May 1, 2017

Frank Reid's wound that ended his life.

The End of Soapy Smith
by Andy Thomas
Frank Reid receives the bullet to the groin
Courtesy of Andy Thomas
(Click image to enlarge)

rank H. Reid's wound that ended his participation in the shootout on Juneau Wharf, as well as his life.

     In the above painting by Andy Thomas, Soapy Smith sends a bullet into Frank Reid’s lower abdomen and groin. Although the most authentic portrayal of the Shootout on Juneau Wharf, it was reported that Reid was still holding onto the barrel of Soapy's rifle when it discharged, meaning that the end of the rifle was extremely close to Reid's abdomen when Soapy pulled the trigger. With his upper body buckling forward from the impact, Reid fell face down upon the planking, severely wounded. The fight between these two men was over.
     There are numerous theories, assumptions, and variations as to the order of shots fired and their targets. It is not possible to tell in what order the gunshot wounds were received, but it can be shown that Reid and Smith dealt out and received relatively minor wounds before each received one serious enough to end their fight with one another. Reid received a bullet to one of his legs, believed to be the left, but the fight-ending shot for him was the one down through the abdomen into the groin. It sent him face forward onto the wharf, seriously and painfully injured. Nevertheless, Skaguay newspapers and most vigilante accounts report Reid then fired one or more further shots at Jeff and that it was one of these that delivered his instantaneous death. However, when shown the information that is known about Reid’s groin wound, Major R. O. “Slim” Ackerman, the gun editor for Real West magazine, wrote,
It is unlikely that anyone could do all of that additional shooting after taking a .44-40 in the groin…. The .44-40 is a heavy bullet. For an early one, it had good shocking power at such close range. Reid would have been doubled up pretty badly. As an army officer and as a Federal agent, I’ve seen enough men shot to vouch for that....

This information led to decades of seeking out the probable moment by moment actions of the shootout and the wounds received by each combatant. For Frank Reid, the bullet that ended the fight for him, had entered two inches above the groin on the right side and exited one inch to the right of the tip of the spinal column (coccyx region of the spine). Later reported was that “The pelvis or hip bone was shattered and he [Whiting] took out a dozen pieces of splintered bone.

Once I went as far as I could go in regards to coming up with a couple of probable scenarios on the gunfight in general, I started researching Reid's groin wound and the most likely immediate results of such an injury. 

Reid’s groin injury

     The bullet that tore through Reid's groin was a Winchester caliber .44-40 bullet. In 1895 Winchester switched to a 17-grain (1.1 g) loading of DuPont No. 2 Smokeless powder with the 200-grain (13 g) bullet for 1,300 ft/s (400 m/s).
     "The sacrum and coccyx (base of the spinal column - tailbone) do not have numbers and each is thought of as one bone, however, the sections are referred to in relation to which nerve roots exit the vertebrae.
     If the spinal cord becomes bruised or partially damaged due to swelling, trauma or laceration, then paraplegia or other neurological conditions may result." 

The flat point (.44-40)

A manstopper is a generic term used to describe any combination of firearm and ammunition that can reliably incapacitate, or "stop", a human target immediately. For example, the .45 ACP pistol round and the .357 Magnum revolver round both have firm reputations as "manstoppers."
     The Winchester .44-40 bullet definitely qualifies as a "manstopper."

Winchester .44-40
Flat-nose "manstopper"

     The simplest maximum disruption bullet is one with a wide, flat tip. This increases the effective surface area, as rounded bullets can allow tissues to "flow" around the edges. It also increases drag during flight, which decreases the depth to which the bullet penetrates. Flat point bullets, with fronts of up to 90% of the overall bullet diameter, are usually designed for use against large or dangerous game. They are often made of unusually hard alloys, are longer and heavier than normal for their caliber, and even include exotic materials such as tungsten to increase their sectional density. These bullets are designed to penetrate deeply through muscle and bone, while causing a wound channel of nearly the full diameter of the bullet. These bullets are designed to penetrate deeply enough to reach vital organs from any shooting angle and at a far enough range. One of the common hunting applications of the flat point bullet is large game such as bear hunted with a handgun in a .44 Magnum or larger caliber. The disadvantage of flat point bullets is the reduction in aerodynamic performance; the flat point induces much drag, leading to significantly reduced velocities at long range. 
     Contact wounds (at very close range) made by the flat point cause massive destruction due to the explosive effect of the expanding gases leaving the muzzle. Where the torso is the point of entry, there may be massive internal disruption at a distance from the wound track (meaning, it doesn't have to contact the organs to damage them). That the bullet "exited one inch to the right of the tip of the spinal column" (coccyx region of the spine), we can assume that at the very least the nerve endings may have received damage. How much damage will never be known.

Because the bullet exited one inch to the right of the tip of the spinal column, the damage to Reid's spine was massive, thus we can assume that the results are to be considered the minimum damage in Reid's case.
     Paraplegia is an impairment in motor or sensory function of the lower extremities. The word comes from Ionic Greek: παραπληγίη "half-striking". It is usually the result of spinal cord injury or a congenital condition such as spina bifida that affects the neural elements of the spinal canal. The area of the spinal canal that is affected in paraplegia is either the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral regions. If both arms are also affected by paralysis, quadriplegia is the proper terminology. If only one limb is affected, the correct term is monoplegia.
     Because the spinal cord connects with all the body's nerves, damage to it can alter every system. In addition to affecting a person's ability to move and feel, SCI can affect skin, breathing, bladder, bowel, sexual function, and subconsciously controlled phenomena like blood pressure and sweating.
     Trauma (accidents) may either dislocate the spine and the spinal canal or cause burst fractures that produce fragments of bone that penetrate the canal.
     When the injury involves the spinal cord, the flow of messages between the brain and the rest of the body is interrupted or broken. The interruption results in a decrease or loss in motor function (movement) orsensation (feeling) or both below the level of injury.

Frank Reid was shot in the groin, a "lower extremity," thus it is probable that he would have been paralyzed in his hips and legs with the bullet. It is very likely parts, or all of his upper body, were paralyzed as well. This would explain why J. M. Tanner had to roll Reid over to grab his revolver. The photograph above shows Frank Reid with his arms crossed, indicating he had upper body movement.

Further information: Ballistic trauma
A gunshot wound

     As a missile passes through tissue, it decelerates, dissipating and transferring kinetic energy to the tissues; this is what causes the injury. The velocity of the projectile is a more important factor than its mass in determining how much damage is done; kinetic energy increases with the square of the velocity. In addition to injury caused directly by the object that enters the body, penetrating injuries may be associated with secondary injuries, due for example to a blast injury. High-velocity objects are usually projectiles such as bullets from high-powered rifles, such as assault rifles or sniper rifles. Bullets classed as medium-velocity projectiles include those from handguns, shotguns, and submachine guns. Low-velocity items, such as knives, are usually propelled by a person's hand, and usually do damage only to the area that is directly contacted by the object. The space left by tissue that is destroyed by the penetrating object as it passes through forms a cavity; this is called permanent cavitation. In addition to causing damage to the tissues they contact, medium- and high-velocity projectiles cause a secondary cavitation injury: as the object enters the body, it creates a pressure wave which forces tissue out of the way, creating a "temporary cavity" that can be much larger than the object itself. The tissues soon move back into place, eliminating the cavity, but the cavitation frequently does considerable damage first. Temporary cavitation can be especially damaging when it affects delicate tissues such as the brain, as occurs in penetrating head trauma.
     The characteristics of the tissue injured also help determine the severity of the injury; for example, the denser the tissue, the greater the amount of energy transmitted to it. The path of a projectile can be estimated by imagining a line from the entrance wound to the exit wound, but the actual trajectory may vary due to ricochet or differences in tissue density.
Temporary and permanent cavitation in handgun rounds
Courtesy of Doom and

     Stopping is usually caused not by the force of the bullet (especially in the case of handgun and rifle bullets), but by the damaging effects of the bullet, which are typically a loss of blood, and with it, blood pressure. More immediate effects can result when a bullet damages parts of the central nervous system, such as the spine or brain. In response to addressing stopping power issues, the Mozambique Drill was developed to maximize the likelihood of an attacker's quick incapacitation.
Dynamics of bullets

     A bullet will destroy or damage any tissues which it penetrates, creating a wound channel. It will also cause nearby tissue to stretch and expand as it passes through tissue. These two effects are typically referred to as permanent cavity (the track left by the bullet as it penetrates flesh) and temporary cavity, which, as the name implies, is the temporary (instantaneous) displacement caused as the bullet travels through flesh and is many times larger then the actual diameter of the bullet. These phenomena are unrelated to low-pressure cavitation in liquids.
     The degree to which permanent and temporary cavitation occur is dependent on the mass, diameter, material, design and velocity of the bullet. This is because bullets crush tissue, and do not cut it. A bullet constructed with a half diameter (pointed) ogive designed meplat and hard, solid copper alloy material will crush only the tissue directly in front of the bullet. This type of bullet (monolithic-solid rifle bullet) is conducive to cause more temporary cavitation as the tissue flows around the bullet, causing a deep and narrow wound channel. A bullet constructed with a two diameter, hollow point ogive or flat-nose designed meplat and low-antimony lead-alloy core with a thin gilding metal jacket material will crush tissue in front and to the sides as the bullet expands. Due to the energy expended in bullet expansion, velocity is lost more quickly. This type of bullet (hollow-point or flat-nose bullet) is conducive to causing more permanent cavitation as the tissue is crushed and accelerated into other tissues by the bullet, causing a shorter and more voluminous wound channel.
     To control the expansion of a bullet, meplat design and materials are engineered. The meplat designs are: flat; round to pointed depending on the ogive; hollow pointed which can be large in diameter and shallow or narrow in diameter and deep and truncated which is a long narrow punched hole in the end of a monolithic-solid type bullet. The materials used to make bullets are: pure lead; alloyed lead for hardness; gilding metal jacket which is a copper alloy of nickel and zinc to promote higher velocities; pure copper; copper alloy of bronze with tungsten steel alloy inserts to promote weight.

Wounding effects


     Permanent and temporary cavitation cause very different biological effects. The effects of a permanent cavity are fairly obvious. A hole through the heart will cause loss of pumping efficiency, loss of blood, and eventual cardiac arrest. A hole through the liver or lung will be similar, with the lung shot having the added effect of reducing blood oxygenation; these effects however are generally slower to arise than damage to the heart. A hole through the brain can cause instant unconsciousness and will likely kill the recipient. A hole through the spinal cord will instantly interrupt the nerve signals to and from some or all extremities, disabling the target and in many cases also resulting in death (as the nerve signals to and from the heart and/or lungs are interrupted by a shot high in the chest or to the neck). By contrast, a hole through an arm or leg which hits only muscle will cause a great deal of pain but is unlikely to be fatal, unless one of the large blood vessels (femoral or brachial arteries, for example) is also severed in the process. 
     One exception to this is when a very powerful temporary cavity intersects with the spine. In this case, the resulting blunt trauma can slam the vertebrae together hard enough to either sever the spinal cord, or damage it enough to knock out, stun, or paralyze the target. For instance, in the shootout between eight FBI agents and two bank robbers on April 11, 1986 in Miami, Florida (see FBI Miami shootout, 1986), Special Agent Gordon McNeill was struck in the neck by a high-velocity .223 bullet fired by Michael Platt. While the bullet did not directly contact the spine, and the wound incurred was not ultimately fatal, the temporary cavitation was sufficient to render SA McNeill paralyzed for several hours.
     Whether a person or animal will be incapacitated (i.e. "stopped") when shot, depends on a large number of factors, including physical, physiological, and psychological effects.


     The only way to immediately incapacitate a person or animal is to damage or disrupt their central nervous system (CNS) to the point of paralysis, unconsciousness, or death. Bullets can achieve this directly or indirectly. If a bullet causes sufficient damage to the brain or spinal cord, immediate loss of consciousness or paralysis, respectively, can result. However, these targets are relatively small and mobile, making them extremely difficult to hit even under optimal circumstances.

Energy transfer

     The energy transfer hypothesis states that the more energy that is transferred to the target, the greater the destructive potential.
     Energy is a function of mass and the square of velocity. Generally speaking, it is the intention of the shooter to deliver an adequate amount of energy to the target via the projectile/s. Projectiles such as rifle bullets, high velocity handgun bullets and shotgun slugs can over-penetrate. Projectiles such as handgun bullets and shot can under-penetrate. Projectiles that reach the target with too low a velocity or bird shot may not penetrate at all. All the above conditions affect energy transfer.
     Over-penetration is detrimental to stopping power in regards to energy. This is because a bullet that passes through the target does not transfer all of its energy to the target. Despite decreased tissue damage due to loss of transferred energy on an over-penetrating shot, the resulting exit wound would cause increased blood loss and therefore a decrease in blood pressure in the victim. This effect on both persons and game animals is likely to be incapacitating over the length of the entire shooting event.
     Under-penetration is also detrimental to stopping power. Projectile/s that do not transfer enough energy to the target may fail to create a fatal wound cavity. Also vital organs may not be reached, thereby limiting the amount of tissue damage, blood loss, and/or loss of blood pressure.
     As mentioned above, there are many factors that affect "stopping power." Within this theory energy transfer is related to destructive potential; however, the importance of energy transfer in determining the stopping power of projectiles (when compared to other factors like location of the wound and wound cavity size) is a controversial topic.     The force exerted by a projectile upon tissue is equal to the bullet's local rate of kinetic energy loss, with distance \mathrm{d}E_k/\mathrm{d}x (the first derivative of the bullets kinetic energy with respect to position). The ballistic pressure wave is proportional to this retarding force (Courtney and Courtney), and this retarding force is also the origin of both temporary cavitation and prompt damage (CE Peters).

Hydrostatic shock

Hydrostatic shock is a theory of terminal ballistics that wounding effects are created by a shock wave in the tissues of the target. It is argued that evidence of such shock can be seen in ultra-high-speed images of supersonic bullets passing through various objects such as fruit; the fruit explodes due to the shock waves caused by the bullet passing through at high speed. Proponents of the theory contend that damage to the brain from hydrostatic shock from a shot to the chest occurs in humans with most rifle cartridges and some higher-velocity handgun cartridges.

 Big Hole School

     This school of thought says that the bigger the hole in the target the higher the rate of bleed-out and thus the higher the rate of the aforementioned "one shot stop". According to this theory, as the bullet does not pass entirely through the body, it incorporates the energy transfer and the overpenetration ideals. Those that support this theory cite the .40 S and W round, arguing that it has a better ballistic profile than the .45, and more stopping power than a 9×19mm Parabellum.
     The theory centers on the "permanent cavitation" element of a handgun wound. A big hole damages more tissue. It is therefore valid to a point, but penetration is also important, as a large bullet that does not penetrate will be less likely to strike vital blood vessels and blood-carrying organs such as the heart and liver, while a smaller bullet that penetrates deep enough to strike these organs or vessels will cause faster bleed-out through a smaller hole. The ideal may therefore be a combination; a large bullet that penetrates deeply, which can be achieved with a larger, slower non-expanding bullet, or a smaller, faster expanding bullet such as a hollow point.

1) Revolvy: Ballistic trauma
2) Revolvy: Penetrating trauma
3) GB Healthwatch: Spinal cord injuries

"As the protector of criminals and organizer of rogues, grifters, and scoundrels, he was continually at odds with the law, which endlessly pursued him with endless exasperation, and yet, many times he became the ally of the policeman on the beat, helping to catch common criminals, or the ally of clergy on the street, helping to round up aid for hungry families."
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 16


1751: The first cricket tournament is held in New York City.
1805: Virginia State passes a law requiring all freed slaves to leave or risk imprisonment or deportation.
1852: Martha Jane “Calamity” Canary is born in Princeton, Missouri. She served as a muleskinner for the Army. She is said to have married James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok in 1870. In 1893 she joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. She died August 1, 1903 and is buried next to Hickok in Deadwood, South Dakota.
1861: Union soldiers surrender Fort Washita (Oklahoma) to Confederate troops during the Civil War.
1863: Civil War Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia begins. Confederate forces under Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson fight Union troops under General Joseph Hooker. Jackson is mortally wounded by his own soldiers during the battle (May 1-4).
1867: Reconstruction in the South begins with black voter registration.
1877: President Rutherford B. Hayes ends Reconstruction.
1877: James Dolan shoots and kills employee Heraldo Jaramillo, in Lincoln, New Mexico Territory, for pulling a gun on him. Dolan is acquitted.
1878: Jim Murphy and his father are arrested in Texas for harboring the outlaw Sam Bass Gang. Jim makes a deal with the Texas Rangers to join the gang in order to keep the Rangers informed about where the gang is hiding. A few month's later bad man Soapy Smith witnesses the shooting of Sam Bass in Round Rock, Texas.
1880: The Tombstone Epitaph, Tombstone, Arizona territory is published. The proprietor, John Clum, writes, “Every tombstone should have its epitaph.”
1883: William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody performs his first Wild West Show.
1883: Captain Emmett Crawford leads a force of 100 troops and 93 Indian scouts into Mexico, searching for Chato's Apache Indians.
1884: Construction of the first 10-story building in the U.S. begins in Chicago, Illinois.
1889: Asa Candler publishes the first ad for Coca-Cola in the Atlanta Journal, proclaiming it, “Delicious, refreshing, exhilarating, and invigorating."
1890: A Swedish man named Anderson is swindled in Soapy Smith’s Tivoli Club in Denver, Colorado. It is the first on record instance showing that policemen were in league with the Soap Gang.
1898: Soapy Smith is mistakenly reported as being arrested in Tacoma, Washington. The real Soapy is in Skagway leading a parade.
1898: Soapy Smith leads a patriotic parade in Skagway, Alaska as captain of the Skaguay Military Company, a private militia he created for use in the Span-Am War.
1898: The U.S. navy under the command of Commodore George Dewey defeats the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, in the Philippines.
1901: Soap Gang member, Van B. “Old Man” Triplett dies in poverty at age 60.
1905: In New York, radium is tested as a cure for cancer.

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