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When the October 1974 issue of American Rifleman came out, featuring a cover story on Ed McGivern to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, it would have a lasting impact on shooting sports to this day. Noted professional Team Smith & Wesson shooter Jerry Miculek credited that issue as being the one that got him into the idea of shooting for a living. Now, you may not recognize McGivern’s name, but if you don’t recognize Miculek’s name and realize that this is a big deal, then I’m afraid there’s no hope for you.

McGivern was born in Nebraska, but toured as “Ed McGivern of Montana.” In 1932 at the age of 57, he set a world record in the Guinness Book for “the greatest rapid fire feat” – he emptied two revolvers in less than two seconds. That record still stands, 84 years later.

Other notable shooting feats by Ed include:

– Five rounds from 15 feet in 2/5 of a second, in a group that could be covered by your hand
– Five rounds from 15 feet in 45/100 of a second, all in the circumference or a half-dollar
– Hitting a tin can thrown 20 feet into the air five times before it hit the ground
– Breaking six clay pigeons hand thrown at once before they hit the ground

Even though he owned and sometimes shot semiautomatic pistols, Ed claimed they were too slow and that he could shoot a revolver faster. He was such a fast shot that a standard stopwatch wasn’t good enough to accurately record how quickly he was firing. More sophisticated timing machines would malfunction as well, so he set out to devise his own timing device to measure his feats.

In addition to travelling the country, participating in shooting exhibitions, he also spent time training federal, state, and local law enforcement officers. Since the standard police weapon of the day was a six-shot revolver, Ed set out to show them just how accurate they could be with their duty weapons. As a testament to his efforts, McGivern proved that you could hit a man-sized target at 600 yards with a standard police revolver loaded with .357 Magnum cartridges.

Ed’s greatest contribution to the shooting community came in 1938 with the publication of his book, Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting. Incredibly thorough and well-illustrated, it stands as the seminal work on revolver shooting. Whether your interest was in trick shots performed from the running board of a moving vehicle (which Miculek admits to trying himself), how to effectively fan a revolver, or how to use muzzle-rise to your advantage when shooting airborne targets, the answers are all in Ed’s book.

In addition to holding his own records, Jerry Miculek has attempted – and successfully broken – some of his predecessor’s records. Even so, he couldn’t take Ed’s place in the Guinness Book.

McGivern passed away in Montana in 1957; he was 83 years old.

Ed’s legacy lives on today and can be seen at the NRA National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, VA. There, an assortment of his guns, his travelling trunk, and some of his targets are on display, just waiting to inspire the next generation of fast and fancy revolver shooters.

Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.

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  1. I grew up listening to daddy telling me about the exploits of Ed McGivern. Since father was a part of the Navy Rifle Team, his 2″ S&W “Heavy Duty” with a smoothed action accompanied him after WW2 until he bought an early Charter Arms “Undercover”. This accompanied him while working as a Post Office Courier. He later bought a Browning Hi-Power for “duty work” but daddy really loved his revolvers.

    I heard that Mr McGivern fire 5 rounds that he could cover with the palm of his stubby-fingered hand in 9/20 of a second.

    This sounds about right.

  2. I agree with Ed. I can fire a revolver faster than a semi auto. I can fire my 67 fast enough, as to where 6 shots can sound like 3 or 4 to myself and bystanders.

  3. Good stuff. People look at me weird when I say I can hit targets at 100 yards with a peacemaker clone. So I can totally see how he could make 600 with a .357.

      • Most good quality revolvers should put all six rounds into a 3.5″ circle at 50 yards with good ammo. With handloads and really tight QC on the loads in a tight revolver, you could probably see 2″ groups at 50 yards.

        When the .357 was a much more commonly carried LEO gun, there were regular matches at 50 yards with a .357 revolver.

        OK, so let’s run the distance out. If you’re able to group 2″ at 50, then you’d get a 24″ group at 600 (assuming a dead calm wind). You’d have a good chance of landing one in the chest at that range if you practiced.

        The biggest problem in shooting handguns at long range is how fat the front sight typically is. It starts to cover up a huge chunk of what you’re aiming at when you start picking out targets 100+ yards downrange.

  4. I remember this story very well. I was but 14 yar old, and just starting to reload, so that I could shoot more.
    McGiven had stronger springs installed in all his revolvers. Exactly the opposite of the trend today. The thinking is simple, the stronger the springs, the quicker the reset will be, and thus he could shoot faster. He had huge forearms, better to hold on the target and fire faster and more accurately.

  5. 3 years ago I would have recognized McGivern’s name but not Miculek.

    Believe it or not, I first learned of Miculek when searching Youtube for high power handgun instruction videos when I bought a 1911 after 40 years of shooting air pistols.

  6. I have read his book several times.

    It and Skeeter Skelton are the two.greatest influences on my shooting.

    Everyone should have a copy even if you don’t like real guns…er revolvers.

  7. My father in law gave me ends book. I’ve even got video of Ed.
    It also inspired me to get into competitive pistol shooting.

  8. Shush Don’t tell the Democrats, revolvers will be next as they shoot too fast! Speed loaders have too much capacity! and they have a pistol grip! any barrel over 4 inches is plain unacceptable, as it increases Velocity! but barrel can’t be threaded and shorter than 2″ as it would be too easy to conceal,and might be able to use a suppressor! no polymers either as that makes it an assault pistol and can not be black either as then it is a weapon of mass destruction!
    Besides all of them want to be cowboys & girls might try too emulate Gene Autry or Roy Rodgers! and become good guys! also no lanyard attachments then it will be a military weapon of mass destruction,no caliber larger than ..25 allowed because anything larger is capable of using FMJ and COP killer Ammo!
    The Next Anti American Muslim loving Democrats wet dream! oh just let in all the illegals and provide them with Food, Money, housing Health care and sign ssaying vote Democrat Next Month

  9. Does anyone remember Ed’s feat with Remington Nylon 66 rifles? Over 100,000 small wooden blocks thrown in the air and shot at with the .22s. He missed only a handful of times. I still remember reading the ads about it.

    • I once read that one of those wood blocks was put in the box with each Nylon 66 sold. At least until unit #100,001!

    • I once read that one of those wood blocks was put in the box with each Nylon 66 sold. At least until unit #100,001! My question is, which is more desirable, the ones he hit or the ones he missed?

      At a gun show: “Yes, I can personally attest that this 3″ cube of genuine pinewood, is one of the six that Ed McGivern failed to hit in the famous 100,000 wood block shooting demonstration. An unfortunate fire at the Remington factory claimed four of the six, the fifth is unaccounted for. This unassuming block of vintage pine is the only remaining unshot cube of Ed McGivern’s many accomplishments. I’ll let it go for any reasonable offer in excess of $2750.00, but I like you so…”

  10. I just bought a replacement copy of McGivern’s book to replace one that’s hiding somewhere in my home.

    The only thing better than the information in the book is McGivern’s Edgar Rice Burroughs “John Carter of Mars” style prose.

    It’s too bad William S. Burroughs is dead, I’d have loved for him to have recorded “Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting” as an audio book!

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