Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 7, No. 3           March, 1999

Down Time

The SHOT Show this year was a big deal, as usual, though it was too late to change the venue from Atlanta, which should have been done in view of the bad attitude of the city government.

I did not see as much of the show as I would have wished, as I was pretty well pinned down to the Steyr Mannlicher display - also in autographing daughter Lindy's books. The Atlanta convention hall is so huge that making the rounds is at least a two-day exercise, and if you have any other business to attend to you certainly will not see every display. The Steyr offering I did see was the hopped-up Scout, which I would like to call the Dragoon - implying "heavy cavalry" as opposed to "light cavalry." The weapon itself was there, but the ammunition has yet to settle down. The cartridge uses the 9.3x62 case blown out and forward, and experimental bullet selections come in 250-, 260-, and 270-grains, showing safe velocities up to 2600f/s. The Dragoon, if I may call it that, is only a couple of ounces heavier than the Scout, and with power like that it will certainly recoil strongly. I am discussing this matter with Kahles of Vienna in order to produce a telescope sight which is stout enough to stand up to continuous service.

I have been told that I may expect a copy of the new rifle, together with ammunition, by mid-summer. I have asked for it in a dapple-brown "forest floor" finish in an attempt to differentiate the rifle instantly from the 308 Scout. With this piece in mind I have booked a bison in Texas, and hope to have publicity pictures in time for the Reunion at Whittington.

I continue to receive whimpers from the gallery about the price of the SS. People tell me that $2,600 is too much for the "average shooter." I suppose it is, but the Steyr Scout was not designed with the average shooter in mind, whoever he may be. Neither is a Porsche designed for the "average driver." You do not always get what you pay for, but in this case you do.

The rifle itself continues to impress its users, and I truly expect it to be considerably more than "The Rifle of the Year," which was an award presented at the SHOT Show. One obstacle to success in this regard is the fact that you have to shoot the Scout on a field range in order to appreciate the full blast. You cannot get the right picture from specifications, photographs, or bench testing, and too few critics take the time to understand the issues clearly.

In pistols, the item that took my eye at Atlanta was the Titanium Taurus. This is a 5-shot, double-action revolver weighing just under 20 ounces, which can be had in caliber 45 Colt. There I think is a step forward in a field where such steps are not common. I have not shot it, but I have a feeling it will kick pretty hard. Its trigger needs considerable work, but it features a six-port muzzle brake, and, of course, it is totally corrosion-proof. We should look further into this.

As I have frequently mentioned, I do not take test groups on paper as the particular measure of a rifle's worth, but one has just come to my attention that should go into some sort of record book. Sue Hildebrand, of Davis, California, was so impressed with her husband's Steyr Scout that he finally decided to get her an individual example for a Christmas present. They took the piece out on Boxing Day, without any tuning, zeroing, or primping. They wiped the barrel clean, and then Sue fired three shots using the bipod - not a bench rest - at 100 yards, using 168-grain Match ammunition. Sue brought me that paper without further tinkering, and I have copied it for distribution. The group measures .27 inches center-to-center for the three shots, and it is printed exactly on centerline and 2½ inches above point of aim. This was achieved from a standard SS rifle using the integral bipod which accompanies the piece to the field.

This is the rifle of the future, and you can tell them I said so!

Smith & Wesson continues to refuse to do anything about the miserable trigger on their nifty little 22, but such work can be done. Trigger smiths would appear to have a bright future.

Speaking of triggers, our colleague and hunting buddy, Rich Wyatt, can absolutely do the job on your SS, if it needs it (and some do). Address him at:
"Gunsmoke," Custom Gunsmithing, Inc.,
3650 Wadsworth Blvd.,
#A, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033,
(303) 456-4545.

Much in evidence at Atlanta was a profusion of cutdown, double-column, 45 automatics. Reducing the bulk of the 1911 pistol is a good idea, but you do not get there by fitting it with a double-column magazine, the utility of which is somewhat obscure. The main problem with the configuration of the 1911 is one it shares with a good many customers in supermarkets - it is too big in the butt. We were moderately successful back in Orange Gunsite days in slimming down the butt of the 1911, eventually reducing the firing circumference (the distance around the butt from the center of the trigger to the center of the grip safety) by 7/8 of an inch, which does make a difference. About a quarter of the men and half the women who have taken our instruction have trouble getting hold of the 1911 in a satisfactory manner. Evidently the manufacturers do not understand this, or they choose to ignore it, because they insist upon giving us pistols of this type which are not only no smaller in firing circumference, but, on the contrary, are too large for most hands.

I have yet to run across a case study which called for a double-column magazine in a 45 pistol. The highest score I know of in a gunfight was five, and that was achieved by a shooter using a single-column magazine of seven-rounds capacity. It would seem obvious that the "spray-and-pray" method we see in gunfights is both ineffective and ridiculous. According to doctrine we shoot twice (except for head shots), and this is just to take care of unforeseen errors. There is nothing wrong with having a whole lot of rounds available in one loading, unless it actually reduces the efficiency of the weapon, in which case the idea should be dropped. The double-column magazine, in major caliber pistol, does indeed reduce efficiency, and affords nothing particular in return.

In case you did not already know it, note that the cinema actor Michael Douglas is our virulent enemy. I suggest you treat his productions accordingly.

A correspondent recently asked us how and where he could obtain a butt-magazine such as featured on Sweetheart and the Lion Scout. These items were made by John Mahan of Chino Valley, Arizona, and I cannot promise that he is set up to repeat them, but they work well for me in the field, and I can recommend them highly for certain situations. Basically the butt-magazine, or the butt-cuff, is a proper accessory for a single-shot rifle such as the Ruger No. 1 or the Blaser Kiplaufbüchse. On a repeating rifle its utility is not so apparent. Ordinarily you can top-off from your belt as easily as from your butt. (Should I watch my language?) Of course a time might occur when you find yourself in the bush in the buff. Such an eventuality is pretty unlikely, but I know of two cases. (Not mine, I should add.)

The spare magazine on the Steyr Scout is another matter entirely, and offers certain additional administrative, as opposed to tactical, advantages.

We should have a complete set of steel reactive targets ready to install on the field reaction course at Whittington by this summer. About half of these are out-of-pocket, but we hope to get them all paid for by the faithful in due course. They run $300.00 apiece, and you get your name on the target that you buy.

Note that Musgrave of South Africa is now furnishing replica Mauser 98 actions, including a long version for big cartridges. These actions are of the highest quality, and serve as a perfect heart for a custom heavy rifle.

Best stay out of Mexico unless you have special connections down that way. In general our neighbors to the south dislike Gringos, and are quite happy to point out our transgressions, legal or otherwise. Mexico was a fine country fifty years ago, but times have changed. When I went down the Rio Balsas via kayak the country afforded a fine sense of freedom as soon as you got your feet off the pavement. It was understood that a man could and should take care of himself, and a fine time was had by all. Today the jefetura is all too quick with jails, and regards firearms about the way Chuck Schumer does. Mexico at one time was a great gun country. No longer.

We mention again that the annual award granted to the Marlin Guide Gun as "Gun of the Year," should properly have gone to Jim West's "Co-pilot." That abbreviated 45-70 lever gun is a grand idea for certain special uses, but the Marlin people evidently lifted the idea directly from Jim West of Anchorage without acknowledging it or paying him a cent. Interestingly enough, the Marlin people claim to be back-ordered on the Guide Gun. You have to wait. Jim West commences work on yours right now, or at least he could when I committed this to paper. The "Co-pilot" offers several features which are absent from the Guide Gun. It is a better deal all around.

We take gunhandling seriously, and we are horrified at what we see on public ranges, especially public shotgun ranges. People observing Rules 2 and 3 are the exception rather than the rule, and it is astonishing that the accident rate is so low. "Oh, that rule doesn't apply to me!" seems to be the general attitude, and that does not bother range nor club officials very much. Of course, these people may only be taking the example of high officials in our government in this matter.

"There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."

Noah Webster

It was a pleasure for all Orange Gunsite grads to learn that their fellow scholar Prince Abdullah has now become King of Jordan. So far as we know, he is the only reigning monarch to have a ticket from Orange Gunsite. Clearly his country is now in good hands.

From the best of our available knowledge it appears that the crime situation in South Africa continues to degenerate. Alan Paton, the author of the well-known "Cry the Beloved Country" was a long crusader for absolute majority rule in South Africa. Well, something approximating that has eventually arrived, but his widow has now decided that she can no longer live there and has immigrated to England. It seems to us that the UK is not a place an honorable man would now wish to live. At least in South Africa, if you shoot back and win, you come out ahead. If you do that in England you are in deep trouble.

In regard to placing the label "Scout" on a rifle, a trick which is quite popular these days, one correspondent has suggested to us that painting a prancing horse on a red car does not make it a Ferrari.

One wonders if you can train people to shoot on simulators. Our Defense Department is holding that view for consideration. Those of us of the old school are turned off by the idea, but in this age of technology it is probably going to be attempted. I have observed that people do not learn to shoot firearms very well by means of air guns. They can learn to shoot air guns pretty well, but there is a definite difference. Modern simulators can be very good, but I believe you have to get out on the ground, using something that cracks and kicks, before you get the message.

"Never do your foe a minor injury."


We do not know whether to believe these wild bear stories or not, but they do make great reading. In a recent one, it seems that these surveyors, on the way to a work point, spotted a big bear on the tundra below and thought it would be fun to buzz him in their chopper. Bear resented this and took some powerful swings at the bird when he thought it got too close. The survey crew thought this was amusing, and continued on their mission, but it happens that they sat down quite near to where the buzzing had occurred. It was observed by the bear, who came storming along to register his displeasure. The crew did not notice this and got out to set up their equipment, but the site they chose was on the opposite side of the chopper. As they went to work they heard a considerable clamor from their vehicle, and turned to find that the bear was in the process of smashing it very thoroughly. It did not matter very much whether the crew was armed or not because the bear had done a very thorough job in a very short time. He apparently thought that was enough because he did not seek to run down any of the survey crew, assuming that he saw them. He ambled off in another direction growling to himself. That may or may not have happened, but, as with some other great adventures, if it did not happen, it should have.

Family member Tom Graziano, who has been buzzing around the Pacific running down flocks of tuna from aloft, had occasion recently to land on Tarawa. It turns out that not much has changed there. It no longer smells bad, but remnants of wreckage, both mechanical and human, are pretty much in evidence. That was a mean fight. What remains today are gun barrels and bones. There was much heroism in evidence on that island. What remains is an appropriate memorial to a difficult job well done. Semper Fi!

Membership in the National Rifle Association of America hangs in there at a bit under 3 million, but it is interesting to know that 9 to 10 million Americans claim they are members of the NRA. There are interesting conclusions to be drawn from this.

Despite the best effort of the UN Organization to the contrary, the United States still stands alone in defense of human dignity. We have our faults, and they become more conspicuous as time goes on, but we remain the one nation left in the world where a man can conduct himself like a man, and defend himself, his house, his wife, and his children to the best of his ability. His rights may be circumscribed, as they are in South Africa, but they still exist, at least for now. This is why we keep up the battle.

The British have now chosen to withdraw from international shooting competition. Evidently it is not politically correct.

The philosopher seeks what is good. The businessman seeks what sells. Sometimes these two qualities are the same. Usually they are not.

The Guru

Those citizens, both salesmen and customers, who quibble about the cost of guns seem to have lost sight of an important element in the discussion. It is this: a firearm is a permanent possession. Unlike almost anything else you can name, a good gun which you acquired in your youth will last you throughout your lifetime and that of your child. Seen in that light, your personal firearm can hardly ever be "too expensive." A steak dinner is too expensive. A bottle of champagne is too expensive. An automobile is too expensive. A vacation cruise is too expensive. A pair of boots is too expensive. But not your gun. In a short time those other things will exist only in your memory, but if you take care of it your gun will be as good as it was the first day you touched it. That is the reason why the feeling we shooters have for our weapons approaches the mystic. Those other people do not understand this. We would explain it to them if they would listen.

So now our choice lies between the party of no principle and the party of no guts. We have come a long way in two hundred years, but not perhaps in the right direction.

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