Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 4, No. 9 August, 1996
Hot, Ain't It!
It is now high time to make your
preparations for the annual GR and TRM
Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial
) at the Whittington
Shooting Center in New Mexico on 19, 20, 21 October. It would be
most helpful if you would send in your proposed declamation title
as soon as possible to avoid duplication. So far "Horatius at the
Bridge," by Lord McCauley, and "The Truce of the Bear," by Kipling,
are taken. Let's have more!
Appropriate musicianship is in order. If you care to bring your
guitar, autoharp, or harmonica we will all cheer (I think). The
songs, like the poetry, should be appropriate to the spirit of the
great TR. We do not limit ourselves to presentations by the
president or directly about him, but they should be in the mood of
the strenuous life he extolled. I discover that he and Rudyard
Kipling were close personal friends, and may explain why so much of
Kipling is heard at the reunions.
There will be shooting of rifle, pistol and shotgun during the day,
and recitations in the evening. Accommodations are not unlimited,
and if you wish to be put up at the headquarters bunkhouse, take
care to get your request in now to
Mike Ballew, NRA Whittington Shooting Center, PO Box
700, Raton, New Mexico 87740 (505-445-3615).
5 August is Lion Day in my book.
That Low Veldt lion whistled up for me by Danie van Graan of
Engonyameni stands as one of the countless, fantastic high points
of my life. Nose-to-nose with a furious lion at 11 paces, I truly
experienced the thrill of a lifetime. I could not arrange for
instant replay on a video tape, but one can't have
We note with amazement that New Zealand
and Argentina are now showing budget surpluses. That is not the
sort of thing you are likely to hear on your televisor or read in
your local newspaper. More likely you may hear about the newest
looming terror in our atmosphere - which is Dihydrous
oxide. It is responsible for 4,100 deaths a year in the United
States alone, and our lakes and streams are full of it. (For those
who neglected their high school chemistry, Dihydrous oxide
Note that they are having a bitterly cold
winter in South Africa, with up to 3 feet of snow in the
Soutpansberg and the Drakensberg. A number of people died of
exposure, and the troops had to be called out for rescue
operations. That is hardly what most people expect of the African
At the behest of family member Tom
Russell, I have now commenced work on a definitive manual on course
design. Having studied this matter diligently for about thirty
years, I have amassed a pretty good fund of knowledge on the
subject, and it is easy to see that a great many people who presume
to design competition courses for both rifle and pistol have no
such background. This is a labor of love, and the introduction,
which I have just completed, does indeed show promise.
"Gunmen have more fun - and less
trouble - than other people."
European designers, including Lapua and
Heckler & Koch, among others, are hard at work producing what
they call oberfliegeren. These are rifle cartridges which serve
about the same purpose as hot rods, which is to gain attention. One
of the most prominent is the 9x90mm, which uses a case somewhat
similar at the head to the 50 BMG, but is necked down to a 36
caliber. But the manufacturers of these remarkable cartridges
maintain that they are designed for police snipers, but it is
pretty hard to see just what tactical niche they fill. Pushing a
280-grain missile out the muzzle at 4,400f/s may indeed accomplish
something, but I can't imagine what that might be.
A family member recently returned
from Bolivia informs us that Bolivian gun laws may be the best in
the world. There are none, and Bolivia gets by with a serious law
against murder. Funny that no one in Britain or America has thought
of that so far!
The limits of human chutzpah remain to be
fully explored. It seems that some copchick in New York is
suing the Glock people because she shot herself in the leg. Her
case is apparently that the Glock is too easy to shoot. My own
opinion has always been somewhat to the contrary, but who cares
The recent New Mexico practical rifle
match held at Whittington last month was won by a "race gun,"
establishing once again that the gamesman is not an endangered
species. No matter. The shooter in second place used the M1 Garand,
which is the greatest personal fighting instrument ever devised by
man. Third place overall, and earning the Guru's Gold, was
Tom Russell's scout. The scout, above all, is a general purpose
rifle. It is not designed to beat the course or to bend the rules,
but to do everything well. I like to think of it as my legacy to
the 21st century.
The Stoic philosophers of Ancient Rome
featured the motto "Do good, for good is good to do." The point is
that one should not do good things in hope of any reward, either
here below or in the afterlife, but rather that good deeds are good
in and of themselves. They are their own reward. One can get into
serious trouble by doing good deeds at random, as I have found out
to my bitter sorrow, but that does not invalidate the
It is clear that many people do not know
what is meant by the expression "To see the elephant." Let me
In pioneer America a great many people grew up on a
farm, which was too remote from a population center to provide what
might be called worldly entertainment. During the summer season
various traveling circuses toured the sticks, bringing diversion to
households which were not too far afield to prevent attendance.
These traveling circuses always included an elephant - an
animal which is truly too remarkable to be believed, unless one has
actually seen it.
When the father decided that the time had come for his adolescent
son to learn about life, he would wait for the appearance of the
circus and provide the boy with a couple of dollars with which to
go and visit the entertainment. At the circus he visited all the
sideshows, he got drunk, he rented himself a girl, and he saw the
elephant. On his return to the farm, he may not have been any
sadder, but he was certainly wiser than before.
Today we have borrowed that expression to relate to the combat
experience. Personal combat is definitely a rite-of-passage, and a
man who has not experienced it has not seen the elephant. When you
have been shot at and shot back successfully, you have definitely
grown up and now know things that less experienced men do not
I was recently taken to task by an
Israeli rangemaster for what he regarded as my casual attitude
about "ploppies." The term is an Afrikaaner invention referring to
a spent bullet, which floats in from elsewhere and goes plop in the
dirt at your feet. This Israeli thinks that ploppies are extremely
perilous, but I think he is confusing spent bullets with ricochets.
A ricochet can be quite dangerous, but only if the deflection of
its original trajectory is relatively slight. When a bullet bounces
off the ground or other obstacle, flies high in the air and comes
back propelled mainly by gravity, it is no big deal. In the eye or
in the teeth it may indeed cause some damage, but I have been hit
six times by ploppies, and no one of them ever drew any
"Acquiring a fine gun is the easy part. Acquiring
shooting skill is as difficult as ever."
Excellence has never necessarily been a
factor in popularity. In the matter of cartridge design, we have a
number of very good examples which have never caught on with the
public. Consider for example the two short Remington Magnums, 6.5
and 350. The 6.5 makes possible what may be called a "Pocket 270,"
and the 350 provides us with a very superior pocket medium,
excellently suited for all heavy game, short of buffalo.
And then there is the 7-08. This does for the renowned 7x57 what
the 308 does for the 30-06 - providing essentially similar
power in a more compact package. The 7-08 provides sightly better
exterior ballistics than the 308, and it has the advantage of being
legal in many nations where the 308 is banned as a "military
cartridge." The Steyr Mannlicher production scout (if we can ever
get it actually on the market) will be offered initially in 308 and
7-08, for this reason. It appears that Australia has now banned all
military ammunition, ruling out both 30-06 and 308. The 7-08 then
should be a great success downunder, where the shooting situation
in general is in dreadful disarray.
As we have mentioned before, piracy is
coming back. It is usually conducted inshore by goblins who pray
upon pleasure seekers who have more money - and booze -
than brains. I have long maintained that one of the unusual
circumstances in which handheld automatic fire is a good idea is
repelling borders in small craft at night. Here, unfortunately, we
run squarely into Big Brother. For a yachtsman or a
fisherman to try to obtain legal authorization for an assault rifle
aboard his vessel is a hopeless task, unless you are perhaps the
Sultan of Brunei.
Our good friend and professional hunter,
Ian McFarlane, informs us that his concession up in the Chobe area
is beginning to show an alarming overage of elephants. If this
trend continues and enough hunters are not found, it may actually
become necessary to cull the elephant population in northern
Botswana. Culling is a dismal business, since families must be
taken out together.
Thus, Ian is in need of customers, and slots are open immediately.
If there are any aspiring elephant hunters among the faithful, they
Ian McFarlane of Vira Safaris (Fax:
immediately, if not sooner.
Ordinarily it takes a year's advance notice to set up a proper
African hunt, but here we have an exception.
It seems they have too many polar bears
on Svalbard. Svalbard used to be Spitzbergen, and it is way, way up
north. For reasons which are not clear to me, these islands have
been attracting increasing numbers of European tourists on summer
vacation, and the problem of bears has arisen. The bears and the
tourists tend to get into each others way, and no bear is
cuddly - despite the bambiists - but a polar bear is
particularly not so, being an exclusive carnivore, and a very
efficient one at that. So now it has been deemed advisable to rent
powerful sporting rifles to tourists picnicking out on the tundra.
This is not a good idea. One may rent out rifles, but there is no
way he can rent out talent, and a hunting rifle in inexpert hands
is hardly the solution to anyone's problem. So far three people
have been killed this summer on Svalbard, two of them by a bear
that they had shot with a rented rifle.
By now the British have fairly written
into law the position that a personally owned firearm may only be
acceptable for "sporting purposes." Teddy Kennedy used this idea in
the 1968 gun law, despite the fact that we in America are
protected, at least theoretically, by the Second Amendment, which
has nothing whatever to do with sport. Various sorts of legislators
are still at it, and the BATF takes the notion of "legitimate
sporting purpose" seriously, even though this would appear to be
obviated by the supreme law of the land. This is a fight in which
we all must continue to participate. Self-defense has nearly come
to be a misdemeanor on the face of it in Britain, where the subject
is conditioned with the belief that whatever happens he (or she)
must not fight back. If the wimps prevail in the next election, you
may be sure that America will then gain on Great Britain on the
road to serfdom.
veteran Alvin Hammer sends in the following observation on the
concealed carry situation:
"Have taken the required course for Tennessee's new
concealed carry law which takes effect in October. Made a perfect
score on both the written and shooting tests. Only one in my class
of 16 to score 100% on both sections. One other student made 100%
on the written and another on the shooting. Our instructor
disapproved of the Weaver stance I used and the speed with which I
fired the required 48 shots at varying distances. I finished the
shooting part, packed up equipment, paid my bill, and left the
building before any other student finished shooting. Big targets at
close range, my shooting has not really improved since you saw me
last. It does feel good to be the best at something occasionally.
In a land of blind men, a one-eyed man would be king. It is hard to
imagine that among the general populace of shooters that I am that
much better than average. Among Orange Gunsite folk, my ranking as
a shooter is way down the list."
Since the revolution in South Africa,
random violence has increased by leaps and bounds. One thing that
adds to the problem is the ready availability of the AK47 (which
is, of course, illegal). Vast numbers of these Kalashnikovs drifted
in from Mozambique, and now they are all over the place, and, of
course, only in the hands of the bad guys.
On the bright side of this scene is the readiness of the South
African police to take remedial action when possible. Recently
outside of Johannesburg two highway patrolmen spotted a stolen car,
identified by its license plates. They gave chase, and when the
thieves stopped to open fire a noisy scuffle ensued. Two of the
three goblins were killed outright, and the third carted away to
the hospital, while the cops sustained no casualties. Journalism
being what it is, we are more likely to hear of the failures of the
police than their successes, but this incident establishes again
that it is the man, not the gun, that wins the fight. All three
miscreants were armed with AK47s, but the police rolled them up
It has long been a principle of mine that
a man cannot have too many books, too many wines, or too much
ammunition. It turns out that a number of governments in the world
manifest considerable distress at the idea of large amounts of
ammunition in private hands. They insist that any man who
stockpiles thousands of rounds must have some sinister and ulterior
purpose which should be investigated by the state. Here we have yet
another example of the thought control characteristic of the Age
of the Common Man. Many on the left seem to hold that one may
be punished not for what he does, but for what he thinks - as
with what have come to be called "hate crimes." In this age of
thought-control, various sorts of busybodies, in and out of
government, feel the need to arrange your thinking for you. In this
matter of ammunition, I personally like to keep a large supply on
hand, not for any specific purpose, but simply because it makes me
feel good. To have a large supply - several thousand
rounds - of 45 ACP or 30-06 or 308 is comforting in and of
itself, and by no means necessarily because one has some
conspiratorial notion about expending it. As you know, there are
people such as Senator Moynihan who feel that the subtle way to
disarm the people is to cut off the supply of ammunition. We hope
that such people do not prevail, but it does not hurt to be
prepared for unpleasant eventualities - thus we have
seatbelts, crash helmets, life jackets, and pistols.
"When values are sufficient,
Laws are unnecessary.
When values are insufficient,
Laws are unenforceable."
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.