The Lost Art of the Quick Draw


June 17, 2006, 01:33 PM
The thread that inspired this thread is Volkolak's thread on Wyatt Earp's "Views on Gunfighting." A good thread, but one that is starting to talk more about the Earps than the mechanics of the draw.

Some of the things that I thought interesting in that thread were the general dismissal of fanning a revolver, or "fixing" a revolver by wiring the trigger back so it was hammer actuated. I also thought it interesting in regard to the "two-gun" carriers and how they employed the two guns (seems the speed loader of the day was a second revolver.)

There were some good reference works cited in the thread:
"Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall" by Stuart N. Lake
"Shooting to Live" by the late William Ewart Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes
"Triggernometry, a gallery of gunfighters" by Eugene Cunningham.

I guess what I would like to see is what else is out there on the mechanics of the fast draw, especially what was Hollywood and what was real. Also, what is out there about some of the other techniques, such as the Tuscon Twirl and how in the hell did Wild Bill Hickock draw those pistols so fast with the handles pointed forward?

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June 17, 2006, 01:58 PM
No doubt ol' Wild Bill used the "Mexican Roll" a' la Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales:what: :D

June 17, 2006, 01:59 PM
In my experience, the most important thing for a good fast draw is making sure that your holster holds the gun far enough away from your body that you can get your fingers around it. Small of the back carry is right out. Front carry is supposed to be fast, but I've never been able to make it work for me. I usually carry just barely behind the hip (around 3:45 position), canted forward so the butt and muzzle are in a vertical line (though that's with my particular guns). That way it's held in close enough to conceal well, but there's enough room to get a solid grip on the gun before drawing. The forward cant is uncomfortable and slower to draw if you're "standing on your hind legs like a man," but excellent if you're crouching or sitting.

If carrying IWB under a T-shirt, don't try lifting the shirt with the back of your thumb. Just use your fingers. You don't gain any time by using your thumb, only lose it because of fumbles and tangles.

There used to be a great writeup on Jelly Bryce on, but now everything requires a password to access. You'll have to make do with a short article here (, and anything else you can find.

June 17, 2006, 03:16 PM
They still have quick-draw competitions. Watch one (or check out some online pictures) and tell me how valuable you think those skills would actually be.

Hitting your target has always been more important than shooting first. Yes, with practice that process can become faster and faster, which is very good. However, the emphasis should always be on not missing.

June 17, 2006, 03:35 PM
Hitting your target has always been more important than shooting first. Yes, with practice that process can become faster and faster, which is very good. However, the emphasis should always be on not missing.

Shooting to Live, chapter 4.

Before we close the subject of shooting at short ranges, we would ask the reader to keep in mind that if he gets his shot off first, no matter whether it is a hit or a miss by a narrow margin, he will have an advantage of sometimes as much as two seconds over his opponent. The opponent will want time to recover his wits, and his shooting will not be as accurate as it might be.


There are many documented instances of armed criminals completely giving up, because they thought they were shot when they really weren't, and either surrendered or fainted dead away. This is especially common at night, and when the shooter used a gun with a large muzzle flash. It's not something you can rely on, but it does happen.

June 17, 2006, 04:05 PM
I will try to add a cople links.These are active fast-draw sites.Lots of good info.[/URL][URL=""] (

June 17, 2006, 04:08 PM
only put in the last one:this is the most informative site.

Buy the by: You not only must draw FAST but,You MUST ALSO HIT THE TARGET.A miss counts as ALOT etxta added to You're time.

June 18, 2006, 04:46 AM
First off, if I contributed to highjacking the other thread, I apologize.

I was thinking that all I have read or found on the net indicates that the quick draw contests use blanks. I DO understand the safety issue about having competitors shooting their feet or legs, but wasn't that always a hazard?

I tend to agree with the folks that accuracy is more important, and that with repetitive training on accuracy, that speed will develop as a consequence. It seems like pulling it right and accurately is extremely important, but having said that I would also admit that speed is important and I am not trying to detract from that.

I was wondering about people drawing down on one another and thinking about how the movies portray it. I can tell you right now that I would begin with my hand ON the butt of the pistol and not dancing out in the air.

While I haven't tried shooting from the hip like Russel Crowe in the quick and the dead, it SEEMS to me that accuracy from that point would be specious and probably intermitten unless two people were really close, but I don't really know.

Has anyone tried that snap draw? I haven't tried it with a loaded gun, but I have noticed that it does seem to come out and orient quicker than a straight draw. I haven't tried it with ammo as I wouldn't want to open up my stomach...

June 18, 2006, 06:58 AM
RyanM, I have the Jelly Bryce article in wordpad, if you, or anyone would like it. It is too long too post (unless it is broken into two posts). VERY interesting read!

Old Fuff
June 18, 2006, 12:30 PM
Regarding “quick draw” duels in the Old West vs. Hollywood…

Many years ago I got the chance to have a 15-minute or so interview with one of two Territorial Arizona Rangers that were still living. During that short time span I learned more about how things really were then at any other time before or after.

Because of the quality of ammunition in those days six-shooters (Colt’s and otherwise) had very heavy mainsprings, and no one with common sense lightened them. They didn’t call those hoglegs “thumb-busters” for nothing. Consequently fanning and other modern tricks were not used because most of them would require lightening the spring. The gun was drawn, pointed, and then cocked in that order. He showed me how the revolver was pointed at about eye level with the elbow slightly bent, not from the hip.

Also the holsters in those days (often called “scabbards”) were made of relatively light leather and swallowed the revolver contained therein, because protecting the gun from the elements was considered more important then quick drawing. The old lawman, who was in his 90’s at the time, told me that he had never seen anyone wearing a gun slung low, or tied down.

He and other Rangers were under strict orders to approach anyone they intended to arrest with their gun drawn, and preferably from that person’s back side to catch him unaware. The idea was to make a safe arrest without having a lot of shooting, and to be the one who survived if there was. It was also considered good practice to depend on their Winchester rather then any handgun when they could.

The word “quick” had nothing too do with how fast a man’s draw was, but rather their lack of inhabitation when it came to shooting another person. Most men would hesitate when it came to shooting another, while others “would shoot you quick,” which was the reason to get the drop on them first if that was possible.

Hollywood, he pointed out to me, made good entertainment, but they knew zip about how things really were, cared less.

Unfortunately I was so excited at the chance to talk to him that I forgot to take a tape recorder – something that I’ve always regretted.

June 18, 2006, 02:53 PM
There are many documented instances of armed criminals completely giving up, because they thought they were shot when they really weren't, and either surrendered or fainted dead away.

I would love to see how often this happens as compared to how often a person winds up dead because they missed their target. Feel free to "miss fast" in order to scare your target, I will practice actually putting holes in the things im shooting at.

June 18, 2006, 11:42 PM
If you really want to study this, 3 books come to mind.

"Sixguns by Keith", chapter or two on quick draw and hitting aerial targets as well as stationary targets.

"No Second Place Winners", by Bill Jordan, late of the Border Patrol. Runner up in a shoot out does not get a Silver Medal, he gets a bronze plaque on his grave.

"Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting", by Ed McGivern, one of the best quick draw artists ever. McGivern said he always used his sights, Kieth says he could not have, as he drew 2 S&W Model 10's, or whatever, 4 inch, and could knock coins out of the air double action, and place 10 into a playing card a t 7 yards so quickly that the shots sounded like one continuous roar, and the pistols never came up to the level where he could SEE the sights.

All double action.

Give 'em a look see.



June 18, 2006, 11:43 PM
RyanM, I have the Jelly Bryce article in wordpad, if you, or anyone would like it. It is too long too post (unless it is broken into two posts). VERY interesting read!

I'd appreciate it if you could post it. It's definitely worth reading.

It looks like in the photo I linked to, Jelly is pretty much using textbook Shooting to Live technique (half-hip), though he probably never learned it. I also just now noticed that he carries his gun in the same position and angle that I independently determined to be optimal for a quick draw. Wow.

Fairbairn and Sykes were fans of flap holsters worn in about the 10:30-11:00 position (for a right-handed shooter) for uniformed carry, or a shoulder holster for private citizens. Strange, given how much they emphasized speed. They also advocated carrying the gun with the safety off, hammer down, and chamber empty. They said that chamber empty carry did not itself cause any officer deaths, out of the 666 shooting affrays their officers were involved in.


I would love to see how often this happens as compared to how often a person winds up dead because they missed their target. Feel free to "miss fast" in order to scare your target, I will practice actually putting holes in the things im shooting at.

Me, I don't "miss fast," as you seem to be assuming. I hit fast. Most shots within 1/2" from the point of aim, none further than 2" (the "flyers" are usually when I do three-quarter hip or half-hip position). That's from the draw, at 3-4 yards. After not practicing shooting at all for months, due to being away at college. That's not bragging. Because almost anyone can get those kinds of results with Shooting to Live (though about 5-6" groups at those distances are more common). It works extremely well and requires minimal practice to stay good, if you actually take the time to learn it right the first time.

In any case, the flashbang effect is pronounced enough that the vast majority of medical doctors that specialize in wound ballistics agree that the difference in "stopping power" between the .38 SPL and .357 magnum (assuming good ammo is used in both) is solely due to the increased flash and blast. Same with .40 vs. 10mm, 9mm vs. .357 SIG, etc. The more powerful caliber never produces a wound that's noticably more severe. Their belief is also that every single instance where a person drops when shot by a handgun, when the central nervous system was not hit, is due to psychological mechanisms, caused by the flash and blast. Every single time. And that's a very large percentage of shootings.


Oh, I forgot to mention before, Kill or Get Killed is an excellent book to get, too.

"Combat shooting with a pistol or revolver is a type of shooting that occurs frequently in certain types of military service and between police and criminal elements. It is neither target shooting nor defensive shooting. It is offensive shooting, and is the quickest way to insure the successful conclusion of a gun battle with a shooting enemy."

"We must recognize that there is no such thing as 'defensive' shooting where lives are at stake. This is as true in police circles as it is in armed services. When a weapon is primarily carried for the elimination or subjugation of an enemy it ceases to be defensive. Neither wars nor individual combat can be won by a defensive spirit. Rather, the all-important offensive spirit must be developed in the training for any type of combat work. This is true of hand guns. Courses in the combat use of these weapons should be called just that: Combat Shooting."

"The best descriptive term for using the hand gun in combat without the aid of sights is shooting by 'instictive pointing.' This is a close-quarter method and should not generally be advocated for distances greater than fifty feet. Combat proficiency at ranges of fifty feet and less will be attained by using this technique. Almost all pistol shooting affrays will take place within this distance."

4v50 Gary
June 19, 2006, 12:10 AM
Thank you Old Fuff.

June 19, 2006, 12:42 AM
Guys, I am enjoying watching the discussion develop, and I see I have a new reading list. Its interesting to learn how much Hollywood took over the "cowboy" and developed the mythology.

June 19, 2006, 03:41 AM
Here is the Jelly Bryce article! I have to beak it into two posts, because it won't let me post it whole.

by K. B. Chaffin

On November 12, 1945, Life Magazine ran an unusual story. It was a photographic study of an FBI agent named Jelly Bryce drawing and firing his .357 Magnum in two-fifths of a second, faster than the human eye can follow. In the pictures Bryce dropped a silver dollar from shoulder height with his right hand then drew with the same hand and shot the coin before it reached his waist. What the article did not say was that Bryce could not only draw fast in front of a camera, but also in front of people who were trying to kill him. In fact, at that time, Bryce had already killed over 10 men in face-to-face shootouts as a city policeman and FBI Agent. In his era Bryce was undoubtedly the FBI's deadliest gun and may have been the best they ever had.

To paraphrase Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: who was this guy?

D.A. Bryce was born in 1906 in Mt. View, Oklahoma, a small town in southwest Oklahoma. There was a story that went around in later years that baby Bryce had been allowed to teethe on his daddy's pistol and had thereby imbibed some of his later ability with hand guns, a tall tale,obviously.

Not so, says Bryce's sister, Lila Dawson. "When he was a baby they let him teethe on Daddy's unloaded pistol. They propped him up with pillows there in the crib and let him go after it."

By the time of his retirement in 1958 Bryce had become so legendary among lawmen of the Southwest that a lot of apocryphal stories about him floated around, a surprising number of which turn out to be true. Two things about Bryce's childhood are certain: he was recognized early on as a prodigy with firearms and he was encouraged by those around him. In particular he was encouraged by a doting grandfather who furnished him with shotgun shells and Bryce himself once managed to save over a hundred dollars shining shoes which he then invested in ammunition. And in those days a hundred dollars would buy a barn-load of ammunition. In short, he practiced a lot, but there was more going on there than just practice. Bryce was born with an astonishing natural talent.

When Leah Rhymer met Bryce he was ten years old and owned a little .22 rifle he used for hunting rabbits and shooting tin cans. "And," she says, "he never missed."

Never? "No. Never. He was a perfect shot."

Bryce was the only kid that age she ever knew who had his own rifle and was allowed to use it unsupervised. He also had an air rifle he got a lot of mileage out of in town. He was seldom without one or the other. "He really just grew up down on the creek bank with a rifle in his hand," his niece, D.A. Dawson says.

In those days the army would hold something called a citizen's military camp and, after graduating from high school, Bryce attended one at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma along with several hundred other young men. While there he won first in pistol, first in rifle, and then went on to win the national rifle competition at Camp Perry in Ohio.


Out of high school, it was time to think about the future and gainful employment. More than anything in the world Bryce loved hunting and fishing so later that summer he became a state game ranger in Oklahoma. Apparently he grew restless with that, though, because after only six months he resigned and embarked for the University of Oklahoma where he planned to enroll. While en route he caught wind of a pistol contest where they were offering a hundred dollars in gold as first prize. That got his attention fast.

The contest was in Shawnee, Oklahoma and was being held as part of the annual Oklahoma Sheriff's and Peace Officers convention. Bryce drove down, found the firing range, got out of his car and approached Clarence Hurt, then the Night Chief of Police and a member of the Oklahoma City pistol team.

"This contest open to anybody?" Bryce asked.

"You think you can shoot, huh?" Hurt said, eyeing him skeptically.

"I think I can, yes," Bryce said. Hurt thought the whole thing kind of flaky, this Joe College in white slacks and a sweater approaching him out of the blue and besides that he was shooting an old smooth-bore .38 that was practically an antique. But the Oklahoma City pistol team didn't have much chance of winning that day and Hurt, their best shot, badly wanted his team to win. And who knew? Maybe this kid would be a decent shot.

Hurt led him behind a nearby hill to see what he could do.

"What do you want me to shoot?"

Hurt took out an old envelope and stuck it in the cleft of a tree trunk and walked off the regulation distance. "Shoot that."

"Can I draw and shoot? I'm better if I draw first than just stand still."

"Up to you."

Bryce drew and put six fast shots into an area the size of a silver dollar.

Clarence Hurt, for once in his life almost speechless, could only say, "You are now a member of the Oklahoma City Police Department."

Bryce won the hundred dollars in gold that day and the pistol team won, too, largely because of his shooting. More importantly he won a new career.


The strangest part of the story, though, was what happened his first couple of days on the job. Bryce told it often in later years and Bob Oswalt, retired FBI, heard it more than once. After reporting for work in Oklahoma City, Bryce, in plain clothes, was leaving a restaurant in downtown Oklahoma City at high noon. Once out on the sidewalk he saw a man sitting in a nearby car that looked suspiciously like a face he had seen on wanted posters in the Oklahoma City area. What's more the man was behaving in a suspicious manner, peering around, acting nervous.

Bryce walked over to the car, around to the driver's door, and opened it. The man inside looked up, startled. He had some tools and it looked like he was in the process of trying to start the car without a key.

"What are you doing?" Bryce asked.

"Who are you?" the man snarled.

"A police officer."

Without another word the man drew a pistol from under his coat and tried to aim it at Bryce. Before he could fire Bryce drew and killed him. The man slid out of the car onto the cement, dead.

The whole thing amazed Bryce. He hadn't expected the guy to draw on him at all. But worse was yet to come. The police were phoned by onlookers and when they arrived Bryce was so new on the force that the captain didn't know him. Worse yet, Bryce hadn't been issued a badge yet. He was summarily arrested for murder and taken to jail. Fortunately Clarence Hurt, who had hired him, showed up that night and turned him loose. "The man is a police officer!" Hurt roared. Bryce was free, but not before his father heard reports of his arrest on the radio news. His father arrived in Oklahoma City that night with a lawyer.

Bryce's father was naturally relieved that no charges were going to be filed but still wanted his son to come home to the safety of small town life.

Bryce told him, "I've never disobeyed you before but this is what I want to do. I want to be a policeman."

To understand Bryces career in Oklahoma City it is necessary to understand the world of the peace officer in the late 20's and early 30's. It was anything but peaceful. In 1924, just three years before Bryce began, Bill Tilghman, last of the great lawmen of the old west, was killed in Cromwell, Oklahoma, while trying to disarm a drunk. When Bryce's career began, the wild west was not a dim memory but a living presence.

How wild was it?

On New Year's Day, 1934, the Oklahoma City Times joked that the economy was so bad even bank robbery was in a slump. There were only 30 banks robbed in Oklahoma in 1933 as opposed to 59 in 1932.

Fifty-nine bank robberies? That's more than one a week.

In 1926, Bryce's senior year in highschool, there were 211 homicides in the state. The media was glamorizing bank robbers and criminals and, in a sense, it was open season on police officers; there were nine killed in Oklahoma City just in the decade of the thirties. It was the first hint of the depression, dust bowl and economic upheaval waiting in the wings.

One night in 1927 Bryce, alone on night patrol, saw two men in an alley trying to jimmy the back door of a furniture store. He swerved his patrol car into the mouth of the alley, skidding to a stop with his two front lights trained on the two men. He jumped from the car. The two men spun and both opened fire at the same instant.

Bryce killed them both instantly with just two shots.

What happened next was later told by Clarence Hurt, then still Night Chief of Police in Oklahoma City. He was in his office when Bryce came and asked him to follow him downstairs. Hurt followed Bryce down to his car where he opened the back door and revealed two extremely dead burglars.

"What you want me to do with them?" Bryce asked.

Hurt, a small, barrel-chested man given to chewing a crooked little pipe, explained, "Take 'em to the morgue, son."

Then, in later years when Hurt told the story he would inevitably add, "And you know what that Indian did then? Went home and slept like a baby!"

Bryce had killed 3 men his first year, all of them attempting to fire first.

On Memorial day, 1933 eleven convicts escaped from the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing. One of them, Wilbur Underhill, proceeded to go on a bank robbing spree in a three state area. He was wanted for at least three cold-blooded murders, earning himself the nickname "tri-state terror" in the papers. Underhill was so mean he once killed a drug store employee during a holdup for not raising his hands fast enough.


In late December of that year Underhill was spotted by police in south Oklahoma City and tailed back to Shawnee, Oklahoma, a town about forty miles east. A posse of federal and county detectives gathered quickly at the Shawnee police department and hurriedly mapped an attack strategy. The posse included Bryce and his old pal, Clarence Hurt.

By then it was dark. A scout car was dispatched to go and drive around the house where Underhill and companions were holed up. It was raining and the night was inky black but the officers reported a light was burning in the house and a drinking party was apparently underway. At three a.m. the police closed in, surrounding the house. The posse, under the direction of R.H. Colvin of the U.S. Investigation Bureau, consisted of six federal agents and eight deputies.

About three in the morning Hurt, Bryce and others took up positions at the rear of the house with the remaining officers positioned in the front and along the sides. A light came on in the rear bedroom. The officers approached. Hurt pressed his face against the screen and saw that it was Underhill and his wife. Hurt yelled, "This is the law, Wilbur, stick'em up

"Yeah, ok." Underhill said, raising his hands about halfway into the air. Then he suddenly whirled and grabbed two Lugers sitting on the nightstand beside the bed. Underhill and the police opened up at the same instant. Underhill was hit by a fusillade of bullets, knocked down, yet somehow managed to get up and charge out the front of the house through a pelting of gunfire, disappearing into the night. His wife fainted.

None of the officers were hurt but they knew Underhill had been seriously wounded, probably mortally. In fact, no one could believe he had managed to run away with so many bullets in him. Bloodhounds were summoned. They followed him. They found three places where he had fallen, full face down, in the mud.

A tip soon came in that Underhill was hiding in the back of a furniture store several blocks away, downtown. Hurt, Bryce and the others found him there, in bed, covers pulled up under his chin. He had been gut-shot with a gas gun several times. All the fight had leaked out of him. He surrendered meekly. Too mean to die, he clung to life for several weeks, finally succumbing in the state prison in McAlester, Oklahoma.

By 1934 the United States was truly in a crisis of lawlessness. After the Kansas City Massacre the FBI had been given the authority to carry firearms, the problem being they had few people well-trained enough with weapons to battle the more vicious criminals then operating. As one old lawman says, "You know, there's a lot of plain old sorriness around nowadays but, back then, there were some genuinely mean SOB's." Baby Face Nelson had managed to kill two FBI agents in one night in November of 1934, receiving mortal wounds himself in the process. J. Edgar Hoover's FBI went in search of lawmen skilled as "gunslingers."

Within 6 months they hired 3 detectives from the Oklahoma City pistol team - Jerry Campbell, Clarence Hurt, the Night Chief, and Oklahoma City's youngest detective, Jelly Bryce. Although Bryce had no college diploma, it was rumored that J. Edgar Hoover's mind was made up by the events surrounding July 18, 1934.


In fact, no story about Bryce has been told and retold more times or gained more mythical status among old-time peace officers.

Oklahoma City detectives learned that there were three known gangsters holed up at the Wren Hotel at 408 1/2 West Main in Oklahoma City. One was known to be Harvey Pugh, former companion of murderer and cop killer Clyde Barrow. Pugh himself was wanted for the murder of a police officer in McPherson, Kansas. Bryce and two other detectives were dispatched to arrest Pugh and question the other two men.

They arrived at the hotel at around 8 a.m. At the front desk was an elderly woman, Nora Bingaman, whose daughter owned the hotel. The officers asked to see the owner, Mrs Merle Bolen, 28 years old. Mrs. Bingaman agreed to take them to her daughter's room.

They followed the old lady up the dark stairs and down a dingy hallway to her daughter's room. The old lady knocked perfunctorily and opened the door. But before the detectives could enter the old lady looked startled and tried to step back and pull the door closed again.

Bryce jammed his foot in the door. "I told you we're police officers," he growled and shoved the door open. He stepped into the room.

June 19, 2006, 03:42 AM
Part Two

Inside the room, lounged on the bed in skimpy pajamas, lay Mrs. Merle Bolen, the owner of the hotel, and J. Ray O'Donnell. O'Donnell was one of the gangsters the detectives had come to question. He was holding two automatic pistols. Bryce's .38 was still holstered on his hip under his coat. Without saying a word O'Donnell raised the pistols at Bryce to fire point blank. A single motion blurred with speed, Bryce drew and killed him before he could pull the trigger. Bryce's first shot entered O'Donnell's chin followed by four that struck him in the head area, the fifth going into the mattress of the bed. Screaming, the woman leaped to safety near a wash stand in the corner.

Bryce later said, "When I looked into the room there he was, up on his elbows with a gun in both hands, aimed right at me. He was lying on the near side, and the woman was on the other side of him. I jumped to one side, out of the line of fire, grabbed my gun and tore him up."

Both women were arrested along with one of the three men the officers were looking for, Tom Walton. Clyde Barrow's buddy, Harvey Pugh, was arrested shortly thereafter when he returned to pick up his automobile. The incident was told and retold time after time by law officers over the years and is probably as perfect an example of the "fast draw" in action as ever recorded.

So just how fast was Jelly Bryce, anyway? As stated earlier, in 1945 Life Magazine clocked his draw and fire at two-fifths of a second. O'Donnell probably never knew what hit him.

Ironically, on that day, Bryce was carrying a .44 calibre revolver that he called his "lucky gun" because its ivory handle carried an embossed black cat, a number 13 and a steer head on the opposite side. A newspaper photo at the time shows Bryce dapperly dressed in white slacks, hat and vest. In fact it was in Oklahoma City that his rather dandified way of dressing earned him the nick-name Jelly.

Bryce was always a fancy dresser. One oppressively hot Oklahoma City summer night he and his partner shot it out with a couple of crooks and one of them, wounded, crawled into a movie theater. In that era, before television, movie theaters were sumptuously decorated, vast air-conditioned palaces, complete with chandeliers, almost always packed with crowds in summer, people seeking relief from the heat. Bryce had management turn the house lights up. The mortally wounded gangster had crawled up a carpeted stairway where he had partially lost consciousness. Bryce went over and peered down at the poor soul. The dying crook looked up at him and said, "I can't believe I was killed by a jelly bean like you." Jelly bean was a term for a fancy dresser who might even be a touch sissified. The remark hit the papers and Bryce quickly became known as "Jelly", a name he grew to like.

It was also in Oklahoma City that Bryce perfected his quick draw, practicing facing a full-length mirror at police headquarters, sometimes for as much as 8 hours at a time. It was out of this practice that he developed the stance later adapted by most law enforcement agencies around the country. In the stance the weight is shifted slightly forward so that if the officer is hit he will fall forward and be able to keep firing.

In November, 1934 Bryce left Oklahoma City for the FBI. He was always a reticent man with details about his exploits. Although it is common knowledge that he killed several people while with the FBI specifics are not known. Bryce only confided in other agents. However, his name was quietly linked with the slayings of the Barker gang and others.

In 1941 his career entered a new level when he was appointed Special Agent in Charge (SAC) in El Paso. He also served as SAC in San Antonio, Albuquerque and Oklahoma City. Sometime during this period Bryce developed what came to be known as the FBI fast-draw holster.

For the first part of his career Bryce carried either the "lucky" .44 or the standard police issued .38 Special until Smith and Wesson gave him one of the first .357 Magnums.

During the 40's and 50's Bryce again received national attention, this time for the firearms demonstrations he conducted for various groups. He was able to do tricks with firearms that few could duplicate.

One of his more unusual was performed with a .22 rifle. He would have someone throw a Mexican peso in the air and he would hit it with the gun, but first he would announce that he would put the bullet "close to the edge" so that it would make a good watch fob. And he would. In fact, witnesses say that Bryce never missed a coin thrown in the air. Sometimes he would shoot one with a 30.06 for fun. Of course, the coin would just disappear. He always laughed about how they would shoot coins in cowboy movies with Winchester rifles. He would also drop a pill box off the back of his hand and shoot it before it got to his waist. He did a whole series of tricks involving clay pigeons. He would shoot them with his .357. Then he would shoot them holding the pistol upside down. He would take a pump shotgun, have somebody hold three clay pigeons, and put two more on the stock of his gun. Then they would throw all five up and he would bust them all firing from the hip, pumping between shots, and getting the last one about a foot off the ground.

He was fond of writing his name in the sky with a sub machine gun full of tracer bullets: DA Bryce. Then he would go back and dot the D. and the A.

Bryce's trademark was a big diamond ring he wore. He would have somebody put a clay pigeon on a fencepost then he would aim his pistol backwards over his shoulder, using the ring like a mirror, and bust it. And if he left a little piece sitting on the fence post he'd say, "Wait a second," and get it, too.

He had a joke he would play sometimes on the audience. He would borrow an expensive watch from someone then secretly switch it for a cheap one he had with him. Then he would "accidentally" shoot the expensive watch and the crowd would gasp. Bryce would then gleefully give the expensive watch back to the person he had borrowed it from.

In fact, for all the drama of his career, Bryce was an easy-going, relaxed, friendly guy. He was well liked by everyone who worked with him and extremely intelligent with a retentive memory. Other agents said he never forgot anything. He often joked that his ability as a gunman was topped only by his skill as a fisherman.

So, just how good were Bryce's eyes? An optometrist asked about it said, "It's impossible to measure beyond 20/10. It would be more than just the eyes, though; it would be the eye-hand coordination which would have to be almost unbelievable."

It has been known as historical fact that some human beings are gifted with eyesight that seems almost supernatural to the average man. Ted Williams, it was said, could read the label off a phonograph record spun through the air. General Chuck Yeager could see fighter planes coming 50 miles away. Bryce one day confessed to FBI agent Bob Oswalt that he could see the bullet leave the gun and his eyes could follow its trajectory to the target. That, he said, was why he could do the things he did. Before dismissing it out of hand, it must be remembered that Bryce could hit a Mexican peso thrown through the air with a .22 and he never, ever missed. Not only that but ten years after his retirement his niece says that he had long since quit shooting for fun but that, when called upon, he would demonstrate exactly the same level of skill as the day he retired. Like an aging Samurai in cowboy hat, he had transcended the need for practice of any kind.

Ultimately, though, Bryce's near mythical reputation among law-enforcement officers in the southwest is based, not upon trick shooting, but the number of people he killed in face-to-face confrontations. During his tenure as SAC in Oklahoma City, for instance, Bryce routinely delegated desk responsibilities to other agents. He spent his time hunting and fishing on his ranch in Kiowa County, Oklahoma, giving weapons training for law enforcement agencies, and firearms demonstrations to everyone from Army generals to cub scout groups.

Only when a dangerous arrest was to be made did he really go to work. He always personally made every dangerous arrest in his jurisdiction. He never knowingly asked anyone to make an arrest he thought to be risky. He was a highly trained specialist: the man who went to the door. It was during this period that Bryce was probably involved in the bulk of shootings that produced his awesome reputation.


Typically, one of America's most wanted might be spotted and trailed back to a cheap motel somewhere. He would be held under surveillance then and Bryce would be notified. Bryce would arrive and go to the man's door. If he resisted arrest, he would probably be killed.

If there was a stand-off hostage situation with a dangerous killer who was holed up under cover somewhere, Bryce would be summoned. He would be the "special negotiator" who would go inside to "negotiate" the man's surrender. If Bryce determined the man would not surrender, he would be killed.

In fact, some old lawmen came to irrationally believe in what they called the "Bryce-effect". It was relegated to the same class of phenomenon as rats leaving a ship before the ice berg is struck. It was based on the observation that in stand-off situations the mere arrival of Bryce on the scene would often suddenly and inexplicably precipitate the surrender of hardened criminals that no one thought would give up. The criminal would have no way of knowing who Bryce was or that he had even arrived. Yet, it was as if Bryce carried death in his aura, radiated such profound danger, that at some level of mind the criminal knew that death had arrived.

Does anyone actually know how many men he killed? "I can tell you what he told me," ex-Oklahoma City chief of police Bob Wilder says. "Nineteen." Then he amends, "Well, he told me he was involved in 19 shootings." The implication being that Bryce never wounded anybody.

"Aren't you interested in bringing them back alive?" someone once quipped. "I'm more interested in bringing me back alive," he said.

He retired in 1958. In that era Oklahoma was a "dry" state. Unfortunately, alcohol was available everywhere. This led to widespread corruption on police departments and in government statewide. Bryce, the Fed, was disgusted by this and ran for governor on an independent "throw the bums out and clean house" ticket. He placed third but finished better than any other third party candidate in the history of Oklahoma. After that he did some private detective work but mainly just hunted and fished.

Back when he was in charge of the El Paso office, business had taken him one day to Roswell, New Mexico where he saw the most beautiful girl he had ever seen crossing a street. Bryce went up to her, introduced himself and said, "I just thought you'd want to know. I'm going to marry you."

And he did. Her name was Shirley Bloodworth and they were married July 27, 1944 in Carrizozo, New Mexico. Later, in 1945, they had one son, Johnny. After Bryce retired he and Shirley spent all of their time on their ranch in Mountain View. They were inseparable. Then, one afternoon in the early seventies, Shirley was alone in the car on her way home. There was a peculiar stretch of road on the highway, an S curve that went under an overpass then up over a creek. That afternoon the sun blinded her and she ran directly into an oncoming car. Her injuries were terrible in nature and she never fully recovered. About a year later, she had an aneurism and died on Sunday, April 15, 1973 in St. Anthony's hospital in Oklahoma City. Bryce was devastated. "It just killed old Bryce," one old friend remembered. The last year of his life he seemed dazed. The years had taken their toll, anyway. Bryce had no fear for himself but had always been haunted by the notion that someone would seek revenge against his child. One friend in Mountain View remembered a day after school when the little boy had gone off to play with a friend and Bryce and his whole family had gone into overdrive searching for him, fearing foul play.

Now the pressures of his life were catching up with him. He smoked too much. More than anything, he grieved for his beloved Shirley. He seemed lost.

Wherever he went, though, he was armed. His niece recalled that, taking a lesson from Bill Hickock, he never sat with his back to a room. He was always aware of the dark possibilities. His niece recalled that he bought one of the very first microwave ovens in the early seventies and managed to blow an egg up trying to cook it. He said upon hearing the pop that he thought someone had gotten into his house with a gun and shot him.

In May of 1974 there was a get-together of retired FBI agents held at the Shangri-la Lodge near Grand Lake. Bryce went, taking with him Shirley's little dog, a poodle, that he seemed particularly devoted to since her death. He seemed tired and faded that weekend. "I'm so tired," he told another old agent. "I've never been so tired in my life."

On Saturday night, after dinner, he went up to bed early. Sunday around noon, when everyone was checking out, he still hadn't come down. Two of his friends went up and knocked but assumed he was just sleeping soundly, then departed. On Monday morning the howls of his little dog finally brought the staff.

He had died in his sleep of a heart attack. It is a death that some in modern society call the angel's death, a death free from pain and suffering.

Jelly Bryce, that indestructible lawman, had been done in by something as simple as a broken heart. His funeral was the following Thursday in Mountain View in the same church where Shirley's had been, a mere thirteen months earlier. Afterwards they buried him beside her in the Mountain View cemetery.

Bryce had died with a clear conscience. He had never killed anyone he didn't have to kill. He had done his duty well indeed.

June 19, 2006, 04:03 AM
I'll just mention this about live fire fast draw. I wear cross/front draw with a skelleton holster at a good angle to my belt worn just to the side of center. Stance about sideways narrow target. Pull cocked on the way out fired at with arm about 90 degrees. At 20 paces I can hit a cardboard silouette that ain't shootin' at me pretty well... (disclamer: I DID NOT say it was safe for you to do this!)

June 19, 2006, 02:28 PM
Me, I don't "miss fast," as you seem to be assuming. I hit fast. Most shots within 1/2" from the point of aim, none further than 2" (the "flyers" are usually when I do three-quarter hip or half-hip position). That's from the draw, at 3-4 yards. After not practicing shooting at all for months, due to being away at college. That's not bragging. Because almost anyone can get those kinds of results with Shooting to Live

Thanks for the infomercial. Im so pleased that you never miss your target. I guess Im silly for assuming that you were advocating missing your target when you make a statement like this:

There are many documented instances of armed criminals completely giving up, because they thought they were shot when they really weren't, and either surrendered or fainted dead away. This is especially common at night, and when the shooter used a gun with a large muzzle flash.

Maybe you should work on actually saying what you mean?

June 19, 2006, 02:37 PM
Uh huh. So because I say something happens pretty often, I'm automatically endorsing it?

Intolerance happens. Murders happen. Injustice happens. Man's inhumanity to man happens. Every single day. And there's no sign of it ever slowing down.

Oh no, I'm evil or something.

Armed criminals collapse, surrender, or flee when fired upon in the majority of firefights. It's just a fact. Just something that happens.

It's not something you can rely on, but it does happen.
(great job doing an incomplete, out of context quote, btw. The liberal media would be proud)

June 19, 2006, 05:22 PM
Ryan... don't get into a pisser. It doesn't matter.
I'm glad the chickens snots run when they do. I'm no leo, but I have drawn down on clowns out here in the desert. If you pop one they run like H, so I tend to agree.

The evil ones are foul people. They chase their compulsions and give little else any thought. It would stand reasonably to assume that "escape escape escape" is all that would be on their minds in tight situations.

That story above about "Jelly" is astounding man.

June 19, 2006, 07:56 PM
Spent a morning once on this subject with Jim Cirillo. Did the same with Rex Applegate. Was privileged to spend some time with some other very competent gentlemen who had ridden the river. They're pretty well of a type.

A hard man is good to find.

Lurikeen pew pew
June 19, 2006, 08:40 PM
Wow..... that article about "Jelly Bryce" was awesome.

June 19, 2006, 09:33 PM
It seems like those shorter barrels are helpful when getting the weapon to clear the holster.

June 19, 2006, 10:31 PM
Ryan... don't get into a pisser. It doesn't matter.
I'm glad the chickens snots run when they do. I'm no leo, but I have drawn down on clowns out here in the desert. If you pop one they run like H, so I tend to agree.

I'm trying, but it really bugs me when people pull those tricks. Then people read the quoted text instead of what was actually said, and you end up with straw men and all kindsa stuff. All I said was that it happens. Because it does. So somehow, saying that the blast and flash are the cause for incapacitation in most cases (because that's a fact), means you're better off missing than hitting? Some people.

Criminals definitely tend to be cowards at heart. "Predator" is an appropriate moniker. They act all big and bad, until they run into a bigger fish...

It seems like those shorter barrels are helpful when getting the weapon to clear the holster.

Depends on the holster design, but in most cases yes. That also ties into why "Mexican carry" is faster than carry with an IWB holster. With a normal holster, you have to get the muzzle all the way out before the gun can be swung up. But with no holster, you can swing the gun up much earlier. Much like those "fast-draw" holsters that are used in some competitions, which are almost completely open at the front.

June 19, 2006, 10:59 PM
I've looked around the net a little and found some holsters that I hesitate to even call holsters. I think they are at the Mernickel site which won't load up right now for some reason.

They seem more like some sort of cheating mechanism than a real holster. I also saw a couple on ebay that were from the 1920's that had a brass pivot so that the shooter didn't even need to clear leather. The pictures had a curious piece of metal inside where the trigger ought to be that made me wonder if you could simply set them up so that you just needed to pull the hammer back and push the pistol forward, or simply do the latter with a DA.

But there are tons of authentic looking fast draw holsters on the net.

I have, of course, horsed around with my 60's and 51's. I was trying to train my hand to pull first and then cock the hammer after the barrel begins to point forward. (away from me) It is probably inefficient.

June 20, 2006, 03:58 PM
I used to do a lot of fast draw with my Ruger Blackhawk. A Vaquero would be much faster due to the lack of rear sight blade to shred your thumb. The authentic technique is incredibly dangerous, but even moreso with any gun without a transfer bar ignition...

I used a drop-loop holster (Hunter brand) that exposed the trigger, and it also used a leather encased steel plate to which the scabbard itself was attached by a pair of Chicago screws. This kept the holster from deforming when tied down. The pistol belt was also from Hunter, and was a contoured drop type belt with shell loops. Two holes I punched into the top of the scabbard were a snug fit for leather bootlace that acted as a hammer thong, knotted to keep tension on the hammer when in the holster, and was simply slipped off and the tag end pulled down to clear the loop away from the hammer for use. The leg tie down was the same material, and kept the holster from lifting on the draw, and also kept the holster and gunbutt in a consistent location. Consistency of gunbutt location is the most important thing contributing to draw speed. I would hang the rig to position the grip at about wrist level with my arms hanging naturally.

Now to slip into my flame-retardant suit for the following...


Hang your hand naturally. Palm should be about even with the cylinder. When you start the draw, your thumb should contact the hammer about the same time your pinky, ring and middle fingers (in that order) come up under the butt. Trigger finger stays straight and lays alongside the triggerguard, OFF THE TRIGGER. as the gun starts to lift, your thumb cocks the hammer...This pushes the butt down/back and forces your fingers up into solid contact with the frame/triggerguard junction, and pushes the barrel into the front of the holster. At speed, the gunbarrel will clear leather about the same time the hammer is coming to full cock, and will kick forward. As your forearm swings up, resist the urge to extend your upper arm. Try to keep your elbow at your side, or just slightly forward. As the gun swings up, you now engage the trigger and pull smoothly until the hammer falls. Consistency here is key, as you must develop a trigger pull that is predictable enough that you can later determine when to begin the pull based on the elevation of your target. Lots of dryfire practice is essential to nailing down your technique, and only lots of firing practice will make you accurate, but you'd be surprised just how accurate you can get...I used to shoot pop cans off the fence at 10-12 yards easily. Just don't try this at the regular shooting range - Gets 'em awfully mad...


If your thumb slips (and it will from time to time, believe me) while cocking, a non transfer bar gun is quite likely to go off!

June 21, 2006, 11:14 AM

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