Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Training: Jeff Cooper's Drills

I love and respect Jeff Cooper. Who is Jeff? If you’ve read a lot here at LDS Gunsite you would know. But briefly: Jeff Cooper is recognized as the father of what is commonly known as "The Modern Technique" of handgun shooting, and considered by many to be the world's foremost expert on the use and history of small arms. Born John Dean Cooper, but known to his friends as "Jeff", Cooper was a former Marine Lt. Colonel who served in World War II and in Southeast Asia during the Korean War. In addition to his expertise in firearms, he was a history instructor, philosopher, adventurer, and author. He is also known as "the Guru." In 1976 Cooper founded the American Pistol Institute (API, also known as "Gunsite") in northern Arizona to train law enforcement and military personnel, as well as law-abiding civilians. He sold the firm in 1989 but continued living on the ranch. He was well-known for his cogent and thoroughly researched advocacy of large caliber handguns for personal defense, especially the 1911 Colt. This website is a play on words but named in honor of API’s new name Gunsite.
As I’ve said before I had the opportunity of meeting Jeff in San Antonio, Texas while receiving training in the military. I didn’t know him real well, only by name, reputation and as an instructor. But I have read most of what he has written and I did get to visit with him several times between classes over those two days. I liked his style of teaching and his logical approach to shooting.
Here are some of his favorite drills.
The Cooper Drills
These drills were related in Jeff’s “C Stories” as what he believes a good pistol shot should be able to do. All hits must be in the “5” zone of the target. All stages shot from a condition of concealed carry.
7 yards - 1 target. Draw and fire 1 round (1 second). Repeat 5 times.
10 yards - 3 targets. Facing away from the targets, pivot, draw, and fire 1 round on each target (3 seconds). Repeat for a total of six rounds.
50 yards - 1 target. Draw and fire 1 round (3 seconds). Repeat 5 times.
As an alternative, shoot each stage only once on a given day, and shoot it on 3 different days - cold. No practice allowed.
The El Presidente drill requires three silhouette targets set in a line, with three yards between the targets. The shooter starts ten yards uprange from them, facing AWAY from the targets, his (or her) hands above his shoulders in a “surrender” position.
At the start signal (this is a timed drill), the shooter turns toward the targets, draws his weapon from concealment, and shoots each target twice. The shooter then performs a reload (spare magazines/speedloaders also concealed) and re-engages each target with two rounds.
While relatively simple, the El Presidente requires every skill you need if you are to be considered competent with a handgun when it comes to self-defense—the draw and a reload, both from concealment, movement (the turn), and engagement of multiple targets. Cooper considered par on this drill a perfect score in ten seconds, back when most everyone shooting it was using .45 ACP 1911s.
The only way to become competent at shooting and weapon manipulation is practice, and that practice should include drills (live fire as well as dry fire). Sure, there are hundreds of drills out there which will help you train and attain and maintain proficiency with a weapon, but the El Presidente was the first modern “combat” drill, and it is still useful and relevant today.
The 10 yard part of the first drill is similar to the El Presidente.
El Presidente combines several skills: turning, drawing, shooting accurately and quickly and reloading. It epitomizes the need for balancing accuracy, power and speed—Diligentia Vis Celeritas as it is often cited at Gunsite. According to Ed Head, the operations manager at Gunsite, "Cooper felt anyone capable of performing this drill on demand, with a suitable carry pistol, achieving a score of 45 or better, was probably an expert with their firearm and carry gear. Some professional shooters are capable of shooting this drill on large steel targets in four or five seconds. I have never seen anyone do it properly, that fast, with a good score on paper targets—the-way we still do it at Gunsite."
As an interesting side note, Head said he can remember Cooper riding his three-wheeler down to the range while a group of students ran through this drill. He would say, "Ed, they aren't doing it right." Cooper had been listening to the cadence of the shots being fired from up at his house. According to Cooper, properly done, it should sound like six evenly spaced shots, a pause for the reload and six more evenly spaced shots. Not three separate double-taps with a reload pause, then three more distinct double taps.
We miss Jeff but his philosophy and teaching lives on.
Semper Paratus
Check 6