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Wyatt Earp - On Gun Fights


Marauder SASS #13056

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I find the first quote to be very helpful and avoid confusion concerning some of his other quotes.

 

Wyatt Earp Quotes on gun fights

There have been several gunfighting quotes about Wyatt Earp going around for the last few months.  If you haven’t seen them, you need to:

“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 second 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 and muscular actions which trick-shooting involves. Mentally deliberate, but muscularly faster than thought, is what I mean.”

-Wyatt Earp

 

“No wise man ever took a handgun to a gun fight.”

-Wyatt Earp

 

“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.  You need to take your time in a hurry in a gunfight.”

-Wyatt Earp

 

“The most important lesson I learned was that the winner of a gunplay usually was the one who took his time.  The second was that, if I hoped to live on the frontier, I would shun flashy trick-shooting.  Grandstand play.  as I would poison.  In all my life as a frontier peace officer, I did not know a really proficient gunfighter who had anything but contempt for the gunfanner or the man who literally shot from the hip.”

-Wyatt Earp

 

“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 old Jack Gallagher always put it, took his time and pulled the trigger once.”

-Wyatt Earp

 

http://www.dhicowboy.com/data/Wyatt Earp Quotes on gun fights.htm

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15 minutes ago, Red Cent said:

 

 

Depends on the distance between you and your opponent :) 

I wonder how many fanners and hip-shooters were defeated by sqaw grippers?

 

I would say none.  I have yet to see any account of someone using the sqaw grip in the real west. 

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There was one recorded incident where Wyatt and a couple of others advised  a guy about an up-coming fight.

The opponent fanned and was shot down by the fella taking Wyatt's advice.

 

Elmer Keith's research of gun fights pretty much validated what Wyatt said.

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As to the "squaw grip"  a few manuals actually encouraged it's use for more distant shots.

A main influence was that many were trained to shoot from a horse, so one handed was obviously better.

 

Elmer Keith validated that a one-handed draw was the fastest, but also mentioned that for more accurate shooting, two handed was better.

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Good ol' Elmer Keith.   He was born in Missouri but grew up in the north west plains.  He got to be around the ol'time guys of the frontier days. But he came into his own in the 20th century and was ahead of his time.  I can see him taking down that mule deer at 600 yards with a handgun. I don't remember the details but I suspect he used a setting position with back agains a tree or rock and knees drawn up and gun resting between them. 

 

Wouldn't it be great to be on his posse at a SASS match?  I wonder what he'd think?  Him and Ed McGivern. 

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Elmer admitted that 600 yd shot on the deer was not with the first shot! He fired at least once and missed. The deer apparently didn't realize it had been shot at.  I don't recall if Keith fired one or two more shots, but basically "walked" the subsequent rounds into the deer adjusting his sight picture after each shot. That doesn't take anything away from it, but it has been overblown so much that it has become a legend.  Can't recall the source, but probably, "I Was There!", his autobiography.

 

As far as long distance pistol shooting is concerned, the late "Cathouse Bill" Blattler and I used to do some informal shooting at a steel buffalo target at a range of 385 yds, using his .45 LC Ruger Blackhawks, and could usually hit at least 3 out of 5 times.  The ammo was his standard SASS match ammo.

 

The late, great Bill Jordan, probably the finest pistol shot, and winner of a number of gunfights, paraphrased Wyatt: "Speed's fine, accuracy's final! There's no second place winner in a gunfight!" (See his book by that title.) 

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In his book, Sixguns, Elmer told about shooting at the animal.  I think it was with a hot 44 (his favorite) and was about 850 yards.  He did have a spotter and he hit on the third shot.

 

He had already shot the animal in the first place with a rifle, then finished it with the pistol.

 

After the 44 Magnum came out, he thought it was a little hotter than needed.  He preferred 1200 to 1300 f/s.

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I really doubt that there was that many show downs like Bill and Dave did .

I would bet most shootings was in the back .

And he never knew if it was a squaw grip or not .

Just sayin 

Rooster 

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From what I understand, the laws were different then.

If someone seriously threatened to kill you, you were allowed to take action to defend yourself BEFORE they got a chance to kill you.

 

So, yes, some back shooting, etc.

 

There were many well documented face off's, but not they were not common.  In facet, except for a very few areas & times, shootings were much more rare than a modern city.

 

The main point -  The principles Wyatt mentions apply - whether you use one hand or two.

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One of Elmer Keith's stories was about a bully that had beaten him up.  The sheriff told him to pack a gun and kill the bastard if he saw him.  Said he was "paid for". The general opinion was that the bully was not a good citizen and the community would be better off without him.  Elmer was attending some junior college classes.  He showed up wearing his handgun in his belt and holster.  He took it off and stuffed it under his seat.   The teacher and classmates watch in question.  Elmer took a note the sheriff had given him to the teacher.  The teacher read the note and announced to the class that Elmer was wearing the gun for his protection and not to bother the gun. 'Nuff said.  Apparently the bully got wind of the fact that Elmer was armed and had permission to shoot him on sight and vacated the country. 

 

I've looked for my copy of He'll I Was There and not found it.   I sent my son a message asking if he had it.  He does but said he left his copy here.  I have the book Sixguns and several other Keith books. Maybe it'll turn up. 

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6 hours ago, Marauder SASS #13056 said:

As to the "squaw grip"  a few manuals actually encouraged it's use for more distant shots.

A main influence was that many were trained to shoot from a horse, so one handed was obviously better.

 

Elmer Keith validated that a one-handed draw was the fastest, but also mentioned that for more accurate shooting, two handed was better.

 

Were these manuals written in the 19th century or the 20th?  Elmer Keith was born in 1899. 

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26 minutes ago, Rance - SASS # 54090 said:

Interesting reading from all yer posts fella's..

Very interesting..

Thanks 

Rance ;)

 

See if you can find a copy of Hell I was there by Elmer Keith.  Great writer, lots of good stories. 

 

 

Take a look at the Keith #5 from 1929.  Looks pretty familiar to today's custom guns.  Elmer was ahead of his time. 

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So, I guess that quote about not going to a gunfight with a handgun kinda supports the idea that the Earp's didn't go to the OK Corral to kill them Cowboys ('cept for ol Doc, he did have that 10 gauge, maybe he was expecting or wanting gunplay?)

 

Wyatt (no not the real one, he's long gone)

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If my memory of Wyatt Earp is correct most of his law enforcement encounters ended with him wacking a malcontent over the head with his pistol barrel.   If you have ever visited a frontier bar you will notice that they are often proud to point out all the bullet holes in the walls.   Most pistol involved gun play was one drunk shooting at another.  They weren't exactly Clint Eastwood's man with no name.  They were miserable shots who didn't know a thing about gun play.   Rarely did real gunmen tackle each other.  In one famous encounter,  Wild Bill and John Wesley Hardin found a way to end their differences peacefully.  Neither said a bad thing about the other guy.  Why, they both knew that if they drew on each other they would both die.  They weren't stupid after all. 

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One of the manuals was a 19th century army manual. 

 

Several of the old timers mentioned using two hands for longer shots.  I think Elmer mentioned that as well in his research.  But for a fast, close shot, one handed was much quicker and could be reasonably accurate.

 

We seem to have almost a "religious" idea about how they shot and how they did not know of the natural accuracy available with two hands as well as using a "prop" to steady the gun.  They were very practical folks.

 

One old Texan did share how his ancestors taught him how to shoot from a horse.

They would "ring a tree."  Ride around the horse and "snap" shoot the tree.  Essentially throwing the bullet at the tree - this quick movement helped to avoid the problem of bouncing on a horse. 

 

Often, when I shot duelist, I used that technique with success.

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I was small and it was probably 60 years ago when I lestened to my uncle by marriage tell a story about his great uncle.  He was in the War for the Southern Conferencey.  Uncle said his great uncle kept a cap and ball revolver loaded and wrapped in an oil cloth and placed above a cupboard.  Each Sunday afternoon he would take it down, shoot it out,  clean,  load and replace it above the cupboard.   He said he shot in the snap shoot fashion you mention.  Just look at the target and throw the gun at it. When your arm is straight, pull the trigger.   He said he shot at a stump some 80 yards distance. 

 

If he told the details of the brand, model or caliber, I didn't register it. 

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Back to the Elmer Keith shots at the deer at 600 yds. , the deer had been wounded by a fellow that Elmer was with. He took the shots after the other guy ran out of rifle ammo. If my memory is solid , he hit the deer twice out of his six shots. I could go read the whole thing again , but too lazy.

Rex :D

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In the last gun fight I was in I was carrying a S&W Model 64 .38 on my hip and a Remington 870 loaded with #1 buckshot. I never even considered using the handgun. The shotgun ended the gun fight in my favor.

 

Larry Earp

aka Larry Earp

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 9/29/2017 at 11:52 AM, Warden Callaway said:

Good ol' Elmer Keith.   He was born in Missouri but grew up in the north west plains.  He got to be around the ol'time guys of the frontier days. But he came into his own in the 20th century and was ahead of his time.  I can see him taking down that mule deer at 600 yards with a handgun. I don't remember the details but I suspect he used a setting position with back agains a tree or rock and knees drawn up and gun resting between them. 

 

Wouldn't it be great to be on his posse at a SASS match?  I wonder what he'd think?  Him and Ed McGivern. 

His mule deer shot was in open country and he walked the shots in.  If I remember correctly the deer had been wounded and he did the pistol shooting to stop it's suffering.  He did his long range shooting by elevating the front sight above the level of the rear sight. He had gold wires inlaid into the back of the sight that gave him a reference point for such shots.

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A bit OT but - I really miss Texas Man's stories .......  <_<

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