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"Guns Up" at Tech began as "Gun 'Em Down" 40 years ago

The current Tech football season is the 40th anniversary of the thumb-and-forefinger Guns Up sign.

Posted: November 22, 2011 - 9:04pm  |  Updated: November 23, 2011 - 1:30am
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Texas Tech Masked Rider Bradley Skinner gives the Guns Up sign before the Red Raiders' football game against Texas State on Sept. 3.  Zach Long
Zach Long
Texas Tech Masked Rider Bradley Skinner gives the Guns Up sign before the Red Raiders' football game against Texas State on Sept. 3.
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Glenn Dippel, co-creator of Texas Tech’s Guns Up gesture, said living in Austin was the trigger — no pun intended — to inspiring one of Tech’s most well-known traditions.

The current Tech football season is the 40th anniversary of the thumb-and-forefinger Guns Up sign.

Dippel and his wife, Roxie, came up with the idea after moving from Lubbock to Austin in November 1970.

“We were not prepared emotionally and psychologically for the Hook ’Em, Horns gestures we saw there,” he joked.

They started considering some kind of gesture or sign that would fit well with Tech.

Dippel, a 1961 Tech graduate, and Roxie, of the class of 1970, discussed it for several weeks. As fate would have it, they came up with the gesture now known as Guns Up at the same moment, he said.

In January 1971, Dippel wrote a letter to the Saddle Tramps, Tech’s spirit organization, and suggested introducing the gesture to the student body. He enclosed a photocopy of his own hand making the now-famous pistol sign.

It wasn’t an immediate sell with the Saddle Tramps, said Don Richards, who was secretary of the organization at the time.

Fellow Saddle Tramp Keith Ingram met with Richards and showed him the letter. They talked about it for a long time, Richards said.

Their first concern was people would think it was copying the University of Texas, and their second concern was people would laugh at making a gun from a hand like a kid playing cowboys and Indians.

“We were worried it wouldn’t be accepted by students or anybody,” Richards said.

Richards was assistant editor of Tech’s student newspaper, which was called the University Daily at the time, and became editor in the fall of 1971. He recalls taking flack from other newspaper staff members when he endorsed the new spirit gesture.

“They told me the Saddle Tramp in me was coming out over my objective journalism,” he said.

No one seems to know when the term Guns Up started. Dippel said he and his wife called the gesture “Gun ’Em Down.” From there, it went to being called the Red Raider Revolver and eventually to Guns Up.

He speculated Saddle Tramps came up with the latter two terms.

When the 1971 football and basketball seasons started, the Saddle Tramps and Tech cheerleaders were flashing the Guns Up sign at games, and the gesture started to spread through the student body.

“I remember when it started, and it caught on like wildfire,” said Bill Dean, executive vice president and CEO of the Texas Tech Alumni Association.

Every university searches for its identity and traditions, Dean said. The most recognizable tradition Texas Tech has is the Double T, followed by the Masked Rider, Guns Up and Raider Red, he said.

“As far as Tech people are concerned, it has become very much a tradition, very much part of our culture,” Dean said.

Richards said he recently passed a car with a Red Raider bumper sticker and gave the driver a Guns Up sign as he drove by him. The driver rolled down the window and returned the Tech salute.

“It creates a warm spot in my heart to know I had at least a small part of it,” Richards said.

Dippel recalls he was partly joking when he sent his letter to the Saddle Tramps more than 40 years ago. When Tech fans started using the spirit gesture, he realized it could become something enduring at Tech.

He joked the Guns Up sign was his second greatest accomplishment, after marrying his wife. The couple are both certified public accountants and are senior partners of an accounting firm in Temple.

“I feel somewhat humble,” he said about his co-contribution to Tech history. “Texas Tech has been good to all of us — to me, my wife, my boys. All three of my boys graduated from Texas Tech. We’re very proud of it.”


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Dirk West inspiration

Glenn Dippel said he was a big fan of Avalanche-Journal sports cartoonist Dirk West, whose drawing of the Red Raider was the inspiration for the creation of Raider Red, Texas Tech’s sideline mascot who is also celebrating his 40th anniversary this year. Dippel and his wife continued their subscription to The A-J after moving to Austin, and he credited West for helping to inspire him and his wife in coming up with the Guns Up sign. However, at the time Glenn and his wife, Roxie, came up with the gesture, West had not revamped his Tech mascot into the gunslinger character. Nonetheless, Dippel said he and Roxie both remember West’s cartoons as playing a part in the creation of Guns Up.

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Guns up

Sure as heck sounds better than XSU's Pistols Firing.


O$U story

One day a few OSU fans were at a Tech game and witnessed the Raider Nation flashing a hand gesture and thought to themselves... Hey cowboys have guns too!


guns down

Under Tom T. the guns are down & aimed at our own feet.

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