FANCY GUN HOLSTERS
Apparently not! Lets take a quick look back down that winding, twisting trail I have led you on through the previous chapters. I cannot think of one of the desperate characters mentioned who used a fancy tooled low-slung rig. Remember John Westley Hardin, captured when his pistol’s hammer hung up on his suspenders when he tried to draw it from his waist band? Another fellow named Con Gibson had the same thing happen to him in a gunfight in New Mexico, in 1894 with the same disastrous results.
A review of historical records reveal few gun-fights that involved holsters. Referring back to John Westley Hardin, he used a cord around his neck, his waistband and leather lined pockets.
Then there was Dallas Stoudenmier, from the long rambling El Paso chapters, He also carried his pistols in leather lined pockets of his coat. His long gun for distance and the one with the shortened barrel for close work.
Bill Hitchcock favored tucking his guns into a long sash wrapped around his waist. Then many times when two people decided to shoot it out one had to wait while the other ran to get his gun from his room or where ever he kept it. Many of the people in the old west just did not go around “heeled” as depicted on TV and the movies. Also remember there were ordinances in effect in most town that forbade the practice of carrying guns. Recall Ike Clanton was not armed at the gunfight at the OK Corral and fled the fight.
GUN SAFETY SKILLS OF THESE CLOWNS
Through out these recorded gunfights shooting and saftey skills was one thing that seemed to be universally lacking. Killing Jim Miller and Sheriff Frasier from a few steps back are a prime example. Frasier shot Miller from close range on two occasions from basically ambush and failed to kill him. Well the fact that Miller wore the steel plate under his coat helped. But he did wound him in other places with little effect. Miller enlisted the help of others in his attempt at revenge.
One of the Miller Hench-men Mannie Clements managed to shoot himself in June of 1895, Clements loaded all six cylinders of his pistol and tossed it on the bed, the gun discharged and hit him in the hip. In less than three days a second Hench-man Mart Hardin, (brother to John Westley Hardin), hopped out of a buggy and his pistol fell from his pocket and discharged. Entering under the right shoulder blade and lodging in the muscles of his neck. He also had loaded all six chambers of his pistol. A practice that was always advised against. and one that all shooting clubs in The USA forbid in competition shooting.
Also on one occasion it was recorded that Wyatt Earp allowed a pistol to fall out of a pocket and narrowly missed shooting himself. Wyatt also is quoted as saying “I never used any fancy rigs or tricks. I just tried to pull my pistol out and make sure I hit what I was shooting at.” I have buried somewhere in my books that there are only six shooting incidents recorded involving Wyatt Earp. This encompasses Dodge City as well as Tombstone.
In all my books these people who I have written about so far where photos exist are shown wearing suits with coats and vests and some sort of tie. I know that this does not fit the image portrayed in the wild west movies and maybe did not reflect every day living dress, but remember these fellows were by large city dwelling folk and for the most part practiced the trade of gambling. I know Wes Harding, Print Olive and some of the others worked the trail drives and plied the rustling racket and did not dress like a city dude while on the trail. But there is no mention of how they carried their weapons either.
I know I have covered this in the past way back down the trail, so will be brief. Early holsters for the most part were military holsters. Until after the Civil War it was not common practice for people to carry pistols, until the opening of the west began. With the rise of the outlaw gangs after the war it became more common. Hand-guns were large things and heavy. Believe me I can attest to that, strap on a double gun rig add a large knife and thirty rounds of ammunition and you probably have near to fifteen pounds of extra weight ridding on your hips. By the end of a shooting day you will willingly shed it at the first opportunity. As I started to say, military holsters were largely the first. They came with flaps to protect the pistol from the elements and dirt. At some time fellows started to tuck the flap back or cut it off to facilitate a quicker response to dragging it out.
Then cane the Californian Slim Jim, a snug fitting holster that had a high side over the cylinder and snugly gripped the trigger guard to keep the weapon from falling out. Later the side was lowered somewhat for quicker release. The Mexican Buscallaro came along and this is the gun-rig you see in the movies today. It is unpractical for sitting, riding and would be in the way of a working cowboy. But this has all been covered again so is redundant here. Shoulder holsters were in use and evident. And Jessie James was reported to utilize a double rig at times. The only thing about a set of shoulder holsters with a set of big pistols is the damn things get in the way of your arm movement, think about it..
Yes, I do have numerous pictures of holstered pistols and ammo belts. Mostly on far ranging lawmen like the Texas and Arizona Rangers. Some with double belts of ammo, one for the pistol with the holstered weapon and usually a belt of rifle Ammo wrapped around the belly above. These are men who look like they mean business, and I will soon give attention to them. I simply want to give you the reason they existed first. Almost to a man these men wear their guns high in a cross draw holster, for the reasons I have given above.
Well this rambling mess was a prelude to the next chapter. A fellow who was a little more flamboyant.
Once again thanks for listening to a old duffer ramble.