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The Guns of 1632 : They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

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The 1632/1633 review was pretty well received, with most of the comments on the book running warm to hot in favor of it. Among the dissenters was James of Hell in a Handbasket, who had read the book but felt it failed the suspension of disbelief test in two areas;

The book showed great promise, started with an interesting situation, and then kind of fell flat. The “psychological attack” was one weak spot, another was when the local sheriff stops a calvary troop charging straight for him with his .40 handgun.

Gee, I wish MY handguns could do that.


The psychological attack he refers to is one similar to what the US Army did to Noriega in Panama, in that the translocated miners play 20th century music at soldiers in a castle under siege. While I’ll admit that the scene does feel like Flint created it after a 6-pack and too much CNN Panamanian war coverage, I think that James is underestimating the terrifying effect that “Positively Fourth Street” would have on 17th century foot soldiers.

His other criticism deals with this excerpt from 1632.

Dan hefted the pistol in his hand, watching the oncoming cavalrymen. For a moment, he was tempted to draw the weapon in his holster and shoot two-handed. The notion appealed to his sense of history. Sid Hatfield, by all accounts, had fought so at Matewan. A weapon in each hand, as he gunned down the company goons from the Baldwin-Felts detective agency.

Firmly, he suppressed the notion. True, family legend claimed that Sid Hatfield, the sheriff who led the coal miners in their shoot-out with the company goons at Matewan, had been a distant relative. But Dan was skeptical of the tale. Practically everyone he knew claimed to be related to the Hatfield clan, the West Virginia half of the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud.

Still, Dan was tempted. Whether or not Sid Hatfield was a blood relative, he was most certainly an ancestral spirit. Company goons or Croats, his town was under attack.

But that was in the old days, when police officers were not really professionals. So Dan resisted the amateurish whimsy, and brought up the .40-caliber automatic in a proper two-handed grip. The first line of horsemen was forty yards away.

The first wheel locks were discharged at him. Dan ignored the shots. As inaccurate as the weapons were, especially on a galloping horse, he would only be hit by blind chance.

As he started squeezing the trigger, Dan forced another thought out of his mind. That was a much more difficult struggle. Dan disapproved strongly of cruelty to animals, and he was especially fond of horses. Still—


He emptied the twelve-round clip, methodically mowing down the horses in the front of the charge. Most of his shots struck the cavalry mounts in the chest or throat, killing several of them outright. Even those horses that were only wounded stumbled and fell, spilling themselves and their riders. Then other horses, uninjured by bullets, began stumbling over the corpses. Within half a minute, the charge had piled up like water hitting a dam.

Long before those thirty seconds expired, however, the street had become a charnel house. As soon as Dan’s first shot went off, the deputies and armed citizens in the upstairs windows began firing their weapons. The range was point-blank, and the street below was packed with horsemen. Due to their excitement and fear, many of the citizens—and not a few of the deputies—missed practically every shot they fired. It hardly mattered. It was almost impossible for a bullet not to hit something.

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  • Dave Nalle

    Wow, this was a fascinating article. Glad a spammer brought it to my attention. IMO you could stop a horse with a .40 because the shock of impact would cause the horse to stumble, throwing the rider and possibly taking the horse down even if it didn’t kill the horse.

    And against a cavalry charge you wouldn’t need more accuracy than a pistol would give you. Just blaze away at the tight-packed horses and you’ll cause total chaos. Take down the front rank and you take down most of those behind it as well.