Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 9, No. 2           Februrary, 2001


By a startling piece of miscalculation, the SHOT Show and the Safari Club Show were held this year on the same weekend. It would seem that a great many people would be interested in both activities. We went to SHOT because it is our business to do so, but this forced us to miss seeing various good friends who were at Safari. We did discover, however, that the mutual interest here is not as strong as we might have supposed. The SHOT Show is a trade show and it is put on primarily by and for tradesmen. The Safari Club Show is for trophy hunters who often have little or no interest in firearms. For my part I go to the SHOT Show to look at guns, and the gun-looking was not particularly good this year. Those of us who shoot a good deal are well aware that the most important single attribute of either rifle or pistol is trigger-action. A good trigger release is what makes either rifle or pistol easy to hit with, and hitting is the purpose of the exercise. I examined four new handguns this year, and each had a worse trigger-action than the one before. Perhaps the idea is that since nobody can hit anything with a pistol anyway, what difference does "hitability" make? With rifles it is not much better. Steyr Mannlicher will not put a "Jeff Cooper trigger" on a Scout unless it is personally ordered. So that leaves us with the Blaser 93, whose marvelous and radical trigger-action is its strongest point, but a point which both advertisers and salesmen seem to miss.

All together the floor at SHOT was covered with thousands of salesmen, but hardly a shooter from one end of the hall to the other.

Some unpleasant commentator in the travel business is now pushing Botswana as the in place to go. Certainly the Okavango Delta is one of the wonders of the world, but what it does not need is a flock of non-hunting photographers in Hawaiian shirts. There are plenty of wonderful places to go in Africa to watch the game animals without shooting. Non-hunters should go there and stay out of the game country. Besides which it is a pretty good general rule that what is in is out, and what is out is in. Travelers take note.

We hear from a friend of John Gannaway's who just returned from the roof of the world that while the Marco Polo sheep is indeed the world's grandest trophy, his pursuit is not a good idea at this time. The operators, naturally, want your money, and they want you to get in and get out as quickly as possible. This is not a good idea when your base camp is located at 13,000 feet. As is common knowledge, high altitude takes a little time to which to adjust, and a two-week hunt simply does not offer enough time. This hunt was in Tadjikistan where the Tadjiks cannot speak Russian and the Russians cannot speak Tadjik. The object of the exercise, from the local standpoint, is money - your money. You must operate with a sheaf of one hundred dollar bills in each shirt pocket. The countryside is grand, but not beautiful, mainly high, gentle rock slopes with no visible vegetation in any direction. Our friend anticipated a great deal of long-range shooting, but, as one might suppose, when he got his shot he took it at 200 paces. Well, he got his ram, and it will look very grand on his wall, but he has no desire to try that episode again.

I have just now discovered the purpose of that full-length stock on the 1903 Mannlicher - often referred to as the "Mannlicher" stock. It is to facilitate use of the carbine as a walking stick. The emperor and his sons were great hunters of the high country, and they liked to hold the rifle by the barrel and use the butt as a support. Certainly that full-length stock does nothing for the accuracy factor of the weapon. If anything, it decreases it. But it does make a nice handle for a walking stick. Funny nobody ever mentioned that before.

We just now learn about the "Eye of Sakai." As you know, the great Japanese flyer, Saburo Sakai, was hit in the face by 30-caliber fire from an SBD. His right eye was given up for lost, and though he was permitted to fly again toward the end of the war, he was reconciled to being blind in one eye for more than 50 years. As it happened it was discovered quite recently that he had been living with a metal fragment in his eyeball all this time. They went in and took the piece out and completely restored the sight of his wounded eye - just before he died of natural causes. I find this astonishing. He apparently suffered no continuing pain, nor any infection. He just could not see out of that eye for a whole lifetime.

Everybody's productivity seems to have been severely retarded by EE2, but that is behind us now, and let us hope we will not be bothered with it again, ever. That election was such a squeaker that we can by no means be smug, but there is hope that those of us on our side will now realize how forcibly we must pursue the truth at all levels during the next four years and win the next one by a landslide.

On this last excursion to New Orleans, we were privileged to chat again with Joe Foss, who is one of the Mighty Warriors. It is an interesting experience to talk with a Mighty Warrior, and I have been able to do so before. I have talked with Joe Foss a good many times since we have both been involved with the National Rifle Association. I spent half a day with Rudel, who just may be the Mightiest Warrior of all. I spent a week in a hospital bed adjoining that of Lou Walt, and I have shared drinks at the bar with Herman Hanneken. Politicians are not impressive as a group, nor are entertainers, nor CEOs, but Mighty Warriors are something else again. They are the hot sparks from the grinding wheel of history, and their immediate presence is inspiring. I never met Lancelot, nor El Cid, nor Richard of the Lion Heart, but I did once communicate in spirit with David the King in his Basilica in Jerusalem. The rabbi wrote my name on a paper and wrapped it around a candle which he then placed center on the tomb.

Such goings on!

Our Danish friend, Jean Wenckens-Madsen, opines that our electoral system here in this country is "outdated." Perhaps so, but we would not have it any other way. Chastity, and courage, and truthfulness, and dignity are also outdated. Being "up to date," on the other hand, may be nothing to boast about. The men who drafted our constitution over two hundred years ago were much better educated and more politically sophisticated than any politicians we see hanging about today. We thank God that they left us the benefit of their wisdom!

We picked up a good sea story at SHOT. One of our old time students in San Salvador just last year was beset by no less than eight punks with SMG's bent upon assassination. Edwardo killed four and claims he only let the other four get away out of kindness. "They were so young," he said. Well, kids can kill you pretty well, too, though they usually do not do it expertly.

Amongst the new offerings in major caliber service pistols we notice a fascination with grip safeties. The grip safety was a poor idea when Browning first dreamed it up, and as you know he dropped it in 1935. It is not only useless, but somewhat dangerous, but it does satisfy a sort of nervous craving for mechanical safeties which seems to be the mood of the times. Consider the "safety" on the trigger, as in the Glock and the Vektor. This is called a safety, but if you press the trigger the gun fires. This suggests stamping the combination on the safe door. It is obvious to anyone who thinks about it that in handling a firearm, safety rides between the ears, rather than between the hands. You cannot make a gun safe. You can, however, make a shooter safe, but in the Age of Technological Irresponsibility, we seek to make up for human shortcomings by means of gadgetry, which, of course, is fallible.

The gun industry, like other industries, is distressingly enslaved to faddism. The lemming principle prevails.

Official Gunsite historian Barrett Tillman comments upon a Medal of Honor citation from Germany in World War II in which the hero fired 171 rounds of a 30-caliber carbine ammunition to achieve eight (8) disabling hits. This lad's activities were truly heroic, but one must assume that German tactical efficiency in this action was simply abysmal. He was under short-range direct fire from smallarms and machineguns throughout the episode and he sustained only one bullet wound.

I saw something vaguely like that up in the Aleutians in which our man just walked into the Japanese position, shooting as he came and being shot at and missed. It may be that when you get up and charge like that, the people on the other side get all flustered and forget about their trigger control.

We hope you all had a good New Year's eve. I have long held that the only two proper places in which to enjoy a New Year's eve celebration are a grand ball (with live orchestra) and a snug mountain cabin under three feet of snow. We were not able to arrange either of these this year, but let us know if you did.

Danie van Graan reports an episode of following up a wounded lion in dim light. His client had shot the lion with one of these ultra-high-tech, big-bottle 30s without immediate affect. Danie went in on hands and knees with his trusty "Co-pilot" in hand, the ideal tool for the task. No further action, however, since the lion was dead when they found him.

Velocity hysteria - the child of Roy Weatherby - is still with us despite all evidence to the contrary. If you need more killing power, you do not need more feet per second, you need more bullet weight and more impact area. I thought everybody knew that, but a great many people are not paying attention.

On the way home from New Orleans, daughter Lindy stopped in at Indianhead Ranch in Texas and slew a bison. She used the Dragoon, from prone with bipod, at a range of 250 yards - much longer than expected. The 270-grain Swift bullets slid clear through, with no evidence of expansion, and the bull ran some little distance before succumbing.

Family member Bethany Robinson came along and did herself another bull with Clint Smith's 45-70 Sharps. This fad for bison shooting is automatically limited by the expense involved, otherwise we might be charged with reducing the herds again. The meat is of the best, but at eight dollars a bite one is unlikely to overdo it.

We understand that school children are frequently punished today by being "suspended." I never ran into anything like that as a child, but it certainly seems to me that a day off from school would have been a reward, rather than a punishment. As I recall it, school was simply something that got in my way and interfered with a lot of more important things I felt I had to do. But no such luck. I went to school because I had to, not because I wanted to, and most of what I learned I learned at home. Of course, that was back in the 20th century.

We are informed by family member Keith Neal that M1 rifles, in reasonably good condition, are now available from DCM for $500. If you are interested, you may telephone 888-267-0796.

We picked up a news headline to the effect that "Bear Attacks Continue To Mystify Biologists." Not being a biologist, I do not feel mystified about bears, which are large, strong, dangerous creatures. Generally they are inoffensive, but certainly not always. Apparently biologists do not understand that. We remember a while back that a biologist in the Northwest Territories took the trouble of sending a bear's head all the way down to Winnipeg for examination because this bear had chewed up an Indian. It had not occurred to this biologist that bears frequently chew up Indians. Remember Gunsite Bear Rule no. 2, which reads, "Bears are not cuddly."

Did you catch that exchange recently in which some dim-witted critic attacked a retired general who had occasion to run a summer camp, expressing astonishment that the young people were introduced to marksmanship training. She asked him if he did not think that teaching young people to shoot was somewhat "irresponsible." He parried by saying that he did not think so, but he did not counterattack with the view that not teaching young people firearms technique is what is irresponsible.

I guess it was pretty obvious that the appropriate assignment for Al Gore is Ambassador to Chad. Several people have hit the press with that before we did.

A correspondent writes in to ask why I do not make a point of strip-loading a bolt-action rifle. As I see it, the stripper clip was a military device enabling the shooter to recharge a conventional box magazine with one stroke of the hand. This was usually coupled with a bolt stop which prevented closing the bolt on an empty chamber. Thus in a hot emergency, the soldier fired until he could not close the bolt, which told him that it was time for him to strip in another five rounds. This was doubtless a good idea in a Rorke's Drift situation in which a rifleman might be called upon to repel boarders armed with edged weapons. It is something of a nuisance under more normal situations in which it is desirable to top off a magazine which has one or more rounds left in it. The detachable box magazine is a more useful device under such circumstances.

I continue to object to the expansion of the color code to place "Black" beyond "Red." In Red you have made the decision to take the irrevocable step. You have no place further to go than that and there is no need to clutter up the scene.

The following from family member David Kahn from Morrison, Colorado.
"Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups."

Family member and master instructor Tom Russell points out to us that we have been teaching the wrong things here in the rifle program. It turns out that Kenney Jarrett, of Jarrett Rifles Incorporated, claims that his rifles are so good that they breed such confidence that the shooter does not have to know how to shoot - the rifle takes care of that for him. To quote: "They don't hesitate pulling the trigger because they know they're going to hit what they shoot at." Well, doggone! Forget about sights, forget about trigger control, forget about solid position, just buy a Jarrett rifle and you will hit whatever you shoot at, under any conditions. Contrary to what I have always felt and taught, it is the rifle, not the shooter that hits the target. (Now sure-as-shootin', somebody is going to believe that I said that seriously.)

"The only people I know who are trusted by their government are the Swiss."

Derek Heale

I have never been much interested in air guns, but I have run across an air pistol from Germany recently that really caught my fancy. On this piece the primary tube is the gas chamber, and around it, like a snake, is wrapped the barrel, starting top dead center aft and winding up top dead center forward, describing a 360 degree circle. Now why is this? It appears that if you start the projectile at the breech and rotate it one full turn by the time it reaches the muzzle you can employ a smooth-bore and spin the projectile without rifling. This is a truly exotic idea, and the pistol itself is a truly bizarre artifact. I am not sure what is gained by this system, since I cannot read the German that well, but I must certainly grant these people first prize for ingenuity.

Since we now have computers to do our thinking for us, here are few questions for your machine: Go ahead and punch the keys!

The Horiuchi case is still open - to the public, if not to the courts. Horiuchi was defended by Solicitor General Seth Waxman who told the court that it did not matter whether Vicki Weaver's death was the result of excessive force. "These federal law enforcement officials are privileged to do what would otherwise be unlawful if done by a private citizen. It is a fundamental function of our government." It is not clear to me that the deliberate murder of an unarmed woman by a federal agent who was himself in no danger "is a fundamental function of our government." The proper adjective for this act is atrocious. One wonders why that is not clear to Waxman.

In cruising the great hall at the SHOT Show, we noticed that fully two out of three people on the floor had cellular phones permanently screwed into their ears. Modern medicine being what it is, it is possible that there will be a next step. Before long we should be able to have a cellular phone implanted into the mastoid bone and never have to think for ourselves again.

The relationship between the client and the guide remains as mystifying as ever. By choice, the guide should show the client the animal at a reasonable range and then drop the subject. This assumes that the hunter knows what he is doing, which is sometimes a dangerous assumption. The hunter, however, should by all means control the shot and not be told when or when not to shoot. The guide not infrequently finds that his hunter has become procedurally paralyzed and incapable of making the vital decision. If this is the case, urging him to shoot may not help matters since he may press trigger without proper concentration on his shooting. Cases are different, of course, but it is certainly a splendid experience for the guide to discover that his hunter knows exactly what he is doing, and is doing it right. This is usually the case when the hunter has been exposed to a proper course of instruction with the rifle, but there are not many of those available. Sometimes a sportsman will do well on this first trial without any trace of buck fever. This is to be hoped for, but not necessarily expected.

I have been taken to task by one correspondent for pushing the Steyr Scout too much - at the expense of other rifles now on the market. The Steyr Scout was conceived and designed to do everything, and it does. The other two interesting rifles on the market, as I have pointed out, are the Blaser 93 and Jim West's "Co-pilot." If you are going for elephants or buffalo, you should use a heavy. But elephant and buffalo are specialties. The general-purpose rifle is the Steyr Scout, though the factory is apparently trying to keep that a secret.

So here we go again in extolling the Steyr Scout. What follows is an extract from a letter from John Papanicolaou. I simply could not resist reprinting it.
"Thank you for helping me fall in love again. I am speaking, of course, of the Steyr Scout rifle. I took your pistol class in August and, although I had considered buying the rifle but dismissed the idea as too costly, I was swayed by your high praise for it. Then, when I got the opportunity to handle it at the reception at your house, I was sold. I was not prepared, however, for the joy that overcame me when I actually unpacked, handled and fired my own Scout. It was love at first sight, and I believe I walked around with a stupid grin on my face that day."


George W. Bush is established as our next President. This will have catastrophic results in our vital - no, indispensable - entertainment industry. Barbra Streisand, Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Whoopie Goldberg, Alec Baldwin - among many others - have sworn to leave the country if George W. Bush was elected President. And this is where YOU can help. We need volunteers to help pack and to load moving vans. We also need airfare for these irreplaceable national treasures so they can relocate before they change their minds. For the cost of a small SUV, you can sponsor one of these celebrities and their unfortunate relocation. You will know that your efforts are helping when you receive postcards, letters and pictures from your chosen "refugees" as they learn to become useful citizens in the Third World country of their choosing. You will help, won't you? It costs so little but it means so much. Call 1-800-DEPART-A-CELEB now. Operators are standing by. Major credit cards are accepted.

Hawaii Rifle Association Newsletter, Dec. 2000

Many of the best things in life are unappreciated until you begin to lose them. Consider good health, good brakes - and political liberty.

This from Bruce Snyder, Amsterdam, The Netherlands:
"As further testimony to this [Bausch & Lomb] scope system, I need to share one final comment. I was in Victoria, Australia about to hunt for hogs. Because a group of us had flown down from Sydney we wanted to insure the airlines hadn't mistreated our rifles and were checking zero on a 44-gallon oil drum about 100 yards down range. A city slicker from Sydney asked if he could take a shot. We gave him the basic hold and squeeze instructions. On his first shot, he allowed the recoil and the scope to bite him above the right eye. This guy stood up, looked at the rifle a second and then threw it flat down in the dirt.* My heart sank and I just knew the scope was a gonner. While others attended this guy's eyebrow cut, I attended to the rifle. There was absolutely no harm done. An hour and a half later, this scope and rifle dropped a running boar at about 125 yards with one shot. The scope and its cross hairs had not moved!!!! Maybe this scope and rifle are some exception to some experience others have had. But, forty years of shooting to the same spot with no adjustment says something for a fixed-reticle design."
* And this was an Aussie!

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it."

"Avoidance of danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."

Helen Keller, The Open Door, 1957

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