Old West Gun Question

Hey 3.5 Readers.

Writing How the West Was Zombed has made me realize I don’t know a lot about guns, be they from the past or the present.  Kind of difficult as I’m not really a gun person.  I’m clumsy and accident prone, thus fairly certain I’d shoot myself if I ever had one.

It dawned on me it might be worth a trip to a gun range for an afternoon some day if I’m going to persist in my attempts to become a novelist, seeing as how characters often end up shooting guns no matter what time period the novel is set in.

But I’m certain I would shoot myself in the foot so studying the subject from afar will have to do.

But I’ve seen something in many cowboy movies that I’d like to incorporate into the novel but I don’t understand it.

Below is a video of the infamous “Shootout at the OK Corral” scene from Tombstone starring Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday and Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp.

Tombstone – 1993 – Posted by Thell Reed, Gunman on Youtube

See around 1:40 where Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday slaps the back of his gun a bunch of times real fast?  Clint Eastwood did that in his movies too.

Why did they slap the back of their guns so fast?  I assume it was some kind of a trick to make the gun shoot faster.  If you’re a gun person, please explain it to me.

I’ve searched the Interwebs and alas, there’s not much info about old West shooting.

Part of me wonders how much I need to learn, another part wonders if the reader cares to know much more than a zombie was shot.

By the way, this movie is badass.  Can’t believe it is so old now I remember watching it when it came out like it was yesterday.  This was probably one of Val’s best performances.

Rewatching it this year made me realize I needed to keep pressing on with writing Zombed. Westerns seemed like they were going out of style even in the 1990’s though movies like this one still managed to keep people interested.

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20 thoughts on “Old West Gun Question

  1. you cock the hammer to prime the shot. Then it’s a quick trigger pull to fire. The slamming the hand down is a flashy and fast way to cock the trigger.
    Did you get the idea to go to the gun range from my blog post on Firearms?

    • So what would you normally do? Just pull the hammer back with your thumb one time? I know in the movies whenever someone needs to be surprised that a gun is pointed at them you hear the click and then there will be a dude rubbing his thumb down the back of the gun.

      Anyway, as seen above, it looks awesome on film. I can really think of a way to describe it so that is interesting to the 3.5 readers. There are so many things I can see in my mind that would look great on film but try to explain them in writing and I get stuck or it doesn’t do it justice.

      I didn’t see your blog post but did you try out the shooting range? I am just unlucky with everything I try and am convinced I would shoot myself or the gun would explode in my hand or something.

      • So some revolvers do a double action where you just pull the trigger further and it cocks and then fires for you. Yes the cocking thing looks cool in a movie. Is needed in a book or even a smart thing to describe, I’m not so sure.
        I’m doing a series of posts about things covered at panels at Norwescon this year. You should check them out.
        And um, I am familiar with guns in the real world.

      • Cool I will have to check it out.

        So I have to admit my Doc is based on this Doc. Sleazy, smart, sophisticated. My Doc is also stupid though whereas this one is smart.

        Doc Farraday will probably get a last name change in the rewrite so a sequel can have Doc Holliday.

        Originally, I thought there might be sequels with Slade and Gunther and cameos by real cowboys like Earp, Holliday, etc. but Slade kind of ended up crapping the bed as a character with any kind of long term interest so real cowboys will be taking the show over.

      • ROFL. Gunther. Gunther is the star. You lost sight of that. He’s getting funny again though.
        I’ve been thinking on why you’re floundering a smidge. You need to decide is this a comedy western zombie trilogy or a serious western zombie trilogy? Then really rev it in that direction.

      • Comedy action I feel that’s mostly everything I do

      • Perfect. you can even play with the slade not being the star thing that way. Have some scene where he gets killed and people are losing their shit and then Gunther can be like, “can you grunt?” hapless person nods. “Great. Then we’re back in business.”

      • Eh…that’s funny but I don’t want the poor guy to die.

        You know the best way I can describe it is Buffy the Vampire Slayer i.e. Joss Whedon was a big influence for me. Very funny but also the story kept moving, there was also action, serious parts, sad parts etc.

        Slade dying and then being replaced by a look alike grunter would enter like Blazing Saddles territory.

        Moving forward, I foresee in the next novel Calamity Jane will discover the names of the Legion Corp’s Board of Directors, who will be a mix of real and fictional Wild West villains.

        Future novels will feature some real Wild West heroes and some fictional ones going up against different board members.

        Old Slade who becomes more interesting 20 years later vs. “The Chairman”

        Cut. Print. Gimmie my Amazon check so I can move on to other stuff.

        Ambitious though since I’m having a hard time getting one novel done.

      • Even Joss saw an end to Buffy, which is why she died at the end of Season five. That whole her coming back from the dead bs was not Joss, that was the network not wanting to give up a cash cow. They did the next two seasons without him, which is why they kind of suck.
        Your personality is gunther, he’s comedy gold. Slade is his foil.

      • Yes…and Angel started out good and then got stinky towards the last few seasons, to date I’ve never been able to finish it though I thought about it just out of curiosity since its on Netflix.

        Anyway, that’s basically the style I’m going for.

        I wanted to write a stand alone my first time out but I have a tendency to make everything difficult.

        If I get to the end of this, I think it will get easier as future novels will be take already well known story of a famous cowboy’s life and add zombies.

      • You missed the point. Kill SLADE. Gunther is the real hero.

      • Oh I can’t kill Slade. Attorney Donnelly advises me I can’t call the last book “True Grit + Zombies” but it’ll have an air of that. In theory. If I ever finish anything.

        It is hard to commit. I can’t really do more than one book a year so to say this is what I’m going to do for like 5 years is a big statement.

    • Did you read chapter 70? Some big Doc reveals!

  2. jimleeauthor says:

    Not a big gun person myself, but what tahenryauthoress said above is correct. Not positive but believe I’ve heard it referred to before as “fanning” the hammer. One thing to consider is, while allowing you to get off a bunch of shots very quickly, accuracy tends to be sacrificed.

  3. Green Embers says:

    One thing the movies, tv and even books gloss over is that guns are loud, very loud. Even with a suppressor guns are loud. So people who are firing guns repeatedly really can’t hold a conversation immediately afterword because they can’t really hear. Here is a good article talking about silencers and has some general gun knowledge too: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/12/learning-the-science-behind-silencers-on-the-range-with-silencerco/

  4. isilkemp says:

    I think you already know what you need to do. Practical experience is irreplaceable for a writer. “Write what you know,” as they say. Get familiar with the operation of firearms, and your writing on the subject will become much more believable. You might even have some fun along the way!

    By the way, you’re totally right. This is one of the greatest Westerns ever, second only to Lonesome Dove.

  5. jameswindale says:

    Look into firearm training schools that teach the fundamentals of gun safety and usage. They’ll teach you the correct way to load and fire a gun safely, without all the Hollywood baloney that gets put into TV shows and movies. Most of the time it’s a classroom setting intended to get you set up for a gun license and most instructors are NRA certified so they know what they’re talking about. They’ll start you off with something small caliber like .22 in a pistol or revolver. There’s not much kick in a small round like that and you’ll be in a class with novices from kids to little old ladies most likely.

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