Cooper’s Colors is a concept developed by Lt. Colonel Jeff Cooper. He was a combat veteran of both WW II and the Korean War. Lt. Colonel Cooper also founded the American Pistol Institute (API), better known as Gunsite.

Law enforcement, military, and civilian instructors around the world use this concept to explain levels of awareness. The model identifies various levels of awareness and combines them with intensifying colors. As a result, the color references have proven to empower individuals with a better ability to learn and remember the awareness levels concept. The colors describe situational awareness, environmental awareness, and more. 

First, Lt. Colonel Cooper used the colors white, yellow, orange, and red to demonstrate intensifying degrees of awareness. Secondly, he provided easy to understand description for each of Cooper’s Colors. Most importantly, instructors are able to apply Cooper’s Colors easily to everyday situations and critical incidents.

Above all, the concept emphasizes the levels of awareness are a mental process, not a physical one. Therefore, anyone can apply Cooper’s Colors to their self-defense training. That’s to say, you do not need weapons to use this concept. Everyone considering their level of awareness for self-defense can easily understand the color references.


Episode Resources

History of Lt. Colonel Jeff Cooper

Gunsite Academy


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