Combs Spouts Off

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Cordite and Cooper

Posted by Richard on October 2, 2006

I just found out today that Col. Jeff Cooper died last week. Cooper, known as “the gunner’s guru,” was a larger than life figure whose impact on the shooting sports, combat and self-defense shooting, and related matters is inestimable. Cooper almost single-handedly created what’s thought of as the modern “conventional wisdom” regarding handgun shooting, gun safety, and combat and self-defense techniques.

Cooper was 86 and in poor health, but he continued to write prolifically and with old-fashioned elegance and charm — albeit, at times with a rather sharp tongue. I always looked forward to his monthly column in Guns & Ammo — it wasn’t really a column, but a collection of brief anecdotes, opinions, and observations on a remarkably broad range of subjects. Here are a couple of examples from the August issue:

We are annoyed by the assumption on the part of certain public figures that the citiizen should be able to prove the need for the citizen to acquire a means of protecting himself. The citizen’s personal needs are no business of the state. Liberty, when in place, grants the right of the citizen to do what he chooses, as long as he does not stamp on the rights of others. Nobody needs caviar, or a pleasure boat or opera tickets. Whether he wants these things is no business of the state. On this side of the prayer rug, the Jihadis do not see it that way. That seems to be the main reason they have declared war upon us.


Is it that the pronoun “whom” has been abandoned? Perhaps it is that the English language is too ornate for the common people.

I learned of Cooper’s death via Spank That Donkey, where Chris led off Carnival of Cordite #74 with Michael Bane’s eulogy, which you should read. Check out the many other fine posts, too — most are quite a bit less somber. They range from fun stuff to gun stuff to politics. There are a couple of serious commentaries on the Bailey, CO, school shooting — one of them mine.

Which brings me to the (apparently copycat) deadly attack on the Pennsylvania Amish school. We really didn’t need more empirical evidence that a “gun-free” designation — even with a stiff prison sentence to back it up — is about as effective at protecting our children as the casting of a magic spell over the doorway. I don’t know what more to say, except that my heart goes out to the families of those little girls.

I think I’ll close with another Cooper quote, this one posted at Michael Bane’s place by a commenter. After thinking about the terrible deeds some men are capable of, Cooper’s point seems somehow appropriate — and comforting:

The rifle is a weapon. Let there be no mistake about that. It is a tool of power, and thus dependent completely upon the moral stature of its user. It is equally useful in securing meat for the table, destroying group enemies on the battlefield, and resisting tyranny. In fact, it is the only means of resisting tyranny, since a citizenry armed with rifles simply cannot be tyrannized.

The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.

—Jeff Cooper, The Art of the Rifle

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