Guns, Firearms, Projectile Weapon Sports/Shooting from the


QUESTION: I have been watching a friends CD containing all of John Wayne's movies all the way back into the early 1930's (what a great resource for viewing what this country looked like before the highways and tourist traffic messed up all those pristine western wilderness areas).

I want to know the "real deal" in terms of how "accurate" say a Colt 45 was, in the hands of a true "marksman", when such sidearm was pulled from a holster in the blink of an eye, and essentially "fired from the hip" at a target (12 inch overall diameter) with a 3 inch diameter "bulls-eye" and lets just for the sake of argument, place the target 80 feet away, at the approximate height of "heart level" for a 6'1" tall "bad-guy".

Over the years I have seen so many movies or shows(Cat Ballou, Wild Wild West, Clint Eastwood see:

You get the picture.

Then there is of course Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans shown shooting bottles off a fence rail or "out of the air" while riding on horseback, at a full gallop none the less!

Given my assumed limitations on precision and accuracy due to a short barrel on such hand pieces, what is the difference between what you know to be "real" about handgun accuracy and what is probably Hollywood fiction?

Would shooting from the hip be in practice, kind of like how my dad's P-47, equipped with 8 x 50 caliber wing mounted machine guns was "sighted in" such that there was a "sweet spot" somewhere out yonder, where those 8 rounds coalesced onto one spot, making one helluva brutal metallic punch into anything unlucky enough to be inside that maelstrom.

In other words, since the eyes are so far removed or "offset" from from the gun bore's true aim, there must be some sort of learned "triangulation effect", or what is it called? How would or does one go about compensating for the visual offset in perceived "line of sight" to target, versus the gun bore's true directional aim?


ANSWER: Steve,

There are many factors and components to answering your question, but let me try to break it down.

The Colt 1873 Single Action Army was an unbelievable gun in its day. Machining was not what it is today in terms of consistency, but lets say on average that most specimens of that gun placed in a machine rest could probably shoot into 2" @ 75'.

The sights on those guns were quite small, and except for target shooting, few people would use them. However, this does not mean that firing was unsighted. Those who were good would learn to use other features on the gun as a visual index. This would allow a competent gunman to keep shots within a six inch circle at 6-10 feet, the average distance of gunfights then and now.

Some people like "Wild Bill" Hickok had keen eye sight. His amazing success as a handgunner was due to his ability to use his sights quickly and accurately when others were shooting (and missing) from the hip.

Once in a while someone would come along who could do super-human things with a gun like that. For a modern example look on YouTube for "Bob Munden." I am a competent and quick marksman who has won my share of tactical pistol competitions, but if I lived back in the days of the western settlement and were a gun fighter confident in my skills, it would be my great misfortune to come up against someone like Bob Munden.

In short, shooting from the hip *can* by done quickly and accurately, but not by most people. It is an almost super-human skill.

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QUESTION: Dear GCH, since you are not accepting ratings, I wanted to tell you anyway how much I appreciate your answer. Thank you for the additional references to Bob Munden, I will definitely check this guy out! I forgot to mention "Wild Bill" among the great shootists'(1) of non fiction folklore.

(1) A rather sad movie the "Duke" made nearing the end of his life due to cancer see( "The Shootist".

People around my age will never forget the character of Inspector Harold Francis Callahan, uttering these words to the Punk, "Go ahead, make my day".

Then finally, last but certainly not least, the non-fictional character of Ms. Annie Oakley (Wikipedia shares this following quote of hers:

"Aim at the high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally you'll hit the bull's-eye of success".

Annie Oakley , Annie Oakley exhibit at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas

To your knowledge, were either Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans known as "crack-shots" with a side arm or rifle? Or, was it much more likely that Roy and Dale were "experts" at handling only a "short arm" instead?

Lastly, I never considered a "bar-fight" (6 to 10 feet distance) ending in gun battle a "real" testing of a gunfighters true potential. Not like meeting someone at high noon in the middle of a deserted main street, for a "show-down" of their "True Grit" See: (

Finally, I have a pair of "French Parlor Rifles" (22cal. short-shorts). One gun stock is curved for right shoulder use, while the other gun stock is curved for left shoulder use. The bow in the stocks is quite noticeable, and if one attempts holding one of the guns on the "wrong" shoulder, it is obvious that "something is wrong with this picture".

Are most guns nowadays "generic" in terms of their "orientation" you know, swings "left" and swings "right"?

Thank you!



1) I'm not a big movie guy, so can't tell you about Roy Rogers or Dale Evans. The Shootist was a great movie. The J.B. Books character's comment to Ron Howard when he was surprised that he was "almost as accurate" as Books was about as real as it gets - something like, "Other men will hesitate - draw a breath or blink an eye before they shoot - I won't."

2) With regard to "real gunfighters," you're confusing show marksmen with "real gunfighters." Read anything by Bill Jordan (Border Patrol agent a couple of generations ago). Gun fights then and now usually take place with someone's hand's around someone's throat or hitting them with an object, or deflecting the other guy's gun from your face or stomach while you shoot. I've never had to do anything like that (thankfully) except in training with simunitions, but a lot of great marksman fall to pieces under that kind of stress. Acrobatics with a gun and fighting are two different things.

3) Guns today are made as ambidextrous as possible, not only to cut down on production expense, but because a competent gun-handler can use the gun with either hand to accommodate injuries for use of cover (shooting around a left barricade requires transitioning the rifle to the left shoulder to minimize exposure to the threat). The best, most trained gunmen (I use the term deliberately) can shoot, load, reload, and clear malfunctions in an auto rifle or pistol with both hands or either hand with little if any preference for which hand they are using.

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I CAN answer questions related to defensive use of firearms, tactics, prudent modifications of firearms, utility of certain types of firearms. My greatest knowledge is in the area of handguns. PLEASE READ BEFORE SENDING QUESTIONS: I CAN NOT identify antique guns or those that are old and out-of-production. I CAN NOT tell you the value of your firearms. I CAN NOT tell you the history of your guns. I CAN NOT supply information about cheap, inherently unsafe firearms (e.g. Jimenez, Jennings, Lorcin).


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