Thursday, December 8, 2011

Code Duello?

Greg has some historically inaccurate notions about gun fighting.  The western gun fight is an extension of the duel. Not surprisingly,  good ol' wikipedia has an entry for Duel. 

I have to admit that I was unaware that Abe Lincoln sorta almost had a duel in the 1840s.  I'm still wondering, from reading this article why the HELL California got rid of their law, back in1994, prohibiting duels.  I would suspect it has to do with redundancy, and that gun fights over insults are still considered illegal in sunny CA.

In point of historic fact, the frequency of gun fights in the old west was quite low, and the occurrence of bushwhacking, ambush, and shooting folks from cover or from behind was more the norm.  And as so often appears in articles documenting the Darwin Awards, alcohol was usually involved. Two things which lower the impulse controls in the human brain, especially the male brain - guns, and alcohol.

But then I'm still waiting for Greg Camp to provide all those historic examples of cross drawing from one's belt or holsters with the flap cut off, that I am middling certain don't exist anywhere.  Greg gets his history from fantasy movies.  I will agree that back in the single shot ball and black powder days combatants, especially pirates, were known for carrying spare weapons in their belts and bandoliers, but that could hardly be considered typical behavior.

I invite our readers to enjoy the following excerpt from wikipedia on dueling/ gun fighting, specific to the U.S.:

Several states have very high-level bans laid against duelling, with stiff penalties for violation. Several United States state constitutions ban the practice, the most common penalty being disenfranchisement or disqualification from all offices.
State constitutions prohibiting dueling specifically are those of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and the Session law of Texas.

[edit] State and territorial laws prohibiting duelling

20 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have some statute(s) (including constitutional provisions) specifically prohibiting duelling. The remaining 30 states either have no such statute or constitutional provision, or limit their duelling prohibition to members of their state national guard. This does not necessarily mean, however, that duelling is legal in any state, as assault and murder laws can apply.
States which specifically prohibit members of the state national guard from duelling are Arizona, Arkansas,[40] Connecticut,[41] Georgia,[42] Iowa,[43] Kansas,[44] Missouri,[45] Hawaii,[46] Ohio,[47] Oregon,[48] Pennsylvania,[49] Washington[50] and New York.[51]
States and territories which have statutory prohibitions on duelling for all citizens are Colorado,[52] District of Columbia,[53] Idaho,[54] Kentucky,[55] Massachusetts,[56] Michigan,[57] Mississippi,[58] Nevada,[59] New Mexico,[60] New York,[61] North Dakota,[62] Oklahoma,[63] Puerto Rico,[64] Rhode Island[65] and Utah.[66] California previously prohibited duelling, but this was repealed in 1994.[67]
Virginia passed the Anti-Dueling Act in 1810, creating civil and criminal penalties for the most usual causes of duelling, rather than for the act itself. It is still on the books. Virginia Code §8.01-45 creates a Civil Action for insulting words. Virginia Code §18.2-416 makes it a crime to use abusive language to another under circumstances reasonably calculated to provoke a breach of the peace. Virginia Code §18.2-417 makes certain slander and libel a crime.[68]


  1. The Scots carried the Doune pistol in their cross belts.

    The doune pistol also didn't have a trigger guard!

  2. You didn't show the dates in which dueling became illegal in those states, other than for states east of the Mississippi.

    For an analysis of gun culture, carry practices, and the weapons used, I refer you to Jeff Cooper's "Guns of the Old West." You're correct to say that the High Noon shootout was rare, and I did already say that. The Hickok-Tutt duel in Springfield, Missouri is one of the only documented cases.

  3. There is also David Haward Bain's book, "Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad." Refer to the sections on the makeshift towns that appeared along the construction route to service the workers and others who passed through. Cheyenne, Wyoming got its start as one of those. They were called Hell on Wheels towns. The phrase, a man for breakfast, came about because of the many bodies that would show up in the morning.

  4. You do realize don't you Greg that it is necessary to come up with more than one source for information. Cooper is not the inerrant word of God from on high.

    I refreshed my memory of the old west with a search of images of both Wild Bill, whose name was really James, not Bill or William at all.

    After looking through a couple of hundred photos, daguerreotypes, and historic posters from the era, I found exactly two images of any kind that show Wild Bill with his guns in his belt rather than holsters. And both of those were clearly photographer staged publicity photos sensationalizing the people in the photo. The second of the two photos also shows Buffalo Bill doing the same thing, in what is clearly the same publicity photo.

    I couldn't find anything that supports the notion that belt carrying was a common or accepted practice. If you're so sure of Jeff Cooper's research, check his sources, find them and get back to me.

    Otherwise this is -again - incredibly sloppy research on your part, and bullshit instead of genuine authenticity.

    Ever BEEN West, Greg? I'm guessing not. Dimestore cowboy, silly 'shootist'.

  5. Dog Gone,

    You asked for sources, and I gave you two. Yes, I've been west. I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for a while, and now I live in Arkansas. Both are part of the Old West.

  6. James Butler Hickok was nicknamed Wild Bill because of his upper lip, which was said to resemble that of a duck's bill. The Wild part came later to distinguish him from another Bill.

    I have offered the sources that I have immediately to hand. There isn't much historical work done on the subject of carry practices and gun fights, especially not with what is fashionable in the field of history today. I did refer you to Bain's book on the railroad. I have seen references to Hickok wearing a red sash when in city dress or a belt in wilderness attire into which he put his revolvers. The source of that information is "Guns of the Gunfighters" by James Garry. I don't have the book in front of me, so I can't tell you more about it at the moment.

    Can we put this matter to rest now?