Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 10, No. 14         January 2003

Joy To The World!!

`Tis the season to be jolly - so let's! The most important element of anyone's life is a sense of humor. No matter how rough the road may be, if you cannot see the joke, your life has been a waste of everybody's time. As we close out the year 2002, we have plenty to gripe about, but gallows humor is the prime virtue of the soldier, and there seems to be plenty of it hanging around. It is said by one of the church fathers (I forget who) that one of the ecstasies of the blessed is leaning over the ramparts of Heaven and enjoying the torments of the damned in Hell below. That may not be a very inspiring thought, but we cannot help likening it to our appreciation of the political discomforture of the Left. Those other people - not mentioning any names - make very miserable sounds at this time. May they indeed continue to do so!

We continue to be asked whether we prefer the straight or the arched mainspring housing on the 1911 pistol. In my early days, a good many of my mentors gave this matter a great deal of thought, but I was never convinced one way or another. I rather liked the appearance of the arched housing, but both fittings worked well for me in formal competition.

We hear of a new triumph for the old reliable in Vietnam. It appears that a sailor in a downed helicopter was able to repel boarders with splendid success, using his own personal 1911. He was almost the only man to survive the crash, but he left no less than 37 gooks flat on the field. The Internet has it that he was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but downgraded to Navy Cross. Internal copy is impossible to check out, but we can look up the awards of Navy Crosses and get the story straight. This tale, if true, is the best single episode on my list of 45-caliber triumphs. Even if it is not true, something pretty fancy must have occurred. We will get back to you.

At this season you may remember the response of the little boy who was asked to name the Four Seasons by his school teacher. His list was: Duck Season, Trout Season, Deer Season, and Christmas. Now there was a little boy being brought up right!

As we continue to deplore egregious semantics, we note thus the term "sniper" applied to the miserable jihadis of Maryland. As we have said before, a sniper is a highly trained technician. A loathly murderer should not be dignified by the term. A man who kills noncombatants at random is simply a murderer, and should be so called. It takes no particular skill to hit a man-sized target with a rifle, slow-fire, across a football field. These people should be spat upon, not dignified.

Terror is an emotion. Terrorism is a policy. Neither is a target nor an enemy. Let us then nominate something we can shoot at.

Reports from the field continue to point out that the shotgun is not a preferred instrument on dangerous game. A properly designed slug, such as the Brennecke, in 12 gauge and confined to ranges of 25 yards or less, can do good things on lions and bears, but a good rifle will do the job better in every case. The service shotgun is best using heavy shot, outdoors, after dark, but it is also good using bird shot indoors as house defense. It is not, however, first choice for big game.

You may recall a recent movie about the siege of Stalingrad which was entitled "Enemy at the Gates." In our present situation we find that the enemy is not at the gates, but rather well within them. These goblins who blew up the skyscrapers were well inside. It is time we went looking for them at their point of origin.

The modern technique of the pistol, evolved between the wars, is now fairly well understood in the right circles. Unfortunately, however, not everyone has the word, and a good deal of doctrine is being formulated without basis in practice. To say, for instance, that sighted fire is too slow, simply reveals that the speaker has not put the matter to a proper test. To say that people cannot be taught to do things correctly when under severe stress simply denies the experience of history. Theorizers can claim anything they wish, but they need not be taken as authoritative.
"In a free country you have the right to be offended anytime and any place by anything, but you do not have the right to be taken seriously."

Angus MacDonald

It has been said that if you are not a socialist by twenty, you have no heart; and if you are still a socialist at thirty, you have no head. Guru say: If you are not a curmudgeon by eighty, you have not been paying attention.

This talk of biological warfare reminds me that in Command and Staff School at Quantico we were treated to a session on the subject by a group of senior medical men from Washington. The program was kept as secret as possible, even to the elimination of texts or notes. What sticks in my mind, however, is the fact that the use of any known disease appeared inefficient to the practitioners. It was claimed that any sort of symptoms could be created by almost any sort of distribution system, but that no existing disease would be used. To be efficient, an entirely new microbe or virus would be created in a laboratory which could not be combated because it could not be identified. Nothing as simpleminded as anthrax or smallpox would be used, but rather something called "Q-27," or the like, to which all of our people would be immunized in advance. The message was pretty frightening at the time, but it seems to have been dropped by subsequent generations of lab men.

In this troubled age in which we live, we should note that a cell phone has several times been mistaken for a hand grenade, with lethal consequences. If you must use one of those things, keep it in your pocket until you are in a serene setting!

We have been reading extensively into Islam since the atrocities of September 11th. The more we read, the more difficult the problem is to understand. This Moslem doctrine has enormous appeal to a great many people, but we are defeated by the question of why this is so. The Koran is the Word of God, as revealed by his prophet. (In Arabic the word prophet does not signify one who foretells the future, as in English, but rather the messenger of God, in this case.) After he became convinced that he was indeed the messenger of God, Mohammad had only to consult the most high in order to get the straight word on anything, from how many times to pray to how to beat your wife (carefully so as not to break any bones). The appeal here, it seems to me, is to the universal human failing of intellectual laziness. A Moslem does not have to think about things, but only to consult the Koran. There are certain problems in this where contradictions occur, but they are usually laid to inaccurate translation from that form of Arabic which is being consulted. Since Arabic is not a precise language, the mullahs can discuss these matters at length without arriving at definite conclusions.

This is a tough faith to combat, since it simply does not admit to any valid contradiction. We strongly recommend Serge Trifkovic's new book "The Sword of the Prophet," to those who wish to go into the matter.

The 376 Steyr seems to be doing very well, both in Alaska and in the African bush. We also have two nice action reports on moose in Canada. There is no reason why it should not, since it is only one click below a 375 Holland. The virtue of the 376, of course, is that it can be had in Scout configuration, with attendant advantages. Its ammunition is not easy to come by, but if you load your own that is not an important matter.

We have been receiving a lot of queries recently about whether the 45-70 cartridge will suffice for buffalo. (That is buffalo not bison.) I have always maintained that one should opt for a heavy rifle for buffalo, if possible - something on the order of the 458 Lott or the 470 Nitro - but various case studies have come back from the field reporting that the 45-70, properly loaded, will shoot clear through a buffalo from side to side at buffalo distances, which are 30 paces or less. If the penetration is there, the damage will be done, assuming correct placement. Thus a "Co-pilot," in the hands of a good man, should be good and plenty. My own experience has not been broad enough to justify a positive opinion, but I think a 45-70 will do. I do not recommend it as first choice as a buffalo gun, but I think it will do. I look forward to further case studies from the bush.

Now that Denzel has been proposed for Hannibal, we are awaiting to see him take the role of George.

Too much is made, I believe, of the availability of the second shot. In the long lifetime of hunting, I have needed a second shot only rarely, and on those occasions I did not really need it because the beast was terminated on the first shot, though neither he nor I knew it at the time. Almost all practical rifle shooting is technically slow-fire, at least in the sporting sense. A military situation may sometimes call for a lot of shots, but this matters only in group actions. The semi-automatic Garand showed up better in the Pacific than the 03, but that was because of its superior sighting system, rather than its rapidity of fire. Fire teams are best equipped with self-loading weapons, but I do not think that an individual rifleman profits much thereby.

There are a lot of American riflemen in action now, and some have been Gunsite trained. I would appreciate any analytical reports on this subject.

Much discussion and reading suggests that surprisingly few of the people who buy and own guns do much shooting. And such shooting as they do do is confined to fixed ranges and the bench rest. This means that the practical advantages of a firearm are largely lost on the buying public. There is also the matter of price. While shotgunners often have money, riflemen, as a group, are broke. As a group, riflemen will rather buy several cheap guns than one good one, disregarding the principle that you get what you pay for. This is quite evident in the matter of the Steyr Scout. People tell me that they can get an imitation scout for less. They do not really need any sort of rifle, beyond that one behind the door in the kitchen, but wants and needs are not always coincident. If you have a Steyr Scout, you do not really need any other rifle, unless you specialize in elephants or prairie dogs. It would ruin the retail business, of course, if people found this out.

As of this time, family member Marc Heim's flying-target record of four out of five stands untouched. I think it may last a good long time.

What about the 22 for self-defense? We do not recommend it, but we certainly do not disregard it. In the first place, most defensive situations are solved by the presence of a gun, rather than by shooting. Nobody wants to get shot with anything, and a goblin confronted with a 22 is just as much affected as if he were looking into a larger muzzle. Secondly, defensive situations are short-range situations - arm's length, across the kitchen table, across the bedroom. At these distances, a cool hand can hit a ping pong ball with his first shot every time. If the defender confines his targets to the eye sockets, his 22 should certainly suffice to stop the fight. A good 22 is small and handy, and its ammunition is cheap, affording more practice than a center-fire. A good grade of pocket 22, fitted with a good trigger, has much to recommend it for house defense - especially when the man of the house is not at home.

Note again that the Color Code is not an alert system. It is not an index of your personal hazard, but rather a psychological crutch which enables you to overcome your natural reluctance to take possibly lethal action. I have tried to make this point regularly ever since I devised the system, but a great many people still do not get it.

Metallic rifle sights have practically gone out of existence during my lifetime, which is not a good thing. The telescope is easier to use, but it must be understood in order to achieve its full value, and it is both fragile and expensive. Since a scope is almost universal now, properly designed metallic sights are almost unobtainable. I do not know of a rifle which comes over the counter today with good iron sights. If you want them you must make them up.

Traditionally the front sight has been a bead, in civil circles. A round bead is a an inexact index of precision. The top of the curve is just not a definitive measure of elevation, at any distance. Its color may be white or silver or gold or red, but though color may ease acquisition, it does not help in precision. In my mind, a proper front sight is a square post, and at my advanced age I prefer red or orange. White or silver disappears against snow, or a grey sky, or a white shirt. Gold or yellow vanishes against dry grass, tawny hide, or a khaki shirt. Red is not found in nature, and I prefer it.

The front sight on a rifle hangs out in the air where it is very vulnerable to hard knocks, and it is often shielded by a hood or by vertical flanges on either side, both of which systems can be distracting. Thus I like a broad, black ramp, as much as 3/8-inch, carrying on its centerline a 1/16 vertical red post, which is shielded by the shoulders of the ramp. This sort of front sight is protected from knocks and jars, it is quickly acquired, and quite precise. It is also unavailable, except on special order.

The proper rear iron sight is the ghost-ring, first brought to my attention almost simultaneously by Townsend Whelen and Karamojo Bell, though they did not use that term. The ghost-ring is so called because it vanishes when you look through it. It features a large ring with a thin rim, and should be mounted as close to the eye as the action type will permit. It was long held by many that the large aperture, 3/16 to a quarter of an inch, did not afford sufficient precision, but results on paper refute this. It appears that even if the shooter makes no effort to center his front sight in the ring, he will do so more or less instinctively. Whether you believe this or not, the fact remains that group sizes on paper targets are not affected by the size of the rear aperture - within limits, of course.

The rear sight should not obtrude anymore than necessary above the weapon itself. You do not want to knock it around if you can avoid it.

A ghost-ring is both quick and precise. For the ranges in which most big game is taken - 150 meters or less - it provides all the precision necessary, and it will not fog up, crack or frazzle its reticle. I strongly recommend against glass sights for dangerous game. A well arranged ghost-ring is better in all respects.

Jim West's excellent "Co-pilot" may be fitted with a proper ghost-ring, if you tell him to do so. (He may ask you what sort of telescope you want, but ignore this. The "Co-pilot" is not that sort of gun.)

It is a characteristic of this Holy War that we must surrender the initiative to the enemy, so here at the turn of the year we await his next strike. One man who pretends to be well up on the command list of the Jihad claims that the plans are all set and simply awaiting the signal to go. Nuclear bombs are in place in the seven major cities of the United States, and biological effluvia are prepared for release in the aftermath of the explosive disasters. This will not only kill some millions of people, but it will wreck the economy of the West and lay it bare to occupation by the Faithful. This man's paper is printed in English, so maybe it loses something in translation, but he does not tell us why the switch has not already been thrown. Everything will take place in order prescribed by Allah.

Perhaps we should take this proposition as the raving of a fanatic, but perhaps we should not dismiss it entirely. These people may not be very clever, but they are serious, and their group hatred, fueled by overwhelming cultural jealousy, does exist. Islam translates approximately as submission, and means absolute submission of the individual intellect to the transcribed pronouncements of the prophet. Thus we face this curiously amorphous enemy, which is more like malaria than an army. We can handle an army, but this ant-like tide of unreason poses a more difficult problem.

The use of murder as a political weapon is not new to the Middle East. You will remember that during the Crusades one Hassan-ben-Sabah set up the cult of the "Assassins" in a mountain hideaway from which he sent forth individual murderers on demand. He contrived an earthly paradise for his young men, complete with all those (temporary) virgins, and fueled by hashish. Thus he proved that he did control entrance to paradise and could grant it to those who obeyed him.

Certainly there are similarities.

How to proceed at this point is not clear. Saddam Hussein is a nasty tyrant, but he is not a fanatic, and his elimination will not terminate fanaticism. Osama bin Laden apparently is a fanatic, but his death will not stop the war either. This matter of cultural jealousy is the essence of the evil, and it must be confronted with moral and spiritual inspiration. They are convinced that they are better than we are, which would not be troublesome if it did not follow, from their viewpoint, that we should all be killed because of this. Several thousand American citizens, who would have enjoyed this Christmas holiday and who never heard much or thought much about any Holy War, are not here to enjoy it because of the aimless hostility of these weirdos. I see too much sorrow here, when the proper response should be rage. Admitting that two wrongs do not make a right, it will not do simply to sit here and wring our hands. We have high hopes for President Bush, but so far we see no action. So let us saddle up and get about it. Our friends have wished us a Happy and Prosperous New Year. It will be neither unless it is victorious, so now we wish upon all of our friends and relations a Happy and Victorious New Year.

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