Exhibition shooting is almost as old as projectile weapons. Mongol horsemen would do exhibitions with bow and arrow from horseback. The wild west shows around the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s were popular exhibitions. Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show gave rise to a plethora of exhibition shootists like Annie Oakley, the husband and wife team the “Fabulous Topperwins” in the mid-20th century carried on the tradition.
Ed McGivern, Pistolero
So, do trick shooters use tricks? First the accomplishments of these marksmen and women were the result of considerable ammunition consumption. A person may perhaps be a ‘natural’ but will still require considerable practice. Ed McGivern, a pistolero could hole a tin can five times before it struck the ground, or take out six clays in the air, or even punch a dime’s ticket. He shot out the spots on playing cards or split the edge wise and drove a tack or nail into wood. Two five shot strings from 15 feet in .45 seconds that could be covered by a half dollar. His tool was a Smith & Wesson Model 10 double action revolver, Jerry Miculek a modern day IPSC shooter has broken some of Ed’s records, and at 57 Ed had to hang his pistols due to arthritis.
Tricks Exhibition Shooters Use
Some of the tricks used by these shootists to ensure success during live shows, not retakes, are still used today. Annie Oakley used shot shells in some of her rifle exhibitions. Another trick is to shoot the largest round possible. A near hit with a .45 caliber bullet is a clean miss with a .38 or .22. Fast draw guns shoot blanks, use special light-weight aluminum cylinders and have hammer extensions to facilitate fast draw. Slip guns disconnect the trigger relying on rapid one hand shooting of pulling back the hammer and releasing it with no trigger locking. Only single actions can be fanned or converted to slip actions. The double actions require trigger pulls. Another trick is to wire the trigger back for fanning. Fanning is very hard on a gun, even modern materials. Rapid fanning puts a lot of stress on the cylinder locking mechanism throwing out the timing and compromising components to the breaking point. Hence, most fanned weapons are specially reworked to maintain them. Take the taped washer trick. Tape across the washer hole to prove a hit. This would be most likely shot with a .38 caliber weapon rather than a .45 caliber as the smaller projectile can slip through a washer better than the large caliber. Cutting a rope is seldom a one-shot deal, as the fibers flex horizontally diminishing the cutting action of a bullet. Tom Knapp was an exhibition shooter for CZ-USA, Benelli and Federal Ammo. He could retire ten hand thrown clays with a 12 shot Benelli semi-auto shotgun in 2.2 seconds, or eight with a pump gun.
Custom Shooting Ranges Made in the USA
The only hope of matching these special shooting skills is a lot of range time and ammo. At nearly a buck a round for some calibers you could spend a college degree worth, even handloading, to obtain the skills of a master exhibition shootist. Hard to do without a sponsor. We all can but dream, though only a few will realize this path. Shooting Range Industries offers custom shooting ranges for convenient practice and training.