Jeff Cooper: The Forgotten History of Lt. Col. Cooper and his Impact on Combat Readiness
By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com
The United States Marines have a saying: “Every Marine a rifleman.” That being said, some of them are pretty handy with a pistol, too.
Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper literally wrote the book on modern handguns in combat. In fact, you’re probably already acquainted with a number of concepts he introduced to the world of pistols, even though you might not know his name. Some of them are so common sense and simple that it’s hard to believe anyone had to invent them.
This was the genius of Jeff Cooper.
Jeff Cooper’s Marine Corps Career
It’s impossible to tell the story of Jeff Cooper without talking about the United States Marine Corps. Indeed, Cooper enrolled in the Junior ROTC program when he was still studying at Los Angeles High School. He then attended Stanford, earning a degree in political science before receiving his commission in the United States Marine Corps.
During World War II he served in the Pacific Theater, earning the rank of major. In 1949, he resigned his commission, but duty called during the Korean War and so, Cooper returned. He served in irregular warfare and earned a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. After the war, he applied to remain on active duty but was rejected.
From there, Cooper earned a master’s degree in history and taught part-time at a high school and a community college. Here he remained until the early 1970s when he applied his passion for teaching to his passion for weapons.
It was in 1976 that Cooper founded the American Pistol Institute, now known as the Gunsite Academy. While he primarily taught rifles and shotguns to law enforcement, the concepts developed by Cooper during his time running the American Pistol Institute for pistols and long arms alike are used by every intelligent and responsible gun owner to this day.
Jeff Cooper’s Combat Readiness
It was at the American Pistol Institute that Cooper developed the modern technique of the pistol. This was his system for pistol combat. Without knowing what it’s called or who invented it, much of it will seem familiar to you:
- Large caliber, semi-automatic pistol: Cooper was an early advocate of the 1911 and a big caliber to go in it. At a time when most men favored wheel guns, Cooper believed there was simply no substitute for a semi-automatic with a big round like a .45 ACP.
- The Weaver stance: Opinions vary on the best stance for combat, but Cooper was a strong supporter of the Weaver stance, developed by Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Jack Weaver through his experiences in competitive shooting.
- The draw stroke: Cooper preached the importance of the draw stroke. A holstered weapon doesn’t do anyone any good. So Cooper drilled his students to consistently practice drawing their weapon with perfect form to be combat-ready.
- The flash sight picture: Just as a holstered weapon is useless until drawn, so too is a weapon useless if not pointed in the right direction. The flash sight picture is a method of quickly targeting an attacker with sufficient accuracy. It is essential in life-or-death situations.
- The compressed surprise trigger break: Considered the “secret” of quick and accurate shooting, the compressed surprise trigger break, which is a somewhat more sophisticated version of the “double-tap.” While Cooper did not invent the double-tap, he systematized the training for such.
All of the above are basic combat training for civilians, military, and law enforcement alike. While Cooper didn’t “invent” any of it, per se, he synthesized previously existing methods into a cohesive program of combat readiness just about anyone could learn.