Friday, November 23, 2018

Gunfighters of Renown

One of the attributes centering on all Old West magazine stories is that all of them were/are well researched, documented, and presented in print. This includes "The Men Who Fired In Anger," by Bill O' Neal, as published in the 1982 Winter issue of Old West Magazine.

This story delves into the issue of famous gunfighters of the old west. Upon examination, I found that some of them I'd heard of but many more I hadn't. Of course, O'Neal's article did not examine all 249 that was part of an overall research program cited in the very first paragraph of the article.

"At what age did Westerners commence gunfighting careers? This statistic is available for 136 (55 percent) of the 249 gunmen examined. The average age for a first-timer in a shootout was 25. Of course, many individuals demonstrated early a willingness to take recourse in gunplay," says O'Neal.

Those who were involved in gunplay before or at 15 years of age:
  • Wes Hardin (History)
  • Wild Bill Longley
  • John Younger
  • Ben Thompson
  • John R. Hughes
  • Yginio Salazar

Additional gunslingers included in O'Neal's story include:
  • Cole Younger: 16 years of age he killed at man at 71 yards. (see a book reading below)
  • Billy the Kid: 17 years old killed a man who slapped him at Fort Grant in Arizona.
  • Jesse James: Killed a man in anger at the age of 17.

    A Book Reading on Cole Younger

  • Jim Miller: Suspected of killing his grandparents at the age of 8; was 17 when he was sentenced to life for killing his brother-in-law as he slept. "Miller was released on a technicality and soon became the West's premier assassin," says O'Neal.
  • Henry Brown: Was 18 when he experienced his first gun play killing a man with three slugs.
  • Seldon Lindsey: Killed a man at age 18, was acquitted, then went on to become a law enforcement officer.
  • Jim Riley: After seeing someone he admired gunned down, killed all of the men involved in the incident.
  • Ira Aten: At 18 fought a Texas Ranger.

O'Neal says that the following gunmen became involved in gun slinging at the age of 18:
  • Bob Younger
  • Charlie Bowdre
  • Cherokee Bill Goldsby
  • John Spradley
  • Tiburcio Vasquez
  • Henry Starr: This gunman was 19 when he earned his title after killing a peace officer.
  • Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce O'Rourke: Was a gambler who killed another during a card game when the latter pulled a knife (hence the old saying, 'Don't take a knife to a gunfight.').
  • Burt Alvord: Killed Six-Shooter Jim at the age of 19.

Additional gunfighters that were introduced into the exclusive gunfighter club of the old west at the age of 19:
  • Elfego Baca
  • Bill Tilghman
  • Cullen Baker

O'Neal included a number of photographs of well known and documented gunmen in the story, including the following:

  • Tom Smith
  • Doc Holliday
  • Joe Lowe
  • Bob Ford
  • John Selman
  • Jim Courtright
  • Morgan Earp
  • Bat Masterson
  • Harvey Logan (Kid Curry)
  • James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok
  • Billy Brooks
  • Pat Garrett

Be sure to see the HOT! section (look to the right) where you'll find documentaries and other videos on famous gunfighters of the old west. For the individual who would like to know more, the Old West magazine that this story came from is for sale in our shopping section.

Allan Colombo, Author

Check out Gary Miller's story, "Gunfighters Then and Now," published on Nov. 3, 2018: click here!

If you find this story interesting, consider purchasing one of the following books or DVD's on famous gunslingers. Thank you for helping us keep the lights on.


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Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Story of 'Calamity Jane'

Am I the only one who had misidentified the nick name and character of the real life Calamity Jane? That name was not all that unfamiliar when I was young, but I never paid much attention to who she really was. Somehow, I got the wrong impression that she was another fictitious or legendary character that was always falling into hard times and precarious situations like the heroine in the old 1914 era serial films called “The Perils of Pauline.”

Well, as it turns out, Calamity Jane was a real life character in the old west. But her title of fame was NOT due to her falling victim to frequent disasters, but to the contrary, it was anyone who had done her wrong that was sternly warned that they would fall victim to a 'calamity' dished out by the hands or the guns of Martha Jane Cannary (Calamity Jane). Note that some records show the spelling of her last name with just one 'n' while others indicate that there were two.

Born May 1, 1852 in Princeton, Missouri, Jane was somewhat the female counterpart of the western frontiersmen and rough and tough drifters and drunks in those days. And photos of her show her wearing mostly the clothing that the men were wearing back then.

Under the category of occupation, Wikipedia lists: “Army scout, explorer, performer, dance hall girl, prostitute, frontier woman.” As a performer, among her other appearances, she was likely a regular with the famous Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

Calamity Jane accompanied the Newton–Jenney Party into Rapid City in 1875, along with California Joe and Valentine McGillycuddy. In 1876, Calamity Jane settled in the area of Deadwood, South Dakota in the Black Hills. There she became friends with Dora DuFran, the Black Hills' leading madam, and she was occasionally employed by her. She also became friendly with Wild Bill Hickok and Charlie Utter, having traveled with them to Deadwood in Utter's wagon train (

Here's a 45-minute video on Wild Bill, followed with my final thoughts on Calamity Jane.

Until her death from pneumonia in 1903, her legend continued on with many 'stories' of her adventures as an Army scout and her rugged frontier life in general. Official records do prove however, that she actually met Wild Bill Hickok after she was stationed at Fort Laramie in July of 1876, and then joined a wagon train that Hickok was part of. But if we include the fact with the fiction in the stories of Calamity Jane, I'd say that she represents and deserves an important part of the history and of the legends of the old west.

Gary Miller, Author

Want to know more about Calamity Jane, here are some additional resources via Amazon. Please help support WMD by purchasing one. Thank you!

Movies and Documentaries About Calamity Jane


Books About Calamity Jane


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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Denzel Washington in "The Magnificent Seven" (2016)

The 2016 The Magnificent Seven is 'magnificent!'
Several days ago I had the fortune to intercept this
Denzel Washington flick on my Amazon Firestick. When I saw it was Denzel, I knew it had to be a good one.

About the Production of the Movie

The Magnificent Seven is a 2016 American western action film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk. It is a remake of the 1960 film of the same name, which in turn is a reimagining of the 1954 film Seven Samurai. The film stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, and Peter Sarsgaard. It is the final film of composer James Horner, who died the previous year after composing part of the score; his friend Simon Franglen completed the music.

Principal photography began on May 18, 2015, in the north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Magnificent Seven premiered on September 8, 2016, at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, and was released in the United States on September 23, 2016, in conventional and IMAX theatres.[4] The film received mixed reviews from critics, although the cast and action sequences were praised, and grossed $162 million worldwide.

Source: Wikipedia (

The premise of the movie is a small town, Rose Creek, under the control of a group of thugs and criminals who work for Bartholomew Bogue, the owner of a gold mine. A brave woman from the town whose husband had been killed by Bogue left town to assemble a group of men who could free the town from the grip of Bogue and his gunfighters. She asked Sam Chisolm, a licensed bounty hunter, played by Denzel Washington. She and Chisolm managed to recruit the help of six additional gunfighters on the way to Rose Creek.

The New Flick is the Best Flick

When I spoke with my partner, Gary Miller (WMD Author), about this week's Weblog article, he took the time to view both clips (trailers, below). Where originally he had said that he doubted a modern Magnificent Seven could outdo the last version, he now had to agree, the 2016 version is better then the 1960 one.

We're not the only ones who find the 2016 to be superb:

"The Magnificent Seven grossed $93.4 million in the United States Canada, and $68.9 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $162.4 million, against a net production budget of $90 million.[2] The film had a global 2D IMAX opening of $4.3 million from 606 theaters. (Wikipedia,

The movie draws you into the personalities and lives of the characters (see below for a list of main cast members). The music, the script (plot), the gun play, it all pulls you deep into the movie to the point where you're actually disappointed when the smoke clears and you realize it's over.

Here's a 9-minute sample of the movie followed by the main actors. Following this, you will have an opportunity to watch a clip from the original 1960 movie along with a listing of the main cast:

The seven 2016 magnificent seven movie includes:

  1. Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm, an African American United States Marshal warrant officer from Wichita, Kansas, and leader of the Seven.
  2. Chris Pratt as Joshua Faraday, a gambler with a fondness for explosives and card tricks.
  3. Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux, a former Confederate soldier and sharpshooter who suffers from PTSD.
  4. Vincent D'Onofrio as Jack Horne, a very religious tracker and mountain man.
  5. Byung-hun Lee as Billy Rocks, an East Asian immigrant and companion of Robicheaux. An assassin, he uses knives.
  6. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez, a Mexican outlaw who has been on the run for several months.
  7. Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest, an exiled Comanche warrior and the youngest of the Seven.

There's a similarity between the 2016 and an earlier 1960's movie. The Magnificent Seven 1960's movie centers on the need to protect a similar town, only from a Mexican gang. Both renditions features fast action that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Here's the official trailer from the earlier film:

The magnificent seven cast in the 1960 movie includes:

  1. Yul Brynner as Chris Adams, a Cajun gunslinger, leader of the seven
  2. Steve McQueen as Vin Tanner, the drifter
  3. Charles Bronson as Bernardo O'Reilly, the professional in need of money
  4. Robert Vaughn as Lee, the traumatized veteran
  5. Brad Dexter as Harry Luck, the fortune seeker
  6. James Coburn as Britt, the knife expert
  7. Horst Buchholz as Chico, the young, hot-blooded shootist

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Saturday, November 3, 2018

Gunfighters Then And Now

Gary Miller, Author
Did the gunslingers and lawmen of the old west invent a timeless method of combat shooting with a handgun?

In the 1950's, when my experience with handguns began, I was in my mid-teens. At that time, the two-hand hold on handguns was not yet the preferred handgun shooting criteria of the day. As a matter of fact, other than shooting from a sand bag rest for the purpose of testing ammunition or checking out the accuracy of a newly acquired gun, the two-hand hold was considered to be mostly for the ladies back then (or so I thought).

I had to do some reconsideration on that line of thinking after I ran across a WW-2 U.S. Army training film on YouTube that demonstrated the advantage of the two-hand hold with handguns at distant targets under combat conditions. But it also shows the advantage of instinctive (point shooting) at close range.

KILL OR GET KILLED Colonel, Rex Applegate Point Shooting Instructional Film --- GCT TV/US Army. You can check it out below:

But It wasn't until 1959 that pistol shooter and deputy sheriff Jack Weaver became successful in popularizing his two-hand shooting method which we now call the Weaver stance. But even the law enforcement community back then as a whole, did not adopt Weaver's handgun shooting method overnight.

As I remember, in the early 1960's the local city police in my area of Ohio were still practicing the one-hand military stance that was also used in formal target pistol matches. And one small township police department was still using that method in the early 1980's. But it was nothing that even resembled the one-hand instinct (point shooting) made famous by the gunslingers and lawmen of the old west.

Between the disciplines of formal match shooting and the popularization of the various forms of the two-hand hold presently used by range instructors for their students preparing for a concealed carry permit, there is not much being taught at your average gun range these days that would adequately prepare a person for a real life close encounter gunfight. Yes, the basic principles of grip, sight picture, and controlled trigger squeeze are very important, and must be practiced to give a new shooter enough proficiency to put a reasonable sized group of 5-10 shots into a standard target at 3-7-yards. But putting your life on the line in a close range gunfight under stressful conditions, is a whole new ball game.

I got to thinking a while back, that in a combat situation, to execute the sequence of a two-hand hold, you are completing a four-count move... Draw, Grip, Aim, and Fire. Yes, with a lot of practice, you can accomplish all this in a significantly small amount of time. But using a one-hand hold, and having developed your skill at point shooting, that sequence is now reduced to only a two-count move... Draw and Fire.

Point Shooting vs Flash Sight Picture:

The ability to shoot strait without the aid of sights, is not all that uncommon. It's just the fact that it is not taught much anymore that makes it seem a little strange. When you think about it, most everyone has demonstrated some form of point / instinct shooting 'skill' without knowing it. When you throw a baseball, softball, or even a football, you don't have the benefit of any type of mechanical, electronic, or telescopic sights to aid you. But you still likely have some degree of success at getting the ball to it's intended receiver or target.

Sin, Violence, and the Jones Boys
Old West, Winter 1982
Becoming proficient using [either] hand while shooting is also a must. Should you be wounded in your dominant hand, arm, or shoulder, you need the ability to still maintain fire with your non-dominant hand. But If and when you decide that you want to test your point shooting skills with a handgun, it cannot be over emphasized that you practice 'dry fire' with a gun that you have made SURE is EMPTY! Like many good preachers proclaim when they preach on the topic of salvation... “You must be SURE THAT YOU'RE SURE THAT YOUR'RE SURE!” Then continue dry fire practice until you are confident that you can safely draw and fire the gun at a shooting range. But you must also find a range that permits point shooting. And it would also be highly advisable to obtain the services of a competent firearms instructor for this, and for all phases of your training.

We have included a video here produced by Joel Persinger, a well known and highly qualified firearms instructor who demonstrates the common sense application of one-handed point shooting (at very close range) and one of the best two-hand shooting methods for more intermediate and longer ranges. I learned a few new things from this video myself.

Let's keep our firearms practice and concealed carry methods safe and legal to help insure that our Second Amendment rights are preserved.

Gary Miller

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