Saturday, September 13, 2003

Interesting Gunfight Story

I ran across an old copy of Wild West (June 2000). In it was an account of a gunfight between Frank Loving and Levi Richardson in Dodge City in 1879. Neither man is famous in any way, but the fight does show what stress can do during a lethal confrontation.

The showdown did not take place outside in the street like the movies. It happened inside the Long Branch Saloon (which was not nearly as glamorous as Miss Kitty's Long Branch on Gunsmoke).

Both men initially missed. Loving took shelter behind a stove but was nicked in the hand by Richardson's second shot. He then hit Richardson twice (side and right arm). Despite his wounds Richardson chased Loving around the stove and then a billiard table but missed with all three shots. Loving then put a bullet in his chest with one of his last two shots. The wound was fatal, but not instantly incapacitating. After a deputy sheriff took his revolver from his hand, Richardson broke away and attempted to chase Loving but fell dead before he could get to him.

The local paper noted "it seems strange that Loving was not hit, except a slight scratch on the hand, as the two men were so close together that their pistols almost touched each other." (Richardson's coat caught fire from the muzzle blast of Loving's revolver-- that's pretty close).

James at Hell in a Handbasket has often emphasized the need for frequent and extensive practice with handguns if we plan to use them for self-defense. I think this incident shows why he is right. Eight shots at slapping distance and only three hits. Stress, movement, and muzzle blast will degrade most peoples abilities with a handgun. We have to start out with skill and well-honed habits if we are to be effective.