Frequently Asked Questions about Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley, the person | Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show | Annie's shooting | Annie's guns | Hollywood
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Annie's Shooting

Full legnth portrait of Annie Oakley holding her gunWhy did Annie use smoothbores (guns with unrifled barrels)?

To shoot at fixed targets, or to shoot at clay pigeons, Annie Oakley could aim away from the audience.

At times, Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley both used smoothbore rifles in the arena. Buffalo Bill shot at flying targets while galloping around the arena on a horse. Annie sometimes shot from horseback and sometimes while riding a bicycle. Obviously, they sometimes couldn't help shooting in the direction of the spectators.

Solid rifle bullets fired with enough velocity to break a target ball would carry dangerously far.

Annie's gun cartidges were full of shot. Were they cheating?

The .44 caliber cartridges Annie used were loaded with less than one-half ounce of number - and-one-half chilled shot -- very fine pellets. At a distance of 30 to 60 feet, the pellets made a pattern a couple of inches across and two or three inches deep.

To hit a flying target ball from the back of a running horse was no less difficult with a smoothbore! And both Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill proved their genuine skill over and over again—during rehearsals in an empty arena, they practiced with regular solid ammunition.

44 caliber cartridges, filled with light loads of small shot. In order to protect spectators, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, and other marksmen used shot shells in smoothbore rifles when shooting at flying
targets in the show arena.

Did Annie always win?

Shooting competitions were highly popular spectator events in the late 1800s and early 1900s, second in attendance and public notice only to horseracing. During her years even as a Wild West show shooter, Annie practiced every day. Shooting matches were a sort of rehearsal for Annie. Annie was an enthusiastic competitor and won most -- but not all -- of the matches she entered in the U.S. and abroad.

Are there any videos of Annie performing?

In 1894, Annie and Frank were invited to Thomas Edison's Black Maria studio to make a film.

Who would have thought?

Annie's great grand niece, Bess Edwards, has some thoughts on Annie's ongoing fame as a sharp shooter.

Images courtesy of the Darke County Historial Society
Annie Oakley Center Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 1025, Greenville, OH