Quick Draw

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"There was a blur, and then shootin'. I didn't see no draw."
—Sheriff Root, Preacher (Comic Book), on the Saint of Killers

The one-on-one gunfight is a derivation of the more ancient practice of duelling. Thus, a key characteristic of many gunfighters is their ability to field their weapon of choice with lightning speed. This is critical to their ability to deliver the Instant Death Bullet rather than receive it, although they may choose to blast the gun out of their adversary's hand. The Western Showdown At High Noon is the classic setting for this trope, although it appears in pretty much every genre with guns.

Because the trope is so well evolved, there are many refinements. Guns and holsters are commonly altered to make the quick draw more effective. Subverting the quick draw by removing an adversary's ammunition before the showdown is a well-known ploy. Shooting from the hip is a way to improve the speed of the draw at the expense of accuracy. You may also have the firearm in an apparatus that sends it directly into your hand.

Also see Single-Stroke Battle, Fastest Gun in the West, The Gunslinger. See Iaijutsu Practitioner for a related sword technique.

Examples of Quick Draw include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Golgo 13 has a notoriously quick draw speed. In one episode, a hitman measured it at 0.16 seconds.
  • Kino is extremely talented when it comes to drawing and using guns at a moment's notice. Doesn't have a reputation, so doesn't count as Fastest Gun in the West.
  • Trigun has an episode called "Quick Draw", in which Vash and Nicholas enter a quick draw competition to give the reward to a family in need. Vash being Vash and Nicholas being a priest, both are opposed to killing, but they can manage nonlethal shots. One gunman uses a particularly novel trick; he wears his clothes backwards and uses a Latex Perfection mask to pretend he's walking backwards before the draw when he actually never faces away from his opponent, so he doesn't have to turn around to shoot.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The Saint of Killers from Preacher (Comic Book) is explicitly described as having a draw so fast the policemen attacking him only saw blurs.
  • Despite his reluctance to use guns, Batman.
  • Lucky Luke: his signature move is outdrawing his own shadow.
  • Juan Gimenez' comic 8 y ½ (part of the Cuestión de Tiempo series) has an interesting variation. Rock Murphy is a cowboy who is a downright supernaturally Quick Draw; his gun seems to literally teleport to his hand each time he duels. It turns out that a time traveller who idolizes Murphy stops time during each duel (with an appropriate device) and puts the gun in Rock's hand to give him a flawless victory. Once the time traveller is taken away by Time Police, Rock dies without the support.
  • In a Hitman story, one-shot antagonist Manko was able to light a cigarette, drop the lighter, draw, shoot three men, re-holster his gun, and then catch the still-lit lighter before it hit the ground.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns are also famous for this. Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name has been known to take out four men in one draw, and the climactic showdowns are something to watch. Especially the final showdown in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which had all three principal characters facing off in a graveyard clearing.
  • Desperado is an neo-Western, featuring a gunfighter who often produces two pistols from his sleeves.
  • In Serenity Mal finds himself up against The Operative who is a more skilled opponent, but Mal has a faster draw as seen in their final confrontation. This is pointed out in the film's commentary.
  • In quite a few Blazing Saddles scenes, the Waco Kid pulls off shots without visibly drawing his revolvers.
  • Demonstrated in the film of Angels & Demons where The Dragon holds up a pilfered police badge to distract a pair of policemen, then brings up his pistol and guns them both down before they can react.
  • The Quick and the Dead is full of this, being as it is about a quick draw competition. Notably, Keith David's character doesn't have a holster—instead his gun is attached to a pivot on his belt, letting him fire from the hip without drawing it.
  • The Magnificent Seven has Chris use this in his attempt to convince Gunfighter Wannabe Chico to go home: he tells Chico to clap as fast as he can before casually drawing his gun between the closing hands and inviting Chico to match the feat.
  • In Maverick, the eponymous character has very fast hands, and uses his quick draw skills to bluff his way out of confrontations. He's actually not a gunfighter at all.
  • Deconstructed slightly in Unforgiven. Sheriff Daggett demonstrates to an author that he is indeed quick on the draw, but explains that accuracy goes out the window and it's all next to useless unless the shooter keeps a cool head. He also recalls a man who tried to hard to draw quickly and ended up shooting himself in the foot. Demonstrated in the finale where Munny does not rapidly gun down Daggett's men with a flick of the wrist, but instead draws and kneels down, deliberately aiming and gunning down the terrified Mooks who all miss him in their panic.
  • Parodied in Toy Story, with Woody telling an Etch to draw, followed by him drawing a picture of a gun.
  • Subverted in Rio Bravo; when asked why he carries a rifle, Sheriff Chance (John Wayne) replies that he found there were lots of men faster with a pistol.
  • Jimmy Ringo in The Gunfighter.
  • Ned in Three Amigos gets challenged to such a duel when a former fan of his films claims he used trick photography to appear to be a quick draw expert. He didn't.


Literature[edit | hide]

"I saw him fire one shot in warning...no, actually I didn't. It just sort of...happened" --Sir Norris

  • Western novels, such as the works of Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour, are rife with detailed multi-page descriptions of the execution of the quick draw. Noir detectives also are adept at it, which is probably not surprising given their Western heritage.
  • The Survivalist (an After the End series of adventure novels by Jerry Ahern). John Rouke tries to get an outlaw biker gang to stop killing a group of civilians; the leader says they'll do so if Rouke duels their quick-draw artist. His companions think it's suicide, but Rouke points out there's a difference between drawing down on a timer and dueling someone who's shooting back at you. Sure enough, Rouke wins.
  • Roland from The Dark Tower novels. According to his teammate, Eddie Dean, he is so fast, that "he could almost have eaten a hamburger and drunk a milkshake before beginning his draw".
  • Morgan Kane, from the book series of the same name, is said to draw and fire in 1/5th of a second, making him one of the legendary gunslingers of the Old West. He is, however, knowledgeable enough to know that his accuracy is sacrificed in a quick draw, so he usually fires more than once.
  • In Field of Dishonor, Honor puts four rounds into a professional duellist, before he can even get one shot off.
  • Jack Holloway in Little Fuzzy. Someone cried a warning. He turned, going for his pistol, and saw a Mook pointing a gun at him. As two different people commented afterward, pulling a gun on Jack Holloway is simply a way of committing suicide.
    • Also from H. Beam Piper is "Bish" Ware, the town drunk Remittance Man in Four-Day Planet. Never being completely sober somehow hasn't slowed him down noticeably or affected his accuracy. The person quoted below was looking directly at Bish when he drew:

Then there was a gun going off in his hand. I didn't see him reach for it, or where he drew it from. It was just in his hand, firing....

  • Hammer's Slammers' Joachim Steuben. It took two-fifths of a second from the moment he reached for his highly ornamented pistol to his having killed three men, all of whom had their weapons drawn. At least one of them was already aiming at him (and very eager to shoot). He fired so quickly, in fact, that he wouldn't have been able to get off a fourth shot, because the plastic cartridge disc of the third shot melted from the heat of his rapid firing and jammed the pistol's action.
  • E.C. Tubb's Earl Dumarest was blurringly fast and accurate — with a thrown knife, having at least once killed a man who already had a gun leveled at him. Earl was no slouch with a gun himself, either, but he was never willingly without the knife.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Occurs in the first episode (but in no other) of Deadwood. Wild Will Hickok and Seth Bullock are interrogating a man. When he suddenly goes for his gun, Bullock and Hickok beat him to the draw and gun him down. Bullock earns some bad ass cred by being almost as fast as Hickok.
  • The late Edward Woodward had quite a quick draw demonstrated in both The Equalizer and Callan.
  • In Justified US Marshall Raylin Givins is quick on the draw and shoots to kill.
  • In the Jesse James Vs. Al Capone episode of Deadliest Warrior, Champion Gunslinger Joey Dillion (who was testing weapons for the Jesse James side) was able to draw and accurately fire his twin Colt revolvers in a quarter of a second in contrast to the Al Capone expert who took half a second to lift and fire his Tommy Gun. The Tommy Gun still got the edge due to More Dakka.
  • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger has Captain Marvelous battling one of the enemies like this and won. Despite the enemy cheating.
  • In an episode of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr Brisco not only outdraws an opponent but puts his bullet right down the barrel of the other shooter's gun before the man can fire.
  • Michael Westen of Burn Notice prefers not to kill, but on one occasion he drew his gun so quickly he killed a man who already had his weapon drawn and aimed at Michael.


Music[edit | hide]

  • The Marty Robbins song Big Iron describes a duel between an Arizona Ranger and an outlaw named Texas Red:

"There was forty feet between them when they stopped to make their play
And the swiftness of the ranger is still talked about today
Texas Red had not cleared leather fore a bullet fairly ripped
And the ranger's aim was deadly with the big iron on his hip"

My circuits slow;
I'm not scared anymore.
Reach for my weapon, and in turn,
You're reachin' for yours.
My circuits slow;
What they said is a lie.
The shots are heard and the
Bullets scream death as they fly.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • GURPS has the Fast-Draw skill for this. For a heavy penalty characters can draw in less time than it takes a normal person can pull the trigger on a gun. It is also possible to buy a holsters designed to make a Quick Draw easier, see the Bridgeport Rig below.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • 1st Edition Oriental Adventures. The Iaijutsu skill allowed the user to draw a melee weapon with blinding speed, thus avoiding any combat penalties.
    • Edition 3.5 has this as an a feat that allows you do draw your weapon (anything from a hand crossbow to a knife to a BFS) as a free action. Very useful for rogues, ninjas and other stealthy types, as well as general fighting in difficult places.
    • In 4th Edition, drawing weapons is a little bit easier for most classes, but it's still useful for classes like the rogue who can Back Stab an enemy they get the drop on For Massive Damage. Plus, Rule of Cool, you know?
  • Rifts has a sci-fi wild west setting, with a system for determining who wins in a quick-draw.
  • Starblazer Adventures, based on the 1980's British science fiction Comic Book. The Quick Draw stunt allows you to instantly draw your weapon without penalty.
  • Shadowrun. In 2nd Edition a character could try to perform a Quick Draw action and use the drawn weapon in the same combat phase. If the attempt failed the character would have to wait until the next combat phase to fire.
  • Witch Hunter: The Invisible World. The Fast Draw and Lightning Draw talents allowed a character to do this with no penalty.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The last part of Metal Gear Solid 3, with Naked Snake and Ocelot doing a strange quickdraw slash Russian Roulette thing.
    • In the earlier boss battle, if you stand in plain sight and unequip your pistol. Ocelot will come out of hiding for a quick draw duel.
  • The NES game Wild Gunman is based on this concept.
  • Quick Draw also appears as a minigame in Kirby's Adventure and in Kirby Super Star.
  • The Boss Battle between Dan Smith and Curtis Blackburn is fought like this in Killer7
  • The Boss Battle between Travis and Dr.Peace in No More Heroes.
  • Both Jak and Daxter are walking examples of this, being able to grab the BFG and fire off a shot in the same second.
  • Being a gun/sword slinger, the Kusagari-with-no-name from Red Steel 2 is a great example. Switching from sword to gun is instant, and the bullet lands in the target before the swap animation can even start. It's in first person, so there's no visual clue to see how he actually pulls it off. He can even quickdraw the rifle.
  • The Counter ability in Vanguard Bandits allows any character attacked from the front to quickly preempt the enemies attack.
  • Boss battles in the Call of Juarez games are usually these, except for Colonel Barnsby and Juarez himself, who are content to stay on the other side of an impassable barrier, summon mooks, and shoot at you.
  • The Wii Ware game Fast Draw is entirely made out of this, the difference being that you shoot real life cowboy people.
  • John Marston of Red Dead Redemption fame is quite the quick draw, as can be seen in the duel minigame and cutscenes.


Web Original[edit | hide]


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The Nobel-winning physicist Niels Bohr once did an impromptu research project to find out why good guys in movies always win quick draw duels. After many mock gunfights against fellow physicist George Gamow, Bohr concluded that the villain always tries to draw his gun first (and so must consciously move his hands), while the hero always reacts and draws by reflex as soon as he sees the villain moving. Bohr theorized that reflex is always faster than conscious action, therefore, the good guy always wins. Research shows that "reactive advantage" is about 10% faster than conscious initiation, but this only shaves an average 21 milliseconds from a 200-millisecond action - not enough to out-draw an opponent. The researchers conclude that Bohr's anecdotal victories in all his mock duels "suggest that Bohr was a crack shot, in addition to being a brilliant physicist."
  • Today, quick draws abound. There are competitions worldwide where shooters compete by emptying revolvers upon a target, sprint through training courses, and all sorts of feats as fast as humanly possible.
  • Longhair Jim Courtright invited Luke Short outside to discuss their ongoing feud. They went out into the street and faced each other. Courtright then proceeded to threaten Short, before reaching to pull his gun. It got caught on part of his clothes, and then Luke Short drew his own gun and fired it from the hip. The shot hit Courtright in the thumb before traveling into his body. As Courtright attempted to shift the gun to his other hand, Short raised his own gun and fired into him four more times, killing him. It was ruled a justifiable homicide.
  • Jim Levy got into a gambling argument with Charlie Harrison. They ended up agreeing to meet in the streets. Both drew, but all of Harrison's shots went wild. Levy took more careful aim and hit Harrison, who fell down. Then Levy walked up to him, stood over him, and shot him again for good measure. This ended the duel.
  • Wild Bill Hickock and Davis Tutt got into an argument over gambling issues. When they met in the street, Hickock warned Tutt not to approach him. Both made threatening gestures towards their guns, until both drew and fired. Tutt missed, Hickock did not.
  • The Bridgeport Rig is a specialized holster that places the gun on a pivot that slides out, making for extremely quick draws in the right hands. While cowboy movies make some use of the design, there's no evidence they were used in any real life shoot outs.
  • Ted Blocker is the current record-holder in quick draw, using a speed-rig of his own design, from a visual start signal to the bullet hitting the target, in 0.25 seconds. That is, a quarter second. Gun guru Bill Jordan is on film doing it from a normal holster in 0.27 seconds.
  • In 1978, police officer Ed Cantrell (sitting in the front passenger seat of a car) saw his aggressive and somewhat unstable deputy, Michael Rosa (sitting in the back seat) mouth at him "You motherf-cker" while going for his pistol. In the time it took for Rosa to lean back and unsnap his holster, Cantrell drew and shot over his shoulder, hitting Rosa between the eyes. Cantrell was actually arrested and tried for murder, and his lawyer (Gerry Spence) proved self-defense by the way Rosa's body was positioned. At the trial, in order to illustrate Cantrell's speed, Spence had a bailiff aim an unloaded pistol at Bill Jordan, and told him to pull the trigger the instant he saw Jordan go for his gun. Jordan drew and fired a blank so fast that the poor bailiff never had a chance. As everyone in the courtroom sat stunned, Spence turned to Jordan: "Mr. Jordan, you've seen Cantrell shoot before. How fast is he?" "Oh, he's a mite faster than me."
  • Senator Al Franken is actually a quick-draw champion. In Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them, he claims to be third in the US.