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Book Review: “To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth” by Jeff Cooper

The culture of firearms ownership in America has flowed with, and against the current trends and technology of the day. While it is often difficult to determine how much a single individual has influenced that culture, there are people who become beacons, marking the attitude of their day, shedding light on how they received so-called advancements to their respective milieu. Jeff Cooper is one of those beacons, and although many have not read his works, if they have been involved in American Firearms Culture, they very likely have heard or even used his arguments and explanations, albeit unknowingly.

The book To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth by Jeff Cooper is indicative of his writing style. Emanating the “tell it like it is” attitude, the author fills his book with statements, not suggestions. As the title shows, he doesn't focus on a single subject, instead writing one chapter on Tactical Residential Architecture, followed by one on the Abrams Tank, and later engaging with political structures and their influence on hunting sports. To combine topics even further, it is difficult to identify this work as specifically a criticism, a commentary, or a manual for living the good life, but instead combines each of these under the broad taste of Americana.

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To Ride

The ideas that Jeff Cooper argues for include the choices that individuals make in their private lives, and reaches out into the world of politics and society, often suggesting that this “new way” of living isn't all it's cracked up to be. A classic example of “my wood, steel, and leather is better than your plastic, composite, and aluminum,” Cooper begins his book with a taste of what's to come:

The Anachronism: In the past we used to live a certain way, but we have gone astray. In order for us to survive, we have to return to the old ways.

While he's certainly not the first, nor only person to use this form of argumentation, he represents it well, all the more so if one understands his place in time. This may sound like it is setting the stage for an old-guard-versus-young-blood dichotomy, and in contrast to the boomer-millennial spat that constitutes low brow political discourse, reading the words of Cooper himself illuminates just how he reached his conclusions and cuts through the marketing language associated with disingenuous nostalgia-porn.

To Shoot Straight

He readily coins his own term “hoplophobia” and bears an attitude towards various institutions that carries on in the public to this day. In this discourse he addresses not only the problems he sees with rising trends in firearms (see the Wondernine Years), but sees them not merely as a difference in mechanical quality and capability, but philosophy of use. A continual tone of disappointment permeates many chapters, from moral character, societal perception, and the choices in the amount of safeties present on the pistols of his day Published in 1988, there's context to be found.

to ride, shoot straight, and Speak the truth

It is in To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth that Jeff Cooper writes about his ideal Scout Rifle, and does so in a way that endangers impressionable spenders. His descriptions both describe the tool, but also what it aspires to be, taking the reader step-by-step into the virtues of a lightweight bolt action. Nearly Tolkien-like in descriptive qualities, and weaving a story into his through process, it's no wonder that many people start looking into scout-style rifles after reading this book.

To Speak the Truth

Where does To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth belong? Part argument, part description, and frequently aspirational, the Americana that Jeff Cooper writes naturally fits into a themed personal Library. The writing style and presentation almost suggest leather recliners near a fireplace at the family ranch, as the writing respects the reader by presenting a worthy challenge. The book is one to read to be taught something, but flows nothing like a textbook. Capable of providing quotes for a college paper, or a chuckle for the mere entertainment, this work does not suffer from oversimplification, even as Cooper cuts to the point at times.

Academically, it cleanly fits into two distinct categories: Late-1900's Americana, and as a reference point describing the evolution of tactics and techniques for Self-Defense and Military Operations. When Cooper doesn't keep up with the times, he does so deliberately, not leaving his opinions to speculation. As an icon before there were social media influencers, he provides a backdrop to many of the things we hear in discussions, and while he may have unintentionally prolonged the great caliber wars of 9mm versus .45, To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth delivers both source material and entertainment for those willing to dive in.


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