Thursday, May 25, 2023

“The Fastest Gun” by Will Bryant


Brother Bill wasn't like me--he was a real lawman. You could tell. He looked lop-sided without his gun and he had a bullet-notched ear. He had a way of coming into a room and closing the door with his foot, like he didn't want his hands full of doorknob at the wrong time. And he would stand there and size everybody up. There was some good marshals there in those days, like Heck Thomas and Bud Ledbetter and Bill Tilghman. Brother Bill was cut from the same hide.

They was all good with a gun. Fast? Well, fast enough. You didn't hear much about a man being fast with a gun. Folks would say that so-and-so was good with a gun. There's a difference. Being fast was a part of it, all right. But being slow is something, too.

That is from the 1961 story, “The Fastest Gun” by Will Bryant. Bryant asserts that although cast in fictional form it is based on something witnessed by his grandfather, Mince Bryant.

The story’s details all drip with authenticity, from weapons to the history, to the ammunition--the centerfire cartridge revolver that still used black powder at the time meaning that the details of sighting and firing through stinging smoke ring true.

More from Bryant.

The deputy had stopped and pulled his gun--he was about as fast as a man reaching for his watch to see it's time for lunch. The outlaw--he was fast. That big Colt roared and bucked and each time a long streamer of smoke would lance out. The deputy squared away, both feet planted, and he settled his gun but into the upturned palm of his left hand, a two-handed grip, both hands right straight out in front of him. Then he fired.

I won’t give away more, the story is a brief 5 pages—I’ll leave this mini-delight to those who can run it down. It popped up for me in an estate sale shipment.

Easily my favorite “fictional” gunfight, stands tall alongside Charles Portis’s forensically detailed bullet trajectories in his classic novel True Grit.

This is fiction that rings true and calls to mind, the non-fictional Wyatt Earp’s statement:

Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.”

For a quick draw drill or two, see our article on Poker Chip Draws.

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