The late Col. John Dean “Jeff” Cooper—a legend in the firearms training community—earned a political science degree from Stanford before receiving a commission from the United States Marine Corps, fighting in the Pacific in World War II and Korea before retiring as a lieutenant colonel. Cooper went on to earn his master’s degree and taught high school and college classes before he opened American Pistol Institute (API), now known as Gunsite, one of the nation’s top training destinations for civilian shooters as well as law enforcement and military professionals. He died at his home on September 25, 2006, at the age of 86 but left a legacy of knowledge behind for all current and future defensive shooters.
Col. Cooper changed the way shooters handled their guns, how they engaged enemies, but most importantly, gave them a mindset to be prepared for a lethal threat at any time and place. Col. Cooper made it clear that technical skills—how to load and fire your weapon—were of little value without being mentally prepared to win a gunfight.
Guns & Ammo’s article, Col. Jeff Cooper: Developing a Defensive Mindset, Brad Fitzpatrick lays out five of Cooper’s essential tips for developing a defensive mindset. They are:
- Surviving is as Much Mental as Physical
- The World is a Dangerous Place
- Awareness is Critical
- The Right Attitude Can Save You From a Fight You Never Saw Coming
- Prepared Does Not Mean Fearful
Ultimately, learning to be in charge of your mind and actions in the midst of a violent attack is key. Read the full article here.
Col. Cooper is also known for his no-nonsense quotes about guns and personal defense. Here are a few of our favorite quotes from Jeff Cooper:
“Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.”
“Remember the first rule of gunfighting … have a gun.”
“Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands.”
“The purpose of the pistol is to stop a fight that somebody else has started, almost always at very short range.”
“The media insist that crime is the major concern of the American public today. In this connection they generally push the point that a disarmed society would be a crime-free society. They will not accept the truth that if you take all the guns off the street you still will have a crime problem, whereas if you take the criminals off the street you cannot have a gun problem.”
“In the larger sense, however, the personal ownership of firearms is only secondarily a matter of defense against the criminal. Note the following from Thomas Jefferson: The strongest reason for the people to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against the tyranny of government. That is why our masters in Washington are so anxious to disarm us. They are not afraid of criminals. They are afraid of a populace which cannot be subdued by tyrants.”