Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting


From Wikipedia
Edward McGivern (October 20, 1874 – December 12, 1957) was a famous exhibition shooter, shooting instructor and author of the book Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting. McGivern performed extensive research into the art of handgun shooting, particularly with the double action revolver. He is renowned as one of the best handgunners that ever lived. His Guinness world record for “The greatest rapid-fire feat” (set on August 20, 1932 at the Lead Clube Range, South Dakota) still stands. He emptied two revolvers in less than 2 seconds. He set another record on September 13, 1932, shooting five rounds from a double action revolver at 15 feet in 2/5 of a second, and covering the group with his hand. Other accomplishments include “firing two times from 15 feet five shots which could be covered by a silver half-dollar piece in 45/100 of a second”. His shooting was so rapid, timing machines would malfunction in attempting to record his shooting speed.

Mr. McGivern was capable of many amazing shooting feats, most of them well documented in his book. To name just a few:

  • He could break six simultaneously hand thrown clay pigeons (standard trap targets) in the air before they hit the ground.
  • He could hit a tin can hand thrown 20 ft. in the air five times before it hit the ground.
  • He could drive a tack or nail into wood by shooting it.
  • He could shoot the spots out of playing cards at 18 feet, or even split a playing card edge on.
  • He could shoot a dime on the fly.

All of these executed with either hand using a factory Smith & Wesson Model 10 double action revolver (purportedly his favorite handgun)

Notes on Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting
by Ed McGivern

Page 28 admonished reader to find a club and attend shooting events.

“When the average person wishes to learn to play any games or enter any line of sport is is generally the custom to look up someone prominent in that game, or in some manner leading in or promoting the particular line of sport in which he may be interested, and arrange for a course of instruction…

“With the person becoming interested in … shooting this course is not always followed, If is was it would be a much easier matter for the student to learn the proper method oh handling his gun, … thus avoiding the genera tendency to form bad habits at the start that usually prove quite difficult to correct later on.”

Page 33,
Section 4

Shooting Standard Regulation Stationary Targets

“When beginning your training the most effective plan is to try careful and very deliberate slow fire, at fairly large targets and at fairly short ranges, gradually working along and slightly increasing the range, until reaching the standard distances at which certain sized bull’s-eyes and targets are regularly used. It is best to stick to the standard targets and the standard distances that are very plainly stated in the regular target shooting rules…”

“[M]y education regarding aerial target shooting with revolvers was broadened and intensified in relation to group shooting and trigger squeezing, and the why, looming large and prominent, was made very clear to me…” (emphasis in original)

Section 5
Training for Aerial Targets

Shooting marbles out of the air

“[P]rogress was really started towards becoming an aerial target shot with revolvers. How? Well, it can be quite easily explained in a very simple way: I had learned to “squeeze and control the trigger,” and also had learned to align the sights about even with the bottom of the marble, or any other target, letting it sort of rife on the top of the sights somewhat as military shooting (6 O’Clock hold) is done.

I had learned to use the sights quickly and accurately on moving targets and had learned to squeeze and control the trigger properly while also keeping the movements of the revolver under perfect control…” (emphasis in original)

“The real secret of the whole matter was that I had developed enough skill to shoot close groups in relation to the point of aim, and in direct relation to the center of the small targets…”

McGivern advised the PowerPlinker to first develop enough group shooting ability on paper targets so that the aimed group is small enough such that an aerial target cannot slip though a “hole” in that group.

“The person who starts out to acquire sufficient skill to ‘put his bullets right on top of each other,’ has a false idea.”

At the distance from the muzzle the thrown target will be hit the shooter MUST have enough skill to group shots tight enough so there is no gap in the group large enough for the target to slip through.

“If a revolver shot, using the .38 Special cartridges, can shoot a group the size of a quarter, that is, keeping the bullets within the outline of the quarter, he can regularly hit three-eights inch marbles. When the revolver shooter can shoot a circular group where the width of the bullet on each side of the center will make the space between them slightly smaller than the object being shot at, then he will score all hits just so long as he doses not permit the group to open up enough to make this opening in the center of group large enough for the object that is used as the target to pass through without touching.”

Contrary to popular myth, McGivern did all of his aerial shooting as aimed fire and with smooth trigger control, as learned on paper Bullseye targets. He advised aiming at the base of the target while airborne and to move your position (and the sights) in relation to the target as it moved. Don’t wait for the target to “pause” at the top of the movement, instead, keep the sights moving.

“[T]his “watchful waiting” attitude-while the target hesitates-is a very practical illustration of the familiar saying, “He who hesitates is lost.” Instead of waiting and trying to make still (or stopped) targets out of rapidly moving ones, just follow the outline of the methods described a short time ago in the account of the marble shooting. Bend the body forward for downward movement. Bend the body back for upward movement. Swing or twist body sideways for side movement, and hold arms and hands and revolver in direct relative position to the eye and in line with, and as near as possible at, the correct elevation of target…”

“That triggers are not squeezed and controlled in much the same way as for other shooting, is also quite the wrong idea. THEY ARE! The apparent difference lying in the fact that it is done much more quickly and with a longer sweep when using double-action methods, yet very evenly, very carefully, and quite smoothly, as a result of practice and practically experience which must be developed, of course, by persistent effort and sensible study of the subject and the principles involved.

McGivern is probably best known for his rapid fire feats, such as placing six shots into a thrown gallon can before it hit the ground, and firing five shots in 0.40 seconds into a playing card group at 15 feet.

Once again, when learning rapid fire on stationary and aerial targets McGivern returned to group shooting on Bullseye targets.

“The training methods for preparing to fire six bullets into a tin can were entirely changed at this particular time, and practice for many weeks was confined to shooting six shots at certain sized portions of paper targets just as rapidly as it was possible to operate the revolvers by double-action method.”

McGivern got on target by using a “Slight Lifting Motion of Entire Gun.” He pointed in from just below the target and fired just as the gun (and the sights) paused.

“It consists of leveling the gun just slightly below the point where you want the bullet to strike, then while maintaining the proper sight alignment, raise the entire gun up to the correct elevation for the bullet to connect with the desire spot or object which constitutes the target. It will be found that gravity will greatly assist in arresting the motion of the gun momentarily while the shot is being fired.”

For quick follow up shots McGivern used what he termed “The Forward Poke.” Today, shooters call it “Timing the Gun” “Reset Drill” and “Post Ignition Push.” At some point in speed the shooter has to haul the gun back on target in order to obtain split times quickly enough.

“[T]he gun is pushed slightly forward the target, which brings the front sight down and in proper relation to the rear sight.”

Jeff Cooper on Benchrest


The bench rest is a distinct obstacle to the understanding of the art of the rifle.

The bench rest is a device intended to eliminate human error, and relates to the rifle the way the dynamometer does to the motor car. It is properly used to evaluate output of machinery – not of man. A shooter’s expertise is always measured from a field position, and usually under time limitation.

Unfortunately, most public ranges are confined to the bench rest for reasons of administrative safety. Sometimes I think that if safety is all that important one should give up shooting and take up the frisbee.

– Jeff Cooper

Are proponents of point shooting ACTUALLY point shooting?


Competition shooters already figured this out decades ago, but don’t tell any one. Specifically, Brian Enos spelled it out nicely in Practical Shooting : Beyond Fundamentals in 1990 about things already learned and understood by competition shooters.

As this video demonstrates, most “point shooting” really is rudimentary aiming. Regardless, bullets only go where the barrel points them and the gun doesn’t care what you are or aren’t looking at.

This guy has a beard, so he must be legit.

Sighted fire: No speed lost, most accuracy.
No sights fire (same technique, no sights on gun): No speed gain, slight loss of accuracy.
True point shooting/Visually obscured fire (can see target but completely obscure gun out of peripheral vision): No speed gain, severe loss of accuracy.

Tactical Training Does It Wrong


Defensive Handgun Training – What we’re doing wrong?
by Richard Mann

There is no shortage of variations in the training methods and doctrines employed when it comes to the defensive handgun. These differences apply to not just the doctrine that is taught but also to the methods of instruction. The point of this article is not to offer one method or doctrine as the best, but to point out some common shortcomings of traditional shooting classes and suggest additional or alternative ways to improve your shooting skills.

Shot Counts

Some shooting schools advertise that you will shoot a lot of ammo if you attend their course. Hey, this sounds great, right? We all like to shoot. However, there is a problem with this. Experience has shown that after firing somewhere between 150 and 250 rounds in one day, most shooters will reach the point of diminishing returns. Their bodies get tired, their arms ache and their grips lose their rigidity. I know of a training course where you will fire as many as 400 rounds in one day. Now, if you shoot a lot, like hundreds of rounds per week, you can probably hang in there. But if you are an average person looking to get quality instruction and improve your skills, shooting 400 rounds per day is not the way to get there.

Actually, you can vastly improve your shooting skills by only shooting 150 rounds per day [or even much less.] Controlling recoil and dealing with the constant explosion at the end of your pistol’s barrel wears on your physical stamina and your mind. You can pull the trigger twice as many times during dry practice before you experience the same level of fatigue. In addition, you can also use dry practice to develop other skills like reloading, presentation and movement. If you enroll in a defensive handgun training class, don’t be discouraged if the instructor says, “We are going to do a lot of dry-practice.” It could very well mean that you have chosen the right class to spend your time and money on.

I believe it is a mistake to shoot more than 250 rounds per day while conducting defensive handgun training unless shooting a defensive handgun is something you do almost every day.


Have you ever tried to shoot a moving target? It’s not that hard if the distances are short, but it is harder than shooting a target that is not moving. To steal a line from my friend Sheriff Jim Wilson, “In police work this is something we call a clue.” And the clue is that if you are moving you are a harder target to hit. If you are ever confronted with an armed assailant, you should shoot and move or move and shoot but you should never stand in one place, all Wild Bill Hickok like, and shoot it out. Where should you move to? Preferably cover. In the absence of cover, choose concealment. In the absence of concealment, choose anywhere. How should you move? As fast as you can. Yes, you shoot more accurately when you’re still, but when you’re done shooting and start the assessing process you should also be moving. Once you have mastered sight alignment and trigger control and are proficient with presenting your handgun and reloading it, every drill you conduct should include movement. You should move either before you shoot, after you shoot or while you are shooting, and I’m not talking about taking a single step, though even taking one step is better than standing still. When you start a drill, you should have various cover and concealment options at your disposal and you should utilize them every time.

However, most defensive shooting schools incorporate minimal movement into the training. Why? It’s not because they are stupid and think movement is not important. It’s that most defensive handgun schools train with a group of students on the line at the same time. From a safety standpoint, you cannot have students running all over the range shooting at the same time. This would lead to two things: somebody with an extra hole and a lawsuit. Therefore, you will most likely have to train with your instructor in a one-on-one situation to make sure you don’t put other students in danger while you are moving. The problem is that at a shooting school this process would seriously bog down training. The answer is to take a tutorial or a one-on-one training class. Gunsite offers tutorials like these, and yes, they are more expensive. However, the return for your investment is much higher. Alternatively, at least when you are practicing on your own, make sure you incorporate movement.

I believe a defensive handgun training program of instruction that is not based on movement is lacking.


Scanning – looking to the left and right after you engage a target – has become the en vogue thing to do on the range. On its face it makes sense. In a real defensive situation you’d best be looking around – 360 degrees around – before you holster up. When it gets bad, it generally gets bad all over. The problem is that on the range we are never looking for something that might actually be there. We just move our heads from left to right acting like we are looking for something we know is not there. We fight the way we train. The worst thing we could train to do is to turn our head this way and that and not actually look. Are we building a conditioned response that is prudent in theory but reckless in reality? The solution is really simple but difficult to facilitate on your own. We need to scan, but we need to scan and sometimes see things that drive different reactions.

If we are conducting drills to improve our gun handling and marksmanship skills, then let’s not muddy the waters with a reckless, conditioned response. My brain is smart enough to figure out that when I look left and right, I’m not going to see anything I need to address, so there is no reason to twist my head except for fear a range officer will fuss at me. With no possibility of seeing things that will dictate different responses, scanning is about as meaningful a politician’s promise.

Short of pop-up shoot / no-shoot targets, with just a little creativity you could position targets to the left and right with numbers or colors on them. A training partner could call out a color or number immediately after you engage the primary threat. Then you could “scan” for that color or number and react as needed when and if you see it. You may not have a training partner, so you need something else to look for. Gunsite Instructor Dave Starin gave me a good idea when it comes to scanning. After you engage a target and consider the target neutralized, look around – with your handgun following your eyes – for something. What kind of something? Well, that depends on where you are. Look for other targets, bugs, empty cases down range, red leaves, flowers, zombies; it really does not matter. Look for something.

If you don’t see what you are looking for, proceed as the training situation dictates. If you do see what you are looking for, then have a predetermined reaction. You could say, “bang” or “stop” or you could re-engage the target. Just mentally and physically acknowledge that you have searched your immediate area and did not see what you are looking for. Instructor Chris Wear conducted an experiment during one of my visits to Gunsite. While working with turning targets, Chris wrote numbers on each target. After the drill, he asked the students to tell him the number on the target to their left. No one – I repeat – no one could do it and everyone had scanned as they had been instructed…They just did not see anything.

I believe that defensive handgun schools that have you scan and look for nothing are teaching a conditioned response that is dangerous. Scanning is not done to look cool, it is done to see things.

If you cannot afford to attend a quality training course, you can still conduct meaningful training on your own.

Fixing the Problems

As far as shooting schools are concerned, fixing some of these problems is a hard hurdle to get over. Shooting schools primarily exist to make money. Those not in the business of collecting a tuition, like the military and the police, still have financial considerations. They need to get as many trainees through a course as fast as possible so that they can maximize the taxpayer money they have been allotted. Neither of these approaches is conducive to providing the best training possible. That leaves you with two options; seek out a one-on-one tutorial or work through these problems on your own. The first would be preferable but will require deep pockets and with the cost of life these days, not many of us have pockets deep enough to even get all of a hand in there.

Keep this thought in mind: shooting a lot of ammo and learning how to look cool as you do it has nothing to do with the quality of instruction you will receive from a defensive handgun school. Common sense and the school’s ability to teach it do. Choose your training wisely; in the end it could make all the difference.

All or Nothing: Unsighted Fire


  • Unsighted fire happens, and more often than we often like to admit.
  • Practicing sighted fire helps improve your shooting ability even if you don’t focus on your sights under extreme stress.
  • Practicing sighted fire diligently can maximize your potential to see and use those sights under extreme stress.

Practicing sighted fire will improve your unsighted fire, but it doesn’t work the other way around.


Precision Under Pressure

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Have standards!

The specific standards are less important than the fact that you have some and they are currently challenging for you.

“I’m a better shooter now than I was while with the [SEAL] teams.”

You have to have some type of scale to score yourself on and that scale needs to be difficult to you in your training. [Good standards] hit every aspect of weapons manipulation, hits things done under pressure in front of people, and smaller hit zones that might be needed real world.

When we take a timer and scoring rings into the equation to get guys to work under stress, what I’ve found over the years is guy capable of 80% or better on the Hackathorn Standards or pretty much any other challenging standard has dramatically better results in real world engagements. Like astronomically better.

This improves first encounters, such as a cop in the U.S. getting into his very first gun fight ever. Before we’re talking low hit rates, like 50% hit ratio or 5 out of 10 [or only 3-4] hits. Now we’re hovering around seven or eight hits out of ten [70%-80%]. Significantly better results. Guys over seas seeing fight every night or every other night has the same results as the cops but now here, after the first two or three, it becomes a routine for them.

– Kyle Defoor

Having standards and striving to perform well is critical to real world performance. Shooters performing well on challenging, scored shooting courses perform better under stressful, real world encounters.

Full interview and podcast:

Activist critical of police undergoes use of force scenarios – FOX 10 News |

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Activist critical of police undergoes use of force scenarios – FOX 10 News |

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