The world of defensive firearms instruction owes much to Jeff Cooper. Cooper, a WWII Marine, was instrumental in bringing quality pistol training to the general public through his Gunsite training facility in Arizona.
Cooper founded Gunsite, then also known as the American Pistol Institute, in 1976. At the school Cooper taught his “Modern Technique” of defensive pistol shooting with an emphasis on the use of the 1911 pistol.
Cooper sold the facility in 1992 and Gunsite has changed hands a few times since then. While Cooper died in 2006, Gunsite lives on, although the current curriculum has moved away from the Modern Technique to better reflect current thinking on defensive handgun usage.
The video embedded here is from a 1979 profile of Cooper and Gunsite that aired on the NBC newsmagazine “Weekend” with host Linda Ellerbee. The profile shows Cooper in his prime. Although there is a definite anti-gun bias present, from Linda Ellerbeee’s somber announcement that Cooper teaches his students “to shoot people,” to the producers trying to bait Cooper by asking about mercenaries, the essence of Cooper and Gunsite shines through. Cooper’s well-known eccentricities are shown but so is his competence and tough mindedness. The students are shown as ordinary people, although oddly they are not identified by name.
What’s really interesting though is how the video is a time capsule of 1970’s gun culture. The Weaver Stance used as the foundation for the Modern Technique has fallen out of fashion today and seems quaint as shown. The revolver was regarded with more esteem as a defensive handgun in the 70’s than it is today and this shows through with one scene where all the students in the firing line are shooting revolvers. If you look closely you’ll be able to ID some S&W Model 19’s as well at least a couple Colt Pythons. Later, when other students are shown with semi-auto pistols, they all have 1911’s. Back in the ‘70’s there is no doubt these were all Colt pistols. At least one customized gun sports an S&W adjustable revolver rear sight, as was popular at the time. The .45 ACP reigns supreme as this was before the days of the 9mm "Wondernine" and long before the Glock came to market and changed everything.
The footage in the shoot house is interesting for a couple reasons. The instructor who does the demo run appears to be Chuck Taylor and, at least part of that segment appears to have been filmed with the cameraman down range.
The video is a must see for any Gunsite alum, anyone who remembers the 70’s, or anyone interested in how defensive pistolcraft has evolved since then.