Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 3, No. 7           16 May 1995

Springtime, 1995

We have been taking advantage of the good weather to verify rifle zeros on our friendly range at Ravengard. Predictably, the SSG and the Blaser have remained dead-on through the winter, but the Springfield pseudo-Scout decided to throw high. Just why this is I cannot tell, but it supports the basic rule that one should never fail to check his zero at the scene of his endeavors before he takes the field. A good rifle, a good sight, and good ammunition should stay put, but sometimes they do not.

Please note that "apprehension" and "paranoia" are not synonyms. Paranoia is a mental affliction. Apprehension is reasonable awareness of hazard. Please!

So much has been written about the Oklahoma bomb that there is little point in adding to it. I can, however, extract the following from a recent letter to a friend which covers my feelings on the matter:
"A planted bomb is a despicable instrument, as any decent human being will attest. One may reflect, however, that more children were killed at Waco than at Oklahoma City. No sympathy must be shown to the perpetrators of either atrocity."

More than two thousand years ago Aristotle opined that most of the human race has essentially the soul of a slave. A recent Associated Press poll recorded that fifty-four percent of those questioned seemed willing to trade liberty for security. The sad fact is that one cannot trade the one for the other. You can surrender your liberty, but what you get in turn is never a significant increase in your security. There are those in Israel who feel that they would like to trade "land for peace." That will not work either.

A report from South Africa suggests that the new Vektor pistol, with its exotic, attractive lines, comes over the counter with an atrocious trigger release. Apparently the facilitation of precise placement is of scant interest to current producers of defensive sidearms.

A gruesome hunting tale we just extracted from the Safari Club magazine points up yet again the need to "use enough gun," in Ruark's expression. It appears that this sportsman undertook to harass a water buffalo on India's east coast with what he refers to as a "carbine." Various compact rifles have been called carbines over the years, but given the time and place of this episode I conclude that the narrator was referring to the unsatisfactory 30 caliber US carbine of World War II. You would think almost anyone would know better than that!

The buff, after having been shot several times, crashed through the group and pinned one of the party to the ground. It was a smallish bull, with a spread between points of some twenty inches, but it succeeded in driving its horns through the body of the victim in two places high in the shoulder and low in the pelvis. This fixed the victim on the horns and the buff ran off into the jungle with the man on his head.

The attempted pursuit was not very successful. After four days, when the hunters finally made it, the mortally wounded buffalo was unable to rise, but he still bore on his horns the rotting wreckage of what had once been a man. Ugly!

Moral: Don't hunt dangerous game with little guns. How odd that one should have to make that point!

We have been approached by Don Mitchell of California with the notion of producing a perfected clone of the 1911 allowing me a free hand in design control. This is most gratifying and bids to produce a really serviceable gadget-free sidearm at a very reasonable price.

This could be a really important development.

We have now seen the second issue of the Guru's Gold ready for the Keneyathlon at Whittington Shooting Center on 9-10 June. Remember that this award goes to that shooter who has the lightest rifle placing in the top five. We have made it up for an average size finger whatever that is. If it does not fit the winner, we invite him to send it in and we will re-size it for him.

The massive gold ring, complete with our insignia and its diamonds, is quite beautiful!

Those of you who are still watching the Simpson case on the tube may note what John Stuart Mill said about the adversary system more than one hundred years ago:
"The people speak and act as if they regarded a criminal trial as a sort of game, partly of chance, partly of skill, in which the proper end to be aimed at is not that the truth may be discovered, but that both parties may have fair play: in a word, that whether a guilty person should be acquitted or punished may be as near as possible an even chance."
The disturbing thing about this situation is that whatever verdict is reached in the matter of O. J. Simpson, the result will be towering rage on partisans of one side or another. We should perhaps remember that when the peasantry become enraged they burn down cities, whereas no matter how exasperated the bourgeoisie may feel, they do not take to the streets.

So much for justice!

"If God had wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates."

Joseph Sobran

We see that Winchester is recalling one lot of 30-06/180 ammunition (#137HF22). If you happen to have any of this lot do not shoot it, but return it to your dealer for replacement.

Remember Kenesaw, Georgia? That is the place where the city fathers decided to reduce crime by requiring householders to be armed. It is also the place that the national media will not discuss. Since the ordinance was enacted, there have been only two murders, both with knives. Since passage of the bill crime against persons decreased 74 percent and has stayed low. There have been just the two murders, and armed robbery, residential burglary, commercial burglary, and rape have almost disappeared.

Bumper sticker:
"Hey, hey, ho, ho!
BATF has got to go!"

It would be nice if journalists in general would drop the term "open fire," which applies to area fire rather than individually aimed shots. To say that (a) "opened fire" on (b) is to suggest that he simply commenced shooting with little notion of hitting. This unfortunately is all too true in the present Age of Spray and Pray. It should not, however, be encouraged.

A question for discussion in next week's class is "How much ammunition does one need?" One would not take that matter up with the BATmen, but among friends it has interesting aspects. The competitive pistolero thinks of his increments in terms of thousands, as does the dedicated trapshooter. The big-game hunter is usually much less voracious, even if he is a conscientious marksman. I have always felt that one hundred rounds a year of 30-06 and another of 308 would suffice, bearing in mind that on most hunting trips one may expend less than a dozen rounds including sighters. When we built Baby, more than a decade ago, John Gannaway constructed 200 rounds for me. I still have about 65 left waiting for me in Durban.

At Orange Gunsite we used to run to about 500 rounds of pistol and 400 rounds of rifle per class, but that is rather intensive practice.

As a boy I was permitted to take just 50 rounds of hunting ammunition into Canada per hunt. Today I believe the allowance in Botswana and Zimbabwe is 100.

With the 22, matters are very different, and on a picnic one may easily go through 50 rounds of 22 per customer.

The subject is obviously very flexible, but the "one box a year" man should remember that two different lots of ammunition may well not shoot to the same point, and that he really should expend about 200 rounds with his hunting rifle before embarking for his annual hunt.

Certainly circumstances alter cases, but I clearly remember the old adage:
"One cannot have too many books, too many wines, nor too much ammunition."

We now are led to believe that it is politically incorrect to take the Constitution literally. We knew that the liberals held that view, but it is interesting to see them admit it at last.

It would seem that when backlash faces backlash, we have polarization. When we have polarization there is little room for discussion. Much as we might like to reason together, this serves no purpose when our adversary has already made up his mind, with or without reason. Thus the nation faces a crisis unprecedented since 1861. Since there is little point in argument we must fall back on prayer.

Now that the bunny-huggers have prevailed in Kenya, there exists a serious elephant problem. When elephants learn that they need not fear people they tend to become very casual about confrontation, and they have been killing people without restraint down in the Hemingway country that borders on what is now Tanzania. Balancing man against nature is a tricky business, and must be conducted by people who will not allow themselves to be ruled by the emotion of the moment.

As we have long known, a man's weapon is less important than the man. Up in Littleton, Colorado, recently some creep went on a rampage and started shooting people. Since no firearm was ready to hand, a local construction worker terminated the action cleanly with a rock. The article did not say what caliber the rock was.

Perhaps the Sarah Brady gang should shift their emphasis to "dung control" and enlist the help of the Agriculture Department. After all, ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer, and fertilizer is agriculture business. Soon we may see a new type of federal enforcer, but now dressed in brown uniform and wearing a gas mask.

In going back over some of the hunting adventures from the English Colonial Period I discover the custom of sleeping with a pistol under one's pillow. This was presumably because field accommodations were pretty fragile and one had no security apart from himself ("So what else is new?"). This raises the interesting question of what sort of pistol is best kept under the pillow. Much, of course, will depend upon the character of the individual in such matters as to how deeply he sleeps and how quickly he awakes. I think a good choice might well be a heavy-caliber Peacemaker. It may not be the most efficient fighting tool around for one who is wide awake, but very little can go wrong with it, and a ready round of snake shot might prove to be just what is needed.

In response to an increasing body of misapprehension, I must point out that my forthcoming work "The Art of the Rifle" is about shooting, not about guns. There are a dozen or more good books available on the rifle itself, but as far as I can see no satisfactory work on rifle marksmanship at this time.

"Most of us could get along better with much less government than we have; there are others though who seem to require lifelong shepherding from pre-natal care to the electric chair. It makes no sense to talk of self-government to a man who cannot even govern his own behavior."

Paul Kirchner

If you are ever fortunate to be in a position where it seems necessary to pack two guns, take care always to pack the heavy. Let your companion or your assistant pack the light. If an emergency occurs, you do not want to be standing there with the rapier in your hand while the man carrying your battle-axe has suddenly departed.

Placard carried in the Philippines:
"If you cannot protect us, arm us.
If you cannot arm us, pray for us."

All of us who participated in the Babamkulu expedition last year have been having a great time celebrating its first anniversary this month. We have broken out the journals and run the tapes. Lindy has fed us bobotie. We can by no means expect to repeat our frolic of last year, but we can relish the memories and look forward to new and different adventures. It has been truly said that you can never step into the same river twice, but the world is full of rivers to cross and each one is a fresh delight. Planning is half the fun, so break out the maps and get at it!

Our great caption contest seems to have run down, so now it is up to the judgement of the incorruptible judges to pass upon the entries. Right now I fancy the reported response of the English Lord who, after having won the Victoria Cross at the retreat from Dunkirk, refused to discuss the matter at dinner. "The noise, my dear and the people!" was his only comment.

"Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted."

Italian Proverb

"By the way, I have had the experience of surprising a burglar. He fled. I notified the police, ID'd him and pressed charges. He had a very long record. Playing the continuance game, he and his lawyer caused me to spend 5 days in court. He spent 3. The judge sent him for alcohol counseling at taxpayer expense. I needed a drink; I paid for it myself. The judge was an ass, the court system was pathetic."

Bill O'Connor

I have often denigrated variable-power scopes. People ask why.
First, variable power serves no purpose. You can hit what you can see, and it need not appear larger.

Second, variables frequently shift point of aim when power is changed. Not always, but enough to be troublesome.

Third, variable power reduces eye-relief, which should be greater rather than less.

Fourth, complexity increases fragility.

Fifth, variables cost more.
So now it seems that Zeiss has discontinued fixed-power sights. Because of the "lemming principle," they don't sell.

We will be going out of contact, so to speak, for the next few weeks, as our travels take us hither, thither and even yon. I do not feel too guilty about this, since this issue is number seven of the year, putting me a little ahead of a monthly output. Besides, I expect to learn much of interest in these journeyings and to be able to report back to you on my return to station.

[Editor's note: Photo of several men wearing raid suits, with "FBI" featured prominently on the suits, with their faces covered by nomex hoods.]
Why are these men ashamed to show their faces?

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