SI Vault
Martin Kane
October 20, 1958
Anyone can shoot like a TV Western hero after a one-hour lesson, and here's how
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October 20, 1958

Shooting By Instinct

Anyone can shoot like a TV Western hero after a one-hour lesson, and here's how

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But a student of the Lucky McDaniel method ("The Lucky McDaniel System of Muscular Coordination and Synchronization Between Eyes and Hands") does not trifle with the meticulous. A true McDaniel follower will go so far as to have the sights removed from his weapons because they are a hindrance to him. He will point rifle or pistol as naturally as he would point a finger, pretty much as good shotgunners do. Looking at what he wants to hit and quite disregarding the cant of his weapon or the state of his breathing, he pulls the trigger. He does not squeeze the trigger. He might even slap it, as shotgunners sometimes do. That is all. He hits the target, which may be a flying dime or an Alka-Seltzer tablet tossed into the air by Lucky.

It takes Lucky, a slightly built young man with blond, close-cropped hair, about an hour to transmit this miracle-making power. It takes his pupils the rest of their lives to get over the fact that they can do it.

Not that they can do it for the rest of their lives solely on the basis of one lesson. Practice is required thereafter, as in any sport.

Ross Baldwin, a young architect who has since been inspired to design a BB gun to Lucky's specifications, propped up nine paper matches in the red dust of a Georgia road. He drew a nine-shot .22 revolver and, shooting from the hip, knocked down all nine matches without reloading, shooting far faster than what is considered rapid-fire in competition.

"I paid Lucky $25 for a lesson," he said, "and I have since spent $1,500 for practice ammunition."

The McDaniel method has evolved from doing what comes naturally. Lucky is 33 years old and has been shooting at game for 28 years.

"Everything I have got today," he says, "I was born with."

He was born with it on his father's 800-acre peach farm in Upson County, Georgia, an area lush with woods and streams. His first weapon was a rare piece, a .22 caliber Winchester, which was fired, not by pulling a trigger, but by pressing down on a small obtrusion with the thumb. It had been expropriated from a farmhand who had used it to shoot an associate. Lucky's Uncle Elmo Draughorn, before presenting it to his 5-year-old nephew, took the precaution of filling the barrel with lead. Lucky brought the rifle to a blacksmith, who removed the lead. Then Lucky took to the woods, where he began shooting rabbits and squirrels.

Just before Lucky's sixth birthday Uncle Elmo gave him a .410 shotgun, and the two went off to shoot quail.

"The dogs flushed the covey," Lucky recalls. "One quail came up the hill my way and my uncle said, 'Here he comes, Bobby. Get him!' And I did. I killed my first bird with the first shot from my first shotgun."

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