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Am I about to partake in cancel culture? Questioning the wisdom of Col. Jeff Cooper

By Luis Valdes


First and foremost, I want to say that I grew up reading the works of Col. Jeff Cooper and he was one of the founders of what is modern pistol craft. Without folks like him, we wouldn’t be where we are today. But even the Founders weren’t perfect.

Upon reading the article. It is clear that even in 1986, Col. Cooper was confused on the purpose of a DA/SA gun. It is not and never intended to be carried with a safety engaged. The safety is a decocker, something his beloved CZ-75 does not have and was a danger until B variants were made since a slip of the hammer while manually decocking the gun meant it could go off.

The entire mindset behind a gun like the Model 645 is that the gun is carried with the safety off and hammer down. The DA pull makes it better for the shooter to bring the gun into action. Something that famed German Gunsmith and Designer, L.W. Seecamp learned in WWII.

I respect Col. Cooper and I am a fan of the 1911. But even then he was outdated with his views on what a combat pistol should be.

It was becoming obvious even by the mid-1980s that the day of the 1911 was coming to an end. I clearly discussed how that was happening in HAVE YOU THANKED BILL CLINTON FOR THE 1911 MARKET YOU HAVE TODAY?

Guys like Cooper refused to see the day of the GLOCK (tupperware was how it put it) or the DA/SA  (crunchandticker was what he called them) as the future.

Cooper was what I’d like to call a Gravel Belly. He was one of the folks with the antiquated belief that a lone soldier can command a large chunk of ground with a rifle doing 1,000 yard shots from the prone at enemy soldiers. Back in WWII, that was proven false and it was proven false in Korea and Vietnam. 
Sure, for John Q Public, a 1911 is still viable as a home defense weapon for your average scenario just as a Mossberg 500 or even a Remington Beals 1858 is capable.

And while Cooper and others laid the foundations of the modernistic shooting we have today. A number of his contemporaries were able to adapt and learn. Cooper was pretty much a curmudgeon stuck in his ways and refused to admit or more importantly, accept the inevitable change that was coming.

Look at how he reviewed the Ruger Mini-14.

Now, we know I have a soft spot for the Mini-14.( No, we didn’t. If we did ,we would never have associated with you – Shawn) But even I know that the AR-15 is its superior. Yet Cooper didn’t think so. Why? The Mini-14 was familiar to him because he was wedded to the idea of wood and blued steel.
The idea that even in 1975, the Mini-14 was the better rifle than the Colt SP1 Rifle or Carbine is laughable.

A while back; Mike Seeklanders of American Warrior Society podcasts had an interview with Ken Hackathorn. Hackathorn was talking about his early days with Cooper at Gunsite. Cooper hated everything that wasn’t a 1911, except the CZ-75. Hackathorn basically said woe be upon you if you showed up with a Hi Power or *gasp* a revolver. Hackathorn also talked about the Yaqui holster that Cooper loved to always carry. He stated that Milt Sparks absolutely hated to make it but did so just for Cooper and the fact that his fans bought anything Cooper pushed and that meant business for Milt Sparks.
I hear from others that they believe that gun reviewers back then gave forgotten reviewers honest opinions in gun magazines back then and they claim that nothing negative seems to get printed today. If a writer doesn’t mention reliability in a modern day article, they just assume the gun was unreliable. If they don’t mention accuracy, they assume the gun was inaccurate. 
The truth is, it was the same deal back then. They did bad reviews back then too. Cooper was mostly an outlier in the industry. People read Cooper’s works because they liked the ramblings of an curmudgeonly old codger. It is much like John Wayne. He couldn’t act worth a damn. But people liked John Wayne because he played John Wayne.

Gun Rags were called Gun Rags because the vast majority of reviews were simply shills and paid by the company that sent in the gun for review. They’d send buffed and fluffed guns to the reviewers for positive articles and they also bought ad space in the periodicals to make the publishers put pressure on the editors to make sure articles were favorable.

On well, that’s my rant. 
Enjoy the blast from the past articles.

I’m gonna have to say a few words on Luis’ last point here. I get sent a lot of stuff for review, guns included of course. Companies do not send me or any other writer I know “buffed and fluffed” demos for review. You get what you get and most of the time it’s after 5 other writer’s got done with it. No one I deal with has ever pressured me for a good review. Including advertisers. I’m sure it happens but if it does no one I’ve talked to will admit it. Some gun companies have told me there are a few big name writers who are infamous across the industry for not returning T&E guns and not paying for them though. The only reason they still send them to these few guys is because they are in the big name gun rags and they figure its worth the loss in money to have the gun get coverage in the rags. A couple of popular big name gun-tubers are notorious assholes too and I can personally vouch for that myself . Lastly Louis is completely wrong about the M1911 but not everyone is perfect I suppose.

28 thoughts on “Am I about to partake in cancel culture? Questioning the wisdom of Col. Jeff Cooper”

  1. You have offered many valid observations on Cooper. Many will mindlessly attack you for having done so. Ignore them. They are invariably blowhards and/or sycophants who, at best, only know what they overheard on either side of the counter at a gun store.

    Cooper had a limited perspective and considerable biases, and he was blind to both. He was also arrogant and rude. But his greatest failing was his inability to grow and adapt.

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  2. I respect Cooper for what he was. Modern technique of the pistol, 45 fan, hunter, and rifleman. That said, I always disagreed with him that the “only“ pistol was an M1911, and although he sometime recommended 22lr rifle for self-defense, an AR-15 was somehow a poodle shooter and could not possibly stop the human!
    Yes he was a curmudgeon extraordinaire.
    I’ve read many of his books, and enjoyed them. But he was not the only “guru“ or knowledgeable opinion out there.

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  3. ‘Companies do not send me or any other writer I know “buffed and fluffed” demos for review.’

    Is it your understanding that the companies grab their review guns out of the boxes stacked on the shipping dock for shipment to wholesalers and slap a shipping label to your FFL on it?

    I’ve never been in the gun biz, but I’ve given lots of software demos to executives, and I’ve never done so without a script and a run-through of the script on the day of the demo.

    I can’t imagine that they don’t take T&E guns down to the range for some extra test-firing, a field strip to make sure all the parts got put in the right way and everything is lubed.

    So “buffed and fluffed” in the sense of swapping parts for Wilson Combat parts? Doubtful. But “buffed and fluffed” in the sense that the rifle was the pick of the litter? I’d be shocked if it weren’t.

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    • they pick ones just off standard production runs and use them for T&E/ writer’s demos. thats what Colt does and thats what everyone who has sent me one does. there are no enhanced parts or special prepping to make sure it works or shoots better than any other one coming off the assembly line. If they did, I would tell you up front. Believe me, I have seen some that clearly had no extra attention paid to them before being sent to me

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        • it would show the same touch as a gunsmith, polishing, non standard parts etc. the amount of money and time they would lose slicking up special rifles for all the writers who they send them to wouldn’t be worth it for what the price of the demo is if you decide to buy it

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          • Eh, I could send you a “select” gun where I’ve chosen the standard parts to get the tolerances to stack just the way I want them. It would look like all-standard parts, all-standard finishing, but it wouldn’t be a random set of parts put together.

            This is how the armories started when making match or other selective rifles. You can go through a large bin of parts and select the ones which, when you put it together, has the allowances/tolerances that are ‘ideal’ for the gun in question.

            But I doubt that today’s companies are sharp enough to do that any more.

          • I’ve handled enough and shot enough rounds to know when one has been prepped to be better. I would like to think you all know that or you wouldnt be here reading my opinions on them

          • DG is close to my point, but not quite there. What if they aren’t doing any mix-n-match parts, just grabbing a gun that’s on the better side of average?

            Without getting all W. Edwards Deming, if 20 rifles come off the line, you’d expect 10 of them to be average, 5 to be below average and 5 to be above average. Why would a company send an average or below-average rifle to a reviewer?

            If the CEO wanted a Wizzmaster-5000 for his personal use, do you think they just grab one out of the pile at the end of the line? I wouldn’t. I’d pick one out that looked at least average from the outside, field strip it to make sure the internals looked good, then I’d run some number of rounds through it. Then a quick lube and back into the box for delivery to the boss. Isn’t that how every organization runs?

            And if a reviewer gets a bum gun and people start coming around asking why the rifle doesn’t work, how happy are they going to be happy if my answer is, “Well, I just grabbed one off the receiving dock and sent it to him”?

          • A lot of times you deal with a middle man company that just sends you a gun from a distributor. if you know now how a distributor like MKS Supply would know which guns are better than another one that came off the line on any given day I’m all ears

          • I did not realize you get your T&E guns from a distributor rather than from the factory. That certainly would make arranging a “select” gun more difficult. Thanks for setting me straight.

          • most of them have some kind of agency who handle it, some send direct from the factory. Inland uses MKS for their T&E requests for instance. Colt used to use an agency for a few years until a few years ago

    • One day, beloved Glock pistols will be considered outdated and no longer top shelf wanted hardware, the same as the 1911 Cooper was so fond of.

      I don’t know when this will happen, but one day likely will. New Wizz Bang guns and chamberings seem to be coming out daily that offer something new and unique.

      It’s not so much that Cooper was not properly taking the pulse of the concepts of armed conflict, and state of the art fighting tools – so much as he was actually in the midst of the subject on many ocasions in his life time, and was considered an authority on the subject.

      Over the years, firearms and criminals have changed in the sense of tactical need,and the newer levels of violence and cunning agression criminals now days display.

      The old 1911 can still hold its own, but only if not against two thugs with a Glock 17.

      Once was a time when a simple .38 snub was quite adequate for law enforcement, but not so today.

      I’m a great fan of Cooper, and his endless ramblings on life, shooting straight, telling the truth, and surviving armed conflict with criminal miscreants. Much of what he taught us old shooters is still applicable today.

      Yes, much of his thinking could now use a solid review. Sadly he’s not here and able to enlighten us on what he thinks about the criminal elements among us today. He’d probably tell us to retire the 1911 to home defense duties, and arm up to equal, or greater firepower than carried by criminals.

      None the less – a good man bestowing practical and effective knowledge upon us Rag Subscribers long ago. Today, I’m sure his thinking would be a little different now than back then.

      I’m saddened he’s no longer with us to prove my thinking right, or wrong.

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  4. What many pistol experts fail to recognize, and indeed I, myself, failed to understand until later in life, is how incompetent many cops are with guns. There are scads of law enforcement gun-carriers who are outright, no-debate, undeniable morons with a gun in their hands.

    As a result of this under-appreciated truth, a company such as S&W, who has been selling guns to cops since Moses was a toddler, was catering to their customer base with the 645 and similar guns based off the Model 39/59. There are a number of ‘features’ that competent pistol handlers think are silly without being a “gravel-belly” like Cooper here:

    – the magazine disconnect; S&W added this ‘feature’ because of incidents like this chief of police smoking himself with a round center-mass:

    https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2015/09/13/bessemer-police-chief-accidentally-killed-while-cleaning-gun/

    or this one:

    https://www.theindychannel.com/news/local-news/off-duty-edinburgh-police-officer-accidentally-shoots-woman-while-cleaning-personal-gun-police-say

    I could go on like this all day long. I’ve been handling guns since I was 10 years old, and I’ve never had a round left in the chamber in a semi-auto surprise me. That’s about a half-century of firearms experience without a negligent discharge, without all that training cops supposedly have, without their pay and pension packages, and without someone covering up for my incompetence during an investigation. So of course I would think that many of the ‘features’ on a 645 are silly.

    – the decocker feature is another one added to “cop-proof” a pistol. Normal shooters haven’t had the same problems letting down a hammer that cops seem to have.

    – The double-action trigger pull of 12 lbs on a semi-auto. Well, guess what, sports fans? Glock did the same thing on their triggers after enough NYPD cops red-legged themselves with their fancy new combat tupperware.

    In short, if Cooper had been a real curmudgeon like yours truly, he could have spared the reader all those words and written only thus:

    “The S&W 645 is a pistol made for police. If you are more competent than a police officer at handling a gun, you need read no further and make no purchase here unless you are an avid collector of S&W pistols.”

    There. I just said everything that was needed to be said, saved a bunch of trees and put the blame for the design of the 645 where it belongs.

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    • Funny my dad was doing the precursor to IPSC/IDPA back in the day and he said all the regulars had almost zero confidence in the cops that would show up. Apparently back then the only one who could run with the regulars were the Border Patrol.
      By the time I was going with him that wasn’t the case so much but still.
      Different part of the country but same experience.

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  5. This reads more like a reasoned critique of Col. Cooper in light of the evolution of techniques and equipment. Even at the time some of his attitudes appear anachronistic and contrarian.
    I don’t understand how he could hate the Hi Power so much since it is basically an evolved 1911 with a double stack magazine. Since he liked the CZ-75 it can’t be a hatred of 9mm nor could he hate Browning.

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  6. Thanks for articulating many of my own thoughts on Cooper. Even back in the day I looked upon Cooper as someone who was as fat, slow and blunt as the .45 ACP he adored.

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  7. Are you demanding we remove everything Col. Cooper wrote from our personal libraries?

    Are you insisting that everything he did, thought, taught, developed, was wrong and evil, no matter what?

    Are you demanding we all boycott Gunsite?

    If no, then you aren’t trying to “cancel” the man. You point out that he’s human, a product of his times, and has his own load of idiosyncrasies, blind spots and prejudices, and still managed to make meaningful and lasting contributions in spite of them.

    That sure sounds to me like the opposite of cancel culture. n Or at least orthogonal.

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  8. I have no particular ax to grind concerning Col. Cooper, either way. He was a product of his time and for sure I wouldn’t want him shooting at me, but you could say the same about Elmer Keith or Antifa maybe.

    However, I do recall one of his articles back in the day that displayed a photo of his handgun “battery” and the purpose for each.

    Included were an 8″ S&W Model 29 for hunting and a S&W Chief’s Special for business suit. Pretty sure the 2″ Smiff was actually a Model 60, maybe but it’s been a long time.

    I forget the rest of it. I may be mis-remembering that much. Guns and Ammo magazine, if I recall correctly, sometime in the late ’60’s or early 70’s.

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  9. “on the purpose of a DA/SA gun. It is not and never intended to be carried with a safety engaged.”

    Apparently you just don’t know.

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  10. Cuss him or praise him, today anyone who pretends to know anything about firearms has adopted is 4 rules. They are better and more concise than anything the NRA ever came up with. I and I’m betting everyone here use them every time we handle a firearm and or teach others to do so.

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    • I don’t think Luis hates Jeff. I think he is pointing out the man wasn’t perfect or all knowing. I have friends with dumb opinions and I’m still friends with them. Unless they think the M14 is a really great gun.

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  11. Justsomeguy,

    Cooper did not invent the 4 Rules. He just popularized them.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_safety

    (Hint…his old employer formalized them first)

    Nonetheless, that was a valuable thing that he did. But his arrogance, rudeness, inability to adapt and bizarre contradictory opinions overshadowed that one good deed.

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    • That “one good deed” has likely done more for firearms safety than any other initiative and saved many lives in the process. Nearly every set of rules listed in your link are derived from them. Before those rules were widely taught in that manner, we were presented with a long mishmash of rules that were difficult for new people to comprehend and remember. The way the NRA’s rules are proffered has been dramatically changed do to Cooper, but even with the changes, I and most everyone else I know uses Coopers versions. Regardless of who developed them, it was Cooper that brought them to the forefront.

      Otherwise Cooper was an old curmudgeon. I understand and respect old curmudgeons. Oh, and I carry a 1911 on condition one every day too.

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