Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 10, No. 12         November 2002

All Hallows

As our civilization continues along its degenerate way, we note that the acceptance of specialization in life is achieving new lows. It appears that post-modern man is content to manifest no interest in anything beyond the confines of his own little cubicle. In my youth it was assumed that a grown man should know a good bit about a whole number of things, besides any specialty that might take his fancy. I do not remember visiting a household which was totally without personal firearms - always a 22, and usually a shotgun. Today the press assumes a curious obligation to inform us (not necessarily correctly) about matters relating to firearms. Generally speaking, journalists and commentators do not choose to educate us about cooking, or motoring, or swimming, or equitation, or flying an airplane, but they seem to be anxious to tell us all about firearms, and furthermore they assume that no one will know anything about firearms unless he has been instructed in the military. Actually military instruction in firearms is pretty rudimentary. Any well educated youth should know more about marksmanship and gunhandling when he enters the service than he is likely to learn after he does so. The notion that our finally apprehended Muhammad (may peace be upon him) had to have been trained in the military before he could use a rifle is an example of this. This mass murderer displayed no particular knowledge or skill in his disgusting rampage, yet a number of journalistic types seems to think that he is some kind of an expert.

It is sad evidence that we shooters are a distinct minority in our urban culture. At our recent Reunion at Whittington Center, we were much gratified by the presence of seventeen young people who participated with both eagerness and distinction. One little girl of eight applied for permission to recite the General Rules of Gunhandling before the audience. The skies may be grey, but there is still some hope. May God defend the right!

We were amused to hear that on his fiftieth birthday President Putin of Russia had a mountain in Kyrgyzstan named after him. The President of Kyrgyzstan who sought to honor Putin is named Askar Askayev. Apparently the Kyrgyzi have so many mountains that they can afford to be profligate in their nomenclature. "Rudel, Cooper and Putin" make a truly exotic combination.

We do not see much of interest in the way of new models in firearms. The ones we have do just fine, and this is a cause for concern amongst the marketeers. It is necessary to advance all sorts of specious claims in order to make us unhappy with what we already have, but people who know very little about a subject, from motorcycles to flyswatters, are easy marks for those who wish to make them discontented with what they have. This is commercial progress.

Reports back from the war in Afghanistan tell us that nearly all individual weaponry is nocturnal, and that optical sights are the way to go. The trouble with telescope sights has always been fragility, but apparently new production has been able to withstand the rigors of hard field service without excessive breakage.

We also hear from recent battle reports that the 223 cartridge is not a successful combat round. It will kill, certainly, as our recent urban atrocities have proven, but it is not a stopper. It is a pretty good murder weapon for use across the street against an unsuspecting non-combatant, but it is hardly a good thing to take into battle. The Pentagon is looking around for something to replace it. Why we need something superior to the 308 is unclear, but there are people in positions of authority who join the popular notion that anything developed before they were born is useless. This idea carries over into certain military offices which are concerned with long range sniping. Certainly a 300 Magnum may be technically superior to a 30-06, and a 338 may be superior to a 300 Magnum, but it is hard to postulate a situation in which an individual rifleman is better than a 30-06. As always, it is the man, not the instrument, which wins the day.

"People never lie so much as:
After a hunt,
during a war,
or before an election."


Is it not curious how fashions and language change? One can hardly read a news item without running across "terror" used as an adjective, or "terrorism" as a movement. We do not bother to define these terms, but that is probably just as well. Forced to the wall, I would opine that "terrorism," in its modern sense, is indiscriminate war conducted for political reasons against non-combatants. It differs from war in that it has no objective, and it differs from crime in that money is not involved. By whatever definition, it is entirely unconscionable, and if I were king, I would reintroduce exemplary capital punishment as its reward. The old-fashioned British custom of hanging in irons comes to mind.

Family member and Shooting Master John Pepper points out his annoyance with the journalistic term "gunned down." A man is not gunned down when he is shot, rather he is gunned down appropriately by a butt stroke. I am familiar with the butt stroke, both in training and in practice, and I do agree with John. The butt stroke, properly delivered with a full-size rifle, is every bit as decisive as a rifle shot. Its utility, however, is restricted by its very short range

We certainly miss the days of Margaret Thatcher's leadership in England. When Argentina seized the Falklands, she simply called upon the British military establishment to retake them. It is said that the War Minister mentioned to the Prime Minister that such an action would result in fairly heavy British casualties. Her response was, "General, you just take back the Falklands. Let me worry about the casualties." Now there is the sort of political leadership that shows us the way!

This matter of arming the pilots of commercial aircraft is not as simple as it appears. A man is not armed because he has custody of a weapon. He is armed only if he has the skill to use it well. And getting that skill across to tens of thousands of airline pilots in a short time is too much to expect. Gun fighting is one part technique and three parts attitude. Teaching technique is fairly simple, provided the student is properly motivated, but teaching attitude is more complex. The right man with the right attitude is a more efficient combatant in the close confines of an airplane cockpit than the wrong man armed with a machine pistol. Once again it is the man, rather than the gun, that matters.

Piracy continues apace in the disputed waters of the world. Indonesia, India, the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa, and the Gulf of Guinea are hot spots. The fanatical modi operandi are conspicuously low tech, conducted principally with edged weapons. This means they could be stopped cold by properly organized crews. However, recruiting, training, paying, and arming miscellaneous coast-wise civil sailors is probably an impossible undertaking.

People still raise the question of why we hunt. Fortunately tastes differ, but in my opinion we hunt:
  1. Because we want to;
  2. For meat;
  3. For memories of adventure.
Trophies, of course, should constitute our most elegant souvenirs, but I do not see their size as being of primary importance. Naturally one admires a prime specimen more than a juvenile, but the record book is hardly an end in itself. Hunting should be an individual delight, not a competitive exercise. Hemingway made himself look quaint in his preoccupation with inches, or so it seems to me.

We learn that Norinco in China is now producing an elegant replica of the "Broomhandle" Mauser, famed in song and story. This piece serves no practical purpose that I can see, but it is a delight to play with. A friend of ours used one extensively at Catalina Island when I was a boy, and as a boat gun with butt-stock attached it was great fun. I do not feel like acquiring one just now, but if anyone of the family wishes to bring one by we would be most happy to spend an afternoon playing with it.

Further reports from the various fronts in the Holy War suggest that THEY are not clued in. It is heartening to observe that people who believe that by memorizing the Koran and praying five times a day they will achieve all that is necessary in their war against the West. If one is instructed from infancy that one is holy, nothing else is necessary. He is unlikely to fight skilfully with modern weapons. Most of the atrocities so far committed have been carried out by people who welcome death in a holy cause. Such people are certainly deadly, but they are not efficient in the fight against the Kaffir.

We believe that this initial radial deviation test, which we dreamed up to establish the precision capacity of a rifle/sight/rifleman combination, is worth widespread distribution. It serves to establish the hitting capacity of the combination in a meaningful fashion. It should be conducted at 200 yards (or 200 meters) and by means of a series of single shots. In the field, of course, only the first shot counts, not group size. The exercise should be conducted three times to avoid the influence of luck. One shot is fired from a cold, clean barrel, and its index is the distance between the exact point of aim and the point of impact. The smaller the deviation, the higher the score.

This is not an entertainment exercise, since too little shooting is involved, but it does serve as a precise evaluation of the combination being examined.

I repeat that I think we are missing a bet in not using pigs and pig products as weapons in the Holy War. If you happen to have any hollow point ammunition you might think of filling the point with pig fat in order to increase your psychological advantage.

I do not pretend to own the English language, and I do not claim to own the term "scout," but the scout rifle concept is mine, and I know what I mean by it, even if others do not. The essential element of the Scout Rifle, as I see it, is "friendliness," combined with all-purpose utility. The piece should be short, light and handy, and still dispose of sufficient power and range to accomplish any reasonable task in the hands of a skilful rifleman.

The Scout Rifle need not be fitted with a telescope sight (!!!). I took "Scout I" to Central America on a series of extensive bush prowls. I subsequently mounted an intermediate-eye-relief, low power telescope on this piece, but I do not think this improved its overall desirability.

The Scout Rifle is an instrument for a man operating alone, and this does not involve volume of fire. The bolt-action, in various guises, is probably the most suitable, though there is much to be said for a single-shot action which permits shorter overall length of the assembled weapon. The self-loaders, in general, are too bulky and too complex for maximum friendliness.

I could go on, but I have written this up elsewhere. I wish to point out, however, that when somebody extols his 375 Scout, or his 223 Scout, or his Garand Scout, he is missing the target - at least my target.

In reflecting sadly upon the Wichita Horror of December 2000, we ponder again upon the disgusting unwillingness of victims to fight back. In this atrocity, two men armed with pistols assaulted, brutalized, abused, and killed four out of five victims, one of whom was left for dead. These actions took place at arm's length! The victims apparently just gave up simply because two goblins happened to have possession of a pistol apiece - and they died. We thought by now that everyone realized that the only acceptable response to the threat of lethal violence is immediate and savage counterattack. If you resist, you just may get killed. If you don't resist, you almost certainly will get killed. It is a tough choice, but there is only one right answer.

Our British friends are quick to point out the horrible state of public conduct in the United States. They must feel justified in doing so because the streets are so safe in England, where the effective disarmament of the citizenry has resulted in the highest rate of violent street crime in the world.

A family member recently wrote in and asked how he could pin the grip safety shut on his 1911, claiming that no available gunsmith would perform this task for fear of litigation. Personally I think the smiths declined this task because it is so easy that they cannot charge much for it. You simply pin opposing holes in the bottom of the grip safety and the top of the mainspring housing. These holes are about the diameter of piano wire. Then, with the grip safety pressed shut, you insert the piano wire pin and slide the mainspring housing up into position to take the other end of the pin. Once this arrangement is installed, it can be removed in seconds, for those who are terrified of regulators.

I suppose it is flattering to receive the amount of political bitching that we get here at Gunsite, but I fear that there is not much I can do about the vagaries of the current situation in Washington, Brussels or Riyadh. In a representative republic such as ours, the government is supposed to be responsible to the people. If you do not like what the government is doing, get into it yourself and bring about the necessary changes.

"Weapons protect the weak from the strong, not the other way around." The passengers of Flight 93 showed us the way to defend ourselves - they fought back. If every passenger fought back immediately, no terrorist could succeed. If every victim fought back immediately, no criminal could succeed. No one lives forever.

(An Ode to the Rifle)

You hold in your hands the bow of Diana,
The spear of Achilles, the hammer of Thor.
Now you command both precision and distance.
To dominant power you've opened the door.

Your rifle embodies the gift of Hephaistos,
The grant of Olympus to hapless mankind.
Your rifle's a thing of both power and beauty,
Its proper employment ennobles the mind.

Bare-handed you live at the mercy of numbers,
But numbers can never match rifleman's skill.
Your rifle essentially makes you the master.
It creates and maintains humanity's will.

Vulcan has given you means to establish
Divine domination o'er man, beast and foe.
Your rifle's the sorcerous scepter of power.
Direct it with wisdom and judgement bestow.


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