Old West Myth & Fact Archives

FIVE CARTRIDGES?

Here’s another Old West Myth and Fact. Tradition and the early Colt Pistol manuals says to load only five cartridges in a pistol and leave the empty cylinder under the hammer. The reason being if the hammer is accidently hit with a live cartridge under it, it could go off…Incidentally; modern pistols have a safety bar to prevent accidental firing.

So, did they load only five cartridges? Not always. Wyatt Earp’s pistol fell to the floor in a saloon and it went off. Lawman Dallas Stoudenmire was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter. During the interview Dallas showed his shooting skills. The reporter said all six shots hit the target. A couple of years ago we published an article in Chronicle of the Old West from 1898 where two men went into the back room of a saloon, and while there a pistol was fired. The people in the saloon though it was a gun fight. Actually, one of the men dropped their pistol.

My feeling is if you were an average Joe you probably loaded five cartridges, but if there was a chance of gunplay you wanted as much firepower as possible. And that extra cartridge could mean the difference between life and death.

What do you think?

COWBOYS & PISTOLS

We’re going to add another element to the posts on Cowboy to Cowboy.  And that is “Old West Myth and Fact.”  As with anything that has happened in the past, even my exploits, when time gets between the event and the present, a lot of myth begins to surround the fact.  And this is very true with the Old West.

So, we’re going to look at things that we accept as fact and see if it truly was fact.  We’re asking you to put in your two cents, because we could be wrong.  The desire is to discover the truth about how it really happened.

The first topic we’ll cover is cowboys and pistols.  From everything I’ve been able to discover cowboys normally didn’t carry pistols.  First, anytime they were working cattle, the pistol would get in the way.  On a cattle drive a long gun was much more practical.  Any pistols stayed in the chuck wagon.

 Many a cowboy never buckled on a six-shooter because gunmen normally never bothered a man without a gun, and a man without a gun sure wasn’t going to bother a man with one.

 In addition, most western towns wouldn’t allow guns to be carried within the city limits.

What do you say?   

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