TeeJaw Blog

Herbert W. McBride (1873-1933)


The following excerpt is from, A Rifleman Went To War, The Classic Account of Practical Marksmanship On The Battlefield of WW I, by H.W. McBride:

[During the summer of 1893 McBride, at the age of 20, worked as a cow puncher in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. He was much impressed with the sort of men he met in that part of the country, and gives this account:]

All of these men had grown up in the West and had lived through the various “wars” and ructions which flared up every now and then, all the way from Texas to the Black Hills. They all bore the scars of combat but the very fact that they had survived was, to my notion, the best evidence that they were good. Those were the days of the survival of the fittest, especially in the case of men who, like all those mentioned, had occupied positions as legal guardians of the peace, all along the border.

From these men I learned many things, the most important of which was the point which they all insisted was absolutely vital: the ability to control one’s own nerves and passions – in other words, never to get excited.

I had the opportunity to see a couple of them in action during some disturbances which came up during the Fourth of July celebration and never will forget that, while armed, they never even made a motion toward a gun: they simply walked up to the belligerent and half drunken “bad men” and disarmed them and then walked them off to the calabozo to cool off. Yes, I learned a lot from those men. That they could shoot, both quickly and accurately, but the thing that enabled them to live to a ripe middle age was not so much due to that accomplishment as to the fact that they were abundantly supplied with that commodity commonly called “guts.” That was the point, above all others, that impressed me and remained with me after I had returned to the East; and, ever since, I have tried to live up to the standard of those pioneers of the shooting game.

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In 1987 Jeff Cooper (1920-2006) had this to say about Herbert W. McBride in the prologue to a reprint of the book:

As a young marine I read McBride carefully and enthusiatically, and I learned more about my business from his work than from any other single source.  I hope it is not true that I got all my ideas about fighting from him, as has been suggested, but I certainly got of lot of them.

Times change, and weapons change, and the human spirit seems to lose its luster, but there will always be stout-hearted men on whom Herbert McBride’s story will not be wasted!

Here it is.  Amen!

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Herbert W. McBride was a Captain in the Indiana National Guard just before he died in 1933.  His father, Judge Robert W. McBride had been a judge on the Indiana Supreme Court.  McBride’s book is considered one of the best first-person accounts of World War I.  McBride’s life was a mixture of honor and valor interspersed with personal failings common to many then and now.  He notes in his book that by the end of 1916 he felt in his heart “the game was over,” and a series of alcoholic binges resulted in his court martial and dismissal from the Canadian Expeditionary Force in February 1917. He then joined the United States Army’s 38th Division where he served as a sniper until Armistice day.  When the Small Arms Firing School was organized at Camp Perry in May, 1918, he was one of the first instructors. After the war, he apparently got his alcoholism under control and worked in the lumber industry in Oregon for most of his later years. He died in Indianapolis of a heart attack on March 17, 1933, shortly after finishing “A Rifleman Went To War.”   His alcoholic binges aside, when he was not so incapacitated he served honorably and with valor for both his native Canada and his adopted U.S.A. Captain McBride’s obituary from the May, 1933 American Rifleman, is here.  He lies at rest today in a family plot at the Crown Hill Cemetery of Indianapolis.

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