This interview excerpt about the lessons on gunfighting, supposedly said by the legendary lawman, gunfighter, and frequent movie subject, Wyatt Earp, comes from a 1994 book written by Stuart Lake, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal. You can find the book online at a hefty price since it’s long out of print.
“I was a fair hand with pistol, rifle, or shotgun, but I learned more about gunfighting from Tom Speer’s cronies during the summer of 1871 than I had dreamed was in the book.
Those old-timers took their gunplay seriously, which was natural under the conditions in which they lived. Shooting, to them, was considerably more than aiming at a mark and pulling a trigger.
Models of weapons, methods of wearing them, means of getting them into action and operating them, all to the one end of combining high speed with absolute accuracy, contributed to the frontiersman’s shooting skill.
The sought-after degree of proficiency was that which could turn to most effective account the split-second between life and death. Hours upon hours of practice and wide experience in actualities supported their arguments over style.”
1. “No wise man ever took a handgun to a gunfight.”
Earp obviously knew the advantage of weapon superiority. If you know your opponent is armed with a handgun, bring a shotgun, or rifle. Give yourself every advantage possible. You don’t want to fight fair. You fight to win. Something to think about for home defense.
2. “The most important lesson I ever learned was the winner of a gunplay usually was the one who took his time. The second was if I hoped to live on the frontier, I would shun flashy trick-shooting, grandstand play, as I would poison. In all my life as a frontier peace officer, I did not know a really proficient gunfighter who had anything but contempt for the gun fanner, or man who literally shot from the hip.”
The saying “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” applies here. Also, a fast miss never neutralized anyone. Guns have sights on them for a reason. Use them! Pick up your front sight during combat shooting. As Gunsite, famous fighting school preaches, “front sight, press” is the key to winning armed confrontations.
3. “Fast is Fine, But Accuracy is Everything…”
Again, a fast miss never helped anyone.
Take the time to use your front sight for making solid hits. The spray and pray mentality is useless with today’s high-capacity semi-autos.
4. “The most important lesson I learned was the winner of a gunplay usually was the one who took his time.”
This is related to #3. Take your time, but do it quickly, ensuring a smooth draw. Pick your front sight up and press your trigger smoothly, not jerking your shot, missing your adversary.
5. “Shooting at a man who is returning the compliment means going into action with the greatest speed of which a man’s muscles are capable, but mentally unflustered by an urge to hurry, or the need for complicated nervous and muscular actions which trick shooting involves.”
All this means is don’t lose your head. Easier said than done, but a cool head will prevail. Focus on the mechanics of a smooth draw and calculated shot. Fast shooting is useless in the “spray and pray” fashion. Remember your training. We all revert to training under stress … which emphasizes how vital proper training is.
If you’re not formally trained, do it. Training is the most important accessory you can buy, more than any gun, or ammo.