The Cornered Cat

The article below came from a book I stumbled across a few years back. It is an old work, first published well before the 1923 cutoff, so I believe its copyright has expired and the work falls within public domain now. Even if it did not, this web page will use just one brief excerpt from a much longer work, so this would qualify as fair use even if I were mistaken about the copyright expiration. And the piece was simply too charming not to share it with you.

To give you a little background about this excerpt, its author was one of the most prominent firearms experts of his time. He was the very first winner of the U.S. Revolver Association’s annual championship, in 1900, and he served as the president of that organization from 1904 through 1906. An engineer by trade, he wrote extensively on many different subjects. Among his most popular works was a slim volume titled The Pistol and Revolver, which was one of several books he wrote about shooting techniques. The piece below is just a brief snippet from a single chapter, but you can easily find the entire book in electronic form online if you look for it.

There’s absolutely no practical reason for me to put this article on Cornered Cat, but there is an impractical one: it made me smile to realize how far we’ve come. The advice he offers was the best he, or anyone else, could offer about defensive handgunning for women in 1908. What a wonderful world we live in now!


Pistol Shooting for Ladies

excerpt from The Pistol and Revolver

by Abraham Lincoln Artman Himmelwright

published in 1908

The great majority of ladies have some inherent dread of all varieties of fire arms.

This no doubt is largely due to the senseless and irresistible desire of inexperienced persons to indulge in a mock-heroic display and flourish of such arms when in the presence of ladies. All useless demonstration and ostentation with fire arms serves only to distinguish those who are unfamiliar with their proper manipulation and use. Persons handling arms in this manner should be avoided, or promptly compelled to desist. Many of the accidents of the “I did not know it was loaded” order occur in this manner.

There is nothing occult or mysteriously dangerous about fire arms, but their potential power must never be forgotten in handling them.

As a weapon of defense the revolver places the weakest and most diminutive person skilled in its use, on an equality with the most powerful antagonist. Ladies who travel extensively and visit semi-civilized countries, especially the wives and daughters of army and navy officers assigned to foreign stations, should be thoroughly familiar with fire arms and skilled in their use.

The necessity of knowing how to shoot, like knowing how to swim, may occur but once in a woman’s lifetime, but when occasion does require either, it is generally under circumstances involving peril to life, and for that reason both are advantageous and valuable accomplishments. Every woman should, therefore, be sufficiently familiar with fire arms to know how to handle them safely, and, in an emergency, to use them with intelligence.

While skill in the use of the pistol and revolver is a useful accomplishment, the practice shooting with these arms will prove exceedingly interesting.

Target practice with the .22-cal. pistol is particularly well suited for ladies, and those who have had the opportunity to indulge in it, have invariably found it an enjoyable and fascinating pastime. There is every reason, too, to believe that ladies would excel and develop a higher order of skill in pistol shooting than gentlemen, because they are generally more temperate and possess a more delicate nervous system.

A number of civilian shooting clubs have successful ladies’ auxiliary clubs, and there are at the present time a large number of ladies who are skillful markswomen with the pistol and revolver.Any of the target pistols referred to in the text under the subject of Arms (except the Remington pistol, which is a very heavy piece) are suitable for ladies’ use. A very serviceable and handsome combination is furnished by Smith & Wesson, which consists of their regular target pistol with a 10-inch barrel and an interchangeable .38-cal. revolver barrel and cylinder, fitting to the same stock. These are furnished in a special case with cleaning rods, etc., making a complete and attractive outfit.

It is well to begin practice with a .22-cal. pistol, as this is a light and very pleasant charge to shoot, and the tendency to ” flinch ” is reduced to a minimum. After a fair degree of skill has been developed with the .22-cal. pistol, reduced charges with a revolver may be tried, and from this stage the practice shooting can progress to the regulation full charges.

It is desirable that ladies should have a little practice with the revolver with full charged ammunition, so as to be able to manipulate them with sufficient skill in case of necessity.