Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 11, No. 6          May 2003

Sumer Is Icumen In

The annual meeting of the NRA gave us much to think about. We bid goodbye to our outstanding president, Charlton Heston, who served the association splendidly during his three terms, and welcomed new president Police Chief Kayne Robinson, who is well on top of the situation. That situation is never easy. The foes of liberty never sleep, and the less sense they make the louder they howl. They do not accept the fact that THE ARMED CITIZEN IS IN ITSELF THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNAL SECURITY. No government can tyrannize an armed citizenry, as has been proven throughout history. The armed citizen can be ruled only by his own consent, and this is obvious to both sides of the political spectrum. I think we may assume that the good people will always outnumber the bad people, and thus if all people are equipped and ready to protect their liberties, those liberties can never be destroyed. This has always seemed simple to those of us in our camp. Why it is not so to people on the other side remains a puzzlement. So we take continued pride and comfort in our Association, the oldest and most distinguished civil rights gathering in the world.

The NRA is not perfect. Nothing is. But the remedy for that is to get into it and make it so. There is always room for argument, and the truth, reached by argument, shall make you free.

As of yet we have not found the remains of Mesopotamian Misfit, and perhaps we will not. Those were big bombs. He may, of course, still be alive, along with Osama bin Laden, but the Holy War calls for leadership, so we will wait for the next prophet to step right up. The line forms on the left.

At the exhibits at Orlando, we were struck again by the imagination displayed by the Taurus people. They have come up with a number of outstanding revolvers, making wide use of titanium, and have produced a couple of items which actually fill an apparent niche. Their little bright blue-and-gold lady's revolver is quite charming. I certainly do not call it a service pistol, but as a social jewel it is delightful. It seems to me that the place of the revolver is not in combat service, but rather in the hands of those who are not going to be recreational shooters and cannot be expected to spend much time or effort on their marksmanship or gunhandling. The revolver has fewer buttons to push and switches to press, and calls for less familiarity with its mechanics than the auto-pistol. One might ask why anyone who is not going to be a recreational marksman should have access to a handgun, but that is a rather awkward point. If one is not prepared to learn to manage a mechanism, perhaps he should stand clear of the mechanism, but life sometimes is not as simple as that. We might say that if one is not prepared to learn to drive well, he should not drive a car. The theory has some merit, but it does not stand up to reality. In any case, these Taurus revolvers, from the "Titanium Sledgehammer" to the lady's jewelry, is interesting. Somebody at Taurus has been thinking about things, which is unusual in the industry.

The poodle shooter seems to put the ragheads down in fairly satisfactory fashion, especially since the range in today's wars is short.

Hanneken pulled off his exploit before I was born, and he pulled it off with a 1911. Also he produced the body, slung over his shoulder, which is more than we were able to do with the B1. If this makes me guilty of codgerism, I am not prepared to deny it. Codgers have been known to do very well, from Moses down through MacArthur. If the results are there, we need not apologize.

Field reports from Iraq reveal such miserable gunhandling that we must ask ourselves about what amounts to social degeneration. Throughout the 20th century we Americans have had occasion to handle literally millions of smallarms, and we did so largely without mishaps. The only case I ran across in my entire service was judged by a court of inquiry to be a self-inflicted wound, rather than a negligent discharge. Now we find ourselves confronted with huge numbers of young men who do not seem to be able to keep finger off trigger, or to keep firearms properly pointed. Can television be the cause of this, or is it the deliberate, intentional gelding of the young American male? A boy should be taught proper gunhandling by his father. If he has no father, this is difficult. Possibly in a two-income family there is no time for fathers properly to educate sons. Education is what you get at home - what you get, or should get, at school is training. What seems to have developed is a culture in which the fathers have no fathers, and this is a tough one to remedy - tougher in the face of urbanized hoplophobia.

This is no cause for despair. Annoyance possibly, but not despair. The soul of the American outdoorsman has not been lost, and it should be consciously cherished. Consider the example of our icon, TR the Great. When he rode through the night to assume the mantle of the presidency, as his predecessor slowly died, his most memorable remark was his opinion that if it had been he who had been shot, rather than McKinley, he, Roosevelt, would have killed his assailant before losing combat capability. That was some time ago, but we should not accept the idea that there are no more Americans like that. They are there - it is just that they get a bad press.

On the side of what is new, the A10 Warthog turned in a very fine performance in Mesopotamia. A ground attack aircraft depends upon air superiority. Rudel told me that he thought the A10 ought to have a backseat, since you cannot hunt targets and watch your six at the same time. He did not count on the luxury of a safe six, but the A10 is not likely to be plunked from behind by an enemy fighter plane in this day and age.

Mr. Rumsfeld has been conducting himself with distinction during this time of manifest media hostility. We were delighted by his Churchillian phrase, "Never have so many been so wrong about so much."

In the field, the 376 Steyr cartridge has done as well as expected. My one case study involved a bison taken at 82 yards, target angle about 320°. He was hit a little high and ran 20 paces after the hit. We lost the bullet (Hornady 270 soft-point) in the rumen, but penetration was quite sufficient even without exit. A bison is a big animal, and the 376 Steyr is perfect for the task.

Abu ibn Warraq in "Why I Am Not a Muslim"
"Islam has the resources to come into the 21st century, the problem is that it won't.

"It is extraordinary the amount of people who have written about 9/11 without mentioning Islam. It is the divinely ordained duty of every Muslim to fight until man-made law is replaced by God's law, which has conquered the entire world."

It seems obvious to me that the public buys firearms by the cartridge, rather than by the weapon. We have a surfeit of good cartridges, but the quality of the launchers is more open to discussion. All of the early 20th century military rifle cartridges perform flawlessly in the field. I cannot think of a case in which either a soldier or a big game hunter was betrayed by the inferior performance of his cartridge. (I will except the dismal little 30-caliber US carbine cartridge, but that was a conspicuous and unique exception.) The cartridges do fine, but the rifles themselves come in debatable variety. You cannot beat a 30-06 for general duty in the field, whether your target is a deer, a Marxist, a mountain goat, or a Jihadi. The weapons themselves, on the other hand, have displayed quite a bit of innovative ingenuity between 1900 and 1990.

This matter is even more obvious with handguns. The pistol has come back into its own these last two desert wars. In these the fighting was done mostly at night and the soldier often found himself laden with gadgetry at short range in the dark. That is pistol country, and our field reports emphasize this. When you are burdened with cell phone, GPI, gas mask, night goggles, or even RPGs, a two-handed firearm can be an encumbrance, especially when much contact takes place at rock-throwing distance. We had a superb pistol throughout the 20th century, until those in authority, having decided that a pistol is not an important military item, saddled us with a service sidearm which simply does not measure up. The 9mm M92 is, to begin with, underpowered. What do we want with the 9mm Parabellum cartridge when we have the proven 45 ACP? But beyond that, the M92 just does not function well in conditions of sand, mud or grit. Naturally any firearm functions better if it is kept clean, but keeping it clean can be a problem, especially in the desert. It is possible that I am unreasonably biased in favor of the grand old 1911 pistol, but I do not like it because it is pretty, I like it because it works. This is hardly news to anyone.

I think the gesture made by President Bush in landing on the carrier was excellent. George Bush is the most powerful man who ever lived on the face of the Earth, and for him to use our fantastically potent air arm as a vehicle to demonstrate this gives me great pleasure. Also it annoys the "hate America" people excessively, and this is always a good thing. (I would have preferred the troops to have kept their hats on during the address, but I guess that is too formal for The Age of the Common Man.)

This business of sneering at the French because of Chirac may be compared to cursing Americans because of Clinton. It seems odd that two positions were coincident. To waste perfectly good wine on an irrelevant political position makes us look as childish as the French would like to see us - not that it matters.

We recently had occasion to run a short publicity session with the Dragoon rifle. This is the up-power version of the Scout. According to my definition it is not a Scout, because one of the elements of that instrument is the general availability of ammunition, and ammunition for the 376 Steyr is not easy to come by. The 308 cartridge of the true Scout is available worldwide in quantity, and that is one of the advantages of the concept. You can do most of what needs to be done with a 308. I would not recommend it for elephant, but very few people hunt elephant anymore. I would not press it for buffalo, though a great many buffalo have been killed with the 303 British cartridge, which is ballistically the same as the 308. So I attempted to call the 376 version of the Scout "the Dragoon," though the factory disliked the idea, apparently because there are too many things in Europe referred to as Dragoons. So we have the 376 Steyr cartridge, which is based upon the 9.3x62 cartridge. It comes on only a click or two below the distinguished 375 Holland & Holland in power, starting a 270-grain bullet at 2600f/s from a 19-inch barrel. This is stout stuff, and if one needs a prediction of its performance in the field, he can use either the 9.3 or the Holland cartridge, since any target struck by any of these will be hard put to tell the difference. The Dragoon, at 7½ pounds, all up but unloaded, tends to kick. Whether this matters or not, it is a very subjective point, and the only way to find out whether the Dragoon kicks too much for you is to shoot it. Now hardly anybody is going to admit that any rifle kicks too much for him. We have a problem of machismo here, but most people we have tried the Dragoon on at the school do not seem to regard the piece as abusive. Time will tell us whether this rifle breaks telescopes. I have not shot mine enough to know, but all seems well at this point. Personally I like the way it kicks. It delivers a sort of solid feeling to the shoulder which builds confidence, at least to an experienced marksman. The people at Steyr have seen fit to introduce this cartridge in a conventional (non-Scout) configuration. Why I cannot say. They could give you that piece in 375 Holland, providing very slightly better ballistics and much more readily available ammunition. The ways of marketers are strange indeed.

But I think the Dragoon is a doll. It hits just like the Holland cartridge, but with the additional conveniences of the Scout. It is about perfect for lions or bears, and certainly will do for buffalo - using the right bullet. If it is excessively powerful for most bushveldt shooting, I do not see that has cause for serious complaint.

People complain about the price of both the Scout and the Dragoon, but I see this as simple whining. Anything good costs money, and if the price of the Scout series bothers you, I think you should just stick with that little Springfield sporter and be happy. The elk will not know the difference.

In regard to this continued whining about the price of the Steyr Scout, we are gratified to learn of a "four Scout family" - one each for papa, mama, and two sons. Just wait till Schumer and Feinstein hear about this! (Not that the SS is an "assault rifle," but how would they know about that?)

It is interesting to speculate upon what kind of a contract Hugh Hefner may have offered to Private Jessie. She has said to have joined the Army in order to save up money for her education. Hefner's contract should take care of that many times over, and somehow I hope it does. From what we can tell, Private Jessie is quite a pretty girl - "A credit to the regiment."

As we roll through these modern wars, I reflect that while most things about war are bad, this is not always the case. In my wars, the great, good thing was the abundance of ammunition. We had plenty of it, and we were not charged for it. As somebody said, "See your tax dollars at work!"

We insist again that when you go to Africa you need not take two rifles, but you should take two telescopes!

We have come to the point where this celebrity thing has become just silly. We find that people are now buying guns and having them falsely engraved to enhance their value as souvenirs. This is not exactly a new thing - Churchill's broom handle is offered, sold and resold annually, for any price a sucker will pay - but now the idea has crossed the Atlantic. I suggest that you do not buy a gun because it has somebody's name cut on it, particularly mine. I have been happy to autograph Scouts with felt pen now for some years, but I do not particularly fancy the idea. Putting one's name on artifacts tends to depreciate the item, in my view.

There is rumor afoot that somebody is going back into the murder of Vince Foster. Well there must be some people still alive who know who killed Vice Foster, and how. Possibly, however, the people who did the job did it really well and there are indeed no surviving witnesses.

You have heard about this fellow who is suing Federal Cartridge because he got chewed up by a lion. This example of complete shamelessness is dreary evidence of The Age of Litigation. The claim that the choice of bullet offered by the manufacturer is the cause of the shooter's failure to stop the lion is quite ridiculous, and cannot possibly be sustained in court. But the attorney has convinced the plaintiff that it would be cheaper for the company to pay off than to go to court. This sort of thing gives all of us hunters a bad name.

As we observe with increasing dismay the general level of journalism, we have discovered that in the view of many, "good English smacks of elitism." Well now isn't that just too bloody bad! I guess the same thing could be said about shining one's shoes or pressing one's pants. You do not have to go very far with this egalitarianism in order to go too far.

Those who had access to it report great satisfaction with the combat shotgun, noting its special usefulness in house-clearance. It blows open locked doors in fine style.

Grandson Tyler had a big time crossing the Tigris, but as yet I have no up-close-and-personal sea stories. The "Tale of Tyler Transiting the Tigris," however, should make up into a fine family legend. (Family Legends are great stuff.)

A pistol's place in war varies from war to war, but McBride's chapter on the matter remains a sound study of the subject. The handgun does not provide organizational firepower, but is an item of personal comfort and peace of mind. Few soldiers ever shoot anybody with a pistol, but most soldiers like to carry it. I have packed both rifle and pistol in close action, but in my case the rifle served mainly to keep me from being singled out as an officer. In theory an officer should not shoot people, since it is his job to direct others in that task. When I asked son-in-law Bruce if he shot anyone at the time when he won his medal, he pointed out that he had been much too busy to shoot. In the course of two full-sized wars I never shot anybody with a rifle. I love rifles, but the pistol is my backstop.

According to Gunsite's official air historian Barrett Tillman, since 1973 we have lost one aircraft in air-to-air combat, as against sixty from ground fire. Too bad! Dogfighting is much more glamorous.

Several people have now placed orders for our forthcoming effort "C Stories," but we must point out that we cannot act on them. Publishers operate on formats, and "C Stories" doesn't have one. It is not about guns, nor hunting, nor fighting, nor natural history, but about all those things, so it doesn't fit into a marketer's pigeonhole. If we publish it personally we will lack proper distribution.

I like the book, and I especially like the superb illustrations done by family member Paul Kirchner. It is a neat package, and we hope you can be patient.

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