Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 3, No. 3           22 February 1995

Winterset, 1995

It is with profound sorrow that we must report the death of Bruce Nelson - old friend, distinguished marksman with both rifle and pistol, pioneer designer of leather gear, and one of the conspicuous leaders in the introduction of the modern technique to the American law enforcement community. Bruce's untimely death at 47 was apparently caused by a blood clot in the lung. Among his other attributes, Bruce was a champion of American liberty in his crusade in support of our right to keep and bear arms. He served the NRA on both the Action Shooting Committee and the Law Enforcement Assistance Committee, and he was married to Sandy Froman who is at present a member of the Board of Directors of the Association.

Too often the good die young. God's will be done.

At the recent Safari Club conference at Las Vegas we heard General Schwarzkopf address the multitude. The General is a soldier of renown and is also an ardent hunter, but he is not as strong on the subject of political liberty as we might wish. We must keep that in mind if he decides to run for public office.

Those who feel the need of a heavy rifle - a need confined almost exclusively to buffalo hunters - may do well to consider the A-Square line available as production items. What is wanted in a heavy rifle is a fairly large bore (45 to 50), 500 grains of bullet, and 2400-foot-seconds of starting velocity. The A-square actions are essentially 1917 Enfields, and those need not defer to anything else. They use ammunition which need not be handmade, a point of some importance, and they retail in the three-thousand-dollar range. Perhaps the most promising caliber in the group is the fairly new 470 Capstick, a blown-out relative of the 45 Lott. The 1917 action will accommodate five rounds in the magazine with this cartridge, and thus would appear to be a very happy combination. (The 460 Weatherby, for example, holds two plus one.)

(I strongly advise against putting glass sights on a heavy. A buffalo is easy to see, and some of the time you may have to put him away at spitting distance. Under those circumstances a telescope sight is not only unnecessary, but possibly in the way.)

Also at the convention, it appeared to us that the Safari Club membership includes almost no Democrats, and very few riflemen, while counting on perhaps 60 percent naturalists. A high point of the gathering was the taxidermy exhibit - the best thing of its kind that I have ever seen.

We discover that a new version of "Meditations on Hunting" by José Ortega y Gasset is set for re-issue. This will be a luxury item rather than a paperback, and should definitely be included in every sportsman's library. Ortega's "Meditations" have been classified by people of discernment as among the few really great books of the twentieth century. The philosopher totally destroys the emotional position of the anti-hunter and provides all of us with ammunition at the ready whenever the rabbit people raise their furry heads.

Recent news suggests that the Russians get simply furious when you fight back - just like our federal ninja.

I have discovered a new use for air guns. Anchorage, among other places, seems to be overrun with moose. These moose fancy city-dwelling because the streets are ordinarily plowed and thus make movement easier. The local authorities frown on busting moose in your front yard within the city limits and without a license. If you sting this moose on the fanny with your air gun, it may occur to him that he is not welcome. Best not try this system on a cow with calf, however, for a cow moose with calf is one of the fiercer animals, and will generally choose attack over retreat.

If you think the Clinton cabinet resembles a freak show you might examine the San Francisco City Council. (Well, what did you expect?)

In South Africa's Magnum magazine we recently encountered an astonishing photograph. This was an X-ray of a man's head which included not only a 32 caliber bullet, but also a 32 caliber case. Now, how it is possible to fire a round into one's head, and then have the empty eject with such violence as to penetrate it also, is beyond us. But there is the photograph, and all we can do is stand amazed.

Family member John Schaefer, from the Peoples' Republic of New Jersey, informs us that his Star Wars number is 73654,2514. This is a very significant number, and all computer freaks amongst the faithful should have it at the ready.

A while back we reported the widely-held view that a crocodile, after drowning his prey, seeks to stash it away under mangrove roots and such so that it may rot and come apart more easily, since he has no chewing mechanism. In going further into this we discover that a crocodile frequently shakes his prey apart, strewing fragments hither and yon. In Australia not long ago a victim's leg was found nearly fifteen feet out of the water. Additionally, a small croc in the 6 - 8 foot size will frequently grab a loose limb and simply twist it off by rolling violently in the water.

"Campaigns to bear-proof all garbage containers in wild areas have been difficult because, as one biologist put it, `There is a considerable overlap between the intelligence levels of the smartest bears and the dumbest tourists.'"

Richard Wabrek

"There is no moral obligation for any of us to obey immoral or unconstitutional laws, but if you are caught be prepared to pay the price."

Walter Williams

Who now speaks with authority on pistol technique? This question is almost impossible to answer. No one thought much about it up until the conclusion of World War II, and since that time the subject has been complicated by divergence and objectives between the public and private sectors.

When we opened the Pandora-box of practical pistol shooting in California back in the late 50s, we did not realize that a definite split would develop between those who shot a pistol in search of excellence and those who shot a pistol simply because they had to. The feeling, which we sometimes hear from the mouths of idiots, that "only the police and the military should have weapons," ignores the fact that the police and/or the military are not likely to achieve any generalized level of excellence (though they indeed may turn out champions of highly specialized efforts). In any exercise in sporting competition only a limited number of champions will develop. It is possible that the techniques they use are not applicable to mass audiences.

We sympathize with the law enforcement people who are faced with the need to train increasing numbers of increasingly incompetent recruits forced upon them by politico-sociological conditions. For example, the late Bruce Nelson was once criticized when demonstrating the modern technique to some cop groups in California on the grounds that he "practiced a lot." I did not realize then, and neither did he, that people who practice a lot with their weapons may be excoriated as "politically incorrect."

At the other end of the line we find the contests now put on for the pistol by the Intentional Practical Shooting Confederation have got so far afield from the street application of handgunning that the techniques of the current IPSC champions may with some justification be denigrated by those who feel that the pistol is a primary means of defensive combat.

And then we get into journalistic discussion where "gun writers" have a strong tendency to assume authority that they do not legitimately possess. All too frequently one reads flat statements made in magazines by unknowns who have no real experience in combat, competition, or even in pistol hunting, which is, of course, a specialty all to itself.

The Special Services of the military and the federal ninja also get into the act, though they try to keep the matter pretty much to themselves. On what basis they claim expertise is again open to discussion.

So we get back to the question, "Who really knows how to use a pistol?" I am not prepared to accept the counter question, "To do what?" I am going to stick with the proposition that a pistol is primarily means of saving a life - stopping a fight that somebody else started. The best pistol shot to my mind is the man who can best stop a fight, and his equipment must not be restricted by the half-baked regulations of procurement officers.

I see really good pistol shots perform now and then, but not often, and not in ways that necessarily re-enforce the realism of the technique employed. Truly, pistolcraft has taken tremendous strides in the past thirty-five years, but we have not achieved the perfect solution even yet - mainly because there are two few people asking the right questions.

Those who are preparing to attend our April rifle class, as well as riflemen in general, should remember the general rifle test for weight. Hold your rifle out shoulder high, at arm's length, by the small of the stock, muzzle up, and hold it for 60 seconds. If this test is painful for you, you are either badly out of shape or your rifle is too heavy for you.

And now we have still another account of a rifle's firing when the safety was placed on "ready." By this time I do not think it necessary to tell you what brand of a action that was.

Do you know about the standard 3-shot signal? If you do not, here it is: When you are lost in the wilderness or disabled so that you cannot travel, you break out your watch and fire three shots spaced exactly 60 seconds apart. Then you wait for 15 minutes and repeat the same procedure. Then stop. The idea is that a single shot, or three shots spaced quickly, might be inadvertent, but that three shots spaced precisely apart suggest that communication is being attempted. If anybody hears and heeds, he will note your second series of three and home in on you. If no one hears, it is best to wait a couple of hours until your absence has been noticed and then repeat the procedure.

This is why a hunter should carry more ammunition with him in the field than he will probably need to bring home his venison.

There is talk now of an IPSC reunion (the 20th) to be held in South Africa in March of next year. Those of you who can plan that far forward will want to put that date down for serious consideration on your 1996 calendars.

"Power is nothing without control."

Pirelli Tyres Limited
(And fully as applicable to weaponcraft.)

Among the many dimwitted suggestions of our leftist administration is the one that we hire one hundred thousand more cops. It would seem obvious even to a Rhodes Scholar that one cannot buy high-quality personnel. To be a good cop calls for more, and more varied, attributes than can be expected among the top 25 percent of the population. The figure is probably nearer 10 percent. This is one of those social programs which cannot be improved by merely throwing money at it. However, because the liberals do not believe that there are any such problems, they will doubtless keep attacking them with the wrong solutions, as has been the case for the last forty years.

Those of you who saw the television ads in connection with the Super Bowl may remember that the Wilson program purveying sporting goods reached some sort of new low in idiocy (as well as blasphemy) - by attributing David's victory over Goliath as due to his using a "Wilson rock."

This was a joke, I guess. But a bad one. Advertising must prevail, but for those of us who have struggled amain to establish that it is the man, rather than his equipment, which conquers, this sort of salesmanship is repulsive.

It is a pleasure to learn that the bongo has been reclassified from genus Boocercus to genus Tragelaphus, thus placing him in the same platoon as the kudu, nyala, situtunga, and bushbuck where he belongs. Ian McFarlane, our man in Botswana, has long held that the bongo should be referred to as the "giant bushbuck," and now it appears that the lab technicians have finally caught up with him.

We have good reports now from Africa on the efficacy of "Black Talon" ammunition. Of course it has not been out for long and field experience so far is not extensive, but results as of now are good.

The new concealed carry program in the State of Arizona has called for a great deal of hastily improvised education, and that, of course, has resulted in the publication of a number of training pamphlets with the level of excellence one might expect under these somewhat emergent conditions.

A friend was recently subjected to one of these training programs and was shown a text which insists, "Do not load your pistol until you are ready to shoot." And further, "Always unload your pistol when you have finished shooting."

A little thought please, Professor! These injunctions are the equivalent of saying, "Never wear a life-jacket unless you are sure your boat is going to sink." Or, "Never put on your armored vest unless you are sure you are going to be shot." Or, "Never fill your tank with gas until you are ready to drive."

Until the handgun is recognized properly as a life-saving instrument, we can expect more of this sort of administrative garbage.

Note that you can now get factory Remington ammunition in 30-06 and 270 utilizing the excellent Swift partition bullet. I have been using Swift bullets in 358 caliber for many years now and can report complete satisfaction. In my experience they should be confined to bulky animals offering serious resistance.

The country we came to know and love as South Africa may not disappear overnight, but according to the Western media the handwriting is on the wall. If you have any notion of going while the going is good, do not wait until you can afford it - go now and pay later!

"There is nothing more odious than the majority; for it consists of a few powerful leaders, a certain number of accommodating scoundrels and subservient weaklings, and a mass of men who trudge after them without in the least knowing their own minds."


The decay of the late, great country of South Africa is beginning to become apparent. The name of the Transvaal has been officially changed to "Gauteng." (One of our friends has suggested that in view of this its inhabitants in the future should be referred to as Oranggautengs.) The furtive attempt to eliminate the Afrikaaner language continues. Recently some four thousand Bantu children showed up at a school capable of handling about four hundred in search of "an education." I doubt very much if they had any idea what an education is, though they probably considered that it consists of a Mercedes Benz. And now there is a move afoot to wreck the Kruger National Park, one of the wonders of the world, on the notion that a good bit of its land was "taken from the blacks." This idea is somewhat akin to giving Yellowstone Park back to the Blackfeet.

At the recent convening of experts at Vegas the question was flung around, "What is Africa's most dangerous animal?" The instant response of the senior hunter available was, "A hippo on dry land." I have my application in.

We have noticed a great deal of journalistic basura on the subject of our using the atomic bomb to end World War II. That is what we used it for and that is what it did. And now we see a whole raft of junior-grade handwringers excoriating the people who fought that war (in their defense) be claiming that the Japanese would have surrendered anyway. Now, nothing in the past can be recouped, but let us get one thing straight - those of us who fought that war and met the Japanese face-to-face, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa, know full well that the Japanese would not have surrendered anyway. I could give you a good number of personal examples of that proposition, but my experience was just that of one man, so I will fall back upon the support of such notables as Douglas MacArthur, Howlin' Mad Smith, Chester Nimitz, and Harry Truman. To cause the Japanese to stop fighting, an inconceivable shock was necessary. The fire bombing of Tokyo would not do it. The destruction of their air fleet would not do it, and the landing on their home islands would not do it. The atomic bomb would do it, and it did do it, and the whimpers of literary rabbit people who were not even born at the time are not worthy of serious consideration.

"No experience is so conductive to steady and accurate shooting as the knowledge of the impossibility to escape by speed."

Sir Samuel Baker

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