Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 3, No. 1           13 January 1995

January, 1995

Well 1994 certainly had both its good points and bad, but it is now past and it is up to us to do what we can with 1995.

The political outlook is pretty good, though in our enthusiasm we sometimes overlook the obvious obstacles in a leftover liberal Whitehouse, our inimical press and an overall moral malaise. We have mounted a pretty good horse, and we have a pretty good saddle, but the race has not even begun, much less finished.

We hope all you good old Orange Gunsiters properly observed Dan Dennehy's birthday. If you take 16 January off, by all means take it off for a good reason.

We look forward to new and inspiring developments in the firearms parade at the SHOT show coming up shortly. Every once in a while somebody comes up with something good on that occasion. Last year we noted the appearance of the Blaser 93 rifle, which is a true step forward in rifle design, if not the ultimate answer. I heard nothing concrete from Steyr Mannlicher last year, but I have a letter from the company this time inviting me to discover and enjoy the progress that has been made at the factory on the design and production of a true Scout rifle. May it indeed be so! It has been five years since we talked to the design people in Austria, but as the company spokesman told me last year, "These things take time."

By the time you read this we will have chaired the IPSC Practical Rifle meeting scheduled for 18 January in Las Vegas. The problems involved in the organization of international practical rifle shooting are daunting, mainly because of the voice of the gamesman who does not really care what the rules are as long as he stands a good chance to win. We certainly will give it our best shot.

"Personally I dread the weighty taxes, grinding inconveniences, and petty indignities of the leviathan state more than I dread violent confrontation with its enforcers."

Paul Kirchner

We have been simultaneously amused and annoyed at all this media excitement about the "Rhino" pistol bullet. We have had both expanding bullets and armor piercing bullets for pistols for some decades now. On the other hand, it is apparent that the case workers of the media know nothing about either of those things. At least the manufacturer got a lot of publicity, and we wish him well, which is more than we can say for the hysterical newscasts.

"Speaking for myself, there is only one government on earth I don't feel safe from - and it isn't Russia's."

Joseph Sobran

In the general disorganization following the change of purpose in Gunsite management, we find that among other nuisances stray cattle loom large. Maybe what we need is an imported pair of lions to keep the pests down.

The editorial staff of the Southwest Pistol League magazine has come up with a curious debate about what may be the purpose of the Southwest Pistol League. Well, I do not know what the purpose is now, but I do know what it was when the league was founded, because I founded it.

The purpose of the league, when founded, was to discover, by means of open, unrestricted, diversified competition with the heavy-duty sidearm, just what weapons, what tactics, what principles, and what general equipment would serve best in a fight. I remember that on one occasion the late, great John Plahn exclaimed to me, "Jeff, the rest of us are in this just to have fun, but you are using us as a research tool!" Exactly. That was what I was doing.

It may now be that that purpose was accomplished, though that would be a very dangerous position to take. Certainly, however, the so-called "race guns" that now lead the competition have indicated that a majority of the contestants have simply lost the point. They do not know what the purpose is. That is the reason why the question has come up for debate in the periodical.

Here at the Sconce we have formulated our two New Year's Resolutions as follows:

In our despairing pursuit of precise communication we are continually affronted by the newspaper term "innocent civilians." I am not at all sure what makes a civilian innocent, but when war invades populous places there are going to be non-combatants who will suffer from the efforts of uniformed soldiery. Whether they are innocent or not is a very complex question. Almost by definition guerilleros are "innocent" in that they are not soldiers paid by any military force. Throughout the beastly wars of the late twentieth century, large numbers of unpaid, ununiformed, non-combatants have been caught up in disaster and slaughtered wholesale. This is, of course, tragic, but it does not imply that the innocents have been murdered by the guilty. Sometimes it has been conspicuously to the contrary. Let us watch that!

We have up till now received almost no financial support for the Waco Monument to the non-combatants who died there at the hands of the federal ninja. Perhaps this is not a good idea, but we do intend to pursue it.

A while back we commented upon how popular it is to embellish a point by mentioning that "studies have shown" it to be so. Now we have a really good one. A sociologist group at Harvard has come up with the shocking conclusion that citizens who have received adequate training in smallarms are distinctly more likely to keep their personal weapons at the ready at home. The idea that a ready weapon is automatically a horribly anti-social manifestation seems so obvious to these Harvard types that they published the results of this survey, with a wringing of hands in the New York Times.

We of course know that the only proper way to maintain a personally owned weapon in the household is loaded and ready. It would seem obvious even to a Harvard man that an unloaded weapon is totally useless. The interesting thing is that the newspapers who printed this piece and other newspapers who picked it up and reprinted it never seemed to think further about the matter.

I would certainly like to think that those people who received weapons training have profited by it, but we are not up against reasoned argument here. Hoplophobia is after all a true phobia, which means that it is not susceptible to reasoned argument.

We were interested to hear of the death of Joe Slovo, the evil genius of the INC. It is unseemly to rejoice in anyone's demise, but Joe Slovo was a man we could well do without - from beginning to end. A dedicated Lithuanian Marxist, he rushed off a couple of decades ago to South Africa where he became the guru of the African National Congress. These people would have been better off without him, and by God's grace they are without him now.

Having nothing to lose, I am going to climb out on a loose limb and make a horrifying statement. To wit: group size is spinach.

Well, wash my mouth out with soap! To a large number of smallarms enthusiasts in the world, group size is everything. If that is the way they want it, that is all right with me, but I must say that these people are devoting a great deal of attention to an essentially trivial matter. Certainly a very accurate rifle - or pistol - is a satisfying instrument to own and use. Whether it makes any difference in practical application is another matter. Consider for a moment that group size is normally measured by group diameter from the impact centers of the two widest shots in the group. Consider further that even if that is a good measure, group radius is of considerably more interest, since group radius measures the distance between the theoretical point of aim and the worst shot in the group. And let us further consider that in any given group the majority of hits is likely to be located in the center of the group, so we can further cut down the "range probable error" to one-quarter of group diameter. In no case do we know of a man who can shoot well enough to appreciate that. I was told recently by a colleague that he was attempting to do some head-size groups at 500 meters coming up summer. I responded that I had once shot an ornamental 500-meter group with an SSG, using 1962 Lake City Match ammunition, but that since I had shot it from a bench it did not really count. I did not wish to hurt his feelings, but I do wish to point out that what the shooter can do from a bench is no measure of how he can shoot.

We are into the chapter in "The Art of the Rifle" in which we examine the true nature of marksmanship. This subject becomes more complex the more we study it. It is a humbling exercise.

"Faced with the pain of freedom, man begs for his shackles."

Gerry Spence, in "From Freedom to Slavery"

This comment from Ken Mitchell in regard to my use of the term "ninja" for our current variety of masked police:
"Your critic is incorrect, and I believe that your use of the term `ninja' to refer to government agents engaged in violent assault on American citizens is not only appropriate, but historically accurate. The ninja in the Japanese Shogunate era (ca. 1600-1750) were hired assassins, and nothing more. To the extent that they battled oppression or tyranny, they did so at the behest of other tyrant oppressors; imagine an FBI sniper taking out a BATF supervisor, for example."

Just this week we received yet another report of the dropping of the striker in the Remington action when the safety was eased off. Not that we were in any doubt about this, having experienced these failures ourselves, but we are much annoyed when salesmen and gunsmiths inform the ignorant that this failure simply cannot happen.

Please note the correction from last year's terminal commentary. Colonel Ulving of the Swedish Army is spelled Sverker rather than Swerker.

Just now we learn of a buffalo fatality occurring up near Arusha back in September of the year just past. The account is written by the professional hunter involved, and as usual he gives us much detail but not quite enough. For example, he does not mention what cartridges were used. Given the general scene as observed in Africa, I would be willing to bet a certain amount that the rifles used were caliber 375.

The PH, the client, and an apprentice PH, accompanied by two trackers, followed a shootable bull into some fairly thick cover. In an open space they got a shot at some 60 meters. The buff disappeared, and they followed him into thicker cover. Following a wounded buff into thick cover is one of life's great experiences, and in this case it turned out to be the last experience - for the principal. At ranges of perhaps ten paces, two more shots were fired - one to the head, one to the shoulder. When on the next close-range sighting the buff came straight in, the PH fired one more shot and was runover without serious injury by the buffalo, who, now reduced to crawling, made it to the client, got his horns under him and tossed him aside. The client was not mangled, but received a couple of horn wounds to the thighs, one of which to the inside of the right thigh apparently punctured the femoral artery. All hands did what they could to stop the bleeding, but it had gone too far by the time they got the pressure bandages in place and the client was dead on arrival at the hospital.

This is all very grand, as the sportsman died a man's death in his prime in noble adventure. What impresses me most, however, is the iron courage of the buffalo which, though mortally wounded, pressed home his attack and destroyed his tormentor.

Old Synceros caffer - the African buffalo - is not very pretty, but he just may be the grandest game animal in the world, regardless of the size of his trophy.

I do not choose to regard this episode as evidence of inadequate gunpower, since to begin with I do not know what gun was used, but the blood from that first bullet hole was light and frothy, indicating a lung shot. Regardless of what cartridge you use, you will not stop a buffalo with a lung shot. It is easy to be somewhat shaken on your first sight of the black bull, but above everything else you must shoot with extreme care. The buff may never start a fight, but you may be sure that he stands ready, willing and able to finish it.

(French horns in the distance.)

Remember when Kennesaw, Georgia, made it mandatory for all households to be armed, and the media viewed this with dismay? Well note further that in Kennesaw, Georgia, where there used to be very little armed violence, there now seems to be none.

What was it that Heinlein said about an armed society?

"I am not prejudiced, I am postjudiced. Postjudice is the compliment that common sense pays to experience."

Florence King

It appears to us now that current American society in general believes that any amount of learning is a dangerous thing. To quote Florence King again,
"The egalitarian left says it isn't relevant, and the philistine right it won't help you earn a living. Probably not, but it makes life liveable."

Looking at the world situation at this time a number of powerful popular commandments seem to take center stage. Now then let us all choose up sides and see who wins the vote.

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