Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 11, No. 1 February 2003
Certainly we enter upon a banner year,
from any aspect. One hundred years ago the Wright Brothers got us
off the ground (with no help from the Prophet, may peace be upon
him). And now we have walked upon the moon. Among that year's
special notabilities, we have the great Springfield 03 rifle, which
served as the pattern model for all such weapons to come. The
"Springfield Sporter" was the proud possession of the senior big
game hunter for many decades, and it was usually backed up by the
innovative Mannlicher carbine, also of the year 1903. One wonders
what sort of weaponry, if any, shall distinguish the year 2003. Our
personal weapons have reached a state in which any conceptual
improvement is hard to imagine. We have produced gadgets which will
do almost anything for us that we may desire - with a couple
of obvious exceptions. So we may well ask, where do we go from
If we can hardly improve upon our gadgetry, there are certainly
many ways in which we can improve upon our performance, but
improving one's performance is difficult, and the temper of the age
appears to emphasize ease rather than excellence in operation.
Perhaps an automatic football is the next thing we may expect, with
which one may just punch in a touchdown and await results.
Without speculation we face a challenging year in 2003. May God
grant that we measure up!
We were honored to attend the Scottsdale
memorial services for Joe Foss, the last great man of the twentieth
century. It was an inspiring occasion, and emphasized yet again
that happiness is the by-product of accomplishment. Joe Foss was
the definitive high achiever of his time. Everything he did, he did
better than other people. All his life he was an enthusiastic
marksman, and a marvelously good shot. I knew him only slightly,
but I was able to verify this. I was able to furnish him with a
superb sporting rifle, to his own specifications, and it was
delightful to know that he used it delightfully well.
He was a great man, an obvious refutation of the proposal that all
men are created equal, and all who knew him were enriched by the
experience. May he rest in peace.
"There is no safety for honest men, except by believing
all possible evil of evil men."
Edwin Burke, via Thomas Sowell
We have been running down this great 45
action story from Vietnam, and we discover the matter to be
complicated. It seems that citation writers do not have to be
especially competent in the details of the subject examined. The
hero on the downed helicopter accordingly decks between one and 37
gooks, depending upon whose story you take. We will keep after
We were amused to see a news caption from
the San Francisco Chronicle referring to the Steyr Scout as "a rare
and expensive rifle made in Austria." I suppose these people refer
to a Porsche as a "rare and expensive automobile made in
We all agree that every proper household
must contain a 22. A rural household should properly have two such.
What sort of 22 is a good subject for discussion. I tend to think
first about a light, short, handy rifle, featuring a clean, light
trigger pull and a good set of ghost-ring sights. If it is to be
used principally as a trainer for the young, it should probably be
a single-shot, though this is not a requirement. If a repeater is
selected, my first choice would be for the classic Marlin 39
levergun, in a short-barrel version. Prewar production is
preferable, both for quality of workmanship and absence of the
questionable cross-bolt "safety". Any of the good bolt-action
repeaters should do fully as well, but the levergun is a touch
neater. A combination over/under 410/22 has much to recommend it,
if you can find a good example.
Any of the good 22 handguns will give good service, but high
quality is important. There are plenty of junk 22s around, but they
do not suffice. Most of the self-loading 22s of good quality are
too large and heavy for best service, but they will do well for
The classic house-22 was the Colt Woodsman. In my youth everybody
had one, though there were more six-inch models in evidence than
four-inch. The Woodsman was superceded by Bill Ruger's excellent
version of the same weapon. It was every bit as good as the
Woodsman, and it cost less. Ruger's aluminum Single-Six, in
Peacemaker configuration, is an especially fine house gun, if you
can find one with a good trigger, but maybe the best of the lot in
theory is the Walther PPK and its clones. This is a self-loader, of
course, and thus regarded askance by various sorts of regulators.
It does not usually feature good sights, but that can be corrected.
The new model Walther, called simply PP, is improved in many
We must bear in mind that the 22 rimfire weapon must not be dry
fired, lest its firing pin burr the mouth of the chamber. (A piece
so abused may be easily de-burred, however, with a good quality
I wish to point out firmly that I do not recommend the 22, either
rifle or pistol, as a primary house defense gun. As a couple of
readers have suggested, it will do for lack of anything better, in
cool hands, but its primary purpose is not combat shooting. It is a
recreational and utilitarian device to be used for the training of
the young and the leaning down of the varmint population. Also it
is a very satisfactory pot shooter in jurisdictions where small
game may be legally taken for the table. For whatever purpose, you
must have one. There over the kitchen door it is the evidence of a
well run household.
The surest evidence of celebrity is being
misquoted in the public press. We must bear that in mind.
According to George Mason, all mature
American citizens are members of the militia. A well regulated
militia should be composed of people qualified with the current
individual arm of the United States services. This is the M16.
Accordingly, everybody should be checked out with this weapon. The
fact that it is capable of fully automatic fire may be a horrible
idea to the hoplophobes, but I guess they will just have to face up
"Political correctness is the oppression
of the majority by the minority." Who said that?
Question: How many true believers does it take to
change a light bulb?
Answer: None. Allah will take care of the matter.
It has long been clear that when most
shooters use the word "accuracy," they are more likely to mean
"shootability," which is not the same thing. Absolute accuracy can
only be determined by means beyond the reach of most casual gun
owners, but some pieces are indeed easier to hit with than others.
Most factory arms are more accurate, in the technical sense, than
all but a few shooters can appreciate, but various good examples
are indeed more shootable. I have had occasion to present rifles to
two different celebrities, who upon practice reported back that
their weapons were strikingly accurate. The feature I think they
were appreciating was trigger-action. A really good trigger, which
breaks lightly and cleanly without apparent motion, is the greatest
single element of shootability. Such a trigger comes native on the
Blaser R93, because it has no sear. However, the same action can be
achieved on conventional triggers by careful mechanical effort. The
first series of Steyr Scouts came over the counter with triggers
set up at the factory to my standards. Various legalists
subsequently decided that any trigger under about four-pounds
weight constitutes a liability hazard. A good man can do very well
with a poor trigger-action, but not as well as he might. This is
especially obvious from unsupported positions. On a bench-rest it
"The love of violence is inherent in the
human (male) spirit. The attempt to train it out of boys is both
futile and immoral."
I believe that rifle stocks are more
useful on the short side. The proliferation of rear-mounted
telescope sights, which is the primary cause of Kaibab eye, has led
gunmakers to the erroneous idea that a long rifle stock will keep
the glass out of your eye. It won't. The rearward (ocular) lens of
a telescope sight should ride no farther to the rear than the rear
curve of the trigger-guard. With the Scoutscope, of course, that
ocular lens rides forward of the magazine well and avoids the
problem entirely. The Scoutscope is thus also quicker to
A correspondent informs us that he can
always print a cloverleaf with his pistol from 25 yards, off-hand.
Such undiscovered mastery must be kept hidden lest this man be
discovered by the enemy.
What is all this excitement about
vaccination? In my youth everybody was vaccinated - most of us
twice - and nobody ever fell ill on this account. And we did
eliminate smallpox, which is a very evil affliction, almost
entirely. Not being vaccinated because you might show a bad result
is rather like not wearing a seatbelt because you might want to get
out of your car in a hurry, a dangerous solution to an almost
With all these "peacemaking" troops
wandering around in blue helmets, we should point out that the
classic American Peacemaker is the legendary Colt Single-Action
Army revolver. The origin of that nickname is impossible to
ascertain at this date, but it does indeed fit the subject. A fully
armed society is a peaceful society, in largest measure. Scholarly
investigations into the character of the "Wild West" discover that
while individual animosity was occasionally settled in barroom
brawls with sidearms, the streets of the towns were conspicuously
peaceful, especially after dark, which is certainly more than you
can say about what we have today.
To surrender one's personal weapon is to
invite disaster. This has been obvious for so long and so often
that there is probably a Greek word for the practice. If called
upon to give up your gun by a superior force, you are faced with an
evil choice, but if you retain it you at least retain your dignity.
One thinks of the Fancher train, wherein the emigrants were assured
that if they dropped their guns they would not be harmed. One
thinks of Piet Retief, who was told that he and his people could
not enter the presence of the king in possession of their arms. One
thinks of the German Jews under Hitler - and one thinks of
British street crime today.
In contrast one thinks of Hartmann, the all time high scoring
fighter-pilot who, when asked to leave his pistol outside when
being awarded his medal by Hitler, declaimed that "If the Führer
doesn't trust me, I do not want his medal."
"Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat
Word from our man in Australia tells us
that the current prime minister regards the American "gun culture"
with horror. He is actively determined to disarm the Australian
people, and dismally enough they seem inclined to accept his
leadership. A hoplophobe is one who is neurotically obsessed with
the idea that weapons possess a will of their own, and thus if
people do not have access to firearms they will not be bad people.
There have been bad people around for a lot longer than there have
been guns. Morals are not a matter of mechanics.
It is hardly in line with the gun
business, but we have been increasingly fascinated by this curious
Hydrurga beast of the Antarctic rim. This is known as the
"leopard seal," and as a voracious, one-thousand pound carnivore,
he can be a pretty serious matter. A recent biological report
maintains that the several attacks by Hydrurga upon people
was motivated "more out of curiosity than aggressiveness." Just so.
A carnivore is always curious about anything that may be good to
eat - or maybe the beast simply wants to know your name, rank
and serial number.
It is amusing to learn of these
translation machines which now propose to solve all the world's
communication problems. Years ago we were told of one which, when
called upon to translate "The spirit is willing but the flesh is
weak" into Russian, came up with "The ghost is ready but the meat
is raw." There are still things beyond the reach of
And now the Steyr Scout has been
discovered to be an "assault rifle" in California. Before we moved
thence we were under the impression that California was about to be
washed into the sea. We made it just in time.
One custom gunmaker of stature has
commented to me that the Steyr Scout has practically put him out of
business. Naturally I am sorry to hear this, but I sought in the SS
to achieve a product which would be ready for almost any task
out-of-the-box without modification or addition; and that, of
course, injures the customizer to the extent that it succeeds. The
SS is not perfect - nothing is - but it is up there above
90 percent, and the fact that it is not available in left-hand
version does not distress five-sixths of a population. The SS
stands at the top of the list, as I hoped it would, for those who
need or desire a general-purpose rifle. Its acceptance is hindered
by the fact that most gun buyers do not use their weapons afield
enough to appreciate excellence when they see it. So be it. Time
We hear that the Arabs missed a 757 on
takeoff with two separate surface-to-air missiles. Thank God for
A good friend of ours included the
following passage in his Christmas letter. "As a PEO we outsource
human resource functions and risk management for other companies."
If this sentence had been translated into Greek I think I would
understand it better - and I never studied Greek. This man is
a Gunsite graduate and a good shot, and when he resorts to newspeak
he shows how far I have been left behind.
We hear that Fred Wells, the
distinguished rifle designer of Prescott, Arizona, is now producing
a pilot version of the "700 BMG Improved," for those who have
need of such a device. The line forms on the right.
We were asked by a correspondent to
compare the stopping power of the 45-70 to that of the 30-06.
Stopping power is too abstruse a subject for technical analysis,
despite the many attempts, but I would estimate the 45-70 to be
slightly superior on dangerous game at very short range (40 paces
and under). I believe, however, that any difference is too slight
to matter, assuming proper bullets in both cartridges. The 06, of
course, is a much more versatile cartridge. It will operate with
practical efficiency at ranges beyond those of the 45. Since
dangerous game is normally taken up close, the superior practical
range of the 06 may not be significant here, but it is a
general-purpose cartridge, whereas today the 45-70 is a specialist
tool. In Jim West's "Co-pilot" the 45-70 is a jewel for the big
game guide, but there are not many of those. In any case, if you
put the bullet in the right place, either round will do the
The bad news: Only 13 percent of American young men
know where Iraq is.
The good news: Most of the them are US Marines.
Rumor has it that Remington is
re-introducing a version of their excellent 600 carbine series.
What is even better news is that they are introducing it in the
excellent 350 Remington Short Magnum cartridge, which was a direct
ancestor of the 376 Steyr. I have used the 350 SM extensively,
and I have taken not only deer, but moose, zebra and lion with it.
It is a very fine medium cartridge, and if makers do not understand
that, it is their loss.
For people who are concerned about lead
spray from steel targets, we point out that spray is distributed in
a circular pattern perpendicular to the angle of impact. It goes
up, down and sideways regardless of the aspect of the target. (You
can test this by cardboard shrouding if you wish.) Thus nothing
much is accomplished by slanting the target at minor angles.
Eventually, of course, you will achieve ricochets, but target
display will suffer.
In a lifetime of experimentation, we have
discovered a great deal that newcomers are discovering again. One
has but to ask.
Have you heard of the Denver Park fox? It
seems that a bunch of polypragmatic theraphiles (now there
is something to bite on!) discovered a red fox apparently marooned
on floating ice in a park lake situated in downtown Denver. Wild
alarm resulted. All sorts of government agencies were alerted and
people charged around madly in all directions seeking community
action for the rescue of the fox. After the uproar died down, it
was discovered that this particular fox made a practice of sunning
himself daily on floating ice in the park when it was available. He
had the situation entirely in hand, which is more than you can say
for the bambiists.
Crocodiles continue to be a hazard to
human life in Australia, as well as the South Pacific. Their
preferred prey, as you might suppose, is the tourist. In today's
world, indigent tourists wander hither and yon with their backpacks
and their sleeping bag totally devoid of bush knowledge.
During the holidays just past we were
depressed by an occasional whiff of the anti-Christ, which we
detected from time-to-time during the festivities. Christmas is a
Christian holiday - see to the title - and the
United States is a Christian nation, despite the efforts
of the post-moderns to deny this. The Founding Fathers - those
dead white males - were quite clear about this, and to the
extent that we do not accept it we are unworthy of the nation they
founded. Tolerance may be a virtue, but it is not unmitigated.
Tolerance of sin is not a virtue. It may not be sinful to be
un-Christian, but it is a start.
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.