What does it mean to "go heeled"? If you're a fan old Westerns, or of "frontier lore" (which is often more myth than lore), you probably already. If not, read on!

You may recall the scene in Tombstone where Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) braces Johnny Tyler (Billy Bob Thornton) in the Oriental Saloon. Remember that in this scene Earp was not wearing a gun, at least not openly.  

Tyler, who is carrying a single action Army Revolver (Cavalry Model) says, "Well for  a man that don't go heeled, you run your mouth kinda reckless don't you?"

What did he mean by that?

He meant that Earp was unarmed. 

Go Heeled

No one is else is coming

In "Old West" parlance, "going heeled" was to be carrying a weapon. Typically, though not necessarily limited to, carrying one or more (typically, though not always, visible) pistols.

Self-protection and self-reliance was far more common on the frontier than in today's supposedly "more polite" society.

Going heeled means you're carrying a gun

How did that term come to be?

The blog Idiomation notes that the term was used by Mark Twain in April, 1866, going on to explain,

"A number of excellent dictionaries have pegged this expression to the early 1800s and as coming from the Wild West. Even Peter Watt’s Dictionary of the Old West,:1850-1900 has the expression pegged to the Wild West of the 1800s."

Browning Hi-Power in handmade leather holster


According to True West Magazine

"Being heeled is tied to the term well-heeled, which means having plenty of money (wearing quality shoes was a sign of prosperity). In the Old West, at least in theory, a person was better off carrying a firearm—and thus he (or she) was heeled. The term was first applied, in 1866, to gamecocks with spurs strapped to the heels, giving them advantage in a cockfight."

INSP defines it very simply:

Go heeled – When you go out carrying a six-shooter, packing iron. 

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There's more to carrying a gun than just carrying a gun.
Go heeled, and do it right. 

What does "going heeled" mean?

Also in Go Heeled

"RDS Cut": Holstering a smokewagon with red dot
"RDS Cut": Holstering a smokewagon with red dot

Holstering a pistol equipped with a red dot sight is one of the hows that accompanies the whats and whys of carrying a handgun/red dot sight combo. Particularly if there is also a weapon light aboard. Here's one option that features and Aimpoint ACRO and the Surefire X300U (though it would work one other optics too).