- Robert E. Petersen Collection
- Ancient Firearms
- The Road to American Liberty
- Seeds of Greatness
- The Prospering New Republic
- A Nation Asunder
- The American West
- Innovation, Oddities and Competition
- Theodore Roosevelt, Elegant Arms
- World War I and Firearms Innovation
- WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Beyond
- For the Fun of It
- Firearms Traditions for Today
- William B. Ruger Special Exhibits
- Freedom's Doorway
Smith & Wesson (Springfield, MA) Model 1917 Revolver
Stumpy, barrel-shaped, 5' 5" and a sign painter by vocation, Ed McGivern probably wouldn't be your first pick as "the fastest gun in the world." But he was just that in the period between the two World Wars, traveling across America demonstrating his "fast and fancy" style of shooting with one and two handguns. McGivern, born in 1874 and fascinated by guns from an early age, taught himself to shoot.
Although he at first used semi-automatic pistols he soon found he could achieve a faster rate of fire with a factory standard double-action revolver. Ultra-skilled muscles and reflexes proved speedier than recoil operated mechanisms. As an exhibition shooter, McGivern specialized in hitting aerial targets and in hitting two targets -- with two revolvers -- simultaneously. As his shooting career progressed, so did the complexity of McGivern's act.
As the number of targets grew, so did the need for rapidity of fire, a challenge to which he devoted most of his adult life: just how fast and how straight could a man shoot a handgun? McGivern's crowning shooting feat as recorded in "The Guiness Book of World Records" took place when he was 58 years old and on tour. Of it, the book says: "The greatest rapid fire feat. Ed McGivern fired two times from 15 feet five shots Which could be covered by a half-dollar piece in 45/100's of a second, August 20, 1932."
While active as an exhibition shooter and, later, after arthritis ended that career, McGivern delved deep into the practical applications of his art, teaching shooting to law enforcement officers and servicemen. When he died at age 83 in 1957 he was still studying and passing on what he had learned in his long career. His lessons remain startlingly simple: close attention to the fundamentals of shooting, sight alignment, sight picture, and trigger control; and practice, practice and more practice -- make a man a marksman
From a youthful interest in firearms, Ed McGivern developed an uncanny skill in combining speed with accuracy in handgun shooting. He was endowed with unusually keen vision, and his reflexes rivaled those of a cat. Although small in stature and with proportionally small hands, these physical features posed no handicap. He reached his peak performance after age 50 and was able to accomplish feats with firearms that have never been equaled.
Not only did he use stationary targets, but a wide variety of aerial targets ranging from quarter-sized lead discs to clay shotgun targets thrown singly or in multiples. He could hit a tin can thrown in the air six times before it struck the ground, and he was also known to cut tossed circular cards edgewise while they were still in flight. His accomplishments were recorded by electrical timing devices and authenticated by many reliable witnesses. Walter Groff and Ed McGivern worked together in producing the most remarkable shooting exhibitions ever conducted in the United States. The firearms and accessories displayed here are from Mr. Groff's estate and were donated by his wife.