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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  CAS TOPICS  |  NCOWS (Moderator: Will Ketchum)  |  Topic: Two handed shooting (actual history) 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Two handed shooting (actual history)  (Read 3387 times)
Roscoe Coles
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« on: December 03, 2017, 03:36:47 pm »


In another post (which has been locked) there was a question about the authenticity of two handed shooting in the old west.  This is a subject that I looked into a little bit a while back and found an interesting example. 

On August 14, 1889 U.S. Deputy Marshal David Neagle was in a train station in Lathrop California with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field.  He had been assigned to protect Justice Field from a man named David Terry, who had threatened, and previously attacked the Justice with a bowie knife over a ruling in a case involving Terry's wife, Sarah.

Terry entered the railroad station where Justice Field and Deputy Marshal Neagle were sitting at a table and struck the Justice in the head.  Deputy Marshal Neagle stood up and placed himself between Terry and the Justice, and ordered Terry to keep his distance.  Terry, who was more than 6 feet tall yelled at the Marshal and reached into his coat, where he habitually carried his bowie knife.  Fearing for his life and the life of Justice Field, the 5 foot tall, left handed Deputy Marshal drew his revolver from his hip pocket and using a two handed grip fired two rapid shots.  The first struck Terry in the heart and the second in the ear, as he fell dead.  After the shooting, it was determined that Terry was not in fact armed, and Neagle was arrested on a charge of murder by the Constable of Lathrop.

In addition to the lack of a weapon, there was a legal question over a U.S. Deputy Marshal's legal right to defend the Justice, as there was no federal law stating that such an act was authorized.  The case (which became known as In re Naegle) was transfered to federal court and it was determined that Neagle was fulfilling his duty in protecting the life of Justice Field and the murder charges were dismissed.

This was an important case that strengthened the powers of the President by enhancing the authority of federal Marshals and their deputies. The court records preserved the details of the shooting, including Neagle's testimony which spells out his use of two hands to shoot Terry.  This can be found in Records Group 21, U.S. District Court. Northern District of California, Circuit Court Civil Case 10469, Transcripts, "In the matter of Habeas Corpus of David Neagle" Regional Archives and Records Center, San Bruno, California.

While this dose not shed light on the popularity of a two handed shooting grip in the 19th century, it does show that it was not unheard of. 
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River City John
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« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2017, 09:42:58 pm »

I don't believe it was locked, just moved to the NCOWS Members only forum.


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Cliff Fendley
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« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2017, 10:09:54 pm »

It's locked. Another one is in the NCOWS chambers.
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Pete Ersland


« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2017, 02:20:09 pm »

It's locked. Another one is in the NCOWS chambers.
Since I'm the only one who could lock it besides Marshall Halloway, and he would tell me if he did, it wasn't locked.  I haven't locked a thread in a couple of years.  By moving one they appear to be locked because they are no longer accessible on that board.

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« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2017, 02:26:15 pm »

I guess that's what I meant, it shows it being locked on this board, and it's over in the chambers. The OP may not have access to that.
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Pete Ersland


« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2017, 03:05:48 pm »

I guess that's what I meant, it shows it being locked on this board, and it's over in the chambers. The OP may not have access to that.
I felt, as did others that the discussion was about club matters and not of general interest.  I don't fee that it is neccessary to air our differences in a public forum.

Will Ketchum
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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2017, 05:37:55 pm »

I felt, as did others that the discussion was about club matters and not of general interest.  I don't fee that it is neccessary to air our differences in a public forum.

Will Ketchum
I agree
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Roscoe Coles
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« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2017, 09:05:22 pm »

I stated that the previous post was locked because that was the message I got when I tried to post to it.  However, this is immaterial to this post.
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threebyeight
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« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2017, 08:01:16 pm »

Love to see more of this Actual history this was a great fine !!! Shocked
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OklaTom
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« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2017, 05:26:53 pm »

One thing in this account that is not reported, at least by the original poster, is what type of revolver  U.S. Deputy Marshal David Neagle was using.  In 1889, it is highly likely that he was using a double action revolver.  The double action revolvers of the era had notoriously stiff springs, and were probably often shot two handed, especially in a crisis situation.  I did some research and did not find anything that tells me what revolver he had, only that it was six shots.  And the testimony in Neagle's trial was that Terry was killed by two shots from a revolver "in the hands" of Neagle.  The US Marshal's Service History does not say, and the illustration (not proof of anything) shows Neagle shooting Terry one handed.

https://www.usmarshals.gov/history/neagle/neagle5.htm
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« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2017, 08:55:46 pm »

The current issue of "Wild West" magazine (February 2018!), there is an article about Colorado lawman Jesse Benton.  He was involved in a gunfight in 1878 with W. Riley Fisher.  The article includes a quote from a newspaper at the time, which says, in part, "At last Fisher, being hit twice, raised his left hand to his weapon to take good aim, when a bullet crashed through it, breaking both bones of the wrist."

The newspaper reporter seemed to take the use of both hands "to take good aim" in stride, so it might not have been too unusual.  That's a pretty big assumption, though.  Perhaps further evidence of two handed shooting will be found.

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Roscoe Coles
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« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2017, 05:11:15 pm »

On page 121 of his book "The Lawmen: United States Marshals and Their Deputies, 1789-1989," Frederick S. Calhoun writes:

   ...[The] deputy drew his six-shooter from his hip pocket.  In one smooth motion, he cocked the hammer with his left thumb as his right hand swung over to support the pistol barrel.  Using a two-handed aim, Neagle fired twice in rapid succession."

Calhoun cites the records I listed in the first post for this section of the book.

Based on this information, Neagle appears to have used a single action revolver (since he cocked the revolver with his thumb).  This statement does introduce some confusion, with the Deputy supporting the barrel with his right hand while cocking the gun, then using a two handed aim when he fired.

It is unclear exactly how much of a gunman Deputy Marshal Neagle was, but it appears he was an experienced lawman.  The U S Marshals website (cited in one of the posts above) states that he had served as a town marshal and deputy sheriff in Tombstone, AZ in the early 1880s had served as a Deputy U S Marshal as early as 1886.
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OklaTom
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« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2017, 06:56:05 pm »

Interesting history. And I’m sure digging around, one might find additional references to using two hands. But I do fail to see what the point of making the case for two handed shooting for NCOWS since it has always been allowed. Better that we keep the duelists and shootists separate.
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« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2017, 07:35:49 pm »

I took this particular thread as a historical discussion, which I found interesting.  I'm not making any argument regarding NCOWS classes. Sorry if I overstepped by commenting.

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« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2017, 08:07:32 pm »

I took this particular thread as a historical discussion, which I found interesting.  I'm not making any argument regarding NCOWS classes. Sorry if I overstepped by commenting.

CC Griff
You didn't. We are a group of history buffs who happen to also like shooting...at least I am.
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« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2017, 08:11:09 pm »

No you are doing fine. I like the fact that you found this stuff like the is great. Not all shoot outs was pull gun out take your time and shoot one handed. Looks like they did what it took to beat the other shooter Grin Grin
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« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2017, 08:17:11 pm »

I think part of the discussion is whether or not one handed shooting is more "historically correct"(I almost hate using that terminology) than shooting with two hands. I don't think we give 19th century "dumb ole cowboys" enough credit to think they might be able to figure out that they could take a little steadier aim holding their hogleg with two hands. Nobody alive now was there, damn few photographs of gunfights, and like I read someplace else, not every detail of everything they did was written down for posterity. They might have even figured out how to slip the hammer to lay down a "wall of fire"! As pertaining to our sport, I do think the shootists and duelists should be separated to make things fair for the participants who actually care about the competition aspect. I used to shoot blackpowder, duelist Range Detective and did not care one iota whether or not I was at a disadvantage, but that's me. People play the game for different reasons, but hopefully everybody is playing to have some fun!

My apology's for the probably meaningless rant!  (I needed some typing practice)  
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OklaTom
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« Reply #17 on: December 10, 2017, 08:26:49 pm »

Perhaps it was me who took the point of this thread in error. And I apologize. I do like the history. And few photographs of cowboys or townspeople with guns will you find that were not posed. Especially those taken in a studio. I may be sensitive to the decision made on shooting classes at the last meeting of Congress and totally got the context here wrong.

My apologies to Roscoe Coles and Coal Creek Griff.
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ira scott
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« Reply #18 on: December 10, 2017, 10:36:50 pm »

Brian laddy, methinks your not the only one sensitive about the decision made on shooting classes by the Congress last March! I have a gut feeling we will be revisiting the subject.(O Joy!)
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OklaTom
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« Reply #19 on: December 10, 2017, 11:53:07 pm »

Brian laddy, methinks your not the only one sensitive about the decision made on shooting classes by the Congress last March! I have a gut feeling we will be revisiting the subject.(O Joy!)

I think it will be easier to fix. What we really should do is repeal the change from last year and go back to the previous class format, just keep the “3 to compete for prize” rule.
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« Reply #20 on: December 11, 2017, 12:17:39 pm »

I'll try this again.  These photos are from the turn of the 20th century.  They are the premier target pistol shooters of the era.


* pistol shooters.jpg (40.32 KB, 600x278 - viewed 82 times.)

* pistol shooters 2.jpg (7.14 KB, 318x158 - viewed 83 times.)
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« Reply #21 on: December 11, 2017, 12:56:12 pm »

I'll try this again.  These photos are from the turn of the 20th century.  They are the premier target pistol shooters of the era.

I like the images.  However, these target shooters do not preclude the use of two hands, particularly in some combative scenario.
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« Reply #22 on: December 11, 2017, 01:00:34 pm »

I think it will be easier to fix. What we really should do is repeal the change from last year and go back to the previous class format, just keep the “3 to compete for prize” rule.

I agree.
Will Ketchum
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