Book Review: Jeff Cooper’s “Fireworks: A Gunsite Anthology”

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Today I would like to review one of the late Jeff Cooper’s books, Fireworks: A Gunsite Anthology. I recently reread it, and decided to share it with my blog readers.

For those unfamiliar with him, Jeff Cooper (1920-2006) was a Marine officer during WWII and the Korean Conflict, big game hunter, advocate of the 1911 pistol, small arms expert, founding president of the I.P.S.C., founder of the Gunsite shooting school, private security advisor (high end mercenary) in Central America to those battling the communist insurgencies there many decades ago, and lover of history. He also had a Bachelor’s degree from Stanford, and a Masters in history from the University of California.

My copy of Fireworks is the 1998 softcover edition published by Paladin Press. I believe that this book was originally privately published around 1980.  The forward is dated 1979, and the “Acknowledgments” page, which lists which essays had been previously published in various magazines, listed article copyrights dating from 1956-1980. Thus, this book is from another era.

(Paladin Press went out of business last November, so the only easy way to find a new copy is to get the hardcover “legacy” type edition currently in print from Wisdom Publishing).

The Paladin edition of Fireworks is 29 essays packed into 191 pages, in a large 8.5×11” format. The essays cover everything from history to war to big game hunting to combat pistolcraft to hiking in the Grand Canyon to survival to combating terrorism. There is also one essay (#2) where Cooper tries his hand at historical fiction.

As I do not wish to recap each essay, I will just hit some of the highlights.

The 4th essay, “Get Charlemagne!” is an amazing tale of a post-WWI guerilla operation in Haiti, where a U.S. Marine attached to the local gendarmerie sets up a complex campaign of deception and assassination, ending with a night raid where he personally “removes” the mulatto rebel chieftain from power (and existence) with his 1911, defusing the uprising.

In several of the essays Cooper talks of his visits to, and hunting in, the late great country of Rhodesia. Yes, Cooper hunted in “Zimbabwe” before comrade Mugabe took over. Cooper details one hunt where he took two Nyati, the powerful and aggressive cape buffalo. The second one had been wounded by a friend with a 375 H&H mag, but Cooper brought it down with one hit from his custom rifle in 460 G&A (more powerful than the 458 Win. Mag.) To quote Cooper from page 171: “…some of my South African friends had told me that shooting a buff with a medium is like shooting a man with a 38. It may suffice, and then again…”

The 24th essay, Kriegsoberst!, is devoted to the legendary exploits of Third Reich aviator Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel on the eastern front. Rudel flew a dive bomber outfitted with 37mm cannon, and was a tank killer extraordinaire. The story is so impressive that I will not ruin it for you by retelling it here. This essay was written after Cooper met and interviewed Rudel in Bavaria in 1978. Cooper duly notes that Rudel was proud of Hitler’s Germany, and a fanatical anti-communist. Cooper states Rudel’s allegiance to NS Germany matter of factly, with no judgmentalism, much less the anti-racist invective now par for the course in America’s “rainbow nation” type gun press. Cooper concludes, after careful argument, that Rudel might be the greatest warrior to ever live.

While Jeff Cooper (raised in a White majority society) seems to have embraced the concept of civic nationalism, presumably as long as everybody conformed to White standards of behavior, some of his statements in this book at times seem very racist by 2018 standards. Obviously, as a White man, I was not offended by these statements.

Cooper, in addition to being a very well learned and experienced man, was a good writer. While very worth reading, I will say that Fireworks is not my favorite book of his. Overall, I enjoyed Fireworks and would recommend it to my readers.

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