Long time readers of this blog already know that I have a great interest – some might say an obsession — in the bucket shot scene from the movie Quigley Down Under.
If you are one of the few shooters left on planet earth who has not seem Quigley Down Under, here’s a quick synopsis of the bucket shot: Tom Selleck plays a Wyoming cowboy, Matthew Quigley, who has been hired by an Australian rancher looking for “the world’s finest long-range rifle shot.” A few minutes into the film, Quigley, who has traveled three months by boat to get to Australia, meets his employer for the first time. Wanting to confirm that Quigley is indeed a superb marksman, the rancher instructs one of the ranch hands to grab a wooden bucket and ride out toward a knoll until he is instructed to stop. He finally places the bucket atop the knoll where it is just barely visible. Quigley attaches the tang vernier sight to his Sharps 45-110, eyeballs the weathervane on the roof, watches the wind drift some sand from his fingers, makes a couple of tweaks to the vernier sight, and clobbers the bucket three times in succession with the heavy rounds from his Sharps.
When I saw that scene, I was thunderstruck. Something inside me responded viscerally: “That’s soooo cool; I wish I could do that.” Then another inner voice chimed in: “Maybe you can.” That, in a nutshell, is where the trouble began. Ever since, I have been on a personal mission to recreate my own bucket shot, but with airguns. Along the way, I invented a game, which I call “Air Quigley,” which involves shooting at a 1.75 inch bucket target offhand at 55 yards with an air rifle with non-glass sights. Every year at the Northeast Regional Field Target competition at Crosman Corporation, they have a separate Quigley Bucket Challenge which is well attended.
If you would like to read some of my other writings on Air Quigley, try here http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2010/07/further-quigley-experimentation.html and there are a couple of chapters in my book “Elliott on Airguns” http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/ElliottOnAirguns.html
Recently, however, I had the opportunity to thank the gentleman who wrote the screenplay for Quigley Down Under, John Hill. He and I corresponded by email, and he kindly gave me permission to quote him.
“Forty years ago, in L.A. in 1973, I was a young would-be screenwriter in Los Angeles, and read an feature article on the front page of the Los Angeles Times about the historical treatment of aborigines by the British and the Australian settlers in the late 19th century. One paragraph said they left out poison sheep to kill off the aborigines; men, women and children were herded off a cliff in one instance; and they cleared the island of Tasmania of its native by paying two English pounds for every pair of aboriginal ears. I read that and thought, wow, that has to be a movie. Took me two years to come up with Quigley and the plot.
I wrote the script in 1975, on speculation, and the bucket-shooting scene, which I just made up, at the time – after researching the Sharps rifle from my father’s books on rifles and guns. There’s a great irony here — I grew up in Kansas and my father was a great shooting and hunting enthusiast (taught me as a boy) but I went to Hollywood and became one of those candy-assed liberals who doesn’t like guns, shooting or hunting and is all for maximum gun control etc, (while the jewel of my tarnished little crown of my career is Quigley’s rifle!)
My father, who passed away in 1975, would have LOVED hearing today about manufacturers making a Quigley rifle later, Quigley long-distance shooting contests, and things like the British military snipers calling it a “Quigley” in the sniper culture whenever a military sniper line up two bad guys and kill them both with one bullet, as in the movie.
And my son who lives in Oregon is now a gun enthusiast and has a new $1,000 deer rifle and he practicing for deer season. He’s a good shot! (I’m the black sheep of the family!)
But this isn’t about politics -it’s about writing an entertaining adventure movie with some credible, even inspiring, truths to it. So I am so glad and immensely flattered that one shoot-the-bucket scene (which came in #94 in COWBOY AND INDIANS magazine years ago in their choice of “The 100 Greatest Western Movie Moments” for the last 100 years) has such resonance. Oh, and I did have a pellet rifle when I was a boy – it was great fun! So, again, thank you so much for you good email and the report that so many of those dangerous, lethal buckets who have gone rogue are getting the hell shot out of them!”
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight!
– Jock Elliott