Taps for Colonel Cooper

In the summer of 1958, I bought two soft-cover books for something like 25 cents each, and they opened a door for me. One was entitled Fighting Handguns; the other was Custom Rifles. I read those books, and re-read them, and re-re-read them, not just for the information, but because Jeff Cooper was a hell of a writer. I got caught reading Custom Rifles in study hall in high school, and got in trouble, and had the pleasure of telling Jeff Cooper about it many years later.

Cooper was an original thinker and a hugely influential figure in the world of shooting. Much of modern combat pistol technique is based upon his teaching, as is the predominance of the automatic pistol over the revolver in law-enforcement work. He was instrumental in founding the modern shooting academy, and he wrote for more than 50 years and was as interesting at the end as he was at the beginning.

Cooper served in the Marine Corps in WWII and was discharged as a captain. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and eventually made Lieutenant Colonel, the rank at which he retired. A graduate of Stanford University, Cooper was a genuinely educated man, loved language, and was fussy about it as all good writers are. He also had a sense of humor. Carved on the wooden mantle of his fireplace was the slogan “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” ... in Old English.

He needed to be tough. Toward the end of his life he fell and broke his back in two places, and it put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his days. He passed away on September 25, at home.

Semper fi.

Well done.

Stand down.