Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 10, No. 7          June 2002

Hot Spell

It is with deep sorrow that we must report the death of Oliver Coltman, the man described in The Pounding in "Another Country" and also Fisherman's Luck. Ollie was piloting his own helicopter on a game management operation near Cullinan in South Africa. I have no details, except that the aircraft crashed and burned. Ollie lived through the impact, but was too badly damaged to survive. He died in action before he had a chance to grow old, which is some consolation, if not much.

Ollie Coltman was a real man, and there are not many of those standing around. He was an active outdoorsman, largely involved in wildlife management, an enterprise at which he excelled. He was as totally fearless as a man can be, allowing for that indefinite line between courage and foolhardiness. Susan, his wife, told us all that he was certain to be killed by one of his wild beasts, but as it turned out it was a helicopter which did him in. He was a fine companion, a learned naturalist, an excellent shot, and several ladies of discernment have opined that he was the handsomest man they ever saw. Obviously such a man is indispensable, but the world goes on. It has been a bad year.

Do you remember what it was like before air conditioning? I guess we really do not realize how well off we are. I have vivid memories of our existence in the tidewater region back in those sweaty times. There must be a couple of generations nowadays who cannot imagine such goings on.

We hear from our spies at the front that most of our federal combat personnel are trying hard to re-arm themselves with serious smallarms - specifically the 1911 and the M14. This seems a good idea, of course, but difficult of execution because of ammunition supply, among other things. Still there is a prominent faction in high places which maintains that shooting has no real place in modern war, which is all conducted by gadgetry. This may be so, but somehow I doubt it. A good many family members are floating around the world in hazardous duty conditions and they seem to think that shooting does indeed have a place. The enemy, of course, has gone largely to the rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). Oddly enough the US ordnance people have never shown any interest in that device, despite its obvious advantages to an army of klutzes. The RPG is cheap, effective, universally obtainable, and you do not have to be any good to use it. It may be considered to be the ideal proletarian weapon. It would be nice to think that we have not come to that just yet.

Are people really less moral after only twenty years? The current scene would suggest that, but we hope that it is not true. Both television and the loss of the nuclear family would seem to be affecting us here. How do we change that?

The qualifying phrase of the Second Amendment refers to a well regulated militia. A well regulated militia calls for men who can "shoot and salute," in Pershing's phrase. Since the militia, in the terms of George Mason, is made up of the "whole people," it would seem that the whole people should be well qualified in the use of the national personal arm, which at this point is the M16. Thus if we are to follow that line of thought, everybody should be qualified on the M16, which is in the eyes of some people a machinegun. What a shocking thought!

Our current crop of military historians gets sloppier all the time. As a group they do not seem to know what shrapnel is, and now they insist upon calling a rifleman a sniper. These errors are not minor.

We do not think it is a good idea to "arm pilots," but we insist that pilots should be encouraged to arm themselves if they so desire and so qualify. This "group thinking" is one of the curses of the age.

Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia, who is one of our stalwarts in the United States Congress, was unable to put through a bill allowing pilots to protect themselves with firearms, if necessary. But he tells us that he has not given up, and that the matter will be brought up again. As we have insisted in the past, aircraft pilots should not be armed by law, but should not be prevented by law from arming themselves. This is a personal matter rather than an organizational one.

Since a certain kind of social commentator feels that the answer to anything is a new law, we suggest that what Palestine needs is a new law against the irresponsible use of high explosives.

We call upon all the faithful to remember our annual celebration of Theodore Roosevelt's birthday and Gunsite Reunion on 18 - 20 October. We have interesting ideas for your presentations at the reunion this year, and we will be announcing them from time to time. When you decide what sort of declamation you fancy, please let us know so we will not have too much duplication. We want music this time, so please bring autoharps, keyboards and such so we can accompany ourselves.

At a time when people like Bill Clinton and Al Gore make it embarrassing to be an American, it is refreshing to read the writings of TR and to remember what a fine thing it is to be an American.

Not only does the world keep changing, but even the Marine Corps, sad to say. We remember encountering our first girl marine up at a navy yard where my ship had put in for repairs. Here I was innocently hiking down the street, when this trim chick in a green suit, appropriately badged and flashed with scarlet, popped me a very neat salute, along with the adjoining "Good afternoon, Sir." Naturally I returned the salute as properly as I could, but I staggered down the street wondering just what had happened here. Marines are killing machines, and that chick back there behind me, while jaunty enough, did not appear properly attuned to the job of throat cutting. I discovered later that she had signed up "to free a man to fight," which I was told was a good idea. Okay, good enough, and I served later with several clerk/stenographer types in Quantico who were a distinct asset to the organization. But in the new age a couple of years ago I crashed head on into the end of the world. On the ground floor of the Key Bridge Marriot Hotel in Arlington, I spotted this lass in front of me, who when she turned revealed three stars on her collar. This was a lieutenant general? A Chesty Puller? A Brute Krulak? A Lou Walt? If this is the case, water must flow uphill. I am clearly too old for modern times.

We have announced it before, but I say it again here that we expect better results in our classes from people who have no previous experience with firearms. We have good success in programming new reflexes, but breaking bad habits is sometimes impossible.

We note that there has been a supply of modified Steyr Scouts introduced into the US market last year. These guns are painted black and feature a ping-pong ball bolt handle, and they are not fitted at the factory with a proper Scout trigger. If you have one of these, you can fix it. The stock can be painted any color you want, a new bolt knob is easy, and a conventional trigger of the Zedrosser action is subject to modification and improvement by a good gunsmith.

I suppose it is impolite to mention it, but it was George Bush the First who let Saddam Hussein get away. That is water under the bridge and recriminations are useless, but this lack of decisiveness seems likely to haunt us for a very long time.

Since we cannot seem to find out whether OBL is alive or dead, our lottery as to his time of death must be placed on hold. If the date you have chosen is now past, we will just put it on the calendar for next time around. Of course the character must die sometime, but obviously they will try to keep it a secret. Since it may be very difficult to award the prize, we must dream up some very elaborate prizes in order to hold your interest.

Gun South, which organization used to be the importer of Steyr Mannlicher in the states, seems trying to unload the inventory that it had. This indicates that if you can find a Steyr Scout, or a "Blac Tac," or a Dragoon anywhere at any price, buy it right now. Or buy two. Those pieces can do nothing but increase in value. Besides which, they are more useful and practical instruments than anything available elsewhere. Guns are for shooting, not for trading, but there are a lot of tradesmen who do not seem to understand this.

I suggest you get your copy of "Gargantuan Gunsite," first or second edition, hard bound. In their paperback form they wear out pretty quickly, especially since they are reference works and are often consulted.

Shooting Master John Gannaway points out that all you really need is a 22 and a 30-06. While I go along with that, I cannot avoid making a couple of perhaps unnecessary additions. First of all, the 308 is the ballistic twin of the 30-06 now with modern loadings, and even without the modern loadings the differences are too slight to matter. So your Steyr Scout in 308 will do what you need, unless you are a specialist. Certainly you need a 22 rifle, and there are scores of good ones around, but also you can probably establish need for a 22 pistol. This is most obvious if you live in the country. And then there is the matter of the shotgun. Some people really need a shotgun, both for home defense and for recreation. So I guess I would expand my minimum list to include a Steyr Scout, a Marlin 39 22 (particularly an older model without the cross-bolt safety), a compact 22 self-loading pistol, and a good grade self-loading 12-gauge shotgun. That is four guns, hardly enough to satisfy an aficionado, but certainly enough for others. Living as I have all my life amongst shooters, I cannot think of anyone who owns only four guns. On the other hand I think that when you get up into the hundreds you are overstating the case.

Unfortunately the color edition of "The Art of the Rifle" got some of its captions crossed up in the second half of the book. You will discover which ones by study, and make the necessary corrections.

Is it possible for something to be deadly and silly at the same time? Islam comes to mind.

The new Walther 22 compact pistol shows great promise. Everybody needs a 22 pistol, but which one is a matter for discussion. Most 22s intended for target shooting are too big and cumbersome for convenient use around the farm. Of course you are most likely to keep the one you already have.

It does seem that at this point coping is unfashionable. A man who can cope is an elitist, which is a very dreadful thing to be. If you can cope, you are better than other people, and those other people tend to hate you for it. Consider the use of the English language. If you use it well you will be held up to scorn and ridiculed by a majority - especially in England, of all places. The English language is a marvelous instrument, and no one ever really masters it, but it is nonetheless great fun to try. If people hiss at you for trying, let them hiss. They are the losers.

We threw the Moors out of Spain in 1492, but evidently we did not throw them far enough.

Reports from Afghanistan indicate that our boys are shooting pretty well - primarily, as it happens, with the M14. The bad guys are doing a lot of missing, though they have managed to kill one of our sergeants in what appears to be a straight out firefight. Both the M14 and the 1911 seem to be in great demand, though in short supply. You have to hit a man too many times with a 223 to get his attention. (If they had asked us we could have told them that.)

Apparently "the industry" thinks that we need a whole lot of new and different cartridges. Such are only significant to people who do not shoot. We do not need a lot of different cartridges. What we need is a lot of people who can shoot well. You can buy guns, but you cannot buy marksmanship.

Winchester announces a 270 Short, which we need like a V7 automobile engine. The 270 as it stands is a superb rifle round with a worldwide record of perfect service, but then so is the 30-06, of course.

Gunsite has had to give up on the Safari Prep course which I instigated a while back. There seems to be no demand for it. Apparently people who can afford the African adventure feel that their outfitter can tell them all they need to know. This may be true, but I have reason to doubt it. Besides, I enjoyed teaching that course very much, especially when we had a number of open-minded ladies in the class. It is widely believed that women make better students than men, and while I cannot verify that positively, I can certainly say that some women make better students than some men.

Family Member and Gunsite staff instructor Mitch Röthlisberger recently had a tour down in South Africa, working with the police combat reaction squads. These people use both the R1 in 308 and the R5 in 223, but they leave the R5s at home when there is serious trouble in the wind. Here again they report that with the varmint cartridge you have to shoot a man too many times before he stops shooting at you.

The Swiss, who have a good tradition of riflery, have gone somewhat agley in their recent smallarms program. They have decided that for their sniper units the answer is a 338 Lapua. This is an overly violent cartridge on which it will be difficult to produce marksmen of traditionally Swiss quality. It also will wear out barrels while you wait. The Lapua Magnum is measurably more powerful than the venerable 7.5 Swiss, but it will not do anything that a good man with a 7.5 cannot do just as well.

The Swiss have been doing a good job in resisting "progress" for most of the 20th century, but in many ways they seem to be succumbing in the 21st.

A man and his son showed up for rifle instruction and dropped out on the morning of the second day. They claimed that the course was not what they expected, and it was entirely too "stressful" for them. I sure do not know what is stressful about the first day of rifle instruction or, for that matter, what these two people expected to learn in a rifle class. But here we have an example of flabbiness of spirit which may be a sign of the times. Let us hope not.

"War is God's way of teaching Americans geography."

G.B. Shaw

The new uniform of the underclass seems to be baggy shorts, a cell phone in the ear, and a huge water bottle. One wonders how the West Was Won without this sort of thing.

From Frankie Lou Nicholson, "our man in Nebraska," we get this fine case study. A man is awakened by his wife who says she hears something. He gets up and looks around and sure enough sees thugs carrying stuff out of the shed behind his house and putting it in a vehicle. He dials 9-1-1. He is told that no sheriff's deputies are available at the moment - that it will be about 30 minutes before they can get to him. He hangs up, counts to 30 and dials 9-1-1 again. He says, "There's no hurry, I've shot them." Within three minutes he has three patrol cars in his yard. The sheriff says, "I thought you said you shot them." The man looks at the sheriff and says, "I thought you said it would be 30 minutes." That may even be a true story. Certainly we hope so.

I can find no fault at all in this matter of "profiling." If these creeps look like creeps, that is their problem, not ours.

As the Holy War proceeds it is obvious that the principle problem is target identification. Since the ragheads do not have nations, they can smack the Pentagon, but what do we smack? It is going to be a long haul.

A prominent Gunsite Family Member, who for obvious reasons will remain nameless, has discovered that airguns constitute a highly satisfactory solution to the problem of urban pigeons, an increasingly troublesome plague in some of our big cities. They require head shots, and that requires a high degree of precision, which of course should be encouraged. The sport is likely to be viewed askance by the City Fathers - but who's gonna know?

It turns out that now John Gannaway the Great has acquired an autographed first edition of "African Game Trails," which was TR's first-hand account of his classic safari. Perhaps we can persuade John to bring it along to the Reunion to show us.

It seems to me that the killer instinct is a normal attribute of the young male. It is there for all to see and it should not be suppressed, but rather directed. The "barefoot boy with cheeks of tan" out after ground squirrels with his 22 may be a rarity in today's urban society, but he still makes the best soldier when he grows up, and we do need soldiers. I have been around both hunters and soldiers all my life, and I find that this normal blood-thirst continues on into middle life and begins to subside only with the approach of old age. I think it is connected to the gonads, since it is not apparent in females, and dies out in males along with the sex drive. Young men experience it both in the hunting field and in battle, and do not let anyone tell you that he did not derive that visceral thrill when he was able to wreak havoc upon an enemy who was trying his best to kill him. The trepid may not agree with this, but I do not know many, and their opinions do not affect me much. The honest-to-God man likes to fight, as the late, great Finn Aagaard pointed out to us at a recent reunion. He may not enjoy heat, cold, thirst, starvation, pain, and fear, but when the trumpets blow and the flags fly (figuratively, of course, now) his heart sings. This is neither good nor bad, it is simply a truth.

If the country boy makes a better warrior than the city slicker, as has been suggested by several experienced senior soldiers, it may be because small-game hunting - squirrels, rabbits and such - accustoms the gunner to shooting for blood rather than paper. The Boers were not noted target marksmen, but they were practical marksmen, used to feeding themselves with their rifles. This may not be a new idea, but it has never been much publicized.

Rumor has it (Internet) that one Judge Patterson, of Denver, Colorado, has ruled that the Constitution of the United States of America has no legal force in the City of Denver because Denver is a "home rule" city. The usual website outpourings are difficult to authenticate, but we are looking into this.

"Youth may be an explanation for stupidity, but not an excuse."


Doubtless you now have heard about Oxana Fedorova of St. Petersburg (Petrograd), the new Miss Universe, who announces herself as a shottist. Pictures depict her as a pistolera. Now isn't that great! Perhaps we should arrange to ship her over from Russia to Gunsite, to pretty up our image amongst the hoplophobes.

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