Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 3, No. 2           31 January 1995

Ground Hog Day, 1995

Well, yes, February. A generally dreary month, but lightened up this time by a chance to visit with Ian McFarlane (our man in Okavango) and Danie van Graan (our man in the Lowveld.) It appears that hunting possibilities in Africa have not yet been seriously obstructed by the communist element in the ANC. General Denis Earp, the IPSC Regional Director for South Africa, tells us that the bad guys in the new government are keeping a low profile, waiting to see how much financial help they can get from the non-communist West before they tighten the screws on their own people. The possession of personal firearms in South Africa has always been favorable to travel there. I have been more comfortable personally in South Africa than in any other country, since I much prefer to travel with my own weapons. Nothing has gone wrong yet, but total gun prohibition has been proposed in some circles, and how this will effect hunting in the future remains to be seen.

Herewith wisdom of one John Markoff, reprinted in the New York Times:
"The American people must be willing to give up a degree of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said."
Louis Freeh, meet Benjamin Franklin!

At the SHOT show we held a long discussion with Herr Ulrich Zedrosser, who is Chief of Design for Steyr-Mannlicher, and we conclude that the prospects for the production Scout are still promising - despite nearly five years of delay. The prototype will make weight (3.5kg, minus.) It will, for the time being, mount the Burris scoutscope, since no other manufacturer will make a glass for the project. The sight will be mounted on a forward extension of the receiver so as to clear the magazine well. Adjustments will remain in the glass, rather than the mount. Both 5-round and 10-round magazines will be available, and the piece will be fitted for the Ching Sling. Stock length will be fully adjustable, and a flush bi-pod will be standard. A spare 5-round magazine will be carried in the butt. A radical bolt-lock system will be featured for greater safety and ease of travel. All of this is good news, and Herr Zedrosser hopes to have a prototype available for shooting when we visit the factory in June.

It has been a long time, but we still hope for the best.

Note that the date for the next Keneyathlon at Whittington is 4-6 June.

On the matter of Scouts, we are mildly annoyed to discover that the term has been picked up and run off with by all sorts of people who have never seen a true Scout and do not know what it is. Most of these people do not realize that a Scout must make weight, and it must use a general-purpose cartridge readily available worldwide and suitable for any target up to buffalo. This points towards 308, but options include 30-06, 303 British, and the 7-08 for jurisdictions where 30 calibers are prohibited. It does not include the 223.

Anybody is at liberty to call anything whatever he wants, but the Scout attributes were fully discussed at the Scout conference held nearly ten years ago at Gunsite, and customized versions have distinguished themselves all over the world. I have tried to write the matter up on several occasions, but I am amazed at the number of people who adopt a term without reading into it.

I just got a fascinating report on the effect of a 30-30 on a police vest. The round did not penetrate, but it took the recipient temporarily out of the fight. We have wondered about that.

The "double-action" self-loading pistol has certainly grabbed the attention of the law enforcement establishment, presumably because it is "safe." Actually, incidents with the US police over the past few years have demonstrated that the trigger-cocking auto is noticeably less safe than the single-action version, as well as less safe than the revolver. Of course, safety is a curious concept when applied to lethal weapons. To the extent that a firearm is safe, it is useless, but in the Age of Litigation everyone seems more concerned about lawsuits than about getting the job done, and since people properly qualified in firearms are rarely found in lawsuits various problems appear.

For example, in Lexington, Kentucky, recently the county coroner ruled that when a police officer making an arrest used the hammer-dropper to make the weapon safe, and shot the suspect through the head, the fatality was "unintentional." It is probably true to say that the cop did not intend to kill the suspect, but what he was doing pointing his pistol at the head while he dropped the hammer is another matter. That hammer-dropper does not always work. We thought everybody knew that. Certainly the Walther people, who invented it back in 1935, formally cautioned their users about it in writing.

Funny we did not have all this trouble with accidental discharge, either with revolvers or with single-action auto-pistols, in my youth. Apparently nitwittedness is one of the flowers of the Age of the Common Man.

As always we delighted in the Perazzi display. Perazzi shotguns are things of beauty, and one can spend hours in simple admiration. The top grade has a sticker price of about $85,000, and it is pleasant to realize that there are people who will manufacture such things, and also people who will purchase them. "It's a great world after all!" I certainly have no intention of ever acquiring a Perazzi, anymore than acquiring a McClaran, or a Stradivarius, but it is nice to know such things exist.

Money is coming in very slowly for the fund for the Waco Memorial. We have a family member resident in Waco who can handle the project at such time as we have collected about $5,000; meanwhile, you may send your contributions directly to me and we will keep them in the appropriate box.

Contrary to long standing rumor, Leupold is not going to produce a scoutscope. I checked this out with the head man at the Leupold booth and I do not think that he was lying to me.

Our man in Saudi Arabia, whose name will remain private because of the possibility of his future employment there, tells us that the ragheads have really taken to the concept of spray-and-pray. Their idea of training is to acquire an enormous amount of the least powerful ammunition available and bum it up, preferably on full-auto. When one sheik, after going through several magazines with an MP5, noted that there were no holes in his target, he observed he needed more practice.

Items of interest noted at the SHOT show include:

A nifty Marlin 45-70 carbine, totally stainless, in takedown. The perfect instrument for bear and lion guides. If you are interested check with,
Jim West, 907-344-4500, fax: 907-344-4005 in Anchorage, Alaska.
A brand new solid copper shotgun slug from Remington, promising superior accuracy and quick expansion.

A Voere 6mm rifle taking the caseless cartridge. They are working up to 6.5, and when they get to 7, I will be interested.

303 British ammunition available from Hansen in quantity. (This for those who have been acquiring the fine war-surplus Enfield No. 4.)

The excellent 45 caliber 230-grain JTC bullet available from Nosler.

An African police shotgun with two magazine tubes, offering instantaneous selection of projectile type.

Note that Finland's five million people own four million personal firearms. Just wait till Congressman Schumer finds out about that!

I had a pleasant session at SHOT with the Blaser rifle, Model of 93. It is not new this year, and I acquired one last year for our Babamkulu expedition, but it is a notable instrument with many outstanding advantages. It is not a Scout, and it cannot be made into one, but as a sheep and antelope rifle it is practically perfect.

The IPSC Rifle Conference, held the day before the SHOT show began, was interesting, if not conclusive. A divergence in view between those who wish to play war games with 22s, and those who are more interested in serious rifle work, is very evident. When matters on this subject were brought to a vote, it came out consistently at 5 to 4, one way or another. A vote that close is not a mandate, and the rifle committee cannot offer it as such at the general meeting forthcoming this August in Sweden.
  1. We did agree upon a weight ceiling of 5 kilos, which is better than meaningless, but only a little.
  2. A range limit of 500 meters for international competition.
  3. No minimum caliber.
  4. Major and minor power factor.
  5. Two divisions: manual and self-loading.
  6. No limit on action type.
  7. No limit on electronic sights.
  8. All equipment to be fitted to the weapon throughout the match and not changed.
  9. Scoring methods may be used at the discretion of the course
director to include Comstock, One Shot Virginia, and Kahn-Hamilton (as used in the Keneyathlon.)

Nick Alexakos, Regional Director for Canada, was designated as the sub-committee on target design.

Our hope lies in course design, and we are very fortunate in having General Denis Earp, Regional Director for South Africa, in charge of approving all courses to be used in international competition. If courses of fire are realistic and well-designed, nearly all of our difficulties will be solved.

Through Randy Umbs, our man in Wisconsin, we have finally acquired a practical explanation for golf. It turns out that dog droppings freeze iron-hard in the Wisconsin winters, and one can make excellent practice with his 4-iron lobbing these remnants onto adjoining property. Chipping one down the neighbor's chimney is the equivalent of a hole-in-one.

Back in the Dark Ages when I was first interested in riflery, I was fascinated with hopping up the 30-06 cartridge. I, along with many others in the shooting world, was sold the notion that "more is better." Early versions were the 30 Newton, the 300 Holland and Holland, and the 30 Halger. It did not occur to us innocents to ask why one would want more than what the 30-06 offers to the riflemen.

Well, it shoots flatter. (A bit, and that bit is so small that it makes no difference, since on the back curve of the trajectory differences in drop do not matter as long as they are known in advance.)

Well, it hits harder. (Yes, a bit, and to what purpose? If you sock any sort of beast short of buffalo in the proper place with a 30-06, you have him.) A friend, who was demonstrating the Blaser rifle at SHOT, told me that his most popular caliber is the 300 Weatherby Magnum. It turns out that he sells his rifles primarily to rich Texas cowboys who figure that they cannot do it with a 30-06, so they better have a 300 Magnum. Personally I am unconvinced.

Those who insist that the citizen has no chance against the army must be pondering the situation in Chechnya. Of course the Russians will win, if they have not done so already, but the Chechens are still there in the hills and their efforts so far have almost upset the Russian government. When it comes to pass that citizens must take up arms against their own government, the results are uniformly dreadful, but the outcome is not necessarily foregone.

"When law and morality contradict each other the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his sense of morality or losing his respect for the law."

Frederick Bastiat
The "new criminalization" is perhaps the most disgusting feature of the leviathan state. It results from the criminal enforcement of regulations against citizens who are doing nothing wrong other than violating a regulation of which they had no knowledge. This lets the regulators run wild and gives the citizen no recourse to his representatives because they, the representatives, have nothing direct to do with the regulation.

It is time to come down hard on these regulators. I have been waiting for the news that the new boys in Washington are planning to do something about the BATF - so far with no results. I continue to wait. You continue to wait. Let us not wait indefinitely.

A couple of the faithful have pointed out that we have not had really enough of Roosevelt at the Roosevelt Memorial, and I agree. Let all the faithful make an issue of bringing up quotes from TR for recitation at the next reunion. They do not have to be in verse, as TR did not write much verse, but his prose is outstanding and well suited to declamation. Everybody bring a short punch line to the next meeting in October.

The recent annual report on accident facts published by the National Safety Council in the Fall of 1994 reveals some very interesting data. The rate of accidental deaths for motor vehicles came to around 42,000, as opposed to 1,600 attributable to firearms. Thus, you are approximately 26 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident than you are from a firearms accident. You are twice as likely to die from "medical misadventure" than from a firearms accident. The firearms fatalities in 1903 came on at 3.1 per hundred thousand. The rate is now 0.6 per hundred thousand.

Interesting, what!

I have been doing my best as a member of the Education and Training Committee of the National Rifle Association to standardize firearm safety rules worldwide. I have not met with any conspicuous success. Every time I point out that the four general rules of gun safety have been promulgated, observed and proven over the past three decades, I get static from employees who wish to complicate matters in order to justify their salaries. However, the four suffice. They do not need editing, amplification, or complication. Simplicity is what we need. Whether we get it or not remains to be seen.

In the publication of the Southwest Pistol League, which I founded so long ago, there was a recent exchange between editors regarding the purpose of the organization. I found this interesting and submitted the following letter to the editor in consideration thereof:
"I was much interested to read the editorial `Competition Notes' on the third page of No. 11 and 12 of the Journal."

"At issue is the purpose of the Southwest Pistol League - an interesting question."

"I once worked for a superb general at Quantico who posted up over the exit doorway of every office in the school complex the question, `What are you trying to do?' written in gold letters upon a scarlet background. That is truly a shocking question for the majority of the human race, which really has only a vague notion of what it is trying to do."

"I cannot say what the purpose of the Southwest Pistol League is at this time, though I certainly know what it was when I founded it. That purpose was to discover, by means of open, unrestricted, diversified, realistic competition, the best weapons, equipment and technique to fulfill the lifesaving mission of the combat pistol. (Some may remember that the original title of the organization was the Southwest Combat Pistol League, the word Combat extracted by the California Secretary of State when we became incorporated.) My thoughts, along with those of the other founders, was that only competition can develop excellence, but this is true only as long as the mode of competition reflects the purpose of the exercise. Once the goal of competition becomes simply winning, all sorts of irrelevant challenges may be substituted for relevance - as with, for example, checkers, frisbee or croquet."

"What we wanted to find out was how best to use a pistol in combat, and what the best pistol was. All of us had been previously trained by the military and/or the police and had always been faced with the problem of bringing a large number of people up to some minimum standard with the least time, trouble and expense. All you had to do in the public sector was shoot `expert,' but in competition you had to shoot better than your opponent. This kicked the lid off practical pistolcraft and turned the handgun from a rather trivial badge of office into a serious weapon."

"The revolution we created in the pursuit of that original purpose seems to have been achieved. Jack Weaver showed us how to shoot. John Plahn systematized the technique, and I explored the proper means of imparting it."

"However, as soon as competition became an end in itself, forgetting its purpose, the activity became trivialized and further progress came to a halt. This is not necessarily a disaster, since what we had learned is still there for those who wish to learn it, regardless of the bizarre impracticality that has set in. "Practical" pistol shooting certainly can be fun - every bit as much fun as impractical pistol shooting - but fun is not the purpose of the exercise. I remember once that John Plahn addressed me with some force saying, `Jeff, the rest of us are in this to have a good time, but you are using us as a research tool!' Just so, I learned what I needed to learn, as did many others, by the same process, and now we know how to use the combat pistol. The purpose has been accomplished."

The following penetrating paragraph is from family member Ed Detrixhe of Clyde, Kansas:
"The first thing a conservative notices about leftists is how afraid they are. Any conversation with them soon, no immediately, leads to something they fear, and they fear almost everything. They fear food, tobacco, the sun, clothing, cars, open discussion, life, death, etc. Because of many of these deep fears it is not surprising that they are passionately interested in making life `safe.' Life must be renewed. If something incidental, such as this freedom or that freedom, must be given up in order for life to be `safer,' than so be it. (Perhaps this makes perfect sense because when someone is consumed by fear he is in effect imprisoned. Accordingly, the meaning of freedom changes.)"
As the proverbial old Indian said:
"The first thing is to overcome fear. When that is accomplished everything takes care of itself."

As our calendar fills up for the coming year, the Countess and I are tempted to cancel the month of June for lack of space.

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