that the stock screws and the stock screw sockets both turn in the same direction. Yes, the piece can be dehorned, its sights may be customized, and its trigger often needs professional attention, but these are not major consideration. You can get one of our JC presentation pieces ready to go at this time from the Gunsite gunsmithy.

The 1911 pistol remains the service pistol of choice in the eyes of those who understand the problem. Back when we audited the FBI academy in 1947, I was told that I ought not to use my pistol in their training program because it was "not fair." Maybe the first thing one should demand of his sidearm is that it be unfair.

These PETA people, who have long been well on the way, have now gone completely round the bend, maintaining that the sharks are attacking people out of revenge. That's what they said! We might ask them what the sharks revenged themselves upon before there were any people, but that would grant them unwarranted respect. As Bill Buckley put it, "I'd like to take you seriously, but that would be to insult your intelligence."

Our victory in the last election seems to have caused some people to think that the war is won. There is evidence for this in the loss of some numbers in NRA membership. We are still more than 4 million strong, but we must make sure that we do not let our guard drop. History is full of horrifying examples of what happens when you let your guard drop. This struggle for political liberty in America will never be won. The fight must and will continue. It is essentially a conflict between those who prize human dignity above all other political consideration and those to whom the subject is unimportant. We continue to preach and we exhort others to preach. Liberty, like air, is something that you do not really appreciate until you do not have it. It is our duty to make sure that it is not to be taken for granted. Keep the faith and fight the fight!

Everything is going to be different now.

God Save the Republic!

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