Yesterday, my good friend Richard Mann put up a very thought-provoking post called “Where have all the great gun writers gone” in which he examined the current state of gun writing and its lack of great writers such as Jeff Cooper, Jack O’Connor, and Elmer Keith, to name a few. I agree with Richard; I grew up in the sport reading those same writers, and they were a huge inspiration in my getting into writing. I said as much on Richard’s facebook page. My comment was immediately followed up with this:
Being in my sixties I am well acquainted with most of the writers you mentioned. I feel the internet has diluted the quality. Quite a few of these young welps have actually disparaged the writing of those men. Yes what they wrote those many years ago still hold true today. But some of these internet warriors feel they have the new answers due to the change of tactics and equipment. Kicking dirt on the faces of those that preceded them. While these new writers lack experience as well as respect for those gun writers of long ago. Their lack of experience hasn’t slowed their opinionated writings.
My first thought was, “Well, that didn’t take long.” My next thought was a truly deep sense of frustration, because Richard’s article wasn’t about tearing anyone down. It was asking a question. I was frustrated and dismayed that John decided to go negative so quickly, and tear down and entire generation of up-and-coming writers and speakers for no actual reason.
There are great communicators out there in the gun community, and many of them are online. They stand on the shoulders of giants like Jeff Cooper and Elmer Keith, but they also don’t accept that just because something was said by one of the greats that it’s still applicable today. Techniques have evolved, tactics have changed, and guns have gotten better. What may have been the best ideas during the dawning of the Modern Technique may not be the best today, as tactics and techniques must adapt to a changing world. We have experts and warriors who’ve been tested in over a decade of warfare, competition shooters who can shoot to a level that would be unimaginable to the greats in days of yore, and yet to question them is seen as sacrilege to many.
My generation of writers, communicators and trainers stand on the shoulders of great men like Jeff Cooper. Every single defensive pistol instructor uses some bits of what Jeff Cooper began so many years ago. Every single modern action pistol shooter owes a debt to the original Southwestern Combat Pistol League. But that doesn’t mean that we or anyone should mindlessly genuflect to the ideas of the greats simply because they were great. If we don’t question assumptions, we become stagnant. We stop learning. If Rob Leatham and Brian Enos hadn’t questioned the assumption that Weaver was The Way, we’d not have the superior Modern Isosceles technique. If Gaston Glock hadn’t questioned the way guns are made, we wouldn’t have the modern age of polymer pistols. Jeff Cooper was a great, brilliant mind. But he also said that it was acceptable to toss your first DA shot in the dirt to “skip” to the SA trigger on a DA/SA gun. That’s not great or brilliant.
My generation of writers has many great communicators. I’m not one of them; I’m just an average IDPA shooter that happens to blog. But people like my friend Natalie Foster are bringing the gun culture’s message to an entire new generation of shooters and gun owners. Ryan Gresham is following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, and there are countless other writers, bloggers, and youtube personalities out there producing smart, insightful comment. Sure, there are plenty of clowns and jokers, and yes the internet has given them a voice as well. The benefit of that is we live in a world where it’s easier than ever to find information on guns, shooting, hunting, and defensive firearms use. If the trade-off for that is having to be a little more careful with information selection than you were during the age of the magazine, I’ll take that any day of the week.
I’ve said it several times now, and I’ll say it one last time in conclusion. My generation of communicators stands on the shoulders of giants. Without Jeff Cooper, Jack O’Connor, Elmer Keith, and the other great writers it is entirely possible that we wouldn’t have anything to write about at all. But in standing on their shoulders, we also question assumptions, and by so doing we create a stronger and more vibrant culture than they could have possibly imagined. No community is enriched when ideas and assumptions go unchallenged and are not discussed out of deference for their progenitors; instead it grows only when people are free to question the ideas of the greats. By doing that, we have continued to grow a gun culture that today stands larger and more powerful than it has ever been. If I have to question the ideas of my heroes to get that result, I’ll do it gladly.