Lessons From Bill Jordan

Half A Century After The Debut Of His Classic Book
On Gunfighting, The Old Master’s Lessons Endure.

By Massad Ayoob

The year 1965 saw Bill Jordan’s book No Second Place Winner arrive. I was in high school, with a budget not geared to hardcover books, but I bought it anyway and pored over every word. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve reread it since. I got to meet the man himself about a decade later, and learned enough more from him to call him a mentor. Bill was kind enough to write the foreword for my first book, Fundamentals of Modern Police Impact Weapons in 1978, and I was one of a great many who deeply mourned his death in 1997.

A veteran of World War II and violent years on the Mexican Border alike, Bill was famed for his lightning speed and combat savvy. I got to see both up close and personal about 40 years ago when he picked me as his “victim demonstration partner” in one of his trademark exhibitions. His hand well clear of the K-Frame S&W in the Border Patrol holster he designed, he had me hold a Colt SAA cocked on a primer blank and with my finger on the trigger, with instructions to fire as soon as I saw his hand move. Once, twice, I did just that—and his double action flashed from its holster and “shot” me each time just before my own shot went off. He granted me a third chance, and I was watching his still holstered K-Frame when a shot exploded on my right: he had taken advantage of my tunnel vision to draw his bobbed-hammer Airweight Chief from his hip pocket and pop me with a primer blank, using his other hand!

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Mas cherishes this autographed early ’70’s picture of him with
mentor Bill Jordan, who is holding the S&W Model 57 .41 Magnum
Jordan and Elmer Keith godfathered.

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Bill Jordan legacies: S&W .357 Combat Magnum, and No Second Place Winner.

The Border Patrol holster he created has been replaced in police circles by more secure designs, and the classic .357 Combat Magnum he inspired has long since given way to modern autos. The .41 Magnum he and Elmer Keith inspired is still with us, his Jordan Trooper stocks are still made by Herrett’s, and both are still prized by the revolver cognoscenti. Much of Bill’s life-saving advice remains absolutely, timelessly valid.

Jordan wrote, “I consider myself fortunate in having known one of the greatest peace officers this country has produced—Captain John Hughes of the Texas Rangers… Like most old timers, he was reluctant to talk of personal experiences but occasionally passed out advice well worth heeding. One such gem that I have always remembered and will pass on was: ‘If you get in a gunfight, don’t let yourself feel rushed. Take your time, fast.’” (Page 107)
Earlier in the book, Bill remarked, “And above all, take all the time necessary but don’t dawdle. Remember, ‘speed’s fine, but accuracy’s final’—if you are given time to display it!” (Page 99)

Some have attributed “Take your time, fast” to Jordan, but Bill himself scrupulously attributed it to Hughes. “Speed’s fine, but accuracy’s final” does seem to be Jordan’s own take on the advice of the legendary Ranger Captain, though on Page 57 he describes it as “an old adage.” The old adage is a paraphrase of a line attributed to Wyatt Earp.

Bill Jordan was one of the all-time great masters of the double-action revolver, and his advice on how to shoot it is as valid now as it was then. In NSPW, Bill wrote, “…the thumb should not ride high but should be curled firmly down onto the second finger. The revolver should be a continuation of the straight line of the forearm and the trigger should be contacted at a point midway between the tip and first joint of the index finger. This is the best position…” (Page 98)

True then, and for most, true now. When you have to exert an up to 14-pound trigger pull suddenly on a gun weighing only a couple of pounds, you need to be holding it hard. Take one hand away from this magazine, hold your thumb up, and squeeze your lower three fingers as hard as you can while mentally measuring the pressure. Now, slowly close your thumb and feel how much stronger your hand becomes. The distal joint trigger finger placement? It gives you more leverage for a smooth, fast, straight back pull. Again, try it and experience Jordan’s wisdom for yourself.

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Bill’s Jordan Trooper stocks are still available from Herrett’s and
still popular, seen here today on Joe Toluse’s S&W .357.

Bill Jordan wrote of the terrifying revelation coming at the moment of truth: “You are struck with the realization that your opposition is a man who is trying to kill you and that in the next instant the world might have to find someone else to revolve about. His bullet may end life for you!”(Page 105) It is a strain of survival mindset that began with the title of his most famous book, and ran through the whole of it, and it is one of the many legacies this great man left to the armed citizen and the law enforcement officer alike. One of the great honors of my life came when Bill got tired of self-publishing and turned the book over to a publishing firm I had founded. Still published last I knew by Police Bookshelf, Bill Jordan’s No Second Place Winner remains a must-read classic for any who keep or carry handguns for self-defense.

No Second Place Winner, by Bill Jordan, ISBN13: 9780-9362-7909-1, Hardcover, Police Bookshelf, P.O. Box 122, Concord, NH 03302.

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