How to become a cowboy fast draw gunfighter

H oward Darby began his career as a fast & fancy gun handler in 1979 when he acquired a replica Colt Peacemaker. Since the gun was unable to shoot, he started spinning it, often doing so for hours each day. In 1981 Howard learned of a Fast Draw club located in his home town. From the moment he strapped on his first Fast Draw gun, Howard knew he had found a sport that he could sink his teeth into.

Regular focused practise and refinement of techniques has paid off. Howard has won thirty-five major titles in the sport of Fast Draw, including nineteen world titles, and the World Gun Spinning title six times. more than any other gun spinner. Howard also currently holds the title of WFDA "Fastest Gun Alive" and eighteen world records in the sport of Fast Draw.

Please visit the different sections of this site for more details, and contact Howard at the address below if you have any questions or are interested in having Howard demonstrate his fast and fancy gun handling skills.

–> Sport Science
on Fox Sports
Watch the Fox Sports Network’s Sport Science for a "Gunslinger" comparison between Howard and quarterback Trent Edwards of the NFL Buffalo Bills, or click here to view highlights.

All Jacked Up
on CMT
Howard demonstres Fast Draw, trick shooting, gunspinning, and teaches actor C. Thomas Howell how to become a gunslinger on All Jacked Up on CMT. Click here to view (viewable in the U.S.).

Instructional Videos

Click for more details, pictures & video clips:

The Book of Cool
Check out this DVD & book that includes Howard teaching gun tricks in seventeen minutes of demos and instructional footage.

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Old Pueblo Gunfighters Club.

was established in Tucson in 2010 by Anthony "Buckshot" Chavez, however Cowboy Fast Draw has been around a long time.

What is Cowboy Fast Draw?

Cowboy Fast Draw shooting is a way for people, who enjoy the old west genre, to get together and experience the "Old West". We take you back to the Gunfighter days when you are called out to the street at high noon to trade lead with the fastest lead flingers! Peruse the website and let us know if you would like to come out and see what we're all about! We will provide all the gear for people trying out for the first time!

Cowboy Fast Draw is one of the fastest growing cowboy shooting sports in the world. Shooters dress in the 1800's period clothing and shoot .45 caliber western style single action pistols. Instead of real lead, we use shotgun primers with wax bullets. Our Target is a 17-3/16" round disc placed at 15 ft, away. A light in the center controls the action. When the light comes on, the shooters draw their pistols and shoot at the target while being timed to the thousandths of a second. We compete against other shooters for best time and hit accuracy. The target blinks on and off for the winner!

Our guns are real single action .45 caliber six shooters with a minimum barrel length of 4.5 inches just like the ones used in the old west; only we shoot a wax bullet propelled by a 209 shotgun primer. Our holsters are pre-1900's style.

Dead Eye E-Z Loader Wax Bullets Now Available HERE
Gunslinger Cowboy Fast Draw Timer Now Available HERE
– Download Full Price List HERE
Fast Draw Target Available HERE.

CFDA Shoot For The Stars Scholarship Program:

CFDA Shoot for the Stars Inc. is a non-profit corporation formed for the purpose of supplying educational opportunities in the form of scholarships to active members of the CFDA between the ages of 17 and 26 years. Application period for scholarships is Jan 1st through June 30th of the year in which the scholarship is to be awarded. Awards will be announced on this website on August 1st, and in the CFDA Gunslingers Gazette.

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How to become a cowboy fast draw gunfighter

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How to become a cowboy fast draw gunfighter

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Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website. Hollywood movies are famous (often notoriously so) for embellishing the truth. This is, of course, a polite way of saying filmmakers often lie. In the interest of entertainment, it seems justified. A down-and-out (but good-looking) young guy without a nickel meets a gorgeous girl, who falls for him, and despite all the warnings and their parents being against it and . well, you know what I mean. It’s fiction, it’s fluff. And that’s basically what movies do for us; they carry us out of our own mundane, unglamorous lives and into the land of make-believe. And that is fine. But there’s another kind of cinematic embellishment. This is the distortion of actual events, real-life occurrences being changed and modified for the sake of “entertainment.” This brings us to the foremost example of this second distortion: the “Old West gunfight.” First off, it’s not all the fault of Hollywood and the movies. Many years before cinema was even invented, dime novels were printed up, enthralling their eager and avid readers. These pulp novels were extremely popular and carried the written accounts of legendary Old West gunslingers Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill, Bat Masterson, etc. The authors would simply dream up fictional accounts of the exploits of these famed heroes and embellish things that actually did occur. It wasn’t only the authors doing this embellishing, as many of the actual participants themselves would “color” their own stories for the sake of a good story. Newspapers, too, would dress up the tales of Old West gunmen in order to boost sales (no kidding? A newspaper not telling the truth? Gee, I’m mortified at that one!). The fact is, Old West gunfights were few and far between. In popular Western television shows like Bonanza, The Big Valley, Have, Will Travel, and Rawhide, the gunfight is a routine event, taking place about as often as we currently witness a politician being dishonest or your luggage being late coming on the carousel when you arrive at the airport. In some seasons of the longest-running Western TV series ever, Gunsmoke (1955-1975), a formal Hollywood gunfight takes place during the show’s opening credits.

The typical Hollywood gunfight, in TV or in the movies, is two cowboys meeting on the street, usually about ten, twenty, or maybe twenty-five feet apart. They formally wait for one of the two to take a first shot. This signals that the fight is on, and gives the second cowboy (almost inevitably the hero, the lead, the “good guy”) the right to then draw. This second guy, also almost inevitably, wins the fight. Actual facts (I know, this is a redundancy, but I wanted stress) about the Old West are tough to pin down. The following facts do appear to be true. Actual gunfights in the Old West were very rare, very few and far between. When they did occur, not one, but several gunshots were usually fired. Often onlookers were hit. And also, no one knew who actually won the fight until several minutes after the gunshots, as it took a while for all the gun smoke to clear in the air. And unlike in the movies, easy shots were often missed. Often the two just continued firing until they had completely emptied their pistols. Most experts on the Old West also agree, it was not the “fastest gun” who won. Most gunfights went to the more accurate shot. But even above speed and accuracy, a “cool head” took precedence and was the single most valuable asset for a gunman. Although many Old West legends have “fast gun” reputations, it appears that John Wesley Hardin, Wild Bill Hickok, Doc Holliday, and Billy the Kid were actually really fast guns. But even famous “quick draws” didn’t go the formal route in their gunfights. Why? It was still too risky for a “fast draw” or a “good guy” to lose. Much more frequently than the typical Hollywood face-to-face draw, a cowboy would gun a guy down at the most opportune point. Meaning, if he got a drop on his enemy, if he was unarmed, or even if it meant shooting him in the back. The typical Hollywood gunfight distance too, was often varied. Sometimes two opposing gunmen would be very close and would circle each other, like caged animals, before opening fire on each other. In 1865, in one of the few actual documented gunfights (with evidence and valid testimony), James Butler Hickok (“Wild Bill” Hickok) had a bad quarrel with Davis Tutt in Springfield, Missouri. The fight was over a debt. At around 6PM, the two advanced on each other in the town square. The men drew guns at a distance of around 50 yards and blasted away. Tutt missed. Wild Bill didn’t. Tutt fell with a bullet through his heart. Hickok was tried for manslaughter and acquitted. A sensational account of the gunfight appeared in Harper’s magazine in 1867. This account made Hickok a national celebrity. This fairly “Hollywood” gunfight, although it did occur, was a rarity. The 50 yard distance was questioned by skeptics, but was verified by several onlookers. Another “mistake” Hollywood makes about gunfights is the “gun in the holster” myth. True, gunfights were sometimes conducted with the opponents’ guns in their respective holsters, but often the guns were held in belts or in their pockets, and sometimes just tucked into the front of their pants. It was rare, but sometimes the two duelists would just stand up and face each other, each man clutching his gun in hand, no holster draw, no nothing. Oh, and there is one gunfight factor Hollywood did get right: “liquid courage.” A great number of Old West gunfights were not the result of some noble cause, like “defending a woman’s honor” or some such deal. The consumption of whiskey, liquor, and booze had a hand in a great percentage of mano et mano confrontations in the town square. Still, despite knowledge of the truth. most of us enjoy a good TV or movie gunfight. They’re dramatic, they’re romantic, they’re exciting, and I guess we like them because almost inevitably the good guy wins. And this isn’t always so in real life, is it?

How to become a cowboy fast draw gunfighter

Stories about the Wild West tend to be full of holes. For instance, History Net says the legendary Doc Holliday was not the lethal gunslinger that Wyatt Earp professed him to be. A tuberculosis-stricken dentist, Holliday was physically fragile and benefited from the veneer of fierceness his friends manufactured. Similarly, Earp’s life story is filled with information gaps and fabrications.

Old West narratives aren’t just full of plot holes and mysteries; they’re also riddled with bullet holes. Some of those bullets were fired by the fastest gunslingers ever to bust a cap. Unfortunately, even without the problem of vivid revisionism, without something like a “Guinness Book of Gunfight Records,” it’s impossible to measure how quick they were on the draw. So instead we’ll draw from a caricatured version of history and pick a towering figure worthy of a tall tale.

Johnny Ringo's your huckleberry

How to become a cowboy fast draw gunfighter

If you’ve seen Tombstone, then you might recall the character Johnny Ringo, who couldn’t quite match the quick-witted sidekick Doc Holliday in quick-handedness. Though a villain in that film, Ringo was portrayed as a hero in the 1960s and inspired a string of spaghetti westerns and television shows. As recounted in Johnny Ringo: The Gunfighter Who Never Was, those flattering titles included Ringo and His Golden Pistol, Stagecoach, in which John Wayne played the Ringo Kid, and The Johnny Ringo Show, whose theme song hailed Ringo as “the fastest gun in all the West, the quickest ever known.” Author Steve Gatto writes that these glittering depictions of Ringo as the non-Bond-villain with the golden gun are based on romantic exaggerations of the past.

During his life, Johnny Ringo presented himself as an educated gentleman who could recite Shakespeare and comported himself like a British Lord, according to History. His image was mostly gunsmoke and mirrors, but despite having no formal schooling, he was well-read enough to convince others that he was a legitimate gentleman. By age 12 he had already developed deadly aim. As an adult he was “dubbed Tombstone’s deadliest gunfighter,” per the Arizona Capitol Times. By that time, he had already survived a feud called “the Hoodoo War,” during which he killed at least two men and managed to escape police custody or avoid arrest altogether.

This blog is written by old gunslingers who have been out in the sun too long. It does not represent the views of any club or organization. Any offense to any person living or dead is unintentional.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Being a Better Gunfighter!

Dirty Dan mentioned on facebook that I slip cocked during the Southern Territorial Magnificent 7 and others have mentioned a 1.47 shot. I have no memory of it but do not deny it cause I am a stickwithit type of guy. I was raised on a farm by a bunch of uncles, cousins and brothers, and when things went wrong you were expected to “stickwithit,” you were not allowed to just give up. Not to take a recovery shot is considered by me to be a character defect. It either shows a lack of “stickwithitness” or a prideful sense of false sportsmanship. Recently I won an event where my opponent intentionally missed a recovery shot, and I took it as a sign of disrespect to me. To this day, I always shoot better against him.

You know in SASS you are applauded for your recoveries. When you start out, you are always told about the lady world champion whose gun broke during a stage and she whips out her Redwing knife, fixes the gun, finishes the stage clean, and goes on to win the event. Guess there are more real cowboys in SASS than in our sport.

Last year at the Nebraska State Championship there was a shooter who had decided to shoot a slow deliberate aiming style of draw. He would draw after his opponent shot. I drew him in my last match. I was not mentally tough and got flustered. I was happy for him to win even though the loss probably cost me a top ten finish in the top gun standings. He needed the win more than I. Hope he is still shooting. I needed that loss. I am a better gunfighter for it. Because of rule changes, I am 20 mls slower this year than last but I think I am mentally tougher.

Every shooter is entitled to choose his own style of draw and shooting philosophy on the line. We need to welcome, enjoy and applaud all shooters. I know that many laugh at my style but I don’t care. I have been trying to join the Red Hat Society but they won’t let me in saying I have too many parts. If I can just get Obama aware this injustice I think he would issue an executive order making them take me. Well, tea is overrated anyway.

From across the town square in Springfield, Missouri, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok and Davis Tutt chose to settle an argument that had begun the previous night at a card game. Both men entered the square with holstered revolvers when suddenly both men pulled and fired. Tutt’s shot went wild as the ball from Hickok’s Navy Colt slammed into his opponent’s heart. It was July 21, 1865, and what had taken place was pretty much the only example of a Hollywood-style gunfight in the real Wild West.

Today’s competitive sport of Cowboy Action Shooting uses the ammunition and firearms of the Old West but, fortunately, does not allow participants to face each other. In fact, trained safety personnel strictly supervise the loading, unloading and staging of the guns. And though Westerns no longer dominate the big or small screen, the 92,000-plus members of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) dress up in period clothes to compete with cowboy-era guns on combat-style ranges. But Cowboy Action Shooting wasn’t conceived until 1981, and SASS wasn’t founded until 1987. Three decades earlier came Fast Draw, a shooting sport in which a participant could pretend to beWild Bill, the fictional Marshal Matt Dillon or even Davis Tutt.

When the so-called adult Westerns (referring to grown-up interest, not obscene material) debuted on TV in 1955 with The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and Gunsmoke, it kicked off a colossal demand for six-shooters and the holsters to carry them. During the 1930s the sale of Colt Single Action Army “Peacemakers” (aka Model Ps) had fallen to 300 a year, and during the war years production ceased altogether. But in 1955 Colt followed the lead of Great Western Arms, which was making a Colt copy, and Bill Ruger, who created his powerful single-action Blackhawk revolver. At the height of the Fast Draw craze in the late 1950s Colt was selling 3,000 of its Model P six-shooters a week, or about 150,000 a year.

Filmmakers needed someone to teach gun handling to actors, and they found that expertise in two very fast shooters. Rodd Redwing was a Chickasaw Indian who started in Hollywood with Cecil B. DeMille in 1931 and was an outstanding exhibition shooter in the style of Annie Oakley and Ed McGivern. Redwing taught Alan Ladd for the classic 1953 Western Shane and Glenn Ford for the 1956 film The Fastest Gun Alive. Even faster was Arvo Ojala, whose family emigrated from Finland to Washington state. In 1950 Ojala opened a leather shop in Los Angeles, across the street from Universal Studios, and began making holsters. He designed and patented a metal-lined Buscadero-style rig that tied down to one’s leg. Ojala’s holster hung from a slot in the gun belt and was constructed of two pieces of stiff saddle leather with a piece of steel in between. This meant almost no friction on the gun when drawn from the holster. Ojala taught stars to thumbcock the gun while in the holster, so all one had to do was level the gun and pull the trigger. By the late 1950s you would be hard-pressed to find a Western star not trained by Ojala and not wearing one of his holsters.

I bought my Arvo Ojala Fast Draw holster in 1958 and paid about $50 for it. That was twice what I had paid for my Crosman Arms pellet gun, which started me out in Fast Draw. I had to have the best gear, since I needed to face the TV screen whenever Matt Dillon (played by James Arness) stepped out onto Dodge City’s Front Street at the start of each weekly episode of Gunsmoke to meet that man in black. That man was none other than Arvo Ojala. Arvo was fastest each week, but we all figured he missed and Matt didn’t.

By that time Fast Draw had taken off as a sport, and clubs were forming nationwide. Soon there were thousands of clubs whose members coveted the title of “Fastest Gun Alive.” From the beginning it was understood that live ammunition would not be safe with this sport. Two types of shooting emerged. One used blank ammo fired close range at balloon targets, and the other used bullets made from wax propelled by shotgun primers at man-shaped silhouette targets of wood or metal.

Dee Woolem was the “Father of Fast Draw.” While working as a stuntman at Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park in Anaheim, Calif., he wanted to see how fast he was with the Colt he was using to rob trains. Soon the other stuntmen at Knott’s wanted to see if they were faster than him. So Woolem invented a clock that timed the draw speed in hundredths of a second. The sound of the blank turned off the clock. The first Fast Draw contest was held at Knott’s Berry Farm in 1954 and included 12 shooters, with the winner getting two chicken dinners.

The new sport attracted the attention of celebrities, with Jerry Lewis and Sammy Davis Jr. climbing on board. The longtime president of Continental Airlines, Bob Six, even paid Arvo Ojala $500 to teach him and five other executives how to shoot like Marshal Dillon. They called themselves “The Six-Shooters” and traveled on airplanes wearing cowboy outfits that included guns. Air travel is a bit different these days.

Fast Draw contests certainly were fun and challenging, calling for considerable athletic skill, but it was a narrow niche. And it wasn’t a good spectator sport, as every shooter walked to the firing line and repeated what the shooter before had done. Unless you had a chance to win or knew the shooter personally, it wasn’t much fun to watch. But those of us who grew up on Westerns still loved the history, the look and the guns that made the Old West famous. In 1982 a group of Southern California shooters calling themselves “The Wild Bunch” held a shooting competition at a local range. That contest, which they called End of Trail, drew 65 registered shooters. Soon hundreds of men, and some women, wanted to play this new game.

In 1987 these shooting enthusiasts formed the Single Action Shooting Society [www.sassnet.com], the governing body of Cowboy Action Shooting. The game is played much like a police or military combat course and requires two single-action handguns, a lever-action rifle and a shotgun, all based on weapons used prior to 1900. Shooters may use original firearms, but most opt for clones or copies of antique guns. Several European firearms companies now import close copies of Colt, Winchester, Remington, Smith & Wesson and other period weapons. The contests are scored by time, and misses are penalized by an extra five seconds. At the end of the event the shooter with the lowest time wins.

When I joined SASS about 25 years ago, there were 2,000 members, and now we are closing in on 100,000. Our love of the Old West and the gunfighter legend is far from dead. Even Fast Draw remains active, promoted and preserved by the World, Ohio and Cowboy Fast Draw associations. Every once in a while Hollywood even makes a Western, and we are glad they do, but it is SASS and the many club shoots that allow some of us to live in a cowboy fantasy world.

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.

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