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Passing the baton: we honor tradition by forging ahead.

ISTARTED READING "G&A" IN 1960 WHEN I WAS AN EIGHTH-GRADER. THE FEBRUARY AND March issues that year contained a two-part article by a crusty retired USMC Colonel named Jeff Cooper, extolling the virtues of what he called the "Fabulous .45 Auto." I thought Cooper was crazy. Why would anyone want a hard-kicking single-action antique when there were so many obviously better designs around? Like, say, that new 9mm double-action S&W M39 people were talking about?

But I kept on reading Cooper's articles. All throughout the 1960s he repeatedly demolished the 9mm cartridge in comparison with the .45 ACP.

By 1969 Cooper was writing a monthly column, "Cooper on Handguns." I was, by then, an infantry sergeant undergoing advanced training at Ft. Benning, and I was under orders for deployment to Southeast Asia.

There was no way this NCO was going to head overseas without his own sidearm, so I went to a nearby Phenix City, Alabama, gunshop and bought a new-in-the-box Colt Commander .45. No, it wasn't a full-size Government Model. But it had an aluminum frame, so it was lighter to carry and better able to resist tropical climates. Ammo would be readily available from my company supply sergeant, or I could "borrow" some from an officer. If a small part should break, replacements or repair would be available from the unit armorer. And it's just possible I'd been influenced by nearly 10 years of reading Cooper.

I still have that same Commander, pictured here. It's been my travel gun and my carry gun, and it's seldom been far from my side. About a dozen or so years ago I had it refined and refinished by custom pistolsmith Richard Heinie with an ambidextrous safety, beavertail grip safety, high-grade sights and a precision trigger pull.

But it's still the same basic, no-frills service pistol, and it's never had a broken part or failed to function. I also have (at last count) 17 other 1911s in various configurations and chamberings. So yes, it's fairly obvious that Cooper influenced me--and continued to influence me even after I became a full-time firearms writer myself in 1976.

I've also spent the past 25 years producing and hosting USPSA/IPSC National Championship matches here at PASA Park in Barry, Illinois, which might have something to do with Cooper's extensive writings about "Practical Shooting." He was founding President and Honorary Lifetime Chairman of the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) and is widely regarded as the father of the sport. He also founded Gunsite Training Academy. And while in his later years he came to decry the highly customized "race guns" and "gamesmanship" he believed devalued the practical value of USPSA/IPSC competition for real-world training, I still believe the essential concepts of pistolcraft with which he imbued it remain of great value.

For the final 20 years of his career, beginning in 1986, the Colonel's monthly "Cooper's Corner" column expounded his views on all types of firearms as well as his views on a wide range of related political and philosophical subjects. It was probably this magazine's most-read regular feature.

Thousands of subscribers and newsstand buyers regularly turned first each month to "Cooper's Corner" just to see what he was going to say next, no matter how outrageous. "Cooperisms" were widely quoted, even in the mainstream media.

The present column is the heir to that tradition. It's been penned by a variety of esteemed writers since Col. Cooper's retirement from it at the end of 2002, most recently by my late and much missed young colleague, J. Guthrie. Now, with J.'s passing, it's fallen on my desk.

During the 53 years that have elapsed since I first read Cooper, I've learned a few things. And like Cooper, I've also gotten a bit crusty, cantankerous and opinionated. I'm already a quarter-century older than he was when I first started reading him in these pages.

When Guthrie was asked by the editor to take on this column, he said, "But I'm no Jeff Cooper." Neither am I. Nor do I see myself as Cooper's heir. Merely a disciple. But like Col. Cooper, one thing I won't be is politically correct. I'll be saying what I think. For as long as they let me say it.

Hang on. This could be a bumpy ride. ...
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Title Annotation:THE BACKSTOP
Author:Metcalf, Dick
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2013
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