Modern Technique of the Pistol

Modern Technique of the Pistol

The Modern Technique of the Pistol is a method for using a handgun for self-defense. The Modern Technique uses a two-handed grip on the pistol and brings the weapon to eye level, so that the sights may be used to aim at one's target. This technique was developed by Jeff Cooper in the 1950s after experiments with older techniques, such as Point Shooting.



In 1956 Jeff Cooper started holding "Leatherslap" shooting events and established the "Bear Valley Gunslingers" at Big Bear Lake, California. The initial events consisted of straight quick-draw matches, with the goal of competitors to draw and hit a target at seven yards faster than the other competitor. They were the first matches of their kind, unrestricted as to technique, weapon, caliber, holster, or profession.[1]

Initially, competitors primarily used some form of Point Shooting, which consisted of single-handed shooting techniques, with the pistol fired from the hip. This was a popular technique and believed to be the best suited to the purpose. However, many of the shooters using Point Shooting would discharge several rounds from the hip in rapid succession, but miss the 18-inch balloons seven yards away. One of the early champions, Jack Weaver, switched to an eye-level, two-handed, aimed technique. In his words, "a pretty quick hit was better than a lightning-fast miss.".[2]

Weaver's string of victories, resulting from his new method, influenced adoption of the technique and abandonment of Point Shooting. Soon, firearms trainers, most notably Jeff Cooper, began refining and codifying the concept; the result became the "Modern Technique of the Pistol".


The Modern Technique of the Pistol consists of four elements:

Weaver Stance

The Weaver stance consists of gripping the pistol with two hands so that the slight forward pressure on the grip of the hand that drew the pistol is opposed by a rearward pressure on the grip of the second hand. This action aids in controlling the recoil of the pistol to stabilize the pistol for subsequent shots.

Flash Sight Picture

The Flash Sight Picture is a method of allowing the cognitive faculties of the shooter to align the target and the sights without the delay involved in the conscious alignment of sights, as used when slow-firing a rifle at a distant target. In Point Shooting, by contrast, the pistol is drawn from the holster and fired from the hip, without the sights being aligned at all.

In slow-fire rifle shooting, the front-sight and rear-sight of the rifle are aligned with the distant target with great care, taking at least several seconds.

The Flash Sight Picture technique falls between these two methods. During a gunfight, waiting to align the sights is too slow. However, more accuracy than point shooting is required to hit one's assailant reliably. It is physically impossible for the human eye to focus simultaneously on the rearsight (nearest to one's eye), the frontsight (further away from one's eye), and the relatively distant target at the same time. The muscles of the eye adjust to focus sight on one specific distance optimally at any one instant, so 3 different distances mean the shooter's focus must hunt (muscular physical adjustments) between all three points of mental concentration. The greatest adjustment of focus (relatively more ocular muscle contraction) is required to view shorter distances, such as the gun's rearsight.[citation needed] In the Modern Technique the shooter is taught to focus on the front-sight of the pistol and align it against the target, ignoring the rearsight for quicker aiming and minimal physical requirements. This prevents the focus of the eye from hunting between rear-sight, front-sight and target, wasting vital time in refocusing.

The technique is called 'flash' sight picture because the cognition is best able to perform this function when the target and frontsight are presented quickly as a single image, in a 'flash', as if the shooter had just turned around to face a threat appearing from close by. The shooter's vision can "see" the rear sight, even if the focus is on the front sight. This is enough for the cognition to make an alignment.[citation needed] With the flash sight picture, the front sight and a rapidly presented image of the target are used to align the pistol. This is faster than slow-fire rifle, and offers more chance of hitting the target than point shooting from the hip.

Use of the Flash Sight Picture is possibly due to evolution of human cognition during the hunter-gatherer period in which hand-eye coordination was greatly valued.[citation needed] Perhaps as a result of this evolution, the cognitive functions of the brain align objects in the hand with distant objects at great speed. This ability of human cognition can be used to align the pistol with the target. Colonel Cooper discovered this specific ability and named it the "Flash Sight Picture".

Human cognition can perceive a "Flash Sight Picture" at a speed faster than conscious awareness. This facility was discovered during World War II experiments with rapid recognition of aircraft silhouettes. Experimentation was continued after the war and branched into subliminal advertising in the 1960s, where images were flashed onto cinema screens for a duration too short for the viewer to notice, yet for cognition to have observed the image nonetheless.

Use of the Flash Sight Picture requires a rapid acquisition of the frontsight in order to allow the brain to perform its calculations. This focus on the frontsight is one of the main themes Colonel Cooper impressed upon students of the Modern Technique to clear their minds when shooting during a confrontation. The emphasis for students of the Modern Technique on the word "frontsight" was so great, that a shooting school and a shooting magazine were named after this phrase.

Surprise Break

Here the compressed, surprise break of the trigger is used to discharge the firearm.

In this technique, one should pull the trigger to have the shot break as if it were a glass rod. When the compression of the trigger by the finger reaches an appropriate point, the 'glass rod' of the trigger will break and discharge the firearm. The 'surprise break' of the 'glass rod' means the pistol remains aligned on the target while the muscles in the shooter's hand adjust from merely gripping the pistol to depressing the trigger at the same time. This disturbance in the muscles of the hand, while it attempts to move the trigger backwards while still holding the pistol steady, can cause the alignment of the firearm to shift, causing the shot to miss the target. The gradual compression of the trigger by the hand muscles means the alignment may be observed by the eye during the process of compression and kept on the target, regardless of slight changes to the alignment introduced by the muscles of the hand starting to squeeze the trigger.

This process must take place as fast as possible, yet without disturbing the pistol.

Semi-Automatic Pistol in a Large Caliber

The Modern Technique may be used with any handgun, but the .45 ACP caliber Colt M1911 Semi-automatic pistol is universally associated with Jeff Cooper and the Modern Technique.

Jeff Cooper specified the use of a large caliber semi-automatic pistol as a component of the Modern Technique. He chose a large caliber because experience demonstrated that the largest quantity of force, and therefore damage, should be inflicted to maximize the chances of stopping even the most motivated and physically tough assailant.

The choice of magazine-fed semi-automatic handgun was because this firearm enabled continuous fire by allowing fresh magazines to be inserted quickly by the shooter. Most revolvers require the shooter to reload it by placing individual cartridges into the six chambers of the cylinder, which is a slower process than the replacement of a magazine in a semi-automatic pistol. Furthermore, reloading a revolver in the dark is very difficult, while reloading a semi-automatic pistol is relatively easy. During World War II (prior to developing the Modern Technique), after taking advice from a distinguished authority on gun fighting Charles Askins, Jeff Cooper took a Colt Single Action Army revolver into combat in the Pacific theater and subsequently remarked that this advice nearly got him killed.

Bullet wounds vary in how much they incapacitate an assailant. The greater the injury inflicted, the greater the chance of killing one's assailant or wounding him so badly he is no longer able to fight. According to Cooper, larger caliber bullets, being bullets of greater diameter, are more likely to inflict wounds that bleed severely and incapacitate the assailant in a shorter period of time. Jeff Cooper's studies of reports from gun fights pointed to the greater effectiveness of larger diameter bullets in killing or incapacitating an assailant.

The pistol is a small firearm and because of this it is impractical to launch a large bullet because the recoil generated would make it difficult for the shooter to control the pistol's violent kick on firing. It is not practical to launch a bullet with a diameter greater than .45 or .50 of an inch from a pistol because of the weight of the bullet and the subsequent recoil of the pistol. Hence Jeff Cooper's preference for a pistol launching a bullet of .45 diameter, or in the case of a shooter of such slight stature that they are unable to use a .45 caliber pistol, the use of a pistol firing a bullet of as large a diameter as is practical for the shooter to control.

The ability of different types and sizes of bullet to damage and incapacitate human beings and other creatures is called stopping power. Stopping power is a controversial subject because of the absence of data from controlled experiments and therefore a lack of scientific data that would demonstrate the superiority of one particular type of cartridge over another.


Jeff Cooper summarized the Modern Technique in his personal motto: D. V. C..

This initialism stands for three Latin words:

  • Diligentia – Accuracy: You must hit your assailant in order to injure him.
  • Vis – Force: You must strike your opponent with sufficient force to incapacitate him.
  • Celeritas – Speed: You must strike him quickly, so your opponent does not injure you before you injure him.

It is this motto 'D.V.C.', and the word 'frontsight' that students of the Modern Technique would take away with them. Such is the prevalence and intensity of the imprint of these two concepts during training in the Modern Technique.

Cooper's Color Code

During training in the Modern Technique Cooper emphasized that readiness was everything.

Cooper asserted that if the individual weren't prepared to encounter danger at all times, the technique used and the pistol selected were of no consequence. To underscore this point and give students a reference with which to evaluate their own behavior, Cooper developed a color code of readiness, consisting of four states of readiness:

  • White – Readiness is non-existent. The individual's readiness would be white if he were asleep, or reading a book, or otherwise without any perception of his surroundings or movements within them.
  • Yellow – Readiness is general. The individual is aware of his surroundings and monitoring what is happening in those surroundings.
  • Orange – Readiness is specific. The individual is aware of any activity or person within his surroundings which presents a threat.
  • Red – Readiness to face danger. The individual is aware of an immediate threat, which will likely result in the use of deadly force.

Cooper's color code is frequently mistaken as an indicator of danger, rather than an indicator of readiness. The student may be in grave danger, but may be asleep and thus his level of readiness is 'Condition White' with readiness being non-existent. For most individuals, even those whose occupations take them to dangerous regions, awareness condition 'yellow' will be the condition they spend 99% of their waking lives within. Specific threats, leading to readiness in Condition Orange would be rare.

This color code of readiness has been adopted by third parties, including the United States Marine Corps.

To promote situational awareness, Cooper endorsed what is known as the "Dollar Club" – Gunsite "family members" were expected to be members. When two members of the Dollar Club met, the one who saw and recognized the other first could claim a dollar from the less-aware member[citation needed]. Cooper also stated that any "family member" who got a traffic ticket should pay it, because a properly aware driver should see police cars in time to avoid citation[citation needed].

Analysis of Reports from Gunfights

Cooper requested his students report back to him if they had been involved in gunfights, so that he might build up a body of reference material against which the Modern Technique could be evaluated and altered or extended. This body of reference material was built over 50 years, encompassing nearly 40 gunfights. The reports drawn from the experience of those involved in gunfights continued the tradition of reflecting real situations in the courses of competition set up for the South Western Combat Pistol League.[3]

To further refine the Modern Technique and the methods used in its training, Cooper continued to compile reports of gunfights from students of the Modern Technique until his death, building the largest collection of data of its kind. As a result of analyzing this body of material, Cooper developed several training drills:

The Mozambique Drill – 1974

Jeff Cooper described the Mozambique Drill as such in his Commentaries:

I added The Mozambique Drill to the modern doctrine after hearing of an experience of a student of mine up in Mozambique when that country was abandoned. My friend was involved in the fighting that took place around the airport of Lourenço Marques. At one point, Mike turned a corner and was confronted by a terrorist carrying an AK47. The man was walking toward him at from perhaps 10 paces. Mike, who was a good shot, came up with his P-35 and planted two satisfactory hits, one on each side of the wishbone. He expected his adversary to drop, but nothing happened, and the man continued to close the range. At this point, our boy quite sensibly opted to go for the head and tried to do so, but he was a little bit upset by this time and mashed slightly on the trigger, catching the terrorist precisely between the collar bones and severing his spinal cord. This stopped the fight.

The effect of a bullet striking the human body depends greatly on which organ is struck during penetration. In some instances, the assailant might drop quickly; in others, there might be no apparent effect. A bullet striking the brain kills the assailant almost without exception. Recognizing that similar situations would occur, Cooper popularized the term Mozambique Drill based on the technique improvised by his student there. This drill consists of shooting two rounds to the center of the torso, followed by a pause and assessment of the situation and then a more carefully aimed shot to the head. Under nearly any condition, engaging an assailant with the Mozambique Drill should offer a high probability that one's assailant will be stopped and likely killed.

El Presidente – 1977

'El Presidente' drill was invented by Cooper while training the protection squad for the president of a South American country.[4] The drill consists of three targets. The shooter starts by facing away from the targets. On the signal to start, the shooter turns and shoots each target twice, before reloading and shooting each target twice again. The shooter's performance is scored by taking account of both the number of hits and the time taken to achieve those hits.

The Dozier Drill – 1981

A further example of the expansion of the Modern Technique was the invention of the 'Dozier Drill'. This drill was invented by Cooper after the kidnap of Brigadier General James L. Dozier by Italian Red Brigade terrorists. The terrorists had entered General Dozier's apartment by posing as plumbers. As many as eight completed the gang and four or perhaps five entered the apartment. One of the terrorists removed a submachine gun from his bag of tools while another terrorist read a political statement to General Dozier. At that time, U.S. military personnel were prohibited by Italian law from carrying firearms within their areas of accommodation, which were within the local community and not on U.S. bases. General Dozier was unarmed and unable to defend himself. In response to this incident, Cooper designed the 'Dozier drill':

The range is set with five metal silhouette targets hinged at their base (called 'Pepper Poppers') so as to fall backward when struck. A second participant stands far to one side and is tasked with retrieving a pistol and a magazine from a tool bag, which he must assemble and ready for action. This action mimics the terrorist who retrieved his submachine gun from his tool bag and provides a datum against which the shooter must compare his performance. On the signal, the shooter must draw his pistol and engage the five targets representing the terrorists, before the terrorist retrieves his pistol and readies it for use.


Critics of the Modern Technique and its components point out that some elements of the Modern Technique existed before Jeff Cooper codified them.[citation needed] For example, there are a few photographs of shooters predating World War II showing shooters using the Weaver stance. Jeff Cooper claims that while individual shooters such as these may have used individual components of what would become the Modern Technique, what did not happen until the advent of the Modern Technique was the testing of different techniques, the determination of the most advantageous techniques by comparison in realistic simulations, and the codification of the assembled techniques into a doctrine.[5] Contrasting this are texts such as Kill or Get Killed by Col. Rex Applegate that describe the flash sight picture and weaver stance (though not using those terms) and the accuracy of the shooters compared to those trained in other methods.

Other developments

Jeff Cooper lists advances in pistol-craft prior to the Modern Technique[6]:

  • The FBI 'Practical Pistol Course' of the Thirties, which consisted of timed shooting at seven, twenty-five, fifty and sixty yards holding the pistol in the strong hand, and then the weak hand. This was a great improvement over the basic bullseye shooting taught previously.
  • Jeff Cooper's own work in conjunction with Taft on the 'Advanced Military Combat Pistol Course' in 1948, which was incorporated into the Army Field Manual.

The Combat Masters

Over several years the "Bear Valley Gunslingers" evolved into the South Western Combat Pistol League (SWCPL), known officially as the South West Pistol League ("SWPL") as the word "Combat" offended then California Secretary of State, Frank M. Jordan.[7] The objective of the SWCPL was to inject realism into pistol-shooting competition, thus developing the best methods of using a pistol for self-defense. The later competitions held at the Big Bear were designed to represent situations that had occurred or would occur in real life, including shootings that some of the police officers attending the SWCPL had experienced.[8] During the competitions at Big Bear, six competitors consistently dominated competition, and these men became known as the Combat Masters:[9] Jack Weaver, Ray Chapman, Elden Carl, Thell Reed, John Plähn and Jeff Cooper. The Combat Masters were given this title because if they competed, they would take the first six places. If only one of them competed, ordinarily, he would be the winner. These competitions included highly accomplished world-class point shooters, such as Thell Reed and Bob Munden, who competed using what would become the Modern Technique.

Those members of the SWCPL instrumental in developing the Modern Technique were:[10]

Jack Weaver, who invented the new two-handed "Weaver stance;" Elden Carl and Ray Chapman, who refined the stance in competition; and John Plähn, who codified it. It was Jeff Cooper who then promulgated the new technique.[11] Combat Master John Plähn (John Plahn), who possessed a Ph.D. in Physical Education, filmed the Combat Masters in action to analyze what their winning techniques had in common. This resulted in the most efficient methods of motion used during shooting, being selected and designed into the Modern Technique of the Pistol.[12]

The Combat Masters were:

  • Jack Weaver – a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy.
  • John Plähn who possessed a Ph.D in Physical Education.
  • Elden Carl – A San Diego County Sheriff's Department Deputy and their rangemaster[13] who went on to become involved in off-road motorcycling.[14]
  • Ray Chapman – the rangemaster at Los Alamitos, California police department who won the annual SWCPL Championship in 1964, 1967 and 1970, and in 1975 won the first IPSC World Shoot. He provided instruction in the Modern Technique and other shooting techniques at the Chapman Academy,[15] at the Green Valley Club,[16] Columbia, Missouri, which he founded in 1979. He also became a consultant to the movie industry.
  • Thell Reed[17] – became a consultant to the movie industry, as well as armorer, stunt man, and movie extra.
  • Jeff Cooper

Others significant in the SWCPL were:

  • Leonard Knight finished second in the first IPSC U.S. National Championship in 1977.
  • Bob Munden finished in second place in 1958 SWCPL and went on become the world's fastest gun. He developed a career performing, competing, teaching fast draw as well as specialist gunsmithing and has appeared on television shows in many countries.
  • Al Nichols
  • Jim Hoag
  • Bruce Nelson, an LEO in Southern California working in narcotics. He was present at the formation of IPSC and formed the Holster Committee along with Michael Harries.
  • Michael Harries, a former US Marine, who invented the "Harries Technique" of flashlight manipulation for use with a pistol, as well as becoming an instructor at Gunsite and consultant to police departments and the movie industry.[18]
  • Jim Zubiena,[19] who appeared in the episode "Calderone's Return Part 1" of the television program Miami Vice. Jim Zubiena's appearance in this movie is a good example of the employment of the Modern Technique and the Mozambique Drill.

International Practical Shooting Confederation

In May 1976 Jeff Cooper was present at the conference that founded the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) and served as the first IPSC president. When founded, IPSC reflected the practical focus on self-defense that the SWCPL and the Modern Technique had addressed, but in subsequent decades IPSC drifted from practical pistol shooting toward pistol shooting games and lost its relevance to self-defense.[20][21]

American Pistol Institute

Jeff Cooper went on to codify and promulgate the Modern Technique in his work after the Big Bear Leatherslaps. He traveled the world providing training in the Modern Technique to security teams protecting heads of state, prominent politicians and wealthy individuals. In 1976 Jeff Cooper founded the American Pistol Institute (API) at Gunsite Ranch just north of Paulden in Yavapai County, Arizona, to provide training in the Modern Technique to a larger audience of military personnel, law enforcement officers and citizens. The American Pistol Institute was renamed Gunsite.


Gradually, those working in this field, such as close protection teams and special forces units, moved toward adopting doctrines and formal training regimes. The British Army's Special Air Service, for example, moved from point shooting to the Modern Technique in the early Eighties.[citation needed] Frequently, the doctrines adopted largely contain elements of the Modern Technique (such as the Weaver stance) or use the Modern Technique in its entirety.[22][23]

See also


  1. ^ "History of the Weaver Stance, by Alan Weaver". 
  2. ^ "History of the Weaver Stance, by Alan Weaver". 
  3. ^ Cooper, Jeff (2001). Gargantuan Gunsite Gossip −2. Gunsite Academy Press. pp. 523. ISBN 0926134252. 
  4. ^ Cooper, Jeff: "El Presidente", American Handgunner, 1979 January/February
  5. ^ "Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Vol 7 No March 4, 1999 paragraph 2". 
  6. ^ "Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Vol 7 No March 4, 1999 paragraph 2". 
  7. ^ "Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Vol 3 No June 8, 1995 paragraph 2". 
  8. ^ Cooper, Jeff (2001). Gargantuan Gunsite Gossip −2. Gunsite Academy Press. pp. 523. ISBN 0926134252. 
  9. ^ Cooper, Jeff (2006). Shotluck. Wisdom Publishing. pp. 51. ISBN 0965540960. 
  10. ^ "Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Vol 3 No June 8, 1995 paragraph 8". 
  11. ^ "Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Vol 7 No March 4, 1999 paragraph 2". 
  12. ^ "Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Vol 2 No. January 1, 1994 paragraph 6". 
  13. ^ "San Diego Sherrif's Department Training Website". 
  14. ^ "Elden Carl on Multi-surface Motorcycling". 
  15. ^ "The Chapman Academy". 
  16. ^ "Green Valley Club Rifle and Pistol Club". 
  17. ^ Thell Reed at the Internet Movie Database
  18. ^ "Obituary of Michael Harries". 
  19. ^ "Internet Movie Database, Jim Zubiena SWPL Combat Master-1984,". 
  20. ^ "Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Vol. 7 No December 14, 1999 paragraph 14". 
  21. ^ Wilson, Jim (2006). "IPSC And IDPA Give Shooters A Choice". p. 7. 
  22. ^ "Wiley Clapp, former handgun editor for Guns & Ammo, paragraph 4". 
  23. ^ "Compendium of Obituaries for Jeff Cooper". 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Great Train Robbery (film) — Infobox Film name = The Great Train Robbery |thumb director = Edwin S. Porter writer = Edwin S. Porter based on the 1896 play by Scott Marble starring = Justus D. Barnes Gilbert M. Anderson producer = distributor = Edison Manufacturing Company… …   Wikipedia

  • Combat pistol shooting — is a modern martial art that focuses on the use of the handgun as a defensive weapon for self defense, or for military and police use.[1] Like most martial arts, combat pistol shooting is practiced both for defense and for sport. Many of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Weapons technology in the Honorverse — In David Weber s Honor Harrington military science fiction novels, warfare is naturally ubiquitous. Two thousand years in the future, it remains true that humans will devise ever more ingenious ways of causing death and destruction.tarship and… …   Wikipedia

  • Gone with the Wind — This article is about the novel. For the film, see Gone with the Wind (film). For other uses, see Gone with the Wind (disambiguation). Gone With the Wind …   Wikipedia

  • Media in The Simpsons — Media is a recurring theme of satire on The Simpsons. The show is known for its satire of American popular culture and especially television culture, but has since its inception covered all types of media such as animation, journalism,… …   Wikipedia

  • Weaver stance — The Weaver stance is a popular technique for firing handguns. It was developed by Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Jack Weaver during freestyle pistol competition in Southern California during the late 1950s. Contents 1 Description 2 The Modern… …   Wikipedia

  • Gunsite Training Center — Gunsite is a privately run firearms training facility based in in Yavapai County, Arizona, just north of Paulden. It offers tuition funded instruction in pistol, carbine, rifle and shotgun shooting, as well as other specialty firearms. Located on …   Wikipedia

  • Jeff Cooper — John Dean Jeff Cooper John Dean Jeff Cooper Born May 10, 1920(1920 05 10) Russellville Pope County, Arkansas, United States Died Septembe …   Wikipedia

  • Double tap — This article is about a shooting technique. For other uses, see Double tap (disambiguation). A double tap or controlled pair is a shooting technique where two well aimed shots are fired at the same target with very little time in between… …   Wikipedia

  • Gun safety — Articleissues|article=y OR=March 2008 refimprove=March 2008 (For discussions on politics concerning firearms and gun safety, see Gun politics. This page deals only with non political aspects of gun safety. For a part of a gun that is called a… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”