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Pistol whipping is the act of using a handgun as a blunt weapon, wielding it as if it were a club or blackjack.[1]. "Pistol-whipping" and "to pistol-whip" were reported as "new words" of American speech in 1955, with cited usages from 1940s.[2] However both the term and the practice trace back to the Wild West of the 1800s.

Paul Wellman notes that a Westerner clubbing an opponent with the butt of a gun held by its barrel, seen in some westerns, has its problems. There are several reasons why it would be wrong. One of which is that the gun would be rendered useless for its primary purpose which is to fire a projectile out of the barrel. There is also the danger of an unintentional discharge which could fatally wound the "clubber". Plus there would also be a loss of precious time to switch from holding the barrel to holding the grip in the standard shooting way.

Instead, pistol whipping (also known as buffaloing) was done with the long and heavy barrel of the gun held in an ordinary manner.[3][4] Thus removing the above mentioned issues involved with holding the gun by the barrel.

Pistol whipping may leave unusual lacerations on the body of the injured due to various protruding details of the pistol. [5] Semicircular or triangular lacerations on the skin may be produced by the butt of a pistol. The magazine well and the base of the magazine produce rectangular lacerations on the skin. [6] These lacerations can vary in depth and severity, but if "whipped", fractures are common.

Pistol-whipping should not be confused with buttstroking, a close-combat military discipline.

See also


  1. ^ "Pistol whipping", Random House Unabridged Dictionary
  2. ^ "Fifty Years Among the New Words: by John Algeo, p. 142, from vol. 30 (1955), no. 4 of the American Speech, the journal of the American Dialect Society
  3. ^ The Trampling Herd: The Story of the Cattle Range in America by Paul Iselin Wellman (1988) ISBN 0803297238, p. 196
  4. ^ The True Life Wild West Memoir of a Bush-popping Cow Waddy, by Charley Hester, Kirby Ross, 2004, ISBN 0803273460, Chapter 14: "Buffaloing"
  5. ^ "Pistol whipping", in Forensic Pathology, by David Dolinak, Evan W. Matshes, Emma O. Lew, 2006, ISBN 0122199510, p. 185
  6. ^ "Gunshot Wounds: Practical Aspects of Firearms, Ballistics, and Forensic Techniques", Vincent J.M. DiMaio, 1999, ISBN 0849381630, pp. 270-271


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