Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 11, No. 2 3 February 2003
We returned from the winter meeting of the
Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association morally and
emotionally reenforced. Liberty-loving Americans just squeaked by
in the last election, and our victory was attributed by our
adversaries to the activities of the NRA. The United States of
America now constitutes the only free nation on earth, and it does
so because of the US Constitution, and that is because of the Bill
of Rights to that Constitution, which has meaning because of the
Second Amendment thereto. Thus the National Rifle Association, of
which you are a member, is the worldwide bastion of human liberty.
Think that over and congratulate yourself!
The Brits have succeeded in disarming
themselves, resulting in the predictable explosion of street crime.
In Britain today, a citizen who fights back to protect himself from
assault by a goblin is in serious trouble, but the goblin is not.
It is hard to believe, but the socialist solution to this situation
is to increase the severity of the penalties for self-defense. It
is proposed that what used to get you five years in the slammer
should now get you ten. So much for the "land of hope and glory,
mother of the free."
We are now off to the SHOT Show, at which
we may discover new items suitable for the personal delectation of
a free people. I am hard pressed to predict anything new along this
line, since we all have our guns already and they do just fine.
However I hope to be surprised.
I wonder if anyone can remember that an
essential feature of fairgrounds and amusement parks in pre-war
America was a shooting gallery. That was a place where young men
could show off to their dates by popping metal reactive targets,
stationary and in motion, with a 22 rifle, and thereby to win toy
animals. I would not be surprised to learn that there are people
today who simply cannot believe that such a thing ever existed, but
we were better people then, in various ways. Much has happened to
us since then.
Inspired as we were by the ceremonies
connected with the passing of Joe Foss, our mighty American hero,
we had occasion to browse once again over his autobiography. In
classic fashion, his adolescent rite of passage was the acquisition
of his own personal 22, and to be able to pack it afield
unsupervised. He did not pass the test. One of those ceramic
power-line insulators proved too much of a temptation, and he
splattered it. As a penalty, he was grounded for one year.
That brand new 22, after cleaning and greasing, was to sit in
Daddy's closet for 365 days. The concept of personal responsibility
was driven permanently home. Can you remember how long a year was
when you were fourteen? This punishment was vastly more severe than
any sort of flogging, and its element in character formation cannot
be overemphasized. Every aspect of this tale illustrates the
essence of the American rural tradition. Joe Foss made the point
with forceful clarity in his own words.
Several people have written to me, in my
capacity as a director of the National Rifle Association, to
complain about the fact that the Board of Directors did not vote to
name the new headquarters building in Virginia after Harlon Carter.
This was misconstrued by some as disrespect for the great man, but
it was nowise the case. As it happens, the Board of Directors is
not empowered by its Articles of Incorporation to take this action,
which must be done by a vote of the membership at large. This point
should have been clarified in the minutes, but those who complain
should take the trouble to inform themselves on matters about which
Plans are afoot for the founding of a
museum and library to include the collections of Jeff Cooper and
John Gannaway - plus others. An operation of this sort calls
for a foundation and a curator, as well as an appropriate
architectural structure. If you have any ideas, send them
We note that some East Coast English
professor is promoting the notion that all hunting of any kind
should be forbidden, not because it endangers wildlife, but because
it is immoral. Naturally we do not agree with his position on
morality - he is entitled to his opinion on that -
but we feel our morality is not his business, as long as
the practice to which he objects does not injure him. (This matter
is well covered in "The Federalist Papers," as well as in de
Tocqueville's "Democracy in America." But this again is a
professor of English, rather than of History or Philosophy. From a
different viewpoint, I might point out that I hold the practice of
sodomy to be ridiculous, repulsive and blasphemous, but I do not
feel that I have any right to rule against it.)
The whole problem of public morality in a free society is a deep
one, not to be bandied about by political lightweights.
Basic rules of gunhandling should be
standardized as common knowledge throughout the world by now, but
there are good many people who feel the need to complicate them or
modify them in some way. This subject may be cleaned up if we can
get the NRA "front office" to act upon it. Inertia interferes,
however. We are working on it.
The exploits of Seaman Thomas, in his
downed helicopter in Vietnam, have given rise to a mountain of
irresponsible tale telling. We have promised to go into this. As of
now, we have wound up with only a mass of rumor. We would like to
put ultimate faith in this man's Navy Cross citation, but that
citation was written by a man who did not give the matter
sufficient thought. Be that as it may, we congratulate Seaman
Thomas for doing the right thing with his 1911 at the right
If you approve of the way President Bush
is handling his daunting tasks, write and tell him so. He sees the
press, just as you do, and it must be depressing for him to be told
only of the enemy viewpoint. If you support him, tell him so. Every
little bit helps.
People who write about the "comeback of
the 1911" do not seem to be aware that it has never been away. The
unsatisfactory nature of the M92 pistol and its ammunition have now
become so evident that even the Pentagon has been forced to take
note. New requirements are being set forth, and new criteria are
being established for a pistol which will be essentially a slightly
modified version of the 1911. This development has been due in some
measure to Gunsite influence on Marine Corps training programs via
Col. Bob Young. Every little bit helps
Barry Miller, our man in Africa, tells us
of a recent episode down in the Cape Region in which a girl jogger
ran into problems with an ostrich. This bird, as you probably know,
is distinctly territorial and can become very touchy if he feels he
is being encroached upon. He cannot peck, because his beak is made
of leather rather than horn, but he butts with his breast bone and
follows up with his well-equipped feet. In this case, the object of
his resentment "refused to be a victim" and counterattacked,
strangling the bird with her bare hands. As is made clear from her
name (Bezuidenhout, of Boer distinction), the young lady was of the
old time Afrikaaner persuasion. Those Dutch girls may not have free
access to firearms, but perhaps they do not need them.
May we venture to say that it is the man,
rather than his nail clippers, that highjacks the airplane. As we
have sometimes mentioned, it is the criminal, not his gadgetry,
which commits the crime. It may be, of course, that this idea is
too complicated for a bureaucrat.
We are given to understand that family
member John Milius is thinking of going to work on a
hagiography of the late, great Joe Foss. We hope that this is true,
since we have been privileged to discuss air combat tactics with
Joe Foss at some length and I may be able to expound upon the
subject in proper fashion. Everybody knows that Joe Foss destroyed
26 enemy aircraft in the skies over Guadalcanal, but fewer realize
that Joe's score tallied a third of the entire kill record of his
squadron. Numerical scores are interesting, but they do not tell
the whole story. Joe Foss' individual combat skill was remarkable.
With luck we may be able to get part of that story on film for all
It seems that the Russians are pigging
out the Jihadis in Chechnya. That is to say they are polluting the
bodies of dead Moslems with swine blood, denying the deceaseds'
place in paradise. Theoretically this may work. Time will
The nature of combat changes with
technology. Today's infantry actions are mainly conducted at night,
and this serves to emphasize the utility of the handgun. Thus we
need a good handgun and men who can use it well, and the Marine
Corps seems to be picking up on that. Slightly tidied-up 1911s are
being issued to people who are designated for direct action, and
these people are being exposed to fairly advanced training. Well,
we have developed the answer, and we know how to impart it. All of
us who have participated in the practical pistol revolution may
take satisfaction in that.
The NRA winter meeting was held at Corpus
Christi, Texas, which is an interesting place - pretty far off
to one side. Local historians tell us that this was one of the
stop-offs of Cabeza de Vaca, who was put off from the Narvaez
expedition in Florida and hiked all the way to Mexico City. This is
a long hike, and in the early 16th century it was definitely
fraught. It is one of the great adventure stories of all time, and
should be more widely retold than it is.
We learned at Corpus that while male hunting in the US is somewhat
declining, female hunting is on a definite upswing. I guess the
decline is simply due to the steady urbanization of our society.
The countryside is an unfamiliar venue for most of our young men;
but as to the girls, I see this as a manifestation of inverted
machismo. ("Anything you can do I can do better.") Which is
sort of silly, but nonetheless pervasive.
The best Christmas exhortation we heard
about was delivered by a task force commander on ready status in
the Near East, as follows: "Peace on earth, to men of good will.
All others stand by!"
All this wringing of hands about the
prospect of war in Mesopotamia occupies too much of the attention
of the media. War is a bad thing, but when it is thrust upon us,
our proper course is to pursue it as best we may. On the tube we
see pictures of young men shipping out, while their dependents sob
rather than cheer. This is poor propaganda. You may get killed in a
war, but you may also get killed on the highway, at a convenience
store, or by falling into the Grand Canyon. The battle gives a man
his only real chance to prove himself to himself. Without the
battle experience, he may never discover whether he measures up to
the standards of his forefathers.
I know something about this personally, having fought through two
major wars from before the beginning until after the end. Never
during those experiences was I aware of any feeling of sacrifice.
On one occasion my detachment was assigned to a mission which,
according to our skipper, was almost certain to get us all killed.
I remember that I was dismayed, but not disheartened. As I recall,
we felt neither fear nor idealistic patriotism. Nobody talked about
either safety or democracy. We felt only a spirited determination
to handle a job in such a way as to wreak maximum destruction upon
the enemy as long as we could. I have only my own experience to go
on, but I do not think that men fight for ideals. They fight in
order to crystallize their self-respect by doing a lethal job more
expertly than anyone else.
Fear is undignified. We cannot avoid it, but we certainly can
conceal it - and avoid discussing it.
There are those who maintain that the
English language is "evolving." Perhaps, but I see it rather as
degenerating. Any author who thinks he can improve upon
the usage of Theodore Roosevelt or Winston Churchill has much to
prove. As I see it, the essence of good English is clarity. This
does not depend upon vocabulary, but rather upon perceptivity. The
versatility of the English language permits a truly artistic flow
of thought. If you use it right, you make your meaning absolutely
clear. I somtimes run across a piece of prose that is so well put
that I wish that I had said that first. The author gets a gold
The only way one can achieve full competence in English is by
reading good English, and lots of it. In the age of television this
becomes increasingly unlikely.
If one is to hold a war, Mesopotamia is
an ideal place to hold it. If you wreck the place very little will
be lost. I can say this from personal experience, since I spent
most of a summer in and around the Persian Gulf. Not only is it a
poor place to live, it is not even a good place to visit, apart
from the sport fishing, which is excellent. I recall that it is
hot - unpleasantly hot. Having done one staff tour in the
summer in the Persian Gulf, and another in the winter in the
Aleutians, I can say that whichever choice one makes of these two
venues, he will shortly come to prefer the other. Mid-winter is the
best time for Iraq, as anyone who has ever been there can tell
On the matter of going to war, we recall
that at the beginning of World War II a bunch of about twenty
Shoshones showed up at a recruiting station in Montana with their
30-30s. They had heard that there was a war on and they wanted to
get into it as quickly as possible. That may not be the Spirit of
`76, but it is indeed the spirit.
We are informed that the retail markup on
firearms is 400 percent. An item which costs one hundred dollars to
produce will be listed at four hundred dollars over-the-counter. Of
course, markup is the life of trade, but one's annoyance may be
eased by the knowledge that a good gun is a lifetime purchase. You
only have to buy it once. Thus a cheap gun is nearly always a
mistake. Much better to save your money and buy a good one the
Note the following paraphrase from John Ruskin:
"There is hardly a product of our culture that someone
cannot make a little worse and sell for a little less. The one who
puts price above all other considerations is the natural prey of
We are told, to our considerable
amazement, that the Jihadi chief who was assassinated in Yemen from
the air was electronically identified by way of a facial portrait.
If this is true, it means that the picture of a human being may be
fed into a machine which may then direct a missile to his
destruction. I get this by way of "authentic rumor." Somehow I hope
it is not true.
Having been involved with marksmanship
all my life, I am made uneasy by the idea that personal
marksmanship may no longer be relevant to modern war. Today the
rocket propelled grenade bids to replace the rifle, and with an RPG
you do not have to hit an enemy, you just have to plant a bomb in
his close vicinity. At present these gadgets are too cumbersome to
replace the infantry rifle, but miniaturization may eventually
alter that. This is very bad news from several directions, but
because of this 21st century Age of the Wimp, it may be
indeed the wave of the future.
"The only reason that the Scout rifle is considered
rare is because the factory doesn't want to sell it. If they did,
they might advertise it in gun magazines. (A stunning concept.) I
see ads for their standard rifles all the time, which does not
spark any interest on my part, but judging from their efforts they
seem to be ashamed that the Scout even exists. This is a most
puzzling turn of events, as the SS is the holy grail of
Family Member Randy Umbs
Our family member and combat
counselor Pat Rogers is in a position to keep us informed on the
subject of infantry combat, as now in operation. He informs us that
people in Marine Corps Special Operations should be issued two
pistols, one to train with and the other to take to war. So far
this policy has not actually been implemented, but highly
Pat has been running down the matter of the effectiveness of the
223 cartridge in combat, and has unearthed some fascinating
tactical examples. He concludes that the poodle shooter is a pretty
good stopper, if used at arm's length and with the proper
ammunition. All sorts of ammunition is now available for issue to
the troops, and some is much better than others. (I gather that
people are paying very little attention to the Hague Convention at
this time.) Far too much rumor, or perhaps embellishment, is
involved in this sort of study, but fortunately Pat Rogers is a
At this time of general consternation, we
recall the statement of our late friend and neighbor Colonel Bud
Reynolds, USMC: "Sure it's a lousy war, but it's the only war we've
Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal
use only. Not for publication.