Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 9, No. 4 April, 2001
Our venture to Rome proved to be very
pleasant and we were able to enjoy the company of various old
friends, senior shooters and members of the Gunsite African
Rifles. We finally met our long-time correspondent and friend,
Antonio Randaccio Lodi, who was our host in Rome.
The occasion was the feast day of Saint Gabriel Possenti, who is
inscribed as "Patron Saint of Marksmen" on the handsome
presentation medal I was awarded. There is some confusion about
this, since marksmanship comes in various flavors and there are
various other notables whose sainthood may be tied up at least
indirectly with their shooting ability. The story has it that the
young man achieved fame on an occasion when he ran a bunch of
banditi off his town by demonstrating his unusual skill with
a handgun. Just whose weapon it was, or what sort, are cloudy
issues. The accepted date for the incident is 1865, which means he
could have used a revolver, but there is no certainty about that.
Here is an opportunity for a good fiction writer, since exact
details of the event may probably never be discerned. The account
has a nice ring to it, and can be offered as a good morality tale
in which good triumphs over evil. There are many such stories in
our heritage, and here is one that does deserve further attention.
It was Hemingway's dictum that really good fiction was in a certain
sense truer than fact. Young Saint Gabriel (he died at age 24) may
also be considered as a patron of the triumph of youthful virtue
over popular scruffiness.
However that may be, we met the people, we got the medal, and we
thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. We went by Maranello (Ferrari),
Modena (balsamic vinegar) and Parma (parmigiano). We checked out
the wine legend at Montefiascone (Est! Est! Est!), and we marveled
at Michelangelo's breathtaking imagery in the Sistine Chapel. There
is far too much to see for a short week in Italy, but even so, we
saw a lot and enjoyed it all.
For those contemplating an Italian
holiday, we suggest that you order your Ferrari in advance and pick
it up at Maranello. I understand that the management gives you a
princely reception on such an occasion, and you may drive your new
car around the test track to your heart's content.
We note with some amusement that various
authors have been panned by various readers for confusing the
accepted commands "lock and load" and "load and lock." The facts
are these: the 03 rifle, which is a straight-forward Mauser with a
wing safety on the cocking piece, cannot be loaded after it is
locked since the safety blocks the action. For the 03, the command
is "load and lock." The M1, however, could be effectively locked
before inserting a clip, and this was the accepted procedure. So
with the M1 the command was always "lock and load." Neither command
is either right or wrong. It is simply a question of which weapon
is being used.
Here at Gunsite, Spring has sprung, the
forsythia is ablaze, and the new facilities are almost complete. I
am a little out of practice, but I look forward to conducting the
Masters' Series Rifle and Pistol Instruction, as well as the Safari
Prep sessions, with much pleasure. I suggest you bring the weapons
you intend to use in the field (and please do not bring a pistol
that cannot be cocked).
From the National Review we learn
that over half the undergraduates at Harvard University are given
A's or A -'s on whatever work they choose to submit. So much
for a Harvard degree. Just get aboard, put in your time, and you
will be assured of a bright future down in DC. (But let us have no
more talk about "education," which is another matter
We learn from a family member down
in Australia that the Aussie army has been effectively washed out
by its unisex policies. When you start putting girls in the army,
you have lost the war, and when you lose it, you can simply call
"time out!" and all will be forgiven.
It has always seemed to me that this
gender-equality foolishness has gone about the whole concept in
reverse. When God created man in His image, He did so because that
was the only image He had to work with, but when He sought to
create a helpmate for man, He looked thoughtfully at Adam's rib and
said, "I think I can do better this next time" - and created
If we would just leave things in their proper slot, everybody would
be a lot happier. The purpose of man is to cherish woman. The
purpose of woman is to civilize man. Let us hold to that
Of all the curious artifacts we have run
across in the gun line over the last couple years, one of the most
curious is an ornamental sub-caliber Gatling from Germany, complete
with ring magazine and hand crank. A 22 Gatling can serve
absolutely no purpose, but it is very expensive and very "cute,"
and I guess those two attributes may make it actually saleable in
the Age of Trivia.
"Unfortunately, attacks on police stations in the 'New,
Improved' South Africa are very common. There is one police station
in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape province that was burgled so
often that it employed a local security firm with armed response to
protect them. We have also had a case locally where a husband and
wife came across a break-in in progress. They phoned the police,
who told them they did not have a vehicle to get to the crime
scene. So her husband kept track of the thieves while she drove to
the police station, picked up the police, and took them to the
thieves, where the police arrested them."
T. J. Johnston
I call your attention to a new work by
Lanford Kersten entitled "The Walther Book." It is a nifty
coffee-table enterprise, and it is available from Ludo Wurfbain at
Among life's little irritations is the
proliferation of this annoying phrase "Nothing could be further
from the truth." Of course it could. Show me any statement
at all and I will come up with something which is further from the
truth than that. The same rejection can be lodged against "I
couldn't agree more." I guess that people who write like that must
go for "spray-and-pray" in a gunfight - sloppy thinking and
Note that if you are planning to take a
rifle course here, you should be fairly spry. You should be able to
execute deep knee bends, sit ups and other simple exercises. Our
shooting classes are not athletic endeavors, but if you cannot move
easily you will probably be wasting your money. In my present
crippled condition (which I hope may improve), I could by no means
be qualified to come here as a student. I can, however, do the
talking, and I have a good squad of master coaches to do the
running and jumping, as necessary.
In connection with granddaughter Amy's
work with the History channel, we discover that history is not
politically correct. If you tell it like it is (wie es
eigentlich gewesen), you will be deemed sexist, racist,
elitist, insensitive, and, worst of all, old-fashioned.
Perhaps Amy can work around this. We will hope for the
As the Age of the Wimp continues,
we discover more dreadful evidence all the time. In a recent class,
for example, one student failed to show up for a whole day on the
grounds that he needed to do his laundry. I would like to
think he was joking, but the staff did not seem to think so.
As many people continue to derive their image of life from
Hollywood, one gets the impression that the story of man is a story
of the uninteresting doings of inconsequential people. As an
amateur historian, I find this to be a bad situation. Of course,
all of us are not necessarily stuck with the tube and its mainly
dreary offerings. We still have Homer and Xenophon and Julius
Caesar, and so on up through Shakespeare to Rider Haggard, Conan
Doyle and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Clearly, Hollywood screen-writers
and producers know nothing about these other people, but it does
seem a shame that they are in no hurry to introduce our young
people to good storytelling.
A while back we mentioned that the
foolish and somewhat dangerous cross-bolt "safety" gadget now being
offered on the late production lever-action rifles can be corrected
by a simple spotweld. A correspondent wrote in to point out that
this can be done by installation of a washer without any welding
and without inciting the hysteria of the safety police.
I have always been fond of the excellent
M99 Savage, now in its one-hundred-and-second year. This piece has
gone through a hatful of modifications since its inception, some of
which were good and some were not. The earlier versions generally
show better workmanship and fitting, but the newer models can be
had in more versatile calibers. Since the Steyr people refuse to
produce a left-handed version of the Steyr Scout, the M99, which is
ambidextrous in utility, comes to our attention. You cannot make a
true Scout out of an M99, but you can make an excellent rifle.
Furthermore, the M99 should take the 376 Steyr cartridge handily,
and there is a combination of great promise.
Family member Laurie Tuttle is
just back from Africa with more rave reviews about her Steyr Scout.
She did not do a lot of hunting, but the weapon itself was a great
sensation - "the envy of all concerned." It is truly a shame
that the Scouts may not be provided to South Africa at this time,
due to currency devaluation, plus new regulations which make it
almost impossible to leave one's rifle behind as a tip. There must
be a way around this. We shall investigate.
I am somewhat bothered to read colleague
Craig Boddington on the subject of long shots. It is clear that
modern rifles and ammunition are capable of astonishing accuracy at
unreasonable ranges, but it is the shooter who does the work, not
the weapon, and shots in the "way over yonder" range are not only
improbable, they are grossly unsporting. No one who has ever seen a
buck mule deer with its lower jaw shot off dying in misery will
ever run the risk of bringing that about himself. We say it again
loud and clear: Do not brag about how far away your shot was. Brag
about how close you were able to get to your target.
We learn in our wanderings that the Poles
are very big on deer hunting, and that they conduct their deer
hunts at night. This reminds us that if you wish to use your Steyr
Scout in the dark, that slotted top rail on the receiver allows you
to install any sort of "moonscope" which takes your fancy. A true
scoutscope is better for general use, but in the dark you may
appreciate that great big lens out front. Those of you who wish to
bait leopards may also find this option useful.
If you do not know history, at least
superficially, you will have no idea of where you came from, where
you are now, or where you are going. I think a satisfactory word
for this condition is "disconnected." To the extent that you do not
know history, you are disconnected, perhaps not
technically, but socially and philosophically and emotionally. This
may be a harsh view, but it seems to me that a person who is
disconnected has no real right to his opinions on any subject of
importance. You gain your grasp of history through reading -
recreational reading. You certainly cannot get it through
class-work. When I was teaching history at the high school level, I
remember actually lighting a few intellectual fires. I suppose I
did not get through to the majority of my students, but I remember
several of them coming up after class and asking me where they
could find out more about the subject we had just discussed. These
occasions were small triumphs, and I recall them with great
Legend has it that Dr. Einstein once
asserted that he could think of only two things which were
infinite: the universe and human stupidity - and that
sometimes he had doubts about the first.
The Brute (Lieutenant General Victor H.
Krulak, USMC) got heavily into computers on his retirement and
derived much entertainment from investigating their abstruse
capabilities. On one occasion he told me that according to his best
predictions and prognostications, we were due to arrive at a point,
somewhere in the Fall of the year 2016, at which nobody any longer
would know anything about anything. Today we read
the press and we watch some of the news broadcasts on television
and it does appear that we as a race are well on the way to
fulfilling the Brute's forecast. The people who founded this
country and who gave us our constitution had no television, no
radio and no public schools, but they were serious people,
a far cry from the trivial people who seem to have the greatest
influence over our affairs today. The US Constitution is a serious
document, written by people who understood history, the classics
and political philosophy. There may be such people around today,
but they certainly do not stand out. Perhaps if we got the
government out of the education business, we might do something to
reverse this trend.
We entreat that all of you who plan to
come to the Reunion in October (19 - 21), start
making your plans now. Audience participation is extremely
important on these occasions, and we have noticed a distressing
tendency toward stage fright in the last couple of sessions. This
is a time to show off, and even if you are not very good at
histrionics, this is a time to put yourself to a test. Naturally we
like original work and we like work committed to memory, but this
is not necessary. A good recitation from a printed page is
perfectly acceptable, if it is done well. Your own homemade verse
may not be up to Rudyard Kipling, but you won't know if you don't
try. And let us have some more music. Bring your own guitar,
autoharp, or electric organ.
The theme, of course, is our hero Theodore Roosevelt - "The
Great." Your work need not be by TR or about him directly, but it
should be in step with the mood that he brought to the United
States. He was a true hero, after whom, as the saying goes, "they
broke the mold." He exemplifies Western civilization at its apex at
the turn of the 20th century, and we should take this opportunity
to encourage ourselves to follow his example in the 21st.
It has been suggested in Jane's
Infantry Weapons that the general inadequacy of the "poodle
shooter" is coming to be realized, but we must not expect any
return to serious infantry cartridges anytime soon. We are faced
with far too much "logistical inertia."
As times go on and "civilization"
threatens to overwhelm us, it is increasingly difficult to find a
proper place for a youngster to learn field marksmanship. In my
experience, the ideal venue is the city dump, with its ample
population of rats. City dumps are pretty hard to find nowadays,
and if you can find one, you have to make arrangements with the
city fathers to take after those rats with your 22. Rattus
rattus is a nifty target, being small, agile and difficult to
pinpoint amongst the debris. As first choice he should be taken
with a single-shot 22 fitted with good aperture sights and a good
trigger. Young people should grow up on iron sights and not go for
the telescope until well into maturity. Ideally the adolescent
should not fit his 22 with glass sights, but rather wait for his
first center-fire piece, if then. In my teens I pioneered the
telescopic sight and was properly viewed askance by my seniors in
the hunting field. Before taking up the glass-sighted 30-06,
however, I engaged with fair regularity in informal center-fire
contests at the old Burbank Rifle and Revolver Club, using a
long-barreled 30-30 Winchester 94 fitted with the Lyman tang
aperture sight. These contests were always conducted from the
offhand position, and that old muzzle-heavy 94 had an excellent
trigger. My results were quite satisfying.
My first bull elk was taken with iron sights, since my partner was
using my brand new scope-sighted 30-06. We both made out very well
with the equipment we had in hand, though I have been using a
telescope sight on game ever since - except for
dangerous game, which is another story entirely.
Note that Woodleigh of Australia is now
producing proper bullets for the 376 Steyr cartridge in both 250
and 300-grain weights. I have not tested these bullets myself, but
they have a good reputation, and if you hand-load for the 376 Steyr
cartridge, you will need a bullet that does not mash flat in the
magazine on recoil.
One wonders how the traditional British
umbrella is fairing in Britain in this period of personal
disarmament. If an umbrella has a stout main shaft, a sound point
and is skillfully used, it can be pretty discouraging to a punk on
the street. You do not smite with it, you stab with it, and if you
have a bit of fencing background, you can score on a bottle cap at
maximum speed almost every time. Of course, if a British subject
were to do such a thing in today's climate, he would be subject to
serious penalties, since now in "the land of hope and glory"
fighting back is unlawful.
On re-reading Sir Richard Burton on the
military use of the sword, I note again that a man in motion should
use the forward motion of his body to deliver the point, rather
than trying to cut. It seems the natural tendency for anyone when
picking up a sword to attempt the cut. The majority of early swords
feature hilts which are almost useless for thrusting. This is true
of both the Roman sword and the Viking sword. But I believe the
ultimate in sword technology was the achievement of the Spaniards
during the Reconquista. Those late Medieval and Renaissance
caballeros used both the point and the edge, as
circumstances demanded, and they did so very well.
In my endeavors to look into this subject in graduate school, I was
able to find only one original source which described the actual
technique of engagement using the Spanish sword. This was in the
form of a personal letter written by a young man to his parents
describing a contact he had during a skirmish on the Portugese
border. It was written in Old Spanish, but with some help I was
able to decipher it, and I discovered that in this one action our
man delivered two thrusts and two cuts, from the saddle, neatly
accounting for four of the enemy without injury to himself.
These things are hard to run down, because chroniclers are so
seldom interested in technique. You can find out what and
when and with what effect, but only rarely how.
This is an exasperating problem for the military
Here at the school we have learned to
expect two telescope failures per rifle class. People find this
surprising, but they forget that we fire about 400 rounds per class
with the rifle, and that is a long, hard life for a sporting
instrument. Back when Colonel Dick Culver had the sniper school at
Quantico, he told us that the Marine Corps had not been able to
find a telescope sight which was proof against the handling it got
in the field in Vietnam. It was not so much normal field use that
knocked the glasses out, it was the fact that they were subjected
to continuous recoil shock over a large number of rounds. Most
well-made commercial telescope sights will stand up to two or three
hundred rounds of full-charge ammunition. Many will stand up to
500. Almost none will stand up to 2000. A sniper does not fire 2000
rounds for blood, but he may well fire that number or more in
practice, and there is the problem.
I have long had a tendency to tie
marksmanship to morality. The essence of good marksmanship is
self-control, and self-control is the essence of good citizenship.
It is too easy to say that a good shot is automatically a good man,
but it would be equally incorrect to ignore the
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.