Book Review: Handguns for Self Defence: A South African Guide (Gore, 1981)

This book was recently gifted to me from Gary G – a shooter who has been around the competition and training world since the mid 1970’s. This book, written and published in South Africa by trainer and IPSC competitor Gerry Gore, is a great time capsule of the state of the Gunsite/Jeff Cooper training circa 1981. Cooper wrote the foreword for the book.

This particular book was written as a general purpose guide to the new gun owner and defensive pistol student living in South Africa.

This particular copy has multiple autographs: from the author, 1981 IPSC World Champion Ross Seyfriend, and the captain of the Republic of South Africa’s IPSC team (his signature is as bad as mine).


Much of the book is the content you’d expect from any defensive pistol manual: definitions of firearms terms, how to choose a defensive handgun (.38/357 revolver or 1911 .45 are recommended), gun care, basic shooting skills, stopping power (.45 ACP of course), psychology of defense (Cooper’s Color Codes), parts and operation, and other familiar topics.

South African Law

One chapter focuses on South African self defence law. At that time, these were the requirements for use of deadly force:

  1. The attack on you must be illegal.
  2. At the time, you must reasonably believe that the attack will otherwise result in death, serious bodily harm or grave loss of property, either to yourself or to anyone whom you chose to place under your protection.
  3. There must be no reasonable way of avoiding the threat.
  4. Your response to the threat must be immediate.
  5. You must use no more force or counter-violence than is necessary to stop the threat.

These elements are in line with deadly force laws in many US states, with the biggest difference being the clause allowing use of deadly force to protect against ‘grave loss’ of property.

The other situation in which South Africans of that era were allowed to use their guns was if they were making an arrest (as a citizen). One section of the book teaches how to hold someone at gunpoint. This was allowed for a wide range of offenses:

  1. Treason
  2. Sedition
  3. Murder
  4. Culpable Homicide
  5. Rape.
  6. Indecent Assault.
  7. Sodomy.
  8. Bestiality
  9. Robbery
  10. Assault in which a dangerous wound is inflicted
  11. Arson
  12. Breaking and entering with criminal intent
  13. Receiving stolen goods, knowing them to be stolen.
  14. Fraud
  15. Knowingly forging and uttering.
  16. Offences related to the coinage.
  17. Conspiring to commit any of the above offences.
  18. Escaping from custody, whilst being held for committing a Schedule One offence.

From the book:

There is no statutory law which requires you to fire a warning shot, but legal precedence requires that you must give oral warning and then fire a warning shot…before you may even think of firing directly at a fleeing miscreant, and requires you specifically to shoot to disable not to kill. Just bear in mind that the onus will be on you to prove that there was no other way that you could effect the arrest, that you were physically unable to catch the felon and that opening fire was your last resort.

Handguns for Self Defence, Gerry Gore, pg 27

Gun Manners

One chapter of the book deals with “Gun Manners”. Surprisingly this chapter does not repeat Cooper’s 4 rules in their standard form. Each rule gets several paragraphs of description, explaining how far bullets can travel, and providing anecdotes about negative outcomes associated with inattention to muzzle direction. Guns and children gets its own subheading. The chapter ends with this short statement

(The shooter) must know:
How it works.
Whether it’s loaded.
Where it’s pointing.
Where his target is.
What is target is.
Where the bullet will go.
Where the bullet will stop.
You have a full-time job.

Gun Handling

The section on gun handling includes this vintage advice on press checking a 1911, including a picture of this questionable technique in which the thumb is placed in the trigger guard (usually of a loaded gun), and the index finger placed just under the muzzle, so that a pinching movement can be used to open the slide enough to see if there is a round chambered. This technique only works if your 1911 has the short guide rod (does not work for full length guide rod). In my opinion it also violates two gun safety rules regarding the trigger and the muzzle.

This section also includes instructions on how to manually lower the hammer to carry a 1911 in Condition Two. Gerry explains: “..the whole process is fraught with danger and is not recommended under any conditions”.

At the time, the author was Senior Instructor number 001 in the South African Institute of Range Officers. By 1981 standards, it was (apparently) OK to reload with the trigger finger in the trigger guard.

He also teaches “drag the knife edge of the hand across the top of the slide” technique for clearing a stovepipe…with finger in the trigger guard. The .45 ACP case is taller than a 9mm case, and in my experience, that technique does not work well when 9mm cases are involved. There’s not enough case sticking up to grab with the hand edge, so what happens is not only does the case stay in the gun, but the mouth of the case can rip a “slot” along the hand’s edge, leaving the user with a stovepipe and a hand injury.


As expected, the section on stance is all Weaver, all the time.

More interesting (to me) is the author’s recommendation of the grip technique where the index finger of the support hand wraps around the trigger guard. The brief popularity of this technique led to a squared, checkered trigger guard being incorporated into many 1980 gun designs, most notably the Glock and STI frames.

He also recommends riding the thumb underneath the thumb safety, which isn’t shown in the pic.


In the section on holsters, the shoulder holster, cross draw holster, and clip holster are all discussed briefly, with the strong side leather hip holster being his primary recommendation.

On the topic of low light shooting, this picture of the Harries technique, with its beautifully phrased caption, is included.

Shooting Standards

The author offers these standard exercises and drills, to be shot on the IPSC Option target (discussed in a previous blog post)

Basic drills:

  1. 1 shot standing in 1.5 seconds, 7 m (6x)
  2. 1 shot standing in 2.5 seconds, 25 m (6x)
  3. 1 shot kneeling in 4.0 seconds, 35 m (6x)
  4. 1 shot lying (prone) in 5.5 seconds from 50 m (6x)
  5. 2 shots, starting strongside (turning draw) , in 3 secs from 10m (3x)
  6. 2 shots, starting weakside (turning draw), in 3 secs from 10m (3x)
  7. El Presidente once
  8. Cirillo’s Hostage Shoot once

Most “modern” shooters that have focused on 3-10 m shooting would likely fail the 25, 35 and 50m parts of this test, as those skills have faded from popularity in most defensive pistol programs…and likely with good reason, as shots past 10 m are extremely rare. Similarly, emphasis on kneeling and prone shooting has all but disappeared from modern handgun curriculum, because analysis of actual incidents keeps showing that those skills aren’t used.

The book also includes some written descriptions of early IPSC courses of fire, mostly shot at 10 m, variations on El Presidente, using a steel target as the stop plate.

If you want more info about what IPSC competition was like in South Africa, this old American Handgunner Article about the 1979 World Shoot (article “Notes on the IPSC World Meet”) has some pictures and info.

Disabling the Browning High Power’s magazine disconnect safety

In the back of the book, there’s a detailed section, with photos, showing how to remove parts from the Browning High Power to eliminate its magazine disconnect safety. The mag safety makes dry firing much more difficult, as an empty mag in the gun causes it to lock back each time the slide is cycled, and dummy rounds in the magazine have to be manually ejected for each dry fire shot. The mag safety protects against negligent discharge this way: if someone ejects the magazine, thinking the gun is “unloaded” and then does something stupid and unsafe with it, it prevents the gun from firing. In a weapon retention situation, if the gun’s defender is able to eject the magazine during the struggle, if the attacker gets the gun, he is unable to shoot the defender with it.

Most professional gunsmiths in the US, at least the ones I dealt with in the 1980s and 1990s, would not disable the mag safety on the High Power out of liability / lawsuit concerns. However, the author provides instructions for those that choose to do this, and observes that removing the parts improves the trigger feel of the gun considerably. For liability reasons I am not including those pictures here.


For someone living in South Africa in the early 1980’s, this book would have been a very useful resource, showing the best practices of the day. Reading it from my perspective, it’s an interesting time capsule of that place and time, giving more perspective on where training the 1980’s began, as part of a broader understanding of how much it changed in that decade.