Elmer Keith was a character, one practically right out of a legend. A barely literate cowboy by many accounts (his editors were said to work miracles) but a shooter of incredible skill, a wildcatter without peer, an expert hunter, and – also by many accounts – an all-around good guy. Granted, mentioning Jack O’Connor around him might have tarnished that image a bit.
Anyhow, one of the many stories surrounding Keith – who, with some assistance, basically invented the magnum revolver cartridge – is a purported shot he made with a .44 Magnum revolver. Keith is said to have shot a mule deer buck from 600 yards away.
The gist of the story was that Keith “walked the shot” onto the buck after someone else had wounded it, according to Craig Boddington in Guns & Ammo, missing with the first shot but landing the second. He fired two more times with one hit and one miss.
Now, people have made long shots with handguns before, but 600 yards? Keith was a fantastic spinner of yarns, to be sure, but he was no fabulist. Could he have done it? You can find a recounting in his own words at Handloads.com.
This has been mused over by a number of people ever since he put it in print. What some surmise is that he landed a shot on a deer from a very long distance away, but it wasn’t 600 yards. Since rangefinders weren’t the most packable items in those days, he estimated the distance. Some believe that it was probably more like 500 yards, if not less.
After all, distances are much harder to estimate on terrain of varying elevation and the area he spent much of his life in (central Idaho, near the Bitterroot range) varies quite a bit.
Now, Keith was known to be an excellent shot with a pistol, including at long ranges. He was known to hit bowling balls at well over 100 yards as well as small game. There’s no doubt a .44 Magnum bullet could travel that distance, of course, and Keith was – at the time – one of the few people who were known for the skill to make a shot anywhere close to that.
But has anything like that been done in recent times?
That’s Jerry Miculek, shooting – and HITTING – a balloon from 1,000 yards with a S&W 929 with only a red dot sight. The 929 is a Performance Center revolver (a Jerry Miculek signature model, no less) on Smith’s N-frame. Keith made his shot with his packin’ gun, a four-inch Model 29.
Just like Elmer Keith, Jerry Miculek is a titan living amongst us mere mortals. Granted, Miculek is shooting on virtually level ground and at a target, rather than a wounded deer that you’re trying to put down instead of leaving it to suffer a miserable death.
So as we can see, the shot is certainly feasible.
What do you think, though? Let us know in the comments.