Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 3, No. 9           August 1995

High Summer, 1995

Well, wow! Even now that we have done it, I find it hard to believe that the Countess and I could have accomplished so many things in such a short time on our European venture. Of course sprinting at this rate, there were at least half a dozen more things we should have taken care of and did not. However, it is wonderful to combine business with pleasure in this fashion, and while we regret not staying longer, it is always nice to have something left out to take care of on the next trip.

As promised, we sat down and examined the prototype of the Mannlicher production Scout at length. I have promised not to talk about the instrument in any detail, and keeping that promise will have me bursting with frustration until the factory sees fit to reveal its revolutionary wunderkind. It has taken a long time to bring this about, and it will be another long time until you can put your money down and take it out of the box, but barring fire, flood, and other acts of God, the project is set up and underway.

Praise the Lord!

The other part of our cup-of-joy is the Mitchell pistol, for which Don Mitchell and I have signed the papers. Here again it will take some time to put the piece in the box for shipment, but I would like to think that you will be able to examine it in person at the next SHOT Show.

Summer is upon us here at Gunsite, complete with thunderstorms and pigs in the garden (javelina, that is.) Personally I am rather fond of the little pigs, but they are destructive. If we could just train them to eat only the squash and leave the other plants alone I would be willing to share our fresh produce.

We have enjoyed continuous satisfaction with the Swift bullets. It should be noted, however, that the Swift soft-point in 458 caliber has a semi-spitzer configuration which makes it just a touch long for the already crowded 458 Winchester case. The answer, of course, is to skip the 458 and go to a larger capacity case such as the 460 G&A Special or others of that breed.

We have long suggested that anyone who has a 458 now is well advised to re-barrel it for the 40-caliber 400-grain bullet. This combination is usually referred to as the 416 Taylor, and it offers better balanced ballistics all around.

In view of the recent bear fatalities in Alaska it may be time to re-issue the five Gunsite Bear Rules, as follow:
  1. Be alert.
  2. Take bears seriously. They are not cuddly.
  3. Never enter bear country on foot without a powerful firearm and the skill to use it well. (If this is not permitted, do not go.)
  4. Do not pitch your camp on a bear thoroughfare, most particularly along the banks of a stream full of fish.
  5. Be alert.

War cry from darkest Connecticut: "Watch it, kid, or I will twist your head around 'til your cap's on straight!"

From Paul Kirchner, our colleague in darkest New England, we hear the following:
"When Clinton had O'Grady in to lunch at the White House they spent their time swapping war stories. O'Grady told about how he avoided the Serbian military, and Clinton about how he avoided the US military."

We note with considerable satisfaction that the murder rate in Florida continues to decline since that state's right-to-carry law was further refined and strengthened this year. And then there is the famous town of Kennesaw, Georgia, but the media do not want to talk about that either.

The current rapid increase in state concealed-carry laws has made it apparent that the defensive pistol may be more conveniently carried in a belt pouch than in a holster. Thus in training and practice specific exercises in getting the pistol into action from the fanny pack must be encouraged. As to that, practical pistol competition should now include at least one stage of fire in which the pistol must be produced from a belt pouch. Only this way can we discover what sort of belt pouch is best and how it is best used.

We have long felt that by rights the reticle in a telescope sight should be etched on the glass rather than mounted separately in the focal plane. Such a reticle could not come apart or become otherwise disarranged. Discussion with Swarovski, however, brings up a point that I had overlooked. It seems such reticles tend to pick up minute flecks of trash inside the tube. One would think there would not be anything of that sort inside a carefully made optical instrument, but I am told dirty reticles are what caused the Steyr-Mannlicher people to shift from the ring sight in the AUG to a more conventional crosswire in later production. I would like to know more about this, but I am not in a position to conduct the necessary experiments.

We note with some excitement that Stoeger of New York is now advertising an authentic Luger replica. The Luger, of course, is one of the most glamorous and exotic personal instruments of the 20th century. It is long obsolete, but that does not detract from its chic - probably to the contrary. So if your piggy bank is full and you simply must have a new toy, consider the new Luger.

We were handsomely hosted at the Blaser factory at Isny, which is in the éllgau. This is a charming province long famed for its cheese, and perhaps may become equally famous in the future for its rifles.

Here we saw the wonders of robot technology, which left us goggle-eyed. After seeing these intelligent machines at work one wonders if the human race has finally become irrelevant. Shades of 2001! We have talked about the Blaser M93 straight-pull rifle at some length in the past, but a novelty we ran across on this visit was the Alpine single-shot rifle, which I had never seen before. In the Alps you hunt the gams - the chamois. He bounces around above timberline, and when you engage you only get one shot. Therefore, the gams rifle need not have any repeating feature. The ones we saw were beautifully made, top break, single-loaders weighing almost nothing. In fact on the one we examined the most massive ingredient was the sight. This sort of piece enables the hunter to scramble around in the rocks almost unencumbered and still capable of delivering his decisive single round with the greatest accuracy of which he, the shooter, is capable. This specialty is almost diametrically in opposition of the Scout, which is above all a general-purpose weapon, but for the-man-who-has-everything and wishes to hunt way up there in the clouds, it is curiously attractive.

In a strange incident up in Maine last month some wacko decided to break into his ex-concubine's house in violation of a court order restraining him from further sexual abuse. So he approached the house in the middle of the night armed with his trusty 22 rifle, and for some reason attempted to break in a glass window using the rifle butt-first. In so doing he shot himself neatly and fatally in the head. He must have been from out-of-state - no Downeaster would ever do a thing like that, now would he?

Here we have a classic example of the Good Riddance Factor in operation.

We have never been partial to shooting slings made of nylon webbing, though they may suffice as carrying straps. They lack sufficient body for proper placement and they tend to slip. Colleague Finn Aagaard tells us now that these characteristics can be remedied by the application of various sorts of goop to the webbing. I must consider this a temporary expedient, however, and I will continue to use leather as long as we have any cows left.

Those who are statistically inclined may consider that 98 percent of all human beings ever born are now dead. Statistically you only have a 2 percent chance of being alive as you read this. You better check your pulse, quick.

"In Månchen steht ein Hofbraåhaus!" Yes indeed, there it stands as it has always stood, and it gives one a profound sense of serenity in an uncertain world. The Hofbraåhaus in Munich is exactly the same today as it was when I was a boy, and as it was when my father was a boy, and as it was when Theodore Roosevelt was a boy. The building is the same, the furnishings and decorations are the same, the music is the same, the singing is the same, and, of course, the beer is the same. And customs stay the same. Seating is "ranch style" and you cannot be served a puny beer. A beer in the Hofbraåhaus is a liter, which is something over a quart, and that is the only size stein available. The sausages, the sauerkraut, the salzbrot remain just as always, and in today's world such cultural continuity is almost unique. The yodelling, the Schuhplatler and the Alphorns remain the same, and the squadrons of little camera-clicking Japanese tourists do not detract therefrom. The Bavarians invented Gemåtlich-keit, and they still own it serene and unchanging in an ever darkening civilization.

We hear that the Russian ninja engaged in the suppression of the Chechens have now taken to wearing face masks. I guess this is a trick they learned from the American cossacks - a sort of cultural exchange.

Mind-set is everything, as we have always taught and will continue to teach. You cannot solve a problem if you do not know you have one, and you cannot win a fight if you do not realize that it has started. Recently down in Yuma we had a couple of dreary murders in the law enforcement community evidently attributable to the fact that the two victims simply could not realize that a brother officer could be capable of intradepartmental homicide. The murderer in this case could not even get his little old Mac10 into operation until the victims gave him time to do so. It is fine to be a good shot, and it is fine to master precise gunhandling, but these things do not matter at all without the proper mind-set. If you are in Condition White, you lose.

Imagine our amazement when at the airport on the morning of our departure from Munich we saw an item in the paper to the effect that "studies have shown" that Bavarians do not drink enough. Bavarians may indeed have their shortcomings, but I would not have dreamed that insufficient beer was one of them. Obviously this is a subject worth considerable research, so book your tickets as soon as possible.

How depressing it is to see the number of people who do not understand at all about the operation of the bolt-action rifle! In a recent feature article I ran across the point that the advantage of the lever gun over the bolt is that the butt need not be taken out of the shoulder to continue the action. This is a dreadful thing to think about for one who spent many nights after taps "snapping-in" in preparation for the following day's record run. We sat on the floor of the barracks in the dim squad light dropping the striker and instantly snapping the bolt until the interval between controlled shots was reduced to that necessary to bounce back from recoil. Watching a man take the butt from his shoulder when he works a bolt strikes a rifleman as an equivalent of watching a pedestrian put the wrong foot in the stirrup and swing himself into the saddle facing aft. Sometimes I cannot avoid the feeling that we are no longer producing serious men. (Maybe that is the reason we put girl pilots in fighter planes.)

The rifle class we promised at Whittington Center has been delayed, partly because of conflict in dates and partly because the organizers, Rich and Rebecca, decided to run off and get married. We wish them every happiness and we look forward to rescheduling the rifle session in mid-October. Those who want in on that class should contact Rich Wyatt at (303) 232-0542.

And now we have a gent who has gone forth and taken his moose with a 50 caliber single-shot BMG rifle. He is quoted as saying that "The only reason I used this gun was to demonstrate that this cartridge has a legitimate purpose." The man's heart is in the right place, but the point he sought to prove was the wrong one. "Legitimate sporting purpose," which has been inserted into law several places, is absolutely irrelevant. The Founding Fathers did not seek to protect our right to hunt moose. I should have thought that everybody would know this by now, but obviously a good many do not.

Those fortunates who are familiar with the old Mannlicher plant in the Steyr industrial complex will be pleased to know that when Mannlicher relocated their main smallarms factory they carefully preserved all that marvelous Russian handcarved woodwork in the conference room and replaced it in the new building. These people properly revere traditional values.

Jean-Pierre Denis, the distinguished President of the International Practical Shooting Confederation, is definitely stepping down from his office next month at the general meeting in Sweden. He is going to be difficult to replace, but three good men have been proposed from various parts of the world. Up for election at this time are: Andrç Tasset of Belgium, Nick Alexakos from Canada, and General Denis Earp from South Africa. We respect all three, but if we had a vote it would go to General Earp, who is, in our opinion, distinctly the best qualified man for the job.

We have a good anecdote from our neighbor and colleague, Colonel Bob Young, who did a stint not long ago in Saudi Arabia. It seems that on this occasion an American aircraft was parked on a runway, and being rather a sensitive item it was given an individual sentry to keep unauthorized personnel at a proper distance. In a demonstration of bad judgement, somebody in charge gave this job to a girl soldier, the idea of which is extremely offensive to a devout Muslim. In Saudi Arabia at this time the purity of the faith is enforced by priestly types who prowl the country on the lookout for violations of doctrine. These characters are armed with long, heavy whips. One of them wandered onto the base and became totally scandalized at the sight of this girl patrolling the aircraft with her M16. Shouting holy imprecations, he endeavored to use his whip on the lass, who quite reasonably shot him six times in the chest with her 223. International Incident! Bob tells us that the Air Force moved with uncharacteristic alacrity and got the girl out of the country in a matter of minutes, and the whole incident was immediately swept under the rug. It is hard to say who won that round, but it recalls the principles of Hastings' Third Law, which reads
"Do not throw rocks at people with guns."

5 August is our own personal holiday. This is the anniversary of the day on which Danie van Graan organized that lion for us. The experience was tremendous. Confronting an angry lion head-on in the thorn at rock-throwing range is not an adventure granted to most people. I am glad it happened to me late in life, since if I had brought it off in my youth I would have been going downhill for the rest of my hunting career.

So now on the 5th of August we wish everybody a Felicitous Lion Day. Here's to the lion, here's to Danie, and here's to the Lion Scout!

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