Principles of Personal Defense

By Travis Pike
Posted in #Skills
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Principles of Personal Defense

April 10th, 2020

2:56 runtime

Jeff Cooper is justifiably a legend in the firearms training community. His contributions are the basis of what most reputable firearm instructors are currently teaching. He popularized the modern technique, which taught a two-handed grip on a handgun, and also preached realistic firearms training for police and civilians. His contributions to defensive shooting skills are too extensive to list in just one article.

Jeff Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense book teaches skills just as applicable today as when Cooper first wrote them.

Diving In

For those looking to learn more about Cooper and his philosophy on gunfighting and self-defense, his Principles of Personal Defense book is a great place to start. In fact, I applied one of Cooper’s most well-known drills in the video at the top of this page. Be sure to check it out.

While it’s admittedly quite short, the information inside is dense and meaningful. The Principles of Personal Defense has been around for decades, and the information is so invaluable that it has spread into most of today’s defensive firearms training. In fact, the principles Cooper lists were taught to me in some form or another in my military training.

The book focuses on mindset and the fundamentals of how to handle (and survive) a deadly encounter.

Colonel Cooper’s essay includes the following seven principles:

  • Alertness
  • Decisiveness
  • Aggressiveness
  • Speed
  • Coolness
  • Ruthlessness
  • Surprise

Reading the work, I found myself appreciating the clarity of his writing style. Cooper’s writing is extremely no-nonsense and without much room for readers to misunderstand what he was stating. It’s quick and clean, and he explains each principle in-depth.

Travis tried out one of Cooper’s most famous drills in the video above with both the Springfield Hellcat pistol and SAINT Victor rifle.

Proper Mindset

The Principles of Personal Defense is about mindset and your reaction in a gunfight. This isn’t a book that teaches tactics or weapon selection, it’s a book that lays down the fundamentals of how you should be thinking and acting before and during a violent event.

From my own experience in personal defense and personal defense training, these principles are all sound and should be meditated on and incorporated into your training. Obtaining an aggressive mindset in practice has helped me move faster and gave me more confidence in my defensive shooting skills.

Jeff Cooper has had an inestimable amount of influence on modern self-defense training.

Real-World Applications

In one incident, my squad was crossing an open field, and we got ambushed. In a split second, I was decisive and ran to cover so I could set my machine gun up and start covering the rest of the squad.

I could go on and on. Every one of Jeff Cooper’s principles is invaluable and should be integrated into any defensive firearms training program. You can take these principles and incorporate them into nearly every aspect of training. From aggressively driving your gun from target to target to being cool enough to use your sights and make solid hits, all these skills are absolutely necessary.

Travis applied the “Failure to Stop” drill by Cooper with his SAINT Victor 5.56 rifle in the video at the top of the page.

Worth the Investment

The book itself is very short and a quick read. It’s well worth the small investment of time in reading and rereading the book if you are serious about firearms training and personal defense. Take the time not only to read the principles but also to understand them. Envision what they mean to you in training or during a fight for your life.

As far as personal defense goes, I would suggest anyone with interest in personal defense give this old classic a read. There are no fancy photos or high-speed techniques, but there is valuable information that we could all use in our self-defense training.

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Travis Pike

Travis Pike

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms based hobbies.

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