Sunday, February 24, 2013

Remembering the late, great Jeff Cooper

I daresay most of my firearms-owning readers have heard of the late, great (and I use that term advisedly) Jeff Cooper.

His accomplishments are legion, including (but not limited to) the following.

  • He served in the US Marine Corps during and after World War II, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
  • He brought together, codified and taught the elements of what became known as the 'Modern Technique of the Pistol', revolutionizing handgun training in the process.
  • He founded Gunsite, a firearms training academy in Arizona that still provides some of the finest weapons training available anywhere in the world.  Several of its former instructors and advanced students went on to found their own shooting schools and academies, including (but not limited to) Thunder Ranch, Cumberland Tactics, Shootrite Firearms Academy, etc.  There's a thriving e-mail list exchanging news, views and ideas among its graduates.
  • He was a prolific author, writing several books and many magazine articles, newsletters and the like.  (I have his books in my own library, and re-read them regularly.  They're well worth it.)
  • His 'color code' of threats and threatening situations has spread far afield.  Today it's ubiquitous in almost any aspect of combat arms.  Many have claimed it as their own, but he unquestionably first codified it and preached it as a way of life.  I learned it early on, and it quite literally saved my life during numerous 'twitchy' occasions.  As a result, I regard it as his most important contribution to my life, even more so than his excellent pistol techniques (which have also saved my favorite butt on occasion).

Col. Cooper died in 2006, beloved (and mourned) by thousands in the firearms community.  I had the privilege of attending a memorial service and shoot, held at the NRA's Whittington Center in New Mexico the following year.  It was very much a celebration of his life rather than mourning his passing, which is precisely what he'd have wanted, I'm sure.

His wife and children, along with several of his associates, have founded the Jeff Cooper Legacy Foundation.  They describe the Foundation's mission as follows:

To preserve, protect and defend the principle of self-reliance and the individual right of self-defense as espoused by Jeff Cooper.  The Foundation will provide scholarships for firearms training in the Cooper tradition as well as preserve his writings and his personal collections for posterity.

To raise funds for its operations, the Foundation has just issued a Jeff Cooper Commemorative Coin, in the 'challenge coin' tradition of many US military units and private organizations.  I think it's a fine idea, and I'll be buying a few for myself and friends.  If you, like me, value Col. Cooper's contribution to the art and science of firearms management and the control of the lethal threat environment, may I suggest that you could do a lot worse than buy one (or more) for yourself as well?

Col. Cooper's books are also still available through his daughter, Lindy Wisdom.  If you haven't read them, whether you're 'into' firearms or not, you're in for a treat.  He wrote in the classical tradition, erudite, passionate and convincing.  His memory will live on in his writings fully as much as in the pistol and other weapons techniques he developed and taught.  I believe his books are essential reading for anyone who espouses self-reliance, classical values and personal responsibility.  I can't recommend them too highly.

I'm honored to have met Col. Cooper on one occasion in South Africa, and corresponded with him on another.  Those who spent much longer with him are very fortunate people.  I wouldn't be alive today without his lessons and contribution to weapons management.  He was a very special gentleman.



mostlycajun said...

I wrote Jeff Cooper in 2004 asking permission to print Lindy's poem "Grandpa's Lesson" on my blog. He faxed me permission, with his signature, and also asked me what a 'blog' was.

Unfortunately I lost that fax and a complete set of his books when my house burnt.

The man is a giant, whether you fully agree with everything he said or not.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories!


Murphy's Law said...

Amen. One of my few regrets is never having gone to Gunbsite while he was still actively teaching there.

Retired Mustang said...

I never met him, but he impacted virtually all my firearms training through the years, especially in the military.