Another Centennial

Earlier this year we got lathered up over the 100th anniversary of the 1911 pistol. It was a most justified celebration, but there is another centennial we should recognize. On May 20, 1911, the world was introduced to one William Henry Jordan, a.k.a. Bill Jordan. And no, I am not referring to the famous camouflage designer, though he is a fine gentleman in his own right. The Bill Jordan I am referring to was a U.S. Marine who served in World War II and the Korean War, and went on to serve the U.S. Border Patrol. After he retired from the Border Patrol, Jordan took a job with the NRA as its southwestern field representative.

While still serving with the Border Patrol, Jordan began performing shooting demonstrations with his duty sidearm, at first a heavy-barreled Model 10 Smith & Wesson—later on a Model 19, which he had a large part in designing. From county fairs to some of the most popular television shows of the day like “I’ve Got a Secret,” and “You Asked for It" and “To Tell the Truth” and “Wide Wide World.” Jordan wowed everyone from youngsters to little old ladies with his erstwhile deadly skills. Using paraffin bullets powered by primers he would start shooting wafers and candies from a tabletop several feet downrange. The targets would get progressively smaller until he was shooting aspirin tablets from the table. And by the way, he did it from the leather, hip shooting.

In addition to his accuracy abilities, Jordan was extremely fast with his six-gun. Before we had battery-powered, synchronized flashes, photographers used something called a flash bulb to light up their subjects. About the size of an egg, and at a fraction of an egg’s weight, Jordan would balance a bulb on top of his hand inches from his revolver; then draw and hit the target—again from the hip—with the flash bulb dropping safely into his holster.

Jordan became a prolific writer, penning thousands of articles on guns and hunting, as well as the iconic "No Second Place Winner," a book on gun fighting. I have an autographed copy of that book. Barely 1/2-inch thick, it is arguably the most concise and accurate no-nonsense tome ever done on that subject.

I was fortunate enough to meet him briefly when I was a grunt manning a Hanchet surface grinder at Freedom Arms and he was taking a plant tour. Now, I have a pretty meaty hand, but Jordan’s hand totally engulfed mine as we shook. No wonder he could completely control a handgun so well.

Bill Jordan was the real deal, a man who knew the sound a bullet makes as it flies by you, and one who gave in return more of the same—often far more accurately—to those foolish enough to challenge him. No doubt that his 6 1/2-foot-tall frame and his bayou drawl caught his opponents off guard and to their peril. He was also an accomplished hunter, as comfortable with a rifle or shotgun as he was with a revolver. Bill left us on February 23, 1997, at the age of 85.

Happy 100th, Bill! I hope you are resting easy.

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1 Response to Another Centennial

Dale wrote:
December 20, 2011

I was smart enough to order an autographed copy of, "No Second Place Winner " and used his advise to pick out my duty holster. He was a great man.