Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 7, No. 8           July, 1999

Summer Time

Hot, ain't it! I am so old that I can remember the days before air conditioning, and those are days I would not care to reoccupy. Summer was never my favorite season, despite the fact that school was out, and it still isn't. Spring, of course, is a joyful time of rebirth. Winter is exciting and cold. Autumn is hunting season. But summer is just hot and sweaty. At this season, the best we can do is to remember how uncomfortable it is to be cold, if we can. If you can arrange it, that is something of a comfort.

In considering this literary garbage about the lethal nature of some types of weapons, we give you this opinion from Family Member Celia Milius: "It's not the arrow, it's the Indian."

From our reading it seems to us that too little of the doctrine and technique of weaponcraft is being broadcast. I see pictures of people doing it all wrong in the magazines, and correspondents continue to ask me questions to which any competent shooter should have the answer. An example is the number of people who endeavor to shoot isosceles and then complain because they do not have enough power in their wrists. So then they ask if they should go to a minor caliber or a muzzle brake.

"Why didn't somebody tell me that?" they ask. Either they have never been to school or they have been to the wrong school. Excellence in any activity is something that is not usually sought unless there is a direct financial reward for excellence. Except for big-time athletics there is no financial reward for excellence in technique.

There is also the matter of ignorance. A great many shooters simply do not know that there is a better way to do things, and many of these people presume to teach. Well at least there are a lot of Orange Gunsite people out there who do know the right way, and I hope they live long enough to spread the word.

Note that the "Hunting and Fishing" Party in France just picked up six seats in the French parliament. That may not sound like much, but in any country using a multi-party system a few votes can sometimes make a critical difference. So now the voice of the French hunters and fishermen will be heard, and so designated, in the halls of legislation. I guess the bambiists will shriek at that, but then the bambiists are going to shriek anyway.

In a previous issue we asked for help in the matter of the definition of iron as opposed to steel. We got a large response, but, in general, it asked more questions than it answered. A consensus was that iron is almost useless as it comes out of the ground, but that it can be made into a serviceable material by the addition of carbon. Now this is interesting in view of the fact that when iron comes out of the ground it contains a number of impurities, the most common of which is carbon. Others, such as sulphur, zinc, potassium, etc., are present in lesser quantities. So, in effect, we have "carbonated iron," which apparently must be de-carbonated and then re-carbonated. Heat can be used to blow out most of the impurities, but that leaves us with relatively pure iron, to which carbon must be introduced. This evidently is done by reheating the material in the presence of coal or coke, which forms a useful combination, depending, of course, upon percentages.

How this came to pass is the next question. The Hittites knew about iron, but did not use it for weaponry, preferring bronze, which, while not up to carbon steel, is superior to cast iron. The Dorians may have introduced something resembling steel into the Greek peninsula, but how good this was is debatable, there being no original source material from that period.

If you are making a cutting sword of either bronze or cast iron it will break the first time it meets heavy resistance. You can stab with it, but you cannot chop. The Roman gladius was always presumed to be a stabbing weapon until some original versions were uncovered which were not formed for that purpose, according to their hilt design. The gladius was apparently made of some sort of wrought iron, but it properly could not be called steel except by those historians who use the two words interchangeably.

We first hear of good swords originating in Khorassan in Persia in Alexandrian times. They probably were made of steel, because of the reputation they achieved, and their craftsmanship was moved to Damascus in Syria.

When the Moors exploded out of the Near East across North Africa into Europe they brought with them Damascus blades and founded the steel industry in Toledo, where it still exists. There was secrecy involving the methods for producing high quality steel, and much myth entered the scene.

During the 800 Year War of the Reconquista, Toledo swords diffused up into Europe where, because of their extraordinary excellence, they were often given magical titles. The Romans never venerated their swords, but the Europeans did and gave them special names, such as Excalibur, Durandal, and Tizona. Since only the clergy could read and write at this period, we find practically nothing in the way of technical manuals, but good swords did exist in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Today I own two Toledo swords of surpassing quality. They were made to my order in Toledo. Though I am sure that a modern metallurgist could make swords as good, I do not see that he could make them any better. At the smithy in Toledo, they take the blade that you select and force it into a 45 degree bend, leaving it overnight. If it takes any set by the next day, they discard that one and you start over again. Then, after putting a very sharp point on that blade, they swing it through a 90-degree arc to slam into a mild steel plate point-first. If you can detect any deformation of that point, that blade is discarded. Whether it is pure carbon steel or alloyed with other metal such as chromium, I do not know, but it is awfully good steel.

I assume that some similar development was taking place on the other side of the world, most likely in Japan. I have heard good reports about high-art Japanese swords, but I do not know about their metallurgical composition.

So, put very simply, steel is raw iron which has been purified and then refined by the re-addition of carbon to a matter of about 0.4 percent.

(But then there is still the matter of "malleable cast iron," which nobody will tell me about.)

You have heard, perhaps, of the new Remington 300 "Ultra Magnum." This uses the unbelted 404 Jeffrey case necked down to 30 caliber, to start the good old 180-grain Spitzer bullet at 3300f/s. (Wow!) Here we have an ideal example of an answer in search of a question. It has long been obvious that if you want more power than available in the 30-06 you do not want more velocity, you want more bullet mass. This should be obvious to anyone who really uses rifles on live targets, but apparently it is not. When you ask, "What is it for?" the answer is "It's to sell, stupid! Why else do we make anything?"

One correspondent suggested that the integral bipod could be improved if it were spring-loaded. Apparently he feels that deploying it manually is an imposition. Poor baby!

As you rather feared, people have been buying Steyr Scouts without the scoutscope, and then fitting a complex instrument of their own choice to the top rail of that versatile receiver. A "moonscope," as it is often called, cancels two of the advantages of the scout system and offers nothing in return. And so it came to pass that a friend of Family Member George Olmsted took a Steyr Scout, fitted with a moonscope, to Africa, and proceeded to get "lost in the scope" as his impala chuckled and trotted away. It is not absolutely necessary to get lost in a high-powered telescope, but it takes a bit of practice to learn how to avoid it.

Back when we were working frequently in Central America, we found it necessary to point out to our employers that a bodyguard is not much use if he is working for the other side. No matter how much you pay your own bodyguard, other people can offer him more. They do not have to pay him, because they will make sure that when they get you, they get him too. Thus it amuses me when I see ads in the magazines for bodyguard schools. The principle use of a bodyguard is to start the car while the principal is standing well away from it, and even this technique is not significant anymore now that the bombers tend to use time-delay fuses on their infernal machines.

My publisher feels that I should not call a Zulu a Zulu. The reasoning, if any, is obscure. The Zulus are a proud people, and they are proud to be called Zulus. This must be some sort of a triple backlash beyond the grasp of us non-racists.

Literary sorts keep on knocking on old Ernest Hemingway. Papa may not have been a really nice guy, but in the literary sense his best work was unmatched in modern times. Papa was an outdoorsman. He loved and appreciated nature. He venerated strength and courage. He studied and explained violence. That he was something of a lush and that he never understood women are points against him, to be sure, but his "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is arguably the best adventure story ever written. No man of consequence can do without it.

We see on the tube some agitation to make car trunks releasable from the inside, so that if you are locked in your car trunk you can get out without help. They have a point there, but consider the other side. Recently a little old lady, who was beset in a parking lot by a goblin, proceeded to lock the goblin in the trunk and drive him to the police station. How did she do that? Well, she pointed her pistol at him, how else?

"Hypersensitivity and political correctness are signs of a society in which too many people have nothing serious to do. It makes a bland and sour society, full of rancor, but devoid of spirit."

Charley Reese

I see in the magazine that I am to conduct a "tactical rifle" course at Whittington. I have no idea what a "tactical" rifle may be, and I do not know how to teach it. When I was young, "tactics" was considered the art of winning battles. "Strategy" was the making use of battles in the pursuit of victory in war. As our revered Colonel Allen told us at Stanford, "Dating a girl, sending her flowers, buying a good dinner, going to the theater, and then driving out and parking by the lake constitutes strategy. From there on it's tactics." Thus "tactical rifle" is either a meaningless expression or a redundancy. If you know how to use a rifle well, you use it in exactly the same fashion in a fight as in the hunting field. I have agreed to teach a rifle class at Whittington. Tactical rifle I do not understand.

Why is it that "civilians" are presumed to be innocent? This is a misleading term. Very few civilians (or soldiers, for that matter) are innocent beyond about the age of 12. A better term for those not involved in the battle is "non-combatant."

When the elite Japanese Sendai Division was ruined in its night attack upon the Marine Corp perimeter at Lunga Point, the instruments which brought about its demise were two brain-children of John M. Browning, a true genius. Our defensive positions were principally manned by the battalions of Chesty Puller and Herman Hanneken, and they had laid them out with double-apron wire covered by interlocking bands of 30-06 fire delivered by the great 1917 water-cooled Browning machinegun. The attack was delivered in the pitch-dark of a post midnight rainstorm, the idea being that the bushido of the Japanese army would simply overwhelm the Marine defenses. Bushido is all very well in its way, but it is no match for a 30-06. Such rifles as the Marines used were 1903 Springfields, but they were not very much use in full dark. On the other hand, in the flashes of intermittent light, the 1911 45-caliber pistol, also the design of John M. Browning, backed up the defense. The final protective lines were covered by the water-cooled machinegun, firing along the wire. And any gaps that were formed were met by the 45 auto, fired at arms' length. The Nip division, 27 battalions strong, was destroyed (not "decimated"), and was never reconstituted throughout the war.

I have never heard that battle described as a victory for John Moses Browning, but such it was, in its way.

Note that there is a 40-acre homesite hilltop parcel now available for sale in Ravengard. I do not think it will be there for long. Better get it while it is hot! (Contact Col. Bob Young at (520) 636-1210.)

I am somewhat amused at Milosevic's insistence that we "disarm the KLA." It appears that we have a good many people in positions of influence who have no theoretical background in war, revolution, geography, or history. People have been trying to disarm the Irish for longer than I can remember, with absolutely nothing in the way of results. The idea that the KLA might be cozened into laying down its arms is pure fancy. Taking a long view of history, we may say that anyone who lays down his arms deserves whatever he gets.

Now it appears that the Nips want to erase the Sack of Nanking from the history books. In the age of illusion a good many people feel that to deny something is to cause it to cease to exist. It seems to me that if the Nips want to erase any history, they can start by erasing Pearl Harbor. That would put them in a better position.

The US postal service has now decided that the Grand Canyon is in Colorado, as printed on one of their new stamps. We have been told that our school system is pretty bad, so I suppose that we should not be surprised. Perhaps we will next hear that the Alamo is in Mexico.

Turns out that assault has gone up 55 percent since the Brits disarmed their subjects. So who's surprised?

The litigation sharpies have discovered that much money can be made by knocking a big business such as tobacco. I have a suggestion for these people. Why do they not go for the steel companies? Almost anything that can hurt you has some steel in it somewhere along the line, and the steel companies are very big and very rich.

We are pleased to report that Pachmayr has resumed production of its excellent flush "hammerhead" sling swivels. We have long wondered why this system is not universal.

We were recently asked what might be considered the most powerful element of a human personality. We thought about that for quite a while and decided the answer was "an adventurous mind." That will have to do until one of the Family shows us something better.

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