Wild Bill Hickok


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Shane
September 6, 2003, 01:53 AM
How did Hickok draw his pistols with the butts facing in the opposite direction (when compared to how most people carry revolvers). I've always been curious why he carried his revolvers backwards, and how exactly he drew them (was there an advantage to his technique in those days)?


Another question: Any good websites on Old West history?

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IAJack
September 6, 2003, 02:01 AM
I have always been curious of this too.. He was supposed to have been an expert pistol shot? I watched a movie last Sun morning on the History channel about his life and demise. It showed some pretty fancy gun handling etc. If anyone caught it did you happen to count the number of shots he fired in the barn when he went after the gang out to get him? seemed alot for two pistols?

Also I think he carried two .32 caliber revolvers, I tried looking it up but does anyone know what type?

Later

Shane
September 6, 2003, 02:06 AM
I have always been curious of this too.. He was supposed to have been an expert pistol shot? I watched a movie last Sun morning on the History channel about his life and demise. It showed some pretty fancy gun handling etc. If anyone caught it did you happen to count the number of shots he fired in the barn when he went after the gang out to get him? seemed alot for two pistols?

I saw that movie too. It was entertaining, but I'm not sure it was historically correct. It also had many problems with a choppy story line IMO. A lot of the stuff on Hickok (in books) suggests that the LAST person he killed was his deputy (on accident). Yet, in the movie he kills several people after he killed his deputy. I'd be very interested in researching both theories.

I still have the movie on tape, so I could count the bullet shots in the barn in the future just to see if the movie was realistic about that. Although I had high expectations of that movie, I feel it disapointed.....I'd give it just 1.5 stars (below average).

Art Eatman
September 6, 2003, 02:08 AM
I never paid much attention to his guns'n'gear, but I've read that he usually had his pistol in his hand before the other guy knew there was a serious problem. I've also read that such was a common method for gunfights, contrary to the Hollywood BS.

Have your gun in your hand; walk up behind the other guy and call his name; when he turned, you shot him in the front. "Fair fight."

Hickok was written about as having been a very good shot...

Art

Shane
September 6, 2003, 02:13 AM
I never paid much attention to his guns'n'gear, but I've read that he usually had his pistol in his hand before the other guy knew there was a serious problem. I've also read that such was a common method for gunfights, contrary to the Hollywood BS.

Most of the modern books that cover the history of that era come to the same conclusion as you did, as a general rule. As a general rule, the "Hollywood" style draws didn't happen. There was pretty much no "chivarly" or "honor" in the Old West--it was kill or be killed and people did what they needed to to survive (including shooting folks in the back).

S_O_Laban
September 6, 2003, 02:21 AM
Also I think he carried two .32 caliber revolvers,

I thought he carried two in 36 caliber? ( I could be wrong:) )

IAJack
September 6, 2003, 02:48 AM
Ok .36 sounds right..what was i thinking?

Shane
September 6, 2003, 03:01 AM
.36 caliber Colt Navy revolvers come to mind. I could be wrong of course though.

Mike Irwin
September 6, 2003, 03:21 AM
Isn't there a picture of him with his revolvers reversed like this?

Shane
September 6, 2003, 03:50 AM
Isn't there a picture of him with his revolvers reversed like this?

Yes, in fact I have that picture in the book "Age Of The Gunfighters" written by Joseph Rosa. The picture shows Hickok with 2 revolvers reversed, and a long knife in his waste belt.

I can't find any mention though of HOW he drew his (reversed) pistols.

Shane
September 6, 2003, 03:55 AM
Let me try to post that picture through attachment....

Gabby Hayes
September 6, 2003, 03:59 AM
I seem to recall that the cavalry used to carry their revolver butt-forward in a cross-draw fashion on the right side because their primary weapon was still the saber and the handgun was intended to be used for backup with the left hand. If this is anywhere near true, the style might have be carried over to the general populace for folks who'd become used to it at some time in their past. Than again, maybe this was just part of his "Wild" name ...

Shane
September 6, 2003, 04:09 AM
I seem to recall that the cavalry used to carry their revolver butt-forward in a cross-draw fashion on the right side because their primary weapon was still the saber and the handgun was intended to be used for backup with the left hand. If this is anywhere near true, the style might have be carried over to the general populace for folks who'd become used to it at some time in their past. Than again, maybe this was just part of his "Wild" name ...

Commodore Perry Owens (1852-1918), whom slightly resembled Hickok at a quick glance of a photo, carried his revolver in a cross-draw holster on his left upper leg (butt reversed)....maybe your on to something here?

Shane
September 6, 2003, 04:14 AM
A closer up of Wild Bill and his weaponry arrangement......

C.R.Sam
September 6, 2003, 04:50 AM
Looks to me like, with the butts cocked out like that, same handed draw would be a lot more natural than cross draw.

For me, butts cocked in works much better for cross draw but is a bugger for same handed draw.

Then, on the other hand; maby he has the butts cocked out so the guns show better in the picture. Quite possible.

Sam

E357
September 6, 2003, 04:59 AM
Butt-forward high in the belt, is like a double cross draw. You can use either hand to draw either weapon. Good while seated around the poker table and is actually faster when drawing out from under those large long coats popular in the old west..

For CCW I've always preferred cross draw, in case I got injured on my strong side.

redneck2
September 6, 2003, 09:27 AM
makes a lot of sense

try sitting in a chair and you happen to be sitting on your long coat. It would be real tough to draw. Cross draw would be way easier. Same when on horseback.

Also, as I understand it, a lot of guys of that era just tucked their pistols in their belt. I'm thinkin' the front sight could hang up if you pulled up and forward. Maybe cross draw would clear easier.

Thing I still don't understand is being in Arizona and wearing a long sleeve shirt and tie and heavy coat over the top.

BigG
September 6, 2003, 10:11 AM
Wild Bill is one of the fascinating characters of our American West. If you look at the arrangement, two revolvers butt first thru a sash or in a pair of holsters, Bill would cross his arms and have his hands resting on the butts as he talked to the opposition. See the film "Wild Bill" for a good look at Hickok's probable technique.

Hickok is also the guy who inspired Col. Rex Applegate who found a holograph letter Bill wrote to the editor explaining his technique, I raised my pistol to eye level, like pointing a finger, and fired.

WILD BILL (http://www.epinions.com/mvie-review-46E-1130DD96-38BD547A-prod9)

ACP230
September 6, 2003, 10:41 AM
The draw Hickock used is discussed as the "Cavalry Draw" in Chic Gaylord's book, Handgunner's Guide.

"The cavalry draw as used by John Wesley Hardin, Wild Bill Hickok and Doc Holliday, is the fastest known method of drawing and firing a single- action. It is the rarest of draws today because so few will take the time to master it. It takes longer to show results than with the more conventional tied-down holster draw. This draw requires a scabbard held high with an extreme forward tilt. The revolver is held with the bttt reversed and is wrn just behind the right hip. The draw is begun by raising the elbow almost ot shoulder heightm then slammiing the hand back onto the reversed gun butt with the thumb across the hammer. The gun is then thrown forward out of the holster as the elbow is snapped down to the side. This whips the gun around into the firing position. The weight of the gun against the thumb cocks the gun with no conscious effort on the shooter's part. All that is left for you to do is fire. The gun should be fired the instant it is on target."

I tried this years ago, with an unloaded gun, and it does work. I stopped fooling with it, however, because I almost always pointed the gun at some part of myself as it came out of the holster. A word to the wise should be sufficient, eh?

Hangunner's Guide was reissued a while ago. It may still be available from Paladin Press.

IAJack
September 6, 2003, 10:55 AM
here is a short biography

http://hem.passagen.se/topic/w.b.hickok.html (Wild Bill)

If you do some deeper reading there are quite a few stories or accounts of Bill being on the edge of the law in his ways and enforcment? Another interesting account is that he outright murdered several indians for simply annoying him?

greyhound
September 6, 2003, 12:23 PM
The weight of the gun against the thumb cocks the gun with no conscious effort on the shooter's part. All that is left for you to do is fire. The gun should be fired the instant it is on target."

Thats the thing I always forget about the Old West - these guns were SA only and had to be cocked for every shot, so the cross-draw seemed to have helped with that.

PS: for an awesome Old west shootout, go see "Open Range"!

RQRWJB
September 6, 2003, 12:40 PM
I always heard that he carried them tucked into a wide sash, not a belt.
What I do know is that they were Colt 1851 Navy .36s.
I believe they had ivory grips and were heavily engraved. Seems to me a company offered replicas of them.
When was he killed? I think he continued to carry the cap and ball revolvers even after the advent of cartridge guns.

Biff
September 6, 2003, 02:21 PM
Carrying a pair of revolvers butt forward had several advantages for Wild Bill. As noted, it was easy to conceal them under a coat. A major advantage to having them under a coat was not concealment, but keeping the caps and powder dry in inclement weather. Also, as previously stated, same-side draw with a handgun in that butt forward carry is extremly fast, but carries the safety hazard of the muzzle crossing the body during the draw. Probably of utmost importance for someone like Hickock, however was the ability to easily access either gun with either hand!

Backwoods
September 6, 2003, 02:25 PM
Wild Bill kept his cap-n-ball Navy Colts' even after cartridge revolvers were freely available. It's reported that he would walk out each morning and empty one of them and return to his rooms. After cleaning and reloading the first one he would go back and repeat the procedure with the other. This kept him in practice and the guns freshly charged. Smart SOB wasn't he?

Don in Ohio

pbman
September 6, 2003, 02:27 PM
Butt forword is a great way to carry, and once you get used to it, it works good for a draw. And i don't mean cross draw.I normaly just tuck a gun behind my belt but forward and it is much more comforteble. I tried hard to find a holster to carry this way, but have had no luck.

With a single action you have to turn your wrist, as you cock the hammer, and bring the gun up, and it works much better than you think.

RikWriter
September 6, 2003, 06:58 PM
I used to be heavily into percussion revolvers and I rigged up a set of replica 36 Navies the way I had read Hicock carried them to test this very issue.
The "cavalry draw" works very well and quickly. I had thought it would be awkward, but it wasn't. Just took a bit of practice.
I love percussion revolvers...but I hated cleaning them.
:D

Archie
September 6, 2003, 08:48 PM
RQRWJB:
We generally think of a "sash" as either a diagonal strip of cloth, or woman's apperal.
From "One Look" Dictionary source, "a band of material around the waist that strengthens a skirt or trousers". Although not so used now, I don't think it too improbable that 125 years ago, the term "sash" may have included that wide "duty belt" style of belt.

However, that Hickok did not use what we think of as holsters seems pretty established.

ACP230:
The Reverse Twist Cavalry draw is an interesting concept. From what I have been able to find, the revolver was used left handed, so the Cav holster was actually a cross draw design. The most useful strong side draw I've found is thus:
The down stroke pops the flap loose from the stud (no snaps in those days); the arm is then moved inside (between butt and belt) and the heel of the hand rotates and pulls the revolver upward. As the revolver comes into the palm of the hand, it is then drawn normally, and the muzzle never crosses one's body. Cocking occurs at one's option; I always waited until the muzzle was away from the ground, anyway.

I also note it works better seated, or asride a horse. Not surprizing to me.

[Chic Gaylord: I read Gaylord's book years ago. It was hilarious. What the late Mr. Gaylord lacked in knowledge, he made up for in sheer balderdash.]

Redneck2:
One wears long coats and long sleeves in desert areas to keep sun and dust off one's body and equipment. The tie was what any proper gentleman would wear in public, unless one was unsophisticated or a common laborer. Much as the mustach was required for an adult male in those days. The long hair was a fashion statement.

In general, I think the revolvers were posed for the picture. Carrying them in such manner would be awkward and prone to dropping. I think Mr. Hickok was rather proud of those revolvers and the ivory grips. If I recall correctly, he stayed with the .36 Navy Colts rather than change to cartridge guns because he understood how the Navy Colts worked. (Similar to why I prefer a S&W M27 to a Glock!)

riverdog
September 6, 2003, 09:26 PM
pbman,
I normaly just tuck a gun behind my belt but forward and it is much more comforteble. I tried hard to find a holster to carry this way, but have had no luck. Check out "Old West Reproductions" (http://www.oldwestreproductions.com/) Rick Bachman can probably make whatever you need or think you need for an SA revolver. IIRC, he's done a lot of original research on holsters of the old west and many of his designs are replicas of the originals. Email him, he'll get back to you: "Rick Bachman" <rick@oldwestreproductions.com>

OT: I found a crossdraw holster Rick made for a S&W Mod 586/686 (which I didn't have) in a used leather bin in a gunshop a few years ago. I was so impressed with the quality of the leather, the design and craftsmanship that I bought it ($15 :rolleyes: ). Rick's name is in his logo, so I googled the name and found his website. It took a while but a nice 586-0 showed up and was a perfect fit. Like I needed a reason :rolleyes:

pbman
September 6, 2003, 10:17 PM
Thanks for the link riverdog. I do think the butt forward is best for sitting, no doubt thats one of the reasons hickok liked it as well.

IAJack
September 6, 2003, 10:24 PM
As I understand alot of the 1851 Navys were converted to regular cartrige or there were conversions available? Also rumored that alot of the gunslingers kept them beacuse of their natural point of aim and well balance? I have never handled one so I don't know if any truth to that?

pbman
September 6, 2003, 10:40 PM
One more point just accured to me, modern fast draw people normally cock the gun in the holster, (with special steel plates and loads) but with a butt forward draw, you can cock the gun as you bring it across and up, it fits with the turning of the wrist. Possibly this is much faster if you don't want to cock the gun in the holster, and who does?

And i suspect he prefered the navy's, cause they were more reliable, than the early colts and/or he was more familer with them. Most of us prefer the guns we learned on, as opposed to the glocks.

RQRWJB
September 7, 2003, 02:34 AM
Archie
Just one point.

Several Google searches turn up reports of
"pistols tucked into a red sash",
"richly embroidered red sash",
"a red sash tied around his waist".

If this means "duty belt" to you, well.....

How comfortable would it be to carry pistols tucked into a stiff leather belt all day? Loose enough to be comfortable would be too loose to hold the guns.

chaim
September 7, 2003, 03:49 AM
When was he killed? I think he continued to carry the cap and ball revolvers even after the advent of cartridge guns. Yes, he kept them well after the advent of cartridge guns. Many people kept them just because they liked them. Also, many people out on the frontier kept them, some into the early 20th century, because they were easier to equip (you can easily mold your own bullets, and some can even make their own powder, barring that skill a few pounds of powder takes up far less space and weighs much less than the number of cartridges that equal the number of shots you get out of the powder).

As I understand alot of the 1851 Navys were converted to regular cartrige or there were conversions available? Also rumored that alot of the gunslingers kept them beacuse of their natural point of aim and well balance? Many coversions were done, though often I think it had less to do with the desire to keep the basic gun people were used to than it did the fact that most people then were dirt poor. A gun may very well be the most expensive possession some of those people owned, and to replace them was no small thing. Thus, they paid far less than a new gun to have their old guns converted to the new technology.

RQRWJB
September 7, 2003, 05:54 PM
Looking further into it, I find at the time of his death, Hickok was not carrying his Colts but a Smith & Wesson Old Model Army .32 rimfire.

CWL
September 7, 2003, 06:25 PM
Butt-forward, high-carry certainly lends itself when you are sitting at a poker table.

Most Wild West pistolfights were carried out at extremely short distances.

Dr.Rob
September 7, 2003, 07:50 PM
I tried Hickock carry at a costume party.. and whats wierd is its actually pretty comfortable. The wide sash holds the guns close to your body, covers most of the action and is suprisingly flexible, even with a big knife across your waist too.

I used a .36 Navy and a .44 army

Shane
September 7, 2003, 09:42 PM
even with a big knife across your waist too.

Thats one thing I wouldn't try. A big knife on your waste is IMO asking for trouble if you fall down--it might poke thru your gut. To me, any knife that is carried without a sheath (sp?) or at least is a closing knife is potentially dangerous to the user.

scotjute
September 8, 2003, 07:16 PM
Just came from Buffalo Bill Cody Museum in Cody, Wy. They had Wild Bill's two ivory handled 1851 Navy Colt's on display. They appeared to have some type of silver coating over the steel. Also mentioned that he had several other guns, I remember the .32 rimfire someone mentioned above, but forget the others.
The '51 Colt does have a natural pointability to it, and flicking the wrist is helpful in cocking it.

Calamity Jane's '73 Colt was there. As well as a couple of pistols carried by Billy the Kid, think those were .38's but wasn't as interested in them as Wild Bill's and Jane's.
Incidentally they stated that Wild Bill's close friends said it was a good thing Wild Bill was dead when they buried Calamity Jane next to him, as he never would have stood for it if alive.

Dean Speir
September 8, 2003, 09:07 PM
Hickok is also the guy who inspired Col. Rex Applegate who found a holograph letter Bill wrote to the editor explaining his technique, I raised my pistol to eye level, like pointing a finger, and fired. Um, "holographed?"

I don't think so, BigG … the Colonel explained it to me about ten years back that he found the actual letter in a trunk in Deadwood, that he'd written it as a response to a letter requesting advice on how he had been so deadly accurate in his gunfighting exploits. Hickok replied as you state, but had never had a chance to send the letter.

The Colonel had been given a pretty neat assignment back in '42 by Bill Donovan who was Applegate's CO with the OSI (later the OSS). "Find out all you can about handgun fighting so we can improve our men's accuracy."

for an awesome Old west shootout, go see "Open Range"! Roger that, Greyhound… a good one except that I don't think the Butler character played by Kim Coates, supposedly the real "killer" in Baxter's crew would just stand there smirking and let Charley Waite walk right up and shoot him between the eyes! (And we could've done without the "fanning" by Costner, too!!!)

A far better "Old West" shootout, in my never quite humble enough opinion, was the final confrontation in Unforgiven when Eastwood makes every shot count in the saloon against a superior force of numbers… and prevails.

BigG
September 8, 2003, 09:29 PM
I think "holograph" means actual longhand unless I had a brain fart, Dean. You can look it up.

bobs1066
September 8, 2003, 10:13 PM
More proof that Wild Bill was a cagey character, I was in Deadwood a few years ago & saw the actual hand of cards he was holding when he died( the aces & eights). They were displayed in at least three places. Holding 15 cards while playing poker may have contributed to him getting plugged.... :p

Archie
September 9, 2003, 02:29 AM
I had always heard Hickok wore his guns in a "sash", also. However, the picture attached shows him wearing a wide leather belt.

I suppose it could be different eras of his life; or perhaps the term "sash" is not what we think. A red leather sash would be stretching it a bit, I think.

I don't like the butt forward arrangement, but I've been known to carry my sidearm in my waistband, sash or no sash.

Lone Star
September 9, 2003, 02:40 PM
You can rent, "Night of the Generals", starring Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif and see the cavalry draw when the SS general played by O'Toole draws his Walther .32 and kills the military investigator played by Sharif when he tries to arrest him on the day that other generals tried to kill Hitler in his bunker.

It's an excellent film, with O'Toole playing a German general who kills women in several cities. He's a real nut case.

Lone Star

RON in PA
September 9, 2003, 06:28 PM
Re: Lone Star's observation, the German Army carried pistols in a cross draw position as per regulations, ie., butt forward on left hip.

Rex Applegate's WW2 training film emphesises point shooting at close distance and aimed shooting at longer range. The soldiers in the film always seemed to have their pistol at the ready, no fast draw if I remember correctly.

moa
September 10, 2003, 03:52 PM
I recall reading a bio many years ago about either Hickok or Buffalo Bill killing a man at 75 yards with a handgun. I think it was Hickok.

Anybody know anything about that? Apparently it was not accident but an aimed shot.

Some of you geezers on the Board might remember the Wild Bill Hickok TV series. I think it starred Guy Madison, a Hollywood pretty boy, all decked out in duded up Western style cloths and I think a pair of .45 Colts. His sidekick was Andy Devine I think. I always felt sorry for Andy's horse because Andy appeared seriously overweight.

scotjute
September 10, 2003, 05:48 PM
moa
Believe that was the fight over Bill's watch with a man named Tutt. It was a gunfight in the traditional sense, out in the street. Some say Tutt drew first, others that both men drew and fired at the same time. The range was 75 yds. Bill killed Tutt with one shot thru the heart.

RobW
September 10, 2003, 07:33 PM
There was a show on the History Channel called "Wild West Tech" recently. The host (I think David Carradine) tried to do that Hickock-stunt with a .36 1851 Colt Navy replica. He hit the wooden man-shaped target once, but about 10 inches left from the heart, 4 shots were missing, and nobody shot or aimed at him!

Interestingly, it seems to be an accurate show because they loaded the 6-shooter only with 5 as needed for security.

Old Fuff
September 10, 2003, 08:28 PM
During the months that followed the Civil War, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok spent much of his time in Springfield, MO., where he supported himself by gambling. During July, 1865 he got into a dispute with another gambler named Dave Tutt. Tutt was a former Confederate while Hickok had been a Union Scout. Before long bad blood developed between the two and things became hot when Tutt proposed to humiliate Hickok by walking across the Plaza wearing a watch of Bill’s that he’d taken to satisfy an alleged gambling debt. Hickok told him he’d never make it if he tried.

According to George Ward Nichols, a former Union officer and now writer for “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine,” this is what happen. (I am quoting from an original copy of the article that I have before me, including Nichols’ convoluted spelling.)

Next day, about noon, Bill went down on the squar (sic). He had said that Dave Tutt shouldn’t pack that watch across the squar (sic) unless dead men could walk.

When Bill got onter (sic) the squar (sic) he found a crowd stanin (sic) in the corner of the street by which he entered the squar (sic), which is from the south, you know. In this crow’d (sic) he saw a lot of Tutt’s friends; some were cousins of his’n (sic), just back from the reb army; and they jeered him, and boasted that Dave was a-goin (sic) to pack that watch across the squar (sic) as promised.

Then Bill saw Tutt stanin (sic) near the court-house, which you remember is on the west side, so that the crowd was behind Bill.

Just then, Tutt, who was alone, started from the court-house and walked out into the squar (sic), and Bill moved away from the crowd toward the west side of the squar (sic). Bout fifteen paces brought them opposite to each other, and about fifty yards apart. Tutt then showed his pistol. Bill had kept a sharp eye on him, and before Tutt could pint (sic) it Bill had his’n (sic) out.

At that moment you could have heard a pin drop in that squar (sic). Both Tutt and Bill fired, but one discharge followed the other so quick that it’s hard to say which went off first. Tutt was a famous shot, but he missed this time; the ball from his pistol went over Bill’s head.

Hickok however, didn’t miss and Dave Tutt fell dead.

At a later time, Nichols was in Wild Bill’s room when he offered to demonstrate his shooting skills. Again I quote from Nichols’ account.

“I would like to see you shoot,” says Nichols.

“Would yer,” replied the scout, drawing his revolver; and approaching the window, he pointed to a letter O in a sign-board which was fixed to a stone-wall of a building on the other side of the way.

“That sign is more then fifty yards away. I will put these six balls into the inside of the circle, which isn’t bigger then a man’s heart.”

In an off-hand way, and without sighting the pistol with his eye, he discharged the six shots of his revolver. I afterwards saw that all the bullets had entered the circle.

Nichols’ article soon made Wild Bill a celebrity known the world over. Other writers would claim the distance during the fight was 75 yards or even more, and at least one account of the “sign-shooting” incident says the distance was “over 100 yards.” The readers of this post may feel free to take their pick.

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