Col. Jeff Cooper is dead

September 27th, 2006  

Topic: Col. Jeff Cooper is dead

John Dean "Jeff" Cooper
10 May 1920 - 25 September 2006
The Father of The Modern Technique
Rest in Peace

Jeff Cooper is recognized as the father of what is commonly known as "The Modern Technique" of handgun shooting, and considered by many to be the world's foremost expert on the use and history of small arms.

Born John Dean Cooper, but known to his friends as "Jeff", Cooper was a former Marine Lt. Colonel who served in World War II and in Southeast Asia during the Korean War. In addition to his expertise in firearms, he was a history instructor, philosopher, adventurer, and author. He is also known as "the Guru."

In 1976 Cooper founded the American Pistol Institute (API, also known as "Gunsite") in northern Arizona to train law enforcement and military personnel, as well as law-abiding civilians. He sold the firm in 1989 but continued living on the ranch. He was well-known for his cogent and thoroughly researched advocacy of large caliber handguns for personal defense, especially the 1911 Colt.

Cooper died peacefully at his home on the afternoon of Monday, September 25, 2006.

The Modern Technique

Cooper's modern technique defines pragmatic use of the pistol for personal protection. The modern technique emphasizes two-handed shooting using the Weaver stance, replacing the once-prevalent one-handed shooting. The five elements of the modern technique are:
  • A large-caliber handgun, preferably a semi-auto pistol.
  • The Weaver stance;
  • Flash sight picture;
  • Compressed breath;
  • Surprise break (of the trigger)
Cooper favors the Colt M1911 and its variants. There are several conditions of readiness in which such a weapon can be carried. Cooper promulgated the following terms:
  • Condition One: A round chambered, hammer cocked, safety on;
  • Condition Two: A round chambered, hammer down;
  • Condition Three: Chamber empty.
  • Condition Four: Chamber empty, no magazine.
Some of these configurations are safer than others (for instance, a single action pistol without a firing pin safety ought never be carried in Condition 2) while others are quicker to access (condition 1). In the interest of consistent training, most agencies that issue the 1911 specify the condition in which it is to be carried as a matter of local doctrine.

Combat Mindset

The most important means of surviving a lethal confrontation is, according to Cooper, neither the weapon nor the martial skills. The primary tool is the combat mindset, set forth in Principles of Personal Defense.
In the chapter on awareness, Cooper explains a simple system to differentiate states mindset:
  • White - Relaxed, unaware, and unprepared. If attacked in this state the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy and ineptitude of your attacker. When confronted by something nasty your reaction will probably be, "Oh my God! This can't be happening to me."
  • Yellow - Relaxed alertness. No specific threat situation. Your mindset is that "today could be the day I may have to defend myself." There is no specific threat but you are aware that the world is an unfriendly place and that you are prepared to do something if necessary. You use your eyes and ears, and your carriage says "I am alert." You don't have to be armed in this state but if you are armed you should be in yellow. When confronted by something nasty your reaction will probably be, "I thought this might happen some day." You can not live in this state indefinitely, sleep and concentrating on specific tasks (reading a good book) reset you to White.
  • Orange - Specific alert. Something not quite right has gotten your attention and you shift your primary focus to that thing. Something is "wrong" with a person or object. Your mindset is that "I may have to shoot that person." In orange you set a fight trigger: "If that goblin does "x", I will need to "stop" them." You check that you are prepared for action. Your pistol is usually holstered in this state.
  • Red - The fight trigger has happened. You are now in action.
Some non-Cooper sources list a "Condition Black" as actively engaged in combat but this is an unnecessary step and is not in keeping with the mindset definitions.

Similar system have been use in some military and police organizations but their conditions relate to a level of danger rather than mindset.

Firearms safety

Cooper advocates four basic rules of gun safety.

1. All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. (For those who insist that this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.)
3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target. This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for about 60 percent of inadvertent discharges.
4. Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.

The Queen of personal weapons

Cooper is best known for his revolutionary work in pistol training, but he favors the rifle.
Personal weapons are what raised mankind out of the mud, and the rifle is the queen of personal weapons.—Jeff Cooper, 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 RifleIn the early 1980s, Cooper published an article describing his ideal of a general-purpose rifle, which he dubbed a Scout rifle. In the late 1990s, Steyr-Mannlicher produced a rifle to his "Scout" specifications, with Cooper's oversight during the engineering & manufacturing process. While not a sales success, Cooper considered the Steyr Scout "perfect" and often made the point that "I've got mine!"

Other contributions

In the 1960s he coined the term hoplophobia, an irrational fear of weapons.

In addition to his books on firearms and self defense, Cooper has written several books recounting his life adventures plus essays and short stories, including Fire Works (1980), Another Country: Personal Adventures of the Twentieth Century (1992); To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth [1998]; and C Stories (2004). His daughter Lindy Wisdom published a biography, Jeff Cooper: the Soul and the Spirit (1996).

Cooper is also the world's foremost authority on big game hunting with the pistol. In 1965's "Complete Book of Shooting", he listed the five top pistol trophies as: European wild boar (Eurasia), Roosevelt elk (North America), jaguar (South America), saltwater crocodile (Australia-Oceania), and the gorilla (Africa). Of the latter he says, "Skipping the giants and the traditional, I'll choose the gorilla. ... If you threaten his group he will charge, and a charging gorilla is a fearful spectacle. To stand your ground with a handgun and flatten him at 15 feet is man's work."

September 27th, 2006  
RIP, Jeff.
September 27th, 2006  
my condolences go to his family
September 27th, 2006  
I'll miss his commentaries. Good bye, Jeff.
October 1st, 2006  
A source of inspiration for many, especially his idea that use of the rifle develops moral stature and is necessary for people to live freely, on the land and in communities. I was thinking of him last week, watching Scott Kesterson's videos of the Canadians in Afghanistan and looking at the professional way the Canadian soldiers were using their rifles.

We part company with the idea that handguns are a good way to hunt gorillas, however.

October 2nd, 2006  

Rest in Peace Jeff.

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