Monday, October 18, 2021

Two Mavericks

I'm not a huge fan of TV westerns. I mean, I'll watch old reruns of Wagon Train if I'm sick in bed just to see which future stars of '60s-'80s television I can spot in larval walk-on bit parts, but other than that I'll doze through most of them.

I've developed something of a fondness for Maverick, though. The writing's generally pretty good and I enjoy James Garner's character, a roguish gambler who gets by on wits and charm more than fists and firearms. (The fact that it's the first thing on MeTV after classic cartoons on Saturday morning helps.)

One thing about the show that does interest me is the unusually non-anachronistic portrayal of firearms in 19th Century America. Whereas a lot of Westerns tend to have everyone walking around with the big iron on their hip all the time, that ain't how it was.

Even in small frontier towns, Bret Maverick will ride into town with a gun belt bearing a holstered Peacemaker, but that usually gets left in the hotel room and around town, while patronizing the saloon or whatever, he's generally not visibly armed. 

When he is carrying a gun in town, at the poker table or around the streets of New Orleans or San Francisco, it's usually what appears to be a little .31 caliber percussion Colt with ivory grips. The smaller pistol is carried in a crossdraw outside-the-waistband holster with enough of the butt peeking out from under the front of his jacket to presumably avoid running afoul of the prohibitions on concealed carry which were very common in the late 19th Century USA.

His brother Bart Maverick, played by Jack Kelly, carried what appeared to be a tip-up No. 1½ Smith & Wesson, a five-shot .32 Rimfire Short with a bird's head grip, in an episode that was set in San Francisco and on board a sailing tramp freighter. (An episode based on a Robert Louis Stevenson story!)

These were definitely more believable than having everyone running around with horse pistols in buscadero rigs all the time.

Actual handgun from the days of the Old West.

Speaking of mavericks and gun laws, Professor David Yamane is something of an outlier in the sociology field in that he's been doing a deep dive into the sociology of gun culture in America. An outgrowth of his research has been a fascinating and well-researched book into the history of concealed carry laws (and, really, laws pertaining to carrying guns in public in general) that's available on Amazon now: Concealed Carry Revolution: Liberalizing the Right to Bear Arms in America.

It's available on Kindle or in dead tree, and really you should have a copy. It's written in an accessible, easily read style, saving the chewiness for the numerous footnotes. If you want to read about the trend of banning concealed carry in the US (started in Kentucky in 1813, and by the time Alabama banned it in 1839, it was the 8th state to do so) and the long slog back from those bans, this book is a must for you.