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Old School Pistoleros

The men in the picture above are old school pistoleros Ray Chapman, Elden Carl, Thell Reed, Jeff Cooper and Jack Weaver. They are, some would say, the five pistoleros credited with developing the modern technique of the combat pistol (though some would add other names, including that of Bill Jordan).

Elden Carl recently recalled the day that picture was taken.

“Looking at the clothes we were wearing that day, I remember that Ray, Thell and Jeff were always better dressed than Jack and I. I am wearing my El Cajon Police Department trousers, my custom shooting shirt, and my San Diego Sheriff’s Department hat. That type of hat became part of the uniform when Chief Joe O’Connor was elected Sheriff. The holster rigs we are wearing are examples of the fine workmanship of Andy Anderson and Alfonso Pineda. Ray, Thell and Jack are wearing Andy rigs while Jeff and I are using Alfonso’s. Earlier in the day Jeff had been wearing a shoulder holster but fortunately he switched to the Alfonso before the pictures were taken. The shoulder holster would have upset the balance in the photo.

The Founding Masters photo did not receive much exposure until the September/October 1986 issue of American Handgunner Magazine. Now fifty years later Bennie Ramsey’s shot is not too difficult to find.

Sadly, Ray Chapman, Jeff Cooper and Jack Weaver are gone, and my fellow retired Deputy Sheriff Bob Torbett recently informed me that Bennie Ramsey has also passed away. Thell Reed, however, is still around and working hard as a firearms armorer and technical expert in the film industry. Thell and I have had phone conversations over the years, but since we had not seen each other for many years, I recently decided to take a road trip out to Laughlin, Nevada to meet with him. My wife Pauline Read and Top Gun’s editor Pat Rose joined me for the reunion, where we met Thell and his charming wife Stacey. Thell shared with us that he had just finished working on a picture starring Russell Crowe, an actor he has worked with before, and was now working in a remake of the classic 1960 film “The Magnificent Seven.” Denzel Washington is one of the seven actors that are being trained by Thell how to handle and shoot pistols. In fact, that day Thell showed us the black leather pistol rig custom made by Vic Perez that is part of Denzel’s outfit.”

Read more of Elden's recollections (and about what he does with motorcycles nowadays) right here.

Although many of the principles of shooting have evolved as we learn more and experience new things, it's important to remember where we came from.

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