Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 7, No. 9           August, 1999

The Summer Rains

Yes indeed, the rains came, and they came right on time. We are sorry about the drought up in the Northeast, but down here in the Southwest the land is greener than we can remember. Note that we do not have a monsoon in North America. The monsoon is a meteorological phenomenon native to Southeast Asia, the South China Sea, and the Gulf of Thailand. Naturally anyone is free to use any term he wants for anything he chooses, but those who call magazines "clips" and cartridges "bullets" ought not to be taken seriously.

"Under capitalism the rich become powerful. Under socialism the powerful become rich. That is the main difference between the two systems." Interesting idea, no?

The rifle school at Whittington was a considerable success. Of the 16 who signed up (16 is all we can take in a class), 12 brought Steyr Scouts. The outstanding advantages of this piece were immediately apparent to everybody on station, and those who did not bring Scouts now intend to acquire them as soon as possible.

It continues to amaze me that the manufacturer and importer of this weapon evidently do not understand what they have. The SS is not simply another item on the menu, but rather a great leap forward. This cannot be appreciated, however, without using the piece in the field. Just looking at it and reading its specifications will not suffice. I may sound like a broken record on this matter, but it is frustrating to discover that there are a lot of people who simply do not know what we have here. Shooters who do not know about the production scout may be compared to drivers who do not know about the Porsche. Well, I got mine. I suggest you get yours.

The new Heckler & Koch 45 auto has various good points, but it remains entirely too bulky. If you have one of Orange Gunsite's "slimline" 1911s, hang on to it! There is no replacement for it as yet.

Did you catch that piece in Time by one Rosenblatt in which he recommended the total abolition of firearms? One is not upset so much at the position of the author as by the fact that the publishers of Time would print his drivel. Firearms, most particularly personal firearms, are Liberty's teeth, as pointed out by the Father of Our Country. The leftist media have no concern for liberty. Unlike liberal politicians who would have us trade part of our liberty for a bit of ephemeral security, this Rosenblatt exhorts us to give up both liberty and security at the same time, and he gets published!

Our pen friend Olivier Detrois from France tells us that he has been having only modest success hunting the myocastor with his bow and arrow. The term myocastor stopped me cold. It turns out a myocastor is a nutria, or coypu, an aquatic rodent something on the order of a giant muskrat. That gap in our vocabulary was most embarrassing, but I have a plan to fight back. Does anyone know what sort of beast a "fossa" might be? The first reader to tell me about this will be mentioned in dispatches.

We were recently sent a questionnaire termed, "The National Gun Control Poll." It was very obscure in its attribution of origins, but a little research discovered that it was sent out from a hostile group in England, of all places. The question was as follows: "Would you like to see more effective gun control laws?" An interesting question, certainly. Now then, just what is a "more effective gun control law"? What is an effective gun control law? We have always held that gun control was hitting with your first shot, but we do not know of any laws about that. Apparently the pollster in this case assumed that his addressees were incapable of thinking about the question. He may be right, but I hope not. There are those who would like to think that the polls, rather than the people, determine the law. It seems probable at this time that it would be a good idea to do away with the polls and let the voters rule at the ballot box.

Curious how "liberal" journalists cannot recount history without apologizing for it. I have never been able to understand the motive behind apologizing for something somebody else did. Now we see some church group or other attempting to apologize to the Arabs for the Crusades. Maybe we should ask the Arabs to apologize for the Conquest of Spain. Obviously a good many people have too little to do.

Do you know what a "DGT" is? That is a general officer, or an admiral, who has never heard a shot fired in anger. It stands for Didn't Go There. This courtesy of Orange Gunsite graduate and naval historian Barrett Tillman.

At Whittington we were treated to a presentation by Colonel Bob Brown of SOF on the subject of his recent visit to the Balkans. He observed that hatred is the permanent social mood of the Balkans, as it always has been. To ask for those people to live together in peace is to bay at the moon. As to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army), it appears to be a mixed group composed partially of idealistic nationalists and old fashioned Balkan brigands. Bob did not venture to estimate the proportion, but he suggested that 50-50 might be about right.

We continue to learn how much we do not know about this iron and steel business. The readers of this paper continue to instruct me, and I am grateful for that. Consider the following input:
"Iron is like the nearly useless boy who can grow into a productive man of steel only if he first returns to the furnace and rids himself of harmful contaminants, acquires the properly proportioned elements of strength, and is refined by disciplined application of pressure, heat and work." (This from Brian Bennett.)
It appears that first one must get the carbon out of raw iron, and then put it back in, in proper amounts.

The interesting thing about this is how it was discovered. Steel making was understood, at least partially, by the end of the Bronze Age, some three thousand years ago, but that was before anybody knew anything about chemistry. The history of metallurgy must be pretty fascinating, and I intend to go into it in some detail as soon as I get the chance.

As the Steyr Scout proliferates in our shooting schools, we are obliged to come up with some new teaching techniques. For example, the command "Ground arms!" now directs the firing line to open bolts, deploy bipods, and place the rifles on the firing line muzzle downrange, thus facilitating the scoring and pasting of targets.

I find it amusing that some people feel that firearms should not be called "weapons." There is this organization called the "Violence Policy Center." Its spokesman is one Josh Sugarman. He seems to feel that weapons, per se, are bad. We wish we could introduce Mr. Sugarman to President George Washington, who told us long ago that weapons are "Liberty's teeth." An armed society is a polite society, to quote Robert Heinlein. An armed populace cannot be tyrannized. This is no news to us, but apparently it is not known to the "Violence Policy Center." In what is apparently an official statement, the VPC states, "There is a very serious political purpose behind this, and that is to legitimatize the civilian ownership of lethal firearms, which are normally kept only for battlefields and SWAT teams." Hmmmm! Battlefields and SWAT teams. These people, the VPC, further state that "...practical shooting is an effort by the gun industry and the gun lobby to entice kids and help create a youth gun culture." A youth gun culture is exactly what we need! If we do not create it, we stand to go the way of the British and the Australians into legally imposed impotence.

If I were an English teacher I would address this matter of the split infinitive. As far as I know there is no rule against it, but it is a form of bad manners, rather like picking one's nose. Go ahead and split your infinitive, if you must, but do not expect to be applauded.

We now have 24 steel reaction targets at the rifle walk at Whittington (at $300 apiece). These targets are for purchase by the faithful and will be labeled with the name of the donor. However, since these targets are out and around in the countryside, not many people will see those names. We, therefore, are going to prepare a plaque for the interior of the house at the rifle walk and list the names of target donors thereon. That is a nifty little house they have constructed at the rifle walk, and it now needs floor coverings, furniture and wall decorations. It is a little stuffy in mid-summer, but one can always sit outside, and it should be cozy and comfortable in the wintertime. The range is called the "Jeff and Janelle Cooper Rifle Walk" on the road signs, and the house is called "Jeff's Place." This is all very friendly and comforting. If you wish to use the facility when it is not actually being used for training, simply call the front office at Whittington and arrange an appointment. (Bring your own rifle and ammunition.)

The political situation continues to deteriorate in South Africa as the country continues to spiral downward toward a Third World dictatorship. Do not put off that dream hunt. Go now if you can possibly arrange it.

When we first visited South Africa over 20 years ago, the brand new five-star Carlton Hotel was the showplace of Johannesburg. Its main lobby was covered with carpeting about 3-inches deep. All the girls working on the floor went barefoot, and each one was required to sport bright golden-blonde hair. This was a truly luxurious atmosphere.

Now, to our dismay, we discover that the Carlton has been closed due to the street crime situation in downtown Jo'burg. Thus we welcome the millennium!

We find it hard to believe, but we recently got a telephone call from London asking us how to spell Beretta. I guess the Brits have gone so far down the line that they now feel they must consult a foreign expert even to discuss the name of a firearms manufacturer.

We note from perusing the gun magazines that a great many people do not understand the technique of the telescope sight. This applies mostly to the rapid use of the weapon, since even the ignorant can use a telescope from a bench rest. The correct system requires the mounting of the piece so that when the butt hits the shoulder and the cheek hits the comb, the eye is automatically in line with the optical axis of the instrument. You do not hunt around, you practice until when you mount the piece with both eyes shut, you open them to find yourself right on target. This calls for a little practice, but it is not mysterious nor difficult. When you understand it, you can hit that flying clay bird, or, more dramatically, the wishbone of that charging leopard. It is true that snapshooting is the exception rather than the rule in the field, but it is very comforting, as with a seat belt or a life jacket. You do not need it often, but when you need it, you really need it.

The new regime in Africa has now passed a law to the effect that you cannot leave your rifle with your professional hunter without elaborate red tape in both the US and Africa. There is no good reason for this, of course - it is pure spite. One of the nice things a satisfied client could do previously was to leave his piece with his PH as a gesture of appreciation. The life of a PH is hard. Apparently the new revolutionary government simply wants to make it harder.

In a recent news report some correspondent from the other side suggested that something should be done about the sale of "high capacity ammunition." I guess he was referring to that new 300 Remington "Ultra Magnum".

I am not usually enthusiastic about Russian ideas, but the people at Baikal have now come up with something which actually fills a niche. They have produced a "bug shooter," which is a BB gun which looks exactly like a Makarov pocket pistol. It shoots BBs using a CO2 cylinder as propellant. For people who are troubled with scorpions, centipedes, wooly worms, and such, this should be just the ticket. (I once resorted to my 1911 for wasp defense in a quonset hut on Saipan, but those were different times, and that was a different place.)

Family member Bill O'Connor reports that he was hassled recently at the Philadelphia Airport because his pocketknife had a serrated edge. Apparently carrying a knife with a serrated edge is politically incorrect in the City of Brotherly Love. The aparatchik at the gate promised to mail the knife to him at a later date, but as you might suppose it has not showed up yet. Somehow it appears quaint to attempt to hijack an airliner with a pocketknife, but then a lot of things appear quaint in the Age of the Wimp.

Just as a good many people illustrated in the magazines do not understand the proper use of the telescope, a good many more do not understand the use of the shooting sling. I trust that all the faithful understand fully that a rifle sling is more than simply a carrying strap. The loop sling, properly used. increases your hitability in slow-fire situations by about 33 percent - or such is my experience. I was taught it in high school ROTC and benefited from it on half-a-dozen big game hunts. I assume that all family members understand fully about the shooting sling. I guess that makes us a somewhat exclusive club.

I have needled the factory now a couple of times about the forthcoming 376 Steyr cartridge, so far without results. I have shot it, and I like it, but where is it? Stay tuned.

We learn that three Americans met with bush disaster just last month in Africa.

In the first instance, the sportsman thought to dangle his arm over the side of a mocorro on Lake Kariba. Something grabbed it. The owner is missing and presumed dead.

In the second instance, a female hunter took the notion to take a pleasant evening walk outside the compound, despite being told vigorously that she was not to do this. She was taken by a hyena, but at last report, she was expected to live, though terribly disfigured. As you know, the hyena goes for the face. (Do we detect an element of feisty feminism here? Or the basic lack of discipline of the flower children?)

Third case was a wounded leopard followed into high grass in a column of three, tracker in front, PH in the middle, client in the rear. The leopard hit from astern. Here again, the sportsman is expected to live.

As our late good friend Peter Capstick said, "In Africa, everything bites."

Not long ago some citizen was busted for carrying a concealed weapon in Arizona because he was carrying it on the side away from the cop. I do not think they can make that stick, but it is interesting that they should try.

Back in the Dark Ages when I was a mere lad, the top African trophies were called "The Big Four." These were elephant, buffalo, rhino, and lion. In the past decade or so people have been adding the leopard to this list, and referring to it as "The Big Five." I think this is a mistake. The leopard is certainly scratchy, but he is not big. The rhino is big, but besides being essentially unavailable today, he is too dimwitted to be dangerous. Personally I would place elephant, lion and buffalo in "The Big Three" and rhino, hippo and leopard in the second tier. The hippo is underrated as a trophy, but if he is easy in the water, he is a serious problem on land. You would not want his head mounted on the wall of your living room, but neither would you want to be bitten in half if you failed to stop his charge.

Recent cheerful accounts from the bushveld tell of an American high school graduate who got a brand new Steyr Scout for her birthday. She had most of her graduation pictures taken featuring the rifle, and then she went to Africa and secured four one-shot stops in a row. Now there is a rifle chick of consequence!

As you may know, Randy Garrett of Chehalis, Washington, has been making up what may be called "Plus P" loads for the excellent 45-70 cartridge for over ten years. They are about ideal for the great bears, and for lions, and they complement Jim West's "Co-pilot" to perfection.

Now Randy has introduced a new 530-grain, super hardcast, "hammerhead" bullet, to be started at 1550f/s for a Taylor KO rating of 54. It is designed to shoot clear through a buffalo at "charging range."

Contact Randy Garrett, Garrett Cartridges, Inc., at Box 178, Chehalis, Washington, 98532.

"Good judgement comes from experience. Most experience comes from bad judgement."

via Bill O'Connor

If you are curious about the veracity of the profusion of rumors of organizational changes at Gunsite, we can only paraphrase Winston Churchill: "They are all true, or they ought to be, and more and better besides."

The more I work with rifles, the less I am concerned about the speed of the second shot. Certainly a self-loading rifle offers you that second shot faster than any mechanically operated repeater, but just how important is this? When a rifle of any considerable power fires, it recoils, moving rearward and upward, together with the shooter. On that rearward motion, a skilled rifleman opens the bolt, ejecting the empty. As the rifle is brought back onto target, he closes the bolt, placing a new cartridge in the chamber. If he does this properly, his second shot, if it is well aimed, is so little slower than that offered by a self-loader that it is hard to measure and probably does not matter. The straight-pull is quicker than the bolt-action, as is the lever, but I cannot hypothesize a scenario in which that might count. When I pulled off that double on buffalo some years ago in Tamafuta, both my companions opined that it sounded as if I were using a self-loader - and that with the long action of the ZKK 602. This is not to boast, but simply to point out that proper bolt work can be put to good advantage, assuming that a second shot is needed. On the lion I shot four times, but I need not have, as the beast was terminated with the first shot. All the experts, including our good friend Ross Seyfried, told me that with a lion you keep shooting, no matter what you think you did with your first round. So I did. But a self-loading rifle would have made no difference. This matter was called to my attention in connection with the slick action of the Blaser R93. The 93 is a superb weapon, but among its various excellent features speed of the second shot rates about number six in importance. The best thing about the Blaser is its revolutionary trigger-action, which has no sear. And the second most important thing is the fact that you can turn it into a left-hander by simply slipping in a left-handed bolt. Yes, you can fire two well-aimed shots from the Blaser 93 a bit more quickly than you can with any turn-bolt rifle, but let us not be bemused by PII (preoccupation with inconsequential increments).

Our good friend Hans Edelmaier of Salzburg has asked me to do a feature on the employment of the Spanish sword in the conquest of the New World. I look forward to this effort with pleasure. I know something about the sword, and something about the Spanish sword, and something about the conquest of the New World, having done a research paper on that subject in graduate school. So I will get to work and put this together just to see how it comes out in German.

We must avoid the error of thinking of people as members of groups rather than as individuals. This is a manifestation of mental laziness. It is called "groupthink" and it has been the curse of the twentieth century, and long before.

Meanwhile, keep your focus on that frontsight, and surprise yourself when the hammer falls.

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