February 28, 2005, 10:21 PM
Join Date: November 2, 1998
Wyatt Earp: Frontier Mashall by Stuart N. Lake
This was sent to me by one of our staffers at THR. It is the story of Wyatt Earp as told to Stuart N. Lake.
"I was a fair hand with pistol, rifle, or shotgun, but I learned more about gunfighting from Tom Speer's cronies during the summer of 1871 than I had dreamed was in the book. Those old-timers took their gunplay seriously, which was natural under the conditions in which they lived. Shooting, to them, was considerably more than aiming at a mark and pulling a trigger. Models of weapons, methods of wearing them, means of getting them into action and operating them, all to the one end of combining high speed with absolute accuracy, contributed to the frontiersman's shooting skill. The sought-after degree of proficiency was that which could turn to most effective account the split-second between life and death. Hours upon hours of practice, and wide experience in actualities supported their argunments over style.
"The most important lesson I learned from those proficient gunfighters was the winner of a gunplay usually was the man who took his time. The second was that, if I hoped to live long on the frontier, I would shun flashy trick-shooting -- grandstand play-- as I would poison.
"When I say that I learned to take my time in a gunfight, I do not wish to be misunderstood, for the time to be taken was only that split fraction of a sceond that means the difference between deadly accuracy with a sixgun and a miss. It is hard to make this clear to a man who has never been in a gunfight. Perhaps I can best describe such time taking as going into action with the greatest speed of which a man's muscles are capable, but mentally unflustered by an urge to hurry or the need for complicated nervous muscular actions which trick-shooting involves. Mentally deliberate, must muscularly faster than thought, is what I mean.
"In all my life as a frontier police officer, I did not know a really proficient gunfighter who had anything but contempt for the gun-fanner, or the man who literally shot from the hip. In later years I read a great deal about this type of gunplay, supposedly employed by men noted for skill with a forty-five.
"From personal experience and numerous six-gun battles which I witnessed, I can only support the opinion advanced by the men who gave me my most valuable instruction in fast and accurate shooting, which was that the gun-fanner and hip-shooter stood small chance to live against a man who, as Jack Gallagher always put it, took his time and pulled the trigger once."
Next week we'll go into part II where Wyatt Earp gives more insights into 19th century gunplay.
Message brought to you courtesy of Rich Lucibella & SWAT magazine (of which I am not associated with - they keep kicking me out.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!