"Mind must be the stronger, heart the bolder, courage
must be the greater, as our might lessens."
From the manuscript of Otho A.xii, The Battle of Maldon, as engraved on the mantel piece of the Cooper's fireplace at the Sconce.
If you don't know who Jeff Cooper was you are obviously not a shooter. For those who may have come in late or are new to the shooting sports, here is a little bit about him.
Born John Dean Cooper on May 10, 1920, and known to his friends as "Jeff," he was a former Marine Lt. Colonel who served in WWII, Korea, and Southeast Asia; history professor and an ongoing student of history; philosopher; adventurer; author, and shottist. Jeff is recognized as the father of what is commonly referred to as "The Modern Techniques of Shooting." The modern technique deals with "practical" shooting--that is the use of firearms in their intended roles as tools for personal protection and hunting rather than just instruments of recreation.
Jeff made no claim as to his inventing anything novel. Rather he recognized and codified the useful ideas and techniques of many different individuals spanning many years, Many of these older ideas had been forgotten in the rush to "improve" things. Combining and modifying them through observation of unrestricted competition and personal testing, he gradually developed "The Modern Technique." While his principal contributions have been in the field of defensive pistolcraft, he has also been a major (if not the major) contributor to practical riflecraft and defensive shotgunning. Many people have taken the theories and practices he developed and now either claim that they invented them or fail to at least give him credit when they teach them. However, the fact remains that it was Jeff who started it all and whose ideas have held up to the test of time.
In addition, since ideas are useless unless taught to others, Jeff then developed new teaching techniques to impart these skills to people in the most efficient manner possible. In 1975 he founded the American Pistol Institute whose overriding purpose was to teach weaponcraft to law-abiding citizens and law enforcement personnel.
In Yavapai did Uncle Jeff
A stately shooting range decree,
Where senators and belted earls,
And cooks and cops and working girls,
Could study weaponry
As API began to teach the rifle and shotgun as well as the pistol, the name was changed to Gunsite which Jeff ran until mid 1992 when it was sold to a new owner who pretty much destroyed the school's reputation to Jeff's dismay. He was not associated with the Gunsite Training Center that existed from that date until October 1999. The original API/Gunsite under Jeff has come to be known as "orange" Gunsite while the circa '92 - 99 school is generally referred to as "gray" Gunsite, due to a change in the school's colors by that management.
There were many people who felt that the things that made Gunsite under Jeff a very special experience were missing, never to be attained again.
As one graduate so aptly put it:
"Another analogy, if you will: In Winchester Cathedral in SE England rests the
Round Table. One can read the legends, one can follow the code of chivalry, one
can practice skill at arms. But one cannot sit at that table ever again."
However, the school has changed owners again and it is now known as Gunsite Academy. The new owners involved Jeff in the school again. The new management has restored the former status and integrity to the school and from all reports they have succeeded handsomely.
Jeff was also the founder of the International Practical Shooting Confederation, a member of the NRA Board of Directors, and Editor-at-large for Guns & Ammo magazine. He has taught defensive pistolcraft in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Indonesia, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, South Africa, Southwest Africa, and Rhodesia. Jeff was the recipient of the 1995 Outstanding American handgunner award. He is the author of some 20 thought-provoking, insightful, and well-written books and close to 500 major articles on many subjects besides just shooting. In February of 2001 Jeff received an award from the Saint Gabriel Possenti Society, honoring his contributions to handgunning. (St.Possenti is the patron saint of shooters--particularly handgunners)
| The Four Rules | The Modern Technique | What is Jeff Like? |
| Jeff's Writings | Closing Thoughts |
One of Jeff's truly best, yet least appreciated, contributions to shooting in general has been the Four Rules of firearms safety. These four rules distill the often multitudinous rules promulgated by many organizations into four easy to remember principles that if followed explicitly will guarantee firearms safety. (NRA please take note.)
Remember, safety is a state of mind, not mechanics! Take nothing for granted!
The Modern Technique and the training procedures developed by Jeff Cooper are the most effective methods to learn to engage and hit human antagonists or game animals with a firearm. Many people incorrectly believe that the "Modern Technique" is nothing more than a particular shooting stance or a particular firearm. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a composite of equal parts of gun handling, marksmanship, and mindset, all of which interact and all of which must be utilized equally. Without the proper application of all three of these concepts there is no Modern Technique.
To learn more about the Modern Technique, click here.
I knew and corresponded with Jeff for almost 43 years and I have often been asked, "What was Jeff Cooper really like in person?" Well in a nutshell he was a connoisseur of excellence. His rule for living was simple: Understand the problem. Pull your weight. Appreciate. Be completely honest and trustworthy in all things.
"Understanding the problem" involves constantly learning about, being aware of, and keeping informed about all aspects of life. "Pulling your own weight" means to make your own way and not to be a burden to any one person nor to society. In other words, self reliance and self discipline. "Appreciate" is simply the admonition to enjoy. Enjoy the good things in life, both big and small. Make good things happen and revel in them. "Honesty and trustworthiness" is simply integrity--making your word your bond. Keep your word and do what you say you will do.
As to what he was like to be around, the best explanations of Jeff I can give comes from his biography, The Soul and the Spirit, written by his daughter Lindy Wisdom, and which are excerpted here with her permission.
"He holds himself and all others to the highest standards. He acknowledges that only a few excel, but he encourages us all to strive for, applaud, and appreciate the best in all arenas....
"He frames his appreciation of human achievement in a strong moral code which allows little tolerance for human weakness. His code is based on traditions of honor and integrity and acknowledges absolutes of right and wrong...." [Unfortunately this code is not looked upon as being politically correct these days and some people have problems dealing with Jeff because of his absolute adherence to these rules.]
"For many people, Jeff is not easy to be around. He has no small talk and does not suffer fools. He has no time for what he considers to be trivia, and that includes most of what the average person finds himself concerned with on a day-to-day basis. He is concerned with accomplishment and excellence and holds himself to that single concern. That offends some people and causes them to characterize Jeff as arrogant and elitist...."
In my personal experience Jeff tended to think about big subjects. He was uncomfortable in social settings where all one had to do was make small talk, and this sometimes caused him to ignore social amenities. Because of this trait some have called him a snob or conceited. He would much rather have an in depth one-on-one conversation where he has one's undivided attention and where he can get into the meat of a topic.
Foremost, Jeff was a natural born teacher. He breadth of knowledge is quite remarkable and knowing him was like having access to a veritable talking encyclopedia. His knowledge was readily available to be shared with anyone who was willing to explore a topic with him.
"If you are not daunted by his seeming overconfidence then he is more than happy to impart anything he knows and if you are willing to learn then you can learn a lot of things...."
Quite frankly I consider myself a very lucky person to have been able to learn from Jeff and to call him my friend.
Are You A "Gunsite" Graduate?
If so click here for information on the The Gunsite Alumni Email Group.
Jeff has published well over 500 books, magazine articles, and videos over the years covering a wide range of topics. As Jeff's bibliographer I have put together a comprehensive bibliography that runs from 1946 through 2006 and is the most complete listing of his writings available. For those of you who are interested I have also posted the complete contents of the famous Quoth the Raven booklet which is available for viewing off of the main bibliography page.
To view the current Jeff Cooper bibliography you can click here to go to its main page.
His monthly Commentaries are archived and can be read online at:
(Site status as of 2008-01-19)
A "Cooper" Collection
A 3 booklet collection of Jeff Cooper quotes, Quoting Cooper I & II , and Raventalk (selected poems and writings of Gunsite family members) is available for $10 (postage paid) from
P.O. Box 147
LaGrande, OR 97850
Cash, check, or money order only.
If you have any questions, Ben came be contacted at
In the mean time....
One of the best pieces on self-reliance ever written was done by Jeff was an editorial for the 1975 Guns & Ammo Annual. It was titled "Cooper VS. Terrorism," and you should read and heed it. Click here to go to it.
Attending Gunsite, and studying weaponcraft under Jeff's tutelage was a great experience. Additionally, to be able at the end of the day to retire to the "gun room" and to discuss shooting, history, and life with Jeff was an experience that none of his students will ever forget. Nevertheless, one of the things that made the Gunsite experience something exceptionally special was Jeff's wife, Janelle.
Janelle, known affectionately as "The Countess," welcomed us into her home and kept us and the staff nourished with a seemingly never ending stream of food, lemonade, and brownies. A more lovely and gracious lady there has never been. Her warmth, her constant smile, and her genuine interest in the students made all of us truly feel like "family." As the official hostess of the annual Cooper Reunion and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, held at the NRA Whittington Center, she continues her tradition of welcoming the Gunsite family.
Jeff with the "Lion Scout" taken at Gunsite, early1992.
Jeff and Janelle at the Cimarron Hotel, Cimarron, NM, 4th Annual GR/TRM, October 1996, © Fr. Frog 1996
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