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Louis Awerbuck, RIP

The man Jeff Cooper called one of the top firearms trainers in the world has died. He was my fellow writer at S.W.A.T., and he held the coveted last-page ground with his talent and wisdom.

He was such a humble man that he didn’t even have his own Wikipedia page (and when you consider how many lesser people, like me, have Wikipedia pages, that’s saying something).

Thanks to Rich Lucibella and Tam for the word. The world is a poorer place today than it was on Monday.


  1. Shel
    Shel June 25, 2014 11:06 am

    Louis once told me, Claire, that he had never met you but he thought your assessments of things were accurate. His death is a great loss to anyone who never had the privilege of meeting him as well as to those who have and won’t be able to see him again in the future. I’m frankly struggling while processing that information.

    And it’s more than presumptuous of me to rate him as an instructor, but I’m compelled to make a few comments. He was, IMHO, the equal of Jeff Cooper even before Cooper became cynical. He always did his own instructing and didn’t employ others. He was extremely meticulous identifying when he was giving us facts and when he was giving us his opinion. He was equally careful to research all relevant information and then assess it with a wonderful analytical mind. I took a couple of three-day shotgun classes from him; on the sixth day he seemed even smarter than he did on the fifth. That’s no mean feat. He would tell students that during his classes there would be less shooting and more talking than with other instructors. That was true, and his talking was worth every millisecond. I became almost numbed to his expertise. When he would correct a student’s error, I stopped asking myself: “How did he see that? How did he see that?” The quote in the link above notes that when he died, we didn’t lose the usual library as with most people, we lost “Alexandria.” I couldn’t agree more.

    But I do feel comfortable passing moral judgement on him. It’s very easy, in fact. He had total integrity. His formal education was actually in “printing,” which in South Africa meant journalism. He had done enough in the military in South Africa that he had absolutely nothing to prove to anyone in this country. He conducted his classes without the least affect of arrogance. There were no marketing ploys or attempts to impress. He was by choice an extremely straightforward (as well as private) person. It would be wasted effort with Louis to wonder what he was thinking or how he felt about something because by the time a person started wondering, he had already told you – good or bad. That means, of course, that when he expressed caring it was very real. I have every confidence that if he were asked the same question by an individual in private and by a national news reporter the responses would be almost identical. His significant other, Leigh, belongs in the same moral category.

    Having lived with a lot of the developments in southern African countries, he knew he was watching a repeat of many of them here. At least he won’t have to watch them now, although he could probably tolerate them better than most. RIP Louis; I’ll try to live up to your moral standards.

  2. ENthePeasant
    ENthePeasant June 25, 2014 12:13 pm

    In that last interview, in 2008, Louis said:

    LA: I really don’t care about my death. I’ve had a hundred years packed into sixty. Why would I? I’ve got nothing to live for. I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve got no Achilles heel. I’m not the average person. I’m an exception to the rule. The average person— wife and kids, lineage, wants to see their grandchildren play football or through college or whatever. Fine. I’m the end of the line. I’m the end of the blood line, completely.

    Q: Most adults wrestle with some sort of fear or anxiety. It can be their financial well-being, their health, or their personal safety. What do you fear most in life?

    LA: Probably physical incapacitation, if I were cognizant of it. Dependency, physical dependency, and being cognizant of it. Having Alzheimer’s and knowing I’ve got Alzheimer’s and not being able to [pauses] end it. That’s it. I don’t fear anything else because … Mr. Roosevelt said, “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.” I don’t want to be dependent on anybody else. There is nothing else.

  3. Claire
    Claire June 25, 2014 4:47 pm

    Shel — Thank you. That was very moving. Sad. But a wonderful portrait of a man.

  4. NotClauswitz
    NotClauswitz June 25, 2014 5:13 pm

    OMG NOooo! I just took a class with him last fall and the spring before that, and I learned so much and he was amazing and brilliant. I need to take more classes from him. I have several of his books but it’s not the same…

  5. Shel
    Shel June 25, 2014 7:21 pm

    There are always good qualities one forgets to mention about someone like Louis. He had a remarkable ability to make even the most inexperienced and nervous shooter feel comfortable. I’ve been told he has said that the ideal class is a group of fourteen year old girls, because they have no bad habits to correct. He took it very much to heart that anything he might or might not say could mean a life or death difference to his students. And it’s no exaggeration to note he was as pathological a dog lover as any one of us will ever meet.

  6. Claire
    Claire June 25, 2014 7:31 pm

    Shel — I had no idea that (on top of all his other virtues) he was a “pathological” dog lover. Now I really wish I’d known him. Despite our connection through S.W.A.T, I never met him or even exchanged a word of email with him. When you said earlier that he knew my writing, I was surprised. It had never occurred to me. I always thought of him as a legend, too far above someone like me.

  7. Shel
    Shel June 25, 2014 8:17 pm

    I just checked back on the site to change my last sentence to: It’s no exaggeration to note that he was, at the same time, both as serious a character and as pathological a dog lover that any one of us will ever meet. I can’t do him justice.

    I can’t find it now – it’s late, I’m old and I’m tired – but he wrote a column on his dog Trigger roughly six months ago and made his feelings very clear (as he usually did).

    It isn’t any surprise to me that he would know of your writing, because (1) he paid attention to things, and (2) it’s even in the same magazine. It’s also no exaggeration to say you sell yourself way short. There’s a reason your column is in that magazine too. It’s particularly impressive that they chose you to write on a subject other than firearms/self defense/survival.

  8. Matt G
    Matt G June 26, 2014 10:59 am

    I never me the man, but I’ve friends who knew him (like Tam and Rich). I have of course read his stuff for years.

    There is something to be said for placing no dependence upon others, if that is your fear. There is yet more to be said for going out on your own terms.

    The freedom to decide how we meet our fate is ultimately what all of us here are writing about. No sane person wants to get into a gunfight. But nobody wants to have all of their options taken from them. Louis Awerbuck, it seems to me, made his career out of helping others to maintain options.

  9. Raul
    Raul June 26, 2014 1:02 pm

    I was indeed very fortunate to take several classes with Louis. What he communicated to his students can’t really be put into words. Louis was not only a Warrior, but he epitomized that spirit. He could get inside his students and know their strong point, and flaws, better than they could ever hope to achieve themselves. He was an eminently practical man, a nuts and bolts guy, but also a student of history and master of strategy. For him the purpose of the weapon was not recreational but an instrument for the warrior to fight…and win. He was much more than an instructor. He was a Master of the Craft, a genuine Teacher of life…and death. He remains with us in his the writings he left with us. Now Valhalla rejoices as its great hall welcomes one more to its ranks where in spirit he’ll live forever. A friend, a Teacher, but above all, a true Warrior, Louis Awerbuck.

  10. A.G.
    A.G. June 29, 2014 12:04 pm

    I hope that many of his articles are compiled into a book or three.

  11. A.G.
    A.G. June 29, 2014 12:09 pm

    ….besides the ones already so published.

  12. Stephen Young
    Stephen Young April 1, 2018 2:09 pm

    I knew Louie in SA back in 1971-76. He first travelled out of SA when I took him back to the UK with me in 1973 to buy motor cycle parts for his beloved Honda he couldn’t get at that time in SA … we worked together on the Diamond Fields Advertiser. I have only recently heard of his demise. RIP Louis you were a great friend all those years ago.

  13. Claire
    Claire April 1, 2018 5:52 pm

    What a great story, Stephen. Thank you. I never met him despite sharing a long-time magazine gig with him. But by all accounts he was an extraordinary man and a good man.

  14. Alan Duggan
    Alan Duggan June 3, 2018 12:49 pm

    I knew Louis way back in the late 60s and early 70s, also on the Diamond Fields Advertiser. At the time, he rode a magnificent BMW R69 S with a fluffy Snoopy dog strapped to the carrier. I never found out why!

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