U.S. Marshall John Marwood primarily uses a .44-caliber Colt Dragoon. This is a single-action pistol. That means he has to cock the trigger back every time he shoots. He can’t stand there pulling on the trigger and blasting willy nilly like the Lone Ranger or Roy Rogers or some other cartoonish character on television. He has to stand under the returning fire of his opponent, cock his gun and aim. And the guy across the plaza has to do the same thing. The type of six gun you see in Lone Ranger episodes and the like didn’t exist until much later in the century.
Sometimes a man would “fan” the trigger, but this was rarely done because you couldn’t really hit anything. Better to take your time, aim well, and fire. Though gunfights themselves were extremely rare in the West, the man who aimed the straightest often beat the man who drew the fastest. That was the reality of the world back then, even in the world of Haxan. Speed was helpful…but aim was better. And since Marwood uses a Colt Dragoon, a fairly heavy gun even for 1874, it’s his aim and not his speed that wins the day. So far, anyway.
The Colt Dragoon was a popular gun during the Civil War and afterward. Wild Bill Hickock and other persons of that era also carried it. The gun wasn’t loaded with cartridges you see on gun belts in movies. It was a ball and powder pistol fired with a percussion cap. Though the cylinder has six holes drilled into it, Marwood only loads his gun with five. The hammer is kept on an empty chamber for safety purposes. Only if he has time before he goes into action will he load that sixth chamber. (Most gunfighters did this. They figured if you can’t kill someone with five rounds a sixth isn’t going to help. You’ll be dead by then anyway.)
As with most people who use a gun like this, Marwood reloads it every morning. Moisture in the night air can dampen the gunpowder and cause a misfire (Admittedly, this was less likely to happen in the desert where the humidity is low.) It was smart tactics to reload your gun every morning for the day. And as powder, conical slug and percussion cap cost about eight cents each, this added up to a lot of money, about $2.40 a month. That’s not chicken feed, and when you add in the cost of practice then it really mounts up.
People often used rifles and shotguns to hunt and protect themselves back then, even in Haxan. But they were under NO illusion as to what a revolver was for. It was made to kill people. It had no other use and people of the West understood this. Guns — revolvers — were made to kill other human beings. That was their main function. Men, and not a few women, didn’t purchase revolvers and plink away at cans and bottles just for laughs.
One last note. Often you see movies and old shows from the 1950s get the terms “gunman” and “gunfighter” mixed up. They aren’t interchangeable. A “gunman” is a bad guy or someone who sells his gun for murder. A “gunfighter” is someone who is working on the side of the law. The men and women of the real West knew this difference and would never have confused the two terms.
Whether Marwood is a “gunman” or a “gunfighter” is left to the reader to decide.
Below is a pic of a Colt Dragoon. This is very similar to the one Marwood uses, except his sports a “yellow bone” handle. Once again, I’ll leave it to the reader to imagine what kind of bone it might have been.