The NRA celebrates the spirit of the holiday season in our 12 Days of Firearms series! To kick off the month of December, we’ve handpicked 12 legendary firearms found in the galleries of the NRA Museums, showcasing one each day for 12 days.
A stumpy, barrel-shaped, 5-foot-5 sign painter, 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 single and dual handguns. McGivern, born in 1874, was fascinated by guns from an early age and taught himself to shoot.
He used a variety of handguns, including this Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3 revolver chambered in .38-40 and shot this single-action revolver in Montana demonstrations around 1919.
McGivern elected to use this top-break handgun to illustrate his fast reloading, although for faster shooting, he favored Colt single-action revolvers and Smith & Wesson double-action revolvers.
From a youthful interest in firearms, 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.