Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 11, No. 13         November, 2003


These are certainly troubled times in which we live, but times have always been troubled and we must above all be thankful for the good that outweighs the bad. Even such a thing as the Iraqi war has aspects which make for satisfaction, despite what the news media have to say about it. As to that, the media have in recent months (or even years) manifested a hostility to our country and our culture which is every bit as treasonable as the behavior of Tokyo Rose and Axis Sally in World War II. Evidently these people are so anxious to see us lose that they report only our mishaps and ignore those things in which we can take pride - and those are many. At the Theodore Roosevelt Reunion at Whittington, I was able to converse at some length with family member Clint Ancker, who is just back from the Holy War in which he served as a civilian analyst of doctrine for the Army and understood much which I find to be completely fascinating. Despite what the media would have it, we are doing just fine in the Holy War. Clint is a scholar of consequence in these matters, and he assured me that our armed forces in the Middle East constitute the finest military effort ever seen throughout history. Our people are the best organized, best equipped, best trained, and best led ever to take up arms. If our smallarms are less efficient than they might be, that is balanced by the outstanding efficiency of our support weapons.

Prior to this action it was generally assumed that tanks could not be used in urban warfare because they are too vulnerable to handheld anti-tank weapons. We have discovered that this is not the case. Our splendid main battle tank is almost impervious to the rocket propelled grenade, which is the weapon of choice of the enemy. One of our machines was hit no less than thirteen times by RPGs without loss of serviceability. The RPG is indeed a nuisance, but it is essentially a slob weapon, suitable for slob armies. It will take out a truck, but only exceptionally a tank. This does not mean that our people are safe. Tank commanders preferably fight unbuttoned with a squirt gun at the ready. When they turn a street corner and detect a Moor threatening with an RPG, they simply hose him down. In this case, the limitations of the 223 cartridge do not render it ineffective.

And we have perfected the wonderful technique of sniping with heavy artillery. The ragheads have access to a number of fairly effective anti-aircraft guns which they try to use as anti-tank weapons, and they place them in close proximity to a mosque, or some such presumably untouchable target. (We must be nice to the enemy, of course.) When this is done, we have found it possible to take the gun out with an inert shell from our marvelously accurate 8-inch howitzer. This piece can place its first round in a target no larger than a jacuzzi at the ranges encountered in urban warfare. The gunners simply replace the fuse with an inactive plug, and where that iron fist lands it takes out the gun and the crew without damage to the mosque. Amazing! The Air Force also is using this technique with its fantastic "smart bombs."

There is more and better besides. I did not have time to go into the matter thoroughly with Clint, but the tales are inspiring. Our people are just great, at all levels from regimental command down to squad, and we should be enormously proud of them, despite what our subversive propagandists would have us believe. It is true that the Moors shoot back. When you go to war (as Islam did) people get killed. When a whole lot of people are doing their best to kill us, some will occasionally succeed, but that is not what is newsworthy. What is newsworthy is our success, not the casualties we may suffer. In my active days it was assumed that if a training program does not kill about one man per thousand it should be reexamined and beefed up. If our people were going about their business stateside, our casualty rate would probably be somewhat higher than it is on active duty in Iraq.

We understand that some military outfits, evidently manned by people who have not been sufficiently educated, are trying to eliminate Rule 3. This is as big a step backward as we can call to mind. One correspondent tells us that his young son, just now being introduced to shooting, announced perceptively that all firearms mishaps that he ever heard of could have been avoided by observation of Rule 3. ("Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target.")

Street crime in Britain has been increasing steadily over the past decade, and much of it has been committed with firearms. Therefore the British seem to think that they have a "gun problem." Actually these homicides are almost all committed by immigrant gangsters whom Kipling would term "lesser breeds without the law." Thus it appears that the British do not have a gun problem, but they do have a race problem. Obviously you cannot talk about that.

The Eleventh Reunion was fully as much fun as expected, and we were treated to perfect weather throughout. It turns out that a hen's egg at a hundred paces is pretty safe from rifle offhand - to no one's surprise. Those old Afrikaaners were very thrifty with their eggs. A good man can stay in a 4- or 5-inch ring from offhand at a hundred paces, but to hit that egg calls for luck. However we did hit it, if not often. The flying clays are a continuing pleasure, though no one is likely to catch Marc Heim's record of four out of five - not even Marc. The "Chase Away," in which you harass a pop can along the ground, revealed the purpose of the new 500 Smith & Wesson megawheelly. It does tear up the ground more forcefully than the competition. We remember a moment from the old days when Jack Weaver, having achieved a highly fortuitous liftoff with his first shot, was able to hit the tin can in the air with his second. The helium-filled balloons, which are available only at Whittington, are always popular, as was John Gannaway's shotgun program. This year we instituted a children's familiarization program so that every youngster in attendance could say that he had actually fired a real gun. Obviously there should be more of this throughout the country. The hatfull of Steyr Scouts in attendance further enhanced the reputation of that sweet rifle. Apparently it fills a small niche, since most recreational shooters would like to have a lot of specialized rifles rather than one which will do all the jobs. If you have a Steyr Scout, you do not need any other rifle, unless you specialize in elephants, hippos or buffalo. But then, I suppose, everyone really should have his personal elephant gun.

We note that the Ruger people now offer a single-shot heavy called The Tropic, for the man who has everything. I guess it makes sense to the marketers, but I will be happy to let somebody else have mine.

We see that the foolish cross-bolt safety offered for a while on the lever-guns has been discontinued. This is a good idea. That gadget was a mistake to begin with. It is annoying to see this preoccupation with mechanical safeties, which really serve no purpose other than to give the duffer a feeling of false confidence. Safety, of course, lies between the ears, not between the hands.

We sometimes wonder whether really top grade marksmanship is necessary to the efficient rifleman. We know of cases where bad shooting proved disastrous, but we find it hard to discover a case in which gilt-edged target performance made a difference in the field. If you are a good shot and have the right mind-set you will succeed in the field, but the proper mind-set remains the primary essential. Keeping your head and knowing what you are trying to do make for success. It is nice if you are a record-breaking marksman, but you will make out fine as long as you are just a pretty-good marksman, provided you are thinking straight.

We see a good deal of ill-considered advice in a recently released book on 22 pistols. The author suggests a safety rule to the effect that one should never load a weapon until he is ready to shoot. It does not seem to have occurred to this man that it is impossible make an appointment for an emergency. I have never heard of a case in which a man had the luxury of loading his piece after the fight had started.

Word from the front suggests that a lanyard loop on a pistol is a very desirable item. It has always seemed so to us, but the marketers do not understand this.

Back when I was teaching high school, we spent some time on the differentiation between sin and crime. A given act may be both, of course, but another may be only one. I used to ask students in the senior problems class to think over the weekend and bring in on Monday three examples of acts which were sins but not crimes, and crimes which were not sins. (It is very annoying to a high school student to ask him to think.) The difference is critical. You may evade the law, but you cannot evade your conscience. Essentially you get your conscience from your parents. If you have no parents, and you have no conscience, you are in for a bad time.

Shooting Master John Gannaway tells us that excessive shotgun practice does not harm one's rifle skills, but that excessive rifle practice tends to ruin the shotgunner. Not being a shotgunner myself, that thought never occurred to me.

It is very difficult to understand how we can have Moslem chaplains in the US Army. Islam has effectively declared war upon all unbelievers. Even if all Moslems do not commit these religious murders, they do not seem to condemn those who do. Those of us who cannot read Arabic can never be quite sure of the words of the Prophet (may peace be upon him). But as far as the idea comes across in English, the physical destruction of the infidel must be the aim of every devout Moslem. For us to employ a clergyman (?) in our forces to look after the spiritual welfare of people who want us to lose the Holy War is totally paradoxical. On the tube just now we saw a Palestinian who, speaking flawless English, announced that the aim of every Palestinian should be the death of every Jew in the world. These people must certainly find philosophical agreement with Adolph Hitler.

And now Smith & Wesson is offering a titanium light-weight M29. This is another thing that puzzles me. The regular steel M29 bounces pretty hard, and making it lighter is not going to help that. In no configuration is a 44 Magnum a really portable sidearm. If you need a megawheelly, I do not think you need a fly-weight.

There are people in positions of importance today who know how Vince Foster was murdered, and who did it, but apparently we have decided to drop that subject. And then, of course, there is Lon Horiuchi. I suppose he has squared the matter with his conscience, but I am darned if I know how.

Back in my early rifle shooting days when I was being carefully coached in the ROTC, our best shots regularly scored a possible from sitting. I have always been personally fond of a properly acquired, open-legged sitting position, properly looped up. It has always been able to achieve whatever is necessary in the field. It is better for the hunter than for the soldier, since the soldier will always go prone if he has the chance. But if the shooter has learned to loop up and hit sitting in a couple of seconds he has acquired a most useful skill - something he will never achieve by use of a bench rest.

Our wanderings suggest that about half of our citizenry walks around in public with cell phone glued to the ear. This suggests that if each cell phone mounted a single, smooth-bore 380 tube, nobody would know who was armed and who was not. This might serve to take muggers right off the street.

This matter of political correctness has got totally out of hand. I think we should regard PC as signifying "Peer Censorship." "Peer pressure," which seems to be accepted as inevitable by our current crop of elementary educators, is one of the things which should be trained out of a well-brought-up child. It seems to us that a child should never do anything just because others do it, or to refrain from doing something because others do not, according to the lemming principle. On the contrary he should be taught to think for himself and to do what he knows is right, regardless of this peer business.

In our continued readings into the history of metallurgy, we get the impression that the gladius hispaniensis, which Caesar brought back from Spain to Rome, was distinguished not so much by its configuration as by its composition. Apparently the metalworkers of Spain had discovered things about steel working that had not been understood by the Greeks, Romans or Gauls. Illustrations from several centuries before Julius Caesar portray swords shaped very much like the weapons illustrated in Roman frescos. The shape was pretty much the same, so it must have been the steel itself that made the gladius the triumphant weapon of the age. Livy tells us that the Gauls were continuously trying to bend their swords back into shape by stamping on them. Whatever these weapons were made of was pretty unsatisfactory. Any modern citizen who works with steel can tell you all about the steel he uses, but he is not usually able to tell you how it got that way and who learned about it in the first place. The steel in the Spanish sword which I have on the wall is superb, but somehow I do not think the smith in Toledo who made it knows why. In any case if I asked him he would not tell me.

"The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities."

Theodore Roosevelt

Has it ever occurred to you that half the people you run into are below average?

At Whittington we set up the OK Corral Drill, as we used to put it on at Big Bear Lake. It turns out that this takes about three seconds for four Earps to take out five Clantons. Eyewitnesses of the actual event talk about a duration of about half a minute. Of course, on the range you know you are going to have to shoot. Prior to the shoot combatants at Tombstone probably did not have their minds set. However it is interesting to see that well qualified pistoleros are so startlingly lethal.

The many entertainments that we enjoyed at the Reunion are too numerous to catalog in a short paper, but we were impressed, as usual, by the variety of talent displayed by the Gunsite family. We now have songs for all occasions and powerful declamations as well.

It is worth noting, in view of all the hand-wringing broadcast about the horrors of war, that the two greatest men of the 20th century, Roosevelt I and Winston Churchill, notably and specifically enjoyed fighting. We do not have to assume this. They wrote their impressions down. A certain enfeeblement of morale is displayed in the age of televison, and possibly television itself is responsible for the emasculation of the race. Regardless of what we may be told, we are not yet a bunch of wimps. Our warriors are conducting themselves with conspicuous credit, despite the opinions of those who would have it otherwise.

You may have noticed an odd vehicle in the pictures coming back from Baghdad. It resembles a curiously squat tank mounting a short, fat cannon. This is the Engineered Demolition Vehicle (EDV) designed for wrecking buildings in urban combat. It mounts a 6-inch direct-fire gun of astonishing destructive effect, and it is used for blowing buildings out of the way. The Germans had something like this in the first stages of World War II, but it vanished when tank battles became the norm. It works well, but its users must be careful to stay well buttoned up in action to avoid the enormous blast effect of its projectile.

The people we select as our chief executives should be men of unimpeachable character. This was obvious at one time, and it still is to some people, but clearly not to everyone. The following paragraph is from a paper directed to the people of Massachusetts in the year 1840. (It was selected and presented to the Theodore RooseveIt Reunion by Pete Chinburg of New Hampshire.) It may be a touch overwritten, but its meaning is clear.
"Thus is closed the examination of the rights, powers, and duties of the Executive department. ... All, that seems desirable in order to gratify the hopes, secure the reverence, and sustain the dignity the nation, is, that it should always be occupied by a man of elevated talents, of ripe virtues, of incorruptible integrity, and of tried patriotism; one, who shall forget his own interests, and remember, that he represents not a party, but the whole nation; one, whose fame may be rested with posterity, not upon the false eulogies of favorites, but upon the solid merit of having preserved the glory, and enhanced the prosperity of the country."

It is a continuing annoyance to see people messing around with the safety rules. The four that have been developed over the years suffice entirely as now stated. There is no need for more, and we really cannot get by with fewer. However, some half-educated enthusiasts keep trying to make up a new set, or to add or subtract, which does nothing but serve to confuse matters. A major point of issue is Rule 1, "All guns are always loaded." There are people who insist that we cannot use this because it is not precisely true. Some guns are sometimes unloaded. These folks maintain that the rule should read that one should always treat all guns as if they were loaded. The trouble here is the "as if," which leads to the notion that the instrument at hand may actually not be loaded. This leads to disaster, yet we hear it all the time. Sometimes it appears we become so obsessed with the ephemeral goal of safety that we lose sight of the purpose of the exercise. Safety is not first. Safety is second. Victory (or success) is first.

Ideas which are set to verse are more easily remembered. With this in mind daughter Lindy composed the following lyric to be sung to the tune of "The Ruler of the Queen's Navy" from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "HMS Pinafore."

When I was a child my Dad taught me
That a shotist was a satisfying thing to be.

He showed me a pistol and a rifle true
A variety of armament a time or two.

CHORUS: A variety of armament a time or two.

I was taught to handle weapons so carefully
That the safety rules are truly now a part of me.

CHORUS: I was taught to handle weapons so carefully
That the safety rules are really just a part of me.

All guns are always loaded as they ought to be.
Always check a gun yourself and always look to see.

And you never let the muzzle of a gun (even a toy)
Cover anything that you're not willing to destroy.

CHORUS: Cover anything that you're not willing to destroy.

All guns are always loaded as they ought to be
If they're not they're really hardly any use to me.

CHORUS: All guns are always loaded as they ought to be.
Always check a gun yourself and always look to see.

Be certain of the target that you wish to hit
What's behind, beneath, beside, on top and under it.

Keep your finger off the trigger only just until
Your sights are on the target and you're set to kill.

CHORUS: Your sights are on the target and you're set to kill.

All guns are always loaded as they ought to be
If they're not they're really hardly any use to me.

CHORUS: All guns are always loaded as they ought to be
Always check a gun yourself and always look to see.

Now these are the rules in songlike form
They'll be easy to remember if you're like the norm.

Just take these safety rules to heart you'll see
You'll be safe as any human on this earth can be.

CHORUS: You'll be safe as any human on this earth can be.

These rules are so important - as they ought to be.
To be safe as any human on this earth can be.

CHORUS: Just take these safety rules to heart you'll see
You'll be safe as any human on this earth can be.

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