Wild Bill Hickok’s reputation as a gunfighter may be blown out of proportion but there’s no doubt, he was an excellent shot. He put a bullet in the heart of Dave Tutt from seventy-five yards away. Wild Bill frequently put on public exhibitions to show off his marksmanship. He could walk along alternately firing with each hand and keep a tin can dancing in front of him.
Old timers claimed Wild Bill could group his shots within 5 inches from a distance of fifty yards. A friend of Hickok’s said he could toss a can 15 feet into the air, draw his pistol and put two holes in the can before it could hit the ground. Still another claimed he saw the shootist put six pistol balls into a letter O on a signboard some sixty yards away—without sighting the pistol with his eye. Wyatt Earp said he saw Hickok do the same thing in Kansas City from a hundred yards. Sounds like first liar here doesn’t stand a chance.
No doubt Hickok spent a lot of time practicing his trade. Stories claiming to have seen shooters like Wild Bill walking along with both pistols firing alternately, keeping a tin can dancing to the rhythm of his gunshots, are not beyond the realm of possibility but one should remember that after a few shots the smoke would be so thick it would be impossible to even see the tin can. Or, maybe that’s why he kept walking.