Book Review: December 1997

By Mark White

The Art of the Rifle, by Jeff Cooper, ISBN 0-87364-931-1, 97 pages, 82 photos, Published by Paladin Press, Box 1307, Boulder, Co 80306, Phone 303-443-7520.

For those who came in late, the venerable Jeff Cooper has been teaching personal self -defense and the arts of rifle, pistol and shotgun shooting for a great many years. He has run thousands of students through his courses at Gunsite Ranch, near Paulden, Arizona.

This philosopher warrior has developed a unique approach in his teaching. In his characteristically Spartan style, Jeff has systematically stripped all of the useless and superfluous away - leaving only the necessary and essential elements. These he lays down in a logical and sequential way. In his personal teaching he is hard, fast, rigorous, regimental and ruthless, but his students achieve very high levels of proficiency in a remarkably short interval of time. Taking a class from Jeff Cooper is very hard work. All who make it through the purgatory, however, are pleased with the level of skill and confidence they’ve achieved. Many of the faithful have been waiting for this book on rifle shooting from Jeff for many years.

If I could only possess one weapon (a distinct possibility, considering the way things are going in this country) that one weapon would be a .308 bolt-action rifle. This book is not about rifles; it is about shooting rifles. It starts by saying that the rifle is the queen of personal weapons. It allows man to be the monarch of all he surveys. In capable hands a good rifle can easily and instantly reach out to defend against a threat out to 300 yards away. In highly skilled hands, that distance may be extended to 600 yards.

In 20 short chapters, The Art of the Rifle logically and sequentially explores and illustrates that which one needs to know in order to shoot a high-powered rifle well. In a nutshell, shooting well means placing first-round hits on appropriate targets rapidly and efficiently. As the veteran hunter or soldier knows, speed is almost as essential as accuracy. To quote Cooper from another source: “The second principal of personal defense is decisiveness. The hunting shot is one seldom fired in a purely defensive mode, but nonetheless it remains difficult for the novice to make the life-and-death decision when necessary. Once you have acquired your target in your sights, do not dally, dither nor delay. Do it right, and do it now. This does not mean that you should rush your shot or mash your trigger, but that once you are on, you go for score. I have seen this practice neglected in the field often enough to feel strongly about it. I do not know exactly how to teach the matter of decisiveness to a student on the range, but the demand remains-If you are going to do it, do it now. Do it right, but do it NOW.”

The Art of the Rifle is now into its second printing after only a couple of months. It is interesting, informative and well written. It is a good read. It’s only 97 pages, but you won’t get through it in 4 hours, and you won’t get it all on the first, second or third reading.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N3 (December 1997)
and was posted online on December 1, 2017


Comments have not been generated for this article.