Peter Lessler’s experience training with Col. Cooper

Peter Lessler’s experience training with Col. Cooper
Peter Lessler takes aim.

Peter Lessler takes aim.
Peter Lessler takes aim.
With a flare for breaking down the fundamentals of marksmanship, Peter Lessler has become a favorite of Gun Digest readers. His books – Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Handgun Marksmanship and Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Rifle Marksmanship – have been among two of the top sellers in recent years.

Lessler has an expansive background in shooting, competing in a number of disciplines and tutored by some of best in the field. It was on the latter topic a post at the caught my attention.

The post was a wide-ranging interview with Lessler on how he honed his marksmanship skills. It is worth a full read. But it was where Lessler discussed his experience learning from Col. Jeff Cooper at Gunsite Academy I became particularly enthralled. As someone born too late to have learned from Col. Cooper personally, I am always fascinated to get a new perspective on the philosopher of the gun.

As would be expected, Lessler’s experience with Cooper boils down to practical marksmanship, geared for the field. And for those who have yet to read some of Cooper's very worthwhile books, it gives a good glimpse of what one of modern shooting's most influential instructors aimed to get out of his students:

The theme of the Colonel’s General Rifle class was: A first-round hit on the lethal zone of a big game animal, from a field expedient position, at unknown distance, under time pressure. There is your target, hit it NOW! No shooting bench, no shooting sticks, no laser rangefinder, but a speed-loop sling (back then, the Ching of course), and your speed into a good, appropriate, workable position. Taking your marksmanship skills and techniques and applying them in a practical hunting field situation, where seconds count. No fiddling around. This was something of an eye-opener for me, having been used to the formal and stylized bullseye courses. This non-specialized, practical form of field shooting has become my favorite style.

The Colonel was not a man to brook fools and nonsense, and was mainly interested in the pursuit of excellence. No fluff in that class, no excuses for falling on your face! Know your rifle, its ammo, sights, and trajectory, know how to judge range to 300 yards with your eye, know how to use a loop sling, know how to get a steady position quick, plus know how to properly fire an accurate shot in minimal time. The Colonel was a stern taskmaster, and of course there was nothing frivolous in the course. It was here that I learned the rifle bounce and rifle ten drills. Everything was geared to efficient, real-world, practical success.

We finished the class with two drills: a paper target drill of five 25 yard 1.5 second snapshots to the head of an IPSC target and five more at 50 yards to the body A-zone; and a man-against-man round-robin shoot-off on steel targets at about 65 and 170 yards. Hit your two targets before the other guy hits his. If you are beaten twice, you’re out of it. A fun adrenaline-pumper – how well can you do with “buck fever?”. I managed to come in second on the shoot-off, and was the only student to clean the paper target. It hangs on the wall of my reloading room with the Colonel’s signature on it. Coincidentally, next to another signed one with .45 holes in it from his General Pistol 250 class.

I managed to earn the “Expert” rated certificate here, one of four handed out in this class of about 24 shooters. All in all very worthwhile.

Peter Lessler's Books
Gun Digest Shooter's Guide to Rifle MarksmanshipGun Digest Shooter's Guide to Rifle Marksmanship







Gun Digest Shooter's Guide to Handgun MarksmanshipGun Digest Shooter's Guide to Handgun Marksmanship

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Elwood Shelton is the Digital Editor for Gun Digest. He lives in Colorado and has provided coverage on a vast spectrum of topics for GD for more than a decade. Before that, he was an award-winning sports and outdoors reporter for a number of newspapers across the Rocky Mountains. His experience has consisted of covering the spread of chronic wasting disease into the Western Slope of Colorado to the state’s ranching for wildlife programs. His passion for shooting began at a young age, fostered on pheasant hunts with his father. Since then, he has become an accomplished handloader, long-range shooter and avid hunter—particularly mule deer and any low-down, dirty varmint that comes into his crosshairs. He is a regular contributor to Gun Digest Magazine and has contributed to various books on guns and shooting, most recently Lever-Actions: A Tribute to the All-American Rifle.


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