Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 14, No. 3          March 2006

Springtime In The Rockies

Certainly it is time for drought relief in the Southwest, where we have been drying up much like this hard desert for the past six months. Perhaps this has to do with the machinations of the Mullahs in their Mesopotamian mosques. Let us hope that the tide has truly turned. It does not help much to raise our box score in the land between the rivers, since the Moors propagate faster than we can pick them off. It is hard to feel sorry for these people who kill us unbelievers in small numbers steadily and without cause. Our tactics and techniques proceed in a mannerly fashion, but without much effect upon the morale of the murderers. This has historically been an exasperating aspect of "little wars."

The guerilleros are assisted in this case in no small extent by a leftist political establishment which seems to feel that winning elections is more important than winning wars. This does not help our military people who are conspicuously successful in the field, but who cannot seem to prevail on the home front, no matter how well they do at the point of contact. We have Gunsite graduates now on third tour in the sand box and still volunteer to go back for more. How inspiring it is to note that our entire overseas establishment is a voluntary organization! Our men are fighting because they see a reason to do so. They are in no way disheartened by a home front news establishment which does its best to cut away their reason for existence. Our war department gives us overwhelming reason to be proud of this point in history. I am personally proud to have been an active member of that establishment for many years, and I am further proud to have known personally many men who have been over there and seen that - and done that.

It does seem to us that there should be some sort of penalty for mangling the national anthem. We have seen various celebrations on the tube in which some sort of pop singer was given the job of rendering the Star Spangled Banner for the multitude. It would appear that many of these people do not only have poor voices but they are unable to carry a tune. This hurts my feelings. Possibly my feelings are too easily hurt.

We note that Gerhard Blenk, who designed the Blaser 93, is now pushing a brand new double rifle for sporting use. We have great confidence in Gerhard Blenk. If he designed it, it must be good.

These lever-action rifles have proven most satisfactory over the years, but I feel that my devotion to the bolt-action principle was not totally justified. Actually reaction type makes little difference in field service. If you shoot well, you do not generally use a second shot. Recovery from recoil enables the shooter to operate any sort of action - including a single-shot - if he works at it.

I have put it forth before but I wish to say it again - the five essential elements of a soldier are: skill-at-arms, discipline, valor, hardihood, and pride. The soldier must fight well with whatever instrument he carries or operates. Fortunately this is something which can be taught. Second, the soldier must do what he is told - always and every time. There must be no question about obedience of orders. On our promotion examinations in high school ROTC, we were always given a freebie on the fill-in section that stated as follows: "Before the soldier can aspire to command, he must first learn to (blank)." The answer, of course, was "obey." In a 50-question examination you got that one for free.

Valor. A soldier must be brave enough to face death without flinching. This is pretty obvious, but it does bear repeating. Every man knows fear when he faces death. It is essential, however, that he not allow it to influence his action. Everyone knows that horrible hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach when he looks in the cannon's mouth, but he must not show it. Valor dictates his behavior. "Here we go!" Everybody who has been there knows how it feels. It may be that is why we have leaders. The leader is just as scared as the follower, but he goes forward anyway into the face of death. This is a commonplace sublimation, but we observe it.

A soldier must be physically tough. Military operations of all sorts involve hardship. If for no other reason, military operations inflict hardship for one's adversaries. I remember quite well being pushed to the point of total exhaustion, but I was able to keep my feet and keep my eyes open without artificial assistance. But it was my business to make the enemy endure more than I did. This sort of thing can be inculcated, and well trained troops know about it. It has been observed in various organizations of the world that if training does not result in at least one death per thousand, it is not tough enough. This may be a simplification, but it stands as the critical point. If you do not feel that training is really too hard for reasonable men to endure, you probably have not got the point.

And the soldier must be proud of being a soldier. He must be inspired by his picture in the mirror. There is a tendency to lose this notion in The Age of the Common Man. It should be fought. George Patton, among others, made a strong point of this and frequently exhorted men who looked like slobs to "stand up and look proud." George Patton was one of America's most distinguished soldiers. I think his example should be heeded.

It is a continual annoyance to see the press is unable to separate the pistol from its cartridge. I suppose it is unreasonable to expect a journalist to know very much about his subject, but it does seem that any time a reporter works into a technical field (such as, for instance, skiing, self-propelled vehicles or smallarms), he might be expected to look into the subject.

Paul Kirchner, who has done the artwork for most of our previous volumes, has sent us some new sketches for inclusion in the new volume, "Shotluck." I continue to be amazed at Paul's superb drawing skills. To be able to sit down at a board with a pencil and reproduce reality, with better than photographic accuracy, is startling. The new book is about three-fourths get ready, and we would like to have it some sort of presentable form by mid-summer at the latest.

We wrote that Pat Rogers (Red Pat), late of Gunsite, has moved from New York to Virginia and is traveling and teaching. I regard Pat as a certified master. I recommend his training to anyone who needs education in smallarms technique.

We saw a number of new things at the SHOT Show, but nothing that could be called a flood. Smallarms, which have been my stock in trade for a long lifetime, comprise the rifle, the pistol, the shotgun, and now what may be called the bomb thrower or grenade launcher. From early on I have been a student of the rifle and the pistol, without large emphasis on the shotgun. My father thought I should cultivate the shotgun, since by doing so I would be inclined to associate with a higher class of people. This may be true, but I became first attached to the rifle as a hunting arm. I acquired a pistol at about the same time, mainly because it is easier to find a place to practice with a pistol than with a rifle. High school ROTC introduced me to the rifle at about the same time, and there I acquired the formal study of the long gun before being shown the authorized technique of the pistol. To this day I cannot separate the attraction of the pistol from that of the rifle. I have always shot recreationally because it is fun, and with more experience, the rifle and the pistol are equal in this regard.

When I was graduated from the rimfire rifle to the center-fire, I moved up a notch, but not until college did I step up to the center-fire pistol. They are both fun, but I surely cannot say which is more fun. You can do big things with the rifle. Specifically you can hunt big game, whereas shooting the center-fire pistol for blood has only recently become feasible. And now the center-fire pistol has become so highly developed that it hardly resembles a handgun at all. Before I left full duty status, I did more work and more interesting work with the rifle than with the handgun. And I have had more influence in rifle design than in pistol. I am quite happy to carry the sidearm which is essentially unchanged from that which I knew in college days, but in the field I have developed the center-fire rifle well beyond the notions of my youth.

Is it that the pronoun "whom" has been abandoned? Perhaps it is that the English language is too ornate for the common people.

Baby, the great rifle which we plan to serve as the centerpiece of our forthcoming museum, is now about ready for complete re-servicing. The stock commenced to split just aback the tang (a problem which is not unusual with hard kicking rifles), and so now the stock will be shimmed, and the entire stock glass-bedded. This rifle is a work of art, and should rest along with its record at the head of the class. Its superior rear-sight has not been manufactured for a long time, so the piece cannot be reproduced.

In playing around with the Broomhandle Mauser, we have discovered something. Since this piece is 110 years old, I suppose it is time to discover things about it. What I have found is that the Broomhandle was not a pistol at all. It was not called that. It was called the "Mauser System 96" and served a purpose for which a pistol was not designed. The fact that Winston Churchill used it like one at Omdurman has confused this point. But basically the Mauser System 96 was a collapsible officer's carbine for service in which commissioned officers were expected to furnish their own weapons. Riding in its wooden stock, the Broomhandle gave a fresh-caught junior officer something to support his service sword, and I guess it did this pretty well, remembering that none of the world's armies issued the Broomhandle for any purpose whatever. Plinking with this piece with stock attached is rather effective and pretty good fun. It was assumed that junior officers would always have preparatory time when action loomed. Thus it was not a service pistol at all, and was not intended as such. It is not as effective as a carbine, but it was a lot handier. Times do change.

We continue to hear absolutely nothing about our proposition to remit income tax for the Medal of Honor winners. For this I am too simpleminded to see the unsoundness of a simple idea.

As times do change we note the demise of the illustrious Winchester Model 70. Apparently it was no longer selling, and, of course, that is what keeps a product alive. But one wonders what does keep a product alive. What keeps a sporting rifle alive. The marketeers feel that we are now in the age of the self-loader, and that a new and modern sporting rifle (of medium caliber) should load itself. We suppose this is true, but we do wonder just what speed of the second shot matters in a sporting rifle. Shooting Master John Gannaway has concluded from African discussions that the rifle for dangerous game should be a two-shot operation. My own experience is too brief to provide any conclusions, but I do think that a lot of shots is an unsound concept for shooting something that fights back. Having been born and raised, as it were, with a bolt-action rifle, I am very happy with this concept. I have done a certain amount of killing with various bolt-action rifles, but I have never found that action type was of any consequence. I am somewhat familiar with the lever-action in field use by being set up with a Savage Model 99 on three separate occasions for full-duty status. In the first instance, a fraternity brother of Stanford was left-handed and wanted to acquire a deer rifle for Christmas. We got him an M99 in caliber 300 Savage (which is operationally identical with the 308), and we cleaned it up. This action came over-the-counter with a very bad trigger, so we had that cleaned up by the late illustrious Bob Chow of San Francisco, who also mounted the Lyman Alaskan telescope. This was a very satisfactory deer gun, and I hope it survives the wars, one way or another.

Much later on I acquired an M99 in caliber 250-3000 for the Rio Balsas expedition, upon which it served with distinction, as I have written it elsewhere. Following these two lever-guns, I acquired a couple of Co-pilots from Jim West of Anchorage (not to be confused with the Marlin "Guide Gun" to which it is conspicuously superior).

We like to remind ourselves that Lon Horiuchi and O.J. Simpson are wandering around loose. It appears that you can get away with murder, if the circumstances are just right.

And then there was the matter of Vince Foster. Vince Foster was officially declared a suicide. For the people who know how he met his death, he was a suicide when blood ran uphill. But obviously we have it wrong.

Islam may indeed have its virtues, but they must be sought for carefully and objectively. Winston Churchill, "the greatest man of the 19th century and the greatest Englishman of all time," put it thus:
"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

"A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

"Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome."

Sir Winston Churchill (The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50, London: Longmans, Green Co., 1899).

via family member Leon Flancher

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