Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 9, No. 3 March, 2001
And by that we certainly do not mean "the
winter of our discontent." The new regime in Washington may not be
perfect in every respect, but when one is plucked out of the sea by
a life boat he is not likely to complain that it leaks a
The mood at the NRA winter board meeting was notably cheerful. We
started out by extending Charlton Heston's reign for one more year,
and this is an occasion for great joy. There are those who claim
that he was selected by somewhat irregular means, but he is such a
tremendous asset to the Association that we are not likely to find
fault with procedural technicalities. In his position as president,
Mr. Heston supplies a persona of dignity and charisma unmatched by
anyone in public life since Ronald Reagan.
We learn that NRA membership is now up to 4.3 million.
We learn that Dr. Ugo Beretta of Gardone has donated the sum of one
million dollars (that is dollars, not lire) to the Association. He
may not make the world's best service pistol, but he does run the
world's best executive lunch room, as I can attest personally.
At the winter meeting I was elevated to the peerage, so to speak,
by being elected to the Executive Council of the National Rifle
Association. This is a life-time appointment during good behavior
(I may be flung out if I would be discovered to have voted for a
Democrat), which relieves me from the need to run for office again,
unless I choose to do so. A council member does not have voting
authority, but this is hardly a bother when we note that really
close votes on policy matters are nearly unheard of. I intend to
remain on the board until my present term runs out. At that time,
circumstances will decide whether I should run again.
We all noted that the Attorney General of
South Carolina has announced that the season is now open in that
state on burglars. Now there is an example to follow!
After a preliminary but penetrating study,
we have concluded that the best of the pocket 45s is the Kimber.
Family member Clint Smith, however, deems that it is God's
will that any pistol for the 45 ACP cartridge must have a 5-inch
barrel. Customizers take note.
We learn that Saddam Hussein has announced
(in Arabic) that he won the Gulf War. Well he did get away, a
historical mistake for which we are inclined to hold George Bush,
Sr., responsible. It would appear that that small, black cloud on
the horizon is the specter of a general Moslem war against the
West - something which should be put off as long as possible,
but is probably going to be with us in due course.
Someone has observed that if you find
yourself in San Francisco, be careful upon leaving not to look
back, lest you be turned into a pillar of salt.
Let it be decreed that there may be no
elections in the future during hunting season.
Apparently Hillary has suggested that we
reform our electoral system by modifying or doing away with the
Electoral College. If she is serious about this (or about
anything), we suggest she consider restructuring the Electoral
College on the basis of counties, rather than states. That should
certainly take care of that argument.
Despite the factory's curious decision to
discontinue production of the 376 Scout, which I like to call the
Steyr Dragoon, the piece was a distinct sensation at the Safari
Club meeting in Vegas. Family member and master instructor
Rich Wyatt sold ten of them to people going to Africa. This piece
is a great success in both Africa and Alaska, and why it should be
taken off the market at a time when new products seem to be the
rage is hard to explain. What it offers is solid, medium-class
power in Scout configuration, and Scout configuration is the most
significant forward step in the design of sporting rifles since
World War II. There seems to be a mysterious sort of emotional
block here, possibly do to lack of shooting experience on the part
of gun salesmen as a class. There is also the "magnum myth," which
has served to convince a couple of generations of hunters that
excess power can make up for lack of marksmanship. One
correspondent claimed, for example, that some people in his party
opined that "the 308 simply would not suffice for open-country mule
deer hunting." Those who are familiar with open-country mule deer
hunting are well aware that the 308 will do everything that a 300
Ultra will, and with considerably less bother. When that mule deer
gets so far away that you cannot deck him with your Scout, you are
not going to be able to take him with your "super thunder-stick"
either. Remember that a hunter's skill is measured not in how far
away his target was, but how close he was able to get to it. Of
course a good many hunters are not very skilled, but that does not
excuse taking shots beyond one's useful range.
The trashing of the White House by the
punk staff on departure is certainly an indication of the general
character of "those other people." Is this a function of the
failure of our schools, or simply evidence of lack of moral
teaching in the home? Is this a matter of television, or of two
working parents, or something else? Whatever it is, it is certainly
novel and certainly unpleasant.
Being of the old school, I rather assumed
that everybody knew the words to the old Steven Foster songs -
such as "The Old Kentucky Home." The opening line runs:
"The sun shines bright on my Old Kentucky home
'Tis summer, the darkies are gay"
Clearly we had to restructure this because we cannot longer use the
term "darky," and "gay" has been rerouted, so we put our revision
into a previous Commentary, and various people wrote in about it in
puzzlement. Sorry about that.
We had a recent case here in Prescott
which showed again the inadequacy of the Parabellum cartridge. The
creep in this case was shot once dead center and once again in the
arm, but was able to recover and drive off at high speed resulting
in a lethal crash some miles away. We cannot prove that a major
caliber hit similarly placed would have stopped the fight on the
spot, but the odds are certainly in favor of it.
Those of you who are diet conscious will
take note of one Miss Lucy Walker who, in 1864, was the first woman
to surmount the Matterhorn. She was also the first woman to reach
the top of the Eiger, though she did not go up the infamous north
wall. During her adventures in the alps, she subsisted entirely on
a diet of sponge cake and champagne. When I read of the champagne
consumption of those old Victorians, I sometimes regret that I
never acquired a taste for it.
In discussing whether a sidearm should be
comfortable to carry, Clint Smith observes that a handgun should be
comforting, rather than comfortable. Well
Our granddaughter Amy Heath in New York
has now gone aboard the staff of the History Channel as an
assistant producer. We sincerely hope that she acquires enough
influence there to reach some sort of policy-making level, since
the History Channel, while being unusually good television, is as a
rule badly in need of editing in matters involving firearms. Among
other things, they do not seem to be able to tell the difference
between a bullet and a cartridge. It is possible that nobody in New
York knows the difference between a bullet and a cartridge, so we
stand ready to help.
We note that the Marlin people keep right
on trying to upstage Jim West of Anchorage by promoting slightly
inferior versions of his "Co-pilot" concept. The Co-pilot, as we
have said, is one of the three really interesting rifles now
available. It is essentially a pocket-sized, takedown 45-70 Marlin
with an efficient muzzle brake and excellent ghost-ring sights. It
also is available in stainless, which makes it particularly choice
along the Alaska coastline. The Co-pilot is quite perfect for the
lion guide. (Of course there are not many lion guides, and firearms
are not easy to acquire in Africa, now that the revolutionary
government has made it practically impossible for you to leave your
rifle with your guide on departure.)
It was once explained to us by Elden Carl
(The Great) that the proper procedure when attacked by a savage dog
is to ram your pistol right down his throat. You haven't got a
pistol? Well, shucks! I guess you will just have to call
While we frequently comment upon the bad
performance of the law enforcement establishment in matters of
weaponcraft, we must hang a gold star on the Secret Service and the
National Park Service people at the White House on the occasion of
that recent shooting incident. Whichever officer was in charge, he
did exactly the right thing by shooting the goonie in the leg with
one neat round, in total defiance of the spray-and-pray principle.
One shot, one hit, hospitalization. Very well done
As I understand it, slavery was abolished
in this country in 1865. The issue is closed. Buying those people
from their friends in Africa and bringing them over here was a
great mistake and we have suffered for it for a long time. Perhaps
we should let the matter drop.
For those of you who choose to write in,
I plead that you put your complete name and address on your copy. A
half page of electronically-activated gibberish does not
I am very grateful for the kind words you sometimes wish to supply,
and I do enjoy engaging in argument, but I cannot respond unless
you tell me how.
It has been suggested that the NRA's
voice in the election (EE2) was enough to bring victory to our
side. Certainly we had an influence there, and a strong one, but it
might be just as soundly stated that Ralph Nader did the trick,
just as Perot put Clinton in the White House for his second
However it was, in an election this close every possible influence
was involved, so let us all thank everybody and now make sure that
we do not let our success produce complacency. Those other people
are really mad, and they have already demonstrated that no sort of
disreputable act is beyond them. History is full of examples of
disasters which resulted from the dropping of the guard. Let it not
happen to us!
Mugging is up 28 percent in England since
the British have been deprived of the right to defend themselves.
So who is surprised?
"Dogs have masters, cats have staff."
These two new short, fat magnum
cartridges from Winchester have a certain charm in that they can be
packed into a shorter action, if that is important to you. On the
other hand, their dimensions make it necessary for them to reduce
the cartridge capacity of the magazine. This may or may not be
significant. I knew of a PH once who ran out of ammunition when
chasing a kudu, but that was long ago, and one more round in his
magazine would not have changed that situation. Right now the Steyr
Scout carries five rounds in the first mag and five more in the
second. In the 376 version, the numbers are four and four. It would
seem if you attack the problem right from the original design, you
do not need secondary solutions.
The "Gargantuan Gunsite Gossip, Vol.
2" has now been sent to the print shop. I do not know when it
will be on sale and I do not know how much it will cost, but I will
keep you informed.
And now we have the 480 Ruger, which
appears to be a very slick item, though I have not personally fired
one. I do not see what you can do with a 480 Ruger that you cannot
do with a 44 Magnum, but then I tend to be old fashioned about such
things. The aim of the industry, of course, is to sell stuff, which
is fine, but in general what we need is to offer better launchers
rather than better cartridges. The cartridges we have, and have had
for a long time, will do just fine.
The goal of marketing is to induce in the customer the idea that he
needs something new, rather than something better. Of course to a
certain kind of mind, "new" and "better" are the same word, and to
such people anything old fashioned is inferior. Thinking about the
matter, however, is out of style.
Hard as it is to believe, the animal
crackers in England have now designated fish & chip shops
as legitimate targets for lethal vandalism. People who eat fish
should be killed, according to this view. We suppose salmon
fishermen should now go about their sport in gunboats. Sometimes
one wonders if people should be allowed to run around
At the SHOT Show we noted that the
ineffable Perazzi quadruplet is still for sale. This is a set of
four over/under double shotguns in 12, 16, 20 and 410. The asking
price for the set is $316,000, and it has been around for several
years without purchase. I find this a charming business, for here
we have a manufacturer who is driven by a search for perfection,
regardless of marketability. Some rich kid will eventually buy that
set, and I will be sorry to see it go, because every time I go to
the SHOT Show I am delighted to know that there are people who will
make such things, and eventually people who will buy them. It is a
For those who came in late, a
"ghost-ring" is that form of aperture sight which features a large
aperture and a thin rim. The idea is that when the aperture is
placed reasonably close to the eye and the shooter looks at the
front sight, the rim disappears, as with a ghost. This does not
impair aiming precision, but it vastly improves speed of
acquisition. The older form of aperture sight, which featured a
pinhole, presumably for increased precision, was terribly slow to
use. The rear sight we had on the 03 Springfield was wrong in
practically every respect, and while the A3 version of the rifle
was proletarianized in some respects, its sight was much
The first man to extol the ghost-ring, as far as I can read, was
Karamojo Bell of Africa, though Townsend Whelen acquired the idea
about the same time. I certainly did not invent the idea, but I
believe that I did invent the term, and I find it amazing
that for 60 odd years no manufacturer sought to put a good metallic
sight on his rifle, assuming evidently that no one would use iron
sights anyway and telescopes would be the only thing of interest.
It is true today that the optical or telescope sight is practically
universal, but this is not entirely a good thing. In the first
place, telescopic sights are not necessary for about 90 percent of
sport shooting. I took Scout One with me to Central America in 1968
and used the ghost-ring exclusively on that occasion - with
total success. The glass sight is inappropriate for use on rifles
intended for dangerous game. One should not regard one incident as
definitive, but I once got into a rather tricky situation on a
lion, because all I had on that rifle at the time was a telescope
and I could not pick out a proper aiming point at short range in a
hurry, due to a limited field of view. My experience on buffalo,
while not extensive in the classic sense, is enough to convince me
that a good ghost-ring is what is needed, and a telescope is out of
place. Regardless of how well made they may be, telescope sights
break. Also they are vulnerable to dust, mud and snow in a way that
the ghost-ring is not.
The ghost-ring is not quicker than the telescopic sight, when the
latter is properly used, but it is distinctly quicker than any open
sight, even the Express Sight from Africa. It is a Good
Thing, and should be more widely appreciated, but considering
the general nature of firearms design progress over the last half
century, I do not expect much in this regard. We have awfully good
firearms, cartridges and sights today, but we do not do any better
with them in the field than our grandfathers did. It is always the
shooter, not the weapon that makes a difference.
In my opinion, neither money nor greed
(cupiditas) is the root of all evil. The root of all
evil is envy. The non-coper hates the coper, and thus the
non-shooter hates the shooter. I see no other explanation for the
pointless and irrational activism of the gun grabbers on the
political scene. They know that their machinations can have no
effect upon crime. Guns have no effect upon crime, but they do make
all men equal, as the saying goes. This puts the coper on top, and
infuriates the non-coper.
We note that the polypragmatoi are
not backing off. Turns out that in Massachusetts, sushi is now
illegal. The socialists hate to think that any one of their
subjects might risk himself by taking a small bite of raw fish.
Well, we do not spend much time in Massachusetts, and it is a small
state anyway with easily accessible borders.
In view of all these gadgets we see for
sale in ads and at the shows, may we suggest that "invention is
the mother of necessity?"
Does recoil bother you much? This clearly
is a personal matter, and some people are affected far more than
others. When I was a lad we used to think the 03 was a jaw
breaker - but it was not. Then we started going to larger and
larger cartridges, which kicked more and more, and this bothered
some people far more than others. It has a lot to do with how much
you shoot. Those of us who shoot a good deal hardly notice recoil,
and yet a lot of people complained about the recoil of the 350
Short Magnum when it first appeared. For a long time the 375
Holland cartridge was generally held to be a bruiser, but it
certainly is not today - note that we now even have an "Ultra
375." When the 458 Winchester came out, it scared a lot of people
until they discovered that recoil effect upon a shooter is about 85
percent mental. If you convince yourself that recoil is nothing to
worry about, it will not be. I have a lot of experience along this
line, having taught people rifle marksmanship for most of my adult
life. It is not a matter of how big or strong you are, it is a
matter of what you think you should think about rifle kick. I have
had great success with adolescents of both sexes in this regard,
and while I certainly do not assert that recoil effect does not
exist, I do insist that it is highly overrated. Any boy who plays
touch football seriously will be beaten around far more in a
quarter than he ever will be by the butt of his rifle. What is
more, he will enjoy it.
Let us hear it for the counterattack! In
Vermont the legislature has introduced a bill proposing a $500
annual tax on unarmed households. Way to go, Green
It has been fashionable all my life to
think highly of the principle of majority rule, and yet when this
is analyzed, it becomes short of ideal. What are you going to do,
for example, when a very large population is divided right down the
middle on irreconcilable principles. In our last EE2, the
margin for error was greater than the margin for victory.
Democracy is all very well in its way, but it does not resolve
today's political problems in the major powers. It works better in
small populations wherein people are apt to know each other better
and less likely to crystallize their political preferences. Plato
pointed out, for example, that the largest political entity in
which democracy is feasible should include no more than four
Certainly we have a massive political challenge today in the US,
and given the viciousness of the left, it is hard to foresee a
satisfactory solution. Surrender of moral principle will not
suffice, but the country is more completely divided on moral
principles than at anytime since its founding - not excepting
the Civil War. This is a bad scene, and we pray that the new
administration confronts it better than the old.
We are off now to Italy for festive
doings in Rome. Thus there may be a hiatus in the issuance of this
paper. I am grateful to San Gabriel Possenti for the medal, and I
will endeavor to publish all relevant details upon
Meanwhile, stay cool. After all, it is
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.