The Development of the Handgun – Jeff Cooper at World Shoot 1993

    Vince Pinto posted an interesting historical tidbit on Let’s Talk IPSC (Facebook) with a quote from Jeff Cooper (1920-2006). If you don’t know who Mr. Cooper was, it can be mentioned that he was a United States Marine and is seen as one of the creators of modern shooting techniques.

    The quote is from 1993, so 27 years ago:

    “The 10th World Shoot at Bisley was completely dominated by what the shooters call “race guns”, which have almost no resemblance to sidearms.

    These pieces are characterized by vast size and weight, by recoil reduction devices, by very light loadings, and, most of all, by glass reflector sights.

    The fact is that these devices are totally impractical for any defensive purpose …..”

    (Jeff Cooper, 1993)

    About the competition: 10th World Shoot at Bisley (U.K.)

    Just like Vince stated, we have to remember that the first optical sights and their mounts were huge.

    The laser below is another great example of how things have changed.

    For sure, there are still “race guns” for the Open Division, but today it is possible to chose from a vast amount of red dot sights and mounts. There are even divisions like Carry Optics, Production Optics and Optics Light.

    Picture: Facebook

    The most dramatic change has been the miniaturization of the red dot sights, and therefore removing the need for large mounts. Today the electronic sights and their mounts blend in, in a completely different way, and the weight is close to negligible.

    Today, 27 years later, the sights are usually mounted on the slide and not attached to the side of the gun.

    Picture by A. Moodie

    Another thing, I’m not sure Jeff Cooper was right when it comes to the “very light loads” he describes, as competitors had much higher power factors then compared to now (175 vs 160). Some were using 9×25 mm, which contains quite a lot of gun powder.

    In the video below, it looks like they have a lot more recoil than what I have in my own Open gun (PF 165).

    A few weeks ago I compared my Tanfoglio Open pistol in .38 Super major (Power Factor 165) with compensator versus a Tanfoglio Stock II 9×19 mm (Power Factor about 128) with a Shiled red dot on the slide, and the recoil was very similar between the two.

    Also, Mr. Cooper was very fond of the Colt M1911 pistol. But nowadays it’s possible to get a practical handgun in that configuration as well, like the Ed Brown EVO E9-LW 9mm Pistol with Vortex Venom Red Dot Sight below.

    What do you think of Mr. Cooper’s comments and how do you see the future development with “race guns” versus practicality and “defensive purpose“?

    What do you think Mr. Copper would think of today’s handguns with small red dots on the slide? Do you think he would have seen them fit for this kind of purpose?

    Did Jeff Cooper ever anticipate the birth of the Production Optics and Production Optics Light divisions in IPSC?

    For more information check our previous article on: New Handgun Division: IPSC Production Optics.

    Eric B

    Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with a European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatics, optics and sound suppressors. Owning the night would be nice too. TCCC Certified medic.


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