Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 8, No. 7 July, 2000
The Big Bang
We were unable to get this issue to you in
time for the Uproarious Fourth, but we trust you all celebrated the
occasion appropriately with martial music, gunfire and patriotic
exclamations. Here at Gunsite we featured barbecued buffalo, beans
and beer, and toasted our friends from far and near. The republic
has fallen upon evil days, but this must not discourage us. To the
contrary, we must fire up our political awareness and set to work
to re-institute the virtues of self-control, personal
responsibility, chastity, decency, and good manners. The task is
difficult, but not impossible.
Several people have remarked that the only
place that one can find instruction in how to use a shooting sling
is in "The Art of the Rifle." This is probably true, but the
art of the rifle is becoming a lost art, and that is the reason I
wrote the book.
Here at Gunsite we are making every effort
to spruce up the place for the new era. Our Masters' program has
started out well, and in the last class we achieved a triumph in
the person of a young man of 18 who had never touched a firearm
before coming to school, but who aced the class for an E ticket.
This makes the trouble worth the trouble.
Family member Tom Flowers of Waco
relays the report that somebody managed to drive a Bradley fighting
vehicle off a cliff at Fort Hood. This is very difficult, there
being no cliffs in the vicinity, but journalists keep writing about
things they do not understand, which annoys us gunmen more than
somewhat. It would be nice if writers of both commentary and
fiction would lay off topics in which they have no competence, but
that appears to be a futile hope.
For the man who has everything, we now
report the offering in Germany of a museum piece version of the
double 700 Nitro. This gorgeous item sells for 120,000 DM (plus or
minus $80,000) and weighs eighteen and a half pounds. Important
components are gold plated "to avoid corrosion." I guess this is
evidence that in truth "the economy is on a roll."
Just last Sunday, the second of June, a
new guided missile destroyer was commissioned and christened the
USS McCampbell. This is a piece of good news, for at a time when we
often name our ships after politicians rather than heros, Captain
David McCampbell was a true example of the heroic breed.
Naturally we shooters prefer to extol heros who are conspicuously
good marksmen - York, Woodfill, Hanneken for example. Captain
David McCampbell is thus particularly gratifying to us, being
probably the best shot in the naval air arm. He won his 34
victories by a lethal combination of outstanding flying skill and
superb marksmanship. He won all sorts of prizes for aerial gunnery
prior to World War II, and then put his skill to use as he
rose in rank. It was as a four-stripe naval captain (the equivalent
of a full colonel in the ground services) that he earned the Medal
of Honor by shooting down nine Japanese aircraft on one mission.
This was not a fluke, since on another occasion he splashed seven
between takeoff and landing. Historian and family member
Barrett Tillman computes that Captain McCampbell averaged out to
one four-second burst per kill. Despite a fairly riotous personal
life, he lived to the ripe old age of 86 and died just four years
ago. I have frequently posed the question about how to define a
really good shot. David McCampbell was a really good
The psychological castration of little
boys proceeds apace in the education establishment. We hope and
believe that school cannot replace the home as a source of values,
but this is true only of the better homes. Perhaps that is just as
We now learn that a series of courts has
fully absolved Lon Horiuchi of the murder of Vicki Weaver, on the
grounds that he was "only doing his job." A number of German war
criminals offered that argument at the Nürnberg trials, but they
were hanged anyway.
So now Horiuchi walks free under no legal cloud. One wonders how
carefully he watches his back.
Gunsite is now featuring the Number 80
Party Pistol, which is a short-coupled 1911 mildly embellished
and - get this - slim-lined. As far as I know, this is
the only 1911 clone which is slim-lined out of the box. About time!
Only 80 of these instruments will be produced, in cognizance of my
80th birthday just past. The piece is expensive, but so is a
Porsche. You get what you pay for.
There seems to be a certain amount of
debate about the velocities obtained with the 376 Steyr cartridge
in factory form. Steve Hornady claims 2600 feet for the 270-grain
bullet, but he does not specify barrel length. The barrel of the
Dragoon is short, at nineteen inches, and we suspect that Steve ran
his tests with something longer than that. Hearing rumors about
under-loading, John Gannaway just re-tested the factory load with
his carefully calibrated chronograph and came up with an average of
The people at Steyr continue to push the cartridge in the
conventional SBS rifle, which puzzles me. The virtue of the 376
Steyr cartridge is that it can be had in Scout configuration.
Anyone who wants a conventional rifle of this category may go to
the 375 Holland & Holland, which is not only slightly more
powerful than the 376 Steyr, but also widely available. Ammunition
for that 376 is going to continue to be hard to get for some
For reasons unknown to me Steve has issued a 225-grain load for the
376 cartridge which is loaded back down to a tested 2430f/s. This
is 30-06 performance (220 at 2400). I vastly admire the 30-06, but
I can see no reason to construct an entirely new and potentially
more powerful round and then load it back down again. Clearly there
are things about marketing that I do not understand.
It has been suggested that a significant
difference between Americans and other people is that Americans
admire success, whereas others envy it. That, of course, is an
outrageously broad generalization, but it does give one to
Over the portals of our service academies
there are inscribed the three words: Duty, Honor, Country. Those
words used to be more easily defined than today when we tend to
elect conspicuously dishonorable people to the highest offices in
I thought that we had reached the low point in our history of
dishonor at Ruby Ridge, but then came Waco, and now we have decided
to throw the Gonzales boy back over the wall which his mother died
trying to climb. There are still plenty of honorable Americans, but
the federal government is making it difficult for them to pay it
We are now planning the Safari Prep
course for next year, scheduled for late March in order to give
prospects a chance to catch a rifle class before coming to Safari
Prep. As now planned, people in this course should know how to
shoot a rifle before they come, and the best way to do this is to
catch a rifle class here at Gunsite. (Just saying that you already
know how to shoot a rifle is not convincing.)
There will be shooting in this class, and it will be conducted with
the rifle the student intends to take to Africa. We plan three
days, split about evenly between class work and field work. I have
long looked forward to this effort, the more so because of the
tales I get from my African friends about the astonishing naïveté
and incompetence of American hunters who wander afield with the
notion that money is enough and competence is insignificant. You
can do an African hunt at about any level you choose, varying from
sleep-on-the-ground-and-wash-your-own-socks to Indian
Maharaja-style, but the important thing is to get a proper amount
of pleasure for your money. You will not get this if you enter the
scene blind. We can help. Please let us know here at Gunsite as
soon as possible so that we can plan for the size of the
"When death comes, as it must, the worthy man should be
able to say that he left no drop in the bowl."
I continue to read my share of history,
both fictional and presumably factual, and I discover a sad decline
in literary skill amongst current writers. Too often they not only
get their facts wrong, but they raddle the language. For example,
whoever invented the term "gunned down" should flunk the course, as
should those who maintain that shell fragments constitute
"shrapnel." Additionally, a man who has never been in a fight
should not write about it, since he has no firsthand knowledge of
how a man reacts to violence. Unfortunately this decline is equally
true, or even more so, in film than in print.
Do we know for a fact that the Smith
& Wesson sell-out was British-inspired? I have no spies on
station in this league.
As the Brits continue their downward
trend towards full realization of Orwell's "1984", they are
now recommending that people overhearing "racist" remarks in pubs
or restaurants make haste to report this transgression to the cops.
Britain was once the "Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,"
but that was in the 19th century.
As you doubtless know it is now assumed
that the "Ancients" (Neanderthals) were displaced and/or
exterminated by the "Moderns" (Cro-Magnons). Since the Ancients
were stronger than the Moderns and had an equivalent or slightly
larger brain capacity, the Moderns must have had an asset which
gave them victory. In my opinion, this asset was missilery. As far
as we can tell the Moderns had bows and javelins, where the
Ancients did not, and that may have done it.
Incidentally, the two races lived side-by-side in Europe for quite
some time, and this probably gave rise to the warning that "the
goblins will get you if you don't watch out." Ancient middens have
been found containing the bones of immature Moderns. Better stay
out of the deep woods, kids.
Had you noticed that the new headman in
Russia is pushing for a twelve percent flat tax? We have always
been rather plus on the idea of a flat tax, and look where it
The pig (Sus scrofa) seems to be
taking over as the world's prime game animal, at least the most
popular and accessible. Wild pigs are all over the place, and they
can turn into a very considerable nuisance if their numbers are not
controlled. So pig hunting may well be the wave of the future,
which is okay because pigs are plentiful, active, intelligent,
tasty - and can be dangerous.
Prerequisite reading for the Safari Prep
course stands as follows: "Meditations on Hunting" by José
Ortega y Gasset, "The Perfect Shot" by Kevin Robertson,
"The Art of the Rifle" by Jeff Cooper. These books are now
available from the Gunsite Trading Post.
In enlarging the facility here we have
named three new ranges after Alvin York, Sam Woodfill, and Herman
Hanneken. We did not use Hathcock because his name has already
appeared on half-a-dozen other installations.
In recent testing John Gannaway and a
partner discovered that their 376 Dragoon printed to exactly the
same place on paper regardless of how it was held, and it shot to
the same point for both shooters. This is pretty unusual. It may be
the result of mounting the sight on that extended receiver, which
does not touch the barrel. However, whatever causes it, it
Feinstein, Lautenberg and Waxman -
there is a choice crew - have now decided that "the 50 BMG
cartridge presents a serious and substantial threat to national
security." Er, howzat? Sometimes our adversaries are so silly that
we forget how dangerous they are.
Leopards. Shortly before his death I was
very pleased to learn that the late, great Finn Aagaard and I had
the same view on the subject of leopard hunting. That is, the
leopard is just too beautiful to shoot. Finn told me, "I have never
pressed trigger on a leopard, and I never intend to." That does not
mean that either of us sought to restrict or eliminate leopard
hunting. Leopards are pretty fierce people and are quite partial to
eating domestic pets and children. In some places they lean towards
the dismal practice of snatching infants out of the mother's arms,
and when they get into a goat pen they usually kill all the goats,
over and above what they can eat. No, they are not nice people, but
neither are they endangered. They blend well into civilization,
both in India and Africa, under conditions where lions and tigers
perish, but I do not want to shoot one. Let George do it!
A recent paper we saw discussed some
training information from Alcatraz, and we discovered that the
guards on that island were carrying their 1911s in Condition One
long before that system was accepted by law enforcement in general.
Of course, it is not now absolutely accepted, but we are getting
there at last.
In a previous issue we reported how that
girl from Kileen, Texas, laid into Bill Clinton in a television
confrontation. What we did not realize was that Susan Howard, the
charming chairman of the NRA Public Affairs Committee, was swinging
the hatchet with her usual efficiency on that same occasion. It is
easy to make Bill Clinton look silly in debate, but Susan does it
with such style that it hardly hurts. (Of course, it is impossible
to embarrass Clinton anyway, since he is without shame.)
Frankie Lou Nicholson, "our man in
Nebraska," tells of a turkey hunter who used his turkey call so
expertly that he called up a bobcat. The beasty was practically in
spitting distance before he discovered the error in his target
identification system. He was dreadfully surprised, but no harm was
done. Cat, hunter and turkey all survived to wait for next
Possibly a really good product does not
need to advertise. I do not recall ever seeing an ad for a Ferrari.
However, as a great admirer of this Steyr Scout, I do not think it
has been drawn adequately to the attention of the shooters. Part of
the problem is that you have to shoot it on a series of extensive
field courses to realize just how much better it is than anything
else available. Most critics base their criticism on initial
impression and possibly on the size of bench groups. Consider that
the very superior Remington 600s and 660s were largely rejected
because their bolt handle swept forward rather than rearward. This
was an advanced idea and based upon the notion that the bolt handle
should be quickly available to the trigger finger. The idea was
right, but the result was funny looking in many people's eyes. It
does not seem to us that looks have anything to do with
This proliferation of gutter language is
not only bad taste, but also the confession of an inadequate
vocabulary. It is coarse in a man, but any woman who uses it
automatically places herself in Category 3.
Schumer maintains that a Hillary victory
in New York will destroy the National Rifle Association. I fail to
see any connection here, but then Schumer has never been noted for
"Wisdom is knowing what to do next. Skill is knowing
how to do it. Virtue is doing it."
David Starr Jordan
Speaking of language, where did this
first-name business come from? In my own case I have an automatic
termination system, since people who know me well enough to use my
first name always use Jeff, whereas those who do not, address me as
John. I like to respond to such people with, "My name is not John,
it is Sir," but I rarely do that.
As you know, Pygmalion was a sculptor in
Greek mythology who created a marble effigy of a woman so beautiful
that he fell in love with the cold stone. Aphrodite took pity on
him and brought the statue to life. She was named Galatea. That
theme has reappeared often in world literature, and was the basis
for the movie "My Fair Lady" in which Audrey Hepburn did the
transformation, not from stone to flesh but from guttersnipe to
Now that I have in my possession Steyr Scout number 08124, it
spends much of the time beside me at the breakfast table. The
Countess has referred to it as my "Linus blanket," but I call it
In the African bush your outfitter may be
expected to pack antivenom inoculations suitable for most
snake-bite, but we recently heard of a PH who claimed that he
carried no treatment for the bite of the Gaboon viper. His position
was that if you get bitten by one of those, there will be no need
for first aid.
Piracy has been prospering continuously
in the waters of Southeast Asia, but now it has reappeared in the
Caribbean on the coasts of Honduras and Nicaragua. It would seem
that piracy, like most lethal transgression, is fairly easy to
counter if you are equipped and prepared. The trouble is that most
governments forbid you to be either equipped or prepared.
Our latest bear fatality comes from the
Great Smokies. Remember the basic Gunsite bear rules:
- Be alert.
- Don't regard bears as cute, they are distinctly dangerous.
- Don't enter bear country without being properly armed and
- Do not sleep out on bear runways.
- Be alert.
If one hunts a lot he may wind up with
too many trophies, many of which are too big for his house. My
suggestion at this point is that a fine set of hippo ivory taken on
dry land is probably the premier trophy now available.
Note: Elián's father was divorced from
his mother in May of '91. Elián was born in December of '93. So
much for family values.
We reflect, in this period of racist
agitation, that slavery has been the normal condition of mankind
for most of history. What do you do with the losers? You either
kill them outright or put them to work. If you pen them up you have
to feed them, and you have enough trouble feeding yourself. Despite
this a large number of semi-literate types in the States seem to
think of slavery as a unique invention of the southern states of
the US over a period of a few generations.
We learn that in Ulm, which is in
Germany, an apartment dweller suffered a negligent discharge in his
living room and the bullet went through the overhead to total a
burglar in action on the floor above. This story may be too good to
be true, but that is what it said in the paper. I guess you can say
he really hit the ceiling.
In perusing the excellent new book
"Blackhawk Down" about the war in Somalia, we are depressed
at the level of military marksmanship that seems to be normal
today. No one fires a round anymore, he fires a burst.
Spray-and-pray is the rule of the day.
One Richard Cohen, writing in the
Washington Post, declaims that Charlton Heston is "nuts.
What a curious statement! I suppose those anti-libertarians, if
that's the word, believe that anyone who disagrees with them is
"nuts." Opinions are free but hysterical accusations really ought
to provide examples. We might simply say that anyone who thinks
Charlton Heston is nuts is nuts, but that is not a rational
argument. If this Cohen does not value liberty he should admit it
rather than calling people senseless names.
"If you're going to blow up, wait until after you have
straightened the situation out."
Frankie Lou Nicholson
With all this current discussion about
capital punishment, we must wonder again just what is wrong with
hanging. This ancient and very standard method of execution is
simple, un-complicated, cheap, and comparatively humane - if
killing a prisoner is a subject for that adjective. I know it does
not hurt, because I have been chocked out personally and I know
what it feels like.
The Brazilian company Taurus now
announces its "Raging Hornet" revolver, a large, eight-shot piece
carrying the 22 Hornet cartridge. When hornets rage they do so in
swarms, so I suppose the company feels that it can sell swarms of
these pistols. I see no suitable niche for the item. It might do
well on some kinds of small game, probably up to forty pounds in
weight, but it is not adequate for feral domestic goats, as I have
personally discovered on Catalina Island. As a trail gun, the
Raging Hornet might serve to put various minor beasties in
the pot, but is far to big and heavy to be convenient for a back
packer or a trout fisherman. But there are always people who will
want something simply because somebody else has one.
We are informed that shooting sticks are
becoming practically universal in Africa. This may be because of
the conspicuously inept marksmanship manifest by so many of the
hunters heading out for "safaris." I am not taken with the idea,
since it implies that the hunter will always have a slave following
him around carrying the equipment. But if this system really does
insure more systematic kills, I can hardly decry it. Daughter Lindy
used shooting sticks on a rather distant tsessebe up in the Delta
two years ago when she was confronted with chest-high grass. Okay,
but I am not going to use shooting sticks myself.
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.