This Guy Saved His Own Life With a Black-Powder Gun


This Guy Saved His Own Life With a Black-Powder Gun

I recently ran across an article by Matthew Allen in which he describes a time and place in which an old-fashioned six-shot cap & ball revolver saved his bacon. Nothing tactical about it; just good old effective firepower.

He begins by describing his early experiences loading and firing such guns, and how he used to carry one everywhere he went.

I carried the only thing I had: a single-action, black-powder revolver. To the post-modern tactical elite, it seems downright ridiculous that someone would seriously invest one’s own life to a cap-and-ball sixgun. Yet I did, and I did so in very conscious manner. I became a student of both Jeff Cooper’s ‘Modern Technique’ and Fairbairn and Applegate’s ‘point shooting,’ trying to gain insight and knowledge from both. I began applying those lessons…


…as time wore on, it was Pietta’s copy of the Colt 1862 Police in .36 caliber that I shot the best, and that gun traveled with me the most. I worked the guns two handed and single handed. Aimed fire and pointed. With their rudimentary sights, I could hit a soda can at 50 yards on good days.

His typical carry rig was not exotic.

Around my waist, I wore a WWII-surplus web belt. Hanging off of it was… a cut down Triple-K western leather holster, [with] my .36 cap-and-ball revolver.

And then one day, Matthew went fishing in a remote area on the banks of the Missouri River. And he met a guy there.

Coming close to what I considered the worst part of the trail, I looked up and saw a guy in his twenties navigating the path coming towards me. Faded jeans, long tangle of blond hair, no shirt, sunglasses in place and a backpack of empty beer cans. He looked like something straight out of the ‘70s… he stopped and gave me a half-drunken smile and stuck out his hand, introducing himself.

I don’t recall his name, but I remember introducing myself as Joe. ‘Hey nice to meet you, Joe. You out hiking by yourself?’ ‘Fishing,’ I said. He and I stood quartering each other, ‘Nice, man. Nice. Good day for it.’ He was looking all around for a moment when he looked back at me. The entire situation felt off. I remember not liking how I was standing, not liking how little trail there was and not liking the conversation I was in. There wasn’t more than a couple of feet between he and I, and everything felt wrong.

It was about that same moment when he flashed a sinister, unfriendly smile and turned to fully face me. In his right hand, out of its sheath, was a cheap survival knife. I saw a bulbous compass on the hilt and a black blade with the saw teeth across the spine. It was down alongside his leg, and he turned to make sure that I saw it. I looked from the knife and locked eyes with him.

I rolled my shoulder back, pushing the bottom part of my fishing vest out of the way, my hand wrapped around the butt of the black-powder revolver and locked. I figured that the situation was just as bad for him as it was for me and that I could at best get off two shots into center mass before we both went into the water.

The knife-wielder saw the movement, saw the gun, and walked away.

‘Well… take care, Joe!’ he said as he moved past me on the trail. As he walked off, I saw him slide the knife into its sheath in the back pocket of his jeans. There had been no misunderstanding on my part. He had drawn that knife deliberately and with purpose. The knife in hand was obvious enough, but it was the act of him re-sheathing it that still gives me the chills.

I’d say the moral of this story is that any gun is better than no gun when you need to put your hands on a gun. And as my daddy used to say, “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

I’m glad Mr. Allen had it.

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Editor & Contributing Writer Russ Chastain is a lifelong hunter and shooter who has spent his life learning about hunting, shooting, guns, ammunition, gunsmithing, reloading, and bullet casting. He started toting his own gun in the woods at age nine and he's pursued deer with rifles since 1982, so his hunting knowledge has been growing for more than three and a half decades. His desire and ability to share this knowledge with others has also grown, and Russ has been professionally writing and editing original hunting & shooting content since 1998. Russ Chastain has a passion for sharing accurate, honest, interesting hunting & shooting knowledge and stories with people of all skill levels.

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