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Features – Become A Gunsmith http://www.becomegunsmith.org A career guide for gunsmithing Sat, 16 Aug 2014 19:12:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 The 10 Deadliest Wild West Gunfighters http://www.becomegunsmith.org/the-10-deadliest-wild-west-gunfighters/ Mon, 24 Jun 2013 19:46:10 +0000 http://www.becomegunsmith.org/?p=74 lead

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The Wild West is well known for its colorful history, and it’s often portrayed as a place that was replete with saloons, gambling and gunfights. And whether lawmen or outlaws – nobody was anyone in the Old West unless they knew how to handle a gun. Some applied their skills as gunslingers to robbing trains, others combined quick-draw shooting with fiery tempers or a seemingly psychotic need to kill, and yet others used their abilities to enforce the law – even though their conduct was often questionable. Still, while we may not admire them for their exploits, we can certainly appreciate the skill of these renowned gunfighters. Here’s a look at 10 of the deadliest Wild West gunslingers.

10. Billy the Kid

10. Billy the Kid

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Legend has it that famous outlaw Billy the Kid had killed as many as 26 men by the time he died, aged just 21 years old, although the total seems more likely to have been under 10. While there’s conflicting information about Billy the Kid’s true name and origins, he is widely reported to have been excellent with a gun. It seems most likely that he was born in an Irish district of New York City on November 23, 1859 and then settled in New Mexico in 1873, after being moved around the country by his mother.

In 1877 – following his engagement in criminal activity such as livestock rustling – Billy the Kid was hired by a wealthy English cattle rancher named John Tunstall in Lincoln County, New Mexico. The Kid’s job was to protect Tunstall and watch over his animals. And he was known for his lightning-fast draw, his lithe frame, and his readiness to fight with his fists if necessary. The Kid is said to have thought highly of his boss, and the two had a mutual respect. So when Tunstall was murdered in cold blood, Billy vowed to exact revenge on the killers.

Billy the Kid’s favorite gun is believed to have been a .44 caliber Colt “Peacemaker,” and he became notorious due to his involvement in the Lincoln County War. Much violence and many escapades ensued, and on July 14, 1881, he was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett.

9. James “Killin’ Jim” Miller

9. James GÇ£Killin' JimGÇ¥ Miller

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James “Killin’ Jim” Miller was born in Van Buren, Arkansas on October 25, 1866, but his family moved to Texas when he was a baby. Miller’s parents died when he was young, and he moved in with his grandparents. Yet he was orphaned for a second time when his grandparents were murdered, with Miller himself arrested for the crime, even though he was only eight years old. In the end, he wasn’t charged, and he went to live with his sister and her husband. Later, as a teenager, Miller blasted his sister’s husband in the head with a shotgun after a quarrel. He was handed a life sentence for the murder but escaped justice owing to a technicality.

Next, Miller was implicated in another shotgun attack, this time on Ballinger City lawman Joe Townsend. Following this incident, “Killin’ Jim” spent time traveling and ran a saloon. He then turned lawman himself, eventually becoming the marshal of Pecos. In 1894, an ongoing feud between Miller and Pecos sheriff George A. “Bud” Frazer led to Frazer shooting Miller in the arm, groin and chest – but thanks to a steel plate under his shirt, Miller survived.

“Killin’ Jim” went on to become a Texas Ranger as well as a professional assassin. However, on April 19, 1909, following the murder of former Deputy US Marshal Allen “Gus” Bobbitt, Miller was hanged. Apparently, he screamed, “Let ‘er rip,” before stepping off the box. This outlaw once claimed that he’d killed 51 men; other sources say he dispatched with 12 in gunfights.

8. John Wesley Hardin


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According to an article in True West magazine, a contemporary of John Wesley Hardin’s claimed that Hardin “could get out a six-shooter and use it quicker than a frog could eat a fly.” And describing Hardin’s skills, Texas Ranger James B. Gillett said, “The quick draw, the spin, the rolls, pinwheeling, border shift – he did them all with magical precision.” Hardin is also said to have been a crack shot from horseback, able to unload his ammo into the knot of a tree trunk while galloping past.

Hardin favored cap-and-ball six-shooters and, on at least one occasion, a double-barreled shotgun. Unfortunately, he used his skills for ill. Born on May 26, 1853, this Texan desperado and gunfighter shot and killed his first victim in 1868, when he was just 15 years old. Publications of the period say that he dispatched with 27 men during his lifetime. However, he got his comeuppance on August 19, 1895 when he was shot and killed at the age of 42 by outlaw-cum-constable John Selman.

Interestingly, whilst he was a teenager going by the alias Wesley Clemmons, Hardin encountered another individual covered in this article, “Wild Bill” Hickok. Hardin was captivated by Hickok and in awe of his gun-fighting reputation.

7. Dan Bogan

7. Dan Bogan

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Born in Alabama in 1860, Dan Bogan relocated and grew up in Texas, where he started working as a cowboy from an early age. Bogan seemed to have a quick temper, and he was always on the lookout for a fight, which earned him a reputation as a troublemaker. He later left Texas for Wyoming after being blacklisted in a wage dispute.

It is believed that by 1886 this cowboy had taken the lives of three men. What’s more, Bogan’s rabblerousing didn’t end there, and on January 15, 1887 he murdered Constable Charles S. Gunn, shooting the onetime Texas Ranger with a revolver. Before he could get away, though, Bogan was himself shot in the shoulder and then captured – although he managed to make a getaway in the midst of a raging blizzard.

Bogan later turned himself into the authorities because his wounds had caused him to get sick. However, in October 1987 he succeeded in breaking out of jail. And although famous detective Charlie Siringo pursued him, Bogan vanished without leaving much of a trace and possibly escaped to Argentina. While Bogan is not as well known as some of his contemporaries, author Robert K. DeArment considers him among the Old West’s most underestimated gunslingers.

6. William “Wild Bill” Longley


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William Preston Longley – better known as “Wild Bill” Longley – is regarded as one of the most lethal gunfighters of the Old West. He had a notoriously short fuse and killed upon the slightest provocation. In fact, he may even have been what today we’d call a psychopath. By his own account, he was instructed from an early age to “believe it was right to kill sassy Negroes,” and by the age of 17 he had committed his first murder.

Longley was born in Austin County, Texas on October 6, 1851 and grew up on a farm close to Evergreen in Lee County, where he mastered the art of shooting. This dangerous gunfighter was known to carry two Dance .44 caliber revolvers, but he used a shotgun as well. At the time of his hanging, on October 11, 1878, Longley said that he had killed eight people – although he earlier claimed the figure was 32. Either way, CBS News calls him “one of the first two-gun fast draw experts.”

5. Harvey “Kid Curry” Logan


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Born in Tama County, Iowa in 1867, Harvey Logan – otherwise known as “Kid Curry” – was caught up in criminal activity such as robbery from a young age, and in 1894 he got on the wrong side of the law in Montana. As the story goes, a miner and lawman named Powell “Pike” Landusky believed that Logan was involved with his daughter and accused him of assault. Logan was taken away by police and beaten. So on December 27, the 27-year-old Logan confronted Landusky in a saloon and shot and killed him with a pistol. Forced to flee, Logan would ride with outlaw Black Jack Ketchum, form his own gang, and eventually join Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s Wild Bunch.

According to some, Logan was considered “the fastest gun in the West” and is thought to be the basis for the Sundance Kid character as depicted by Hollywood. Logan participated in a series of robberies in South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado, and Wild West magazine even claims that he was “the wildest of the Wild Bunch.”

This gunman escaped from prison on two occasions and allegedly killed nine men in various shooting incidents during his time. In the end, on June 17, 1904, Logan took his own life after being wounded in a gunfight in Parachute, Colorado – perhaps to evade capture one last time.

4. Luke Short

4. Luke_Short

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Fast-drawing gunslinger and killer Luke Short was born in Mississippi in 1854 but was raised in Texas. Leaving home whilst in his teens, Short worked as a cowboy, an illegal whiskey trader and a professional gambler. He also later invested in various saloons. Short had practiced with a gun in his early years and would acquire a reputation for his skill, but the most famous event he was involved in was probably the so-called Dodge City War.

After buying shares in the Long Branch Saloon, Short was branded “undesirable” by the Dodge City, KS authorities, and they made attempts to get rid of him. However, determined not to go down without a fight, Short reached out to prominent Old West lawman Bat Masterson, who in turn got in touch with Wyatt Earp. Earp then descended on Dodge City with a posse of desperados. And in order to prevent any conflict, Short was allowed back into Dodge and given permission to reopen his saloon – all without a single gunshot sounding. Short is also famous for winning a duel against Jim Courtright on February 8, 1887 in Forth Worth, Texas, where his ability to pull a pistol saved his own life – and ended Courtright’s.

3. Dallas Stoudenmire

398 Marshal Stoudenmire

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Dallas Stoudenmire was born in Aberfoil, Alabama on December 11, 1845. As a 15-year-old, he spent time in the Confederate Army – although he was discharged when officers found out that he was underage. Still, undeterred, Stoudenmire signed up again and fought in the Civil War, and he later operated as a Texas Ranger for three or more years. Armed with two guns, Stoudenmire was an accurate shot with both hands, and he had a reputation for being tough and dangerously short-tempered when he had a drink inside him.

In April 1881, Stoudenmire became marshal of El Paso, Texas – this being an infamously lawless and violent town at the time. On his third day on the job, Stoudenmire killed three men with two .44 caliber Colt revolvers in a famous incident known as the “Four Dead In Five Seconds” gunfight. By February the following year, he had dispatched with a further seven men in gunfights. Although the crime rate in El Paso fell significantly, and Stoudenmire earned himself repute as a legendary lawman and gunslinger, he also made himself a lot of enemies. On September 18, 1882, he was shot and killed during a shootout with the Manning brothers, the culmination of a feud. He was 36 years old.

2. William “Curly Bill” Brocius

2. William _Curly Bill_ Brocius

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Born around 1845, William Brocius, better known as “Curly Bill” Brocius, may well be Arizona’s most famous – or infamous – outlaw. He was involved in multiple gunfights and related incidents, including the accidental shooting of Tombstone town marshal Fred White on October 27, 1880 and the March 8, 1881 killing of a cowboy named Dick Lloyd.

Brocius may have also been mixed up in the March 18, 1882 assassination of Morgan Earp. Whether or not this was the case, what is certain is that Brocius was good with a gun. In fact, a contemporary said he was capable of shooting coins from between people’s fingers and could comfortably take down fleeing jackrabbits. He was also said to have the ability to snuff out a candle by firing at it with his pistol. In the end, though, on March 24, 1882, Wyatt Earp killed Brocius during a shootout involving the Earp posse, Brocius and several other cowboys in Iron Springs, Arizona.

1. James “Wild Bill” Hickok

1. James GÇ£Wild BillGÇ¥ Hickok

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Deadly gunman and Old West folk hero James “Wild Bill” Hickok was born in Illinois on May 27, 1837. Hickok is said to have been a great shot, even as a youngster, and was well known for his marksmanship with a pistol. In 1855, after a fight Hickok mistakenly believed had ended with the death of his adversary, the 18-year-old headed west. He first found work as a stagecoach driver, prior to working as a lawman in Kansas and Nebraska. Hickok then spent some time fighting for the Union Army – possibly as a spy – during the Civil War.

In 1865, “Wild Bill” was involved in an iconic public quick-draw duel with David Tutt. Harper’s Magazine featured it in a story, which elevated Hickok to hero status. Hickok’s weapons of choice were a brace of 1851 Colt pistols with ivory handles and silver plating, which he kept in his belt or sash and drew in a reverse “cavalry” style.

On April 15, 1871, Hickok took over as the marshal of Abilene, Texas. However, in December that same year he was discharged of his duties following a string of dubious shooting incidents – including the accidental killing of his deputy. After that, Hickok traveled with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show for a few years, performing as himself. He also tried to support himself as a gambler and was even arrested for vagrancy on a few occasions. Fate caught up with Hickok on August 2, 1876 when a man named Jack McCall walked into the Deadwood, Dakota saloon in which Hickok was playing poker and shot him in the head from behind.

10 Firearms Which Changed the Course of History http://www.becomegunsmith.org/10-firearms-which-changed-the-course-of-history/ http://www.becomegunsmith.org/10-firearms-which-changed-the-course-of-history/#comments Tue, 24 Jul 2012 20:22:42 +0000 http://www.becomegunsmith.org/?p=33

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Despite the ever-increasing firepower of tanks, planes and artillery, the humble infantry weapon still has a vital place in determining the outcome of war. Throughout history, from Agincourt to Afghanistan, the soldier with the most powerful and effective gun has had a decisive advantage over his enemy. From the matchlock musket to the most modern of machine guns, we catalog the most revolutionary guns in the history of warfare.

10. The Tanegashima (Japanese Matchlock)

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Matchlock guns quickly supplanted the Yumi longbow in Japanese warfare thanks to their ease of use and excellent armor-penetrating qualities. The Battle of Nagashino in 1575 saw one of their first notable uses: the generals Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga cunningly concealed their soldiers behind stakes and wooden stockades and poured a continuous stream of fire into the enemy to break their cavalry charges. Ironically, the use of massed horsemen was also a new tactic that had been introduced only a single generation before. This victory led to a revolution in Japanese battle tactics that lasted until the Edo period, a time of relative peace in which guns weren’t needed quite so much.

9. The Flintlock Musket

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In the 17th century, the clumsy matchlock and arquebus were soon swept away by the development of the flintlock, a more reliable style of musket that used a flint striking on steel to ignite its charge. The new flintlock-era guns were a major development in firearm technology that made soldiers more mobile and firing easier and quicker. The weapon was so successful that it quickly replaced all previous versions of the musket (such as the Wheellock) and became the most ubiquitous weapon of the common soldier. This in turn moved the fighting style of European armies away from mixed pike and shot and into the more familiar early-modern musket lines.

8. The Gatling Gun

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In the early 1860s, an American doctor named Richard Gatling patented a revolutionary new weapon: a hand-cranked, multi-barreled piece of light artillery capable of spitting out a continuous stream of bullets into the enemy ranks. This early machine gun had an unprecedented rate of fire of 200 rounds per minute and as a result was quickly adopted by both sides during the American Civil War. It was later to be refined into more powerful and portable forms as the machine gun, which would become the single most influential weapon on the battlefield and forever change the face of infantry combat. This is ironic, considering the fact that the gun’s inventor created it to demonstrate the futility and brutality of war.

7. The Needle Rifle

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In the increasingly fast-paced battlefields of the 19th century, a quicker rate of fire was always necessary, but there was a limit to what could be accomplished with muzzle-loaders (which had to be rammed and primed after every shot). The Dreyse needle-gun, the first mass-produced breech loading rifle, completely changed the playing field by allowing soldiers to fire up to 12 rounds per minute, three or four times faster than contemporary muzzle-loading weapons. The weapon quickly entered Prussian service and gave the army a decisive advantage in the Austro-Prussian war, and later variants of the gun formed the basis for the standard weapons of most armies of that era.

6. The MP 18

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With its short, stubby body and pepperbox head, this gun didn’t appear very impressive compared to larger contemporary rifles and machine guns. But despite appearances, the MP 18 was a crucial component of German offensive tactics in WWI, particularly in the final series of attacks against the Western Front in the spring of 1918. The weapon’s 500-round-per-minute rate of fire could sweep a trench of soldiers in seconds and contributed greatly to the German gains in the final offensive of the war. This devastating new class of gun was thought to be so inhumane that it was specifically banned in Germany by the Treaty of Versailles.

5. The Colt Revolver

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Although other pistols had been produced which could fire multiple shots, the first truly practical version was developed by Samuel Colt in 1836. This weapon was based on newly developed cartridge technology and could shoot six times without needing to be reloaded. The new weapon soon became highly valued in law enforcement, in the underworld, and as a secondary weapon for soldiers. In fact, the Colt revolver is so iconic that an example from 1873 sold at auction for $242,000!

4. The American Longrifle

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Originally a simple hunting weapon, the American longrifle (or Kentucky rifle) soon found another use during the American War of Independence. The weapon’s most important feature was its rifled barrel, which caused the bullet to spin as it was exiting the weapon and made its trajectory far more predictable than that of smoothbore musket bullets. This in turn made it far more accurate at long ranges, perfect for skirmishing and guerrilla warfare. The longrifle played a decisive part in winning the War for the colonists, which has perhaps helped it earn the reputation of being a distinctly American weapon.

3. The M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle

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A military favorite for decades, the Browning was developed to provide supporting fire for infantry while they attacked. Lightweight and compact, this automatic weapon’s unique feature was its versatility and consequent ease of use by infantry. The automatic rifle’s design made the later infantry tactics of WWI and WWII possible and helped to break the stalemate which had been created by trench warfare: by greatly increasing the firepower of individual soldiers while allowing them to maintain their mobility, it made them more tactically maneuverable and capable of penetrating enemy defenses.

2. The StG 44

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Introduced in 1943, the German StG 44 was the world’s first true assault rifle. The weapon’s revolutionary design combined the best elements of the bolt action rifle, the submachine gun and the light machine gun into one compact package, allowing the infantry soldier to use automatic and semi-automatic fire while still having reasonable range and power compared to contemporary submachine guns. Both British and American military intelligence were skeptical of the weapon, believing it to be impractically heavy and even rather fragile. While the StG 44 may have been invented too late to do the Germans much good in WWII, it still led to:

1. The AK-47

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The former standard rifle of the Soviet Army, the Kalashnikov is now the most ubiquitous gun in the world: these firearms are produced in at least 14 countries and are used by the state armies of another 82. In modern conflicts they have been fired by everyone from African warlords to Iraqi infantrymen to terrorist guerrillas in Afghanistan. The gun’s low cost, which can be as little as $30 in some parts of Africa, makes it the weapon of choice for impoverished countries; AK-47s are also so simple that 10-year-olds can be, and are, taught to fire them. At the present time, this rifle has probably killed more people than any other weapon in history. In modern warfare, nuclear weapons are confined to cold, concrete bunkers, while the real weapon of mass destruction is named AK.

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