Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 7, No. 13          December, 1999

Shopping Season

I suppose everybody has his Steyr Scout by now, but if you know anyone who does not, such a piece would make an elegant Christmas present. If the price thereof is a little high for your Christmas list, you might consider a case of 45 hardball - for practice. Another cheerful thought is a reserve telescope sight for your friend's hunting rifle.

We note that the city of Birmingham (England) has now re-instated Christmas. Two years ago the members of the city council took it upon themselves to replace Christmas with "Winterval" on the grounds that celebrating a Christian holiday might prove offensive to non-Christians. The observation that an ancient festival of good cheer sanctified by custom throughout the millennia may possibly hurt somebody's feelings is evidence of what may happen when you take democracy to extremes. This mystic veneration of "democracy" is pretty ridiculous. As Churchill put it, democracy is the worst possible form of government - except for all the others. Democracy means many different things to many people, but at its roots it is simply mob rule, which in itself may cause a plethora of hurt feelings. In any case, the good people of Birmingham have decided to re-instate the Christmas holiday. Considering the track record of these people, this may not be much of a satisfaction to Our Lord and Savior.

Our colleague Paul Kirchner has suggested the foundation of a fraternity for people who actually think. PWAT makes an unseemly sound, so we thought to take refuge in our nickel's-worth of "ski Greek." This gives us the acronym ___. There must be at least a couple of dozen people eligible for membership.

Those of you who are considering the purchase of a Blaser 93 (since Steyr will not undertake the production of a left-handed Scout) should note that the stock is probably too long for most people. It is of wood and may easily be shortened, though this is offensive to certain aesthetes who prize the ornamental wood that often comes on this weapon. I took an inch-and-a-half off of mine and rounded the heel, which rendered it as close to perfect as you are likely to find.

How about this ridiculous capering we see on the field after the commission of a successful opus! Capering after victory is essentially a stone-age custom and can hardly be encouraged at an institution of "higher learning" - whatever that may be. One of the characteristics of a gentleman is dignity in triumph. Today, of course, gentlemen are almost as rare as ladies.

We would scarcely have believed it, but colleague Rich Wyatt reports a case study in which a 380 (9mm Short) achieved complete penetration on a car tire at about 90 degrees impact angle. I cannot recommend that anaemic cartridge for serious self-defense purposes, but it did puncture that tire. Better than nothing, I guess.

All this talk about the "millennium" gives us to wonder what is taught in schools. The Hindus invented zero a very long time ago and we have been making good use of it ever since. Today, however, a great number of advertisers and commentators seem unable to differentiate between a zero and a one. Using this system, any number that begins a series ends with a one, not a zero. We will have to wait another year before the beginning of the Third Millennium, AD.

Zakia Meghji, who is Resource Minister of Tanzania, reports that 21 people have been scarfed up by lions and leopards in the Tanga country so far this year. Man-eating leopards have always been rare in Africa, though reasonably common in India, so we may assume that man-eating lions have been attracting more attention recently. There is a place called Marloth Park located in the valley of the Crocodile River just south of the Kruger Park. Its residents seem to be utilizing the local lions as curfew enforcers, which encourages prowlers to stay home at night. Certain observers have claimed that this is "racist" behavior, though any connection is pretty darn indirect.

This British outfit that puts out such publications as "Jane's Fighting Vehicles" and "Jane's Fighting Ships" has now come up with a new volume listing what purports to be "terrorist" organizations, and includes Gun Owners of America and the Citizen's Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in this category. Neither Soldier of Fortune magazine nor the American Pistol Institute is listed, but this may be simple oversight. As is well known, both GOA and the Citizen's Committee derive their principles from the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence. Thus we are putting up for listing the US Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. We can really see how George IV might well have considered the establishment of the United States of America as a terrorist act. After all, we threw all that tea into the harbor at Boston.

Defining one's terms becomes more and more complicated in The Age of Ignorance. There is a strong tendency at this time on the part of leftist organizations and governments to describe as "terrorist" any group or act which they dislike. As I see it, a terrorist is one who murders people (or attempts to) in order to persuade political groups to change their ways. That is just one definition, of course.

We have a new item for inclusion in a list of examples of the tidal wave of ignorance - or something. It seems that when this airliner was flying over northeastern Arizona, the pilot pointed out to the cabin that Meteor Crater could be seen to one side. A stewardess looked out and saw this for the first time. "Wow!" she cried. "It almost hit the highway!" So much for a college education.

What with these lions and bears and all, to say nothing of coyotes, we made two indirect contacts with the "assault grouse" this year, one in Colorado and the other in Connecticut. It appears that these beasties when provoked attack people, though not very effectively. It may be that the "barefoot boy with slingshot" - a species now extinct - is what has served over the years to keep wildlife properly wary of human beings. Certainly this past year has been one for uppity animals.

"Vice is a monster of such fearful mein,
That to be hated needs but to be seen.
Seen too often, familiar with her face
We first endure, then pity, then embrace."
Alexander Pope wrote that about two hundred years ago. As with many powerful truths, it seems to be timeless.

So far we have logged three strikeouts on elk. That is to say, three parties of hunters who are friends of ours never got the safety off during the season. I was of the impression that the western mountains were crawling with elk at this time, but if they are, they must be cleverer than those who stalk them.

A new cartridge has made its appearance in South Africa, known as the 338 Sabi. It claims to start a 275-grain bullet at 2350 from the long barrel of a conventional rifle. That compares somewhat to the 376 Steyr, which starts a 270-grain bullet at 2550 from a 19-inch Scout barrel. We are having a bit of trouble promoting a proper ammunition supply for the 376, but these things will be worked out in time. As we announced in a previous issue of this paper, we plan to harvest a bison with that 376 just before Christmas. I expect to dress out the wound channel (if any) and make appropriate observations.

Shooting Master John Gannaway recommends that anyone contemplating purchase of a 376 Dragoon put at least a thousand rounds of 308 through his Scout before acquiring the 376. The recoil of a seven-pound 308 is brisk. That of a seven-pound 376 is more so.

Many years ago Theodore Roosevelt expressed his annoyance with the notion of "hyphenated Americans." Any American who wishes to qualify himself thus is not a member of our team. All of us American citizens derived our cultural inheritance from other lands, and not so very long ago in the historical context. To hyphenate one's Americanism is to imply that Americanism as such needs qualification. This is a bad attitude, and we believe that those who hold it should think seriously about repatriating themselves.

We learn that our current glorious leader is contemplating the construction of a library dedicated to his accomplishments. We suggest that Hugh Hefner contribute one hundred full sets of Playboy magazine (since its inception) to the reading room of this establishment.

We recently read the narrative of a Japanese naval ensign who rode the Yamato down to Okinawa and was left in the water when that super-ship was sunk. Curiously enough, the Yamato was not hammered to pieces by opposing titans, but was rather pecked to death from the air, rather as if a tiger were to be done in by a flock of crows. The aircraft that got the Yamato were all single-engined-torpedo planes, dive bombers, and fighters (TBM, SB2C, F6F). All these aircraft carried bombs of various sizes, but the report from the doomed ship speaks most impressively of the effect of airborne machine guns on topside personnel. The TBM carried two Browning 50s, the F6F six of the same, and the SB2C four 20s. These guns effectively chewed the topside of the great ship into shreds.

That great 50-caliber BMG, another creation of John Browning's genius, was still being called "the Queen of the Battlefield" in the Gulf War.

That is a hard act to follow.

We learn of a farmer who actually attempted to defend himself against hoodlums in Britain. As you might suppose, he is in deep trouble. In England it is against the law to fight back. It would be nice if Schumer would get that message, but I doubt if it would take in his case.

There are many ways to assess the competence of the hunter, but I think that the dimensions of his trophy are a distinctly secondary index. High up on the list is the distance at which the shot was taken - the shorter, the better. The hunter who lucks out on a shot longer than he should have taken ought never to brag about it. Probably the only valid reason for taking a long shot on game is to prevent the escape of an animal already wounded. I have done this once on buffalo, and while I was highly pleased with the result, I must admit that the range, while far greater than normal on buffalo, was still within my marksmanship capacity, shooting from sitting position with the sling looped on. Also, I was shooting a very powerful rifle, and the target was large. In my opinion, these 400-yard shooters should confine their discussions to bars.

Another consideration in hunter's skill is how far the carcass had to be hauled. The more skillful the hunter, the less haulage involved.

The Discovery Channel has announced that there are now four hundred thousand snoop cameras in the hands of the British police. According to the release, they are there "for the protection of the people and to control terrorism." George Orwell's "1984" has arrived.

Big Brother is really watching you.

If you are inclined to use a Glock, bear in mind that this piece calls for a stiff wrist for reliable function. If fired from a limp wrist, it may well not fire. We had a case in point recently here in Arizona involving a law enforcement officer who was able to get off one shot, but not two.

Colleague Paul Scarlatta, writing in Magnum magazine, implies that the Steyr Scout is the "Rolls Royce of Scout Rifles." The assumption here is that there is a whole class of rifles known as scouts, which is not clear to me. I have written up the evolution of the scout concept on several occasions, and it seems to me that at this time we have in existence the pioneer scouts (mainly constructed here at Gunsite), the Steyr Scout, and the Savage Scout, which last is simply an economy version of the general idea. Personally I would not select the Rolls Royce as an example of "getting what you pay for." One can get a better car than a Rolls Royce for less money - depending upon what he means by "better" - but one cannot buy a better rifle than a Steyr Scout for less money. If you build your own, you spend more and get less.

Colleague and family member Barrett Tillman opines that a majority of Americans will opt for comfort over liberty, if it comes to that. That indeed may be the case, but even if we good guys are in truth a minority, we are a strong minority, and we have the better cause to fight for.

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