Mindless devotion to Jeff Cooper is stupid

Dr. Dre’s dead, he’s locked in my basement – so spoke the poet Eminem, using the metaphorical murder of one of the icons of hip-hop to signal the changing of the guard to a new generation of rappers. Unfortunately, no one ever wrote a similar line about the late Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper, and such whenever discussions about “stopping power” or “DA/SA” or even AR15s come up, someone will always drop into the comments, genuflect towards Prescott, AZ and say “but Jeff Cooper said” blah blah blah.

Now before you burn my house down, Jeff Cooper has contributed more to the art of modern pistol shooting than I could in 5 lifetimes. Without Jeff Cooper and the Modern Technique, we’d probably still be still stuck with Applegate’s point shooting nonsense, and that would be awful. Furthermore, I still recommend Gunsite as my first choice for someone with no pistol/CCW experience to attend, because the immersive environment of a 250 goes much further beyond “just a pistol class.”

But not all of Jeff Cooper’s ideas were great. He was unequivocally wrong about 9mm, the AR15/.223 cartridge, and DA/SA autos. While as a young man he may have been an innovative, outside the box thinker; in his old age he became a bit of a hidebound traditionalist. Which is fine. I aspire myself to be a crotchety old man, sitting on my porch complaining that these dang laser guns with their electronic triggers can never stop a man like a good old 9mm.

That’s not what I’m talking about, thought. I’m talking about people whose knowledge of defense shooting and tactics starts and stops with the light colonel’s ideas. Look, the Modern Technique was awesome, but we’re way past that now. We’ve fought two enormous wars with poodle shooter rifles and crunchenticker pistols, and when our elected leaders let our warriors do their jobs, we actually did pretty well.

So what’s the point of this simple rant? Open your mind. After you read Jeff Cooper’s book Principles of Personal Defense, read something else. Read Your Defensive Handgun Training Program by Mike Seeklander and learn to shoot better than you ever could have using just the modern technique. I’m not saying we shouldn’t respect Jeff Cooper’s contribution, but at the same time we should apply some critical thinking. Just because he said it, doesn’t make it right.

Please don’t burn my house down.


  1. Jeff Cooper should be respected as being the godfather of practical shooting, and tactical training, the same way we respect the Founding Fathers of our nation.

    We do try to remain faithful to his base ideals, but we don’t follow all their ideas because we moved on to better ideas.

      1. >Just like we don’t carry muskets anymore even thought that’s what the founders used to kick British ass.

        Yaaa… but I still would not turn down a good Brown Bess or Kentucky Long Rifle.


      2. Wilbur Wright was the best pilot in the world in his day, and one of the most important figures in the history of powered flight.

  2. Mindless devotion to the opinions of any one person is stupid. Shop around, pick and choose what suits yourself, and leave the rest behind. Cooper’s strength was that he thought hard about stuff, tested his theories and published it all. His weakness was in becoming dogmatic as he got older.

    I’m an old 1911 guy with a weakness for the .45, the 10mm Auto and bolt-action rifles, and marched to the Cooper beat right up ’til he put a forward-mounted scope on a short rifle. Optics are for pampered varmint rifles, not for one that could take a beating. (Bet you were all nodding along until that last heresy, huh?)

    Anyway, Cooper contributed right up to when he didn’t anymore. He was right for his time.

  3. Caleb, right on! I try to learn things from as many reputable sources as possible. I take what makes sense to me and I discard what doesn’t. Just because I do or believe something today it does not mean I won’t change my mind if something else comes along that seems to work better for me. All the arguments like “point shooting” vs. “aimed fire”, “9mm” vs. “45”, “Weaver stance” vs. “Isosceles” when it comes right down to it are just different ways of achieving the same results. Use what works best for you and discard what doesn’t. But, always be ready to considering something new and use it if it works for you!!

  4. Minor quibble: In his day, I fully agree with the Colonel’s view on the 9mm.

    Today, not so much.

    I respect the Hell out of him. But times have changed somewhat. Would love to,go hunting him at Fiddler’s Green some day.

  5. His one pronouncement that I hold against him was the gamer based decision to demand that the 1911 type be shot with the thumb on top of the safety. Combine that with his preferred undercut beavertail grip safety, and uncounted man-hours have been devoted to attempting to rectify the effects of reduction of recoil control due to the near complete loss of backstrap contact with the hand.

    His own shooting difficulties with this technique should have brought his focus on it, to review it’s public utility. The only thing that makes it clear that he did understand the problem he had created, was his Low Thumb Safety, available at the Gunsite store. Moving the thumb lever to the bottom of the side plate brought the palm into more contact with the backstrap, but that created another safety issue, that being the total inability of shooting the gun with the off-hand. Grasping the gun with the left hand instantly forced the safety on, by contact with the trigger finger knuckle.

    No one is perfect, but Pioneers in any arena are held to a different standard. He was good. He brought a needed perspective to handgun defensive shooting, in addition to other areas of firearm use. He is revered, and rightly so. But again, he wasn’t perfect. I wish I had pursued the chance to get to know him personally, though.

  6. Step back, take a deep breath and then take some time to read some of Jeff Cooper’s writings. His vast volume of work speaks for itself. For those of you who will pick at the huge accumulation of articles and quotes much like buzzards at a road kill, there are bound to be some tidbits that you can carp about. Taken as a whole, LC Cooper’s contribution to our gun culture is as cogent and valuable today as it was when written. His legacy is secure and his cerebral treatment of every subject that he embraced remains untarnished even though assailed by the common masses.

  7. The first thing that comes to mind on the topic of “Mindless Devotion to Jeff Cooper” has to be anyone still preaching and stubbornly clinging (Gunsite) to the Weaver stance. I think this wise observation attributed to Jerry Miculek says it best, “the Weaver stance, what we all used back in the day before we knew better”.

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