A New Look: The Old West

We’ve all seen the movies!  A man walks into a saloon, in which cowboys are playing cards and having a few drinks.  He eyes one of the card players and draws a gun.  In turn, the card player sees the gun man, rises, and pulls out a revolver.  After a few challenging verbal exchanges, the two men end up in the town square at high noon, with several onlookers, facing off in a shootout.  There are a few nifty gun tricks and fancy footwork until the villain is fallen.  The hero gives a look of satisfaction, puts his gun back in the holster, and walks back into the saloon, followed by the crowd.  Everyone returns to their cards and drinks, as if nothing had happened.  While this depiction of the Old West is the most common, it is not necessarily the most accurate.

Old West Six Shooter Pistol:

Old West Six Shooter

Contrary to popular belief, the Old West was not as violent and bloody as you might think.  In fact, the average number of murders per year in Old West towns was 1.5, with 5 murders being the most a town saw in a year.  And these murders were not all of these were shootings.  As for authentic Old West gunfights, they were far from the Hollywood image as well.  The quick draws shown in films were insignificant.  Because of the handgun inaccuracy of the time, it was highly unlikely that a target would be hit on the first, second, or even third tries.  Therefore, it didn’t make much of a difference on which gunman drew his weapon first.  The nearest thing to a shootout was dueling, where one man stood across from another and aimed and fired.  The outcome was often based on a good deal of luck.

Pocket Old West Revolver:

Pocket Old West Revolver

Another common misconception of the Old West lies in the media’s depiction of bank robberies.  As the standard scene goes, riders come into town, wearing long coats and cautiously surveying the premise for lawmen.  The robbers arrive at the bank, tie up their horses, and charge into the bank drawing their guns.  They demand cash to be put in a saddlebag.  Once the deed is done, they are gone in a flash, leaving a trail of dust behind, with the sheriff hot on their trail.  While this is once again an exciting action scene too watch, it deceives us into thinking that bank robberies in the Old West were regular occurrences.  The surprising truth is that bank robberies rarely happened.  Several sources have been studied to find accurate statistics, but the consensus is that in the Old West period (about 40 years), there were only 3 to 4 bank robberies noted, spreading across 15 states.  Not exactly what you would guess for a scene that is present in many western films!

With little violence and few robberies, we can conclude that the Old West was actually a safe place!  You may argue that the Hollywood version is more exciting and I would have to agree!  But now that you know the facts, there’s no harm in enjoying the fiction!  See our Old West collection at:  http://www.armorvenue.com/

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