Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 7, No. 1           January, 1999


Well now, 1998 was a year that was! And to top it off, see what a splendid Christmas present we got from the US House of Representatives! Senator Schumer, whom Tom Fleming has characterized as the nation's most vicious enemy of the Bill of Rights, was perfectly furious, as was Barney Frank, our token weirdo. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys!

We on the "Liberty Team" will continue to struggle throughout the forthcoming year. We members of the National Rifle Association of America will put our money where our mouths are and make sure that the government establishment will never be allowed to assume that the wimp establishment represents the "mainstream." Cases keep coming up, and we keep fighting them. Right now we are in a head-on with the US Forest Service regarding the continued operation of a long established shooting range which is located on BLM land in southern Arizona. The government has told the operating club that they should build an indoor range. Now wouldn't that really increase the attractiveness of the national forest! I think we may win this one. It is to hope.

Family member Cas Gadomski reports that a lady friend of his in Alaska was stalked and attacked by a black bear. This woman happened to be packing her rifle and successfully stopped an unprovoked charge with one shot. Gunsite Bear Rules were properly observed in this case, and everything turned out well.

The Waffenpƶsselhaft award for 1998 has been preempted by a sportsman whom family member Mark Terry observed on a public rifle range. The character concerned had recently acquired a brand new Weatherby 300 with which he commenced practice for deer season. He began work from the off-hand position at a range of 100 yards. Mark said that he felt that this was rather a good attitude until he noticed upon closer examination that there were no sights on the rifle. Our shooter shot slow-fire and observed the target through binoculars after every shot. He fired 20 rounds of (very expensive) Weatherby ammunition, and then secured his practice. There was not a mark on the paper.

The more I observe the human race, the more I do not understand.

Incidentally, how do you feel about a quick-detachable telescope mount? The idea has never appealed to me, but I find people of serious stature who do fancy it. I prefer to put a glass on a rifle and leave it in place until it breaks, but there are those who like to take it off and put it on to anticipate specific action types.

We are at work on the project of a new sighting system for the scout involving a fixed glass with no moving parts and using a transparent pyramid for a reticle. We intend to talk to the Kahles people at the SHOT Show, and J.P. Denis, past president of IPSC, has already done some experimenting with the reticle. Considering the time it took to get the scout concept into production, I am not expecting quick results here, but the idea is interesting and I intend to pursue it.

You will remember that Tim LeGendre of Michigan showed us an approximation of the thumper concept some years ago. He is now well onto a new project, which is essentially a giant 45 adapted to the M16 rifle. He uses the 280 Remington case with its rebated rim and clips the cartridge to the length of the 30 caliber US Carbine. He claims he is getting 3000f/s with the standard 230-grain RNJ pistol bullet! Pretty wild, hey? Tim calls his project the "45 Professional." And when asked, why?, he said that professional hunters in Cameroon (of all places) have tested this out as a protection gun for client hunters with great success. Apparently these Cameroonian PHs have decided that "spray and pray" has its place in the dangerous game business. This notion does not thrill me, but Tim claims that it works - or that it has worked on a couple of occasions already. Of course one may not own or operate a self-loading rifle down below the Mason-Dixon Line in Africa, but the idea is certainly interesting. Zounds!

We grieve for the African farmers who have lived in Condition White for generations, but now find that following the revolution they do not have this choice. As much as one might wish it, he cannot simply bow out of a race war. You do not have to choose up sides to be a combatant. The other people will do it for you.

In a curious commentary on the modern age, we recently had a long bull session with a family member who was a naval aviator by profession and now flies combat aircraft as a civilian consultant. He has had a long time in the air and a certain amount of combat experience, but the only time he ever had occasion to shoot for blood was on a rural highway in the United States. He repelled boarders with his 1911 and scored two for three. That 45 pistol is a step down from a Sidewinder missile, but it worked exactly as intended - to nobody's surprise.

Guru say: Don't put a glass on that "Co-pilot."

Did you notice that these goofy animal crackers are buying up prime time on television sports channels? During pro-football broadcasts we were treated several times to a commercial which tried to make us feel bad about eating chicken. (Actually it could not have been a commercial, since nobody was trying to sell anything.) These people just insist that I should eat broccoli instead of steak. Now, I certainly do not care how much broccoli they eat, but I find it obnoxious for them to tell me what I should eat. The busybodies - the polypragmatoi, as we may call them - are proceeding from the silly to the offensive. The ad we saw was sponsored by PETA, which calls itself "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals," but which more precisely might be termed Philosophically Egregious Theorizers of Asininity.

Note that the new offerings from Mercedes Benz feature pistol boxes beneath the two front seats. That is not a new idea, but up till now it was a call for custom work.

We learn from a correspondent in France that wild pigs have become a serious agricultural problem there, as they have been in Germany for some time, and now increasingly so in Australia. Hunting the "wild boar" is a fine pastime and should be encouraged widely. French farmers do not seem to like this idea, however, and now maintain that the wild hog should be exterminated. The people who condemn hunting frequently have to face this. They would rather there were no wild animals than that anyone should enjoy hunting them.

In studying the matter of a rigid glass with all adjustments in the mount, we come up into the rarified study of "spherical sections." We were introduced to spherical sections in our college math studies, but the subject did not take. Fortunately I have access to technicians who understand such things. (A spherical section is a solemn thing.)

We note with annoyance that neither the factory nor Gun South is prepared to offer a "Jeff Cooper trigger" on a production SS. That trigger, which I hoped was to be offered as a standard feature, is one of the outstanding things about the SS rifle. Family member Mark Yuen suggests that what is now being offered suggests a Ferrari with a speed governor installed.

In our year-end sea stories we heard a remark from an old line infantryman from Vietnam who, when he was introduced to the M16 rifle, opined "I ain't got time for 'em to bleed to death."

I direct the attention of the ladies again to the little Smith & Wesson revolver, which probably should be called The Contessa. It is a 9-shot revolver, which appears to be made of plastic, but actually is light metal. If you do not hang onto it, it seems to want to fly on out the window. It is offered with a bad trigger, but that can be fixed. Now certainly we do not recommend the 22 long rifle cartridge as a man-stopper, but in the first place, the presence of the pistol, rather than its shooting, is what terminates most confrontations; and in the second, a 22 in the tear duct is just as conclusive as a 44.

In England the animal crackers grow more disgusting with each passing day. Now some loony has decided to starve himself to death if the government does not do something about animal experimentation in laboratories. His supporters have announced that, if he dies, they will kill ten laboratory experimenters. We may doubt that they mean this, but the fact that they will make such a threat indicates a social sickness of distressing virulence.

Television commentator Tom Brokaw has recently offered a curious analysis of what may be called "generation diversity." In one instance, an elderly gentleman was complaining to a social scientist about the mindless vandalism of young people who take it upon themselves to smash property just for laughs. The latter was inclined to minimize the perniciousness involved as simply the normal exuberance of youth. The plaintiff was asked, "Well, what were you doing when you were 17?" The answer, "I was fighting on Guadalcanal."

Yes, Virginia, there is a generation gap.

Current jargon holds that a "hot burglary" is one committed when the resident of the dwelling is at home - a "cold burglary" when he is not. Since the disarmament of the British public, hot burglary is up 50 percent - as opposed to a steady 13 percent in the United States.

Family member Danie van Graan reports from the Zambezi Delta that the country up there is true jungle - thick and green with the sun shut out overhead. In that country what you get is the snap shot - no more than 1 - seconds from spot to hit. I have taught the snap shot for many years, and I have been asked by many people if it is not a very unusual experience. I guess we can say that it is. I have only used it four times myself, but there are circumstances - the Pennsylvania woods and the Zambezi Delta - where it is the rule rather than the exception.

We see that the Canadian Foreign Minister, one Axworthy, feels that the priority for the United Nations should be the adoption of a global convention prohibiting the international transport of smallarms - to anybody except government. Here we have a senior and important official of a significant nation unashamedly flaunting the face of tyranny. In his view, nobody but governments should have access to arms. We all should trust governments - right?

Our good buddy Bethany Robinson reports difficulty with the bolt stop on a number of Remington 600s. The Remington 600 was a notable concept - a conceptual ancestor of the scout - but its execution was flawed in many ways. Among other things, that bolt stop tends to gum up and stick with use. When it does so, the bolt comes neatly out in your hand when you attempt to re-charge the weapon. Immediate action is to rinse off the part and its pivoting arrangement with some sort of solvent. Usually this is enough.

It appears that the organizers of the 1999 Munich police championships are going to introduce an air pistol event to enable the British police to participate. A British cop cannot own a pistol, and he can only practice with one in prescribed official practice. Perhaps we should forget the whole matter.

In that connection we note that a recent survey in Britain discovered that the great majority of Englishmen would rather watch soccer on television than make love to the girl of their dreams. These people are the successors of the Lion Hearted Richard, the Hammer of the Scots, of Wellington and Clive! Philip of Spain could not do it. Napoleon could not do it. Hitler could not do it. But the native-born British squalids have finally succeeded in bringing the Lion low. Today we stand alone.

We expect to hold interesting conversations at the SHOT Show in Atlanta. If the 376 Dragoon from Steyr is ready to show, that will indeed be something new, but I do not know what else to expect apart from a rather svelte-looking poodle-shooter from Heckler & Koch. I will, of course, be holding forth on the Steyr Scout, and I must hope that the factory has not decided to gussy it up with hot and cold muzzle-brakes and such. The 376 Dragoon may indeed call for a muzzle brake - not for the shooter but for the protection of the telescope, which is the generic weak point of all contemporary sporting rifles.

Back when I was running Gunsite, we would expect one or two telescope failures in each class of 16, this for the expenditure of perhaps 360 rounds per rifle. Most consumers do not expend 360 rounds in a hunting rifle, so they rarely encounter this problem of fragility. Naturally the glass can be made stronger, but it will then cost more, and anything that raises cost terrifies the marketer.

It is curious to note that the complaint about the cost of the Steyr Scout continues. I note in passing that the retail price of the Steyr Scout does not come up to that of a really good cigar. Fortunately I do not smoke.

Daughter Lindy's jewelry establishment in Phoenix was set upon recently by armed bandits, but Lindy was unable to obtain a clear sight picture. No one was hurt, and the creeps were picked up quickly by the police, only to be passed through the revolving door out to the street again. They will doubtless try the same thing again, but let us hope that this time they will not get clear.

We have been treated to a couple of excellent after-action reports from Africa. It appears that Africa today after the revolution continues to be a pretty nifty place, as long as you stay out of town. The big cities continue to degenerate, but who needs a big city?

I do wish, however, that the faithful would remember their school work. Three hundred meters remains the outside limit for a respectable marksman - and that is when conditions are perfect. Your target beast deserves full consideration. One of the family attempted a moving target at 300 - and missed. At least he did not wound, but he set a bad example.

Another weakness I note in the gringo adventurer is a failure to read into the problem. There is much Africana available in bookstores and libraries, and one who does not avail himself of this before going to Africa is wasting about half the expense of the trip. Of course, clear cut communication is not everyone's gift. I recently had a correspondent refer to a wildebeeste as "a beautiful animal." Anyone who thinks a wildebeeste is beautiful is not using the same language I am. The first thing you notice about a wildebeeste is that he is ugly.

At this time I am setting up for moose in Maine and bison out west. This, of course, is for testing the new 376 Steyr cartridge. I assume we will have the cartridge ready for demonstration by next year's hunt, and I further assume that the Steyr "Dragoon" rifle taking this cartridge will be ready for me to test at that time. I do not see any real reason for a "muscle scout" (as Erwin puts it), but when it appears I will make every effort to take it afield. I do not anticipate proving anything by this stunt, but it will give me a good reason to go shooting, and it may attract attention - to the delight of the advertiser.

I note that Petersen Publications has been sold again. I hope this is for the best, but I am by now convinced that anyone who buys an enterprise which has been designed and built by another is not someone you want to have to dinner.

Department of Silly Statements

Not long ago I saw a bumper sticker, the sense of which was repeated later on the flyleaf of the whodunit "Dance Hall of the Dead" by Tony Hillerman. It reads: "Custer had it coming."

This is my candidate for the silliest remark of the season. We all have it coming, buster, but very few of us can expect that Wagnerian ride to Valhalla! Perhaps Tecumseh - at an earlier date - but certainly not Sitting Bull nor Crazy Horse. From the beginning of history it has been the soldier's ambition to die in action, sword-in-hand and face to the enemy. In scanning the list of heros' deaths, we may note that while vast numbers of men have died in battle, only a few have arranged to go out with truly heroic flourish: Leonidas, El Cid, Valens, Beortnoth, General George Pomeroy Colley at Majuba Hill, George Armstrong Custer, and, perhaps preeminently, Horatio Nelson. There are others, but not many, and George Custer is certainly inscribed on the gold role of honor.

So he had it coming - and so have you, and so have I, but we can hardly expect the premium gold card which is our ticket into the halls of splendor. If various sorts of "activists" wish to make fools of themselves, let them refrain from preaching to others.

This passing decade has been notable for its centennial designs in smallarms. There was the 92 Krag, the 94 Winchester, and the landmark 98 Mauser. Nineteen ninety-nine brings us round to the full century of the Model 99 Savage, an outstanding and unusual artifact that deserves more renown than the public has seen fit to give it. The Model 99 Savage was and is a great rifle, filling a tactical niche which has not been duplicated by any other piece. It was a lever-action to beat the bolt-action, and in many ways it did.

When I was at university I held a sort of unofficial position as "fraternity gun counsellor" for the Zete house at Stanford. One of the brothers sought my advice on the purchase of a deer gun, since he had decided to follow in the footsteps of his father as a big game hunter. His problem was that he was left-handed. In those days the bolt-action 30-06 in its several forms - Springfield, Winchester and Remington - ruled the roost. The 30-06 was the perfect cartridge and the military-type bolt-action was the only way to go. My left-handed friend was unhappy with his father's Springfield, so he came to me for advice.

After checking all sources, we got him a Savage 99 in caliber 300 Savage. We had Bob Chow's shop in San Francisco do a trigger job for us, and fitted the piece with a four-power Weaver scope plus a military-type loop sling. The resulting combination was quite sensational. The lever-action permitted easy use from either right or left shoulder. The 300 Savage cartridge was not quite up to a 30-06, but it was close - very much like a 308. The 5-shot rotary magazine, plus cartridge counter, was a delight to use, and the little gun shot into postage stamps as far away as you can see a postage stamp.

The 99 was offered in all sorts of varieties and modifications, from its year Model of 1899 up to the present. It was available in a take-down version, and later with a detachable box magazine (which was a distinct step backwards). It was easy to fit with good sights, either aperture or telescope, since it was not open on top like competing lever-actions. Its magazine would accept pointed military-style bullets, avoiding the possibility of inadvertent ignition in a tube magazine. Its trigger, as it came out of the box, was not its best point, but it was amenable to fine tuning. It was altogether a nifty little gun, and it beats me why it did not sweep the board with the public. The manufacturer made a point of issuing it in caliber 250-3000, maintaining that you could reach the magical 3000 fps figure with an 87-grain 25-caliber bullet. The 250-3000 (or 250 Savage) was a good enough deer gun, if your deer were not too big, and it was gentle as a lamb to shoot. The 300 Savage was a practically perfect deer cartridge, as the 308 is now, and the 99 was eventually offered in 308, as well as 358 Winchester.

The manufacturer went through a series of vicissitudes during the wars, and unfortunately its quality control slipped badly. Today, if you want a premium 99, best look for one built before War II.

Here, of course, is the answer for the southpaw. Several domestic manufacturers have offered left-handed bolt guns to the public over the past couple of decades, but somehow they do not seem as popular with lefties as the 99.

Today you can go abroad for the Blaser 93, the symmetrical action of which is instantly convertible by the acquisition of a left-handed bolt. This, of course, is an excellent solution, for the 93 has many additional advantages, but the combination is expensive. (The specter of the left-handed Steyr Scout sits there glowering in the corner, but apparently without glowering hard enough - so far.)

The memory of that rifle sticks in my mind. When the war caught us everything came apart, and I have no idea whether my friend survived it to become the ardent deer hunter that he hoped. I am sorry to say that I have not seen him since Pearl Harbor, and that is a long time ago. I would like to think that that M99 300 is still today giving good service in the California mountains, unless it got run over by a truck or something. There is no reason why it should not.

Well here we go into the last year of the millennium. Things do not look good for the human race. Honesty, decency and liberty are in decline, while street crime, academic perversion and bad taste are on the rise. Still, the guns, the cars and the wines may be expected to remain on the unprecedented high level they now enjoy, so be of good cheer for the New Year!

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