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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
11:33 PM Tue, Nov. 13th

Cooper, firearms expert, dead at 86

World-renowned firearms expert Jeff Cooper, founder of the Gunsite firearms training center in Paulden, died Monday afternoon at his home near the training center.

Cooper, 86, had been battling several health problems in recent years.

The family plans a private burial ceremony and will announce a memorial ceremony at the National Rifle Association Whittington Center in New Mexico in the near future.

Cooper had been a member of the NRA Board of Directors.

Born on May 20, 1920, in Los Angeles, as John Dean Cooper, Cooper who always went by "Jeff," earned a master's degree in history and taught history.

He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II as well as in Southeast Asia and Korea.

In the 1960s, he organized a group called the Bear Valley Gunslingers and the Southwest Combat League. During the organizations' shooting competitions at Big Bear, he formulated the Modern Technique of combat handgun shooting which incorporates a large-caliber semi-automatic pistol, a two handed Weaver stance, breath control and a surprise trigger break.

In 1976, he founded the American Pistol Institute, or Gunsite, at Paulden to teach those pistol techniques and later added a full curriculum on pistols, rifles and shotguns.

Since then, more than 18,000 students, including celebrities like Tom Selleck, law enforcement officers, military members from many nations and many civilians have graduated from courses there.

Cooper sold the operation in 1992 and dissociated himself from the new owners but continued to live on the land in a home he called The Sconce. He became involved with the center again in 1999 when it changed ownership.

He was a frequent sight on the grounds clad in green military fatigues and riding around the sprawling property on a three-wheeled all-terrain vehicle.

Known in firearms circles as "The Gunner's Guru," Cooper taught about firearms in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, South Africa and Rhodesia. Many have called him the world's foremost expert on small arms (rifles, pistols and shotguns).

He was editor at large of Guns & Ammo Magazine and a prolific writer on firearms.

His books include "The Art of the Rifle," "Another Country," Sports Car Annual," "Fireworks," "To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth," "C Stories" and "Gunsite Gossip," Volumes I and II as well as the many articles he wrote for Guns & Ammo Magazine.

He also produced "Cooper's Commentaries," a series of monthly essays on the Internet.

In his writings, Cooper coined the term "hoplophobia" to denote the irrational fear of weapons.

He hunted big game all over the world and especially loved Africa. He also was an avid sports car enthusiast.

Cooper received the American Handgunner Award in 1995 and the St. Gabriel Possenti Award. St. Gabriel is the patron saint of shooters.

Surviving are his widow, Janelle Cooper; three daughters, Christy, Mrs. Chick Hastings of Prescott, Parry, Mrs. Bruce Health of Denver, Colo., and Lindy, Mrs. Joe Wisdom of Tempe, as well as five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.