Not a single chance!
Another myth was fighters who shot at the same time from two revolvers, never missing their victims. To begin with, even wearing two revolvers, each four pounds in weight, was very tiring, and few did. And at the same time it was almost impossible to shoot accurately from them. Equally impossible was accurate shooting from a hip revolver, so popular in Hollywood westerns.
In westerns you can often see how the hero, like a real circus performer, turns a revolver on his finger, after which he accurately hits his opponents. This is another fiction of American cinema. As we saw above, to hit the target from revolvers of the late 19th century was not easy, even aiming well, and even after such juggling is generally impossible. In the 1920s, a certain enthusiast placed an advertisement in numerous newspapers and magazines in which he offered to pay $ 1,000 – huge money for those times – to anyone who could turn a revolver and then get out of it even from the smallest, most ridiculous distance . The money remained unpaid.
Arrows of the Wild West. Sheriffs, bandits, cowboys, gunfighters
Wild West Prison Cage
And yet, due to what in those turbulent times did some people defeat others under equal battle conditions? Wild Bill Hickcock explained this to his friend who defeated him in target shooting: “You can beat me in shooting these little black spots, but if it comes to shooting people, I will beat you.” It was not the excellent accuracy and speed of handling weapons that distinguished the heroes of the Wild West from ordinary inhabitants, but the internal rigidity, composure and complete indifference to their own and others’ lives. Even the number of rivals killed was not always an indicator of the seriousness of a fighter. Bet Masterson or John Ringo had two or three corpses in their counts, but they had such a decisive character that this alone was enough to cool the fervor of squabble lovers. And without a loop of corpses they were considered extremely dangerous people.
But even among such fighters, few dared to go face to face in an honest duel, without which the worst inferior western is not complete. The duels in which two cold-blooded, ruthless fighters went out into a deserted dusty street, released a couple of harsh phrases, and then pulled out revolvers and shot at each other with lightning speed, in reality they were an extremely rare occurrence in the real Wild West. Such scenes became “classic” only thanks to tabloid novels and flooded the screens of the whole world with Hollywood and then Italian westerns . Few, even from among the excellent shooters, in their right mind decided on such heroism. As one researcher sarcastically remarked: “Just look at the surgical instruments of that period to understand the wisdom of people who did not want to be shot.” Time was cruel, skirmishes numerous, and sentiments unpopular. Enemies were usually killed from around the corner, from the darkness, made unarmed or stole from the back. Famous fighters such as Jesse James, Wes Hardin, and Wild Bill Hickcock were shot in the back of the head, while the infamous Billy Kid was shot dead in the dark by Pat Garrett. The basic principle was not to leave the enemy any chance of a retaliatory shot. Often, one person was attacked by several shooters at once. The fallen enemy was usually finished off with point-blank shots, even if by that time he was clearly already dead … Not a single chance!
Yet dueling did happen. People who had the courage to go out on them are called gunfighters. This term in Russian-language literature is usually translated as “arrows”, which does not quite accurately reflect its essence. A “shooter” is any person who makes a living with a weapon, whether it is a bandit or a representative of the law. The Texan Bill Longley, for example, killed many people, but always avoided face-to-face collisions, trying to catch his opponents by surprise. Therefore, it cannot be considered a gunfighter. But Wild Bill Hickcock was such, because he went to open fights.
The era of gunfighters began after the Civil War and reached its peak in the 1870-1880s, sweeping across Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, California, Missouri and Colorado. The war between the North and the South gave rise to a large number of criminals, many of whom came from the partisan detachment of the Southerners, the Riders of Quintrille. But the term “gunfighter” was not widely adopted until the end of the 1870s. Prior to this, people who constantly carried weapons and used them without hesitation were called “man-killers” – “killers”. And there was no difference on which side the person stood – law or lawlessness, he still remained a murderer, although it is worth recognizing that in those days this word had a less harsh tone than today. It often happened that former criminals became representatives of the law and with the help of weapons established order in the town entrusted to them.