Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 3, No. 4           9 March 1995

March Winds

Truly it has been said that to err is human, but to screw things up completely it takes a computer. For those who noted the mis-attribution on the back page of our previous Commentary, we must hasten to say that I do not pretend to be Goethe. The quote at the top of the page was from Goethe. The piece at the bottom, about the war in the Pacific, was mine.

Furthermore, I cannot blame the computer for not checking itself out before distribution. I was in a hurry, and I left for Texas without checking. My fault.

[Editor's note: this error was corrected before Vol. 3, No. 3 was placed in the archive.]

"Saving is a very fine thing, especially when your parents have done it for you."

Winston Churchill

The nilgai hunt, down in the King Ranch, was a complete success, thanks in large measure to the good offices of our distinguished colleague Finn Aagaard, who punched all the right keys.

As we all know, a year without hunting is like a dinner without wine, and this episode with the blue bull filled in our 1995 slot to a nicety. I used the Lion Scout, loaded by John Gannaway with the excellent Swift partition 250. This combination is possibly a bit much for the task, although a big nilgai may run up to 700lbs, but I suppose it is better to be over-gunned than under-gunned.

We gathered up about 145lbs of prime venison, and in due course I expect a handsome black and silver rug.

I am sometimes asked plaintively why I do not include more pistol dope in my Commentaries. I must respond that there seems to be all too little new information of interest about handguns. I might repeat myself by insisting that one must never trust the hammer-dropper on the self-loading pistol. It works most of the time, but not always. Recently in Kentucky a cop killed a suspect while "decocking" his Beretta while the piece was pointing at the head of the suspect. There was a large uproar in the press, which finally concluded that one must never try to lower the hammer with the thumb, but rather always to use the decocker. This conclusion is exactly 180 degrees out. I thought everybody knew that, but apparently there are a lot of people who do not.

So much for pistol information.

While in Texas, seeking further information upon the fatal incident with the nilgai last year, I ran across a newspaper clipping which stated that the victim had been "slashed" with the "antlers" of the "African antelope." As it turned out, the nilgai is an Indian antelope, which stabs with its horns. Apart from that, the reporter got it right.

Sit Rep from South Africa:
"There is a lot of internal friction in the ANC. Winnie is close to being evicted. There are numerous corruption scandals being investigated. Our budget comes out next week, and we are concerned at possible consequences. A change has been made in the tax structure with immediate effect. All tax rates for married men, married women, and single people have been changed to a universal rate, as the Constitution forbids discrimination on the grounds of sex, etc."

"Intellect without will is useless, whereas will without intellect is dangerous."

Carl von Seekt

We recently ran across a statement attributed to an old Western sheriff which fills us with delight. He stated that he wished his deputies to respond to the threat of lethal violence with "disconcerting alacrity." What a great phrase! For years I have taught mind set and defensive tactics to thousands of students when almost everything I sought to impart could have been included in exhortation to disconcerting alacrity.

Disconcerting alacrity. There you have it.

Have you noticed that Swarovski is now producing a rifle sight with a built-in laser range-finder (for about 6,000 Marks). The instrument is almost as big as the rifle it is to be mounted on, and it may indeed have some utility, though for the moment I cannot think what that might be.

At a recent National Press Club dinner Prince Phillip was asked to reconcile his dedication to conservation with his love of hunting. The questioner asked if the Prince really enjoyed killing animals. The Prince responded that the beef that the group had enjoyed for dinner was presumably slaughtered by someone who was paid to do that job. Since the butcher was paid, one may further presume that he did not particularly enjoy his work or he would have done it for free. The Prince then asked if any members of the audience felt that the butcher was immoral or inconsistent. If not, he remarked, then presumably adultery would be moral as long as one did not enjoy it.

We are glad to see that the Ruby Ridge atrocity is not going to go away. Our friend and fellow board member Senator Larry Craig is insisting on a just outcome to that affair. The Department of Justice has refused to show the senator its reports. Now we will see just how much clout a United States Senator has when it comes to disciplining the ninja.

"Only the dead have seen the end of war."


The Cossacks are abroad in Montana in pursuit of the Montana Militia. They have been acting with their customary ferocity in the abuse of suspects. (Being held face down, handcuffed on a concrete floor for five hours without being charged with anything would seem a bit extreme.) These are not "Gestapo tactics," since the Gestapo was a secret organization, but bad guys can turn up in all sorts of uniforms. I intend to look further into this.

Monty Meikle, who is an Orange Gunsite instructor, a family member, and a member of the Gunsite African Rifles, had a most interesting adventure to report from up in Mugabestan. His target was buffalo, and in preparation for the trip he discovered that the wooden stock on his buffalo gun had split. He therefore took off for the adventure with his 375. When he arrived on station he found that by a curious coincidence his professional hunter had just recently split the stock on his buffalo gun - a 505 Gibbs - so the two of them went buffalo hunting each armed with a 375.

Contact was made on a very superior specimen at about 60 paces, target angle 345. Monty, who is an excellent shot and widely experienced, placed his bullet exactly on the chalk mark, whereupon the bull spun and vanished. Monty and his PH tracked for about an hour. The wounded buff had pulled a classic 270 to port and was waiting for them on his back trail at some 30 paces. He came straight in as they emptied both rifles and died heroically spraying "blood on the shoes."

This was a very grand adventure, which Monty will not forget, and it points up our conclusion that the 375 Magnum is simply not a buffalo gun. It will certainly kill buffalo, as will almost any of the 30 caliber family, assuming proper bullets, but it should never be taken as first choice. For buff you need a big gun, which the 375 is not.

In connection with the foregoing, we were shown a sobering photograph of a buffalo head by Danie van Graan, our man in the Low Veldt. This buff had been hit below the right eye by a 458, which proceeded to exit under the left ear. One would think that would be enough, but the buff turned and ran some 60 paces before he was brought down by eight more rounds from two different guns.

The buffalo is fantastic. When you take him on you challenge a noble adversary.

At the SHOT show we examined Don Mitchell's new 45 pistol at some length. At first glance it appears to be a 1911 clone, but its ignition system has been completely redesigned so that now it can be had in manual-cocking form, trigger-cocking-only form, or double-action, at the choice of the purchaser. It is also extremely versatile in regard to its magazines, which can be made to conform to any of the strange restrictions either now in force or proposed by the various bureaucrats of the nation.

This is an ingenious instrument and deserves detailed examination.

You will be pleased to learn that the citizens of the Old Dominion state have recently achieved a concealed carry law, somewhat similar to those now in effect in Florida and Arizona. May the trend continue nationwide!

I guess you all heard about one Mary Burtzman, who as a Marine officer candidate has doubts about her acceptance of a commission. She is quoted as saying in the National Review,
"It's a shame such a great organization has such a low purpose."
Miss Burtzman certainly has a right to her opinion, but one wonders about the officer who recruited her. A Marine of any rank is, first and foremost, a killing machine. One who does not like that idea should certainly be in some other line of work. When I was a junior officer we used to declaim,
"If you want to learn a trade, join the Army. If you want a clean bunk every night, join the Navy. If you want to fly, join the Air Force. If you want to fight, join the Marines."
The Countess has suggested that Miss Burtzman has a great future as a member of the Clinton cabinet.

We now have some $250 in the Waco Memorial Fund. If you have contributed, please know that your money is safe, but until we have about $2,000 to work with, it may not be wise to commence design or construction.

I sit here and purr over the fact that the three best rifles in the world are mine. Actually I have not seen all the rifles in the world, but I feel I have grounds for my opinion. Here in the Sconce Armory dwell "Sweetheart" and "Lion Scout," and in Durban there is "Baby." These three pieces have done so well so often, and they are so delightful to handle and to use, that I must place them at the top.

Sweetheart is Scout II, possibly equaled by successive efforts, but certainly never surpassed. The Lion Scout is the perfected Fireplug - the best medium I have ever seen or heard described. And Baby is, of course, the mighty 460 Special, the buffalo gun par excellence.

This is a trio that I present as an example as how things should be and seldom are. It is a wonderful feeling!

You may have noticed that the ninja still insist upon going masked. A masked man is obviously ashamed of what he is doing. I can see why these people should be ashamed of what they are doing, but I do not see why they feel they must continue to do it. A great many people will do anything at all for money. There is a name for that.

We now approach April Fool's Day, 1995, the anniversary of the date on which I was pushed off the end of the plank by people I had previously regarded as trusted friends. As the song has it,
"Learning to trust is such a juvenile fancy!"
Despite the disaster, I still believe that it is better to think well of people than ill. I committed the mistake of my life, and I now watch my life's work being trashed by unprincipled merchandisers. I cannot say I enjoy it, but I must pay the price of my foolishness. Time will correct this, but we hope it does not take too long.

I recently commented about an amazing X-ray I saw of a skull in which both the bullet and the case seemed to have been embedded. A medical friend has explained to me that almost certainly what happened was that as the victim was placed on the gurney the empty fell under his head and showed up on the film as if it were inside it. That would explain it, and I cannot think of any other explanation.

Did you all notice that Tanya Metaksa, the chief propagandist of the National Rifle Association, made it to the editorial page of USA Today? That is broad coverage, and Tanya writes an effective essay. Let us devoutly hope that a lot of those people "in the middle" got the word.

I discover that there is a certain element in the law enforcement establishment which finds my writing abusive. Certainly I have never attempted to please everybody, but I do not endeavor to knock the cops, except when they conspicuously deserve it. A recent letter from a detective in the District of Columbia Police Department treated me to a couple of pages of insulting language without really getting to his point. I am sorry that he feels insulted, but I could respond to him better if he made more sense. When I am factually wrong, I greatly appreciate being corrected, but when it is just a matter of hurt feelings, all I can say is that I am sorry - though often not very. Consider, for example, what follows.

In New York recently a cop took after a pickpocket in a busy subway station. In doing so, he shot himself in the leg (not seriously.) All hell broke loose! Subway service was suspended while police responded to something on the order of a riot call. Five officers were slightly injured when a police van crashed on the way to the scene. Seven people were taken to the hospital with heat exhaustion, and one girl thought she was shot in the leg, but was not.

It seems to me that there was a rule which says you keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target. It seems to be too much to ask New York City's finest to observe such things.

People of good will frequently send one off with the injunction to "Have a safe trip!" There is no such thing as a safe trip. Safety is an illusion. It must always fail in the end. That does not mean that we should not consider safety, but never to cry "Safety first!" Safety, while something we should seek, must always be placed second to getting the job done. One who places safety first is, quite specifically, a coward. We do not go to war to be safe, neither do we climb mountains, or race cars, or hunt buffalo, to be safe. We hear commentators explain that we should not resist violent crime because we may get hurt. This is the advice of the rabbit people who live all their lives in fear and never know the joy of danger. There are people like that, and while we may feel sorry for them, we must never take their advice seriously.

Here in Arizona recently a motorist stopped to help a stranded female who was flagging him down. In return he was beaten to death by the woman's accomplices who were lying in wait. Rule: when you do not understand the scene, go to Condition Orange. If you are flagged down on the highway, regardless of how innocent the flagger may appear, get your pistol at the ready.

We note with some annoyance that the usually sound columnist, Joseph Sobran, has come out sympathizing for Lon Horiuchi on the grounds that Horiuchi shot Vicky Weaver "by mistake." Horiuchi says he did, Rogers says he did, Freeh says he did, Janet Reno says he did, and now Joe Sobran says he did. Let us get it straight. The only way Horiuchi could have shot Vicky Weaver by mistake would have been a circumstance in which she was standing behind an obscuring device, such as a sheet of plywood, or for that matter a bed sheet. Unless Horiuchi was an utter fool and totally incompetent with his weapon, and firing at random at the house, he could not have shot Vicky Weaver by mistake. How all those people could give credence to such a story is absolutely beyond belief!

Caption Contest

Arkan's wedding photo
It is a very unusual picture of Serbia's Commander Arkan firing a revolver into the air through the sunroof of his limousine after his wedding to Ceca while one of his bodyguards ducks.

Family members are invited to caption this picture. Contest winners to be announced.

"A man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on."

Winston Churchill

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