Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 12, No. 1          January 2004


Reflecting upon the year `03, we are mightily impressed, not only by its diverse events, but by its historic significance. At the beginning of the century we just got off the ground, and a hundred years later our vehicles are puttering around on the surface of Mars. Certainly not all progress displayed in the 20th century was unqualified progress. Many things about life in the western world had degenerated over that hundred years past, at least in the moral or philosophical sense. Personal conduct which is disgustingly at odds with what had been achieved over the previous thousand years is now not only accepted, but actually advocated by a surprising number of people. This is due in large measure to the decline of the spiritual life and the loss of the influence of the church. This is probably the inevitable consequence of The Age of the Common Man (who appears to be unpleasantly common), but that does not make it in any sense uplifting. The fact that our lives have been made unimaginably more convenient does not mean that they are better for it. It may be comfortable to go hatless, but that does little for our appearance. Comfort and convenience are very nice things, but they hardly offer a fair trade for virtue or honorable conduct.

Reviewing further, we note that the previous `03 gave us the splendid `03 Springfield rifle and the Mannlicher-Schoenauer 1903 carbine, ancestor of the Scout. It also gave us the Harley-Davidson motorcycle, as well as several distinct forward steps in the production of four-wheel self-propelled vehicles. If the year 2003 showed us the flowering of the Holy War of Islam upon the West, it also established the United States of America as the world's sole super power, and thus charged us with the responsibility of setting forth on the 21st century with the capacity of altering the world for the better. The Moslems will do their best to frustrate this, and for that we must prepare, but it is a struggle well worth fighting. Christianity is not just one among several equivalent religious faiths, but rather the champion and exemplar of the western way of life. The Moslems would prefer to see us all dead, as far as can be made out from their rather obscure language. So be it. Let us buckle on the sword and prove worthy of the challenge. God's will be done!

The commercial success of the Smith & Wesson "dino pistol" was predictable, I suppose. I can see no possible use for it, but it seems to be selling faster than it can be produced. While it was shown to me at the last SHOT Show, I did not say that everyone should have one - I ventured that everyone should have two - just in case. It is clear that the gun business is essentially a marketing business. Gunmakers do not seem to produce instruments to do anything very much, but simply to make the public unhappy with what is here - with or without cause. People who understand about rifles favor the Steyr Scout, for obvious reasons, but there are not very many people who know about rifles, so for them we make short case magnums and other esoterica which accomplish nothing in particular but make the purchaser happy.

There are some wonderful personal guns around for sale, and I hope the younger generation of shooters will choose wisely in buying their lifelong companions.

We get the following charming anecdote from a long time shooting friend:
At a dinner party one guest reported that he was being pestered by a raccoon which was thriving upon his garden, but that he had not been able to shoot the beast because his available rifle had not been available on the right occasions. One of the guests, who was a lady law student from Czechoslovakia, suggested that it would hardly be appropriate to have a rifle ready for such occasions, since that would pose a hazard to children of the household. Our friend objected to this line of thought and noted that he always had a proper firearm readily available in his home. The lady guest suggested that this might be dangerous to the resident children, and our friend responded by saying that it would not be in his case since in his household the children all had their own guns. There was a dead silence. Later he remarked that this was the best putdown he had ever been able to bring off without being rude.

In considering the matter of firearms design, I have long given importance to the factor of handiness, portability and ease of use. It has always seemed to me that a rifle should be compact, comfortable to use, and as light as recoil effect permits. This is because I have always considered hunting to be an active pastime, not something one does riding around in a vehicle or sitting in a blind. Times change, and I discover, somewhat to my distress, that huge and unhandy sporting rifles seem to have great appeal to some sorts of hunters. People who complain about the selling price of sporting rifles show little dismay in spending money on what I have begun to call "moon guns." These are rifles with excessively long and heavy barrels, thick stocks and huge and complex optical sights. There is a curious notion abroad to the effect that such pieces are somehow "more accurate" than trimmer guns. To each his own, of course, but it does seem odd that efficiency of operation is not a major consideration in the market.

Over the last ten years we have seen the appearance of a couple of outstanding designs, which, if sheer usefulness mattered, would sweep the market. We may suppose that this is because the majority of gun buyers are not gun shooters. It would seem that these purchasers buy out of catalogs and out of articles in sporting magazines without much time spent on field evaluation. Most riflemen are self-taught, there being very little access to adequate instructional service in this subject. Being self-taught in rifle marksmanship is rather like being self-taught on the piano. It can be done, but it is certainly a long, hard route to success. If a beginning shooter does not know what he is trying to do, it is unlikely that he will find an easy way to do it. Because of this we find that a large part of the buying public is fundamentally ignorant about what it is buying. This is strikingly apparent in the reaction of most novice shooters to the Steyr Scout. I have a large file now from correspondents expressing astonishment on how easy it is to achieve hits with the Scout rifle. This is not because it is "more accurate," though it certainly is more accurate than the rifleman can readily appreciate. And it is not because it is "more powerful," though it is as powerful as need be. And it is not because it is more beautiful, though beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, and handsome is as handsome does. It is because it is essentially friendly, and you have to use it afield, not off the bench, in order to appreciate this.

So it is that Lindy, our hunting offspring, encountered hardly anything but moon guns in her Texan alimentary pursuits. She packs what may be considered the Porsche among rifles and, of course, it works. (Of course the shooter has something to do with this.)

At the winter meeting of the National Rifle Association it was emphasized that while we may have won the most recent battle for the Bill of Rights (by the skin of our teeth), we certainly did not win the war. The people who would deprive us of our essential liberty are still there, and their amazing efforts to destroy the God-given rights of free men show no signs of diminishing. We know how hard and continuously these people keep up their fight to disarm us. The important question is why they fight us. Much as they may wish to use crime as their target, it is quite clear to them and as to us that crime is not the problem. Where the citizen is armed, crime goes down. All they have to do is look. Nor is safety an adequate argument for disarmament. Life is unsafe by nature, and mortal accidents occur regardless of the existence or absence of personal arms. I have thought about this at length, and I am puzzled to discover that the subject of the motivation of those who would confound our liberty is not broadly discussed. Personally I think the motive of those other people is simply envy. Envy, not money, is the root of all evil, and those who cannot cope envy those who can. Living in a free country - the last on Earth - I have been armed one way or another for most of my life. And though I have lived a fairly adventurous life, I have never yet had to shoot to save my life, or that of a dear one, in a purely civil encounter. But the fact that I have been able to and ready to has forestalled conflict on several occasions. This has afforded me great satisfaction, but it seems to annoy certain people who envy me my peace of mind. This product, peace of mind, is what I have provided for so many years at Gunsite, and the fact that it can be so provided is apparently what arouses the envy of the non-coper. I do not believe that I am exactly "preaching to the choir" when I state this position, because I do not see that either our friends or our enemies are prepared to understand that envy is the issue.
"Fear no man, whatever his size,
Just call on me, I'll equalize."
This idea was supposedly attributed to Sam Colt's illustrious contribution.

Thus it is that we in the United States of America still constitute the last best hope of Earth - whatever our faults. We must not seek corroboration from the rest of the world. There are millions of good people out there, as well as millions of bad, but neither the good nor the bad will aid us in the defense of our hard won liberty. But we must triumph at home, of course, before we can triumph abroad. We face a long and bitter election campaign in this forthcoming year, and we cannot overemphasize its importance.

We note the formulation of a lever-action society in these parts. I have no objection to this, but I think it is rather pointless. A good rifle is a good rifle, totally apart from its action type, and the Wild West "Co-pilot" shows off the lever-action to its best advantage. Do not confuse the "Co-pilot" with Marlin's "Guide Gun." They are similar, but they are not the same, and Jim West's brainchild offers significant advantages. As handy as a briefcase and stout enough to stop any charge, it is a perfect answer in the rural Northwest. In addition it is the ideal instrument for the lion PH, as well as for the animal control officer. (Just do not put a telescope on it. Any beast that can do you in is easy to see at tactile distance.)

It has long been maintained that a crocodile will not pluck a meal out of a boat, but one should not make flat statements about animal behavior. We now learn of a case up in Mugabestan in which a croc seized a young girl from the side in a boat. It is quite possible that she could have been saved, since she was not submerged in the croc's jaws, but nobody had a gun. (The PH had a pistol, but that was hardly up to the task.)

Perhaps you have heard of the great bear wars of New Jersey. It turns out that there are too many bears in New Jersey and they constitute a definite nuisance in various ways. The answer, it seems to us, is bear hunting, and such a thing was organized - a controlled bear hunt. The bambiists went through the roof. Bambiists are not interested in anything but emotion, and the idea that someone could set forth to bust a bear was just more than they could stand. The battle was fought with great journalistic bitterness. Nobody actually shot anybody else, but the anti-hunt people spoke as if they would support the idea. The hunt went through, and enough bears were taken to diminish the problem, or so it would seem. This did not pacify the Bambiists, of course, and we will hear more about this prior to the next organized bear hunt in New Jersey.

It appears there are still hunters who do not understand about the Bill of Rights. These people are hard to reach, since they do not participate in any of the shooting sports other than the annual fall deer hunt in the Northeastern woods. There are, however, a lot of them, and it is up to us to convince them that they are on our side in this struggle.

Those who are properly instructed in rifle technique understand that there are two proper systems of readiness for rifle handling in the field. The bolt-action rifle (except the Blaser 93) is properly carried in Condition 3 (chamber empty, magazine full, safety off) when hunting in mountain or desert. In bush the bolt-action rifle is carried in Condition 1 (chamber and magazine loaded, safety on). The Blaser 93 is an exception and should be handled more like a lever-action weapon. Its safety is very difficult to use and, because of this, the piece should be carried in Condition 3 when brush hunting. You cannot cheek the rifle any faster than you can snap that straight pull. We have established this on flying clay birds here at the school.

The lever gun is better handled like the Blaser, with no shell in the chamber and loaded as it is mounted. Again we have tested this on flying clays and find that it works well in practiced hands. You simply do not put a shell in the chamber until you start the butt to the shoulder.

These things are pretty obvious when you think about them, but few people think about them.

The Mars landing was a wonderful achievement of the human mind. Sadly enough, however, Edgar Rice Burroughs got it better.

We may safely assume that the Moors will hit us again when they can figure out a good way to do it. It is difficult to establish a target at which to hit back, but we would like to think that we have the right man at the sights.

Having lived a very long time, I have been blessed with a number of peculiar honors, of which I may or may not prove worthy. But one recently startled me. I was invited to deliver a speech to a Boy Scout Honor Council and, naturally, I chose honor as my central topic. My speech was entirely extemporaneous, without text or notes, so I was pleased to be asked by two different people for a transcript of my presentation. But I do not write out speeches in advance. I speak them as they occur, so I could not provide a text, but I was nonetheless much gratified.

This unisex thing can be pretty silly. At the winter meeting we learned of a case in which a girl insisted upon qualifying for the wrestling team. When a match came up, her prospective male opponent quite properly refused to compete. We may assume that any girl who chose to compete in interscholastic wrestling would not be much of a choice damsel, but this sort of thing may come up again, from time to time, as the feminists flaunt their foolish flag.

This litigation bit continues to astound. Now some sportsman is suing Federal Ammunition because he, the sportsman, choose the wrong sort of ammunition with which to hunt lions. Naturally the courts can throw things like this out, but the fact that attorneys will bring them up is yet another example of forensic decadence.

These Norinco people in China have taken up the production of replicas for sale in the Western world. This is not good news, but the market is there, and it will be satisfied. Norinco workmanship seems to be pretty good, and the weapons themselves do meet with sensible requirements.

Now here we have some fellow who joined the Army "to get an education." That is the wrong reason. You join the Army to enforce the will of the people of the United States of America, by force, against their enemies. An Army exists for two reasons: first, to kill people, and second, to be so good at it that any threatening group will be intimidated to the point of inactivity. You do not join the Army to get anything. You join the Army to give of yourself, terminally if called for. I am not sure what this fellow means by "an education," but his meaning and mine obviously do not coincide.

We continue to be amused by people who feel that shot group diameter on paper is an end in itself. As shooting master Louis Awerbuck put it, "I can always get a perfect shot group. All I have to do is fire just one shot."

We are informed that under some circumstances bison are free for the taking in some parts of Alberta. We must look into this. The bison is not a particularly sporting proposition, but his meat is superb table fare, and his robe, taken at the prime, is just what is needed for these cold winter nights. And you do not need a "buffalo gun." Old faithful, there on the rack, will do just fine.

At long last "C Stories" is being printed up for proofing. The printer is Wasserman and the publisher is Wisdom. It promises to be a very nice presentation. Now it is up to us to make sure that people who might want it know how to find it.

The left-liberals are ceaseless in their determination to disarm the decent people of the world. Sadly enough, a great many decent people seem to have no objection to being disarmed. America may well be the last best hope of Earth, but there are many Americans who have no understanding of why this is so. It is so because America is the remaining bastion of political liberty. The armed citizen is the essence of political freedom, and an armed citizenry may not be enslaved, as our Founding Fathers well knew. The way to ensure liberty is to ensure that every man be armed - according to the tenets of Mr. Jefferson. Times change, but that principle does not. You can only push people around if they submit to being pushed, and this is impossible if they are personally armed. Thus the Second Amendment of the US Constitution has nothing to do with hunting. It has rather to do with the security of a free state against all enemies foreign and domestic. Hunting, of course, should be encouraged, since it familiarizes the general public with the expert use of personal weapons, but it does not lie at the heart of the problem. A disarmed public is a conspicuous encouragement to crime, as the example of Britain will point out. I submit that we do not have a serious crime problem in the US. Such goblins that choose to prey upon other people will find means to do so regardless of technology. Just as a man who wishes to find cocaine will find it, a man who wishes to find a gun will find it, regardless of what the law says. It is far better for all the people to be able to protect themselves - by force and violence if necessary.

So we welcome the year 2004 with high hopes as with stern awareness of the problems we face. Liberty is what we stand for. Liberty is what we champion. Liberty will prevail.

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