Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 2, No. 9           26 July 1994

High Summer, 1994

Corn, only minutes off the stalk, and vine-ripened tomatoes from the garden! Summer may be unpleasantly warm, but it does have its compensations - especially now that the summer rains have come to freshen up the landscape. And now is the time to get out there with your rifle and put your annual 200 rounds through it so that you will not be caught by surprise during hunting season. Remember also to stay clear of the bench. Work on quick acquisition of position, instant bolt work, perfect surprise breaks, and do not forget the snap shot. You do not need it often, but when you do, it is awfully nice to have.

A family member recently sent in yet another multiple hit failure with a minor caliber pistol. The goblin took sixteen rounds of 9mm. before deciding to talk things over. The Countess asked if this was not some sort of record, but while close, it was not unique. We have had several up in the twenties over the years.

In that connection, we have been interested in going further into the action at Rorke's Drift to discover that several officers in that memorable engagement did excellent work with the heavy caliber British service revolver. The troops were using single loaders, but the officers had wheel guns, and when one is in danger of being mobbed by squadrons of passionate Zulus, one shot stops are quite satisfactory. From first hand accounts it appears that neither soldiers nor officers had any need to fire twice. That was over one hundred years ago, and see how we have progressed!

Those of you who wish your own copy of "Liberty's Teeth," the video tape I recently cut with Bruce Beers for Quad Productions, may secure same by calling: 916-275-4553.

It has come to my attention that there is a brochure floating around issued by (Grey) Gunsite which maintains that I inspect personally every piece sold by the Gunsmithy at this time. It is true that I used to do this, but I have not done so since the great lynch party of April Fool 1993. Any attempt to advertise that I do is barefaced prevarication.

Despite what you may read in the popular press, not all proper role models are deceased. Consider, for example, Admiral James B. Stockdale. This gentleman is widely known for his exposure to seven years of obscene abuse by slant-eyed little fiends in Hanoi during the Viet Nam war. This experience is worthy of note, but consider the fact that this man did much more than suffer torture. He is first of all a philosopher (by profession at the Hoover War Institute,) secondly a fighter pilot, and thirdly a naval officer. He did everything right throughout his life and now he continues to improve our thought processes as the continuation of his life's work. And note that while he may be politically incorrect as a white male, he is not a dead white male.

Family member and Babamtulu veteran Jack Buchmiller notes that if Nicole Simpson had studied at Gunsite she would now be a wealthy widow.

All of the enlightened are well aware of the Pepper Popper reactive steel target now in general use throughout the world. This is the brainchild of John Pepper of Maryland, who is now running for the Maryland House of Delegates. John is not only one of the few true rifle masters and a leading creator of practical rifle competition, but he is also one of the dedicated defenders of American liberty as granted by God and protected by the Bill of Rights. He needs your support, and those of you who live in Maryland will do well to get in touch with him through the following address:
Pepper Campaign Committee, 5530 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 710, Chevy Chase, MD 20815.

For those of you who wish to acquire a proper view of the African scene, we can recommend "The African Experience" by Roland Olliver, available from Harper Collins. This is as clean and objective a piece of African history as we have run across.

As we have often preached, the only one of life's great pleasures of which there is never any satiety is learning. Anything else you do for your delight which you do long enough will eventually become tiresome, but learning never tires. Unfortunately, it has become fashionable to regard learning as a tool rather than an end in itself. It is customary to think that one learns "X" in order to do "Y." This may be true, but it is only a trivial aspect of the matter. Learning of any sort should be regarded as an end in itself, because it is the one attribute that lasts forever and can never be taken from you.

I now look forward to adventure after nilgai this winter with Finn Aagaard down in Texas. The nilgai is the "blue bull" of India, and while he does not sport a spectacular set of horns, he uses them skillfully and he is a big, strong animal. Also, he is reputed to be excellent eating. We will naturally give you a full report if everything works out.

In a recent article, Layne Simpson tells of the conclusions reached at a symposium of professional hunters which he recorded. These people were Africans, but their observations are pertinent everywhere. He lists the following shortcomings observed by the pros in the field, in the following order:
  1. "Bringing more gun than one can shoot accurately." This is especially true of Africa, but it also applies to Alaska. It is a very common and pernicious error to assume that one will achieve better results in the field by the use of more powerful weapons. Power failures, when the bullet is well placed and penetrates fully, are almost unheard of. Bad shooting, on the other hand, is by no means uncommon. Many years ago we noted the inscription in a commercial advertisement which claimed that "Out where ranges are long you need Weatherby power." Mistake. Out where ranges are long (and even when they are not) what you need is to know how to shoot. The random shooter, who does not practice, is ill-advised to buy something bigger than what he is used to, since justifiably or not it may intimidate him. Recoil and blast are not problems with a well-seasoned marksman, but they may indeed upset the 20-round-a-year man. Use what you know you can hit with. Use the proper bullet and you will have no trouble.
  2. "Poor physical condition." Hunting may not be the kind of activity that calls for entry into a triathlon, but it can be physically demanding, especially in mountainous terrain. We recently noted the conspicuous success of our shooters who were in top shape. Before you take the field find yourself a convenient hill and trot up it three times a week. You will be glad you did.
  3. "Inability to spot game in heavy brush." This is a function of "the hunter's eye" and it cannot be learned by wishing. Generally speaking, the more hunting experience you have the better will be your target acquisition, but simple wilderness hiking, for those who can manage it, will sharpen up the skill conspicuously, especially if the individual makes a contest of it and logs his observations regularly on paper.
  4. "Inability to shoot accurately from the offhand position." At least a third of your shots should be practiced from offhand, and against the clock. The one-and-a-half second interval I use when teaching rifle, from standard ready to hammer fall, is a good test. And you do not need a stop watch. Count to yourself, "one, two, three," at a convenient interval. On "one" you mount the piece to the shoulder. On "two" you acquire the reticle with the shooting eye. And on "three" you gently press the trigger. Clearly you can practice this at home without going to the range, and you certainly should take time to do this before going to the field. Another system I often use is to sit in front of the tube, with my rifle in my lap, and wait for a commercial to come on which displays zeros or "O's." If I can simulate a clean surprise-break every time an "O" appears, I am getting there. If two "O's" appear (as in Coors,) the bolt must be snapped between the two shots. When you get good at this you are well on the way, even without going to the range.
  5. "Shooting offhand when a natural rest is available." Whenever possible, use a rest, and this is surprisingly possible. On my last trip to Southwest Africa, all four shots I took were from a tree or post rest. The late, great Elmer Keith was fond of using his "ten gallon" hat for this purpose when shooting from prone. And Jack O'Connor was fond of using his binocular case. If a rest is available, use it. Do not try to prove that you are capable of hitting the target from offhand.
  6. "Inability to shoot quickly." See paragraph "4" above. Note that this is fully as much a matter of mental conditioning as of marksmanship. I have know several good shots, who had proved they could shoot quickly, go into a sort of paralysis when the Baker Flag was hoisted. This may be a form of buck fever, so inoculate yourself before taking the field.
  7. "Choosing a bullet that goes to pieces without penetrating." Proper placement and penetration are the two things that will secure your game most reliably. Placement is the function of anatomical knowledge and marksmanship. Penetration is a function of bullet performance. There are some stout bullets on the market. Use one that is tried and tested.
  8. "Unsafe gunhandling." This is a terror, and simply establishes that far too many people take to the field without any education at all in the principles of marksmanship. It is not confined to duffers. Too many times we have seen professionals handling their weapons in ways that would bring a stern reprimand from any competent rangemaster. By choice, go to school if you can. With or without school engrave the four principles of safe gun handling in your mind and do not ever let them fade out.
    1. All guns are always loaded.
    2. Do not let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
    3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
    4. Be sure of your target.
  9. "Unfamiliarity with animal anatomy." Study your target's anatomy with great care whenever you see a picture of a four-footed beast in a book, a magazine or on the tube. Remember that your target is a three-dimensional object and pay careful attention to "target angle" (zero is coming straight in, 180 is running straight away, and so on in between).
  10. "Admiring the first shot rather than continuing to shoot until the animal is down." This one brings pained recollection to me as I lost the best sable I ever saw by calling off the war immediately when the beast dropped to a hit on the spinal flange. Having been overgunned for most of my hunting life in North America, I assumed that when I got a clean surprise-break, my animal was secured. This is not necessarily true, and the bolt should be snapped instantly following a shot regardless of what you see through the glass. The ideal is to get your empty on the ground by the time you pick up your target after recoil.
I apologize to Mr. Simpson for borrowing his work, but it was excellent and I mean this in the sense of sincerest flattery.

"I think it would be very wrong indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world."

John Mortimore, in the British publication, Spectator

And now we see advertised the "Black Knight" service pistol, designed to give you everything in a 1911 that you always wanted but were afraid to ask about. It is made entirely in the United States and it is presented as being "ready out of the box," just as was the Gunsite Service Pistol in earlier days. I have not yet seen one nor fired it, but it is clearly a good idea and we wish it well.
(Nowlin Custom Mfg., Rt. 1, Box 308, Claremore, OK 74017.)

How long do you suppose it will take Jesse Jackson to discover that the horror in Rwanda was caused by the French abandonment of their colonial policies and leaving these people to their own devices?
[Editor's note: see also - exchange of letters in "Guns & Ammo" Magazine, April, May 1995.]

For further enlightenment on the situation in both South Africa and the US, I can strongly recommend the self-published typescript,
"Racism, Guilt and Self-Deceit" by M. Gedahlia Braun
Box 261330, Johannesburg 2023, RSA.
Dr. Braun has discovered that only the politically correct can find publishers in today's atmosphere. His work, which is very carefully researched and irreproachably objective, is not politically correct, which may be its strongest recommendation.

It certainly seems clear that we do not need this flood of new cartridges that we see advertised at every turn. The cartridges we have used for most of the twentieth century are quite good enough as they stand. What we do need is improved delivery systems. At this time, we do not have a proper rifle action, nor do we have a proper rifle sight. And nobody seems inclined to build one because the manufacturers can sell all they make as it is right now.

Among the many desirable features which we do not see on our current guns is a mechanism to obviate a "short stroking." I have never been guilty of this sin personally, since in my childhood I was forcefully instructed to work that bolt just as hard as I could - hard all the way, both ways, with no mercy. Still, in my recent hunting adventures, I have known three cases in which the shooter did not withdraw the bolt all the way and failed to pick up the next cartridge on closing the bolt. This can be serious - even deadly when confronting dangerous game. It seems to me that a simple gadget could be installed in the receiver which would prevent forward motion of the bolt until after it had been fully withdrawn. It seems evident that the complaints do not seem to get through to the designers, who are anxious to give us such things as variable power telescopes and three-position safeties, as well as trigger cocking self-loading pieces - all of which stand as answers in search of questions.

A family member and Babamkulu veteran Art Hammer has gone to considerable trouble to analyze and collate the shooting results of our recent expedition. His conclusions are for the most part not surprising, but they do corroborate various principles we have gathered over the years.

The toughest beasts in Africa, pound for pound, are the blue wildebeest and the zebra. It is here that the notion arose that some of our members could have used more power, but I take leave to doubt this. Ian McFarlane of Okavango once told me that he had seen a blue wildebeest take eight hits in the boiler room from a 300 Winchester Magnum before falling down. On the other hand, granddaughter Amy Heath dropped hers on the spot with one round from the 308/180 Nosler. There naturally is some luck involved here, but more than that it is the combination of proper placement and adequate penetration which seems to make the difference.

One conclusion I did find somewhat surprising was that animals who suffered complete penetration - in one side and out the other - were 50 percent more likely to go down quickly than animals which did not show exit wounds. Since 38 animals were recovered, by seven hunters over a period of ten days, this analysis is somewhat more reliable than my own experience, which never indicated to me that full penetration was a critical desideratum. Danie van Graan, our host at Engonyameni, feels very strongly that the prospective African hunter should submit himself to a proper course of rifle training, not more than six months before undertaking the adventure. He also corroborates the general command, "Get in shape!"

Those of you who are coming to the NRA Whittington Center for the Second Annual Gunsite Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial are urged to make preparations now. First, you should make your reservation with Mike Ballew at the shooting center. Remember the occasion will last for three days - October 21, 22 and 23. Second, start thinking about which declamation you wish to declaim. Your presentation may be either prose or verse, it may be read from the manuscript or memorized. It need not be prepared either by or about Theodore Roosevelt, but it should reflect the spirit of the age which he typified. When you have decided, it would be helpful if you would let me know what your title is so that I can put the word out to avoid duplication. Never did we suspect that there were so many frustrated thespians among the faithful. If you came last time you will know what I mean, and if this one is your first adventure, I guarantee that you will be delighted. Make your plans now!

Neighbor and family member Colonel Bob Young has taken me out shooting following my recent stint in drydock. I am happy to report that while I cannot yet quite yet "do it all," I can do most of it, and I expect to be fully combat-worthy by the end of summer. A bit of advice I can extend to the inexperienced is, if you go about breaking bones take care to break them one at a time.

It may be a digression from the usual content of this publication, but for heaven's sake remember that we have a chance in November! The liberal strangle-hold on our federal legislature may be broken if we all take the trouble to vote for the right man. The war cry, "Throw the rascals out!"

Letters in "Guns & Ammo."

[Editor's Note: the following exchange of letters re Jeff's comment on the situation in Rwanda is from the letters page of "Guns & Ammo" Magazine, April and May 1995 issues.]

This from Randall Baker, Chicago, IL,
The Facts on Rwanda

Although I generally like and agree with your magazine, as an African-American I am concerned about Jeff Cooper's recent comment in "Cooper's Corner." He wrote, "How long do you suppose it will take Jesse Jackson to discover that the horror in Rwanda was caused by the French abandonment of their colonial policies and leaving these people to their own devices?" This is both inflammatory and wrong.

It wasn't the French that left Rwanda, it was the Belgians. Independence was achieved in 1962. Prior to that it was occupied by the Germans. Slavery was abolished during the Belgian mandate. In some small degree, education was available to the native-born Africans and tribal systems flourished. The Hutu and Tutsi feuding was going on before the Belgians left.
And Jeff's reply,
Cooper's Response

Many thanks for your thoughtful letter to the magazine.

First, you are quite right in pointing out that it was the Belgian colonials, not the French, who were in charge of Rwanda, I was quite wrong in that and it embarrasses me. On the other hand, the tribal warfare between Bahutu and Watutsi was held to a minimum during the colonial administrations, and that was the main point of my statement.
[This continued in the May issue...]

from Randall Baker,
New-Found Friend

I am currently stationed on board the USS Constellation (CV-64) somewhere in the western Pacific Ocean in transit to the points further west. Mail is a godsend out here. I am even more appreciative that you took the time out of what must be a very hectic schedule to respond to my letter. I am truly impressed.

I am glad that you acknowledged my letter, in spite of my acerbic attack on your column, you responded with professionalism becoming of an elder statesmen of the sport that we both enjoy. Believe it or not, I share the same opinion that you do on the OJ situation. My father (who is the city marshal of my home of record) shares your sentiments as well. It was a very hard-hitting statement. However, with all the media attention that this tragedy has received, I was concerned that the statement would ring of tabloid, particularly in a magazine that reports so intelligently on a subject so sensitive on our current government's agenda. Being African-American, I am a bit more sensitive to things that concern rights - perhaps I am too sensitive. But the anti-gunners also think that the NRA is too sensitive concerning the Second Amendment, right?

May you enjoy the fact that your are the gunner's guru, because you are definitely that. In fact, some sage advice form you (surprise break) allowed me to qualify as a pistol expert with the .45. Although our politics may differ sometimes and I don't always agree with the things in your Cooper's Corner, you are the resident expert and I am a fan of yours.

signed as: Randall Baker, AE (AW), USN
From Jeff,
Cooper's Reply

Having been seagoing for a long period in the Western Pacific, I can understand your feelings about mail call.

We all have our personal sensitivities. You are sensitive about racial matters, I on matters of political liberty. I suppose the issues are not completely unrelated.

Be that as it may, I am pleased to learn that we are basically on the same side of the barricades.

Onward and upward.
[See also Vol. 2, No. 5.]

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