Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal
Wyatt Earp. 1848 – 1929
“I was a fair hand with pistol, rifle, or shotgun, but I learned more about gunfighting from Tom Speer’s cronies during the summer of ’71 than I had dreamed was in the book. Those old-timers took their gunplay seriously, which was natural under the conditions in which they lived. Shooting, to them, was considerably more than aiming at a mark and pulling a trigger. Models of weapons, methods of wearing them, means of getting them into action and operating them, all to the one end of combining high speed with absolute accuracy, contributed to the frontiersman’s shooting skill. The sought-after degree of proficiency was that which could turn to most effective account the split-second between life and death. Hours upon hours of practice, and wide experience in actualities supported their arguments over style.
The most important lesson I learned from those proficient gunfighters was the winner of a gunplay usually was the man who took his time. The second was that, if I hoped to live long on the frontier, I would shun flashy trick-shooting—grandstand play—as I would poison.
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.
In all my life as a frontier police officer, I did not know a really proficient gunfighter who had anything but contempt for the gun-fanner, or the man who literally shot from the hip. In later years I read a great deal about this type of gunplay, supposedly employed by men noted for skill with a forty-five.
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.
I saw Jack Gallagher’s theory borne out so many times in deadly operation that I was never tempted to forsake the principles of gunfighting as I had them from him and his associates.”
I am not sure I could have put it any better. I have worked with top tier military professionals and those who trained them. Through my experience in both training and the two way ranges overseas and here in the states, I have encountered this subject many times. I will never forget the words of a DEVGRU operator, who I learned a great deal from. ‘”You can’t miss fast enough to win.” I didn’t have to think long about that bit of advice. Take the average shots fired here in America or the “spray and prey.” Say the drive-by shooting, I have been to, let’s say a lot, of calls regarding this. How many times was the intended target hit? In my experience, zero. Others in the area weren’t so lucky. This is not limited to thugs, I see this in a profession of arms as well. Not on a personal level, from national statistics, every OIS I’ve been in had a hit factor of 100%. You’ve heard the news of seen the articles. Several officers shoot at s suspect, 40 shots fired, 12 hit. There are many factors at play in those situations and make for a very long drawn out conversation and full debrief. I won’t get into all that, because there is a gross deviation from the words of wisdom from a legend that we just read. Being able to slow the situation down in your mind.