The Modern Technique of the Pistol is a method for using a handgun for self-defense. The Modern Technique uses a two-handed grip on the pistol and brings the weapon to eye level, so that the sights may be used to aim at one's target. This technique was developed by Jeff Cooper in the 1950s after experiments with older techniques, such as Point Shooting.
The Modern Technique of the Pistol consists of four elements:
The Weaver stance consists of two components. The first is gripping the pistol with two hands so that the slight forward pressure on the grip of the hand that drew the pistol is opposed by a rearward pressure on the grip of the second hand. This action aids in controlling the recoil of the pistol to stabilize the pistol for subsequent shots. The second component, and most commonly known, is the positioning of the feet in a walking stance, with the off-side foot ahead of the strong-side foot. A right-handed person will have the right foot angled out to the side and further to the rear. Most of the weight will be on the left foot, with the knee slightly bent. The shoulders will be leaned forward over the left toe. The right foot behind will help catch the force of recoil, as well as allow for rapid changes in position. A left-handed person will have the right foot forward.
Flash Sight Picture
The Flash Sight Picture is a method of allowing the cognitive faculties of the shooter to align the target and the sights without the delay involved in the conscious alignment of sights, as used when slow-firing a rifle at a distant target. In Point Shooting, by contrast, the pistol is drawn from the holster and fired from the hip, without the sights being aligned at all.
In slow-fire rifle shooting, the front-sight and rear-sight of the rifle are aligned with the distant target with great care, taking at least several seconds.
The Flash Sight Picture technique falls between these two methods. During a gunfight, waiting to align the sights is too slow. However, more accuracy than point shooting is required to hit one's assailant reliably. It is physically impossible for the human eye to focus simultaneously on the rearsight (nearest to one's eye), the frontsight (further away from one's eye), and the relatively distant target at the same time. The muscles of the eye adjust to focus sight on one specific distance optimally at any one instant, so 3 different distances mean the shooter's focus must hunt (muscular physical adjustments) between all three points of mental concentration. The greatest adjustment of focus (relatively more ocular muscle contraction) is required to view shorter distances, such as the gun's rearsight. In the Modern Technique the shooter is taught to focus on the front-sight of the pistol and align it against the target, ignoring the rearsight for quicker aiming and minimal physical requirements. This prevents the focus of the eye from hunting between rear-sight, front-sight and target, wasting vital time in refocusing.
The technique is called 'flash' sight picture because the cognition is best able to perform this function when the target and frontsight are presented quickly as a single image, in a 'flash', as if the shooter had just turned around to face a threat appearing from close by. The shooter's vision can "see" the rear sight, even if the focus is on the front sight. This is enough for the cognition to make an alignment. With the flash sight picture, the front sight and a rapidly presented image of the target are used to align the pistol. This is faster than slow-fire rifle, and offers more chance of hitting the target than point shooting from the hip.
The cognitive functions of the brain align objects in the hand with distant objects at great speed. This ability of human cognition can be used to align the pistol with the target. Colonel Cooper discovered this specific ability and named it the "Flash Sight Picture".
Human cognition can perceive a "Flash Sight Picture" at a speed faster than conscious awareness. This facility was discovered during World War II experiments with rapid recognition of aircraft silhouettes. Experimentation was continued after the war and branched into subliminal advertising in the 1960s, where images were flashed onto cinema screens for a duration too short for the viewer to notice, yet for cognition to have observed the image nonetheless.
Use of the Flash Sight Picture requires a rapid acquisition of the frontsight in order to allow the brain to perform its calculations. This focus on the frontsight is one of the main themes Colonel Cooper impressed upon students of the Modern Technique to clear their minds when shooting during a confrontation. The emphasis for students of the Modern Technique on the word "frontsight" was so great, that a shooting school and a shooting magazine were named after this phrase.
Here the compressed, surprise break of the trigger is used to discharge the firearm.
In this technique, one should pull the trigger to have the shot break as if it were a glass rod. When the compression of the trigger by the finger reaches an appropriate point, the 'glass rod' of the trigger will break and discharge the firearm. The 'surprise break' of the 'glass rod' means the pistol remains aligned on the target while the muscles in the shooter's hand adjust from merely gripping the pistol to depressing the trigger at the same time. This disturbance in the muscles of the hand, while it attempts to move the trigger backwards while still holding the pistol steady, can cause the alignment of the firearm to shift, causing the shot to miss the target. The gradual compression of the trigger by the hand muscles means the alignment may be observed by the eye during the process of compression and kept on the target, regardless of slight changes to the alignment introduced by the muscles of the hand starting to squeeze the trigger.
This process must take place as fast as possible, yet without disturbing the pistol.
Semi-Automatic Pistol in a Large Caliber
The Modern Technique may be used with any handgun, but the .45 ACP caliber Colt M1911 Semi-automatic pistol is universally associated with Jeff Cooper and the Modern Technique.
Jeff Cooper specified the use of a large caliber semi-automatic pistol as a component of the Modern Technique. He chose a large caliber because experience demonstrated that the largest quantity of force, and therefore damage, should be inflicted to maximize the chances of stopping even the most motivated and physically tough assailant.
The choice of magazine-fed semi-automatic handgun was because this firearm enabled continuous fire by allowing fresh magazines to be inserted quickly by the shooter. Most revolvers require the shooter to reload it by placing individual cartridges into the six chambers of the cylinder, which is a slower process than the replacement of a magazine in a semi-automatic pistol. Furthermore, reloading a revolver in the dark is very difficult, while reloading a semi-automatic pistol is relatively easy. During World War II (prior to developing the Modern Technique), after taking advice from a distinguished authority on gun fighting Charles Askins, Jeff Cooper took a Colt Single Action Army revolver into combat in the Pacific theater and subsequently remarked that this advice nearly got him killed.
Bullet wounds vary in how much they incapacitate an assailant. The greater the injury inflicted, the greater the chance of killing one's assailant or wounding him so badly he is no longer able to fight. According to Cooper, larger caliber bullets, being bullets of greater diameter, are more likely to inflict wounds that bleed severely and incapacitate the assailant in a shorter period of time. Jeff Cooper's studies of reports from gun fights pointed to the greater effectiveness of larger diameter bullets in killing or incapacitating an assailant.
The pistol is a small firearm and because of this it is impractical to launch a large bullet because the recoil generated would make it difficult for the shooter to control the pistol's violent kick on firing. It is not practical to launch a bullet with a diameter greater than .45 or .50 of an inch from a pistol because of the weight of the bullet and the subsequent recoil of the pistol. Hence Jeff Cooper's preference for a pistol launching a bullet of .45 diameter, or in the case of a shooter of such slight stature that they are unable to use a .45 caliber pistol, the use of a pistol firing a bullet of as large a diameter as is practical for the shooter to control.
The ability of different types and sizes of bullet to damage and incapacitate human beings and other creatures is called stopping power. Stopping power is a controversial subject because of the absence of data from controlled experiments and therefore a lack of scientific data that would demonstrate the superiority of one particular type of cartridge over another.
Cooper's Color Code
During training in the Modern Technique Cooper emphasized that readiness was everything.
Cooper asserted that if the individual weren't prepared to encounter danger at all times, the technique used and the pistol selected were of no consequence. To underscore this point and give students a reference with which to evaluate their own behavior, Cooper developed a color code of readiness, consisting of four states of readiness:
White – Readiness is non-existent. The individual's readiness would be white if he were asleep, or reading a book, or otherwise without any perception of his surroundings or movements within them.
Yellow – Readiness is general. The individual is aware of his surroundings and monitoring what is happening in those surroundings.
Orange – Readiness is specific. The individual is aware of any activity or person within his surroundings which presents a threat.
Red – Readiness to face danger. The individual is aware of an immediate threat, which will likely result in the use of deadly force.
Cooper's color code is frequently mistaken as an indicator of danger, rather than an indicator of readiness. The student may be in grave danger, but may be asleep and thus his level of readiness is 'Condition White' with readiness being non-existent. For most individuals, even those whose occupations take them to dangerous regions, awareness condition 'yellow' will be the condition they spend 99% of their waking lives within. Specific threats, leading to readiness in Condition Orange would be rare.
This color code of readiness has been adopted by third parties, including the United States Marine Corps.
To promote situational awareness, Cooper endorsed what is known as the "Dollar Club" – Gunsite "family members" were expected to be members. When two members of the Dollar Club met, the one who saw and recognized the other first could claim a dollar from the less-aware member. Cooper also stated that any "family member" who got a traffic ticket should pay it, because a properly aware driver should see police cars in time to avoid citation