Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 3, No. 14          November, 1995


This is the time to count our blessings, and despite the degenerate nature of the world at large we still have much to be thankful for. I suppose good health is the greatest gift of God, and those who have it can always place it at the top of the list. As the Spanish toast puts it, "Salud y dinero, y tiempo para gozarlas." (Health and money, and time to enjoy them.)

The weather has continued fine here at Gunsite up to the time of writing. It has enabled us to enjoy the countryside to the fullest. A Phoenix contingent recently showed up for a small and friendly shoot on the Ravengard Range, where we set up the Swiss qualification course which calls for 300 meters and the Swiss government target, of which I have a small supply. To my considerable satisfaction daughter Lindy fired a "Swiss possible" with her Springfield pseudo-Scout, shooting from sitting with a set of buffalo sticks that I whittled out personally way back in the Dark Ages before the fall. The thing that tickled me was that Lindy was shooting with the scoutscope against an SSG and a Remington 700 bull-gun, both of which were fitted with target scopes. Those misguided souls who insist that the Scout rifle is simply a brush gun have clearly never met one in action. Now what Lindy needs to work on is her "quick fix with the sticks."

Hunting season has provided us with a good supply of prime venison, courtesy of family member Mark Federn. Trying to decide between prime mule deer and prime elk is a delightful challenge.

It is a considerable annoyance to discover that the paperback edition of "Meditations on Hunting" by José Ortega y Gasset has now been discontinued by Simon & Schuster. If you have not got your copy, or even if you have, you must now hunt around for it in gun shows and used-book stores. Ortega's classic has been praised by some as the greatest philosophical work of the 20th century, and it arms all of us solidly and pointedly against the bleatings of the bunny-huggers. No proper home should be without its copy.

A piece of good news comes from
"Wilderness Adventures Press," Box 627, Gallatin Gateway, MT 59730 (800-925-3339).
These good people have prepared a gold-plated luxury edition of the "Meditations" available now at $60.00 a copy. I cannot think of a better Christmas present for the man who has (almost) everything.

The question arises as to the proper condition of readiness for the house shotgun. I do not feel entirely sure of my ground here, having only the skimpiest number of examples to draw upon, but for my own purposes I rack a shotgun in Condition 3, with the chamber empty and the hammer down. I put one round of No. 6 low-base in the magazine, and then stuff three rounds of high-base 00 buck forward in the buttcuff and three rounds of rifled slug at the rear. I feel that if I have to get out of bed and man that shotgun I will have time to rack the action once as soon as I seize the piece. One round of No. 6 low-base should suffice for any uninvited guest, and if the action threatens to continue it is the work of a moment to select either 00 or rifled slug as circumstances may warrant.

In nearly all short-range shotgun engagements one properly delivered charge is sufficient, and a short double gun has much to be said for it. The classic "lupara," with its 18-inch barrels and exposed hammers, still keeps up with the best as a house gun.

Bumper Sticker:
"If he wants to take my gun he can't have my vote."

If any of the faithful happened to catch McMurtry's "Streets of Laredo" on the tube you will have noticed that this piece is distinguished primarily by absolutely atrocious gunhandling. Clearly nobody involved in that presentation has ever fired a shot or seen one fired. The proper and dexterous handling of firearms seems to be fading from the screen - along with the management of a square-rigged sailing vessel.

Assemblyman Pete Ernaut (R-Reno), speaking at a Carson City luncheon: "What a great and unique state is Nevada! Where else can you drive 75mph with a concealed weapon while breast-feeding your baby?"

The Reno Gazette Journal, via Family member John Clark

One of our ingenuous newsmen in the Phoenix area has begun viewing coots with alarm. It turns out that these birds are swarming over the ponds reserved for golfing geezers in "The Valley of the Sun." I have some experience with coots (which we used to call "mud hens" in my youth), and I discover them to be excellent eating, providing they have been living in an unpolluted water source. Down on the mud flats of southern California they tend to taste of petroleum effluent from the ocean-going vessels frequenting the ports, but when they are feeding on grass along the shores of a freshwater lake they approximate mallard in flavor.

Thus the proper thing to do with coots is to eat them. It has been pointed out that there is some sort of legal injunction against harassing coots, and I suppose eating them would be considered a form of harassment. However, if the law is wrong it is up to us to change it, or at least that is what Thomas Jefferson thought.

If you are in the market for a rifle, remember the basic weight test. Hold your piece by the small of the stock, arm's length, shoulder high, muzzle up - for 60 seconds. If that exercise is painful for you, either you need a lighter rifle or you need to get in shape.

If you read the gun press at this time you may learn that one-minute accuracy is commonplace, or even substandard. From this you may derive the idea that if you cannot put all your shots in a fingernail, way out past Fort Mudge, something is wrong. This, of course, is foolishness, as anyone who has access to a range can prove, and it is further aggravated by the advertisers who insist that one element of the combination is all that is necessary for perfection. In the recent SCI for example, one advertiser maintains the rifle action he produces is good for a quarter-minute - in and of itself.

Now then, absolute accuracy is a combination of several ingredients. The rifle action is certainly one, but only one. The barrel is another, but still only one. When the barrel and the action are properly mated, it is then necessary to fit the assembly into a stock system, and that is a third item. If action, barrel, and bedding are all perfect, there is yet another item missing, which may be the most important of all, and that is ammunition. (I am disregarding the sighting system, which is independent of the entire combination.) Ammunition is the largest single element in rifle accuracy. No rifle sitting in the rack can produce premium accuracy. Unless it is fed premium ammunition the combination will not work, and premium ammunition is not all that easy to come by. What is offered over the counter for sale may or may not measure up.

I recall that when I first met the SSG in Austria, I fired a 5-shot one-holer in their 100 meter test tube. When I took delivery the company representative implored me by the bones of Saint Cuthbert never to shoot that piece except with the very finest of premium ammunition, either factory or hand-loaded. Subsequently in the Philippines I ran across an SSG which the owner was willing to discard, since in his words it would not stay on a copy of Time at 50 paces. I found this astonishing and I asked him what kind of ammunition he had been using, and he answered, "Philippine Army GI." Well, now! We were able to dream up a box of Hirtenberg match ammunition, and using that, the rifle printed into a teacup at the greatest distance we could find on the plantation, which was 270 paces.

As I have often pointed out, accuracy that you cannot appreciate is useless, and if you, the shooter, cannot hold on a dinner plate at the length of a football field the fact that your shooting combination of action, barrel, stock and ammunition will shoot into your thumbnail at that distance is of no concern.

I remember once faring forth into the Kaibab with three sportsmen from Hollywood, all of whom were armed with the then-new 264 Winchester rifle, which I was told would do at 400 yards what a 270 could only do at 300 yards. With his new 264 one of the party proceeded to miss a standing buck clean at about 75 yards, shooting from offhand. He not only missed it, but he threw dirt all over it.

As somebody once said, it's the shooter, not the weapon, that gets the hit.

Gazing at my planning calendar for 1996 I begin to think that we will have to cancel the month of April for lack of space.

Have you noticed in recent advertisements that the excellent Enfield No. 4 battle rifle is now available in the larger stores for $70 a crack! This is a very superior utility weapon, and you should snap it up while it lasts. If you have a safe place to store your weapons you ought to buy at least two of these pieces, together with a satisfactory supply of ammunition. As it comes out of the box, the piece will do ("for government work"), and if you want to play around with customizing it, you can turn it into a pretty nice approximation of a Scout. Take heed!

As both joggers and cougars proliferate they seem to have found each other. It is the basic instinct of the predator to run after anything that runs away, and the cougar and the jogger seem to have arrived at a happy symbiosis.

I have always found it queer to discover that there are many shooters who are not hunters, and many hunters who are not shooters. I know a considerable number of law enforcement people (who ought to be shooters) who have no interest in hunting, and up in the Pennsylvania woods I understand there are tens of thousands of hunters who are not interested in shooting, in any serious sense. And then, of course, there is the rich kid who spends his riches conspicuously on "safaris," usually knowing almost nothing about riflecraft and displaying no desire to learn. I think people who are one but not the other lead diminished lives, but that, of course, is a subjective view.

Whether we admit it or not, man is a carnivorous predator, as his teeth will attest. This animal is programmed to hunt and kill his prey for food, and the instinct to kill things is rooted way down in his genetic program. One has only to watch little boys and see them grow up to discover this. Hand a 6-year-old a slingshot and he will immediately want to sock a bird with it. You may tell him he should not, but that does not eliminate the instinct.

If we consider these increasingly popular "drive-by shootings" endemic to the underclass, we see the instinct in full cry. Such shootings accomplish nothing at all except to relieve instinct pressure inherent in the species. For ages this pressure has been properly directed by civilized men into hunting channels. As hunting possibilities decrease with the urbanization of the world, the undirected and morally irresponsible youth turns naturally to killing people, for lack of a better plan. Without the family and without the church this phenomenon is not going to disappear. The State is not only a bad master, it is also inefficient.

As the English language continues to decompose, we find an increasing tendency to use the word "civilian" to mean "other than us." The law enforcement people have long referred to private citizens as "civilians," apparently not realizing that cops are civilians, whereas it is soldiers who are not. Now we see this spreading to the corporate world in which people outside the inner circle of the major corporations are frequently referred to as "civilians." The next step, I suppose, is for teachers to refer to parents as "civilians," and for holders of Ph.D.s to refer to the rest of the world likewise. In correct usage if you are not a soldier, sailor, marine, or airman, you are a civilian, but then journalists at large may not be expected to know that.

The following from Jean-Pierre Maldonado in Pennsylvania:
"A missionary working among Vietnamese immigrants in the Souderton-Telford area states that there are four or five Vietnamese-born miscreants in his region who prey exclusively upon Southeast Asians. When asked why they don't attack Americans, it turns out that they know that most American families are armed."

That, of course, is why the American "Wild West" was so much safer for the individual citizen in the 1890s than American cities are in the 1990s. A recent note in "The New American" points out that armed robbery in the American West ran about 7 percent of what it is in New York City today, and that rape was unknown. Such homicides as took place occurred largely between drunks in bars. Of course everybody was armed, and as we all know, an armed society is a polite society.

"Ain't many troubles that a man cain't fix
With seven hundred dollars and a thirty aught six."
How many of you know the rest of the words to that song?

Another anecdote we unearth from McBride has to do with hard hats. When the first steel helmets were issued to the Canadian troops in World War I, they were most unpopular, and men endeavored to get by without wearing them when they could - why I cannot say. McBride, himself a sergeant at the time, was chewed out by his captain for wandering around with his helmet slung over his shoulder. Properly chastised, Sergeant McBride left the presence properly helmeted. Within minutes of his dressing-down a large piece of steel from an air burst banged him so hard on top of his head that he was knocked to his knees. Presumably he got the point.

In my military days I always fancied the helmet. Not only does it save lives, but it makes a warrior look like a warrior - as George Patton was fond of pointing out.

From Hawaii the following fascinating anecdote:
"G had been ordered to attend an 'anger management' class for beating on his concubine. He showed up at the meeting drunk and disorderly.

M, who was conducting the meeting while on probation for an attempted murder conviction, thereupon pounded G into the ground. G subsequently died after life support was disconnected because of brain death.

M, the anger counsellor, has pleaded innocent to manslaughter charges - possibly because he was angry at the time."
All of this took place in Honolulu. Aloha to all!

Family Member Dan Predovich of Colorado points out that the Color Code, as now standard, cannot be applied to an individual who simply will not accept life as it is. Dan says that if you are not aware of the world you simply will not believe the Color Code, no matter how accurately it is explained to you. I have always felt that no one would sign up for instruction unless he was aware of the world, but in some cases - especially in law enforcement - the student has not knowingly accepted combat duty, and the Color Code is lost on him. This may well be true, but it does not affect my teaching doctrine. Those who are not prepared to learn will not learn. As someone once said, "There is none so blind as him who will not see."

On the one hand we are continually warned against drinking while driving. On the other hand we note that all the new cars are issued with cupholders. Now what is to be made of this?

It has been suggested to me that I give the impression that I scorn domestic manufacturers in favor of Europeans. I would like to correct that impression insofar as I may. The reason I favor German and Austrian rifles is that they come over the counter with excellent triggers. In my opinion, trigger action is the most significant single component in the "hitability" of a rifle. Domestic manufacturers apparently feel that if they put a good trigger in the rifle as it comes over the counter they will be libel for lawsuits. Most of them additionally point out that if anyone works on the trigger to make it better the factory warranty on the weapon is invalidated.

In this Age of Litigation in which we find ourselves, a great many people feel that excellence is irrelevant.

"The root cause of crime is that for certain people predation is a rational occupational choice."

Daniel D. Polsby in the Atlantic Monthly

The following delightful anecdote comes from Bill McKay in Illinois:
"At a recent local VFW meeting the Mayor of Oregon, Illinois, opined that the cannon on the public square did not portray the feeling he wanted to represent the town, and he asked that it be moved. The vets promptly responded by seconding the motion and ordered that their cannon be moved so as to point directly at the Mayor's house. The motion was carried."

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