By Sheriff Jim Wilson, Shooting Illustrated
“SHOOTERS, LOAD AND MAKE READY” is not something you will hear right before an actual gunfight takes place. Probably the first inclination that something bad is about to happen is when some crook gets in your face with a gun or other weapon. There isn’t time to think about your gun or to formulate a defensive response. What you’d better do is hurry up and try to catch up.
A real-life example of this involved my friend Bill Cooksey, then sheriff of Terrell County, Texas. On a rare day off, Sheriff Cooksey was contacted by a rancher who believed he had an trespasser camping in one of the pastures on his ranch. It was also believed that this same person might have been responsible for some burglaries at a nearby country store. Cooksey picked up a small semi-auto pistol and stuck it into his waistband on the left side, cross-draw fashion.
Now to put this into perspective, I have to tell you that Sheriff Cooksey was a fast, accurate pistol shot who had already successfully survived at least one gunfight. He usually wore a double-action Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum on his right hip, on a separate cartridge belt. However, this was his day off and, besides, trespassers were not known to be violent people. Cooksey figured he would get this taken care of right away and get back to enjoying his day off.
Well, they found the individual, and he agreed to take them to his camp so they could look for stolen goods. However, as they walked down the trail, single file, the miscreant spun around and started shooting with a .38 revolver. Bill Cooksey was hit twice, once in the chest and once in the thigh. Cooksey went down, reaching for a gun on his right hip that wasn’t there. Fortunately, the sheriff survived, but it was almost a year before he was able to arrest his attacker and send him to prison.
The point being that criminal attacks occur in micro-seconds. A person really doesn’t have time to try to remember which gun they are carrying, how it works, and where they might be carrying it today. Nor will they most likely have time to chamber a round–should they think carrying with an empty chamber is safer. The first clue that there is a gunfight is often when the gunfight starts. Any delay in responding can be fatal.
Bill Cooksey? Well, Bill’s chest wound was easily repaired. However, the bullet that impacted his thigh had damaged a major nerve and gave him pain for the rest of his life. Years later, Bill told me, “I was involved in two shootings. In the first, I killed the man. In the second, I got shot down. Both of them were a total surprise.”