Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 10, No. 11         October 2002

Hunting Season!

And high time, too! The news has been so generally bad, both worldwide and domestic, and we are definitely in need of something cheerful. The opening of hunting season is always that. I hope that you have your plans all made and that I will get word back from you on your adventures.

Oddly enough a correspondent recently asked me to explain why I thought that "modern man needs to hunt." Ancient or modern, man hunts because he is a carnivorous predator. You have only to examine his teeth, which are designed for shearing and masticating meat. Most grass eaters have grazing and grinding teeth located only in the lower jaw. Man does not hunt in order to eat - not in the past and not now. Personally I always choose to eat what I kill, but I know a good many hunters who do not feel that way. The hunting instinct is a drive to place man in charge of his environment, and it is so deeply ingrained that it stays there even if he must live in a large, stone city. Not everyone feels this way, of course, but to all I recommend the magnificent classic "Meditations on Hunting" by José Ortega y Gasset. Even in translation, this is a masterfully clear exposition of the hunting spirit. If you do not know why we hunt, get your own personal copy of this book (it is still available in print) and study it. Almost every third or fourth line is worthy of quotation and a study by itself. It will not change the mind of a grass-eater, but I do not suppose anything will.

How many of you noticed the celebration of the events of 9-11 in Riyadh? Wasn't given much publicity, was it?

So now we are engaged in a great Holy War, testing whether our culture, or any culture conceived and dedicated to the proposition of social sensibility, can endure. That sort of paraphrase does poor justice to Mr. Lincoln, but I think there are points that need to be made. Specifically, a Holy War cannot be waged like a political war. In a political war you have a national objective. The nation which has declared itself your enemy must be subdued by force of arms and forced to submit to your way of thinking. In a Holy War, however, there is no national objective. The Moslem objective seems to be simply to destroy the infidel. I cannot believe that any Moslem feels that by killing Christians or Jews or agnostics at random he will win any sort of tangible objective. These people may be awfully ignorant, but I still cannot believe that they believe that killing non-combatant Jews will eventually result in the displacement of Israel back to Brooklyn. In the matter of Iraq, for example, if that nation and its nasty dictator were to vanish overnight, the Holy War would still be in full cry. I think we all agree (even the British) that Saddam Hussein has got to go. But the ragheads still insist that we infidels are the accursed of God, and they seek to flaunt this without any prospect for amelioration. We see these people complaining when they are "profiled" while making every effort to make such profiling obvious. If a raghead does not wish to be identified as a raghead, there would seem to be no reason for him to speak like a raghead, act like a raghead, and dress like a raghead. The best way for him to avoid being identified as a raghead would be to stay back where he came from. It seems to me that our advice should be assimilate or quit complaining.

There is no good solution to this unpleasant conflict, but kissing the feet of the aggressor is not any sort of answer. Tolerance is all very well but, like moderation, it can be taken to extremes.

We hear in professional papers that the Marine Corps has just now rediscovered the 1911 pistol. It has been around for some time, and its unchallenged supremacy has been thoroughly documented. Now we have a tuned-up version being offered by the armorers at Quantico which should do very well indeed in the hands of those who understand close combat. Gunsite graduates do not need to be told this, anymore than they need to be told about the modern technique, but there are few of us. Isn't it annoying to be talked down to by people who seek to explain to us what we knew long before they took up the subject!

If you were king, what would you do with this Johnnie Walker, the Taliban traitor? Twenty years in the slammer will not cure his mind, nor achieve any sort of restitution. He is a political/social nitwit, and sad evidence of totally undirected innocence. We cannot correct that now, but perhaps permanent exile to some rat's nest in Islam might serve as an example. But you are not king, so speculation is unprofitable.

The resurgence of the 45-70 cartridge is very interesting. It was an excellent round when it was introduced back in the 19th century, and it still is. It was eclipsed by the superb 30-06, and fell almost completely out of sight for almost a hundred years, but that does not diminish its merit.

In my early youth it was scorned as kicking too hard, excessively curving in trajectory, and perhaps lacking in residual penetration when used on very heavy game. I do not know what to think about recoil in this case. Recoil effect can be accentuated by bad stock design, and many pieces designed to take the cartridge were conspicuous in this way. But we have passed it on to students here at school during past months, and we just do not find many people who think it kicks too hard. Muzzle brakes can help this, of course.

It does shoot a curve, and thus is unsuitable for military area fire at long range. But this hardly matters to a sportsman or, for that matter, to a scout operating alone who shoots only when he can't avoid it. The vast majority of game shots are taken at under 150 yards, and the 45-70 does just fine all the way out to 200. Beyond that range we encounter a problem in marksmanship, rather than ballistics. Only a very good shot can hit much beyond 200 meters, and very good shots are not common. Besides that, even a good shot avoids long shots when he can.

One of the prime advantages of the 45-70 is its adaptability to compact lever-action rifles, making it particularly suitable for African professional hunters who shoot only in emergencies, and then at short range. Mike Garrett, making the ammunition, and Jim West, making the rifles, have brought the so-called "Co-pilot" into recent prominence, and it could not happen to a nicer item.

If we can cast Denzel Washington as Hannibal, I think we might try to cast Brad Pitt as Booker T. Washington.

About the only apparent reason for the British disarmament of the people is fear of generalized armed insurrection. Public disarmament in Britain has resulted in a predictable increase in street crime. The Brits do not seem to be especially insurrective at this time, but one never knows. Besides, the disarmament laws have not completely removed shotguns from the hands of the peasantry. That is an oversight which should be brought up in Parliament.

The attempt by the education establishment to castrate American youth has produced some very peculiar attitudes. One is an announced "hatred of violence." It seems to me that people who hate violence as an abstraction are living in the wrong country. This nation we live in, still the last best hope of Earth, was born in violence, and if there is any such thing as a typical American man, he is certainly a violent man. Note American football, a game which is popular nowhere but here. American football is a perfect study in "orchestrated violence," and most of us find it to be a marvelous spectacle. Uncontrolled violence was the French Revolution, one of civilization's black marks, but controlled violence is what made this nation great.

The term " blood sport" seems to have two current meanings, enough to confuse most people. I regard a blood sport as an activity undertaken for pleasure in which a mistake can cause serious injury or death to the participant. Examples are rock climbing, skin diving and motor racing, among others. To the bunny huggers, however, a blood sport is the pursuit of a game animal resulting in its death, such as quail hunting or fox hunting. Precise communication seems to be a bit much to ask of the peasantry.

We call the following new books to your personal attention:

"The Soul and the Spirit" (second edition) by Lindy Wisdom. This has some new material added to it and is somewhat more compact.

And there is Barrett Tillman's "Above and Beyond," a compendium of naval medal of honor cases.

And in case you have not got the second edition of "Gargantuan Gunsite Gossip," we have that for sale, too. The two books now are called GI and GII, respectively.

And one is not ready yet. I am putting together another anthology of my own work, to be called "C-Stories." I hope to have that available for sale by next Spring.

It appears that the Pentagon is at this time seeking a couple of new small-arms cartridges to replace both the 223 and the 9mmP. Funny nobody thought of that fifty years ago.

Do not neglect to fire up your wit for the occasion of the Tenth Annual Reunion at Whittington. We can use appropriate anecdote, original verse (if beyond the sixth grade level), music, and any sort of recitation by or about our great patron Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

There will be shooting with rifle, pistol and sporting clay. We hope to show you some innovative exercises, and we welcome ingenious contributions along this line.

A correspondent from South Africa contends that the modern technique of the pistol is a poor measure of combat skill, since pistol fights take place at such short range that sighting systems and precision shooting are not pertinent. In my opinion, our friend is technically correct in that one has to hunt long and hard to find a case study in which true shooting skill was a factor. But we should go beyond this. A shooter who understands the modern technique commands a degree of self-confidence which enables him to think straight when the flag flies. If he knows exactly what he can do and under what time limitations, he need not think about technique. (The old-time fighter pilot did not think about flying in a dog fight, but only about fighting.) A practiced pistolero is totally confident in what he can do, and is thus freed from any complex legal, moral or technical considerations. If he decides that he has to shoot, the stroke takes care of itself - but only if he is master of that stroke. The modern technique solves the problem. Unsighted fire is all very well and can produce startling results with talented people who are willing to devote the necessary time to the enterprise. We are not against it. We only feel that it is an unnecessary affectation.

Family member Terry Allison has again pointed out to us the irrelevance of group-size as a measure of rifle equipment and technique. In its place we suggest an exercise we may call the IRD, for "Initial Radial Dispersion." One starts three paces back from the firing line, rifle slung and in Condition One. Range is 100 yards or 100 meters. On signal, the shooter advances to the firing position of his choice and fires one shot - in no hurry. His score is the linear distance between his exact point of aim and the strike of his shot. This distance is the index of his efficiency. This is hardly a playtime exercise, since when people show up to shoot they naturally want to shoot as much as they can afford. However, it is a very satisfactory measure of rifle, ammunition, sighting system, and shooter.

Have you noted that the people who produce these wildlife television programs do not seem to be outdoorsmen? They do not appear to be the sort of people who actually enjoy the life of the wild, but rather people who are happier on pavement in low-cut shoes. I do not wish to be unjust here, but I do believe that just as only an experienced soldier should write about war, only a woodsman (and preferably a hunter) should write about the wilderness.

Does it not seem that we are overdoing this handcuff business? To shackle a man deprives him of his dignity, and this should not be done without sufficient cause. It amounts to public humiliation, and should only be inflicted in defense of life and limb, or as a result of conviction by due process. The Romans, who were not conspicuously sensitive people, conspicuously refused to shackle a Roman citizen. Kill him possibly, cuff him no. But we live in an undignified age, and most people do not seem to care.

The Moors (according to their own pronouncements as far as we can translate them) feel that the only good infidel is a dead infidel. Only by such reasoning can they justify the random murder of non-combatants. They killed a whole lot of people who were not at war at the World Trade Center. This seems to have earned them Brownie points. By examination we may conclude that a good Moslem earns one point for killing another Moslem of a different sect, two points for killing a European Christian, three points for killing an American, and four points for killing a Jew. I may have this wrong, but then I cannot speak Arabic.

At the behest of family member Clifford Douglas, we are collectively at work on the "Ode to the Rifle." We expect some good things in this line at the Reunion.

In Louisville, which is in Kentucky, they have a police department. This organization recruits, equips and trains a police force intended to protect and serve the citizenry. We now read a news item about a suspect who was shot neatly in the back with a service pistol. The officer doing the shooting has announced that he thought that he was shooting a "stun gun." A man who cannot tell a stun gun from a service pistol should obviously not be allowed to handle either. (It is also difficult to hypothesize a circumstance in which a man should be shot in the back with a stun gun.) It is quite possible, of course, that the man who was shot deserved whatever he got, but a majority opinion maintains that this is not a matter for the cop to decide on the spot. If this officer is telling the truth, the police department should be recycled, but it seems quite obvious that he is not telling the truth, rather attempting in pathetic fashion to fortify his posterior. Perhaps all three parties involved here - the department, the shooter and the shootee - should be recycled.

As we have reported, one Miss Oxana Fedorova was selected to bear the crown of Miss Universe in a recent contest. What makes this noteworthy to us is the fact that this copchick is a recreational pistolera. We suggested to management here at Gunsite that she be brought aboard for some shooting practice, building publicity for all concerned. It now turns out that she did not like all the travel necessary to the position and quit. Too bad. A pretty girl always brightens up the atmosphere.

In the interest of precise communication, let us call the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers an atrocity, not a tragedy. The proper response to a tragedy is sorrow. The proper response to an atrocity is rage.

We have been criticized for referring to what we are engaged in as a Holy War. But we did not call it that, they did. When they refer to us as the Great Satan, that is what we have got. But perhaps they did not call us that. Maybe they called it something else and it did not translate well. But there has still got to be some sort of justification for the atrocities that they have committed. Those people died intentionally in the act of killing infidels. If that is not a Holy War, we will just dream up some other term which means the same thing.

This airport security hysteria is certainly a major victory for Osama bin Laden, living or dead. It does not make any particular sense, but "something must be done," even if it does not make any sense. And what has been done has practically ruined American commercial air travel. It does not seem to occur to the bureaucracy that a good man does not need a hand weapon in order to constitute a lethal antagonist. A properly trained man can do more with his bare hands than most people can do with whatever they may be able to smuggle aboard an airplane in their travel kit. (Let us not pursue this line of thought lest the security people require all passengers to be shackled in their seats upon boarding.)

All hail to Kennesaw, Georgia! You remember that is the town where all householders are required to be armed. Crime rate remains at zero, unlike that of London.

"There is no way to make war safe; so the thing to do is to make it unsafe for the other side."

Joe Foss

This political correctness foolishness is so silly that it is hard to take seriously, but there it is. It is even miscalled, for it is neither political nor correct. It is social censorship, the rule of the polypragmatoi (read "busybodies"). Mr. Jefferson is quoted around the inside of his monument at Washington as standing foursquare and forever against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. As he declaimed, and as I hope we all agree, the State may justifiably control our actions - but never our thoughts. Sorry, Mr. Jefferson, but all men are not created equal. ("All ya gotta do is look.")

What are the first four articles of the Bill of Rights? If you do not know, you should.

So far it appears that the three thousand victims at the World Trade Center did indeed die in vain, despite the President's pronouncement. That was Round One. Let us see who dies in Round Two, and in what cause.

We have been dunned recently for various worthy causes, including one which calls upon us to "feed the hungry." This is doubtless a worthy cause, and I can offer a suggestion from central Virginia where we recently were the guests of family member Bob Crovatto. Bob is an enthusiastic varminter, and he lays out those Eastern woodchucks by the hundred. That is a lot of protein. I have never eaten a groundhog, but I have eaten several rockchucks up in the Rockies, and I can testify that they are quite salubrious. Bob did not seem anxious to harvest these beasties for nutritional purposes. Maybe we need a committee.

At this time Bob Crovatto has the only fully operational Apitir pistol-shooting device in use. There should be one of these at every major pistol school in the world, but the one that we had here at Gunsite was torn down during the malum interregnum and has not been rebuilt. We have good things here, but as yet we do not have them all.

We are told that there is a problem with seagulls at the yacht harbors of Monaco, where the rich and the famous tie up their beautiful vessels. It seems that the birds defecate all over the mahogany and brightwork. My suggestion is the BB gun. I have often repelled seagulls on the wing in San Francisco Bay with a BB gun. It works fine and it does not seem to hurt the birds much; they just squawk and sheer off when hit.

"The best revenge is not to be like that."

Marcus Aurelius

I like to think that most of us in America value political liberty above all other considerations, but the media suggest that at least half of world citizenry prefers security to liberty - if it comes to a choice. Of course it does not come to that. As Mr. Franklin put it so well, those who value security over liberty wind up with neither.

As we watch the English language degenerate, we may contend that adjectives are like alcohol, while adverbs are like opium. Both alcohol and opium are necessary, but they must be used sparingly and with great care.

This foolishness about reparations for slavery has got to take some sort of prize for inanity. Human slavery has been with us since the beginning of time. It is the natural course of social order. Without it we would probably still be living in the Bronze Age, and such trivia as mathematics, philosophy, religion, and art would never have been invented. As Aristotle pointed out, most people have slave minds, and prefer to be told what to do and where to line up for chow. Of course many people are not like that, and they are the ones who have given us civilization as we know it.

"Americans did not invent courage, but they did invent aviation, and the melding of the two produced a heritage of aerial valor that spanned most of the twentieth century."

Barrett Tillman, in "Above and Beyond"

The rains have come!

And high time, too. This has been the worst drought in memory, and never has the land suffered so much. The Countess observes that you can hear the ground sucking up the moisture as all nature hymns its thanks. Let it presage a long, damp Winter, and several normal years to build back our water table! Isn't it odd that neither the Greeks nor the Romans personified a rain god the way the Meso-Americans did? Now let us rejoice and be glad. Most news is bad, but the weatherman is at last on our side.

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