Jeff Cooper, 86, Developed Gun Techniques

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Jeff Cooper, a firearms expert who formulated the widely used “modern technique of the pistol” and founded a highly regarded firearms training center in Arizona, died September 25. He was 86.

Cooper was an author and longtime Guns & Ammo magazine columnist as well as a big-game hunter. He founded the American Pistol Institute on Gunsite Ranch in the Sonora Desert just west of Paulden, Ariz., in 1976.

The training center expanded from teaching pistol techniques to covering military carbines, shotguns, submachine guns, hunting rifles and various other small arms. Now called Gunsite Academy, it boasts an estimated 40,000 graduates, including law enforcement officers, military personnel from around the world and civilians.

Cooper, who wrote several books on firearms, sold the training center in 1992 but continued to live on the property. Cooper, said Owen Mills, owner of Gunsite Academy, “codified the use and deployment of small arms for personal defense.”

The modern technique of the pistol, which later branched out to other small arms, features five elements, including the Weaver stance, named for Jack Weaver, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who used two hands to grip the pistol, which created isometric tension to steady it, and used the gun sight.

“Before that, everybody had been hip-shooting — shooting with one hand, without the use of the sights,” said Ed Head, operations manager at Gunsite. “It made a big difference.”

As a Marine during World War II, Cooper served on the battleship Pennsylvania and later conducted what he described as “clandestine services” during the Korean War. Discharged from the Marines in 1955, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stanford University and a master’s in history from the University of California, Riverside.

His books include “Cooper on Handguns,” “The Art of the Rifle,” “To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth,” “Sports Car Annual,” two volumes of “Gunsite Gossip,” “Fireworks” (a collection of essays), and the memoirs “Another Country” and “C Stories.”

Cooper, who served as the first president of the International Practical Shooting Confederation, also served on the National Rifle Association board of directors.

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