People my age sit in a strange place on the timeline of history. As Millennials we saw the end of the analog days and the beginning of the disaster that is our current social media age. We know how to wind the film on a disposable camera, and also taught our parents how to upload selfies to Instagram. Perhaps this position gives us the best vantage point to look back and sort through the wisdom we have inherited. And if we are careful we may even be able to bridge the generation gap and work to bring forward these timeless truths.
What do you need in a pistol?
When it comes to pistolcraft I also sit on a borderline. Of course I own a double-stack, polymer pistol mounted with China's latest holographic technology. But I also secretly covet the blued steel and walnut masterpieces wielded by the historical and fictitious legends of old. Heroes like Frank Hamer, Bill Jordan, Jim Cirillo, Jeff Cooper, Harry Callahan, and Walt Longmire. In my duty holster rides a Glock G45 and a Holosun 509T. But catch me off duty and I am probably packing something more appropriate to the pages of a Noir Detective story.
I have to admit, it was not always like this. My introduction to handguns was heavily influenced by my Grandfather's extensive collection. And although Grandpa was a die hard wheelgun guy, my inclination soon turned toward a brand new Springfield XD-40. I traded that for a Glock G22, and finally made the switch to the ubiquitous 9mm G17 and G19 not long after. This arrival at modern “Perfection” came not least because of the influence of one “MF CEO” James Yeager. In the early days of YouTube Mr. Yeager and Nutnfancy were pretty much the only gun content on the platform. My late teens and early twenties were heavily influenced by their philosophies.
Looking to the past
While researching the “Fighting Pistol” class I came across the course prerequisites posted on the Tactical Response website. At the top of the list was reading Jeff Cooper’s book ‘Principles of Personal Defense’. I ordered a copy for myself and began reading the gospel according to “The Guru”. I quickly discovered that there was something different about this book.
As Louis Awerbuck says in his introduction, “It is a classic, timeless work, encapsulated in a clear, concise, and succinct form. And like a twentieth-century Book of Five Rings, it should be periodically reread and restudied. No matter how many times you read it, you will always find one more pearl of wisdom that you missed during the last read.”
My original copy is so dog eared and highlighted that it is almost unreadable. At last count I have six copies, including one that I gave to my wife shortly after our first date. The other copies are reserves, since the book is currently out of print, and loaners for those who have not yet experienced the epiphany found inside this 79 page gunfighter's guidebook.
Storytelling becomes reality
Reading Col. Cooper's other work I learned that the pontificating of the guidebook is rivaled by his enthralling ability to tell stories. Those stories compelled me to delve into the deep history and tradition of the 1911 pistol. After years of frustrating reliability and countless rounds of 45ACP hardball downrange, I finally found a 1911 that worked. The model I landed on was a blued five inch Colt Gunsite Pistol. The crisp trigger, excellent sights, and unmatched reliability have made this the perfect sidearm for my bout of mid-20th century nostalgia. Loaded with Wilson Combat magazines and Supervel ammunition, this pistol has become a near constant companion. The slide and frame show just the right amount of wear from the leather Galco Combat Master holster riding on my hip.
Going to The Ranch
Nearly synonymous with Col. Cooper himself is the Training School he founded, Gunsite Academy. A pilgrimage to the Arizona high desert quickly moved to the top of my bucket list. Unfortunately the tuition and travel expenses put the trip out of reach for a broke, young patrol officer. That all changed when I received an acceptance letter from The Jeff Cooper Legacy Foundation. They promised to cover the tuition cost for my 250 pistol class. The Colonel’s daughter Lindy had read my application and took note of my excessive collection of ‘Principles of Personal Defense’ copies. My dedication to spreading the word about the book and my position as a Law Enforcement firearms instructor made me stand out as a candidate for the scholarship.
In October 2020 I was able to make the 1600 mile journey to Paulden. My familiar old Colt Gunsite Pistol went with me. Despite bringing an outdated single stack, I was able to keep up with my classmates for the entire week. Friday afternoon I passed all the exams, and then cleaned the man v. man shoot-off without missing a shot. This performance helped me earn a gold raven and an expert rating. Accomplishing this with the same equipment that Col. Cooper would have recommended thirty years prior felt like adequate justification for my antiquated gear selection.
The skills I acquired in that fundamentals class transferred easily to my modern duty rig, but there’s still something about the crisp trigger and comforting walnut grip that makes me question whether I could get away with eight rounds and a reload on my belt. If it’s good enough for the Sheriff of Absaroka County, then maybe it’s good enough for an anachronistic Midwestern Deputy?
For now I’m going to stick with the double stack and red dot on patrol, but if we meet outside of work don’t be surprised to find me shooting film through a well loved Nikon F3 camera and packing a worn old .45 under my jacket.
Editor's Note: Principles of Personal Defense, along with a host of other great works, can be purchased directly through the Gunsite library. You can get your copy >>HERE<<