Saturday, September 12, 2009

Could They...

When other writers discover I’m a “gun buff” there are a number of questions I expect.

The Old West fans want to know if Billy Dixon could really have made that mile long shot at Adobe Walls. The incredible answer is yes, I know of two modern marksmen who have duplicated it. Incredible because in Dixon’s words, the only person more surprised than me was the Indian.

The nervous ask, “Are you armed now?” TV has led to the unrealistic expectation that concealing a firearm is easy no matter what you’re wearing.

Mystery hounds want to know what kind of guns Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson use. The most popular choice in TV and Movies is Webley Mk. VI revolver. It would be my preference, but not accurate to the original stories or the time period. In Arthur Conan Doyle’s, writings Holmes and Watson employed a range of weapons depending on the story. Film added to the collage.

By far the most common question is “Could Stephanie Plum really have shot Jimmy Alpha with her gun still in her purse. Would she even have hit him?”

In fairness one reason this question comes up so often is because it’s a favorite example in my programs. Even with that I’m only responsible for about half the time it’s asked.
I’ve always said yes, but the question demanded an answer. So what did I need?

First was something to shoot with. Stephanie has a five shot S&W. From my Step-dad by way of my Mom, I have a six shot Colt Detective Special. Other than the manufacture and extra cartridge they are the same. Both weapons are small, ultra short barrel, double action revolvers. Both are designed for cancel carry.

A place to do this experiment is its own challenge. Most ranges don’t want folks lying on the ground shooting up at a sharp angle with the weapons sights unusable. At HomePlace we have two ranges and lots of empty country side. I’ll be careful.

Next up was a purse. Strange as it may seem Helene wouldn’t even discuss my borrowing her purse for this experiment. We were off to the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Marlin. A guy digging through large black purses raises questions. The fact the staff knows me doesn’t help oddly enough. I explained what I wanted the purse for, several times as additional people were called over. Finally I was given my choice of purses with the understanding that I would return after the experiment and report the results.

A life size silhouette target stood in for Jimmy Alpha. Helene agreed to assist and observe from a safe distance. She would time the experiment and shout “GO!”

I leaned three sheets of plywood against a target stand and stapled “Jimmy” to the top sheet. I did this for the same reason some of the targets are backed by old washing machines, refrigerators and freezers. They don’t always stop the bullets but the energy expended punching through them bleeds off a lot of momentum.
It was time.

As the story goes Jimmy, is distracted when Stephanie head butted him. Stephanie is shot in the hip as she runs to her purse and drags it off the counter as she falls. Jimmy is standing over her as she jams both hands into her purse rolls and fires.

I took my spot standing in front of the target waiting. From her hiding place I heard Helene shout “GO!” I hit the ground and grabbed the .38 with both hands and pointed my purse at Jimmy Alpha’s chest.

In less than four seconds I was frantically pulling the trigger on spent chambers. I had gone through the all six chambers at least one extra time. Adrenaline rules! Examining the purse reviled something I should have expected but didn’t. I knew the bullets would punch through the leather (plastic?) but the muzzle blast did more damage than they did. By the second shot all but the handle of the weapon was protruding through the hole in the corner nearest the barrel.

Did I hit Jimmy? Oh yeah! Not knowing the order the shots struck in the damages were as follows. One bullet cut the lung and kidney on the left side. One shot hit near the top of each lung. One bullet cut the large blood vessel on the left side near the collar bone. One struck the neck and cut through the spine. One missed completely. Perhaps not as good as Stephanie’s five shots to the heart but I got him.

Postscript, when I read this to our writers group I had two comments. The first was that I was not being fair to Stephanie. My purse only contained the Colt. Hers had the S&W, hair brush, pepper spray, tissues, lip stick, wallet, pen, handcuffs, address book, mints, hand lotion and gum. Helene pointed out that my shoes did not match my purse. It looks like I need to repeat the experiment after correcting both problems.


  1. I hear in some fashion circles the purse no longer needs to match the shoes. My husband, the fashion innovator!

    The next time you do this, you might consider our upcoming event here in October. Would an audience bother you?

  2. On the fashion question I will take another page from Stephaine Plum's book. This is a good excuse to buy another pair of Boots.

    As for making the shot infront of an audience, these things aren't scheduled, they just happen. An audience would have to be almost as stressful as jimmy Alpha getting ready to shoot me. Why not!

  3. I have to say, you are a quick study. I am so impressed with your blog and your fun, inventive, and FULL OF IMAGES (GO ART!) posts! I laughed out loud through the whole blog. It takes a very well rounded writer to weave a story that includes Billy Dixon, Sherlock Holmes, and Stephanie Plum, and keeps the reader engaged and laughing!

    I am very proud of you guys. I expect to video reenactments, the next time you are recreating experiments. :)

    Now, I need to get over to my blogs and catch up, or become the cobbler whose own shoes are full of holes.

    Looking forward to posts from the field!