Ethnographic Arms & Armour
 

Go Back   Ethnographic Arms & Armour > Discussion Forums > European Armoury
User Name
Password
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 23rd July 2009, 02:54 AM   #1
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,157
Default Gunfighters and notches in grips

From time to time it seems the subject has come up, particularly in ethnographic weapons, of victories or kill counts in bravado, marked on the weapon itself. This has been suggested on the mandau of Borneo, and others but cannot recall specifics, and it seems a number of other instances.

In romanticized literature on the Wild West, one of the most familiar myths is that gunfighters notched the grip on thier guns for thier victims in count. I often wondered if there was any basis for this idea, which does not seem to have had any verifiable truth to it, but for a few remote exceptions which seemed to be based on the dime novels myths.

It is said that Wyatt Earp, being interviewed by a reporter, when asked about notching guns, he was so outraged he threw the guy out. He fumed, only 'tinhorns' would do such a thing, and that a gunfighter would never do so. It seems that most of the 'stories' about the true gunfighters were embellished and fabricated by enthusiastic writers and fans.

None of the guns provenanced to any of the famed gunfighters has any such notches in the grips, nor are there any established accounts of any known gunfighter or pistolero using this type of adornment. It would seem that in most cases, they did not feel particular joy, pride or bravado concerning the death of another, despite embellished accounts written much after these events.

But there may have been exceptions, and anger and rage driven incidents such as during the Civil War, the Missouri 'bushwhackers' "Bloody Bill" Anderson, is said to have had a cord he knotted each time he killed a yankee, enraged for the brutal killing of his family and others....accounts say he had 53 knots in that cord.

In early frontier days, it is said that tally guns with notches carved in them were mounted on the wall in forts, and that frontiersmen recorded taken scalps by notching thier muskets. Perhaps these instances of 'record keeping' or tallies became a dramatic vehicle in the embellished tales of the dime novel writers and became part of the 'gunfighters myth'.

Just wanted to see if out there in readers world or among the members, anyone might have some references to instances where gunfighters are known to have notched grips on guns, or any other cases such as military combat where this might have been done.

On a closing note, it is said that in the 1920's, Bat Masterson was found to have bought a Colt SAA and carved notches in the grip, to sell to a persistant enthusiast, compelled by the myth well notched into western lore.

All best regards,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23rd July 2009, 04:15 AM   #2
fearn
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,247
Default

No good examples, but anyone who is in LA should check out the Autry Museum. If memory serves, it has a large collection of western guns on display, and it would be a good place to check on the story.

Best,

F
fearn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23rd July 2009, 12:06 PM   #3
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,157
Default

Hi Fearn,
Thanks very much for that excellent suggestion! I always very much appreciate the way you always step in to help out, whether you add a simple and astute observation or more substantial text, you're always there, and keepin' it real. Means a lot.

I have always wanted to visit that museum, and perhaps one of these days, the 'bus' will be in that neck of the woods. Right now moving through Texas and headed for Arizona. Whenever I head back toward the southwest, my interest in the wild west kicks up! Along the way I have at times seen some of the gunfighters guns....one of Billy the Kids guns was actually on loan at one RV park! Of course, as I have seen noted, if Billy ever owned even half of the guns claimed to be his...he wouldnt be able to get on a horse

The key thing is that I have yet to see notches on any of the guns that are soundly provenanced to any of the well known gunfighters, though I did find some reference to what sounds like a cliche' in one case. The guy's name was Frank Eaton with the rather corny sounding sobriquet, 'Pistol Pete', and had 11 notches in his Peacemaker's grips. It seems he came later, and most likely adopted the 'tinhorn' tradition from tales he had heard from the sensationalized accounts about gunfighters. The name Pistol Pete sounds like something out of the old 1950's westerns.

All the best, and thanks again,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23rd July 2009, 12:30 PM   #4
kisak
Member
 
kisak's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Stockholm
Posts: 182
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
It is said that Wyatt Earp, being interviewed by a reporter, when asked about notching guns, he was so outraged he threw the guy out.


Perhaps an idea which came form the same cultural soil as many of the "creative" ideas we still have floating abound concerning old arms an armour? If it was around in the days of Wyatt Earp then we're not too far away in time at least.
kisak is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23rd July 2009, 01:11 PM   #5
Berkley
Member
 
Berkley's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Austin, Texas USA
Posts: 257
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Right now moving through Texas and headed for Arizona.
Jim
In that case, you should consider a stop at the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco. Excellent collection of Old West firearms, originally the private collection of the late Gaines de Graffenried, one of the great early gun collectors.
Berkley is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23rd July 2009, 01:18 PM   #6
aerosick
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Southern California, USA
Posts: 25
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by fearn
No good examples, but anyone who is in LA should check out the Autry Museum. If memory serves, it has a large collection of western guns on display, and it would be a good place to check on the story.

Best,

F


I've been to the Gene Autry Museum several times and did not see any notched revolvers. Take a look at some of the collection.

Billy
aerosick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23rd July 2009, 04:14 PM   #7
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,157
Default

Great input guys!!!
Kisak, it absolutely does seem that the lore of arms and armour is wrought with all manner of these myths and legends. I've always thought the fun is to find out the truth behind them, always fascinating.

Berkeley, thanks so much for mentioning the Texas Rangers Museum, which is absolutely overwhelming. I think my favorite story sums it up;
There was a huge riot that broke out in one small Texas town, fighting, shooting and complete chaos. In the midst of the melee, the sheriff looked in disbelief at the single Texas Ranger that ride up in answer to his call for help....the sheriff exclaimed, "they only sent one Ranger!!??".
The Ranger calmly replied, "..theres only one riot aint there?".

The whole museum was great, the incredible cannon of a handgun that made Dirty Harry's Magnum look like a popgun was the Walker Colt. ..huge!!

Hi Billy, (gotta love that Aerosick handle 40 yrs with the airlines, well known believe me)!!
Thanks for the link to the Gene Autry, and welcome to the forums. I've never been to the museum there but hope to get there one day.


Thanks again guys!! All the best,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23rd July 2009, 06:31 PM   #8
VANDOO
(deceased)
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: OKLAHOMA, USA
Posts: 3,138
Smile

I WILL CHECK AROUND IN THE MUSEUMS NEARBY AS SEVERAL HAVE A LARGE COLLECTION OF FIREARMS. THE BEST FOR THAT LOCALLY ARE 1. THE J.M.DAVIS GUN MUSEUM, 2 THE WILL RODGERS MUSEUM AND 3. WOLLAROC MUSEUM. PERHAPS I WILL RUN ACROSS SOME INFORMATION THERE AS I HAVE CONNECTIONS WITH THOSE THREE.

AS TO KEEPING A TALLY OF ENEMYS KILLED IT IS AN OLD TRADITION PREDATING THE WRITTEN LANGUAGE. HEADHUNTING , SCALP LOCKS, BONE TOOLS, WEAPONS AND DRINKING CUPS WERE ALL SORT OF A TALLY OF ONES VICTIMS AS WELL AS A MARK OF THAT WARRIORS STATUS AND ABILITYS.

IN MODERN TIMES ONE HAS ONLY TO LOOK AT THE FIGHTER PLANES AND BOMBERS AS WELL AS SUBMARINES AND SHIPS TO FIND A TALLY OF ENEMYS VANQUISHED. THE IDEA OF AN ACE IS LIKE THE IDEA OF A NUMBER ONE HEADHUNTER AS THE NUMBER OF KILLS DETERMINES THE STATUS AND SKILL OF THE WARRIOR.

AND WE CALL OURSELVES CIVILIZED BELOW THE THIN PATINA THE HUMAN RACE IS STILL MOSTLY TRIBAL DEEP DOWN AND THE CIVILIZED PART IS ONLY SKIN DEEP.
VANDOO is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 25th July 2009, 02:11 PM   #9
Pukka Bundook
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 802
Default

Hello Jim,

Sorry I have not been around much. Work seems to get in the way!

Re. notches, I had an old book on gunfighters etc called "triggerometry" if I remember right! Must have been written in the 40's or before.

It had a chapter on John Westley-Hardin, called; "40 notches" from his most likely dime-store career, and supposedly 40 kills.
That's about as close as I can come with any actual evidence!!

There is only one gun I can think of off-hand with notches, in this case filed into the side of the trigger-guard, and this was from an earlier time, and was a full-stock plains rifle owned at one time by Joe Meek.
If I remeber right, it has an inscription on it in German, saying it was "for the defence of (German) Immigrants in the US (Can't remember if a state was mentioned, it May have been Utah)
Wether it got it's notches at the hands of the original Teutonic custodian, or at Joe's hands I can't say. Neither do I know wether the notches stood for deer,...... or hostile Indians.
Anyway Jim, That's all I can contribute. A gun with notches, yes, but that's all.
Now, I Do have an old ww1 era kukri with 2 notches, but that's different, and about as questionable!!

Best wishes,

Richard.
Pukka Bundook is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 25th July 2009, 03:47 PM   #10
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,157
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pukka Bundook
Hello Jim,

Sorry I have not been around much. Work seems to get in the way!

Re. notches, I had an old book on gunfighters etc called "triggerometry" if I remember right! Must have been written in the 40's or before.

It had a chapter on John Westley-Hardin, called; "40 notches" from his most likely dime-store career, and supposedly 40 kills.
That's about as close as I can come with any actual evidence!!

There is only one gun I can think of off-hand with notches, in this case filed into the side of the trigger-guard, and this was from an earlier time, and was a full-stock plains rifle owned at one time by Joe Meek.
If I remeber right, it has an inscription on it in German, saying it was "for the defence of (German) Immigrants in the US (Can't remember if a state was mentioned, it May have been Utah)
Wether it got it's notches at the hands of the original Teutonic custodian, or at Joe's hands I can't say. Neither do I know wether the notches stood for deer,...... or hostile Indians.
Anyway Jim, That's all I can contribute. A gun with notches, yes, but that's all.
Now, I Do have an old ww1 era kukri with 2 notches, but that's different, and about as questionable!!

Best wishes,

Richard.


Hi Richard,
Its great to have you back! Missed ya around here. Thanks so much for the great input, and these kinds of references are exactly what I was looking for. While it seems fairly certain that the gunfighters themselves did not appear to have notched grips for 'kills', it is interesting to see what references, resources or stories might have perpetuated the myth. It seems I have heard of that book 'Triggernometry' but cannot place it at the moment.
As we begin to head back toward the Southwest, my fascination with this western lore is always energized, and the mention of John Wesley Hardin especially, as we get closer to El Paso.

I found some interesting material in the unbelievably researched and beautifully illustrated "The Peacemakers" by R.L.Wilson(1992). This rather heavy book is an absolute must for anybody interested in the Wild West, and it is a virtual museum, as the photos of the actual weapons are so clear its like actually holding them.

It would seem that the stories about Hardin's 40 notches are yet another colorful embellishment by authors in adding sensational dimension to thier subject. In Wilson's book, on page 175-176, three of Hardin's guns are shown:

Single Action Army #126680....no notches
Colt Lightning #68837, ivory grips....no notches
Colt Lightning #73728, used by Hardin in holdup at Gem Saloon, El Paso
in May, 1895...............................no notches
Smith & Wesson .44 double action Frontier #352, the one Hardin was carrying when he was killed at Acme Saloon, El Paso in 1895......no notches

Wilson discusses notching as follows on p.200; "....whether or not guns were notched for each man killed, is an often asked question. Occasionally a 19th century firearm is located with notched markings, but the writer has yet to see a historically associated handgun of a prominant lawman, gunfighter or outlaw-known to have been a mankiller-boasting notches".

He does note that notches are sometimes seen on hunting firearms, most likely of course for downed game, however an interesting reference to Thomas French of the 7th cavalry, and with Reno at Little Big Horn, claimed that he had a .50 Cal. Springfield on which he carved notches on the stock for each warrior he had killed. There is no further detail or illustration of this weapon, which must be somewhere, as he did survive the battle.

The rifle owned by Joe Meek is an interesting example, and I had not heard of trigger guards being notched. It does seem that, again, there were some instances of notching of frontier longarms, for scalps taken. While this kind of 'tallying' seems in accord with that rather gruesome practice, it does not seem that the gunfighters wished to pronounce thier 'victories' in the later Wild West. I personally believe their notoriety was more the product of circumstance, and they typically reluctantly accepted the celebrity afforded them by enthusiastic admirers. It would seem that they allowed these rather embellished reputations more as a survival posture, in maintaining a formidable figure in avoiding confrontations than as some sort of bravado.
Naturally, some became caught up in it eventually, such as Hickok and some others, but many would probably have like to be just left alone.

I'm really glad you joined in Richard, and thanks again for adding these great notes. I've got to see if I can find that 'Triggernometry'. You have to admit, these 1940's and 50's books on these subjects really had flair! I'll never forget the run on research that came out of the book of those times on the Bowie knife, "The Iron Mistress".....there was even a movie with Alan Ladd.
Great stuff!

All the best,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th July 2009, 06:05 AM   #11
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,157
Default

Finally found "Triggernometry: A Gallery of Gunfighters" by Eugene Cunningham, which is apparantly a 1996 reprint of the 1934 original, with introduction by eminent gunfighter historian Joseph Rosa (author of 'The Gunfighters').

The chapter on John Wesley Hardin is indeed titled "Forty Notches" and on p.40, the author notes "...he would not be 18 until May 26th, but already he had notches on his guns-eight of them!".
On p.56, "...the famous gunman who had forty notches on his weapons".

In the introduction, obviously written some 62 years after the original work,
Rosa notes (p.xxi) that "...John Wesley Hardin was credited with forty notches (not that there is any evidence that anyone really notched pistols)".
On p.xxii he notes further that Hardin apparantly had concerns as he was finally released from prison about his faded reputation, and had written his autobiography which apparantly suggested the notches. The work was published posthumously (he was killed the following year) and apparantly the suggestion remained, as recounted by Cunningham in his 1934 work.



In another interesting twist, having to do with the rather ridiculous modern manner of firing guns held sideways, in so called gangsta style, I came across some intriguing information, and thought I would include it here as a point of interest.
In references to this method of firing, mostly about looking cool rather than any effective advantage, and which seems to have evolved over about the last 15 years, there is some much older history to this.

Apparantly the old M1898 Broomhandle Mauser pistols found favor in China (as well as Argentina) and were produced at Sichuan arsenal, later Hanyan arsenal beginning about 1920 as the C-96 version. These found use from the pirates we have been discussing on another thread (hu die shuang dao butterfly knives) to the mounted Manchurian bandits and in many groups from the 1920's until c.1949.

It was found that they could throw the weapon up quickly held sideways, index finger stabilizing and be instinctively pointing at the target, also used full automatic unleashing a horizontal traverse fire. Also, and most importantly, the casings were ejected straight upward, so these were insured to clear the weapon rather than potentially jamming.

I am unclear on how this style of shooting might have transmitted to the pop culture in todays training films (movies) but suspect perhaps action movies of the 80's, possibly John Woo ? In any case, I thought it was interesting as a sort of addendum to the gunfighter theme.

All best regards,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th July 2009, 03:11 PM   #12
Pukka Bundook
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 802
Default

Hello Jim,

I'm pleased you found further information, And the book, "Triggerometry"!

Ours was an old falling apart copy, when I was a kid.
I remember the auther telling the reader to practice such things as the "Road-agents spin" with the pistol empty,...or over a bed!

I suppose John Wesley-Hardin May have notched up 40 kills, but not on any of his pistols,................Then again, you know Some pistols have what we regard as chequered grips....(!)

Interesting history on holding the pistol sideways.

It would be interesting to know if the Broomhandle will indeed traverse sideways on full auto. I think it may not, as a gun always recoils away from gravity for some reason, so a pistol on single shot will always recoil upwards, even if held sideways.
(I remember a case in the dim and dusty, of a chap having to fire his pistol in a narrow cave opening, and held it siedeways, but still mashed his hand against the roof...)

Back to "Triggerometry", one of the chaps I remember best was old sheriff Stoudenmire, Tho' I may have spelled his name a bit wrong, like I did on WesTley -Hardin!

Best wishes Jim!

Richard.
Pukka Bundook is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th July 2009, 03:27 PM   #13
Matchlock
(deceased)
 
Matchlock's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310
Default Triggernometry

Hi Guys,

I have been trying to refresh your memories, so here the book is, ready to read on

http://books.google.de/books?id=tDp...esult&resnum=12

Best,
Michael
Attached Images
    

Last edited by Matchlock : 26th July 2009 at 05:09 PM.
Matchlock is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th July 2009, 03:31 PM   #14
aerosick
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Southern California, USA
Posts: 25
Default

Richard,

That was probably Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire. The town of El Paso, Texas hired him and then was too afraid to fire him. They created a monster!

Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire

Billy
aerosick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th July 2009, 03:42 PM   #15
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,157
Default

Thanks so much Richard, the info on "Triggernometry" which led me to the data from Rosa's "The Gunfighters", a book I have been going crazy trying to find here in the bus! I know I have it, but where!?

In it is Rosa's research on the 'road agent spin' and the apocryphal tale about Hardin and Hickok, in which Hardin supposedly pulled this on him....lots of loose ends in that one as well. It seems there is every bit as much myth in this wild period of American history of just over a hundred years ago as in medieval folklore.

True on the checkered grips, good thought, then theres the old saw describing 'a checkered past' fun to look into those old sayings.

Good note on Dallas Stoudenmire (you got it right) the El Paso lawman, talk about confusing, El Paso- Dallas? I think you must have been thinking of Westley-Richards, the gun, when you wrote John Wesley Hardin after all this talk on guns.

Interesting thoughts on dynamics and the note on recoil, it seems odd that held sideways the gun would recoil upwards in the same way as held traditionally. I really know so little on guns, and am not a shooter any more than a swordsman, I only study history of the weapons, but find these kinds of details fascinating on all weapons.

Thank you again for responding, its always great to have you in on posts, and sure have missed you around, so welcome back !!

All the best,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th July 2009, 03:47 PM   #16
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,157
Default

Hey Michael and Bill, just came back and saw you guys here!!! just crossed posts. Thanks so much for coming in on this and for the links. Even though I had already found it, I really appreciate you guys and the backup, thank you so much.

I know this topic is way off from what we usually discuss around here, but thought it would be fun visiting the Wild West a bit, and I'm headed for El Paso, so in the mood! Dont know how much time I'll have there, or if I'll get to Tombstone this time, but just being in the area is great.

All the best,
Jim

Billy, where ya at in SoCal? I grew up in Orange County......lots of history around there too, Wyatt Earp is buried in Colton.
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th July 2009, 03:57 PM   #17
aerosick
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Southern California, USA
Posts: 25
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall

Billy, where ya at in SoCal? I grew up in Orange County......lots of history around there too, Wyatt Earp is buried in Colton.


Jim,

I'm in Tehachapi at 4,000' elevation, 2 hours north of LA and 45 miles east of Bakersfield. Have you heard of the Tehachapi Loop? It's an engineering marvel to railroad buffs.

Wyatt Earp outlived all of them! Who would have thought it possible...

Billy
aerosick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th July 2009, 05:06 PM   #18
Berkley
Member
 
Berkley's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Austin, Texas USA
Posts: 257
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pukka Bundook
I remember the auther telling the reader to practice such things as the "Road-agents spin" with the pistol empty,...or over a bed!
Quote:
Yes, Mr. Hardin was certainly a quick man with his guns. I have seen him unload his guns, put them in his pocket, walk across the room and then suddenly spring to one side facing around and quick as a flash he would have a gun in each hand clicking so fast that the clicks sounded like a rattle machine. He would place his guns inside his breeches in front with the muzzles out. Then he would jerk them out by the muzzle and with a toss as quick as lightning grasp them by the handle and have them clicking in unison. He showed me how he once killed two men in that way."
Hardin's landlady, Mrs Willams of the Herndon House, and
Quote:
Wild Bill came in and said we were making too much noise and told me to pull off my pistols until I got ready to go out of town. I told him I was ready to go now, but did not propose to put up my pistols, go or no go. He went out and I followed him....
Wild Bill whirled around and met me. He said, "...what are you doing with those pistols on?"
I said, "I am just taking in the town."
He pulled his pistol and said "Take those pistols off. I arrest you."
I said all right and pulled them out of the scabbard, but while he was reaching for them, I reversed them and whirled them over on him with the muzzles in his face, springing back at the same time.I told him to put his pistols up, which he did. I cursed him for a long-haired scoundrel that would shoot a boy with his back to him (as I had been told he intended to do me). He said, "Little Arkansaw, you have been wrongly informed."
I shouted, "This is my fight, and I'll kill the first man that fires a gun."
Bill said, "You are the gamest and quickest boy I ever saw. Let us compromise this matter and I will be your friend. Let us go in here and take a drink, as I want to talk to you and give you some advice."
At first I thought he might be trying to get the drop on me, but he finally convinced me of his good intentions, and we went in and took a drink. We went into a private room and I had a long talk with him and we came out friends.
The Life of John Wesley Hardin As Written by Himself, University of Oklahoma Press (1961), both quoted in The Last Gunfighter: John Wesley Hardin, Richard C. Marohn, Creative Publishing Company, 1995.
Dr Marohn had the definitive private collection of Hardin firearms and memorabilia, shown in great detail in The Estate of Richard C. Marohn, M.D., Butterfield & Butterfield 1996. His biography of Hardin contains a whole chapter on "Guns of a Gunfighter". There is no mention of notches, nor a notch to be seen on any of Hardin's guns.
Jim, while in El Paso you might want to visit the site of Hardin's death at the Acme Saloon, corner of San Antonio and Mesa or law office at 200 1/2 El Paso Street; his grave is in Concordia Cemetery.
Berkley is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th July 2009, 07:28 PM   #19
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,157
Default

Fantastic information Berkeley!!! Thank you so much, and I wish I would have time to stop there. We are on pretty tight schedule with repairs coming up in Tucson, so looks like we roll through. Gonna be some long driving, it takes days just to get outa Texas!!

Great quotes out of Hardin's book, and it does seem that there is quite a basis in fact about these guys and thier dexterity with thier guns. I think Rosa has done some of the most amazing research standing on the Wild West gunfighters, and has shown that at least thier abilities were soundly recounted, the stories...well quite a lot of range thanks to the ambitious writers and storytellers.

Billy, I have heard of course a lot of Tehachapi, but never really have been there. That loop sounds unbelievable, and no wonder the railroad buffs are so excited about it. I can well understand about the climb though, driving this thing through mountains is a real challenge, and hard to imagine needing an altimeter in a road vehicle, but you really do. Mostly you're watching the tachometer, grade brake and overdrive, and its quite a challenge.

There is so much history out there in the Mojave, I remember one research project years ago on a sunken silver ship in one dried up lake bed, I think it was the Mollie Stevens. Think I'd like to see Tehachapi now that you bring it up...sounds fascinating.

All best regards,
Jim

Berkely I sent you a PM
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th July 2009, 10:02 PM   #20
aerosick
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Southern California, USA
Posts: 25
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall

Billy, I have heard of course a lot of Tehachapi, but never really have been there. That loop sounds unbelievable, and no wonder the railroad buffs are so excited about it. I can well understand about the climb though, driving this thing through mountains is a real challenge, and hard to imagine needing an altimeter in a road vehicle, but you really do. Mostly you're watching the tachometer, grade brake and overdrive, and its quite a challenge.

There is so much history out there in the Mojave, I remember one research project years ago on a sunken silver ship in one dried up lake bed, I think it was the Mollie Stevens. Think I'd like to see Tehachapi now that you bring it up...sounds fascinating.


Jim,

Tehachapi is on Hwy 58.

That dried up lake bed is Owens Lake in Owens Valley. The City of LA Dept of Water & Power has started refilling that lake after many lawsuits.

You can read about it HERE and if you Click on the Tab "More Travel Fun" you can Click on "Route 66". You might find something useful there.

Billy
aerosick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th August 2009, 07:24 AM   #21
potapych
Member
 
potapych's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Left Coast, USA
Posts: 14
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pukka Bundook

There is only one gun I can think of off-hand with notches, in this case filed into the side of the trigger-guard, and this was from an earlier time, and was a full-stock plains rifle owned at one time by Joe Meek.


Hi Kids,

Reading through this thread I was reminded that I have a similarly notched trigger guard. The weapon is a half-stock .54 Cal. Plains Rifle. I often wondered what their significance was and surmise they may represent grizzlies, anything else would have been too common a target in those days, (including, unfortunately, Native Americans...) Personally, I just don't see mountain men, people of the stature of Joe Meek, notching their guns to commemorate killing a fellow human.

Ray
Attached Images
 

Last edited by potapych : 7th August 2009 at 11:03 AM.
potapych is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th August 2009, 02:58 PM   #22
VANDOO
(deceased)
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: OKLAHOMA, USA
Posts: 3,138
Default

I TALKED TO A FRIEND OF MINE WHO WRITES BOOKS ON OUTLAWS MOSTLY THE MORE FAMOUS ONES. HE SAID HE WAS SURPRIZED WHEN HE STARTED DOING RESEARCH FOR HIS BOOKS YEARS AGO THAT THERE WERE NOT LOTS OF INSTANCES OF NOTCHES ON GUNS. HE SAID IT WAS MOSTLY JUST POPULAR FICTION MADE UP BY WRITERS OF THE TIMES. HE SAID OUT OF OVER ONE THOUSAND OUTLAWS AND GUNMEN HE RESEARCHED THERE WERE ONLY TWO DOCUMENTED CASES BUT THEY WERE MINOR OUTLAWS AND NOT ONES HE USED IN HIS BOOKS SO COULD NOT GIVE ME ANY DETAILS.
IN CASE SOMEONE LIKES TO READ UP ON GUNFIGHTERS AND OUTLAWS I WILL LIST TWO OF HIS BOOKS
1. 100 OKLAHOMA OUTLAWS, GANGSTERS AND LAWMEN 1839-1939, BY DAN ANDERSON WITH LAURENCE YADON

2. 200 TEXAS OUTLAWS AND LAWMEN 1835-1935, BY LAURENCE J. YADON WITH DAN ANDERSON

HE HAS WRITTEN OTHER BOOKS ON THE WEST AND THE TWO AUTHORS OFTEN COLLABORATE ON REASERCH AND WRITEING PROJECTS. THEY ONLY WRITE STORIES THAT THEY CAN BACK UP WITH FACTS SO THESE BOOKS ARE NOT FICTION AND DON'T READ LIKE A WESTERN OR ROMANCE NOVEL. IF THEY USE SOMETHING THAT CAN NOT BE CONFIRMED THEY WILL SO STATE IN THE BOOK.
UNFORTUNATELY HE DIDN'T REMEMBER THE INFO ON THE TWO CASES OF NOTCHES IN GUNS BUT SAID HE WOULD LOOK AND SEE IF HE COULD FIND IT WHEN TIME PERMITS.
VANDOO is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th August 2009, 02:59 PM   #23
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,157
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by potapych
Hi Kids,

Reading through this thread I was reminded that I have a similarly notched trigger guard. The weapon is a half-stock .54 Cal. Plains Rifle. I often wondered what their significance was and surmise they may represent grizzlies, anything else would have been too common a target in those days, (including, unfortunately, Native Americans...) Personally, I just don't see mountain men, people of the stature of Joe Meek, notching their guns to commemorate killing a fellow human.

Ray




It's great to see this thread revived, thank you so much Ray! and very well observed on the rather unseemly and despicable thought of personal bravado at the expense of the loss of a human life. In most cases, I think this is the proper perspective, and even one of probably the most ruthless of the renowned gunfighters, John Wesley Hardin, we have seen that his actual weapons did not bear notches on them. This emphasizes the distinct licence used by enthusiastic writers to dramatize and sensationalize thier work.

As also noted earlier, Wyatt Earp, when asked about notches in his gun by one such inquisitive writer, became enraged at such a suggestion and roared, "only a tinhorn would do such a thing!".

Thank you for sharing the beauty of a Plains rifle! and for showing these curious triggerguard notches so clearly. I do believe these are likely marks for downing a formidable predator such as a grizzly, rather than a tally simply for game, in which case the stock removal from the guard would probably eliminate the guard altogether.

Now in the case of earlier mention of grisly (the other kind) tallies, in which certain frontiersmen counted scalps taken as trophies in combat against American Indian warriors, the unfortunate practice that was brought to them with European contact, I believe there were probably instances of this.
In these cases, the stock was tallied, not the triggerguard.

I believe that the marks centered on the triggerguard were placed there strategically as representation of something, and at the trigger location, it would represent the key instrument of the deadly achievement in use of the gun, the trigger.

It seems there have often been suggestions of notching or deliberate markings of this kind being measurement of some kind or indicators placed pragmatically for some now unknown use. One rather more elaborate example of such key marking were the scales found on usually Italian stiletto blades, later discovered to be measurements for powder charges for gunners.
Obviously that is not the case here, but mentioned only as illustration to describe such practices.

Do you think there could be any such value implied in trigger notches? I know little on guns and actual shooting, and would not know of any practice or function that would require actual marking for use, such as positioning of the trigger itself?

Thank you again Ray!
All the best,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th August 2009, 08:08 PM   #24
pallas
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 53
Default

sorry if this was already brought up, but there where a few mafia figures from the 1910's-1930s who notched their trigger guards everytime they killed another mobster/cop. one of these guns, a 12 gauge shotgun used in the st valentine's day massacre in chicago was recently profiled on "history detectives" on PBS.
pallas is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th August 2009, 12:15 AM   #25
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,157
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by pallas
sorry if this was already brought up, but there where a few mafia figures from the 1910's-1930s who notched their trigger guards everytime they killed another mobster/cop. one of these guns, a 12 gauge shotgun used in the st valentine's day massacre in chicago was recently profiled on "history detectives" on PBS.



I had not heard of this Pallas, and thank you for noting it. I'd like to know more on this shotgun, its the first I've heard of it, as well as on the 'mafia' using this practice.
In speaking with a friend who used to be a police officer, he told me about a fellow officer who had shot and killed an individual in self defense. He was so distraught over the event that he immediately got rid of the gun, and felt that the gun would bring bad karma or something to that effect.
I think we have noted in certain tribal cultures, after battle, especially if enemies were killed, the warrior had to observe certain rituals, especially with the weapon, as it was tainted by the spirits of those it had killed. Most of these perspectives seem to reflect thinking quite contrary to the bravado often portrayed.

All best regards,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th August 2009, 12:06 PM   #26
potapych
Member
 
potapych's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Left Coast, USA
Posts: 14
Default

Quote:
Perhaps these instances of 'record keeping' or tallies became a dramatic vehicle in the embellished tales of the dime novel writers and became part of the 'gunfighters myth'.


Hi Jim,

While the tally stick's origins reside somewhere back in the dimmer history of mankind, (the earliest surviving example about 18,000 years old), I think it helpful to consider it's uses when trying to analyze the concept of using tally marks on a gun.

Generally these may be broken down into either: an aide to memory when the amount is likely to change irregularly and/or over a protracted time, contains a large number, is being transmitted as a message or if the users are illiterate. The other possible use is the concept of "bragging rights".

In the first instance, the likeliest use would be the first example: an aide to memory when the amount is likely to change irregularly and/or over a protracted time and that use does not necessarily exclude the "bragging rights" concept.

In either case, we could agree that they would signify a momentous event, in the case of a mountain man or guide it could be the downing of a Grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis) or even the number of round trips over the Overland Trail or number of attendances of the Rocky Mountain Rendezvous, etc.

To find such marks upon Plains Rifles, (not exactly combat weapons, unless of desperation), and have them signify "killings" of humans, causes me to imagine the following conversation: "Yep, this notch here, this was old Sam. You remember, that drunken fella that lived out behind the livery stable? Came at me blind drunk one afternoon with a pitchfork and wouldn't drop it so I had to do him in." Pretty far-fetched.

The other possibility, killings of Native Americans, is likewise somewhat put to rest by the fact that Joeseph Meeks had those two marks on his trigger guard yet he was married to the daughter of Nez Perce chief Kowesota.

Likewise, I think "another notch in his gun" was probably a figure of speech applied to gunfighters and it worked it's way into a myth.

Quote:
any practice or function that would require actual marking for use, such as positioning of the trigger itself?


In so far as using those trigger guard notches for some other practical aspect than "tallying"; I am fairly conversant with firearms and there quite a few instances of tactile marks on both them and other accoutrements but in my experience they are usually protrusions, as those are much easier to detect than depressions and are of use so one can keep their eye on the target or locate a reference in the dark. As far as the trigger and guard goes; when one depends on a gun as a tool you develop a familiarity that becomes subconscious, so I cannot think of a practical use for any marks being located there.

Thank *you* for raising this subject, it is always an interesting exercise to try and put ourselves into the minds of our forefathers.

Best,

Ray
potapych is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th August 2009, 06:36 PM   #27
pallas
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 53
Default

http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetec...lentinesday.pdf




here is a transcript of the episode of history detectives in question about the notched st valentines day massacre shotgun (i wasent able to find any video unfortunatly)
pallas is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 8th August 2009, 10:00 PM   #28
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,157
Default

Eloquently worded and reasonably thought out observations Ray, and it really is great to examine these subtle features and elements associated with antique weapons to discover more on what our ancestors were truly like. It has always seemed to me that truth and reality are far more interesting than hyperbole and fantastically embellished tales.
I have been fascinated with history for as long as I can remember, and seeing the reality of the events brought into comprehensible dimension is a great way to better understand historical figures, and that they were really just like us.
I think one of the great illustrations of this was presented well in "The Alamo", and Davy Crockett being as amazed at the embellished tales about him in drama as the people thrilled with this mythical persona.

Thank you for the comments on possible practical reasons for notching on triggerguards, and it is good to see more accurate perspective on such probability. Good notes on the tally system also, apparantly the tally stick was a Native American practice used more in certain games used by young boys, but for them even games became applicable in honing skills that would become essential as grown warriors. It seems reasonable that these tally systems may have evolved from early civilization much in the manner you have described.

Barry, thank you for the comments and for adding those titles, I really look forward to hearing more on those obscure instances of notching, which indeed do seem more from later individuals adopting features from the well known dime novels.

Thanks again Pallas for the heads up on the St.Valentines Day massacre weapon, I'd sure like to find out more on the notches on that. It seems puzzling this 'guage' was kept secluded for so many years. There does seem to be every bit as much myth as with gunfighters in many cases, and while the 'mobsters' on the 20's and 30's were pretty ruthless, I would be surprised if this type bravado would have been applied by true mafiosa. The well known hoods from the midwest might have been more likely, and the arrogant bravado of figures such as Bonnie & Clyde more likely, though as far as known did not notch guns or keep tally.

All best regards,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 9th August 2009, 06:34 AM   #29
potapych
Member
 
potapych's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Left Coast, USA
Posts: 14
Default

Quote:
I think one of the great illustrations of this was presented well in "The Alamo"


Thank you again Jim. I would highly recommend the treatment of these historical figures in Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis by William C. Davis, Harper-Collins 1998, if you have not read it already.

Best,

Ray
potapych is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 9th August 2009, 01:30 PM   #30
Pukka Bundook
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 802
Default

Re. the notching of the trigger-guard of the very nice plains rifle, it could even have been done in later years, when some kid was playing 'cowboys and indians' or some such.
Having said that, I agree it probably represents some formidable adversary downed, like a grizzly.

Re. keeping score of human victims, This as we agree is normally rather abhorent, but two cases where this wasn't the case come to mind;
1, WW2 Polish fighter pilots in the RAF as an example....lost their country and maybe family to the Reich, and were there simply to kill Germans. It was a vendetta and that is all. Even when the weather was not fit for flying, they would Still fly if an enemy 'plane was heard overhead....even against orders.
Such a vendetta could concievably also occur in the old west, if someone lost his family to 'hostiles'
2, The other example of "keeping score" is actually from a friends private collection from New Gunea, But the score was kept by the Victims side.
In this case the tally is in the form of a large pole, carved with representations of the people killed by a rival tribe. the figures vary from tiny to very large, depending on social standing, and if a truce was to be called, a very quick 'leveling of score' often took place before the truce took effect!

What has this to do with the old west?..........I don't have a clue!!...apart from giving examples of where keeping score is more 'Kosha"

All best wishes
Richard.
Pukka Bundook is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



All times are GMT. The time now is 08:15 PM.


Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of an irrevocable nonexclusive license for display here.