Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 9, No. 6           June, 2001

And Into Summer...

The annual regular meeting of the National Rifle Association at Kansas City was guardedly cheerful. The association is stronger than ever, its membership and its treasury are up, it is considered by some to be the most formidable lobby in Washington, and it won the last election. Some may challenge that by saying that in a contest as close as this any noticeable effort such as that of Ralph Nader might be responsible for our victory. However that may be, the NRA influence on the election was demonstrated positively in at least three states and was influential in others. Perhaps we shooters did not exactly win the election, but we certainly made a difference.

Now that the Jeffords defection has cost us control of the Senate, and now that McCain is flitting about out there among the asteroids, the situation is not now as good as it was at Kansas City. We do not, however, despair on that account. Things can be done. For example, with luck we just may be able to bring a couple of marginal Democrats across the line. However it goes, we must not stop fighting. This is not now and never has been a struggle in which we could rest upon our laurels. Everyone of us who is interested in the Bill of Rights is duty bound to take some sort of positive action regularly in support thereof. I have been told by people in political office that a well written and clearly stated postcard is more apt to produce a result than a six-inch stack of form letters. Be calm, be cool, do not call names, and do not use coarse language. Simply state your opinion clearly and forcefully by any means possible.

But keep fighting! We have won a skirmish and lost a skirmish, but the war is not over. Perhaps it never will be. It is a war that we may not win, but if we keep on fighting it is a war that we cannot lose.

We have been criticized now and again by our readers for not "sticking to our guns." That is to say, we do not confine ourselves to firearms issues entirely, but also to the matter of political liberty in general. To that we must respond by saying that there can be no gun issues without political liberty. There are plenty of non-shooters who are very much concerned with political liberty and, oddly enough, there are plenty of shooters who do not seem to realize that without political liberty there will be no shooters. So we will continue to balance our Commentaries about half and half between firearms issues and philosophical commentary in general. We will try to maintain equilibrium between liberty and liberty's teeth.

It appears that Timothy McVeigh will presently be put to death, as he doubtless deserves. On the other hand, Lon Horiuchi is still wandering around loose. Curious!

We are just now in receipt of an action report from Danie van Graan in Africa in which he tells of a recent hunt conducted with the "Dragoon" (376 Steyr Scout) with total success. Clean, one-shot stops were achieved on such conspicuously tough beasts as zebra, blue wildebeeste and kudu, over and above a clean slate on smaller animals. Danie terms the 376 Steyr Scout "the perfect rifle for any client." I do not expect the merits of this argument to be acted upon by either the rifle maker or the ammunition maker. Industrialists are usually not much interested in excellence but rather in sales, and the relationship between excellence and sales is only occasionally clear. However if you have your own personal Dragoon, rejoice therein! You are the owner of a "great leap forward" in smallarms design.

We just finished studying an account of the Anson expedition to the far Pacific, in which, after quite astonishing hardships and difficulties, Captain Anson succeeded in his purpose of capturing the Manila galleon. This is history book stuff, but to us shooters it has interesting ballistic ramifications. The British, though in smaller vessels, were using 24-pounder cannon, while the Spanish attempted to defend themselves with 9-pounders. The impact effect of the heavier ball was decisive, and we note here certain parallels that exist today in the field of defensive sidearms. The late Roy Weatherby insisted that velocity was the key to killing power, but I do not think his theory holds up. The most effective element of killing power is placement. After that there are matters such as impact area, residual penetration and cutting configuration to be considered. Impact velocity is a good thing to have, but it is just one of several important considerations.

It is indeed a troublesome thing to observe the historical tomfoolery of many of our modern activists. I recently saw a statement to the effect that six million Negros died in the slave trade between Africa and the New World. Considering that a slave trader only made money out of a live slave, this would seem very poor economics, but beyond that it is doubtful if there were six million Negros available in Africa at any one time to be enslaved.

We recently took notice of what is said to be the world's record buffalo head, as measured by total spread. Not to our amazement it was taken from a cow. For a long time the record buffalo head on display at the Natural History Museum in New York was also taken from a cow. In both of these cases much of the spread derived from space between the horns, which was up over a foot in extent. A buffalo head without a "joined horn" (Syncerus) is an inferior head, in my opinion. A really good buffalo head must feature several characteristics, of which spread is just one. The solidity of the boss, the depth of the curl and the sweep-back of the points are all contributions. But essentially it is not the size of the buffalo's horns that matters, it is his capacity to do the job with them. The skull of a buffalo which turned over a jeep is a more interesting trophy than one with a 45-inch spread - or so it seems to me.

We were panned recently by a reader who claimed that of our four rules, Rule 1 is not a rule but rather a statement. "All guns are always loaded" is, as our man said, not a guide to conduct, but rather a statement of condition. The criticism is correct, but we are not going to change our rules on that account. We think that "treat all guns as if they were loaded" implies with the "as if" qualification a dangerous choice of assumptions. The four basic rules of safety may not be structurally perfect, but we intend to leave them the way they are.

We have frequently expressed our admiration for the excellent Blaser R93 rifle, which is one of the three really interesting rifles of our time. It is, of course, not perfect, since perfection exists only in the mind of God. The trigger-action on the R93 is what places it above all competition, but its manual safety is a step backward. It is safe enough, as it actually releases the mainspring when put in action, but this requires so much effort on the part of the shooter as to render the mechanism impractical in the field. This does not trouble me as I rarely use the thumb safety, preferring simply to observe Rule 3. ("Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.") Thumb safeties, however, are almost an obsession with some people.

You may remember that before the election a number of Hollywood celebrities threatened to emigrate from the United States if Mr. Gore lost the election. I never understood just where they intended to go, but Costa Rica has been suggested as a rather pleasant place to resettle, if it comes to that. Colonel Bob Young is just back from Costa Rica and tells us that the whole idea collapsed when the Costariquenses refused to take these people aboard. I suppose we will just have to keep them around, despite their best intentions.

We note from the British press that first, firearms crime is skyrocketing in England, and second, breaking and entering has grown by leaps and bounds since the British people saw fit to disarm themselves. Cause and effect are quite apparent here, but I do not expect the loonies on the other side to take notice of it.

Cowboy shooting certainly seems to be a howling success, and this is all to the good, whether it makes any sense or not. Fads do not have to make sense, and in all of us there seems to be a strong urge to get up in fancy dress and go play acting. If fads contribute to the shooting sports, more power to them. Personally I think bowling pin shoots are somewhat more to the point, but they do not seem to be as emotionally satisfying as the cowboy shoot. But there is no reason why we cannot have both. The more shots fired, and the more people shooting, the better it is for our liberty.

"To be born free is an accident.
To live free is a responsibility.
To die free is an obligation."

Brigadier General Bill Halley

There has been some discussion about the optimal width of the cross wires in Leupold's excellent scoutscope. I have considered this matter for some time, both on the range and in the field, and I conclude that the fine cross wire is slightly superior for paper, whereas the coarser cross wire is superior for blood. Now, after three years and many scores of hunters, Danie van Graan has reached the same conclusion.

The question, of course, is whether you consider your rifles to be tools or toys. Most people shoot far more at paper targets than at live game. If your purpose is simply to play around on the shooting range, it may be that the fine cross wires are indeed superior. The difference is very slight in either direction, in any case.

Shooting Master Louis Awerbuck reports that in his wanderings he has discovered that public sector "snipers" seem much concerned about extremely fine increments in rifle sights to reach optimum efficiency for very long shots. If you study the matter you will find that most sniping, and practically all police sniping, is a short-range proposition. In the law enforcement arena, it takes place at night and across the street. You do not need a moonscope for that. I think the recent sniper movie "Enemy at the Gates" painted a pretty good picture of the sniping effort in a city. The primary requirement was patience, rather than "minute of moose."

I am sometimes asked why I do not write more about new products on the weapons market. I do spend a certain amount of time examining new products at the gun shows, but I only write about those new products which I think are worthy of attention. I try to confine myself to weapons that are good, rather than weapons which are just new. This does reduce my span to a certain extent. I have checked out the titanium Taurus. I have taken the Blaser R93 to Africa. I have put the Steyr Scout to the test very widely over a period of several years and I have just taken delivery of the "New Improved" version of Jim West's "Co-pilot" in caliber 457WW. Beyond those items, I have discovered little of which to excite the shooting public.

Our family member Ken Pantling from England contributes the following hypothetical comment from Taiwan respecting the recent incident off the Chinese coast.
"The Americans, utilizing the infrequently seen combat tactic of straight and level flying, often accomplished by relying solely on autopilot, engaged the unfortunate single-seat combat jet and knocked it out of the air using only one of its four formidable rotating air mass propellers."

During my shooting lifetime, Americans seemed to have lost complete sight of the utility of the shooting sling. This was taught to me in high school ROTC and I put it to use in the field with great satisfaction during all my early hunting adventures. Today the shooting sling is not featured in the accessory catalogs and never seen in the illustrations in gun magazines. In my opinion a properly utilized shooting sling increases your hit probability by about a third in mountain and plains hunting. It does not help in thick brush and it does you no good if you are using a bipod or a rest. From the prone position it practically eliminates human error. It stabilizes the sitting position almost up to prone. But it will not help you if you do not have it or do not understand it. It is hard to believe but we recently had a student show up for the Safari Prep class packing a long, heavy, expensive, and powerful rifle, which had no provision whatsoever for a shooting sling. We had to start him from ground zero (that is not where you should start Safari Prep instruction).

But then we have noticed here at school and elsewhere that the "life awareness" quality of our students has slipped downward appreciably over the past couple of decades. We have reports from the military to corroborate this. We are told of young men signing up for the military service who have never: I suppose many of these young men know all about sexual perversion, the use of the hypodermic needle, auditory abuse, political correctness, gender equality, and "global warming." It is hard to say what is to be done. As friend Danie has put it, "You can make a wild one tame, but you cannot make a tame one wild."

I am going ahead with the idea of an essay contest on the nature of the enemy. I believe I can get the matter publicized if I can jar loose the prize money, which must be great enough to attract attention. There will be a meeting of the Public Affairs Committee of the NRA prior to the September meeting of the Board of Directors. If I can get the committee chairman to proposition the board, we can get started on this.

"When men differ in taste as to the kind of the world they want, the only thing to do is to go to work killing."

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Chief Justice of the United States

"But to that USA Today election map again: Blue America (nihilistic, abstracted, socialistic, urban, decadent and dependent, feminized and effeminized, helpless, clueless, soft, and defenseless) deeply fears Red America (religious, realistic, capitalist, rural and small town, decadent to some extent but conscious to some degree of that fact, independent, manly and womanly still, self-reliant, relatively aware, with some muscle left, and ARMED.)"

The Hundredth Meridian by Chilton Williamson, Jr in Chronicles, May 2001

Temujin (Ghengis Khan) at one point decided that he needed all of China north of the Yellow River as pasture for his horses. He therefore proposed the extermination of the Chinese. One of his two literate councillors, Ye Liu Chu Tsai, was Chinese and he persuaded the Khan that the people would be fully as useful as a tax base as the land would be as a pasture. He made his point and Temujin did not become the first historical example of true genocide. I guess history would have been very different if he had carried out his original intention, but perhaps not. That was long ago.

Our fellow board member of the NRA, Wayne Anthony Ross, informs us that there are no snakes in Alaska because the mosquitoes ate them. Interesting thought.

I find it annoying that the media in general seem to think that if you are young you are automatically an idiot. Some youngsters indeed are idiots, just like some adults. But just because a youth happens to be twelve does not mean he cannot think straight. If you treat children like fools, they will become fools. If you respect their intelligence and competence, they will develop it. This business of "protecting the children" is a bore. When I was a child there were a lot of other children around, and neither I nor they were fools. We could handle matches and knives and ropes and horses and firearms responsibly.

"You wound a buffalo and he turns into 1500lb of hate. He can run faster than you, smell what you had for supper two nights ago, turn on a tickey, hide behind a bunch of leaves - and when this big black brute boils out of the bush his little eyes are focused only on you. Nothing will turn him... As he charges, he chews up bullets and spits them out... Only death will stop him - his, or yours, or both."

ManMagnum Supplement, December 1998

Note that the reticles on "Lynx" scope sights are etched on the glass, which clearly obviates broken reticles. This is an idea whose time we wish would hurry up and come.

In Africa the situation continues to deteriorate. Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) seems about to explode, and in the RSA things are only somewhat better. "The new winds of bureaucracy, taxes, greed, and distrust between people are much more dangerous than crime and assault. Crime we can defend ourselves against, but the other we can't do much about." (Danie van Graan)

It has recently been suggested that to avoid further conflict and disharmony we give California back to Mexico. An interesting idea!

Many Americans do not realize that under Article VI of the Constitution, a treaty made with a sovereign power may supersede the Constitution in relevant particulars. As you know, the current head of the UN is vigorously advancing the notion that the personal ownership of firearms should be prohibited worldwide. The UN is, of course, a supranational organization and has no interest in national sovereignty. In fact, if the UN were effective, it would do away with national sovereignty. In this matter the United States stands alone in its support of personal firearms. We are surrounded by many score two-bit nations who have no interest in either our sovereignty or theirs. Those nations have no interest in the personal ownership of firearms and would swamp us if the matter were put to a vote. Thus the United Nations should be considered a force hostile to the best interests of the United States and treaties with it should be regarded with suspicion. We were quite right to reject the Kyoto Protocol, but that simply infuriates the great majority of the socialist nations which make up the UN. This is a point to bear in mind. The UN is not our friend. The United States has few friends in the world. Your taxes support these people in large measure and it is very hard to forgive someone who has done you a favor. The fact that we were thrown off the UN Commission on Civil Rights is a perfect example of this. The UN Commission on Civil Rights is composed of nations whose idea of civil rights approximates that of the weasel in the hen house. Our present administration is unlikely to be hoodwinked by these people, but until we regain control of the Senate we are by no means safe. God save the Republic!

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