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In the Old West, It was Better to be Lucky

In the Old West, It was Better to be Lucky
September 02
08:27 2021

It’s Better to be Lucky Than Good

Wyatt Earp in 1874

Ever since the age of the gunfighter emerged in the mid-19th century men have gathered to argue over the best method of being a shootist.

Was it better to get your Colt out faster than your opponent; or more advantageous to make the first – and potentially last – shot count?

Wyatt Earp said the secret of his success was “deliberate quickness.” He drew his pistol as swift as he could while taking care to put that first bullet where he wanted it.

It must have worked, because in all of his shoot-outs – including the Gunfight at the OK Corral – Earp was never wounded.

Earp’s closest brush with injury may have come in Dodge City when he sat in a chair and his gun slipped from its holster and discharged when it hit the floor.

‘Wild’ Bill Hickok

Despite what you see in the movies, the classic “walk-down” – two men meeting in the middle of the street and advancing toward each other – seldom happened. Most shootings were spur of the moment affairs where the wrong word or move might end in flaming six-guns and black powder smoke.

The walk-down was employed in one of the earliest gunfights recorded in the Old West. That was when James “Wild Bill” Hickok met Dave Tutt at high noon. (Actually, it was later in the afternoon!).

Old-time pistols were not very accurate beyond about 25-feet, which made what Hickok did legendary. The two men stopped 75-yards apart and opened fire.

Tutt was faster on the draw – but not so good with his marksmanship. He fired several harmless shots. Hickok balanced his gun over his left arm and took careful aim. While under fire himself, Wild Bill’s one shot struck Tutt in the heart.

Jim Courtright

Maybe the question shouldn’t be between a fast draw and careful aiming. Sometimes its better to be lucky than good.

That was the case in El Paso when gunman “Longhair Jim” Courtwright slapped leather against pint-sized gambler Luke Short in a face-to-face fracas.

There was no question who was quicker on the draw, as Courtwright yanked his gun before Short had time to react. But Courtwright was wearing a pocket match with a long chain and his gun muzzle got caught in it!

With the few extra seconds, Short got his own pistol out and went to work. Short was neither fast on the draw nor particularly accurate. But he was extremely lucky.

His first shot missed the man standing right in front of him – but ended up shooting off Courtwright’s trigger finger! Courtwright attempted “the border shift,” tossing his gun from one hand to the other. But this allowed Short time to take careful aim and he shot the gunfighter in the head.

In the Old West, It was Better to be Lucky - overview

Summary: In the Old West, It was Better to be Lucky


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