Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 3, No. 12          October 1995

Black October, 1995

These are the times that try our patriotism, as evil walks grinning abroad in the land, and Justice hides her head in shame. "Murder will out," was the old saying. Now it appears that murder is in, and the taxpayers are footing the bill. What once was "The last, best hope of Earth" is now the laughing stock of the world, as we truly get the society we deserve.

Now we head for the annual reunion and celebration of Theodore Roosevelt's birthday at the Whittington Center the weekend of the 21st. The great man's birthday is actually on the 27th, but this year we celebrate a week early in an attempt to avoid the onset of the cold weather that socked us two years ago. As usual, we will enjoy shooting with rifle, pistol and shotgun, and we plan to enrich the entertainment with a good supply of helium-filled balloons (not, we hasten to say, for the shotgunners).

The evenings' entertainments need not be in verse nor original, and they need not be memorized, though these things earn extra points. What they should be, of course, is appropriate - powerful statements of which Theodore Roosevelt would approve. In these bad times we need all the inspiration we can get.

The video tapes "Armed Defense," which I cut in connection with Quad Productions, are available for sale at $79.00 for a set of four. Address:
doXa Enterprises, PO Box 62176, Colorado Springs, CO 80962

As we enter upon hunting season I would like to point out again that hunting should not be a competitive exercise, despite the best efforts of the Safari Club to make it so. Except in the rarest circumstances, the hunter has practically nothing to do with the size of his trophy - he takes what is offered, as long as it is presentable. I find the "tape measure hunter" to be bothersome, and tape measures were forbidden on the Babamkulu expedition. A man who shoots game in order to out-do some other hunter has missed the point completely, or so it seems to me. Good trophies are nice to hang upon the wall, but they are there only to remind you of great memories, not to brag about. Speaking personally, I have several record-book trophies, but while they give me pleasure, they do not give me as much pleasure as a number of fairly commonplace heads that resulted from extraordinary moments afield. As Ortega put it, one hunts in order to have hunted, and the hunting experience is essentially inner-directed. This has nothing to do with record books, or the impressions of other people.

Up at a cop session at Bakersfield, we were treated to the usual round of extraordinary cop stories. One such involved a goblin who unbelievably accepted nine pellets of double 0 amidships without apparent distress. He was annoyed, however, and called out to the shooter, "What did you do that for?" We hunted around for a good answer to that question, and finally settled upon, "My foot slipped."

Family member and Orange range master Mike Waidelich has now become a firm advocate of the Glock pistol. This has puzzled me because I consider that trigger action is the most significant single element in the precision efficiency of any firearm, and the trigger on the Glock is customarily so bad as to be practically unworkable. But Mike does not agree. He explained to me that pistol engagements within the law enforcement establishment customarily occur at such short range that precise bullet placement is not important. He maintains that he can teach anybody to center a human adversary with the Glock trigger at any reasonable range - say 10 meters or less.

The other points that recommend the Glock to the police establishment are low cost and readily available modular parts. The Glock people will furnish you with spare parts immediately, where most other manufacturers hem and haw.

These points are important. They are not enough to turn me into a Glockenspieler; but then, I am not a police range master.

Our great good friend Carlos Widmann, of Guatemala, recently underwent some minor surgery on the underside of his jaw, which resulted in a bandaged throat. When asked by a friend on the street what had happened he replied, "A man did a number on me with a knife." The friend was aghast and asked if Carlos had been mugged on the street. His response was that he was done in by the bill presented by the doctor. What his friend did not realize is that Carlos Widmann is not "muggable." Street punks would do much better to pick on something easier; like, for example, a loose leopard.

We are informed by a good friend in Sweden that the allowance for private ownership of ammunition in that country is 25,000 rounds per each weapon owned. We found this hard to believe, and checked it further. The figure is correct - 25,000 rounds. Basically, we are opposed to arbitrary limitations on private armament, but somehow we do not find a 25,000 limit all that oppressive.

We have messed around somewhat with the pistol ghost-ring pioneered by Louis Awerbuck, and now available from Steve Wickert in Prescott. It is, indeed, an aid to failing eyesight, but it poses its own problems. It seems okay for deflection, but not as good as conventional sights for elevation. We will bring an example to Whittington, where the faithful can try it for themselves.

We were recently entertained by a correspondent in Maine who sought to enlighten us on this matter of girls teaching girls. I have always maintained that since there is no difference in technique between the genders (when it comes to shooting) mixed classes are not only acceptable, but desirable. The writer, however, gives me a lecture on what might be called "female bonding," which has always struck me as somewhat questionable. I distinctly remember one outstanding young lady of my acquaintance who, when it was pointed out that she did not have any close girl friends, sang out with "Who needs girl friends?" The renowned war correspondent, Elaine Shepard, had somewhat the same feeling when asked by a commentator, if she did not feel uncomfortable being the only female among a group of about 400 news-types. Her response was, "Well, that's about the right balance, isn't it?".

To each his own, of course, and if the girls like to get together for their shooting, I am hardly one to object. As for me and mine, however, mixed classes will remain the norm.

I am sure you have noted that competitive shotgunners start each string with finger on trigger, in blatant violation of Rule 3. Given the circumstances under which people compete with shotguns, this does not seem to be hazardous - in and of itself. However, the precept is that people operating violent machines should keep their cotton pick'n fingers well clear of the "Go button." I think the shotgunners are wrong. They gain no speed from this procedure, and they set a bad example for the general public.

Despite the best efforts of the hoplophobes, the US remains way ahead of most other jurisdictions in the matter of firearms freedom. Recently an English jeweler, whose shop had been raided twenty times in twenty years, repelled borders by seizing the firearm of one of the bandits who broke into his shop. With the captured firearm he shot both of the bandits, though not fatally.

This was in England, and, of course, he was immediately in a great deal of trouble. He was fined 2,000 pounds for "illegal use of a firearm," 100 more for possession of ammunition which was related to another weapon, plus 1,050 more pounds for prosecution costs. This whole affair is costing the jeweler over $6,000 in American money, plus his attorney's fee.

Just how this sort of idiocy is justified in the eyes of the British courts is unclear, but though we find a lot of domestic jurisprudence pretty bad, such things can get worse.

In the course of our recent police conversations, we discover an alarming lack of range discipline on most police ranges. It seems that an unfortunate number of range masters know about safety rules, but are either unable to enforce range discipline or are unwilling to do so. I fear that this is further evidence of the "Us-Against-Them" attitude. Many seem to hold that the safety rules apply only to other people. This is most distressing in connection with Rule 2, when we see people in authority pointing weapons in all directions, and permitting students to do so, on the grounds that the pieces are unloaded. For decades we have insisted that the four basic safety rules apply to everybody all the time. Perhaps we should have insisted even more forcibly that they apply to range masters and trainers, as well as to the common people.

Is "Taking the Fifth" an admission of guilt? The legalists will insist that it is not, but what is one to think? When people such as Horiuchi and his associates decline to be questioned on the grounds that to do so might tend to incriminate or degrade them, one may ask how can one be incriminated by telling the truth, if he is, in truth, not guilty? Personally I think that when a man takes the Fifth he is also taking upon himself the burden of proof of his innocence.

I take this opportunity to thank all of the good wishers who have called in or written to sympathize with me in connection with my recent eye surgery. I appreciate the kindness, and I can point out that the operation itself was not distressing, and as of now my shooting shows no signs of deterioration.

I have just had the chance to examine daughter Lindy's 1903 Springfield, as customized by Robbie Barrkman. It is a very nice piece but, not unexpectedly, it fails to make scout weight. Of course, we never expected anyone to make a true scout using a big military action. But even with the Springfield action, a "pseudo-scout" in 30-06 should be held to 7.5lbs, including telescope. Lindy's rifle goes 8.25, which is not disastrous but still a bit much. Scout I, which now belongs to daughter Parry up in Colorado, comes on at just under 7lbs ready to go. We are still working toward that, and hope great things from the Mannlicher people at Steyr, if we can last that long.

I remain bemused by this fascination for overcapacity magazines manifest in the marketplace. I have never heard of a case in which a participant in a pistol action profited by the ability to shoot again, and again, and again. Certainly, there are occasions in which an individual law enforcement man has had to contend with a group of miscreants, all of whom were equally dangerous, but one can hunt the records long and long without finding good examples. Recently family member Tim Lloyd from Australia handed me an account of a shooting up at Conneston, north of Alice Springs, back in 1928. In this adventure the constable in charge was set upon several times by what is called Downunder a "mob" of aborigines. He was carrying a 6-shot, major-caliber revolver, and on one occasion he got five one-shot stops out of his cylinder. If any of the family run across cases which justify the utility of an overcapacity magazine, I would appreciate being notified.

We were recently amused at a report back from Africa that a professional hunter down there had decided to use one of these Star Finder terrain location devices to get him back to camp. As has been known to happen with machinery, his device somehow got askew out in the bush and he got himself thoroughly lost. If he had asked me, I could have told him that your best base locator in the African bush is a local African. His bump of location beats electronic gadgetry every time.

Have you heard the term "Blue Suicide?" That is the police code for a shooting death brought about by the victim. It is not at all uncommon. It occurs when a citizen becomes inclined to take his own life, but lacks the viscera to do it himself. He then provokes the police by the use of deadly force until they shoot him. "Blue Suicide" - I knew there must be such a term but I did not know what it was until now.

I recently had occasion to discuss the matter of his upside-down kill with Joe Foss, one of the few remaining American heros. You will recall that Joe is sometimes listed as the only American aviator known to have killed an enemy aircraft while flying flat on his back. The point here is that the 50-caliber Browning machinegun is prone to feeding failures when inverted, since the recoil action is usually not sufficient to pull those heavy belts. Joe pointed out that the guns will usually jam if the airplane is simply rolled onto its back, but that on the occasion under discussion he was at the top of a loop, and that the centrifugal force involved was sufficient to maintain one positive G at the top of the maneuver. Keep that in mind the next time you try this stunt.

It is probably hopeless to expect people to use the right words for things, and the matter is further complicated by people who claim that whatever meaning they wish to attach to a word is right in their case. Still, the use of the word "shrapnel," when that is not what is meant, and the use of "clip" in place of magazine and such-like barbarisms are annoying.

Take the matter of "safari." This is originally an Arabic word meaning, approximately, "journey." The safari is a journey from one place to another, and in the good old days when animal transport was ruled out by the tsetse fly, and motor vehicles were unavailable, one hiked when he wished to go from one point to another. If the hike was long, provision had to be made for supplies, and these supplies had to be carried on the heads of local porters. These porters had to be fed, and while they could survive on a ration of coarsely ground meal, what they wanted was meat - nyama. Even today it is delightful to see how the Bantu relish meat. On a true safari one fed the troops with his rifle. With a big outfit there could be fifty or more bearers, all of whom were conspicuously meat-hungry. This meant what you packed along on such a trip was ammunition, and you used a lot of it. That was a safari. We do not do that anymore. When we go to Africa we go hunting, but to call a modern African hunt a safari is an unfortunate mistake. What is really an abomination is the term "photo safari." People who use that term should be required to eat their own pictures. Wildlife photography is a great art, but let us please call it by its right name.

One of those black helicopters dropped in at the Gunsite airstrip on 23 September. It turns out it was not black, but a very dark green. It was not entirely unmarked, having "US Army" printed in very small letters on its tail. Well, at least it did not have BATF anywhere in evidence.

One theory we recently heard was that the masks worn by the ninja are there to prevent lawsuits by citizens. A citizen cannot sue a sovereign state without its permission, but he can sue an individual agent if he can identify him, thus the agent wears a mask to avoid being sued. Cowardice seems to be the curse of the Age of Aquarius.

The absolute essence of good marksmanship is concentration. If you maintain it, you hit. If you lose it, you miss. It is as simple as that. Now then, how do we maintain concentration? I was recently discussing Horiuchi's shooting at Ruby Ridge, as described in the official reports. I raised the question as to how a man as good as that could have pulled off a shot like that unless he intended to do so. My friend, who has considerable experience in these matters, insisted that when a man gets excited he cannot expect to do his best with his rifle. While I have never shot a man with a rifle, I have considerable experience in shooting under conditions of great nerve pressure, and I can report that, in my case at least, excitement does not enter into the matter. If one's reflexes are properly programmed, he is only excited before or after the moment of truth. Even then the excitement may not live up to his expectations. ("Weren't you excited?" "No, I was too busy concentrating on my trigger.")

People are different, and thank God for that, but to blame one's bad shooting on the fact that he was excited at the time is not an acceptable position.

"Do what thy manhood bids thee do:
From none but self expect applause.
He noblest lives and noblest dies,
Who makes and keeps his self-made laws."

Sir Richard Francis Burton

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