The Two-Gun Men

It’s a staple of cinema and video games, it looks cool, but as the image above from comedy action movie ‘Hot Fuzz’ reminds us, it’s mostly nonsense. We’re talking ‘dual wielding’, aka ‘guns akimbo’, or the simultaneous use of two firearms.

Mythbusters and others have experimented with its plausibility as a technique, and some have tried to trace its origins, but I don’t think anyone’s quite nailed just how old this trope is in fiction, nor established the extent to which it was actually done in history. Because it’s patently inaccurate and tends to be seen in fantastical settings, we tend to discount it as a real tactic. Let’s start there.

Pistols traditionally came in pairs, back to at least 1600, when the pistol was no more than a century old. Some early examples were even built as ‘handed’ pairs for left and right hands, with locks on opposite sides. This at least implies simultaneous use, though that’s hard to prove this far back. Pirates of the ‘Golden Age’ have often been described and depicted as carrying multiple pistols, which makes sense given the close quarters in which they would fight. But I’ve yet to find an account of them using two at once, whereas pistol and sword was quite common.

The infamous Blackbeard, armed to the teeth in a 1736 engraving (Wikimedia Commons)

The infamous Blackbeard, armed to the teeth in a 1736 engraving (Wikimedia Commons)

Cavalry pistols were equipped in pairs for most of their history, it being extremely difficult to reload muzzleloaders from horseback. They were carried in easily accessible twin bucket holsters fitted over the horse’s neck. However, the need to control the horse meant that they weren’t used at the same time, the Hollywood reins-in-the-teeth method notwithstanding! We often refer today to the use of holster pistols as impact weapons, and a few private purchase weapons were fitted with ‘skull crushers’, but a trooper was much more likely to draw his sword (actually his primary weapon) than to ‘club’ his empty pistol.

Pair of wheellock holster pistols. French, about 1615. Possibly made by Francois Poumerol (XII.1263; XII.1264)  © Royal Armouries

Pair of wheellock holster pistols. French, about 1615. Possibly made by Francois Poumerol (XII.1263; XII.1264)
© Royal Armouries

So far, so inconclusive. But it turns out that there are clear instances of dual pistol use from history, starting with an account of the attack by American rebels on HMS Gaspee in 1772.

“…Duddingston with his two Pistols in his hands, jumped up upon deck, went forward & hailed them. They answered they wanted Him & by God they would have Him dead or alive. He oredered them to keep off on their Peril. They continued to advance & he fired his Pistols amongst them, which hurt nobody. They returned the Fire immediately, shot the Captain in the Arm, & wounded him in the Body, of which its thought he will die.”

A nice example of ‘akimbo’, but definitely not a ringing endorsement of its tactical usefulness. This is desperation stuff, more Butch and Sundance than Tequila Yuen.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

From the following century, we find legal testimony to criminal use of two pistols in the 1849 case of the Stanfield Hall Murders:

“In his cross-examination, he said he was a stout short man, and that he had two pistols in his hands, and he had a cloak on…”

We’re used to seeing dual-wielded revolvers or automatic pistols – even machine pistols, yet both of these cases are early enough that the pistols involved are muzzleloaders. This is actually the period when dual wield makes the most sense – these were single-shot, smooth-bored, low velocity weapons with basic or non-existent sights. Depending upon the situation, putting two shots in the vague direction of the enemy might actually be a more viable tactic.

The first fictional appearance comes from a source surprising to those of us who aren’t big fans of musical theater. It’s Victor Hugo’s original Les Miserables novel from 1862, which was a lot more of an ‘action’ title when first released! Unsurprisingly, the fictionalised version of dual wield is much more effective:

“Courfeyrac crying “Help!” that child threatened, his friends to succor or to avenge, all hesitation had vanished, and he had rushed into the conflict, his two pistols in his hands. By the first shot he had saved Gavroche, and by the second delivered Courfeyrac.”
-Book 11, Ch.IV, p.156

With the widespread adoption of the six-shot percussion revolver, any real-life advantage afforded by a pistol in each hand was lessened, and though multiple pistols were carried, it was in the interests of increasing available capacity rather than using both at the same time (the alternative being to carry a spare loaded cylinder, though this seems to have been infrequently done).

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Thanks to movies like True Grit and The Outlaw Josey Wales, we tend to think that the gunfighters of the Old West habitually used two revolvers. In fact we do have evidence that some really did, if only on occasion. Wild Bill Hickok was said to shoot with both hands, but  denied this when asked, save for one particularly tricky incident. Bat Masterson was also said to be ambidextrous, though again, I’ve only found one reference to a gun in each hand. Criminals too were still going ‘akimbo’ when things got dicey, including Jesse and Frank James (several accounts from the time of their death in 1882). Beyond the West, we find an incident on the high seas (from a US-registered ship out of Boston) mentioned in court testimony from 1898:

“’I last saw Mate William Saunders on the 6th of August of this year. He was killed that morning by John Andersen on the forecastle head, on the left or port side thereof. I saw Andersen just before the shooting of the mate that morning, coming up from the cabin through the after companionway and through the wheel house. I was standing amidships. He came up with a revolver in each hand. He came right up to me, and asked me where the mate was, and said, ‘I have killed the captain, and now the mate goes, too.’ The mate was then aloft, in the rigging of the foremast. I went then down on the lee or starboard side of the vessel to the forecastle house. I went and called the watch below in the forecastle house. I said, ‘You better look out, because the cook is on deck with revolvers,’”

On the other side of the map, there’s the infamous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. But then again, the sort of guy who covers himself in plate armour and faces down armed police is hardly a tactical guru.

For the first cinematic depiction of dual wield, we have to return to the ‘Wild West’, and the early silent pictures of William S. Hart. ‘Two Gun Hicks’ was released in 1914, embodying the twin-revolver fighting style already a staple of the dime novels themselves based on the exploits of the real ‘two-gun men‘ of the West.

William S. Hart in 'Tumbleweed' (1925)

William S. Hart in a later movie; ‘Tumbleweed’ (1925)

As comic books came to the fore in the 1930s, they too embraced twin gunnery, notably with ‘The Shadow’ in 1939. Like other media, comics didn’t look back, and two-gun men are now everywhere, from The Punisher to Deadpool. The rise of female characters has given us a slew of two-gun women in comics and elsewhere, and in the case of Mark Millar’s infamous ‘Hit-Girl’, even little girls!

The Shadow comic book #178 (1939)

The Shadow comic book #178 (1939)

The trope then fed back into the Western setting with the iconic ‘Lone Ranger’, and the decades of Westerns that followed. Cross-pollination with eastern cinema gave rise to the Hong Kong action movie and its own violently balletic love affair with dual wield with John Woo’s ‘A Better Tomorrow’ (1985). Followed by the genre-defining ‘Hard Boiled’ (1992), it was the first movie to feature twin semi-automatics. Woo’s films inspired Hollywood in movies like ‘The Crow’ (1994), Woo’s own US-produced ‘Face/Off’ (1997), and especially ‘The Matrix’ (1999), which became the touchstone for action movies and for gunplay to the present day.

Trinity with her dual Beretta M84Fs, 'The Matrix' (1999)

Trinity with her dual Beretta M84Fs in ‘The Matrix’ (1999)

A few years prior, we see the very first instance of twin firearms in the graphically violent  and no-doubt Woo-inspired FPS ‘Rise of the Triad’ (1995), followed by the third-person ‘Tomb Raider’ (1996). Only two years after ‘ROTT’, James Bond title ‘Goldeneye 007’ allowed players to ‘akimbo’ just about every weapon in the game, because, well, why not? By the release of akimbo-heavy ‘bullet-time’ shooter ‘Max Payne’ in 2001, dual wield had become a staple not just of video games, but of just about every media in the action genre. Even military shooters like ‘Call of Duty’ with their gloss of realism would eventually allow players to draw down with two pistols.

Walther PP style pistols in 'Rise of the Triad' (1995)

We’ve seen some examples from earlier eras, but you might think that by the 20th century, no-one is seriously attempting to use two firearms at once. You’d be wrong. Rather like the bayonet, real-life ‘akimbo’ refuses to die. Exhibition shooter and instructor Ed McGivern apparently taught the sort of two-pistol techniques seen in ‘Last Man Standing’ to actual 1920s law enforcement officers. It’s said that the SMERSH department (yes, that was a real thing) of the Soviet NKVD in WW2 were exponents of what they called ‘Macedonian shooting’. This information does come from a novel written by someone who might have lied about having a military career, but is backed up by another non-fiction book called ‘Handgun Shooting Methods: The SMERSH System’. In practice it looks like this video, with hands pressed together to maintain some sort of sight alignment. It’s presented as a practical method, though viewer’s thoughts may drift back to the world of fantasy due to the shooter resembling Cobra Commander on Hawaiian vacation. Finally, another supposed Russian elite soldier turned criminal called Alexsandr Solonik also allegedly liked to pull two pistols whilst doing his thing in the late 1990s.

That’s about it for the modern era, and I think, brings us full circle to a conclusion. ‘Dual wield’ did happen historically, probably more than most people realise. But it was only ever marginally practical as a tactic, best reserved for very close-quarter, last-ditch, desperate situations. If it had a heyday, it was when pistols had limited capacity. It really makes zero sense with modern high capacity magazines, stable shooting techniques for rapid fire, speed reloading etc. But in the world of fiction, it does make for great entertainment, and it isn’t going away any time soon. So the next time you roll your eyes as the hero grabs a second pistol, console yourself with the fact that it’s arguably more realistic than one-man armies, unlimited ammunition, and bad guys blown through the air by gunshots.

Jonathan Ferguson

Jonathan Ferguson is Curator of Firearms at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, UK. He is based at the National Firearms Centre, one of the most comprehensive firearms collections in the world and successor to the MoD Pattern Room. His research interests include the use and effect of weapons, and their depiction in folklore and popular culture.


  • inter net

    Great article! Well researched and interesting. High value content. That said, I don’t think the SMERSH shooting video link is working, and I think failing to mention the Dual Elites from Counter Strike is criminal.

    • FourString

      The Dual Elites in CS were preceded and inspired by Hong Kong films (John Woo & Chow Yun Fat in particular). Dual wielded Berettas were the hallmark of 1980s-90s Hong Kong action cinema. CS’s dual elites are an homage to the John Woo films, so in a way he kindaaaa did xD

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      Haha, thanks. You can’t cover everything sadly; my favourite relevant movie is actually Equilibrium, and I even left that out!

      • noob

        if only gun-kata actually worked.

        heck if only mood-stabilizers worked as well as they did in that film.

  • Man pippy

    One thing not mentioned is that dual wielding two pistols allow you to cover twice the area a single pistol will allow, useful in confined areas like a house or holding multiple people under gunpoint. Dual wielding would be superior in every way at indoor distances where you point shoot, and the under powered pistol calibers benefit from increased rate and volume of fire.

    Problem is people don’t train with two pistols seriously, so they immediately dismiss it. But they used to not bother training with your weak hand.

    • Paladin

      There is no increased rate of fire. At least no increased rate of effective fire. Recoil control is easier with two hands than it is with one, and point shooting in two directions simultaneously is enough to make you cross-eyed. The human brain is not well adapted to focus on two things simultaneously, and neither were our eyes. I can guarantee that I can get more lethal hits on two targets faster with a single pistol transitioning between them, even with reloading factored in, than I can with two.

      More is not always better.

      • noob

        hmm. what if they were .22lr target pistols?

        • Paladin

          Dual wielding is supposedly a combat discipline. What is the point in doing it with a cartridge that is deficient for that purpose? Even so, it still does not remove the fact that I have to focus on two handguns, two targets, two trigger pulls… all at the same time. The human brain is not built for that kind of thing.

          Try this for a bit, go find somewhere you can get a clear view of your local highway, pick two cars going in opposite directions and point at them. Just with your fingers. Now do a couple hundred metre sprints and try it again. Now try focusing on one at a time and switching to the other. Which one is easier?

          Our physiology is adapted for focusing on a single target. The way our eyes work, the way our brains work, the area of your vision you perceive in detail is smaller than a baseball held at arms length. Heck, we don’t even have color vision more than 10-15 degrees from the centre of of our visual field, your brain just fills in the blanks from memory to convince you that you do.

          What we are adapted for is to very quickly move this point of focus around. Add to this the fact that you will almost certainly be more accurate if you use two hands to control your firearm and it becomes a no-brainer. Engaging two targets with two handguns simultaneously at anything greater than bad breath distance is doomed to fail.

    • Nishi Drew

      Agreed with what Paladin said, but to add, you consider reloading?
      Even with one pistol empty you’re just making yourself less effective by carrying around an extra pistol unless you dump/holster it again. And that increase in volume of fire = more rounds used in shorter period of time, you’re still carrying the same amount of ammo, you’re just using it up twice as fast and most of those shots would go to waste I assume.

      • obersaber

        empty gun in hand is less effective…unless you throw said empty gun at the bad guy.
        If you ARE a bad guy you always throw your empty gun,
        even at SUPERMAN.

  • Giolli Joker

    As a side note: I’ve recently seen a “caught on camera” type show with real security cam footage of a guy assaulting a convenience store wielding one gun in each hand… (spoiler: the owner wrestles him on the ground, gets shot multiple times but survives, the criminal gets arrested a few days later).

  • Lance

    Those are M-92FS not M-84Fs.

    • vereceleritas

      Nope. Those are indeed Beretta 84’s. No slide mounted safety.,_The

      • Frank

        Gj lance.

      • Cymond

        From what I remember, those chose to give Trinity the M84 to complement Neo’s later use of the M92.

        • Jonathan Ferguson

          Yes, and because she had smaller hands.

    • FourString

      aw damnn sonn nuh yuh di-int
      nub mistake sonn *reverses cap*

  • vereceleritas

    So what’s the etymology of the term ‘akimbo’ and how did it come to mean dual wielding firearms?

    • Karina

      “Akimbo” is a middle-english word. It refers to both arms bent at a sharp angle (generally held in the same position), which is typically how dual-wielded handguns were depicted in westerns in the examples described in the article; i.e. holding a handgun in each hand, upper arms parallel to the body, forearms at a right angle, in a position that is not quite hip firing but without any eye-sight alignment at all either.

      I hope that made enough sense.

      • noob

        hands akimbo used to mean hands resting on your hips, like when mom is mad at you.

        oh simpler times…

  • Vhyrus

    From my experience playing paintball, I have found that if you are in a corner and must cover two doorways/hallways simultaneously, it can only be done effectively with two guns. There are a few well known scenario paintball players who dual wield pistols due to their significantly decreased capacity over standard markers. Paintball is not a particularly accurate model of real world gunfights of course but some parallels can be drawn.

  • Mark N.

    El Mariachi, Desperado–lot of two gunning.

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      Love those movies.

  • Miško

    in Serbia shooting with the gun canted sideways is referred to as “Macedonian style” (or “Albanian style”) not the dual wielding

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      I refer specifically to ‘Macedonian shooting’ in the article.

    • obersaber

      We call that Detroit style.
      Gun hand pronated while flashing a gold grill.

  • FourString

    The top image is freaking hilarious
    Simon Pegg & co. ftw B)

  • wetcorps

    Very cool post 🙂

    Also, two pistols might be usefull in a Mexican stand-off involving more than two people ^^

    • gunslinger

      doesn’t mexican stand-off mean 3 people (i.e. more than 2?)

      • hami

        two people is just a regular standoff

        • gunslinger

          thought so…

    • noob

      hmm. if you were under stress, could you accurately shoot two targets simultaneously? or would you hit one and flinch the other?

  • mechamaster

    Well, in reality, some semi auto pistol can be malfunctioned if the user don’t hold it properly.. like a limp wrist phenomenon.. I think dual wielding pistol with recoil based operation increase this risk. ( revolver or single shot type pistol is dual-wield friendly I think.. )

    • FourString

      Depends. H&K semi-automatic pistols are actually one of the very, very few that don’t malfunction when limp wristed.

      • Cymond

        Well, that may be true of HK pistols in good condition, but the rental USP at my local range will certainly fail with a limp wrist. I rented it with my cousin and it was failing to fully eject on almost every round for her. It was reliable when I tried it, but ejection was still so feeble that I could watch them tumbling out mere inches from the ejection port.

        I have no idea what the problem was with that USP, but was certainly not an overpowered recoil spring. My cousin chose to rent the USP specifically because it was the only 9mm in the case that she could wrack the slide.

        • FourString

          damn, that must have seen a BUNCH of rounds through it, i’m guessing like 100k or something. that is definitely not how a properly maintained H&K USP should function, and the first time I’ve heard of that. Only malfunction I’ve ever seen or heard of is one that was cleared with a simple tap/rack.

          VERY interesting that you mention the ease of manipulating the slide, when considering the hard-to-charge Glock Gen 4’s that also happen to use a dual captive recoil spring to reduce felt recoil and extend the life of its moving parts. It sounds as if H&K’s more than decade old “recoil reduction system” is a tad bit more polished than Glock’s new Gen 4 spring. I’m actually considering the H&K USP 45 vs. the new Glock 41 btw.

          This is kinda merpy news cas I always regarded the USP as the one pistol that you’d want in an apolcalypse -.- but I guess *everything* needs maintenance… even if rolled over by a truck

          awh shieeeeeeet.

  • James In Australia

    “On the other side of the map, there’s the infamous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. But then again, the sort of guy who covers himself in plate armour and faces down armed police is hardly a tactical guru.”

    On the surface a reasonable assumption. However he did manage to take over two towns, rob a few banks etc without firing a shot,lock police in their own cells and survive in the Bush for a couple of years before the last stand. All while having the largest price on his head in all of Briton and its colonies History. Their armour was tested with the current issue Police rifle and found sufficient. In fact it’s the reason I cannot legally buy any bullet resistant clothing today…
    The Jerilderie letter was suppressed for fifty years and outlined the reasoning behind the Kelly gangs actions and a proposal for a New republic.
    The Last Stand was to be the beginning of a revolution, but was undone by treachery and poor timing (along with a Pub full of Grog). I’d argue that there was never any intent to walk away from that confrontation- it was win or die trying.
    In the end the revolution did not start, however some of their grievances regarding Police corruption and social inequality were addressed.
    The Kellys are still incredibly divisive in Australia, but I’d argue that some of their aims were just and were addressed and as such Australia is a better place for them.
    Pyrrhic but a victory none the less .

    Sorry for the diatribe.

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      No, that’s fair comment James!

    • noob

      and the armour was only used on the Last Stand, and Ned was the only one who actually wore his helmet.

      I saw two suits up close and examined the bullet marks – one at the Victorian State Library and another at the Victorian Police Museum.

      Without the armour, most of those hits would have been at least incapacitating, if not lethal, and the last stand would have been very short indeed.

  • Jonne

    William of Orange was killed in 1584 by a guy dual wielding pistols, although he did not fire them simultaneously.

  • Andrey Martim

    I’m a amateur writer, and I like to do it in my free time. I write a fiction-folklore book with magical monsters (Vampires, Wizards, Werewolfs and alike).

    One of the characters (the main one) dual-wields two Desert Eagle pistols, I will explain the weapon decision.

    The Desert Eagle was chosen for him because he is a Vampire, and he have superhuman strong, so he can handle the recoil, also, vampires and werewolves have more resistance over gunfire than humans, so more powerful weaponry where used against them (Magnum-Caliber pistols and battle rifles, or swords) for better results.

    The dual-wield style he uses is a emergency one, foremost he uses only one pistol or a rifle. The style is = One pistol is hold in line with his eyes, much like aiming one with one hand, the second handgun is positioned under the fist, sideways, much like the Harries Thecnique with a fashlight, used as a “panic gun” and shot only when needed.

    Sorry for the english, is my second language…

    • Karina

      I sense some Hellsing inspiration…

      • Andrey Martim

        Hellsing, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and stuff. Thanks for reading by the way!

      • gunslinger

        .454 casull

      • ColaBox

        Know where I can get some explosive tipped .454 Casull with a casing of blessed Macedonian steel for cheap?

        • Andrey Martim

          Don’t forget the melted silver cross bullets.

  • JT

    Well Andrew Jackson is probably happy not everybody dual wielded

  • JT

    Also never saw the point of guns being stylistically dual wielded. They are not graceful weapons. Sure, the symmetry looks cool, but they operate more like spears than swords, which HK directors seem to love despite this fact

  • West

    I know a girl who carries two 38’s.
    And a pistol.

    • noob

      I asked her nicely, but she wouldn’t blow my head off.

  • allannon

    I can see _carrying_ two, even two in hand (especially with old-fashioned single-handed shooting styles). But I would expect people to shoot one out pistol, then switch hands.

    • iksnilol

      Old fashioned?

      An one handed hold can be more stable than a two hand hold. This is due to less pulse affecting the gun.

      • allannon

        Regardless of the possible merits, it is still the older fashion in shooting pistols. 🙂

  • ColaBox

    Crazy or not, watching Mila Jovovich in a skin tight outfit duel wielding Vectors makes all the silly pop-culture-gun-trope-cringes well worth it. And Hot Fuzz was an excellent movie.

    • gunslinger

      resident evil?

      • Andrey Martim

        No, the crappy Resident Evil movies… The games deserved to be called Resident Evil… By a RE fan since 1998.

        • mikewest007

          The games deserve to be called Resident Evil, but the movies are fucking biohazard.

      • yes

        • gunslinger

          i thought it was RE. the only other MJ movie with guns i could think of was the Fifth Element (awesome movie btw) but that’s a “future” movie so…

    • JJL1

      I think that was Ultraviolet

  • iksnilol

    Dual weilding is effective if done right. It works for me, but then again I dont try to focus on two targets at once and I am almost ambidextrous (Can’t write well with my left).

    It allows you to cover a bigger area and not stop so soon to reload (drop free mags are a must).

    But like everything, you have to practice.

    • ColaBox

      I read in an old book once that during WW2, due to an apparent excess of handguns and shortage of just about everything els, the Russians dabbled in duel-wielding, and got pretty good at it. But I have nothing to back that up nor have I heard this since.

      • Man pippy

        Can’t argue with dual wielding makarovs.

        • Anonymoose

          Or Nagants, C96s, Tokarevs, or Stechkins. :3

  • gunslinger

    I’m just going to leave this here…

  • Stonia

    I’m a bit surprised no one has pointed out the gunfight class of Cowboy action shooting. Those folks don’t seem to have much trouble.

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      Good point. The thrust of the piece was dual wield in actual military/law enforcement/combat situations.

  • derfelcadarn

    I have tested this on numerous occasions, at normal gunfight ranges,7 yards and less, I shoot fairly well. Admittedly no one is shooting back, but i do not see the advantage, better placement of shots will shorten the encounter faster than volume. This is also the problem with full auto spray and pray logic of fire. As suppressing fire for movements maybe but as a defensive system far too much is lacking. I am hoping to never be involved in an incident where wielding two hand guns simultaneously would be a consideration.

  • The Forty ‘Twa

    Carrying two pistols is not unheard of by firearms officers in the UK but I’ve certainly never heard of them using two at once!

    Apologies for the silly Daily Mail “OMG A GUN!” picture but it illustrates my point.

    • Kurtz

      In what kind of fucked up country is it OK for law enforcement to conceal their identity like that?

      • FourString

        SWAT officers in America wear balaclavas too. The Daily Mail is a rubbish rag (they are a tabloid) that is not to be taken seriously. Chances are that concealing his identity is not at all the purpose of the mask. Wearing a balaclava to intimidate/shock the enemy (why SWAT dons masks) is far more likely.

        I’d assume that the officer is the equivalent of a SWAT officer, since he carries two Glocks and a G36..

        • noob

          I thought the balaclavas were so you don’t set your own hair on fire when you use a flashbang?

          • FourString

            touché mon ami

          • Gigs

            If you are that close to a flashbang you are doing it wrong.

      • FourString

        I’ll add that I’ve been on the streets in London. Guards near Parliament / the royal buildings stand in plain sight behind iron gates mere feet from pedestrians, shouldering fully automatic MP5’s. They are not masked

      • George Kaar

        In Ireland the cops at protest camps wear balaclavas and don’t wear their id numbers, but the firearms and public order units do. I’m pretty sure it’s common in CT units to protect their identity.

      • The Forty ‘Twa

        Happens in just about every country I can think of to some extent.

        The bloke is a specialist firearms officer (a step above your normal armed cop). They are typically involved in surveillance operations and all sorts of other secret squirrel type stuff hence the ski mask.

        • noob

          actually in the UK regular cops don’t carry guns. “Firearms officers” do.

          the fact that the people who investigate crime and the people who shoot people are different people was crucial in the mistaken identity and subsequent extrajudicial killing of Jean Charles de Menezes

          • The Forty ‘Twa

            I know, I’m a police officer in Scotland. When I was referring to a normal armed cop I was referring to an authorised firearms officer (AFO) because we AFOs and Specialist Firearms Officers.

          • noob

            Ah, thank you. I did not know the distinction.

      • Michael

        Probably not police, but Military, SAS are used to assist Police.
        James Bond only needed one PPK.
        Milo Javovich had guns? I never noticed. Nothing hotter than a cute girl in skimpy clothes firing guns.
        Most people who have two guns have the second one for back up, But it looks good in the movies

    • FourString


      • noob

        I suppose he could slap you with it.

        • FourString

          mortal kombat pimp slap B) aw ye son

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      Carrying, yes, although I remember thinking that was odd enough. Using two at once, no.

      • The Forty ‘Twa

        I’m reliably informed that carrying two pistols is often done by officers carrying a ballistic shield and that is about it.

        • noob

          hmm. the pictured officer is very right handed. which would make sense if the left hand is expected to carry a shield or a ram or something.

  • Gregor

    Thank you for the great article Mr. Ferguson. I really enjoy reading your articles. Keep up the good work!

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      Thanks Gregor!

  • WFDT

    In one of his movies, Steven Seagal engages some bad guys with his .45 and when it runs out of ammo he drops it and draws another one. The New York Reload.

  • Jared

    The only type of tow gunning I can imagine to be be practical (or more like have been practical) is to use two SA revolvers at short range, point shooting with one hand while cocking the previously shot revolver with the other hand.

  • Chief

    Great article!

  • SP mclaughlin

    There is this Tula video of the GSh-18 on youtube, it gets dual wielded in an exercise.

  • Dkutla Osterhagen

    The main use for multiple pistols was that it was so bloody slow to reload most pistols up to and including revolvers that doing so in the heat of battle would likely result in your death. Carrying multiple pistols allowed for longer continuous fire.

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      Yep – “Cavalry pistols were equipped in pairs for most of their history, it being extremely difficult to reload muzzleloaders from horseback.”

  • Tecolote

    J.H. Fitzgerald in his 1930 book “Shooting” wrote about shooting two pistols at the same time. As I recall, he said both pistols should be fired at the same time. His targets were

    about eight feet apart,and he didn’t really use the sights.


    This is a photo of Fitz giving a demonstration.

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      Excellent info and photo, thank you! I came across a reference to Fitzgerald whilst working on this and now wish I’d chased it up.

  • Masoo2

    akimbo 1887’s
    dual berettas/elites

  • Martin M

    My dual cents.

    Dual wielding works and has likely been used to great effect throughout firearms history. Dual wielding involves training the weak hand, which shooters neglect to do. Man Pippy stated this in the outset, and is 100% correct.

    One interesting fact that has been overlooked by the author is that prior to WWII, natural shooting was a very popular method of handgun training. You can see this in plenty of photos and videos from the era. For those of you unfamiliar with the technique, natural shooting relies less on sights and more on natural body mechanics and muscle memory to place shots on target.

    Think of it this way, most athletes sports don’t involve sights. You don’t have sights for a basketball, a football (funny shaped or round). No sights on most archery. No scope on a pitcher’s arm. Natural shooting works. Kim Jung Il was said to use this technique, and people were amazed at his speed and accuracy.

    Taking this into consideration, dual wielding is a lot more plausible. I’d certainly want double the ammunition and quicker follow-up shots.

    A final note, horses trained for war don’t always need to have their reigns held and take direction from the bit. Instead, riders and horses were trained to take commands via the legs, knees, and spurs in the heat of battle. Soldiers have been dual wielding from horseback since the beginning of time. Bow and arrow, shield and spear. No reigns.

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      I see what you’re saying, and I’m familiar with natural or ‘point’ shooting as espoused by Fairbairn & Sykes, but was trying to avoid too much speculation, instead relying on actual sources. It may have been more effective than many of us realise, but the evidence suggests its use and effect to be marginal. I think there’s a difference between rough aiming with both hands without using the sights because the only other option is the ‘Macedonian’ system in the linked video, and the sort of conscious, trained-for point shooting Applegate and co taught (and is still taught today).

      • Martin M

        Well goodness. When you put it that way…..

  • S O

    It would be interesting to see if somebody can train with two laser-equipped pistols (one green, one red) to the point of usefulness. And by usefulness I mean one pistol used for suppressive rapid fire and the other for aimed fire – possibly alternating.

    • Tuulos

      I would imagine the person who tries that would need to be ambidextrous to succeed.

      • noob

        also, i wonder if one of those low weight, high velocity, low recoil pdw calibers like a 5.7mm would be beneficial?

  • Aaron Mulligan

    This is a good post. And yes, pistol usually comes in pair.

    • obersaber

      Did you know that BATFE is required to be notified if pistols are purchased in pairs?

  • PARAMEDIC70002

    Now we have the double barreled 1911 to solve this problem. But hey, if I had two of them… Quad wield!

  • J.J

    I would say that sometimes volume of fire trumps accuracy… Sometimes.

  • Tuulos

    I think the author forgot or ignored one very important part from the early days of guns; they were very inaccurate. Nowadays you can get real accuracy benefits when using only one weapon and properly aiming, but back then you actually had better change to hit the other guy by increasing the amount of lead going towards him. I was surprised to learn that during a firefight that contained some of the most famous names of Wild West it was IIRC Doc Holliday who had the most (or was it only, can’t remember) kills due to him being the only one using a shotgun.

    And I’d say that Matrix actually might have showed some feasibly dual gun usage when Neo used dual Scorpions in the lobby when he had one in both hands but took turns shooting them.

    • noob

      dual wielded duckfoot pistols!

      • gunslinger


        i guess this would work in a mexican standoff…4 times over?

    • Mazryonh

      Neo didn’t use Skorpion machine pistols in the way you described, he used Micro Uzi machine pistols for that bit.

      • Tuulos

        Thanks for the correction, it’s been a long time since I last watched it.

        • Mazryonh

          Thanks to the magic of youtube you can usually see shootout scenes from popular movies now, just so you can check if you remembered things right. Could be useful to check out now and then.

    • wolf

      “In the early days”??? You are talking about primitive matchlocks etc…right?
      Not the 1873 Colt SAA (akaThe Peacemaker) or the 1875 S&W #3 (Schofield and Russian), or the 1875 Remington ?!?!?
      Those fine revolvers were every bit as accurate if not more so than half the new age trash on the market today.
      Poor care and black powder fouling could cause a decrease in accuracy, but the guns themselves were constructed as good as it gets.
      Indeed, just check GunsAmerica…you’ll find many, many originals, not repros, for sale that are still in A+ working order.
      Lets see if the current class of plastic trash has as many still operating 140 years from now.

      • P08_C96

        Even the cap and ball revolvers of the civil war era were accurate when kept clean.
        In your other post you mentioned the cowboy shooting game.
        I saw the people you are talking about when one Saturday while on a country motorcycle ride, we stopped to see what a little western looking town on the side of the road north of Greenville, TX was all about.
        There were 2 people shooting cap and ball, one using two 1851 Navy models, the other using 1860 Army models.
        They were just as good as the guys and gals shooting cartridge guns.

  • dan citizen

    Citing mythbusters is not a credibility boost any more than citing superman in regards to flight. It is a scripted show, with scripted “results” determined in a writers room months before a single prop or special effect is built.

    I am not coordinated enough to shoot with both paws simultaneously, though I have seen it done effectively enough at a cowboy action match.

    • P08_C96

      Thank you Dan. On both points. It amazes me when someone from a country
      that has nowhere near the history of handgun shooting as the US dares to
      pontificate on the subject.
      As another pointed out, this author or blogger really needs to see a cowboy match before he makes statements that are so easily shot down. Pun intended.

  • Studenta ot Sofia

    I thought that this is the most notorious murder made with 2 pistols
    Thought also that this was the reason for knowing this way of shooting as “macedonian”

  • Kilo 52

    I cannot believe that no one mentioned this action of Ron Szpond.


    He dual wielded a pair of pistols during Vietnam against 5 NVA at close range, killing 2 and scaring off the other three. He was an USMC Sniper. He dropped his rifle at the sight of the enemy and drew his .38, his 1911 was already in hand before the encounter.

    • Kilo 52

      Story is at 23 minutes

    • Valkyrie2014

      I can’t believe they didn’t mention Ron Szpond either considering he was one of the 12 snipers to participate in the first combat sniper training program in ’65 under Captain Robert Russell. Land didn’t have the first combat training program because there was no combat in HI at the time. Ron Szpond should have been included, I agree! But, they always leave him out because Land likes everyone to think he started everything. Good post!

  • Mazryonh

    Would dual wielded pistols be better aimed these days by mounting and using mini red dot sights on each? Most people’s vision only lets them have one focal point, but a red dot should be easy enough to see in your near-peripheral vision. Laser sights could also work, but the jump each laser dot experiences with each shot could make aiming subsequent shots take too long (compared with red dot sights).

    If you have to aim carefully and don’t want to lower/holster one pistol at a time, you could bring your two handguns together (perhaps as close to have your thumbs almost touching) and use your actual iron sights since they would both lie within your focal zone).

    The older PC FPS game called Blood by Monolith Productions in 1997 also had a “Guns Akimbo” powerup that let you dual-wield everything from Sawed-Off Shotguns (you didn’t need to reload when that was on) to Napalm Launchers while the powerup was active. I’m surprised that title didn’t get a mention in this article.

  • Passerby

    Hey, just wanted to drop this tidbit here. There was once a New York Chinatown gangster, the leader of the Hip Song Tong, by the name of Sai Wing Mock (a/k/a Mock Duck). I think he was reported to have used the Guns Akimbo things, eyes closed. This was back in the early 20th century, with revolvers.

    Basic gist was that he would crouch down, close his eyes and start shooting when people try to assassinate him. Don’t know if he actually hit anything or if it was just because urban criminals don’t have the stomach for a sustained firefight.

    In any case it happened. Just wanted to share.

  • This comes from a movie so take it with a grain or 2 of salt, but it does make sense considering the time period of the old west and possibility of duds in your ammo being even greater back then than nowdays.
    The older gunfighter says to a young buck training with his pistol to get himself a second pistol and a double rig belt and practice with that, when asked why he says ‘Ever have a round not go off? With 2 guns odds are at least one will fire, could save your life in a quick draw’.
    Makes sense to me even if it was a movie, can’t remember which one tho…..
    Nowdays duds are rare, but back then it was probably a real possibility that your gun might just go click instead of boom.

  • Rodford Smith

    As an experiment, I once stood seven yards back from a target board with my M-1911 in .45 ACP in my right hand and my HP-35 in 9X19 in my left and opened fire. I was close enough to see where my shots were hitting, and under those circumstances keeping all the holes in the black wasn’t hard. Both those guns point similarly, of course.

  • Jean Luc Picard

    Considering that movies are fairly unrealistic, I wonder why man portable miniguns died so quickly as it was awesome in the first place and because it’s quite widespread in the videogames. Though yeah dual wielding looks cool, despite not making much sense as you can shoot a pistol pretty quickly if you time well your shots. but hey there is a lot of gangsta and stuff like that don’t really make sense but who are simply used in movies because it looks nice and makes the combat looking like some kind of choreography.

    Few movies are close the the realism anyways and well I don’t think movies would be really entertaining is they were realistic. the only thing that matters to me is that the story and events does put some logic.

  • obersaber

    Did you know that gun shop owners are required to notify the BATFE when a citizen buys a brace of pistols (2) in one purchase?

  • Icorps1970

    If photos must be shown of people with two handguns then Ed McGivern should be shown using two DA revolvers on hand thrown AERIAL targets. Read his Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting. Amazon has it.

  • wolf

    Typical toffee nosed Brit praddling on about a topic he has no firsthand knowledge of.
    You actually have Cowboy Action Shooting in the UK you know. Never mind.
    Obviously you didn’t know.
    Worldwide, between SASS, NCOWS and WTG there are over a half million shooters who compete each weekend with sixguns, rifles and shotguns in western style combat matches.
    Please haul your condescending self over to the U.S.A…..c’mon down to northeast Texas; Comanche Valley or Lone Star Frontier Shooters Club…or Texas Tenhorns…I’ll pay your entry fee.
    Then you can watch shooters in the “Gunfighter” category wield two sixguns at once with both speed and accuracy….shooting at targets about the size of a large plate (considerably smaller than your head)
    All SASS shooters must use TWO sixguns, rifle/carbine and shotgun in EVERY stage of a six stage match

    Some shoot one pistol and then the other…and some (Gunfighter category) shoot both at once.

    Mythbusters? You might as well cite Ciff Clavin on Cheers.

    You need to research before you publish an article,

    If you want to avoid the embarrassment of having to be shown your ignorance in person…here..a few videos out of a few thousand on youtube that could have enlightened you before you made your error filled statement.

    Seawolf, SASS# 53736, Flying F Ranch, Heaven Hill on Shawnee Creek, Texas

    • 68leatherneck

      BULLSEYE Wolf!!!!

      • P08_C96


  • Joan Lawson

    Seriously johnny? Your mom lets you go out of the house looking
    like that? What a dweebie.