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Fast Draw Equipment

The Three Hollywood Masters
by Bob Arganbright and Omar Pineda

During the "hay-day" of Fast Draw there were three major makers of Fast Draw rigs. These were Arvo Ojala, Andy Anderson and Alfonso Pineda, known as Alfonso of Hollywood. Interestingly, Anderson and Alfonso both started in the Hollywood leather business working in Arvo's holster shop.

Arvo Ojala Arvo Ojala was a Finnish apple farmer and heavy equipment operator who moved to Los Angeles from Washington state in the early 1950s. Well known in his home community for exceptional speed and accuracy with a S.A. Colt, Arvo had designed a new speed rig and a new draw which let him draw and fire faster than anyone in Hollywood. The holster was the first with a steel liner which encircled the revolver's cylinder. Ojala successfully obtained a U.S. Patent on the steel insert in his Hollywood Fast Draw Holster. Not being a professional leather worker, at first Arvo had his rigs made in other leather shops. The famous Ed Bohlin of Hollywood company made some of the early Ojala rigs. Finding this unsatisfactory, Ojala hired a transplanted Arkansas saddle maker, Andy Anderson, to be foreman in the new Hollywood Fast Draw Holster Company shop. Anderson refined the holster pattern and was responsible for producing the superb rig we are familiar with as the Ojala rig.

At the peak of the Fast Draw craze, they were producing 300-500 rigs a month, and one of the leather workers in the shop was Alfonso Pineda. Once Arvo had opened his own shop, Bohlin immediately marketed its own steel lined Fast Draw rig. Ojala filed suit against them and won in court. The most famous TV Western rig was the Ojala rig used by Richard Boone as Paladin, the plain black rig with silver chess knight on the holster. While the rigs were being produced in the shop, Arvo was teaching the stars how to look good on film making a Fast Draw. The stars of the early "Adult" TV Westerns all used Ojala rigs. These included the stars of Gunsmoke, Wyatt Earp, Have Gun Will Travel, Bonanza, Cheyenne, Maverick and Lawman. While John Russell stayed with his Ojala rig throughout the run of Lawman, Deputy Johnny (Peter Brown) soon switched to an Anderson Walk and Draw rig. Don Durant, as Johnny Ringo, used an unusual custom Ojala rig that allowed him to Fast Draw the large and heavy LeMatt sixgun. By 1959, at the first Colt-Sahara National Fast Draw Championship in Las Vegas, the rig of choice was the Ojala rig, though new Champion Gary Freymeller used a custom Anderson rig.

Andy Anderson Due to personal conflict between Ojala and Anderson, Andy Anderson quit Ojala and opened the Gunfighter holster shop directly across the street from Ojala's shop. While Ojala produced one basic rig, Anderson made several different rigs, such as the beautiful Victory which was his version of the Ojala style rig, the V2 named after the V2 rocket of WW II for its speed, the high ride AA and the unique Walk and Draw (W&D). The W&D used a steel lined hip plate behind the belt to lock the holster in place as one walked, with out the use of a tie down. Anderson was the first to offer full contour cut gun belts and muzzle rake holsters. By the 1960 Las Vegas Nationals, the rig of choice was the Anderson W&D. Ironically, winner Jack Simms used a home made rig to fan his way into the winner's circle, starting the big switch to fanning.

Many of the later TV Westerns used Anderson rigs. These included Rawhide, The Viginian, Branded, Guns of Will Sonnet, Man Called Shenandoah, Henry Darrow's unusual swivel rig on High Chaparral, and Laredo. Future super stars Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood used Anderson leather exclusively, as did Thell Reed. By the mid 1970s, Anderson had suffered a series of strokes and was forced to retire and close the Gunfighter shop.

By November of 1961, at the third Las Vegas Nationals, the average shooter had switched from thumbing to fanning and the rig of choice was from the new Hollywood holster shop, Alfonso's of Hollywood. The new Champion, Fred Stieler, used an Alfonso #2 to win. And now, for the rest of the story, we go to Alfonso's son, Omar.

The following is a short story about my Dad as a holster maker and fast draw artist.

Arvo Ojala I was 8 years old when my Dad started his business with his partner Dick, the year was 1959. Dad had returned from Rogers, Arkansas where he had completed training the folks at the Daisy Manufacturing Factory in the making of the "Hollywood Fast Draw Rig". Arvo Ojala whom is credited for inventing and developing the first steel lined holster had sold the rights to manufacture and market his famous steel lined rig to the Daisy Manufacturing Company.

I will never forget the evening that my Dad drew the 4 fast draw models that are now history. He had worked late into the night and was abruptly interrupted by a loud noise out in the street. He nervously got up to see what was happening, and sure enough our next door neighbor, a very intoxicated lady, had crashed into my Dad's new 1959 Chevy Impala. My Dad loved that car, and needless to say, my Dad was sick to his stomach for a long time. Dad mustered enough nerves to finish his drawings and slept for two days after that experience.

Alfonso and Dick were partners about 2 years. Dick decided to pursue greener pastures as the saying goes, and sold my Dad his interest. I have fond memories of Dick. He was a nice man. He gave my Dad the opportunity to pay the amount that he could in a number of years. I will never forget his fairness and generosity.

Like any new business, it was rough early on but Dad persevered and managed to slowly grow. It was during these early years that guys like Bob Munden, Kurt Blakemore, George Narasaki, and many other fast draw shooters would meet every Tuesday in our holster shop to practice the sport of fast draw. It was exciting and fun to watch these guys practice and compete. Even though Alfonso never competed "officially" in any of the sanctioned fast draw contests, he loved to fast draw and was awarded many honorary fast draw trophies and plaques. He was a very good gun spinner and often times would entertain his customers by spinning his gun to make a sale.

Alfonso went on to make a mark for himself for making fine western holster and gun belt props for the Television & Motion Picture industry. The high quality of his work soon earned him a reputation as the finest holster maker in the world. Large film studios like Warner Brothers, MGM, Universal Hollywood, Paramount, Disney, and many independent production companies, too many to list here, commissioned Alfonso for custom leather projects and special orders.

His name is listed among the credits in many of the TV western series of the 60s, and early 70s. He made leather props for Sly Stallone in the Rambo movie series, and made the futuristic looking holsters in Back to the Future with Michael J. Fox. In 1993, a year and a half before he passed away, Alfonso sold several of his late 1800 style rigs to the producers of the now popular movie Tombstone with Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell. When the movie was completed, the producers gave my Dad a copy of the video. Ironically, that movie was the last western movie that my Dad and I saw together a few months before he passed away in February, 1995.

It should be noted that all three of these Fast Draw holster makers supported our sport with sponsorships and donations to prize structure, as Alfonso's of Hollywood continues to do.


Sources:

Alfonso's of Hollywood Gunleather Alfonso's of Hollywood
1512 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA 91506
(818) 769-0362 www.alfonsosgunleather.com

Victor Perez: Victor worked for Anderson for many years and currently produces the complete line of Anderson rigs. (818) 845-4708

(this article first appeared in the July 2004 issue of the WFDA Top Gun magazine


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