As I have been polishing up one of my latest western stories, I have been doing a little research on rifles. In the process, I came across this entry at Wikipedia about the Sharps.
Movies which showed the strengths of the Sharps rifle are the 1990 western Quigley Down Under where Tom Selleck‘s title character’s Sharps rifle has a 34″ barrel as opposed to a standard length barrel of 30″ and Burt Lancaster‘s character, Bob Valdez, in the movie Valdez Is Coming. Also, in the 1976 film “Missouri Breaks“, Marlon Brando‘s character, Robert E. Lee Clayton, uses an 1859 Creedmoor rifle. As a result of Quigley Down Under a Sharps match is held annually every year in Forsyth, Montana known as the “Quigley Match”. A 44-inch target is placed at 1,000 yards for each shooter, remniscent of a scene from the movie. Theater Crafts Industry went so far as to say, “In Quigley Down Under, which we did in 1990, the Sharps rifle practically co- stars with Tom Selleck.” This statement was echoed by gunwriters including John Taffin in Guns and Lionel Atwill in Field & Stream. Gun manufacturers such as Davide Pedersoli and Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing Company have credited these movies with an increase in demand for those rifles.
Guns play an important role in westerns. It is part of the convention. Maybe one of the reasons that people do not read or watch westerns any more is that not as many people hunt or grow-up with guns as they used to. If you grow up believing that guns are something only right-wing extremists, Republicans, and criminals have, you are probably not going to be comfortable reading or watching something where a Sharps rifle or a Colt pistol is “a co-star.”
John Wayne’s 44.40
Westerns and guns go hand-in-hand. Guns can play both the hero and the villain in a western. Violence and violent men can also be both. Maybe it is this “morally nuanced” understanding of violence in general, and gun violence in particular, that makes the western seem most anachronistic to the literary and film trend-setters of today.
I love the movie Quigley Down Under. Selleck does a great job. So does his Sharps. It has been a long time since I have seen either Valdez is Coming or Missouri Breaks. I am going to be putting both into my NetFlix queue.
I am thinking now of other westerns and other guns….
Growing up I loved the show The Rifleman and Chuck Connors. His Winchester was certainly the “cool” co-star of the show.
John Wayne, of course, also used Winchesters and Colts in many of his movies. But with the Duke being the Duke, no rifle or pistol… no matter how big… could ever truly be called his “co-star.”
I could, I suppose, do a little research on famous guns and famous westerns. That is the nature of research. It is so fun to move from subject to subject…. And with Wikipedia and “The Google,” it is so easy that sometimes you can lose sight of where you are supposed to be going.
For me I am supposed to be polishing up another western short story that I will soon be sending out…. But hell, wouldn’t it be fun to go to that Quigley Match in Forsyth?