LTC Jeff Cooper is considered the founder and patron saint of the modern combat pistol school.  Those who are serious students of the martial art that is modern defensive pistol (I call “gunjitsu”), are quite familiar with Cooper’s ideas and much of what he has brought to the subject.  That said, many have not read his seminal book on combat mindset, “Principles of Personal Defense.”

Jeff Cooper from the Jeff Cooper Legacy Foundation

Jeff Cooper had a storied life.  He graduated from Stanford, served as Marine Lieutenant during WWII earning the rank of Major.  Later he served during the Korean War reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  After, he founded what would later become the Gunsite Academy in Arizona.  He is credited with creating modern defensive pistol technique, firearm conditions and the color code governing one’s situational awareness mindset.  He also created the commonly used four basic safety rules.

The book is extremely short at 79 pages, a reason in of itself for those who have an interest in defensive pistol to read it.  Cooper uses down to earth English and while the book is focused on mindset much of it also applies to situational awareness.  Cooper crafts his philosophy of the combat mindset around seven principles; Alertness, Decisiveness, Aggressiveness, Speed, Coolness, Ruthlessness, and Surprise.

There is little that is revolutionary in the book if one is a serious student of “gunjitsu” but the profundity of Cooper’s numerous observations makes this a mandatory read.  I also believe one should always attempt to read the source versus rely on someone else’s interpretation.  Two key examples of the wisdom in Coopers Book:

Principles for defense “do not change according to geography, history or sociological whim.”  This profound observation should guide one’s personal journey for knowledge in “Gunjitsu” (as well as any other attempt to understand a subject).  Following it ensures one retains knowledge that is widely applicable and helps one avoid fads or solutions to only specific circumstances.

When discussing the principle of “aggressiveness” Cooper says, “You are no more armed because you are wearing a pistol than you are a musician because you own a guitar.”  The quote is entertaining and commonly used.  The worthwhile lesson is way Cooper works it into the subject leaving the reader with a deeper understanding of the principle.

NRA Photo Jeff Cooper Legacy Foundation

There are many more widgets of wisdom in Cooper’s book.  Going into more of his insights runs the risk of spoiling the book for you.  Read Cooper’s thoughts and see how he supports his key concepts.  When searching for knowledge and understanding it’s not just the destination that’s important but the journey also.

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

By Will Rodriguez

Will served over 20 years as an Infantry officer in Europe, the Middle East, Korea and Latin America. He led units from 40 to 1000 soldiers and has extensive experience/schooling in both light and mechanized warfare to include combat. His eclectic career includes serving with US and allied forces as well as the schoolhouse and the future force in a BattleLab. He holds a Nationals Security Degree from West Point and a Masters in Counseling & Leadership. He Co-founded W2 Training & Firearms (W2TF), a personal security consulting and training firm training approximately 500 - 600 students monthly. Will has over 500 hours of firearm, personal security, crime prevention and trauma medical training. Those instructor ratings including multiple NRA Pistol certs, Rangemaster Certification, Sage Dynamics Red Dot Sight and ALiCE Active Shooter Instructor. After Parkland, Willl served an Armed Safe School Officer with the Broward County Public School District protecting 1200 students and faculty against the Active Shooter threat Master Artisan and owner of The Soldier’s Place a military décor business. His work is featured in the National Infantry Museum, the Headquarters of the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course, 3rd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment and Special Operations Command. Will is the Senior Editor, Writer and creator of His writing on military/foreign affairs and personal security issues has been published in Infantry Magazine,,, RE Factor Tactical He has been a frequent guest on the Wilkow Majority radio show. Will Rodriguez was born and raised in a very tough neighborhood in Brooklyn ranked number one in arson and in the top five for homicide and is extremely grateful for the opportunities he’s been blessed with. He is married to his best friend and biggest blessing. They have six furry four-legged children.

One thought on “Principles of Personal Defense by Jeff Cooper”
  1. I had the privilege to attend Jeff Cooper’s Academy in the 1980’s. I was a Ground Weapons Training Officer for the Marine Corps, and we’re were revising the Marine Corps marksmanship programs to include much of his techniques. Best training I have ever received. Get and read the book!

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