Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 3, No. 11          September, 1995

Equinox, 1995

"In Heaven it is always Autumn."

John Donne

The NRA Directors' meeting in Washington was interesting, as usual, and the word I can bring back to you is that despite the flagrant and unabashed hostility of the media, from whom we all must get our news, the NRA is in good shape financially and steadily increasing its influence. This is a tough war, since it is an axiom in Washington that it is image rather than truth which delineates reality. There are a great many fools among the rabbit people who are hoodwinked into believing that what the media promulgate in regard to our traditional American liberties represents mainstream opinion. As we know, it does not. Once outside the metropolis and its suburban support you encounter the real America, which is not as gullible as our news agencies seem to think. The great majority in rural America may be disinclined to propagandize, but it remains true to its traditions, one of which is the armed citizen.

This bothers Senator Feinstein, since she disapproves of the armed citizen and is hard at work trying to abolish the Office of Civilian Marksmanship. Elitists of both the right and the left have always feared the armed citizen, as well they should, for an armed citizenry cannot be tyrannized.

I have been informed that there may be enough Orange Gunsite graduates in Southern California to support the establishment of a "Raven Club." This may be worth investigating. Let us discuss the idea at the reunion on 22 October.

The new "weapon of the masses" seems to be the Chinese version of the Kalashnikov. It is not very accurate, nor very powerful, nor very well made - but it is cheap, and this matters very considerably. It is not as good a weapon technically or tactically as a Winchester or Marlin lever action 30-30, but it is a self-loader, and that makes a great difference to a lot of moderns who feel that they must have semi-automatic fire in order to "keep up."

Note that Mike Root, our man in Cuchillo, cleaned up the iron sight category at the last Keneyathlon with his 30-30. I do not think anyone is likely to do that with an AK47, or clone thereof.

It is amusing to learn that the Israelis have decided that they should not use sights on their pistols. That should prove great good news to the Arabs.

You should be aware that the new Mitchell pistol, upon which Don Mitchell and I are now collaborating, is not simply another clone of the 1911, but rather radically innovative in various ways. In our many years of teaching we have discovered that about 25 percent of the men and 50 percent of the women have hands too small to grip the old Browning frame in satisfactory manner. I have good-sized hands and this never bothered me personally, but in terms of design it does pose a problem. Back at Orange Gunsite I came up with a process known as "slim-lining," by which the circumference of the butt, where it is encircled by thumb and forefinger, could be reduced by 7/8 of an inch. This does not sound like much, but it constitutes a surprising improvement. The slim-lining process, which involves reducing unnecessary thickness in about six places, will be a feature of the new Mitchell pistol, and a feature not shared by any other full-service sidearm at this time. There are many compact versions of the 45 auto, but while they are both shorter and shallower, they are not thinner to the hand. All the new Mitchell pistols will be slim-lined, making them vastly more comfortable in small hands and fully as stable in large hands.

We are searching for a model name for the new pistol. Any of you good people who have any brilliant suggestions should just send them in.

You can get your zero targets from Kwik Print in Prescott,
404 W. Goodwin St., Prescott, AZ 86303, (520) 778-0900.
This target is my own personal design and I think highly of it.

In Northern Europe during the Middle Ages the tradition of wergeld was widely observed. This is, bluntly, payment for murder. If one could pay off the victim's family, the case was closed. See how we have progressed, now that the Justice Department, while "admitting no guilt," is either paying or preparing to pay the Weaver family several million dollars for the life of their wife and mother, Vicki Weaver, who was shot in the face by Lon Horiuchi while holding her baby. Wergeld was supposed to have been abandoned in principle a thousand years ago, but here we are reintroducing it at the close of the twentieth century.

Well, now we know where General Colin Powell stands on the issues.

I find it difficult to accept the weeping and wailing that we hear from the media about the possibility of battle casualties. When people fight, there will be casualties. When a man puts on his country's uniform he accepts the distinct possibility of being killed in action. When we whimper that we cannot imagine sending our infantry troops into the Balkans because some of them may be killed we are in effect saying that we need no army. Personally I am more concerned about air operations, because when aircraft are shot down over enemy territory savages on the other side may use the deliberate torment of our fliers as a means of exerting pressure upon us. If we send infantry into the attack we may get some people killed, but we will not have to watch them on television being hung up by their thumbs.

People die in war. People also die on the highways and in the hospitals. Death is one thing we can be sure of, and perhaps we should remember that "Dulce et decorum pro patria mori est."

In a previous issue we forgot to mention that we discovered the television service in Guatemala to be superior to what we can pick up here in the wilds of Arizona. In our hotel we were treated alternately to the Discovery Channel and the current bullfights. The corrida de toros is in no sense a sport, being rather a demonstration of the triumph of human grace and courage over brute strength. It is not popular with most Anglo-Saxons, but that does not invalidate it as a stirring spectacle - featuring the deliberate defiance of death.

(I can hear the bambiists screaming all the way up here on the plateau!)

We hear from our overseas agents that law enforcement and the whole judicial system in Kenya has now broken down to the extent that the people are now largely executing summary justice on the spot. There is a good deal to recommend this, but it does have certain disadvantages, principally in what may be called over-control. (Shoplifters are frequently beaten to death at the scene.)

Those of you who have had the chance to peruse "Quartered Safe Out Here," by George MacDonald Fraser, doubtless noticed the author's interesting comparison of the British jungle carbine with the Thompson machine pistol. At one point the author was required by the table of organization to carry the Thompson, and after using it in a couple of actions found it convenient to drop it in the river and scrounge an example of his beloved 303 carbine for his own continued use. The machine pistol, in any guise, is a highly specialized instrument of limited general usefulness. It does pretty well for murder in closed spaces, such as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. It does well in boat-versus-boat actions where the vessels are in contact, especially at night. It is sometimes a good instrument for the point man when patrolling in heavy cover against low dedication troops. Also the sound of its discharge may serve to intimidate the unenlightened.

But the machine pistol (submachine gun) simply does not dispose of the range or power necessary for a general purpose personal weapon; besides which it encourages sloppy shooting and the exhaustion of ammunition.

I do recommend Mr. Fraser's book as one of the best memoirs of World War II action that I have read.

Strange at it may seem to our over-civilized friends throughout the world, it still warms our heart to see pistols worn openly in the check lines of supermarkets in Prescott. Sad to say most of the exemplars may properly be characterized as geezers, but then Prescott has always qualified as a geezer town - that is one reason why we moved here.

Despite my decades of experience in this gun business I fear that I still do not fully understand about recoil effect. It must bother some people because they talk about it so much, but what I do not understand is why shooters do not simply ignore it. Rifle and shotgun students, under my tutelage, have always been able to do this. The blow you receive from the butt of a rifle or from a shotgun is considerably less than that you suffer repeatedly in going a few rounds with a sparring partner in a friendly match. It is certainly less than that which you feel when you throw a shoulder block. Of course it can go to extremes, and I have been told that the recoil of the new 700 Nitro is pretty fierce, but we need not work with extremes. The recoil of a 10-gauge Magnum, or of a 458 Winchester, is simply not disturbing enough to bother about.

A minor scandal erupted in Phoenix recently over individual police sales of the AUG. This is yet another example of how foolish it is to make laws against things rather than acts. A lot of people discovered that the AUG, whatever one may think of it as a firearm, is a nifty item on which to practice the "buy low, sell high" principal. I do not believe any of the people involved were especially interested in shooting the piece, but such people are always interested in turning a fast buck.

We recently saw a curious headline in one of our newspapers, to wit: "China To Expel Wu." We got to thinking about that and concluded that if China could bring itself to expel enough wu the whole country could go airborne, fittingly "hoist by its own petard."

Many years ago in Command and General Staff school at Quantico the class was treated to a super secret session on biological warfare. It was impressive, but it does not seem to have been followed up. Fifty years later the media are still talking about infection with known diseases such as anthrax. It was impressed upon us back at school that if the biological weapon is to be used in any serious fashion the agent will be an unknown disease for which, of course, there is no treatment nor cure. This disease will be created in a laboratory and given a code name, such as "Q12" or something of the sort, and all of our troops will be inoculated against it before it is employed. The doctors assured us that almost any desired symptoms could be caused. The afflicted could be knocked flat for two days, upon which they would recover. They could go blind for two weeks and then regain their sight. They could be either killed or totally incapacitated at the choice of the using power, but it was impressed upon us that in a sense the biological weapon might be considered more humane than conventional weapons because the victims do not have to die. (Of course, some might die from heart attacks or side effects, but not many.) So here we are closing in on the twenty-first century, and while people still talk about biological warfare no one seems to know anything about it. Perhaps that is just as well.

If any of the family have anything to report about Black Talon ammunition ("Failsafe") we would appreciate hearing of it. As of now we have had both good and bad reports, but not enough of them on which to base an opinion.

"The citizen wants justice; the politician wants votes. Here we have a conflict."

Paul Johnson

As you doubtless know by now, Jean-Pierre Denis of Belgium has stepped down as President of IPSC. His successor, starting with the new year, is Nick Alexakos of Canada, for whom we wish all the best of luck. Watching IPSC operations progress, however, we get the notion that the next step is to move to the 22-long rifle cartridge. The game has long since ceased to be practical, so why not take this obvious step?

Our man in Capetown reports that when the new South African parliament met to pass the budget it failed for lack of a quorum. It seems that all the fat ladies were still at the Hillary conference in Peking.

The syndicated columnist, Walter Williams, who happens to be a college professor, has recently finished a study of governmental murder and has concluded that in the twentieth century far more people were killed by their own governments than died in war. Statistics are always questionable, but Williams' come out as follows:
Killed in Warfare: 39 million
Killed by Lenin and Stalin: 62 million
Killed by Mao Tse-tung: 35 million
Killed by Hitler: 21 million
These are the leaders, and the figures are beyond comprehension, but coming down to more comprehensible numbers we find that 2 million were killed in Turkey, 2 million in Cambodia, 1.5 million in Mexico, and 1 million by Tito in the Balkans. It should be noted that the time over which these atrocities were perpetrated has a bearing on the magnitude of their atrocity. Combined executions committed by Lenin and Stalin, for example, were spread over 70 years between 1917 and 1987. Mao's murders took place over about 37 years between 1949 and 1987, so his intensity could have been greater. Hitler's 21 million were murdered over a much shorter period, and so the intensity factor pretty well evens out, but the fact remains that vastly more homicide was perpetrated in this century of slaughter by governments against their own people than by armies against enemies. Man's inhumanity to man seems more virulent when it is domestic.

"Shooting a one-minute rifle is like driving a 200-mile-an-hour car - interesting but academic."

The Guru

We were recently treated to a long and rather well-done scientific letter on the subject of muzzle drop tests for pistols, the idea being that the government has now specified that a pistol must be capable of being dropped on its muzzle without firing, and calling for various sorts of machinery to prevent this occurrence. We have been around pistols for a very long time, and we have seen three occasions where a dropped pistol fired. In no case was any damage done. If a pistol shoots straight down into the ground, no harm is done, so why worry about it?

In classes back at Orange Gunsite, I used to point out that how much drop is necessary to fire a 1911-type pistol depends upon four variables -
  1. the composition of the primer compound,
  2. the strength of the primer metal,
  3. the condition of the firing-pin return-spring, and
  4. the cleanliness of the firing-pin channel.
If all these variables are stacked in one direction you could probably fire the piece by dropping it no more than 3 feet. If they are all stacked in the other direction you could drop a piece out of an airplane without its firing, even if it lands straight muzzle-down. The point is it simply does not matter whether it does or not. To arrange to have some passerby standing directly underneath the weapon when it is dropped from high enough onto a very rigid surface, which is also fragile enough to permit a bullet to penetrate it, is going to take more organization than we have time for.

I am sure you are all glad to learn that the BATmen now have their own air force, composed of 22 OV10Ds they purchased from the Marine Corps. That is just what those boys need in their further operations against gun owners - close air support! Obviously the sooner we abolish the BATmen the better off everybody will be.

Have you seen these various perorations in national medical journals which tend to equate crime with disease? Columnist Edgar A. Sutter points out that treating crime as a disease is as sensible as treating disease as a crime.

A point that was emphasized at the NRA meeting in Washington most convincingly by Senator Larry Craig of Idaho was that we, the public, must be sure to differentiate between abuses of police power on the local level and that perpetrated at the federal level. It is no news that the federal ninja are completely out of control, and it is disturbing to see members of the law enforcement community endeavoring to close ranks defensively in the face of the wrath of "civilians." One of the unfortunate but noticeable attributes of police organizations is the "us-against-them" obsession. Since cops are in contact in large measure with the complete dregs of society, it is not hard to understand how they may come to place people into the three categories of cops, cops' families, and scum. We must all be aware of this problem and do our best to mitigate it. If it appears that fed rogues are the principal hazard the citizens face today, we must bear in mind that not all federal agents are in truth rogues, and that our local police are most unlikely to be such. I have a friend, now retired from the federal service, who simply will not accept the fact that Horiuchi deliberately killed Vicki Weaver - when he was in no danger and had no legitimate objective in mind. We are all subject to this group loyalty obsession and I notice it in myself when I am reluctant to accept criminal actions on the part of marines, but a sensible man should not be entrapped by stereotypes. If you happen to think - possibly rightly - that fighter pilots are better than other people, you must remember that this does not apply to every possible fighter pilot, only to the majority. Thus the fact that a man is a cop does not in and of itself mean that he is either good or bad. His actions must be evaluated individually. Ideally your local friendly cop should be your neighbor, whose children go to school with yours and who associates with you in your recreational freedom. This is not always possible, but it should be an aim.

Our man in Santa Monica points out that writing is now coming more easily to him. He tells us that, as with shooting goblins, it is easier the more you do it.

"A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity."

Sigmund Freud in "General Introduction to Psychoanalysis"
via John Pate

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