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Secrets of two-fisted sixgunning!

I suspect most of us, at one time or another, have imagined ourselves blazing away with a pistol in each hand.

Certainly, Western novels by the likes of Max Brand, Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour have given us many heroes who use a pair of sixguns. And, to no one's surprise, these characters seem to use two guns as naturally as they breathe air. Hollywood, of course, has also done its share to reinforce this two-gun image.

Perhaps these notions were carried forward from the muzzle-loading era when a second pistol was fairly commonplace. Under the harsh circumstances of the times, frontiersmen, cavalry and soldiers in the Civil War frequently lacked the time it took to reload the pistol they had just emptied. This led to the practice of packing a second pistol as a backup gun.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that supports this version of the second gun, most of us prefer the image of both guns blazing at once. Indeed, many of us fancy giving it a go. Gradually, I talked myself into it. It was time to gie this two-gun business a try.

While I certainly didn't expect to outshoot the groups I could produce with a single pistol held by two hands in a Weaver stance, I was determined to discover some techniques which would produce consistent results while shooting with a gun in each hand. Through trial and error, I wanted to discover and describe two-gun techniques which will work for the average shooter.

The first step I took was to rule out what would be unacceptable. I wanted to avoid any handicaps that would add to the difficulty of controlling two guns at once. Uneven pistol weights, different barrel lengths, different sight pictures, and mismatched recoils represented the kind of problems I wanted to avoid.

With that in mind, I could justify purchasing another gun to match one from my existing collection. So, I invested in a second Ruger .357 with a 4-inch barrel and target sights. I selected the Ruger for this project because it would allow double or single-action shooting.

While waiting for the delivery date on the Ruger, I was thinking over ways of shortening my "learning curve" and holding down the costs of ammunition. I didn't want to go broke getting proficient with a pair of pistols. Along this line, I was debating the use of .38 Special wadcutter reloads when I came across a pair of CO2 pellet guns. They offered the perfect path for low cost learning. Including CO2 cartridges and the .177 caliber pellets, the cost would be only a penny and a half per shot.

Based on the cheap practice this would allow, I purchased two Crossman Model 38T pistols. Each gun has a 6-inch barrel, adjustable target sights, single and double-action modes, and holds 6 shots. The guns weigh in at 2 pounds, 12 ounces apiece and have the look and feel of Smith & Wesson target pistols.

That put me in a position to experiment extensively without budget concerns, so I quickly set about trying out different shooting postures and grips. Over a few weekends' time, I fired around 1,000 pellets from 7 yards' distance, using 9-inch paper plates for targets.

With the pellet guns, I explored three basic techniques: (1) From the hip, double action: I expected this to be the least accurate, but possibly effective at very close range. This technique would exclude any use of sights. (2) Arms extended, double action: By locking my elbows with both arms held out front, I figured my accuracy might pick up a little. Certainly, this would offer some chance of sensing whether the guns were lined up with the target. Depending on how close the guns were held together, the sights might even offer a useable reference point. (3) Alteranting arms, single action: Admittedly, this wouldn't produce the excitement of both guns firing from the hip. Instead, I would alternately shoot with each gun, using a swinging motion which would carry forward the gun to be fired next. Simultaneously, the other gun--which had just been fired--would be swung in the opposite direction, brining it down alongside my leg. After firing from the gun just swung forward, the motion would be reversed, swinging the other gun up on the target. With this swining motion, each gun would have its hammer thumbed back on the upswing. This would allow each shot to be fired single action. In theory, this would allow better trigger control and the chance to use the sights with each shot.

Using the pellet guns with the "swinging arm" technique to alternate guns, the best single-action group I shot placed all 12 shots on the paper plates in a 3-1/8-inch group at 7 yards.

As you might expect, when I went to double action, the groups spread out. Using the "swinging arm" technique with double action, all 12 shots stayed on the plate, but the best group printed was 4-1/8 inches at 7 yards.

Double action with both arms locked in front was even less accurate, typically producing a group of 6 inches or larger at 7 yards. I think part of the difficulty in this technique was that with both arms extended, I had to deal with a contradiction. Although my eyes were looking straight ahead, each gun had to angle in from the outside of my body in order to point at the center of the target. I suppose I could have moved the two guns directly in front of my face and held them in a very close, side-by-side position to eliminate this "angling." However, I didn't want to learn a posture that would cause powder burns on both hands if I shot the two Ruger .357s in a similar fashion.

From the hip, with elbows bent, all I will admit about the results is that they wre humorous at best. Accordingly, I ruled out this technique for the Ruger .357s due to reasons of pride and safety.

For practice with the two .357s, using my computer and its handy-dandy art program, I printed a series of 8-1/2-inch x 11-inch targets with a single bullseye that was anchored by vertical and horizontal marks.

Additionally, I let the computer relieve me of another chore by pre-printing on each target the vital information as to distance, mode of fire (single or double action), barrel length, and type of ammunition. I was optimistic due to the good targets I had produced with the pellet guns at 7 yards. As a result, I noted that distance for all shooting with the Ruger .357s would be 15 yards.

By the time the computer printer shut off, I had stacks of targets, each clearly labeled for use with a particular shooting posture or technique.

Picking a good shooting backstop on my folks' ranch, I stapled up the first target and took out both Rugers. Each of the .357s had been "duty-tuned" by Davis Company of West Sacramento, and the handles had been ground down to take the round butt Pachmayr grip I prefer.

Taking one of the gus, I used a two-handed grip from a benchrest at 20 yards to establish the gun's accuracy. Although I didn't expect to match this accuracy when shooting with a gun in each hand, I wanted to have something as a basis of comparison. Discounting one flyer, the test group measured 2-1/4 inches, using 158-grain semi-wadcutter ammunition.

Then, moving up to 15 yards to shoot offhand with both guns, I started off with the swinging arm technique, firing single action. Next, I switched targets and repeated the swinging arm technique, firing double action. Then I shot the final target with both arms outstretched in front with elbows locked.

The initial targets were not very good. Also, these first targets made me realize just how fast I would go through a large amount of ammunition if I kept firing 12 rounds at each target.

As a result, I switched to loading live rounds into every other chamber of each gun. This accomplished two things: First, it conserved ammunition. Second, it forced me to dry fire every other shot, and that let me observe what was happening as I pulled the trigger.

What I immediately noticed--particularly in my double-action groups--was that I was pulling each gun in toward the center of my body as I applied pressure to the trigger. Thinking it over, I realized why tahis was happening. I had taken for granted the "equal and opposing pressure" that a two-handed grip had been affording me for the past ten years.

Simply put, as a right-handed person holding a single gun with two hands, my left hand had learned to hold the gun steady against the pressure my right index finger exerted on the trigger as it curled tighter, pulling back and edging toward the inside of my body.

Now, with no second hand to provide an opposing pressure during trigger pull, I had to adjust the rear sight on each gun--moving the sights to the outside in order to compensate for the inward pull of each trigger finger. After this correction, better groups resulted using the swinging arm technique when I shot single action.

For my double-action techniques, I tightened up my grip and tried to keep my arm, wrist and gun hand stiff as a single unit. The adjusted sights weren't much help here, so I attempted to use greater body control to offset the inward pull on each gun caused by my trigger fingers.

In terms of body control, I also found with the "swinging arm" technique that it helped to twist my shoulders and hyperextend my forward arm toward the target. This twisting motion of the shoulders also rotated my head slightly, putting the proper eye closer to the target on the same side as the gun that was about to fire.

In other words, this twisting of shoulders and hyperextension of the forward arm worked to turn my head and leave the proper eye looking straight down a locked arm that lined up directly with the pistol and its sights. Additionally, this technique helped offset the underdeveloped hand-eye coordination in my left hand. It did this by giving my left hand the benefit of a rigid arm to better align it with the target.

Although using two guns with .38 Special ammunition from 15 yards was much more difficult han pellet guns from 7 yards, I was reasonably pleased with the consistency I developed after two days of shooting. I didn't measure the groups shot the first day, but did on the secon day.

Continuing to load only every other chamber with live ammunition, the second day of shooting produced groups in which all shots fired hit the target for 65 percent of the swinging arm groups and 33 percent of the groups shot with both arms locked in front.

Actual measurements were as follows using three shots from each .357 Ruger where all six shots hit the target. Groups were tighter in some cases where only four or five shots hit, but only those groups in which all of the shots fired hit the target were measured.

Using the "alternating swing" method and firing single action, I printed groups averaging 6-11/16 inches, with the best group measuring 6 inches. shooting double action with the same technique actually shrank groups to 6-3/8 inches and 5-1/4 inches, respectively. Firing double action with both arms "locked" in front produced an average group size of 9-3/8 inches, with the best measuring 6-3/4 inches.

Then, to use up my remaining ammunition, I shot a grand finale of three separate 12-round groups (all six chambers loaded in each gun). Using the "swinging arm" technique, single action, this produced a best group of 5-5/8 inches with all 12 shots hitting the target. For the "swinging arm" technique fired double action, the result was an 8-3/8-inch group, but only 8 out of the 12 shots fired hit the target. With the "arms locked in front" technique, only 7 out of the 12 shots fired hit, forming a 10-inch group.

To summarize, the results were far from perfect, but still produced a lot of satisfaction. True, I hadn't turned into one of Zane Grey's steely-eyed characters "with two guns blazing from the hip, deadly accurate." On the other hand, I did have a lot of fun discovering some basic techniques for the art of shooting with two pistols. And these are methods which the average shooter can learn in a fairly short time.

If you feel you are ready for the trials and tribulations of shooting two guns at once, here are some suggestions: First, pick a large backstop that will safely contain any stray shots. Second, stand close to the target when you begin. Third, develop your own technique and stick with what works for you.

For me, alternating guns with the "swinging arm" technique worked best. Shooting from the hip was the worst. For you, an entirely different technique might work best.

No matter what technique you elect to try, go slow. Try for a steady rhythm and consistent posture in your shooting. Slow and steady offers you the best chance to maintain safety and develop control.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Bennett, Terry
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Nov 1, 1985
Previous Article:The Pecos rifle - a Western-style Kentucky.
Next Article:H&K's "Yankee" rifles.

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