I am looking forward to visiting Gunsite this June to observe their famous Gunsite 250 Pistol Class, a.k.a., “The Gunsite Experience.” Between now and then, I am trying to do as much background work as I can.
I am sure the PRE-history goes back much further – and if you know this pre-history, please educate me! – but by all accounts the history of the private citizen gun training industry begins with Col. Jeff Cooper and the American Pistol Institute (est. 1976 in Paulden, Arizona).
I spent part of the weekend watching the Panteao Productions video history of Gunsite, produced on the occasion of Gunsite’s 40th anniversary in 2016. In the video, Jeff Cooper’s widow, Janelle, speaks at length about their relationship and provides some interesting insights into his background and thinking.
Among the most interesting observations she makes is about the difficult transition Jeff Cooper had when he left the Marine Corps. When he decided to leave the military, Janelle recalls, “he didn’t find a ready slot.” His father was a bank vice-president, but that sort of work didn’t suit Jeff.
He did, however, have a short stint selling life insurance. “There was an unhappy period where he was trying to sell life insurance,” Janelle says, “That was not for Jeff, selling life insurance.”
At this moment in the interview, it is clear in her eyes and expression that she is having an insight. She continues:
“Although in a way he ended up selling life insurance, didn’t he? I never thought of that before. It was a different kind of an insurance policy that he was involved with later on, with figuring out how to defend yourself with a small arm.”
Col. Jeff Cooper, life insurance salesman, after all.