Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Few Thoughts on the Passing of Jeff Cooper

This week's SHOOTING GALLERY, totally by coincidence, is "Learning the GUNSITE Way," a video tour of the GUNSITE 250/350 pistol class — the baseline for practical shooting.

That's fitting...

More than 25 years ago, before the mainstream media totally abandoned the gun culture, Esquire Magazine called Col. Jeff Cooper, "The most dangerous man in America."

They were right, of course, but not for the reasons they thought. It's easy to think of Jeff's legacy in terms of his huge contributions to shooting — creating of the "Modern Technique" of the handgun; codifying the four rules of gun safety; founding GUNSITE, still the standard against which other shooting schools are measured; resurrecting John Browning's masterpiece, the 1911; inventing the sports of practical shooting; though his writings, redefining how we looked at armed self-defense; birthing the "Scout Rifle" concept and advancing "the art of the rifle."

I think, however, that when such things are tallied up, Jeff Cooper's legacy will be writ much larger. Jeff was the bridge between the old world and the new, between Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton and the profoundly more dangerous world we now live in. At a time when America seemed to be sleeping, Jeff Cooper challenged us to take our lives into our own hands and to live those lives under the unfashionable precepts of duty, of honor and of grace. In essence, he did something unique — he challenged us all to walk the path of the warrior, then gave us the tools to do so.

I believe he succeeded beyond his wildest imagination. The gun culture now is a powerful force in American culture, and not just politically. We are armed and we are competent. There are more armed, trained civilians in America today than at any time since the Revolutionary War, and every one of those people is Jeff Cooper's legacy.

He remained an irascible bastard to the end...during my SHOOTING GALLERY interview with Jeff last year, he didn't hesitate to shake his finger in my face and set me straight when he thought I'd strayed from the point. At the end of that interview, though, Jeff said, "So Michael, you want shoot some of my personal guns?" So I stood on the first GUNSITE range with Jeff's personal lightweight .45 Colt Commander. It felt...familiar.

Thanks for everything, Colonel. And say hello to Elmer and Rex for me.


Anonymous said...

Jeff was a remarkable man. I've always regretted not having been able to simply sit and talk with him at length. I enjoyed the brief visits I did have with him.

As you state, his legacy is much larger than that which is easily listed.

I've stated many times in the past that the last thirty to forty years has been a renaissance of shooting. Jeff was a, if not the, significant factor in that renaisance.

He will be missed.


BigBlk said...

I found the following quote from Col. Cooper's book, The Art of the Rifle:

The rifle is a weapon. Let there be no mistake about that. It is a tool of power, and thus dependent completely upon the moral stature of its user. It is equally useful in securing meat for the table, destroying group enemies on the battlefield, and resisting tyranny. In fact, it is the only means of resisting tyranny, since a citizenry armed with rifles simply cannot be tyrannized.

The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.

—Jeff Cooper, The Art of the Rifle

We need more men of this mindset in the world. RIP Colonel.

Anonymous said...


Well said. Perfect. Thank you, my friend.


Ed Head

Not Available said...


If you are still stuck on 5TG, perhaps you can start on a bio of Colonel.

Anonymous said...

My favorite Col Cooper quote:

"An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it."

Rest in Peace, Sir.