Marshall Trimble Ask The Marshall Gunfights True West Magazine

What was the most effective stance for an Old West gunfighter?

Michael Westlund
Clarkdale, Arizona

I ran this by my cousin, Bill Rogers, a former Marine and retired sergeant from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, who replies: “The side stance is properly called the ‘Weaver’s Stance.’ Its advantage was in target shooting, with one eye open. This was the ‘old’ way that police officers were taught. That’s the way that USMC [United States Marine Corps] taught me also in 1975, when I shot the Model 1911 Colt. It is still an acceptable way to shoot.

“The other stance is known as the ‘Combat’ firing position, at least by the officers I’ve known. One advantage in this position is the ability to move from left to right, or right to left, as you follow a moving target.”

In terms of the Old West, the Weaver’s Stance provided the opponent with a smaller target. “Wild Bill” Hickok and Dave Tutt reportedly both assumed this stance in their July 1865 shoot-out. More often, this was the position taken during formal pistol duels. Gunfighters didn’t have much time to think
through things.

Does it matter if the shootist aims with one eye open or two? Nope. The practice is just shooter preference.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

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