Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 7, No. 12          November, 1999


If we wish to lead a good life, we should count our blessings continuously. But in this country, we set a day aside decreed by George Washington in order to give proper thanks for the blessings of liberty bequeathed to us by those extraordinary men who were not afraid to put their lives on the line for the cause. It seems clear that our liberties are more endangered at the turn of the XXI century than they were two hundred years ago. It is tragic to note that large numbers of American citizens are deeply uninterested in liberty, which is the thing most worthy of all for fighting for. The socialist promises security in return for the surrender of an increasing portion of liberty. As Franklin put it, the coward deserves neither.

I ask myself this question frequently, and ponder about whether I am worthy of my ancestors. Whenever I quail at the thought of the Left triumphant, I try to give myself a moral shot in the arm by reading the inspiring words of those "Dead White Males."

As of now, we still have a firm hold on the legal structure of our liberties, which is, of course, The Bill of Rights of the US Constitution. The people in Washington frequently find this annoying, as well they should. The Constitution was specifically designed to annoy the central government. It is critical, however, that the people, and particularly our legislators, understand this. As it is proclaimed at the Alamo Monument, "Freedom isn't free!" There is a price, and historically that price has been paid more often in blood than in cash. This idea is frequently labeled "extremist" by the Left, and it may indeed be so, but this nation was founded by extremists, and what we may be thankful for at this Thanksgiving holiday is the fact that extremists made this country "the last, best hope of earth."

We hope that you are enjoying a notable hunting season. May all that wild meat in your freezer serve to keep you healthy, happy, and grateful for the good things in life!

The change-over in policies here at Gunsite proceeds with appropriate deliberation. One cannot undo seven years of degeneration by a mere stroke of the pen. I wish I could provide you with a quick and simple analysis of the local scene, but I cannot do that at this time. The best thing we can say right now is that the previous owner is gone completely, and that is cause for rejoicing.

We have sometimes felt that a garbage-mouth is evidence of a paltry vocabulary. Some recent social observers, however, have said that this use of unimaginative obscenity in speech and writing is simply a function of conformity - doing what everybody else is doing. When children are properly raised they eschew conformity. Legend has it that when Alexander of Macedon was a boy, he never did anything that all the other boys did as a matter of principle. Peer pressure should be spat upon at an early age - by both mothers and fathers.

Reports of successes with the Steyr Scout keep right on pouring in. It is not an exaggeration to claim that the weapon is a triumph of design. It will apparently take some time for the press to find out about the Scout, but gun writers as a group tend to be set in their ways, and it will take a lot of field work, well away from both the office desk and the bench rest, to establish across the board what is obvious to those of us now on the inside.

In the 376 version, the situation is not so clear. I have been asked politely by the factory not to refer to the weapon as a "Dragoon," but then the piece in my possession has the word "Dragoon" stamped clearly and brightly on the receiver. This 376 Steyr cartridge is a compact bruiser and not a piece for the faint of heart. Magnum ballistics in a 7-pound rifle introduce certain stress problems which were difficult to anticipate. The tendency for the butt magazine well to flex open on recoil was unexpected - at least by me. If you mount the butt properly into your shoulder and take the thrust from midpoint to the heel, all is well. If, on the other hand, you mount the piece too high and take the thrust with the toe, you may drop the magazine out.

The 376 ammunition may be something of a problem for some time to come. It is important to remember that this cartridge is not for deer. The Dragoon, or whatever you call it, is absolutely not a deer gun. The 308 is a deer cartridge, but the 376, while it will certainly kill a deer, is an exaggeration for such purposes. Unless your proposed target weighs a thousand pounds or more, you are far better off with the original 308.

(It has been suggested that we advertise the new piece as "No gun for a lady." This may sell 300 examples within the week.)

When our good friend and colleague Bob Brown was recently asked his age in the course of an interview, his reply was, "I am so old that I can remember when the Kennedys killed their women one at a time."

I guess it is not surprising that military heroic reputation is largely a function of publicity. Everybody knows who Alvin York was because Theodore Roosevelt wrote him up in fine style. Very few know of Sam Woodfill, who pulled off a very similar individual feat within a week of York's act, and also received the Medal of Honor. Likewise, everybody knows of Carlos Hathcock's achievements as a sniper in Vietnam, but very few know of Charles Mawhinney, who was also a sniper in Vietnam and ran up a slightly higher score than Hathcock (103 to 93). Hathcock had a book written about him, but Mawhinney did not. It is wrong to be competitive in these matters. Both of these Marines did splendid jobs, and the one does not rate precedence over the other. It is just to point out that you are a hero only if people say you are. If you do not get the notices, you do not lead the parade.

An interesting sidelight on Mawhinney has to do with remounting his sight. When he took some leave, he left explicit instructions that no one was to mess with the zero on his rifle. When he went back to duty, he discovered his instructions had been disregarded and proceeded to miss on his first two shots. Moral: "When you get a good zero, leave it alone." I thought everybody knew that, but obviously I was wrong.

To the family we recommend "Understanding Firearm Ballistics" by
Robert A. Rinker, Mulberry House Publishing, Apache Junction, Arizona, 85217.

A "busybody war" is one which is fought in order to straighten out the morals, ethics, practices or religion of another group of people. Defensive wars are morally justified, and we can even put down reasons for wars of conquest, but "nanny wars" are disgusting. The American Civil War is an example of one, as is the Boer War in South Africa. In both these cases, the more powerful side fought basically for the purpose of changing the lifestyle of the other. Losers fight well in these busybody wars, as morally they should. What the invader thinks when he attacks to make sure that "those other people" part their hair on the right side is not always easy to discover.

("Charge! Get in there and give it your best to make sure these creeps clean up their act!" Men rarely choose to die for reasons like that.)

I should not brag about it but I cannot resist this: A correspondent recently told me that when he discovered some of my writings he sought to amass the entire series of works on the grounds that "truth is addictive." Gee wheez, wow!

Neighbor and colleague Colonel Bob Young recently dug up a curious piece of professional history that certainly came as a surprise to me. It turns out that the 4th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Gale, was dismissed from the service by a general court martial for what must be seen as generally disreputable behavior. Apparently he was a drunk and a roughneck and a dedicated lowbrow who did not conduct himself as an officer and a gentleman, openly frequenting brothels and generally helling around. On one occasion before he was commandant, Gale took offense when one of his Marines was clapped in irons by a naval officer without consulting Gale. Waiting until both officers were on liberty, Gale called out the naval officer and killed him. Anthony Gale is the only Marine commandant of whom we do not have a portrait in Washington. It seems he was a little too much of an "Old Marine" even for the "Old Corps."

As an amateur of semantics, I am increasingly annoyed by the use of the word "tactical" as an adjective to apply to everything from fishing tackle to potato soup. Some people obviously believe that if you paint anything black, that makes it "tactical." Perhaps if you paint it red it would become "strategic." I once did a little book called "Fighting Handguns" for Petersen Publications. Perhaps it is time to redo the pictures and captions and retitle it "Tactical Handguns."

The new Marine Corps is something else again. Our current Commandant, General Jones, has decided that the Marine Corps should be a "kinder and gentler" organization in order to encourage kinder and gentler recruits to stay in as career Marines. I am sure the General knows what he is talking about, but we Globe, Eagle and Anchor dinosaurs do not fancy the Marine Corps as a soft organization. When I was on active duty it was said, "If you want to learn a trade, join the Army. If you want a clean bunk every night, joint the Navy. If you want to fly, join the Air Force. If you want to fight, join the Marines." Times have changed.

When I asked for audience participation on the matter of the fossa, I had no idea my audience was so large. Everybody from here to there has been writing me to explain about the fossa. In this age of communication, I now have a stack of letters setting me straight. I do appreciate this kind assistance, but I must say that source material in The Age of The Internet is difficult to assess. I hear people tell me now that the fossa is a civet, which it is not. I have been told in no uncertain terms that its claws are retractable or are not retractable, according to which item you saw. I have been told that it is a variety of mongoose. A term I enjoy most is "the panther of Madagathcer." It seems obvious that people do not know as much about the fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) as they thought they did. I was attracted to the beast because, of course, ferox means fierce, or ferocious, and that certainly arouses one's curiosity. (As did Ursus horribilis in an earlier age.) We have so much interest now in this beast that I am thinking of organizing the International Fossa Foundation, in which we can all be called "Founding Fossas." Let us hope to hold regular meetings at Tananarive with prizes for those members who ferret out the most fearsome fossas.

Many thanks again for all of those who leapt into the breach!

I would like to think that nobody knows, but somebody must have. In a previous issue I quoted Rousseau when I meant Voltaire. Hush my little old mouth!

At the 1999 SHOT Show, I ran across the major-caliber titanium pocket revolver from Taurus of Brazil. At 19 ounces in 45 Colt it took my fancy, and it was made almost entirely of titanium, which is strictly Star Wars stuff. I have been trying until quite recently to get my hands on a personal copy of this piece, but without success up until last month. I now have my own "Super Snubby," which I suppose might be called the "Titan." The piece was offered in 44 Special and 41 Magnum, as well as 357, for obscure reasons. But in 45 Colt, it is pretty fascinating. It includes a 5-shot cylinder that rotates to the left, a right-hand twist in its 2-inch barrel, and (get this) a key lock on the hammer! (Let's see now: if you want to make sure your gun will not shoot, do not load it. If it is a self-loader, simply take it apart. If you suspect some mean little kid will find the ammunition and load it without your authorization, simply swing out the cylinder and put a cheap padlock around the top strap. This hysterical striving to avoid litigation at any cost - even the cost of appearing a blithering idiot - seems to be a curse of the times.)

But let it pass. I think the Titan is much fun. Its trigger action is almost unworkable, but can be modified by any competent gunsmith, since both hammer and trigger are of steel, as are the ejector rod and star. Also the barrel includes a steel sleeve. Obviously titanium, while pretty spectacular in some ways, does not replace steel in others.

As you might suppose, the recoil of a 19 ounce revolver in 45 Colt is noticeable. However, the designer incorporated a set of very comfortable over-sized soft rubber stocks, which obviate damage to the fingers, though they can do nothing to soften the blow. Thus the Titan - the Super Snubby. Good fun!

Our good friend and host Johannes Roller of Vienna has proposed a classical menu for our forthcoming feast of bison (when as and if). He suggests glazed onions, sauteed mushrooms, potatoes Duchesse, and a particularly sound Cabernet. As with the classic recipe for "Jugged Hare," the opening instruction is "First catch your hare." We will do our best.

Sam Colt must be turning in his grave. Referring to the recent cowardly behavior of the Colt Company, one commentator pointed out that the Colt Company invented the "six-shooter." Let us correct that. The Colt Company did not invent the six-shooter. Sam Colt invented the six-shooter, and went down in history as the man who made all men free and equal. I did a research paper on "Sam Colt as a Progressive Industrialist" when I was back in graduate school. It was well received, and I think I will dig it up again in honor of the occasion.

Family member Joshua Robinson, son of family member Art Robinson, recently had occasion to repel cougars up on their establishment in Oregon, using his personally owned Scout rifle. We will ask for details and get back to you.

I believe you have noticed that these middle aged richniks who wander around conventions and tournaments and such, are usually accompanied by conspicuously beautiful girls, whom they refer to as "nieces." We recently caught a photograph of Donald Trump at some occasion with his current "niece," who appeared in the picture to be quite up to the assignment. We see that Trump is thinking of running for president. It would certainly be amusing if he actually got there and moved into the White House with the nation's "First Niece."

At the Gunsite Reunion just past, we introduced the drill known as the "Guatemalan Steak House," which is a competitive exercise which I took from life down in Guatemala some years ago. A young lady in the audience, Diana Torres, asked in all innocence why people in these circumstances seem to want to kill each other. Now, that is indeed a deep question, and I must think about it sometime and try to cover the subject in print. I guess we will have to start with Genesis.

As someone has pointed out, while Karl Marx advocated the achievement of the "classless society," he never quite made it. Now, however, we have indeed reached a society in which nobody has any class.

Statistics from the California Department of Justice tell us that in the years 1994 through 1997 84.9% of homicides committed in California were committed by "non-white" perpetrators. Any conclusions drawn from this figure depend upon what sort of person is defined as "non-white." Categories in the table list: White, Hispanic, Black and Other. I assume that "Other" suggests Oriental ancestry, but if "Hispanic" means "Mexican," certain problems arise. The people we know of in California as "Mexican" are primarily a mixture of European and Indian, though in what proportions we cannot say. The difficulty here is that a large number of Mexican citizens have no trace of Indian blood at all - witness such stage personalities as Dolores del Rio, Cesar Romero, and Margarita Cansino (Rita Hayworth). When we start basing our conclusions on something known as "race," we had best be very sure of our scholarship.

You may remember that at the 1998 Reunion at Whittington, family member Marc Heim of Switzerland distinguished himself by breaking four out of five clay birds in the air with his Scout rifle. Breaking those clays with a rifle is a good trick, and doing it even once is very satisfying. If you can bring off two out of five, everybody applauds. Four out of five, however, is so outstanding as to be worthy of a medal. In the decades during which I have taught marksmanship, I have run into some truly great performers, and Marc is right up there with the best.

It has been suggested that it is impossible to take seriously a man who is wearing an earring. Having cast through that matter with some care historically, I am forced to agree. Even scouring the steppes of Central Asia or the wilds of Borneo we still do not discover earrings in the ears of men of importance. Contradictory opinions will be entertained, naturally, but best be sure of your sources.

Reports we get from the wars in the Caucasus (Chechnya and Dagestan) tell us that the Russians have been learning many interesting things about this sort of warfare. The weapon of choice for infantry, as we approach the turn of the century, is unquestionably the rocket propelled grenade (RPG). When available, which is most of the time, it seems to have pretty much replaced the squirt gun for close range anti-personnel use. Beyond that, we discover that aimed rifle fire has been staging something of a comeback. Handheld full auto-fire has decreased in both effectiveness and importance.

The matter of morale continues in all aspects of warfare. A man fights better when he is convinced that God is on his side, and a man fights best in defense of his own home territory. These wars in the Caucasus are effectively religious, since while the invading Russians are nominally atheist, the defending Caucasians seem to be sincere Moslems. The predominant motive of the Russian trooper is to get out of this mess and get home to Moscow, while the predominant motivation of the Chechen or Dagestani is to kill the unbeliever. The Russians find this intensely irritating and it causes Yeltsin to give forth with angry bluster about "extermination." All this is very interesting, but it does not arouse one's enthusiasm.

I suppose you are all aware of the fact that a Texas hamlet down on the Mexican border has taken civic action to secede from the United States. This is the municipality of El Cenizo, which has passed ordinances rejecting US border control. Secession is basically a federal matter (remember the war we fought about that), but first I'd like to see what Governor Bush the Younger plans to do about this.

Family member Mike Baker contributes the following observation from Florida. When asked for an essay on "Good Government" in high school, the winning response was as follows, to wit: "Good government! Good government! Sit! Stay!"

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