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American Handgunner Jan/Feb 2010 - Page 52
Hollywood 60-Shot Colts ike most Baby Boomers, I acquired my first understanding of handgun ballistics from watching television in the 1950s and 60s, the same place I learned about foreign languages and physics. How sad kids today are apparently unaware that skunks speak French, or that a cast-iron frying pan is handy for reshaping heads. The first thing the TV taught me about handguns is a Colt single-action Proof John had revolver isn’t very powerful. This was “the affliction” demonstrated both during the act of bad. Note the firing, and by the results. Apparently carefully applied cowboy-era bullets had a hard time mustache and suitably soulful making it out of the barrel, because cowboy eyes. all the really good shootists flung their Colts forcefully toward the target as they pulled the trigger, to help speed the bullets on their way. This evidence was supported by the fact no bad guys (black cowboy hats with bandanas tied across their faces) ever developed a bullet hole, even when shot across a poker table. Instead they just jerked slightly, as if tapped by an invisible frying pan, then placed their hands over their chests and died. Note one of the earliest examples of gangsta’ gun holding. Here, a revoluThese two pieces of evitionary war hero blasts a bad guy using dence were corroborated by a side-ways hold we’re all familiar with saloon gunfights. Shortly today. And we thought we invented it? Ha! after the fight started, somebody would turn a poker table on its side and hide behind it, occasionally poking their eyes and sixgun over the top to shoot. Meanwhile the other guys would shoot at the table, but their bullets wouldn’t penetrate the wood. Apparently saloon-keepers bought really good poker tables in those days, but cheaped-out on chairs, since the chairs broke into kindling when bashed over a black cowboy hat. l Experience John’s wife was not amused when he up-turned the dining room table. “But Roy said to do it.” I wonder if he found out if it was bullet proof? As I grew more sophisticated, say around age eight, I noticed this ballistic law was reversed when shooting through the back of the table. This happened occasionally when somebody seated at a poker table shot upward through the table. These bullets always blew on through, even when shot from a derringer, with plenty of power left to kill a bad guy. Maybe in those days a special varnish was applied to poker tables, that could only be penetrated from the back side. Things changed along about the late 1960s, a time of social and Hollywood upheaval. First, bullets started making holes in people, and not just in bad guys — partly because bad guys quit wearing black hats, so they weren’t quite so easily identified. Also, revolvers apparently became more powerful. Instead of the shooter having to push the muzzle forward during firing, revolvers started jerking backwards at the shot. This tendency grew until Dirty Harry’s shooting hand went flying backwards as if he’d just touched a hot frying pan. In addition to acquiring bullet holes — and actually bleeding sometimes — the victims of these newlyempowered revolvers often went flying as well, sometimes over vehicles and sometimes through walls. After all, as Harry stated, the .44 Magnum was the world’s most powerful handgun. Eventually, of course, technology marched on and firepower overtook sheer power. There had always been some tendency in this direction even in cowboy days, when 6-shooters often shot 60 times without reloading. But after Hollywood discovered the highcapacity autoloader lead really flew. Apparently shooting so much faster resulted in a tendency for the handgun to torque in the shooter’s hand. This was compensated for by holding the gun sideways. A little-known fact, at least in America where knowledge of Down-Under movies is limited to Breaker Morant and Crocodile Dundee, is that Australian-screen gangbangers have to hold their autos tilted the other way to compensate for the Coriolis effect in the southern hemisphere. Sparking Another ballistic advance arrived with sparking bullets. Evidently these are coated in some high-tech ceramic, perhaps mixed with magnesium, 52 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • JANUARY/FEBRUARY2010