The passing of a legend

To anyone who is committed to the right of law abiding individuals to keep and own firearms and to use them responsibly, at some point, you would have come across the name Col. John Cooper. Col. John Dean Cooper was an advocate of the above and much more besides.


Jeff Cooper as he came to be known was born in 1920 and grew up in southern California. He was the youngest in the family and his parents had sufficient funds to allow travel to Europe and even to hunt in the Yukon.


He had an interest in firearms from an early age and acquired his first gun aged 11. In the days when most schools had indoor small bore rifle ranges he was able to hone his marksmanship. When he left school and went to university he was already a skilled marksman and an experienced hunter. At university he majored in political science and took up fencing as a sport. Whilst at Stanford he met his future wife.


After university, Cooper accepted a commission into the USMC and started his basic training in Philadelphia. In 1941 when the US joined the Second World War Cooper was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania. By the time the war ended Cooper had attained the rank of captain.


After the war Cooper stayed in the Marines and was subsequently sent to Korea where he was involved in operations that are still secret. It was during this period that Cooper started to develop an interest in small arms handling and in particular that of the pistol.


In 1955 Cooper resigned from the Marines and moved back to California with his wife and family. In 1958 he met Bob Peterson and Tom Siatos of Peterson publishing. Cooper wrote several articles for them mostly on guns. A short time later Guns & Ammo was born and he became known as a well established gun writer.


At his property in Big Bear, shooters congregated to practise their shooting skills. With help from these shooters, Cooper developed the Modern Technique. When put into practise properly it the most effective technique for self defence shooting.


In the late ‘70’s the Coopers brought a large piece of desert in Arizona and set up a shooting school named Gunsite. The whole school was built to Coopers own design. It was here that he taught those from all walks of life the Modern Technique. This included those from the military and police. When it came time to slow down a bit Cooper sold Gunsite but with the provision that he still had a strong link with the training it provided. Col. Coopers slow down was not like that of others, he planned to travel, hunt and write. However his plans where not fulfilled in respect of his being involved at Gunsite. After a time Gunsite was sold again and the new owner brought back Cooper as a consultant and instructor.


Col. Cooper’s opinions have always been his own. His love of the 1911 and his reverence for the 30-06 cartridge have always been consistent. Though he did concede that other pistols and calibres had their uses.


As a writer he has had articles over the years in many of the shooting, hunting magazines and papers. But I suspect like me, many people start reading their latest copy of Guns & Ammo from the last page. Coopers Corner, a man and his thoughts. You might not always agree but you couldn’t ignore it that was the point. It provoked thought and discussion in many a shooting club house.


Col. Copper will be greatly missed by those that new him and those, like me, who only ever met him through his writing. The world is a poorer place with his passing but a richer one for having had him in it.


For information and to read some of his articles click here


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