Wild Bill Hickok for the Modern Age

Dec 20th, 2012 | By | Category: Africa, Asia, Europe, Historical, Latin America, Mexico, Middle East, Military/LE, News, North America, Strategies, Tactics

Of all the gunslingers of the American West, none has such cross-cultural, historical recognition as a Wild Bill Hickok. Almost always depicted in photos with his favorite pair of cap and ball Colt 1851 .36 caliber Navy Model revolvers, the question was whether he drew them simultaneously, or used the second pistol sequentially, as he ran out of ammo in his primary.

Many say he used both at the same time, and this is how it has been depicted in film for decades. It would have probably gone down in history as just another interesting note in history, if not for an incident during the Vietnam War.

During the police action, a US Army sniper was caught in an ambush, and because of how quickly he was being overrun, went to his .38 Special revolver. When interviewed, he stated that had he remained on his rifle, he would have easily been overrun and killed. As it was, he went running through the onslaught and shot them down at extremely close ranges, as he passed through their lines. When I saw the piece on the History Channel, I wondered what would be the viability of such a practice. Would it be worth training to be able to shoot two pistols simultaneously?

Even with some Special Forces, where being ambidextrous is thought of as an asset, it’s taught to favor your strong side over the other. Take the Israeli Duvdevan, they prefer to keep the weapon on the strong side, even when trying to get around a corner that would favor the other.

We’ve been taught to be able to go to the weak side with our weapon should the strong arm go down to injury, but being taught to actually use a firearm in both hands is not taught. Only in movies do we see two-handed simultaneously fired weapons, most significantly in the films about Wild Bill Hickok, of course.

All in the Eyes

So, the question arises, how do you feasibly  shoot two pistols at the same time? Can’t split your eyes and have your left eye track down your left handgun’s sight, and the right eye aiming down the right—or can you?

It’s not perfect, but peripheral vision can be a definite asset in dealing with such an idea. Don’t we all have the ability to point with fingers, without having to specifically look at what we’re pointing at? Point shooting is partly based on this principle. It’s not target shooting, but most combat shooting is nothing like target shooting, especially at ranges under 10 yards.

Much is made about Wild Bill Hickok’s street gunfights, how he had taken his time to aim at Davis Tutt, in the gunfight that made him a household name in the United States. If you were to look at the sights on his two pistols, they’re small and almost the size of a shotgun bead. Using a gold, or ivory, shotgun bead as a front sight with the back sight filed down is a very old point shooting technique. The purpose is to keep you from trying take the time to sight and instead to literally just point.

Have you the seen the latest from LWRC?
During WWII, Colonel Rex Applegate, who was handpicked by Wild Bill Donovan to build and run the OSS’s School for Spies and Assassins, put together a book titled KILL OR GET KILLED. In it he outlined the best way in which to use the pistol not as just a defensive weapon, but mainly as an overt, offensive close-quarter weapon on par with offensive use firearms of the time. Now back then, most of the firearms were long, infantry rifles like th M1 Garand and the 1903 Springfield. But, there was also the Thompson submachine gun, the M1 carbine, and the Winchester Model 12 pump shotgun, the first and last which more than proved themselves in close battle in the trenches of WWI.

Basically, Col. Applegate’s training is based under the assumption that perfect alignment of the centerline of the shooter to the target, and proper placement of the pistol in the hand, so that there is a  straight line down the forearm to the muzzle of the pistol will improve the chance of a good hit. Have the pistol off line, and guaranteed to miss.

WATCH the training film put out by the War Department, teaching the method propagated by Col. Applegate:

Since you’re not using the sights, as per a more traditional stance, I thought it a great form to follow in order to at least get on the target. What I found is that if I used my peripheral to focus on target and point my firearms as an extension of my body, something most of us can do easily pointing our index fingers at two different objects, I was on camera able to hit the target.

Now this is just a study in its initial stages, in upcoming episodes we’ll more accurately replicate combat conditions by having the targets move and also move ourselves. Then, we’ll add poor lighting and that’ll really bring it to peak. Stay tuned!

WATCH the latest supporting episode of GCT TV:

Cork Graham is the publisher of GCT Magazine and Cork’s Outdoors. A former CIA paramilitary operations officer and combat photographer, he wrote the international best-selling Vietnam prison/treasure hunt memoir The Bamboo Chest. For his latest books, writings, and appearances, follow him at www.corkgraham.com, Facebook and Twitter. He is a co-instructor with ETS, for more information visit: www.emergencytacticalskills.com

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