Direct from Jeff Cooper himself:  The Evolution of the Modern Technique


It appears that many shooters do not understand about the evolution of the Modern Technique of Pistolcraft – nor, as to that, about the technique itself. Herewith a quick synopsis:

In the beginning the pistol was a cavalry weapon – an attempt to extend the reach of both saber and lance. Thus it was a tool to be used with one hand, the other being needed to control the horse. Quickly, however, it was discovered to be the equalizer, as effective afoot as ahorse. Despite this, its ancestry ruled for a couple of centuries, and armies continued to regard it as one-handed clear up into the late twentieth century.

Then came practical shooting, the revolution, and the one-hand gun evolved into the two-hand gun. The revolution was born in Southern California, at Big Bear Lake, and I know about it because I was intimately involved in it.

When recovering from a shattered radius at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico in 1947, I “audited” the FBI Academy and ran right into what the Bureau called its “Practical Pistol Course,” which, while hardly practical, was a great step forward from conventional target shooting. In company with Howie Tatt (then captain, later colonel) I dreamed up a military course of fire for the pistol which was especially suited for infantrymen of all grades whose duties precluded the packing of a rifle – drivers, mechanics, tankers, artillerymen, staff officers, etc. Target shooting did not do this. We sought improvement.

But the war ended, and as a civilian (sort of) I wound up at Big Bear Lake in California, where I continued to play around with the practical pistol. Contests were organized, beginning with a straightforward quick-draw match called “The Leatherslap,” which everyone enjoyed and became an annual event. Contestants wanted more, so a monthly program began which emphasized variety and realism. No two matches could be held in the same year, and the challenges should replicate actual gunfights – so far as practical.

The creative genius was Jack Weaver, a deputy sheriff and pistol hobbyist, who observed, thought it over, and concluded that two hands are better than one. He placed seventh the first year, then came back the second year and wiped us out. Some were using the cowboy hip-shot, some the Applegate “instinctive” method, and I was shooting one-handed long-point from the target range. Jack walloped us all – and decisively – using a six-inch Smith K-38. He was very quick and he did not miss. And, of course, he shot from the Weaver Stance, which was, and is, the way to go.

So when I began to teach pistolcraft, first at Big Bear, then at Gunsite, I emphasized variety, realism, and the Weaver Stance. I thought that I covered the subject, but I ran into a theoretical obstacle. I discovered that there is a basic divergence in purpose between the amateur and the professional. The amateur seeks excellence. The professional seeks adequacy. The hobbyist shooter wants to be better. The cop wants to be good enough.