NOVEMBER 20, 2014

Skill Set: Pistol History Pt II

Tiger, on the far left, with other instructors and Clint and Heidi Smith back in Texas, an incredible time and place to be part of. Clint was instrumental in developing many of the doctrines and skills we take for granted today.
Last week we covered some of the early pioneers of pistol work. The "true" first men of pistol combat were guerilla fighters participating in the border wars between Kansas and Missouri. Traveling light and fast on horseback, these men often carried six or more handguns on them and their mounts. But, none of them recorded their techniques, much less taught these skills. This week we're looking at some of the pioneers of firearms instruction. When talking to "new" shooters it's hard to believe how many of them are not familiar with Jeff Cooper, the father of modern gunfighting. Cooper founded the American Pistol Institute - which later evolved into Gunsite - in 1976. There were many gun instructors prior to this, but Cooper opened the first commercial school that taught both armed citizens and professionals. The "Colonel" was a prolific writer. Seek out and read his writings. API/Gunsite was home for a lot of instructors we know today, such as Louis Awerbuck, Pat Rogers, and Dennis Tueller. If you're not familiar with these men and their contributions start correcting that fault now. In 1979 Ray Chapman opened the Chapman Academy. He enlisted in the Marines at age sixteen, worked in law enforcement, and later became an engineer. Chapman was a top competitive shooter, a friend of Cooper and member of the famous Southwest Combat Pistol League. His background allowed Chapman to contribute a lot to the things we use today, especially fighting positions - such as "roll-over prone" - which was originally developed for pistols; Clint smith later adapted it to rifles. Chapman also contributed heavily to the techniques used to manipulate semi-auto pistols and a host of other defensive skills. Clint Smith is another who traces his roots back to the American Pistol Institute. After serving two tours in Vietnam with the Marines, Clint went into law enforcement as instructor, SWAT member, and precision rifleman. He eventually left law enforcement to become Operations Officer for Jeff Cooper. In 1983 he founded International Training Consultants, traveling across the country and teaching. Clint settled down and in 1993 opened up Thunder Ranch in Texas. Clint was the first to teach moving and shooting on a large scale, especially the concept of backing up to create distance, and in the mid 1980's developed the "Urban Rifle" doctrine for using the AR type carbine for defensive and law enforcement applications. During the early and mid 80's the Central Training Academy, part of the DOE, was working on techniques for protecting nuclear materials. The CTA brought in a host of instructors to teach gunfighting, including competitive shooters, and everyone in military and law enforcement, such as Delta and LAPD, were sending their guys to the CTA. There was a constant exchange of ideas, and a host of the techniques used and taught today - especially hostage rescue and building clearing - were developed and disseminated at the CTA. To understand any subject, and apply that knowledge properly, requires a thorough education. This is especially true for fighting with firearms. Just attending training classes and going to the range and shootin' targets won't cut it. Research and study is just as important as physical practice. You don't need to be an expert on the subject. You should acquire enough understanding of the topic to allow you to judge what's new and innovative as opposed to an old technique that has been renamed. You're able to understand how some techniques developed for pistols transfer over to rifles, or why some skills taught for teams don't apply when you're alone. Ultimately you can make educated decisions on what doesn't apply to your situation, and most importantly what does work for you as an individual. Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns," writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - Website: