Myths about the western gunfighter.

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by bear71, Aug 26, 2009.

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  1. bear71

    bear71 Member

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    The commonality of the street gunfight/duel at high noon at twenty paces is a myth. It may have happened but not nearly as much as movies, TV or paperback westerns would have you believe. It was rare because both gunfighters stood a likely chance of eventually being hit. It was too much of a risk even for a fast drawing pistolero.

    A much more typical gunfight went down like this -

    Gunfighter A and gunfighter B have a beef with each other and are itching to gun one another down. They see each other in town, at the shop, maybe on the trail. Gunfighter A enters a saloon where Gunfighter B has been drinking, playing cards and entertaining women. Gunfighter A, seeking the advantage this day, remains sober and starts agitating his opponent casting verbal insults, poking fun, doing whatever necessary to bring Gunfighter B to the edge. When Gunfighter B, in a drunken or irritiated (cards) or embarassed (women) state finally has enough and fumbles for his piece for some closure of the agitation whence Gunfighter A calmly and smoothly draws, and at a range much closer than 20 paces, delivers an accurate and fatal blow by which Gunfighter B will have a very difficult time returning fire.

    Gunfighter A has several witnesses that will testify to the fact that Gunfighter B went for his gun first and therefore had to act in self defense. He is not prosecuted and remains a free man while his opponent has been killed.

    It was all about gaining an advantage through trickery and treachery at very close ranges because the revolvers used weren't nearly as accurate or reliable as anything the movies and western fiction writers would have you believe.

    Source for this is respected firearm writer George Nonte who's book Revolvers I have been reading.

    Share some other myths.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  2. crebralfix

    crebralfix member

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    Citation?
     
  3. CornCod

    CornCod Member

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    Most of the time Wyatt Earp preferred pistol whipping his opponents rather than shooting them.
     
  4. bear71

    bear71 Member

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    "Citation?"

    Read the post.
     
  5. kdstrick

    kdstrick Member

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    Not surprising. If you ever find yourself in a 'fair fight' your tactics are very poor.
     
  6. EvanWilliams

    EvanWilliams member

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    Good post.
     
  7. catspa

    catspa Member

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    Unless your opponent happened to be Doc Holliday, who apparently didn't suffer any impairment from being drunk. Arguably, any fight with Doc was "unfair" by definition.

    I guess it depends on who you call a gunfighter, but I've always tended to think that the ones who took it seriously came to lead a pretty spartan life. Any specialist of that kind would end up with plenty of enemies, either personal ones or people wanting a reward or to make a name for themselves, and they only have to get lucky once. It would seem imprudent to get drunk and entertain women very often (then as now).

    Parker
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  8. Vonderek

    Vonderek Member

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    Many so-called gunfights of the Old West era were no more than cold-blooded murders...Bushwhackings or a bullet in the back of the head.
     
  9. kdstrick

    kdstrick Member

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    Lots of folks consider John Wesley Hardin to be just that... he claimed to have killed 42 men. It is thought that number is exaggerated, but even if you cut it in half it is still a lot of killing.

    Interesting that Lawman John Selman shot Hardin in the back of the head as he played dice in an El Paso Saloon. They had words earlier that day, and it appears that Selman was (as the OP indicates) not interested in a mano a mano confrontation. ;)
     
  10. Oro

    Oro Member

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    A myth I've seen debunked:

    Succesful gunfighter were quick-draws.

    Fact: The successful ones stressed they took the time to be deliberate and aim, not snap a shot from the hip. Wyatt Earp was widely quoted on this point.

    Funny thing is, the lesson had to be learned all over again in the 1950s when fast-draw competition and combat pistol leagues sprang up. It took Jack Weaver to teach people to go slow, aim, and win.

    My favorite quote on that subject was from a gun fight. A BIG gun fight - 14" and 16" naval guns, actually. Time Magazine interviewed Admiral Jesse Oldendorf, the US commander, about his tactical strategy after his battleships, cruisers and destroyers quite literally annihilated a Japanese battle fleet in a night-time torpedo and gun ambush during the Battle for Leyte Gulf. He said his plan was simple:

    Brilliant advice.
     
  11. SundownRider

    SundownRider Member

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    An excellent read on this very subject is Triggernometry by Eugene Cunningham. He highlights several gunfighters, some of whom I'd never heard of. Very engaging read.
     
  12. TimM

    TimM Member

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    The only documented face-to-face standoff was between Wild Bill Hickock and Davis Tutt in Sprinfield MO.
     
  13. xstuntman

    xstuntman Member

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    Everybody had a holster and in it was a 45 Colt.

    Nope. Few people used a holster with most hanguns being shoved down in the waist band. Most hanguns were whatever was affordable in whatever caliber. For several years the S&W American actually outsold Colt in revolvers too.
    Face to face gunfights? Ambushed from distance with a rifle was pretty standard or getting gunned down with a shotgun from behind.

    I still think Gene and Roy did it better though;) X
     
  14. cchris

    cchris Member

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    If you've seen the remake of the 1950's film "3:10 to Yuma" with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, I don't think you see much of the stereotypical "Western" fighting in there. Although in the film Ben Wade's gang is supposed to be outright cold-blooded murderers, I think it gave a little more accurate portrayal over what people saw in spaghetti westerns.
     
  15. RandKL

    RandKL member

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    So many "experts"....so little interest in arguing the point.

    lol

    Let's get back to pistol grip Mossbergs.

    rich
     
  16. kdstrick

    kdstrick Member

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    OK... we are really starting to veer from the OP... but...

    This guy didn't back down! High Noon. :cool:

    cooper_highnoon_solo.gif
     
  17. Shung

    Shung Member

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    except the fanning, one good scene of what would have been a group gunfight can be seen in Open Range..

    As for how people got killed in that era, I think the series Deadwood gives a good idea of how "fair" were the fights..
     
  18. KenWP

    KenWP member

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    There is also a difference in a gunfight as to just how much a fellow wants to kill somebody. Bob Munden as fast as he is would probbably loose to one of the old west gun fighters once he looked them in the eye and seen not bottom.
     
  19. ezypikns

    ezypikns Member

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    Skeeter Skelton wrote a great piece about this....

    called "The Gunmen of El Paso". Whoever said that old time gunfiggters were basically "Bushwhackers" and ambush artists was correct.

    Skelton also said that modern shooters would outshoot any of the old time gunfighters, but would nonetheless not survive too long.

    His reasoning: A shooter and a killer are two different things.
     
  20. indiandave

    indiandave Member

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    Your'e telling me that when Clint Eastwood draws and shoots 7 bad guys dead with his 6 shooter, that didn't happen? Hey, I saw it happen right in front of me on TV.:neener:
     
  21. offthepaper

    offthepaper Member

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    Early version of "the magic bullet". :D
     
  22. CoRoMo

    CoRoMo Member

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    Didn't most folk back then die from starvation or the flu?
     
  23. RDak

    RDak Member

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    When I was a kid I remember the really old guys oftentimes laughing when they saw gunfights on TV and in the movies.

    They were too young to have been men in the 1870's and 1880's but they were old enough to be young men in the 1890's. They usually gave me the impression that Hollywood overplayed the gunfight scenes, etc.
     
  24. huntsman

    huntsman Member

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    I'm shocked and heart broken :)

    Now let's debunk video games and slasher movies and maybe folks will get a realistic view of what guns can do.
     
  25. jackstinson

    jackstinson Member

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    Hollywood STILL does that. Whatever era they attempt to depict, Hollywood gunfights are just Hollywood gunfights; curving bullets and all.
    It's about ticket and DVD sales, nothing else. Most Hollywood film makers are not in the business of historic documentaries.
    Now I am wondering; did Lash Larue carry a gun?
     
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