Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 10, No. 6 15 May 2002
The annual meeting of the NRA at Reno this
year was as inspirational as usual. The presentations by the senior
officers left hardly a dry eye in the house, and the 45,000
faithful who gathered for the occasion were shown that the cause of
liberty for which we fight remains in good hands. For indeed
liberty is what we shooters preserve in this country. Often we talk
about the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which
grants us no liberty, though it does indeed ratify liberty
granted to us by God. Often we talk about "Liberty" and "Freedom"
as if the two ideas were interchangeable. This is not quite true.
Try it on yourself. Freedom is a physical condition. Liberty is a
political condition. Your freedom can be denied you by chains and
bars, but your liberty exists or does not exist apart from such
considerations. When Governor Henry declaimed, "Give me liberty or
give me death," he was speaking of something other than
freedom - or so it seems to me.
We were privileged again to chat with Joe Foss, US Marine, fighter
pilot, brigadier general, state governor, football commissioner,
and so on. It has been my signal good fortune to meet personally
and chat with three genuine heroes - Foss, Hanneken and Rudel.
These are true heroes, rather than temporary journalistic conceits,
and personal contact with such is an elevating experience for which
we are duly thankful.
One can go on and on about the exploits of Joe Foss, but one that I
learned about at Reno was new to me. On one occasion he brought his
aircraft back to base bearing over 220 bullet holes. Any
one of those hits might well have killed him, but he was aloft
again the following day - in another airplane, of course. Try
that on your computer sometime!
Reports back from Afghanistan inform us
that while the mountaineers there truly love their guns, they
rarely have any idea of how to use them. Kipling to the contrary,
these birds cannot as a rule "shoot for sour owl jowls," which is
pretty good news for us unbelievers.
Does a soldier need to shoot well? Good
question. I know of three cases in which excellent field
marksmanship decided the action. These were the Boers at Majuba
Hill, the US Marines at Chateau Thierry, and the Volksturm
reservists at the Arnhem bridgehead. There may be other such cases,
but if so they are not widely documented. Chroniclers are rarely
interested in battle techniques, so the fact that something is not
reported certainly does not mean that it did not occur.
Nonetheless, good field marksmanship is a rarity - in or out
What then is a good field marksman? In my opinion, a man who can
hit a tea cup at 100 meters with his first shot, from a field
position, in a 5 second interval is a good shot. Try this test on
yourself, but do not call for witnesses. People who talk about good
shots are usually terrible liars.
This proliferation of reduced size 45
autos is an interesting development. There are those who insist
that increased recoil, which must be an aspect of miniaturization,
is a step backwards. I used to think so at one time, but no longer.
The essential element of a defensive handgun (apart from
reliability) is convenient portability. This is more evident in the
case of the private citizen than with the soldier. Of course there
are plenty of people in the eastern megalopolis, and in Europe, who
feel that a private citizen has no business with any sort of
handgun, but we need not talk to them.
Reduced weight increases recoil, and there are plenty of people who
feel that the standard 1911, at 39 ounces, kicks too much as it is.
Much of this idea is the result of "sea stories" brought back from
World War I, and it is largely basura. The miniature
45s do kick more than the GI version, but I hardly think that
matters. A defensive pistol situation is normally experienced at
arm's length, or a little more. You do not have to shoot target
groups if your adversary threatens you across the room, but you do
have to hit him hard - hard enough to stop the fight
immediately. We cannot expect 100 percent perfection in this
regard, but with the 45 ACP cartridge in its military version, we
will achieve what we want about nine times out of ten. By messing
around with improved loads and better bullet shape, we can increase
our probability to about nineteen stops out of twenty tries -
provided we place our bullet on the right spot. A man who works at
this can achieve what he wants with one of these "pocket punchers"
about as well as he can with the full-sized gun. Thus the reduced
bulk and weight of the "snubby" may be a definitely good thing, for
certain lifestyles. These little pieces do not need sharp sights
nor target triggers. They are not "fun guns," but rather strictly
business, and should not be put down because we do not win matches
John Gannaway, the Lion Man, tells
us that he has now located a personally autographed copy of
Theodore Roosevelt's "African Game Trails," first edition.
As with certain cars, if you have to ask the price, you cannot
Correspondents sometimes take me to task
for not confining my Commentaries to gun matters exclusively. In
this age of specialization any commentator who strays from the
narrow path may confuse his observers. I have a friend in Flanders
whose interest in life embraces handguns and fast cars - and
nothing else. He knows a good deal about both of those
subjects, but he is totally uninterested in food, architecture,
politics, sports - or anything else that I have been able to
discover. To each his own, of course, but I think the world is
fascinating in all of its aspects (except, possibly, baseball). I
cannot confine myself to firearms when there is so much else to
talk about. My suggestion is simply to turn the page; there is much
to discuss coming up.
Who needs OBL now when he has got a
hundred thousand United States citizens treated like inmates? He
has made his point.
Our friend and colleague, Glenn Jacobs, of
Eagar, Arizona, informs us that the Burris people have now for sale
a completely adjustable mounting system for your rifle sight. This
may not be the answer we have been searching for, however, since it
is a beast to adjust, and moreover we do not know of a fixed glass
to go with it. It is a step in the right direction.
We continue to complain wistfully about
the depressing lack of precision in our communications. We talk
about "terrorism" at tiresome length, but nobody can tell us what
terrorism actually is. I can define it for you if you wish, but
that is just one opinion, and a minority opinion at that. According
to current journalistic practice, terrorism is anything dangerous
that you do not like. It is pretty hard to fight it when we do not
even know what it is. I am against the bad guys, and so are you,
and so is President Bush, and so, of course, is Yasser Arafat. We
are all against the bad guys, but who are they?
Similarly, we dispute angrily about "the Occupied West Bank." This
refers, presumably, to the bank of the Jordan River, which is
"occupied" or "unoccupied" according to the mood at the time. If
you stand in the middle of the Jordan River, which is quite
possible since the Jordan is a paltry river, and throw a rock
westward, it will land on the west bank. That is an unsatisfactory
geographic definition. What we need are some good maps, but I am
sure you have noticed that the media are unwilling to show us any.
The current state of Israel does have linear boundaries, which are
satisfactory to neither the Israelis nor the Philistines. I
understand some of our Chicano friends out here like to call
California the "Occupied West Coast." I am not a Jew, but I do
believe the Jews were there first, and that Israel should be
bordered by the Jordan River on the east, and the Mediterranean on
the west, and from Lebanon on the north to Egypt on the south. This
view is not likely to be popular, but it does have the virtue of
"It is better to have lived one day as a lion, than one
thousand days as a sheep."
Charles G. Clinger, Arlington National Cemetery
via J.B. Wood, Corydon, Kentucky
One of my very favorite words is
Stoff. This is the German counterpart of the English
stuff, but it covers more ground. It not only means luggage
or equipment, but also material of specific meaning or potential.
For example, a warehouse loading platform in Germany is labeled
Stoffladen. Hydrogen is Wasserstoff. Fuel is
Krafstoff (kraft signifying strength). And explosive is
Sprengstoff. See how well this simplifies the Decalog: "Thou
shalt not covet thy neighbor's stoff."
A lady is a rare specimen these
days. We mourn the passing of the Queen Mother, who really was one.
She may not have picked the right parents, but she definitely did
do the right things. One of her favorite quotes: "Duty is the rent
you pay for life."
We keep using the word "innocent" when
that is not what we mean. Let us substitute the term "uninvolved"
in place of "not guilty," or "not in uniform."
If you have not yet got your Steyr Scout
(or its big brother the 376 Dragoon), do not give up the search.
There are a good many of them around in gun shop inventories and we
do not know when the pipeline will be reopened. The Steyr Scout
will do everything your other rifles will do, with a few exceptions
such as elephant or hippo, and do it better. If you have already
got your Steyr Scout, I suggest you get a second. The pieces can be
lost or injured in transit. Do not try to improvise - that
will only waste your money.
I suppose there is nothing to be done
about this long-range malarkey you encounter at gun shows. Daughter
Lindy at Reno ran across some "hairy chested nut scratcher," who
insisted that in his family all shots at game were taken at 400 to
500 yards. It is not seemly to spit right in a man's eye, but the
temptation was strong.
A "bear defense" course was recently run
at Gunsite and turned up a couple of interesting points. One is
that sheer power will not do for a bear. If you are in real danger
from a bear, he will be on top of you, and what you need is
penetration. Once a bear has got you down, or a lion for that
matter, you have to brain him, and you must do that at contact
distance. A 357 snubby, using a very hard, sharp-pointed bullet,
would seem to be the answer. I have a friend who went this route
while attempting to photograph a lion. He used a Super 38 auto, and
while he survived, he will never again have full use of his left
We were confronted with one reader who
said that while he liked my comments about hunting, he just could
not enthuse about what he called "safari stuff." I am sorry about
that, of course, but I should mention that I have never been on a
safari. The term safari is a Swahili derivative from Arabic.
It means simply "journey." On a true safari, such as was enjoyed in
the great hunting days, one hiked from camp to camp with all of his
gear carried on the heads and shoulders of bearers. He could not
use trucks because there were no roads and no fuel supplies. He
could not use horses because of the tsetse fly. But the important
thing was that a safari was fed by the rifle. You had to have a lot
of bearers, and while you paid them a daily wage, they only came
along with you at the prospect of unlimited fresh meat. What a
life! How I wish I could have enjoyed it! But it vanished before my
time, so I may reassure my correspondent that I will not clutter up
my pages with accounts of safaris, much as I would like
What my correspondent referred to, of
course, was simply foreign hunting. He apparently feels that if you
cannot hunt on an overnight from your house, the experience holds
no charm. I think this is too bad, since hunting, the great classic
pastime of the uncommitted, may be enjoyed in its various aspects
on all continents except Antarctica. It is one of the four prime
pastimes of man which may be indulged in all cultures and in all
ages by those whom circumstances have freed from the lash of
poverty. (The other three are racing, dancing and conversation.) A
couple of years ago, in a semi-professional bull session, the
Hunting Assistance Committee of the NRA made up a list of the
world's greatest hunts, and while the catalog is certainly open to
argument, it shows the astonishing span of the activity. Consider
- The Deep South Quail Hunt, complete with mule wagon, hounds,
bearers, grits and gravy, and premium bourbon.
- The Rocky Mountain Bighorn. This combines an unequaled quarry,
a splendid trophy, sublime venison, and the most beautiful scenery
on earth. (The great sheep of Central Asia are bigger, but their
surroundings are bleak and uncomfortable.)
- The Royal Tiger Hunt from elephant-back in Colonial India. That
is gone now, but we can dream about it.
- Pig Sticking. Taking Sus scrofa, the big boar, from
horseback with a lance.
- The classic African safari, feeding the troops with your
- The Auerhahn. This is the great partridge of Europe,
said to be the most challenging target in the world. Today the
sportsman is limited to one per customer's lifetime. I do not fully
understand the charm of this effort, but connoisseurs seem to
There are others which are worthy of consideration. These include
the "Infantry Boar" taken frontally at the charge with a heavy
spear. The African buffalo can upon occasion provide a supreme
adventure, but this must be because of some error or incompetence
on the part of the hunter. The Marco Polo sheep provides the
grandest trophy of them all, but its habitat at 16,000 feet in the
Pamirs does not make for an attractive adventure. The Coues
whitetail of the American Southwest is a charming quarry,
challenging, beautiful, and tasty.
But hunting ought not to be competitive, because you cannot
I anticipate cries of protest here, calling my attention to all
sorts of things which deserve pride of place. I look forward to
them. Hunting is a grand pastime, which offers its grand rewards
with no need for social competition. Waidmanns
We were delighted when Joe Foss, our
national treasure, instructed a board member in conference to clean
up his language. There are those who feel that gutter language is
evidence of machismo. Not so. The Congressional Medal of
Honor is irrefutable evidence of machismo.
At the gun shows it is interesting to
note that few people seem interested in good trigger action. I have
always felt that a good trigger release (2 to 2½ pounds
crisp) is essential to really good bullet placement in the
field, but we do not seem to find those on over-the-counter rifles
or pistols. However it is not necessarily a good idea to tinker at
home with your own gun. We ran across one of the old masters of the
technique at the NRA show, who is now in the business of doing
masterful custom work on all sorts of guns. This is Gene Shuey,
onetime stalwart of the Bear Valley Gunslingers. He can put a real
trigger in your 45. Address is 21 Cygnet Drive, #200, Carson
City, NV 89706. Phone (775) 246-7662.
We write books now and again, and
sometimes wonder why, in an age when no one reads. I submit the
- As the means of making money (but not much).
- As the way of putting out the word. The word needs putting out,
even if few people notice.
- As a collector's item. A surprising number of people buy and
sell books without ever opening them.
- As a doorstop.
- As an art form. Some books are lovely to look at.
- As a cultural milestone to record traditions ere they be
- As a training aid.
In the past books were written to constitute a conversation piece,
a Christmas present, or a courtship gift, but that was in the
Among the many inspiring statements
presented to the NRA membership at the national meeting at Reno, we
note the following: "You cannot give up a right granted to you by
God!" The rights originally enumerated in the Declaration of
Independence were: life, liberty and property.
There are others. (Clearly happiness may not be pursued as an end
in itself, because happiness is the byproduct of
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.