Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 11, No. 4 April 2003
Springtime In The Boonies
Spring is trying to come on a little early
this year, which is pleasant enough, but we hope it does not
inhibit further necessary rainfall. The Southwest has been drying
up now for several years, and it will take more than one wet winter
to repair the damage. We hope for the best.
We have referred to the new giant 50
caliber revolver by Smith & Wesson as the "Dino pistol."
The word dino in Greek means approximately "terrible," as with
dinosaur (terrible lizard), dinopithecus (terrible ape), dinichthys
(terrible fish), and so on. It appears that the 500
Smith & Wesson is quite terrible to a certain political
journalist from Chicago who rushed to press with the idea that the
new Smith should be just the weapon for street gangs. Just how this
fellow got a job as a journalist is not clear, but he obviously
does not know much about either pistols or street gangs. Whatever a
street punk may have in mind for his "nefarious little plans," this
Smith 500 is pretty close to the worst possible answer.
Well it was tiresome to stand there
endlessly holding our sword over our head. Now I suppose we can use
it, and that in itself is quite a relief. If it should come to pass
that we erase both Saddam and Iraq in short order, I do not see
that will conclude the Holy War. The actors of September 11 were
Saudis, not Iraqis, and so far we have heard no evidence of remorse
from the faithful.
It seems to me that a pistol should hit
hard, or it should hit very precisely. Of course it can do both,
but compromise is seldom the proper answer. Thus I have always
favored a major caliber cartridge for a defensive handgun, and
simultaneously suggested that if one is to go to reduced power, he
should go right down to a 22, which will encourage precise
The 9mm/38 family of pistol cartridges has never been really
satisfactory in serious conflict. Of course any sidearm is more apt
to be used as a threat than a weapon, but that is not always the
case. Today we have a whole regiment of new 9mm Parabellum pistols
being offered on the market, but the US Department of Defense has
concluded, to no one's surprise, that if a new pistol is adopted
for US service, it should be of major caliber. If I were stuck with
a 9, I would be happy with a Luger, which is a lovely mechanical
artifact and, incidentally, much prettier than anything available
today. The Luger has its faults, but as a toy or collector's item,
it stands well ahead of the competition.
The President tells us that we are going
into Iraq not to occupy, but to liberate. This, of course, is very
soothing. We recall from the Philippine affair, "Underneath the
starry flag, civilize `em with a Krag, and let's get underway for
home sweet home." I am sure it must be much nicer to be liberated
by an M1A tank than occupied by it.
The whole subject of firearms seems a bit
too arcane for the common man. In Ireland, for example, a
politician recently rushed into the breech to forbid private
ownership of all firearms except shotguns and 22s. This caused
great enthusiasm for the 22-250 as a deer gun. One of the notable
aspects of the democratic process is that one need not know
anything about a subject in order to pass laws about it.
I have maintained from the beginning that
gutter language reveals a paltry vocabulary. This continuous use of
simple-minded, four-letter obscenities reduces the strength of the
statement. This is obvious if you delete it.
Some have suggested that this idea is contradicted by the
notoriously coarse language sometimes used by George Patton. I do
not have specific evidence of the general's expressions, but I will
take it as accepted that he did resort to vulgarity upon occasion.
I do believe, however, that since General Patton was a very
cultivated man, he thought that if he spoke in his customary
fashion he might be considered to be insufficiently fierce for his
position, and simply wanted to sound like "one of the
The doomsdate predicted by Brute Krulak,
at which point no one will know anything about anything,
approaches. We now hear of a case in which a man, having misspelled
a word, claimed that this is okay because his spell checker gave
him the answer. In his mind his own responsibility can be released
by pressing the right button. If the machine spelled it wrong, that
makes it right.
We have had several queries from
correspondents about the characteristics most attractive in a
household 22, and I am preparing a magazine article on that very
subject. No proper household should be without a 22 of some sort,
but what sort encourages attractive cogitation. Of course some
places may even have two 22s, and that does simplify the matter of
A certain faction amongst the anti-gun
people has now targeted the 50 caliber BMG cartridge as a menace to
society. You just cannot get it across to some people that it is
the man, not the instrument, that is the force for either good or
ill. The 50 caliber Browning machinegun, either in its original
form or as a repeating rifle is a most interesting artifact, but it
is tremendously inconvenient to use, except under certain specific
military or paramilitary situations. But the hoplophobes just see
guns as bad in themselves, not in their capacity to achieve any
particular objective. They do not hate crime, they hate
guns, and there is no reasoning with them, because a
phobia is just that, a mental aberration not subject to reasoned
Whence all this whimpering? Having been
involved in a couple of first class wars personally, I do not
remember all this emphasis on suffering, rather than achievement.
Suffering is easy. You learn it the first time, but achievement
calls for talent, determination and courage. When the boys march
off to war we used to cheer. Why do we whine now?
We hear of another hunting casualty from
Africa due, as usual, to leaving the rifle elsewhere. In this case
the hunter, having left his rifle in the car, ran across an
irascible wildebeeste cow, who roughed him up considerably and
failed to kill him only by chance, the cornada missing the
femoral artery by a centimeter. You would think that people would
not wander around the African bush unarmed - you would think.
But then we are required to wander our city streets unarmed, which
would seem the more dangerous course.
I made no mention of shooting sticks in
"The Art of the Rifle." Perhaps this was a mistake, since it
seems that shooting sticks are now practically universal in Africa.
I fabricated a set when I was a schoolboy, and I found that they
were a nuisance to carry around. They still are, but this matters
only when one hunts alone, and in Africa today there is always at
least one henchman within whistling distance. If you are making an
approach through high grass carrying a rifle in one hand and
shooting sticks in another, it is awkward. But if the sticks are
there for the asking, the high grass is no longer a problem. Our
daughter Lindy pulled off an outstanding longshot on a tsessebe in
Okavango using the sticks. One cannot fault an instantaneous
one-shot kill. So I guess there is a place for shooting sticks, at
least for the younger generation. Somehow I cannot envision Bell or
Selous or Stigand carrying shooting sticks, but then times have
Our British periodical, from which we try
to keep track of things British, tells us that "huge numbers" of
English recruits are quitting in training because they do not like
being yelled at. Well fancy that! Being yelled at is a dreadful
thing, I suppose, but somehow it never bothered me. Of course one
must speak softly to a wimp lest you hurt his feelings - and
that we could not have.
It is a long time now since Lon Horiuchi
shot Vicky Weaver in the face while she was holding her child in
her arms, but that is something most people would like to forget.
Horiuchi still walks free with that on his conscience. The law
cannot reach him, but there are many who do not forget.
I am informed by a couple of senior
instructors that the quality of the student body here at Gunsite
has conspicuously declined over the last couple of years. The
people who are coming to school now, with exceptions, of course, do
not seem to be up to the task, though both the doctrines and the
instructing staff have remained constant. I do not know what to
make of this, except possibly as evidence of the overwhelming
encroachment of the television culture, which seems to produce a
race of watchers rather than doers. I should have thought this
would take longer than a matter of ten or fifteen years, but the
evidence is there.
The dim-witted cross-bolt safety which is
now being featured on current lever action rifles is not only
unnecessary but actually slightly dangerous. It can be deactivated
with a little work, but a better choice is to acquire an older
rifle secondhand at a gun show. The fit and finish of the older gun
may be superior as well.
The Safari Club International continues
its praiseworthy efforts to encourage big game hunting and conserve
wildlife throughout the world. I think that perhaps the club is
overlooking a bet in the matter of Hydrurga, the leopard
seal. Here is a large, fierce, active carnivore, twice as big as a
lion, which is quite prolific and has no fear of man. His organized
pursuit would call for a great deal of political organization and
would entail great expense, but these things are not insupportable
obstacles to "the rich, the well-born and the able" who make up the
membership of SCI. There is no tradition here of hunting the
Hydrurga, but times change, and perhaps we should develop
In this war of ideas we seem to have got
into, our strongest weapon is ridicule. These fanatics cannot bear
to be laughed at, and if their actions are often deadly, they are
still ridiculous. I continue to read carefully into Islam, and if
what I discover is not ridiculous, that must be because Arabic does
not translate well into English. Neither, for that matter, does
Hebrew. That is a powerful reason why we still have such a varying
interpretation of our own scripture. These Wahabis are pretty
silly. That is why they hate to have it pointed out to
We hear from the Balkans that the trade
in contraband weapons flourishes apace. All sorts of rifles and
machine pistols are used as trade goods, and also hand grenades. It
is not clear how one defends himself with a hand grenade, but the
various Balkan factions seem to enjoy blowing each other up simply
on principle. The factionists hang out in designated bars, and the
activists can always take pleasure in pitching a bomb through an
It may be that as a professional marksman
all my life I am overly concerned with trigger action. I know many
shooters who do not seem to care much about this, and they make out
pretty well - or so they say. But I need a good trigger in
order to shoot well, and so do my students, who have all achieved
outstanding records in the game fields.
What then is a good trigger? A good trigger is a mechanical
paradox. It must release the hammer or the striker with no apparent
motion. It must move in order to accomplish this purpose, but its
motion should be imperceptible. You test this by sight, not by
touch. You place your finger on the trigger and take up the slack,
if any. At this point you press gently, watching your finger. If
you can see it move before discharge, your trigger has "creep."
This is not a matter of weight, although reasonably light weight in
the 3 to 4 pound range is a help. What is called for is apparently
motionless release - after take up. Such trigger action is
achievable by a good gunsmith with a conventional trigger. With the
radical Blaser trigger, gunsmithing is unnecessary. This trigger
action is imperceptible as the weapon comes over-the-counter.
As I say, I may make too much of this, but it is important to me,
and more in time shooting than on the bench. Over the decades I
have seen a lot of hits and a couple of misses. Good trigger action
has always been the key.
It is rumored abroad that the excellent
25mm machinegun round may be adopted as a sort of successor to the
50 caliber BMG in shoulder-mounted repeating rifles. That should be
fun to shoot, but obviously not for the faint of heart.
This airport security business is
unnecessarily obnoxious. All you have to do is profile your
passenger, and this does not take a philosopher. These Jihadis
look like Jihadis. I put in a good deal of air travel and
I see a great deal of utter foolishness on the part of the these
security people - who only have to look. Up till now no
innocent patriot has jumped an aircrew. Nor anyone who looks like
one. Profiling may be regarded with horror by some who are
preoccupied with political correctness, but this matter is too
serious to be toyed with. The bad guys simply look like bad guys,
and they cannot change that by shaving off their beards. That is
one positive advantage we have in the Holy War.
Clausewitz is always worth considering.
He classifies officers as follows:
- The brilliant and energetic man makes the best staff officer.
He handles routine work with accuracy and completeness.
- The brilliant and lazy man makes the best commanding officer.
He tends to see the big picture accurately and avoids preoccupation
with detail work which might distract him.
- The stupid and lazy man makes the best subordinate. He will do
what he is told properly, no more no less.
- The stupid and energetic man, however, is to be avoided at all
costs. He is quite capable of ruining the best laid plans.
We were recently treated to a
non-attributable photograph of a man who had been killed and
partially eaten by a bear in Alaska. In this present age of
irresponsible communication, it is very difficult to run things
like this down. We would much like to know what these circumstances
were - whereabouts, what sort of bear, how come? So far I have
had no luck with this. If you find out any details, I would
appreciate the information.
I continue to be bothered by
misunderstandings of the Scout concept. The world is full of
pseudo-scouts and, as you might suppose, they do not measure up. To
people who complain about the price of the Steyr Scout, I suggest
that they simply make do with the rifle they have until they can
scrape up a little extra cash. Going half-way is unsatisfactory to
begin with, and more expensive in the long run.
It remains true, however, that a great many shooters are simply not
as interested in quality as in quantity. They just prefer several
second-rate items to one really good one. This keeps the market
open, however, and for that we can be grateful.
It has been suggested by one vociferous
polypragmaton that all hunting should be forbidden as
immoral. This man has a right to his opinion, of course, but not to
enforce it upon me. It is the nature of the polypragmatoi,
of course, to police the behavior of other people, regardless if
that behavior has any destructive social effect. We have always had
such people, and we should respect their views, but we should not
let such views achieve the force of either law or custom.
We hoped by this time that the standard
rules of safe gunhandling would have become universal throughout
the world. They have been arrived at by careful consideration over
the years, and they do not need modification or addition. We trust
that all the family
have them by heart in all languages, but
for those who came in late here they are again:
- All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as
if they are.
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to
destroy. (For those who insist that this particular gun is
unloaded, see Rule 1.)
- Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the
target. This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly
responsible for about 60 percent of inadvertent discharges.
- Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at
anything that you have not positively identified.
Those will do. We need all four and we do not need five. It should
not be necessary to belabor this issue, but life is not
It has been suggested that marksmanship
is no longer a military attribute. Is it possible that no
individual shoots at any other individual anymore? While this may
be usually true, I think it would be a terrible mistake to regard
it as a military axiom. Our men in Afghanistan tell us there has
been some good shooting up there, and that it has made a
difference. We certainly hope so.
This Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in
San Francisco has now decided that the Pledge of Allegiance is
unconstitutional. As I understand it they hold that the phrase
"establishment of a religion" is the same as "establishment of
religion." This is obviously fallacious, but the court has so
ruled. The case is being appealed and the verdict will be
overturned almost certainly. But I think it is high time we ruled
the Ninth Circuit Court as unconstitutional in its own
Up till now the greatest hardship we hear
from the battlefront involves overcooked Brussels sprouts. That
will change, of course. I suppose there are plenty of troops who
dislike Brussels sprouts even when they are properly
When our over-civilized European friends
complain about capital punishment, we are reminded of the classic
case of Big Harpe, the notorious goblin of the Natchez Trace. The
Harpe brothers, big and little, were really atrocious sociopaths,
preying mainly upon farm wives and children in the absence of the
man of the house. Little Harpe was caught and duly hanged. But Big
Harpe, his brother, met a more colorful end. He was tied in a chair
and decapitated with a hunting knife in the hands of a bereaved
father and husband. This tale appears pretty old fashioned now, but
it does have a nice tone to it.
Family member Tom Russell, in
observing some of the recent activity in Kuwait, points out that
"it is against the rules to surrender before the war is
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.