In 1976 Cooper relocated to Paulden Arizona and started the American Pistol Institute so shooters who wanted to learn under his tutelage could come to him. He established his home on what would be called Gunsite Ranch. Now, with a suitable range essentially in his backyard, Cooper could begin to further develop the ideal carbine concept he originated 10 years prior.

It was the perfect storm for the evolution of what would become the Scout Rifle. Cooper had time, he had a range, and he soon had a gunsmith on staff. In 1981 Cooper wrote, “We are continuing our experiments with Scout rifles. Such instruments are short, handy, 308, bolt-action rifles, generally fitted with plastic stocks and featuring strong, low-power telescopes mounted well forward – total weight not to exceed seven and a half pounds… Many feel that if a job cannot be handled by the combination of a Scout rifle and a 45-auto pistol, the only thing to fall back on is a tank.”2


Illustration of Frederick Russell Burnham – Chief of Scouts – drawn by Frank Dadd. R.I. – Burnham Family Collection. Published in 1896 in the Illustrated London News

To fully realize Cooper’s intentions with the Scout Rifle concept one must understand Cooper. The first step in this process is to accept the fact that he was, like all of us, human. Ironically, I mentioned this to Cooper’s workmate John Gannaway once. Gannaway’s response was, “Well, almost.” You see Cooper had that tone and composure of supreme confidence. He also had the ability to apply analytical thought to any problem and that set him apart. In another life, another world, or another occupation, Cooper might have been known for groundbreaking work with something other than firearms.

To truly understand Cooper, one must know those who influenced him. Yes, he was human, and like all humans he was indeed influenced by others. Maybe the most classic example of outside influence on Cooper is the Weaver stance that was such an integral part of his Modern Technique of the Pistol. Cooper did not devise the Weaver stance; it was a product of Los Angeles County Sheriff Jack Weaver. Cooper did however codify the stance. Cooper’s ability to methodize, illuminate, and rationalize set him apart as a communicator, instructor, and philosopher.

Cooper was also a devout historian. He read and studied endlessly. It is highly likely that upon settling in Yavapai County, Arizona, when he established the Gunsite Ranch, Cooper became aware of a historical figure that operated in that area during the latter part of the 19th century. A man by the name of Frederick Russell Burnham, who was also known as the “Chief of Scouts” and “He who sees in the dark.”