Participation in the shooting sports often comes with an appreciation of history. When we carry and shoot guns whose design predates passenger aircraft and mass produced automobiles, it’s hard not to get immersed in the traditions and lore of shooters who have come before us.
Which is why Col. Coopers‘ Gunsite is the most important shooting school in the world. Before Gunsite, pistol training consisted of slowly shooting bullseye targets one-handed. Trivia like speed, drawing, reloading, and most critically, mindset, were left up to the student to be sussed out on the fly. Sometimes with disastrous results. Before Gunsite, there were no shooting schools, and precious few instructors who approached teaching pistol combat realistically. After Gunsite, graduates and instructors who taught there formed their own schools, and the technique of the defensive pistol was transformed into a genuine martial art. Virtually all current duty police officers have benefited from pistol training that was eventually derived from the syllabus developed at Paulden. It is quite possible that thousands of lives have been saved, and many criminal careers ended, by one man’s teachings.
Ain’t that somethin’?
My first exposure to Col Coopers’ writings was shortly after I arrived to America from Canada. A friend pointed me to an online archive of his monthly newsletter, and I read all six years that were posted in one sitting. In the years that followed, I checked that site every day for new editions. If you haven’t already, I cannot recommend enough reading them all. The Colonel was a true renaissance man with a gift for language and insights and biting humor, and his writings covered subjects from shooting to war, art, cooking, football and politics.
Recently, I purchased and read (in more than one sitting), the first volume of the Gargantuan Gunsite Gossip, a print edition of the first several years of his newsletters. It was absolutely engrossing covering the history of practical shooting before I could even hold a gun. Reading his description of the coming and failing of the 10mm and Bren, the emergence of and grudging respect for the Glock (initially derided as a plastic, disposable gun for a plastic, disposable age), the early, unsuccessful struggles against the anti-gun rights organizations, and the entire Reagan era, was the most fascinating book I’ve read in years. I recommend it highly! You will gain a new understanding of why our sport is bound around a small patch of desert in Arizona.
After reading up on your history, don’t blame me if you’re suddenly plotting your own pilgrimage. Gunsite offers all sorts of training opportunities, including several levels of defensive pistol, shotgun, practical and hunting rifles, and pretty much anything else you can cut a check for.
Don’t forget to check back in frequently this week for Caleb’s updates from the field.