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.


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!


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 [correction: McBride was born in Waterloo, Indiana October 15, 1873] 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.

  • Ernest bottomer

    Rum rations…….good and bad.

  • Patrick James

    “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.”
    Nice article, but I’m afraid that you got this bit backwards, old boy. Herbert McBride was an American who enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force to get into the fight in France quicker. He was already serving as an officer in the Indiana National Guard. He had to resign his commission as a Captain in Company H, 2nd Infantry to join the CEF.

    • TeeJaw

      Right you are, I’ve made the correction, Thanks!

      • Patrick James

        No worries! Keep up the good work! Cheers!

  • bob gathercole

    I found your blog looking for more info on McBride. I’m a Palma shooter and hunter in Jackson Hole, and a friend gave me his book.
    Whatever you say about McBride, he took charge of his destiny.
    Nice to find this blog. I was beginning to think there was nothing but Progressive bull**** left in Teton County.

    • TeeJaw

      Bob, by this post I meant to celebrate the honor and valor of Herbert McBride. To leave out his struggle with alcoholism would have been to cheat him out of his full picture as a man. He garnered the power to overcome his problem when circumstances demanded. I meant to portray him as he was not as anyone might have wanted him to be. As he was is plenty good enough.

      McBride’s personal code was to always be in control of his emotions, and he was more successful doing it than most people. He believed, I think, that this is what enabled him to survive in the WW I trenches. The quote from his book about what he learned from the lawmen in Southern Colorado in 1893 really caught my attention. I think that is what defines him best, not his alcoholsim.

      You are right about the “ructions” in Teton County, pitting fantasy against reality at every turn. Very sad, a blue county in a red state.

      I’m a devotee, but not an expert, on Wyoming history. If that also interests you, take a look at this post: Wyoming Range War — 1892.