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Did Old West gunfighters really tie down their holsters?

Tom Sakely
Warren, Michigan

Most experts say a tie-down buscadero rig was a 20th-century Hollywood creation. It looked cool and the fast draw guys could have shootouts. Photos indicate there were some exceptions—but that’s just what they were.

gun holster true west magazine
As the star of the TV series The Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore wore a Edward Bohlin designed double-holster buscadero gun rig. — ALL IMAGES COURTESY TRUE WEST ARCHIVES UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED —

Traditionally, the most common holster in the Old West was the Mexican Loop, where the holster flap goes over the top of the belt and is loose. It doesn’t need a tie-down. Truth is, the pistol waist-high or slightly below enables a shootist to get the gun in action faster than a low-slung buscadero. Besides, those Hollywood-style shootouts, a staple in the movies, were very rare in the real West.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.

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