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June 20, 2007

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Cooper On Revolvers

"I have no prejudice at all against the revolver. It's just that I choose the gun that wins."--Jeff Cooper, speaking about his preference for the Model 1911 at a small shooting clinic in upstate New York, circa 1966


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Peter C

Col. Cooper was never reticent about his opinions.

RJ Arena

I think it is obvious that we are getting this comment out of context, we do not know what he means by"wins". I have no problem with revolvers or semi's, I prefer revolvers at this time in my life, but I think that is due to getting old more than anything else.


Handgunning for dramatic business: My biggest problem overall with handguns are the beasts are always uncomfortable to carry and in the way. Since my positions were mostly leadership and managing a conflict, I tended “stored” the damn things until matters looked as if I really had to use it. Then:

IMHO it depends upon what you’re comfortable handling quickly at short distances. I’ve used both auto’s and revolvers. I like the 1911, but each gun acts different IMO. Some 1911’s jump straight up, some to the left, some jump right and up. I always thought it was cool watching a .45 slug lob down range.

Beretta’s in 9mm and .380 I always thought handled nicely. I liked the SnW Military .38’s. However, my favorite was SnW Model 19 in 4” barrel.

A sidearm of choice: a tuned pair of 1851 Colt Navy’s. Yup, big, slow rate of fire, and heavy. There’s no spray and pray, but they put a bullet exactly where you want without pondering your technique. They also make a better club than a 1911.

Dave Petzal

To RJ Arena: I thought it was pretty plain what Col. Cooper meant, but the context was that in a gunfight, you are much better off with a 1911 than with any revolver.

Ralph the Rifleman

Good old Col.Cooper and his loyal devotion to the 1911.
While I think the auto makes a better duty gun, I prefer to carry a revolver as back up or as civilian self-defense/general carry.
Hey Dave, which do you prefer as a general carry; revolver or auto?

Matt Mallery

I've never had a revolver jam on me.

JC Blauvelt

I am not one to question Jeff Cooper but after 20+ years of competition with both types of guns and police firearms instructing, which included the years that police departments were switching over from revolvers to autos, I have found that for the first 6 shots there is no difference in speed or accuracy.
Pro shooter Jerry Miculik has been proving this for many years. Even his speed loading with moon clips will beat most auto shooters. Were the autos shine is in capacity of ammo to take on multiple targets

WA Mtnhunter

Ditto's on the S&W Model 19. A double tap with the .357 is all that's required to stop a gunfight. IMHO, none better.

But the 1911 is THE autoloader!


I was a student of Jeff Cooper's many years ago and the 1911 is one of the finest combat weapons ever produced--and still is today. In Mr. Cooper's words..."carry what you shoot and shoot what you carry". Semi-autos are easier to conceal, carry more firepower(cartridge capacity), and for the most part--quicker to reload. Nothing against revolvers, I have two and shoot them often. If you need more than six rounds, you probably shouldn't be carrying anyway. Oh, and if a revolver ever jams on you---what you have is clumsy club.

Dr. Ralph

I've got an S&W .40G and fired probably 2000 rounds and it's never jammed. My uncle has had a Colt 1911 for thirty years and says it's never jammed. The .45 is an undisputed confirmed killer. No questions about its knockdown power or lethality. Revolvers are easier to use and as G. Gordon Liddy says "if your arm is blown off you can still cock a revolver" but I prefer a fourteen round clip. I bought a Lady Smith for my wife and said "if you ever have to use it just pull the trigger." The essence of simplicity which is a very good thing when everything around you is CRAZY...

Steve C

As one of our fellow bloggers mentioned recently, it ain't the arrow, it's the indian.

Most handguns only has one true virtue and many liabilities when compared to long arms. I exclude those handguns that are so big with so much recoil that they even loose the one true virtue. The average shooter can't hit much with it at any respectable distance even under ideal circumstances. And if the situation involves something shooting back, even the experienced shooters are left wishing for something more. Yet people buy handguns. Guess it's more about imagination than reality.

Dr. Ralph

Yeah if someone breaks into my home I'm not grabbing a pistol. That Rem 1100 with buckshot will do a much better job. Plus if you can hit anything at 100 yards with your handgun you're a superhero. But for concealed carry they're the only game in town. And please don't write back and say "Dr. Ralph I shot a moose with my T/C Contender at 280 yards blah blah blah.. you must be a big fat lazy sissy boy unemployed loser whatever."

Dave in St Pete

The Col. never met Jerry Miculek, did he?

WA Mtnhunter

Never take a handgun to a gunfight. Keep one handy just in case one erupts.


44.mag is the best pistol round mad bear boom 1 shot the bear is dead a cape buffalo YOU will kill it


In my store I've got a Taurus .357 snub loaded w/ +P+ hollowpoints. In my bedroom headboard resides a Springfield single stack .45 w/ sjhp. In my gun vault resides my Super Blackhawk .44 along w/ my other handguns, rifles, shotguns. A .44 mag is just WAY to much gun for personal protection. I've had jams in my autos, but that's when I screw up on reloads. IMHO never use reloads for personal defense. If you have to shoot someone, you sure as hell don't want some county prosecuter to say you were loading mankillers, or have a jam at the wrong time!

Rocky Mtn Hunter

I prefer a Rev. for carry when hunting in 357 with a 5.5" bbl. For Conceal Carry ( yep got a permit) I carry a 380 Kel-tec.Auto D/A. Its light wt, don;t even know its in my pocket. I do believe a Rev, a safer firearm, but each have their place in this world.My Rev. is carried with a shoulder harness in the woods, which kinda keeps it out of my way, but handy if needed. Yet a 12 ga. pump in l8" bbl is the beter home protection tool, but my night stand wan't have space for it.So just keep a 38 there. As the odl saying goes, if I got my pants on, there will be a handgun in them.With the 380 DA Kel-tec. is light wt, don;t even know you got it.And, I can hit within 2-3" at 25 yds with it.


The late Col. Cooper was an old school master who's opinon I greatly respect even if I sometimes disagree. In todays age of modern firearms, one has numerous choices of highly relable and adaquetly powerful handguns at affordable prices. As for the old auto vs. revolver argument (or 9mm vs. .45 for that matter) there are better ways to wast our time. Choose a weopon that is 100% reliable, accurate enough, and carries an adaquete ammount of ammo of good quality. 1911, smith k or j-frame, glock, and springfield xd all have potential to perform these tasks. Remember that the total pakage must work together: weopon ammo, magazine (often the weak link), and holster. Long guns have many advantages but also some serious disavantages in a home deffense situation. Consider your unique situation, skill level, and phisical ability. Find what works for you and then train, train, train. One last thaught, very few god blessed people have the gun-handling skills of profesionals like Jerry Miculek and Rob Leatham so please don't make YOUR choise based on what THEY can do. Dave in St Pete, I don't know if Col. Cooper ever meet Jerry Miculek, but I'm sure he knew Bill Jordan who was about as prolific with a fighting wheel gun as any one.


Hey Ralph, I have. Had one jam on me I mean. 686 S&W in .357. Darn thing gets very hot and the cilendar will expand to the point that it will not fire. Now my two 1911's.....never jam and boy do I love them. Up to the individual though I believe.

Mike Diehl

I always figured that if I really needed to carry a personal defense handgun it would be a Ruger semiauto in .22LR. It's about the only thing I could reliably hit well with, but I could *reliably* hit well. If they made 'em in .22WMR it'd be ideal.

WA Mtnhunter

A S&W model 19 with Federal 180 gr. Cast Core solid lead bullets will penetrate in excess of 7 inches of solid hardwood. Not many critters or their vehicles can stand up to that. I have fired thousands of rounds through that M-19, mostly target loads, with no failures. But the seventh perp might get me!

Mike Strehlow

For openers, note that Cooper made this comment in 1966. For those of you who think he has slighted Jerry Miculek, I doubt Jerry was out of his teens (if he was INTO them) in 1966.

Was Cooper ignorant of the abilities of a revolver in that hands of a great shot? No. He knew great wheelgunners; Jack Weaver and Thell Reed come to mind. But by 1966 he had invented practical pistol matches and promoted them for at least a decade, and it was his experience that match winners, and those who placed highly, were almost always holding Colt 1911s when they did so. He wasn't prejudiced against revolvers; he was POSTjudiced against them. He simply could not refute what his own eyes told him match after match, year in, year out.

Note also that in 1966 the defensive revolver, military or police, was almost always a .38 Special loaded with 158 grain roundnosed lead bullets at about 800 fps, and generally reloaded from belt loops or drop pouches. Would you carry this load in your own .38 for any serious purpose?

Cooper was not an 'auto' man; he was a Colt 1911 man. He liked the P-35 but disliked 9mm hardball; he thought the double-action on the P-38 was a solution to a non-existent problem; he saw no reason to buy (cheap at the time) Spanish knockoffs of the Colt. In 1966 he didn't really like the Colt, either, until it had been given a trigger job, had the feed ramp polished, and had higher sights installed. He liked the .45 above all other calibers because in a world of non-expanding pistol bullets (1966!!!), the .45 made the biggest holes.

Mind you, Cooper was pro-revolver when it came to hunting. He was a big proponent of the .44 Magnum Smith 29. But for contest or day-in, day-out duty holster wear he was 1911 all the way.

In later years he acknowledged the CZs and the Glocks, the .40 S&W round, and the usefulness of revolvers for nightstand duty. But in 1966, with the guns and ammo of the day, HE WAS RIGHT.

Dr. Ralph
Dr. Ralph

Well after revisiting this blog I find my last comment, wasn't. I meant to say something about that word postjudiced. I like it. A lot. My mom always said she wasn't prejudiced, she was judging from many years of experience.

Arthur Bishop

I recall my last American Handgunner magazine had an article where Jack Weaver beat Jeff Cooper with a 38 revolver. It was the technique that won, not the handgun. The 1911 does not guarantee victory.

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