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Why the First Cowboy To Draw Always Gets Shot 398

Posted by timothy
from the more-guns-less-crime dept.
cremeglace writes "Have you ever noticed that the first cowboy to draw his gun in a Hollywood Western is invariably the one to get shot? Nobel-winning physicist Niels Bohr did, once arranging mock duels to test the validity of this cinematic curiosity. Researchers have now confirmed that people indeed move faster if they are reacting, rather than acting first."
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Why the First Cowboy To Draw Always Gets Shot

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  • Oblig. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:02PM (#31026034)

    Han shot first.

  • Bad summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by RealErmine (621439) <(commerce) (at) (wordhole.net)> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:06PM (#31026084)
    Did the submitter or editors read the story? At the end they plainly state that even though the second "shooter" reacted faster, they could not make up the difference in time.
  • by koan (80826) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:11PM (#31026174)

    Basically if you have trained and know your weapon you fire faster if you don't think about it, it's a reflex thing and I have personally experienced the accuracy portion of this, meaning; if I know my rifle I can shoot without little or no thought/concentration and I am generally more accurate.

  • 1645 called. (Score:5, Informative)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:11PM (#31026180) Homepage

    Miyamoto Musashi established this phenomenon quite well in 1645. Book of five rings [wikipedia.org].

    Feudal Japan called, they want their news back.

  • Re:Bad summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by mdarksbane (587589) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:26PM (#31026410)

    This is pretty important, and follows the police and self-defense literature I've read. It's a real concern for officers who might have a gun pointed at a suspect who draws and fires.

    Previous studies have shown that even though the officer should have an advantage, if they actually process what is being drawn instead of just firing, the suspect who began with a gun at their head wins most of the time. Reading some of those studies provided a whole new perspective on all of the horrible "cop accidentally shoots a kid with a toy gun" moments.

  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:2, Informative)

    by ViViDboarder (1473973) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:28PM (#31026436)
    So they didn't explain "that", they explained the opposite...
  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:3, Informative)

    by wurble (1430179) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:29PM (#31026460)
    I used to think that was true insight into the reality of the world. After seeing Unforgiven, I viewed all the scenes of quickdrawing and such from old westerns as Hollywood bs impossiblities.

    Then I saw some of the things guys like Bob Munden and Jerry Miculek can do. Jerry Miculek can draw and fire 5 shots on target in under 1 second. I've seen Bob Munden split a playing card in half by shooting the thin edge FROM THE HIP. That means no aiming, just draw and fire from the hip. I've also seen an exhibition shooter draw, fire 6 shots, 3 targets, 2 on each target with a single action revolver all in under 3 seconds. Go shooting at a range some time and have someone time you. You'll be SHOCKED at how fast that is when you try to put yourself in that scenario.

    However, these are examples of the best in the world. Hardly typical. So for MOST, Little Bill's advice is correct.
  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tyler Durden (136036) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:34PM (#31026520)

    Guess you never bothered to see this fantastic film, huh? William Munny sure as hell didn't have a halo.

    Little Bill Daggett: You'd be William Munny out of Missouri. Killer of women and children.
    Will Munny: That's right. I've killed women and children. I've killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I'm here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you did...

  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Translation Error (1176675) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:43PM (#31026666)
    Actually, in the last paragraph it concluded that the increased reaction speed wasn't great enough to offset starting later. The research team believes that Bohr, the man who conducted the first experiments on the subject and won every time when drawing second, was simply much better than his opponent.
  • Re:Bad summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by Weedhopper (168515) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:43PM (#31026668)

    Gun at their head? This is a massive procedural mistake and an error of the first order.

    I've taught several different types of courses to different LEOs. If the target is close enough to touch you, you will simply not have enough time to react to hit your target. A lot of officers don't understand this until it's demonstrated to them with simunition.

  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Remus Shepherd (32833) <remus@panix.com> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:11PM (#31027044) Homepage

    Seems odd, and just a tad self serving, for Unforgiven to have an explanation for a cheesy writer's ploy designed to keep the good guy's body as intact as his halo.

    Nobody -- nobody -- in that film wore a halo, and the sheriff quoted above was not the good guy.

    Of course, neither was the protagonist...

  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:4, Informative)

    by JerryLove (1158461) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:14PM (#31027094)

    All things being equal: the one who draws first with the intent to shoot shoots first.

    "Who wins" falls into another hollywood myth: that people fall down when you shoot them. They don't neccessairily. They may be shot several times and still returning fire.

    On the other hand, as many police-shootouts will attest, actually hitting the target isn't all that common.

    So the study is interesting; but it has nothing to do with a firefight.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:14PM (#31027106)

    If you have a bullet in you you're not likely to think about anything but the bullet. If it's in your head you won't be able to think about anything, period.

    If you read accounts from soldiers who were wounded you'll see in some cases they were immediately incapacitated due to the severity of the wounds. In a few other cases you'll see that the wound was not sufficiently severe to immediately deter them from what they were doing as they were pumped up with adrenaline and endorphins and whatever other crap your body is pumping out in moment of extreme stress, and that they knew they'd been hit but they were so intently focused on their immediate goal that the wound was temporarily disregarded. Bear in mind that in those cases they were probably experiencing a subjective dilation of time as well with the mind in perceptual overdrive or "bullet time" so to speak causing a period of time framed in seconds to seem to take considerably longer.

  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:36PM (#31027374) Homepage Journal

    Actually, no, not if you've read the history of the old west. There were a LOT of black cowboys, perhaps as many as white ones, although you wouldn't know it from western movies. A cowboy himself was looked down on, it was a vocation you took if it was the only work you could get. And back then, damned near everyone was discriminated against. A laughable but realistic line from Blazing Saddles: "OK, we'll take the niggers and the chinks, but NOT THE IRISH!"

    They would have been far more predjudiced against the black man's wife, who was native American. Nobody was hated more than them, the Chinese came in a distant second, followed by the Irish immigrants.

    Now, had it taken place in the deep south rather than the northwest, you would be correct. In, say, Alabama a black man would indeed have been a "nigger". But in the plains, not so much.

  • Re:Oblig. (Score:3, Informative)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:41PM (#31027426) Homepage Journal

    Only in the digital remake. I have the theatrical version on VHS, in it you don't see anyone shoot. The alien raises his gun, then the scene switches to outside the door where there is a BOOM and a flash and smoke and you think Solo has been killed, until he walks out and apologizes for the mess.

  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:46PM (#31027472) Journal

    All this blabbery is fine, except quick draw artists proved decades ago that there's no way in hell you can, in fact, outdraw someone by reacting to seeing them start first.

  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:58PM (#31027584) Journal

    "Who wins" falls into another hollywood myth: that people fall down when you shoot them. They don't neccessairily. They may be shot several times and still returning fire.

    People don't fall down when you shoot them unless you destroy the nervous system (headshot for you gamer types) or they fall down because of the shock of being hit.

    Shock is a variable factor and can not be counted on to stop someone. Some people will fall down screaming after being shot in the arm. Others will absorb multiple shots that ultimately prove to be fatal, yet continue to fight until their blood pressure drops low enough that they pass out. The 1986 FBI shootout [wikipedia.org] is a good example of this.

    There are only two surefire ways for a bullet to stop someone. It can destroy/disable the nervous system or it can cause enough blood loss that they physically can't keep functioning. The former is problematic because it's exceedingly difficult to hit such a small target when the adrenaline is pumping and your life is on the line. The latter is problematic because even if you destroy the heart or sever a major blood vessel, they will still have at least 15 seconds of willful activity before they are stopped.

    There's a reason why police officers are trained to shoot center of mass and to keep on shooting until the person goes down. Remember that the next time you see a headline like "Cops shoot man 12 times".

  • Re:1645 called. (Score:3, Informative)

    by wiredlogic (135348) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @06:20PM (#31027878)

    Actually the Japanese have developed a number of intellectual concepts around the timing of your and your opponents actions. It is worthwhile to investigate them since they had a combative culture based around one on one confrontation that lasted for hundreds of years. There was a lot of philosophical musing about how to succeed at this. With regards to timing there are three terms frequently used to describe an engagement. They sometimes go by different names but the ones I'm familiar with are:

    • Go no sen - Reacting to your opponent after they initiate an attack
    • Sen no sen - Acting simultaneously to your opponent
    • Sensen no sen - Sensing your opponent's intent and acting before them

    This system is a very deep, core element of serious budo. Certain scenarios will be explained as one of these three types of interaction with your opponent as a means of illustrating what is happening and assessing your options for taking action.

  • Re:Morality plays (Score:3, Informative)

    by DannyO152 (544940) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @06:23PM (#31027894)

    Howard Hawks gave his interviewers lots of bs, but this one was true. He hated the good guy drawing first scenario. He reasoned that if the bad guy was really a badass, the good guys put them down, quickly and with prejudice. Indeed the original Han-shot-first scenario was lifted straight out of two of Hawks' films.

    Here's another thing Hawks said that I believe. He goes and sees "High Noon," and it pisses him off that Gary Cooper's character is going around asking for help. Hawks basically thinks that the sheriff is the professional and amateurs would be more likely to gum things up as help. So, he writes "Rio Bravo," where a US Marshall has to hold a prisoner and when the town folk offer to help, that's essentially what John Wayne says as he declines their offer.

  • by Jake Griffin (1153451) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @06:45PM (#31028144)
    Little known fact: "myth" != "fiction"... A myth can be true. By definition, a myth is simply unproven, but accepted as fact. So could have fallen under the category of myth. And creating an experiment that tries to emulate something that isn't even known to have occurred (regularly... I know it has been proven to have occurred at least once) does not prove or disprove anything. It just proves or disproves the idea being possible. This is why the Mythbusters so often come out with the result "Plausible" rather than "Confirmed"... because you can't prove that some things happened through experiment, only that they could have happened.
  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 04, 2010 @06:45PM (#31028150)

    Ah, but Han never actually drew his blaster. He was seated at the time, allowing him to shoot first without removing the weapon from its holster.

  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:2, Informative)

    by StalinsNotDead (764374) <{umbaga} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @06:46PM (#31028162) Journal

    Munny: All right, I'm coming out. Any man I see out there, I'm gonna shoot him. Any sumbitch takes a shot at me, I'm don't think I'm gonna kill him, but I'm gonna kill his wife, all his friends, and burn his damn house down.

  • by xero314 (722674) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @07:16PM (#31028474)
    Actually Brandon Lee died of heart failure brought on by severe blunt trauma to his abdomen and spinal chord.

    But if you go closer to the source you will see that it was the propellant from a blank cartridge that propelled a bullet at is abdomen in the first place. So he was killed by both a bullet and a blank, it took the combination of both to cause the fatal injury.
  • Re:eastwood movies (Score:4, Informative)

    by myowntrueself (607117) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @08:25PM (#31029200)

    Fistfull of Dollars.

    Its an amazing scene. The one where he is complaining about them laughing at his mule, then he kills them all.

    If you watch Clint you can almost see what he is doing while he is talking with them and making the joke; he is rehearsing his shots in his mind while keeping them occupied and laughing at him, going through the motions he will need to execute to draw and pull off a shot at each one. One-two-three, one-two-three then *bang* he executes the action in a single perfect moment.

    He doesn't just draw and shoot; its immaculately practiced internally before being put into action. Thats how you draw first and win.

  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:3, Informative)

    by tangent3 (449222) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @11:42PM (#31030698)

    Almost 100 people?
    He's killed 227 before Day 8
    http://24.wikia.com/wiki/On-screen_kills_by_Jack_Bauer [wikia.com]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08uJanZEeMo [youtube.com]

  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:27AM (#31031018) Homepage Journal

    The open secret of terminal ballistics is that the best way to stop a person is to hit them with the biggest fastest moving bullet that you can. To be more specific, it is to create the larges wound channel you possibly can and to introduce as much kinetic force as possible, that's most easily estimated by bullet diameter and speed. In the Strasbourg tests the hottest .357 magnum loads tested were less effective than the hottest .45 ACP. That's why states tend to have minimum bore requirements when hunting certain types of game. The 22 Hornet isn't the best bet to take down an Elk. You can take down a person with a .22 or .25 but if my life is on the line, I'm trusting nothing less than a hot loaded 9mm JHP.

    There's a reason why police officers are trained to shoot center of mass and to keep on shooting until the person goes down.

    It's also human nature to keep shooting. Untrained novices keep squeezing the trigger too when they're in a life or death situation.

    Remember that the next time you see a headline like "Cops shoot man 12 times".

    That's not so much the problem, "Cops shoot unarmed man 12 times" is.

    LK

  • Re:Unforgivable! (Score:2, Informative)

    by rpstrong (1659205) on Friday February 05, 2010 @01:29AM (#31031510)

    No, use Eddie Eagle instead:

    If you see a gun:

                STOP!
          Don't Touch.
          Leave the Area.
          Tell an Adult.

    Brought to you by your friendly NRA.

  • by jandersen (462034) on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:22AM (#31032874)

    Somewhere on the way this story changed from telling this:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18463-draw-the-neuroscience-behind-hollywood-shootouts.html [newscientist.com]

    to saying the opposite. Perhaps people didn't read it closely enough?

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