Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 3, No. 8           21 June 1995

Independence, 1995

We really did not intend to get out another commentary in the month of June, during which the sequence of activities has been such as to preclude much of anything other than eating and sleeping - and drinking.

However, the material has just kept piling up, so we will try and put this one together in what time is available, which is, as usual, less than needful.

Our class in Guatemala went quite well, thanks to the ingenuity and activity of family members Bob Young and Tom Graziano.

It has been a short lifetime since our first visit to Guatemala, and while the geography remains the same the sociology is entirely different. The street hazard from bad guys is still there, but it comes from different directions, and while it is easier to combat, it is more difficult to predict. Most of our friends down there remain faithful to the 1911 pistol, as in our class the crunchentickers were pretty much the field of the military citizens and there was only one Glock (no revolvers.)

It remains so difficult to keep the thumb of an inexperienced shooter on top of the safety where it belongs that we are now thinking seriously of making the safety spring-loaded in the new pistol. Family member Rich Wyatt points out that if the safety goes on automatically when the thumb is not actuating it, it will be difficult for the weapon to be operated with the wrong hand unless the safety mechanism is "ambidextrous," a concept which is structurally unsound. Vamos a ver.

The other point which impressed itself again is that the student who chooses to use a crunchenticker must be shown how to operate the pistol in both trigger-cocking and thumb-cocking fashion, and given a choice by which he can prove to himself what system suits him better. This is not a matter to be left up to bureaucratic regulation.

The very good things about Guatemala are the climate, the tortillas (Mexican style,) the beef, the rum, and the people. On the negative side are the city traffic and the highly confused political situation. (Also the turistas, unless you keep your blood alcohol level at a proper count.)

We were delighted to meet again old friends: the Grimlers, the Harshbargers, and the Widmanns. Carlos Widmann probably should be president of the republic, but the very idea fills him with dismay. He flew us around in his helicopter, which, in that beautiful landscape, is a true luxury.

I visited with family member Rich Wyatt up in Denver, but I still do not have a definite date for the forthcoming instruction sessions at Whittington Center. I will release those dates as soon as I have them.

The Keneyathlon this year did not turn out well, from my standpoint. I tried to introduce the concept of a proper rifle to the contestants by means of the special award called "The Guru's Gold," but seems that target rifles have taken over this match. The lightest rifle in the first five, which was to receive the special award, weighed well over 10lbs. Something will have to be done about this, and David Kahn and I will come up with a solution prior to next year's event.

Plans for the Third Annual Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial are already afoot at Whittington Center, and this time we plan to hold a party down at the St. Charles Hotel in Cimarron, which is a historic landmark and well worth a visit in itself. Naturally, we will feature rifle, pistol and shotgun shooting, as well as two full nights of declamation. All you frustrated thespians are well advised to start now on your preparation.

We learned in Phoenix that overall NRA membership is stable, but that we got a considerable lift from the "Bush Flap." At the membership booth we were pleased to hear a new applicant for life membership state that she did not own a gun and did not intend to be a shooter, but that she wanted to pick up George Bush's membership number.

At the NRA general meeting at Phoenix we were shown by Tanya Metaksa that now I have been personally excoriated in the pages of the New York Times. This is certainly a mark of "having arrived," and I thank the perpetrator sincerely.

Many years ago I instituted the doctrine of always placing two shots solidly in the center of the adversary's torso. This has become the rule throughout much of the world, and while it is not necessarily wrong, it ought not to be followed slavishly. In a gunfight the precise placement of a big bullet is what wins. That second shot is just for insurance. However, in certain competitive circles the need for an almost instantaneous second shot has lead to the introduction of small calibers, long slides and light loads. This is not a good answer and course designers should take note.

Family member and riflemaster John Gannaway recently cruised out to a silhouette match, which he entered more out of curiosity than anything else. Not to my surprise, he won, being the marksman that he is. I find in my wanderings across the world that the people who enter marksmanship competition are in large measure not qualified for the task. I have seen people shooting in police pistol matches recently who have obviously not been properly schooled. The problem is serious and is one result of the loss of doctrinal purity on the part of IPSC competitors.

Today the Israeli pistol salesmen are roaming the world and providing pistol training for those departments who will purchase their firearms. I have seen the results, and it is quite clear that Israeli pistol doctrine has little to recommend it apart from the fact that the Israelis teach it.

Who then can define proper pistolcraft at this time? At the beginning of The Movement it could be said that the best shots were those who were winning in practical competition. Since the loss of practicality in practical competition, who can say what technique is best? The original lifesaving technique was invented by Jack Weaver, perfected by Elden Carl and Ray Chapman, codified by John Plahn, and promulgated by me. Now, thirty years later, I do not see anything better being demonstrated worldwide. On the contrary what I see, in the main, is retrogression. It is, of course, presumptuous of me to claim that I know the answer, but looking around I certainly can say that I have seen a great many people who presume to know the answer and do not.

The important thing is to keep the seekers after excellence free of the public sector. Neither the police nor the military, are proper places in which to seek individual excellence. Many cops and many soldiers are very fine marksmen, but they are that regardless of their civil status. The sad fact is that individual excellence is a matter for development by the individual and it is not something that can be imparted in the mass. Ask any fighter pilot the next chance you get.

Gordon Cormack, a professional hunter now operating up in Mugabestan, assures us that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - War, Pestilence, Famine and Death - are riding in full cry across Africa north of the Zambezi. Well, what did you expect?

I am sure all of you have been battered by viewers-with-alarm who have taken exception to Wayne LaPierre's characterization of the BATmen as "jackbooted thugs." This was probably an unfortunate use of words, though neither Wayne nor anyone else who is aware of the circumstances will recant the thought behind the phrase. Personally I do not know exactly what a jackboot is, but I suppose that term could be applied to the footgear worn by the BATchick who stomped the pet kitten to death in the Lamplugh raid. Perhaps if we call these people "kitten stompers," rather than thugs, we would get the message across to more people.

Please note that another group in Waco has already secured the money and put up the Waco monument, thus we have no mission for the money that many of you have already subscribed to us here. We are returning your checks with thanks. You may not have built the monument, but you certainly showed the right spirit.

I had always thought that the injunction not to shoot "until you can see the whites of their eyes" was properly attributed to Dr. Joseph Warren at Bunker Hill. Now I find that Frederick the Great has supposed to have used the same caution several generations earlier. Be that as it may, it does raise an interesting point. Just how far away can one see the whites of the eyes? Check that out yourself sometime. Just what is the range at which you can see the whites of someone's eyes?

We are somewhat amused by the hysteria manifest in the press at the suggestion by Gordon Liddy that if one is menaced by bad guys (particularly the ninja) one is wise to shoot for the head. That statement has got a whole bunch of journalists and commentators bleeding from the nose. One wonders why it should. Where else should you shoot a man if he is probably wearing an armored vest? If you decide to shoot you have made the big decision. Where you place your shot is merely a technical matter.

A new and highly recommended bumper sticker:

Have you noticed all these pictures of people shooting from a putative kneeling position and not using the knee? One would assume that error would be obvious even to a person who had never thought about it, but we are living in an age where people will not do anything because it makes sense and will cross the street against the red light simply because they were never told not to.

Phil Gramm certainly gave us a rousing speech at Phoenix, pointing out that he had always been a devoted bird shooter. He wound up his presentation by saying that we have not had an honest-to-God hunter in the White House since Theodore Roosevelt - and that's too long!

I mentioned recently the demise of the hero Lord Lovatt and the elegance of his funeral. Now we learn to our dismay that the estate of the Clan Frazer is in total disarray and that the traditional seat in Scotland is to be broken up and sold in chunks. This is not unheard of in Britain, but it is nonetheless tragic. The heroic tradition has been dimmed throughout the world and journalists now use the word without any thought for its meaning.

"Heroism" is not the same as coping. A man who does his job properly and succeeds through his own efforts is definitely to be commended, but he is not a hero in the classic sense until he deliberately lays his life on the line for a cause he deems to be greater than himself.

I was pleased, of course, at being awarded the Outstanding Handgunner trophy for this year. I have never been one for "ribbons and stars," being more inclined to judge my performance by my own standards, but praise is always pleasant regardless of what one's own standards are.

We were both amused and annoyed down in Guatemala at the efforts of uninstructed range personnel to calibrate poppers so that they would go down with minor caliber hits. After adjusting the targets with some care to illustrate to the shooter that if he did not succeed with a body shot he should shift to the head, we found the mozos rushing out between strings to reset targets which had been hit by nines and had not fallen down.
"Lo pegue pero no se caio'."

Years ago we opined in print that the three great luxuries of life were fresh citrus fruit daily on the breakfast table, a private shooting range on one's own property, and a personal helicopter. Though we have been chided for not putting political liberty on that list, we feel that this is simply a matter of semantics. Liberty is essential - something one is prepared to die for. One does not die for luxuries, he simply seeks them and enjoys them insofar as possible. I have not met anyone who has enjoyed all three of my own idealized delectations simultaneously. Those who enjoy just two of the three are among the most fortunate of men.

Dick Thomas, of Columbia, Missouri has now proposed a twentieth anniversary party for IPSC to be held at Pretoria, South Africa, in March of '96. This is just the final impetus we needed to make our own decision to go back to Africa next year. There are about a dozen things we really should do down there (including a hippo on dry land,) and now we have enough to make a final decision. We plan to be there with bells on.

When people tell you that personally owned firearms are a source of deadly danger you may point out that according to the National Safety Council about twice as many people die from medical malpractice as die from firearms accidents. Furthermore, there is no comparison to the risk from motor vehicles, falls, poisoning, drowning and simply choking to death on your food.

Curious that in light of this so-called fertilizer bomb in Oklahoma City our Glorious Leader in Washington made a point of offering the hospitality of the White House to the leader of the Irish Republican Army, which is the world's leading specialist in fertilizer bombs. This guy has a real talent for ineptitude. Or should we put it more precisely, gaucherie.

No doubt you have heard that Diane Feinstein, among others, is seeking to abolish the Office of Civilian Marksmanship, on the grounds that civilians ought not to know how to shoot. The leftist elite obviously fears an armed citizenry, which is, of course, the sole barrier to tyranny.

From the opposite point of view, what ought to be abolished is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a rogue organization that was never needed in the first place and which has now developed into an uncontrolled instrument of harassment recruited from the dregs of the federal employment establishment.

Let us by all means economize, but let us get our priorities straight.

Fund raisers of all sorts on our side of the political spectrum report with dismay that too many people have regarded last November's election as a reduction in the need for the sinews of war. Not true! Last November's election was a skirmish - hardly even a battle, still less a war. We need that money for the 1996 election, in which Wayne LaPierre has stated pointedly to Bill Clinton, "We will clean your clock!" Well we should, but it will take both concentration and, unfortunately, money.

I discover with sorrow that Sweetheart grows old. This little rifle - Scout II - has had such a distinguished record over the years that it has rightfully been termed by critics "the best rifle in the world." The fact is, however, that it has had so much hard use, and had so many rounds through it, that it is showing signs of wear. Thus I will no longer loan Sweetheart out. I could go to the trouble of having the piece rebarreled and rebedded, but I seriously doubt if she will ever obtain the almost supernatural edge she started with.

"Much is being made of the shock that we're supposed to feel that the Oklahoma bombing was perpetrated by Americans, as opposed to Islamic militants. I don't know why this is an issue. I am quite used to American criminals and psychopaths committing atrocities - after all, it was putative Americans who looted and burned Los Angeles four years ago. What shocks me, and what our media are strangely indifferent to, are the crimes which our own government has committed against Americans."

Paul Kirchner

Summer is upon us here at Gunsite and "June is busting out all over." Under proper supervision this whole estate could be beautified beyond recognition. May it indeed come to pass!

I am now off to Austria where I hope to see the light of a new production Scout on the horizon. I have been on this exercise for five years now and time is running out. I devoutly hope that you all may be able to purchase an idealized production rifle and an idealized production pistol over the counter in 1996. If that comes to pass, I will consider my life well spent.

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