Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 9, No. 5           May, 2001


Spring has sprung. And even the political situation, while far from perfect, is far better than it was last year at this time. We hoplophiles have acquired a sort of breathing space, and while we can never relax our guard, we can tighten our belt, straighten our tie and keep up our practice.

The situation here at Gunsite continues to improve, and our programs for the coming months seem to be very well on course. We just finished our first Safari Prep course and enjoyed it thoroughly. I expected more ladies in the group and I also expected more basic competence amongst the students. I had announced that one should not sign up for Safari Prep unless he was quite competent with the rifle, but evidently we do not all seem to have the same standards of competence. One should not enter a motor race unless he knows how to drive. One should not aspire to create a first-rate kitchen unless he knows how to cook. And one should certainly not take after big game unless he knows how to shoot. Apparently I did not make it clear that the Safari Prep course was not a shooting course, but rather a course in "adventure management." Well, we will square that away next time around.

I think it is about time we set up an essay contest on the nature of hoplophobia. Just what causes this aberration and how is it developed? I would be willing to contribute some prize money if we could get the matter publicized.

We are somewhat annoyed at the tendency of the media to refer to an observation aircraft as a "spy plane." Over the years the term "spy" has acquired a negative connotation. A spy is one who pretends he is something he is not. He wears the wrong uniform. He claims to be on your side when he is working for the enemy. This is not the same as observation. An observer seeks information, but does not pretend to be on the other side. If that aircraft in China had been displaying the red star, it might properly have been called a "spy plane." This does not make much difference perhaps, but words do influence people's attitudes, and spies are traditionally shot when discovered. If that P3 had been a "spy plane," it would have been quite in accordance with military tradition for the Chinese to have shot the crew. It would be nice if the news people would watch their language.

The new Ruger 480 is certainly an interesting artifact, but it does raise the question "what is it for?" (That, of course, is a rude question.)

Pundit Chilton Williamson observes that there is no more American way of spending a snowy Wyoming morning than listening to Rush Limbaugh while loading ammunition. Our friend Rush sometimes gets a little overblown in his presentations, but certainly his heart is in the right place.

Shooting Master John Pepper points out to us again that one does not look through a telescope sight, but rather at it. The image of the target is projected upon the reticle so that both image and reticle are in the same plane. This is the principle advantage of a telescope sight.

I suppose all the faithful by now have seen the sniper movie. "Enemy at the Gates" was a particularly clumsy title, but the film itself had some good points. One must never take a movie as an authoritative glimpse of history, but the thing that was quite apparent in this case was the shortness of the ranges involved in the shooting. The notion that sniping is conducted "way out there" is quite common, but perhaps not quite sound. In the ruined city of Stalingrad it is unlikely that anybody ever took a long shot. The action was mainly a matter of "across the street." Thus these fantastic machines that are turned out now as "sniper rifles" may be artifacts in search of the wrong goal. "Minute of moose," to use John Gannaway's phrase, is more to the point. As always and forever it is the man, not the machine that achieves the results. IT IS THE SHOOTER NOT THE RIFLE THAT GETS THE HITS.

People who study these matters tell us that we should change our pistol ammunition about every six months. I suppose there is justification in that, but I have had occasion to use World War I pistol ammunition with complete success, though I would not suggest this as a policy to be pursued.

A long-eye-relief telescope doth not a scout rifle make. There are about seven other essential attributes. Scout One enjoyed great success on its first outing. At that time it was equipped with iron sights only.

You may not believe this but we were informed by good authority that those PETA people (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sent a task force down to Equatorial Africa to convince the locals that they should become vegetarians! From what I have seen of them, I think it would be easier to persuade the Bantu to give up sex than to give up meat. Sometimes in this connection it seems that the onrushing tidal wave of ignorance has reached a point where vast numbers of people are totally unaware of the nature of the world they live in. I do suppose that all sorts of things are being taught to young people in school, but a general course on "The Nature of Things" does not seem to be on the list.

Family member Bob Mihan of Idaho points out that the installation of a small lock-washer on that unfortunate cross bolt "safety" in recent issues of lever guns is cheaper, easier and more politically correct than a spot weld. Good point.

We caught a recent news item to the effect that 75 percent of the people of the District of Columbia may be categorized as "minority." Let us see now, if 75 percent make up a minority, I suppose 25 percent would make up a majority. Possibly we should reorganize our government on that principle.

Now that "those people" have moved out of the White House, one wonders if it is now going to be easier or more difficult to find out just how Vince Foster was murdered.

Piracy continues to be on the rise in various parts of the world, though not so much in the Caribbean as elsewhere. It is burgeoning in Indonesia and along the Guinea coasts and Somalia coasts of Africa. It seems to me that a well-tended 30 caliber Browning machinegun is the ideal answer to piracy on the high seas. I propose that answer is too "low tech" for today's times.

If the Chinese fighter pilot, Wang Wei, is an example of the breed, we take that as a good development. If Chinese fighter pilots are incapable of keeping distance in the air, it is nice to have them on the other side. Should we add the term "Chinese fighter pilot" to what we used to call "a Chinese fire drill"? We should not get our hopes up, however. The rest of that crew may be more skillful.

Rumor has it that George W. Bush's nightlight companion is a GSP. I cannot verify that, but it is a nice thought.

Herewith are a couple of good quotes from our patron and hero Theodore Roosevelt.
"There should be at least ten times the number of rifles in the country as there are now."

"A vote is like a rifle: Its usefulness depends upon the character of the user."

We hear of people who are now requiring the tactical load in competition. Here is a total misconception of the exercise. The so-called tac load is used when there is time. If one is to reload against the clock, he naturally will not use a tac load, but rather a speed load. One simply does not tac load when he is in a desperate hurry (as in a competitive exercise). But expecting people to think as we proceed into the 21st century is clearly a bit much.

SHOVELS by Art Hammer (of the Gunsite African Rifles)

A murderer serving life-without-parole for five separate gruesome murders escaped from his Oregon maximum-security prison this past week. He stole a car and made his first stop outside Pocatello, Idaho. He watched a residence and saw a family pack their suitcases into their car and leave. He immediately pulled his vehicle into their driveway, then broke into their house from the rear. Unfortunately for one, the traveling residents realized they had forgotten something for their trip and returned within a few minutes, finding their house broken into. The father confronted the intruder (not knowing the felon's history) and ordered him to leave. The felon said he just wanted some food and clothes. At this point, the father rattled the felon with a shovel across the head. One more smack with the shovel ended the conversation. When the police arrived, the father was in the backyard with the felon lying at his feet. The father was resting, leaning on the shovel. After the police picked up the felon the family continued on their trip.

Many important questions arise. Which shovel is best for self-defense? A dirt shovel? A snow shovel? A coal scoop? Is a lightweight model with a shortened grip better? Would this make it a "concealed shovel"? If the shovel had been purchased at a nationwide home-improvement retail chain, would they have to issue new policies and have a press release expressing regret? Could the father's shovel be construed as an assault shovel? The father used only two blows. If this shovel had been capable of more than ten blows, would that make it an evil shovel without any sporting use? (My son claims that no shovel has a sporting use.)

The police did not confiscate all the father's shovels. He may have more. He also did not keep a safety lock on the shovel. Rumor has it that his children had easy access to the shovel without parental guidance, though there is no evidence that they ever used it without constant parental supervision.

The father has not suffered any post traumatic syndrome. In fact, no member of the family has sought psychiatric counseling. Believe it or not, that very night they all attended the state high school basketball championships in Boise. The father didn't even care to be interviewed by the press and go on Larry King Live. How will a plaintiff's attorney in a wrongful recapture case present this to a sympathetic jury? (Wait. This is Idaho. There will be no sympathetic jury. Heck, there won't even be a lawyer to entertain such a case.)

The father happened to be an American Indian living on a reservation. The felon was white. Could this have been a hate crime caused by centuries of social injustice? Or since the father had a home and the felon had none, was this a case of economic class warfare?

So many questions!

More thought is required than I am capable of.

Now that the season for vacations is coming around, I would like to vote that we start using the term "adventure" in place of "vacation." Vacation simply implies vacating the premises, and that is not a very exciting aim. It is better to go do something than to just get out, or so it seems to me. So now it has come time for adventures for all.

Those weird people we sometimes refer to as "bunny huggers" have developed a branch which might be referred to as "fish kissers." It turns out that in Britain some of these characters have decided that catching salmon upsets the salmon, and that, therefore, salmon fishermen are evil people. The silliness coefficient continues to rise.

"I wish I'd never seen the Steyr Scout. It is easier to resist a concept than a fact."

Family Member Bill Brown

The legitiphobes (?) seem to have developed the idea that a light trigger is somehow an unsafe trigger. Any trigger at all in the hands of a fool is unsafe, and weight will not change that. The primary curse of the Age of the Wimp is timidity. I suppose we should feel sorry for the wimp because he leads a sorry life, but as far as I am concerned he is welcome to weep himself to death.

We have always heard that the directive at Bunker Hill was to hold fire until "you can see the whites of their eyes." Now how far is that? I suggest you try and measure that some day and see what range you come up with. You will note that it is not very far, close enough to make quite sure of a center hit on a human-size target at conversational distance. If you could make sure that your people would follow that rule you almost certainly could settle the matter with a bayonet.

By what measure should a man be considered a qualified rifleman? We suggested that no one apply for the Safari Prep course unless he was so qualified. But what standards do we use? It is possible that an M ticket on a Gunsite 270 might be a base qualification, but there may be others. Should a man who has consistently fired "expert" on a military course be considered qualified? I passed that question around and came up with a good deal of doubt. How about this? A qualified rifleman should be able to stand erect at 200 meters, drop to a stabilized position (other than prone) and sock it to a ten-inch disk, with his first shot, in 10 seconds-every time. That is certainly a very limited standard, but it might do for a starter where more elaborate procedures are impractical. We might go further and suggest that a qualified rifleman is one who can hit a standard clay bird going away three times out of ten tries with his hunting rifle. Naturally we could elaborate in various directions and make the test much more complex, but the idea is a quick test for somebody who claims he is "ready." We must look into this further.

Shooting Master John Pepper recently got into a head-on with some range-keeping bureaucrat in the east who informed him that civilians could not fire on a range together with military men, pretending to quote some obscure rule. John quite naturally went into a tizzy and looked the matter up. There is no such rule, but this sort of thing can be expected from bureaucrats, who assume that nobody else knows the rules either. John won that discussion, but I do not think he has simmered down yet.

I ran across a curious commentary on the part of some writer who was extolling the merits of the Luger and Mauser pistols at the turn of the previous century. He quoted the names of Borchardt and others, but he also claimed that he wanted to know more about the pistols developed by Herr Selbtstlader. Now, selbtstlader is, of course, a German word for "self-loader" and this author had a difficult time trying to find somebody by that name who invented firearms. There are plenty of selbtstlader pistols around, but they were not invented by this gentleman.

I repeat that I think it is a bad practice to put a telescope sight on a 45-70. The 45-70 is an elegant cartridge and it will do whatever is necessary out to as far away as you need to do it. You can put that big bullet exactly where you want with iron sights out to 150 yards or so, and on a big animal that is all you need.

Back when we were living in California, the introduction of the 264 Winchester cartridge created a stir. One prospective deer hunter told us with excitement that his 264 would do at 400 yards what the 270 would do at 300. I was impressed. If he could establish this he must be some fancy rifle shot. Later we went hunting together and I saw this gent miss a stationary buck by about four feet at a range of 100 yards. Here we go again! Good equipment is fine, but the man does the shooting.

In our Safari Prep course the troops had the opportunity to fire various African mediums and heavies, and it was interesting to observe their reactions to recoil. Most opined that the 450 Nitro double belted them harder than the bolt-action 460 G&A, though the latter hits the target a bit harder. This appears to be a matter of stock design.

It may be my misapprehension but it does seem to me that a characteristic of post modern man is a total lack of humor. Nobody seems to get the joke, and post modern man takes himself entirely too seriously. One thing I have always admired about the warrior personality was the capacity to see the funny side of even the most desperate situation. Possibly we do not have any warrior personalities anymore. At least the educationalists would try to make that so, but there is no reason for the rest of us to go along with that. So lighten up everybody!

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