In the November 2016 issue of True West, Bob Boze Bell’s picture shows “Wild Bill” Hickok with his Navy Colt pointed to the sky. Why?
Fountain Hills, Arizona
Jim Dunham, a gun expert and the director of Special Projects at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia, explains: “I have fired my Colt 2nd Generation 1851 Navies quite a bit, and I can tell you that, if you just cock the hammer following recoil, broken pieces of the cap will often fall into the action and cause a jam. So cap-and-ball shooters point the barrel skyward to let the cap fall clear, but sometimes one has to use the free hand to assist.”
Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. . His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org