I’ve heard that during an Old West gunfight, the persons who drew their guns first were often the ones who got shot. Is this true?

I’ve heard that during an Old West gunfight, the persons who drew their guns first were often the ones who got shot.
Is this true?

Andrew Welchman

Max Planck Institute, Tuebingen, Germany

The man who usually won the gunfight was the one most willing to pull the trigger and kill a man without hesitation. That’s what separated great target shooters from deadly gunfighters. A gunfighter would do anything to gain an edge over his adversary.

It sounds like your tale was born out of the B-Western shoot ’em ups, where the hero in the white hat lets the bad guy draw first, then plugs him. I’ve always believed that the man who went for his gun first had a split-second advantage. Gunfighting expert Jim Dunham concurs, saying “The only absolute rule to gunfighting is put every advantage on your side. This means that starting with a gun in your hand is best, followed by jerking your six-gun first.”

For further reading, I strongly recommend Joseph Rosa’s The Gunfighter: Man or Myth. Another good book is Bill Jordan’s No Second Place Winner.

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