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Starting out in Fast Draw

What It Means To Be The "New Guy" In Fast Draw
(The confessions and experiences of someone giving it a try)

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! You've already taken the biggest step into understanding Fast Draw. You've discovered it's a sport.

You may have already seen a movie or demonstration on TV where a cowboy quickly draws their gun and fires, usually in about as long as it takes to blink your eye. Well I discovered recently that this was not a rogue 'Old West Enthusiast' who traveled with the circus and displayed his unusual gift of quick hands. But rather Fast Draw is a legitimate sport that has been around since the mid 1950's. (Geez, just a couple of years before that it actually WAS the Old West!). The content of this article is to help give you an idea of what is involved with the sport of Fast Draw and a bit about what it takes to get started.

My Name is Craig Robinson...And I am a "New Guy".

I discovered Fast Draw about 3 months ago, joined the World Fast Draw Association (WFDA), met folks in my area that shoot regularly and have shot my first competition. So the sights and sounds of just starting are still fresh in my mind and I'm living the "New Guy" life style that is so desirable.

Basically, Fast Draw is a shooting sport where the shooter tries to hit a gigantic target from about 8 feet away... really fast when a light comes on. Sounds easy, And it probably would be if the 'really fast' part wasn't involved.

The fact is, the basic skill IS easy, With about 15 minutes of coaching and a touch of concentration someone who's never shot Fast Draw before can react to the light and actually hit the target within their first few shots.

But don't get out the champagne yet. You've just experienced the "hook".

Unlike a sport like, say Golf, you can feel successful your first time out. In golf you may eventually get the ball in the hole, but there is a good chance that sheer exhaustion from swinging the heavy clubs hundreds of times to hack the tiny white ball toward the first green, may prevent you from enjoying the "ker-plunk" of the ball hitting the bottom of the cup when you finally do get close enough.

In Fast Draw, the first-timer is likely to be received by a host of friendly supportive faces congratulating them upon completion of their first round. While the first-time golfer is likely to be greeted with pitch-forks and torches by the golfers behind them who are miffed that you personally have delayed their game.

Despite my jest, there is a strong similarity between Golf and Fast Draw in that both require a certain amount of physical skill (that can be developed) and a great deal of mental skill in the form of concentration and control (this too can be developed).

It is the simplicity of Fast Draw that will get you started, and the complexity of Fast Draw that will keep you interested.

Though the basic 'move' is easy to learn, tuning and improving your techniques requires practice, and gobs of it. Which leads to another of the allures of the sport. Practice is cheap, AND can be done at home.

The Equipment Of Fast Draw

The two basic types of ammo used in competition (and practice) is either wax bullets propelled by a primer-only case. Or blanks which are chock-full-o-black powder.

I practice at home in the garage (which is located in a residential area of a mid-sized town of 45,000). I have some crusty old carpet on the concrete floor, with some equally decorative swatches hanging up on the walls (to help reduce the noise), then a couple of sheets of 3/4 inch plywood in the target area to avoid any stray wax pellets from getting through my wall. I shoot Wax bullets in a 45 caliber shell that has been drilled out to accept a shotgun primer. This type of shell can easily be reloaded by hand. I only have 6 shells like this... But, it is all you need.

The sound of a primer-only round is a lot louder than a toy cap but not nearly as loud as a 150mm Howitzer (I do not recommend the use of heavy artillery in a residential areas). You can hear the sound from outside the garage. So I've talked with my neighbors on each side and told them of my activities...They did not threaten to sue me...(i.e. they said "no big deal"). Blanks are at least as loud as standard ammo, so shooting these in my garage would only be advisable if I wanted to invite every member of the local SWAT team to my home instantly and feel the joy of 36 sets of cross-hairs trained directly on my forehead (i.e. Don't Shoot Blanks in a residential area).

The gun I use is a 'new model' stock off the shelf Ruger Vaquero .45 Caliber (about $400) that has basically 2 parts replaced:

  1. The Hammer, for $75. I got a custom made Hammer that has the thumb part pointing straight up to make it a 'Fanning Hammer'. And
  2. The standard steel barrel has been replaced with a 4 7/8 inch Aluminum barrel with no front sight that also cost $75...Coincidence(?).
I put the hammer in myself but had a local gunsmith put on the barrel ... This didn't require the smith to have any particular Fast Draw experience, but there is some fine work that has to be done with a barrel or cylinder swap so I didn't attempt to do it myself.

My gun had only these minor modifications, but most serious competitors have supremely tweaked guns that are completely re-tooled for Fast Draw. These hand guns are typically very light and durable with extremely smooth actions. Making them perfect for Fast Draw... But useless as boat anchors.

In addition to the gun you'll also need a holster (or "rig"). Though you can shoot from a traditional cowboy rig, you'll probably soon opt for the alien looking Fast Draw rig. The difference is, while the standard rig is designed to hold the gun close to your thigh with the gun held firmly in the boot. The Fast Draw rig is designed to hold the gun set forward and somewhat away from your thigh with a boot that makes the gun come out very easily.

The People Of Fast-Draw

Like me, virtually everyone is devilishly good looking, smart as a whip and eager to share their time and experience with "New Guy's" (or Gals).

Near where I live there is a group of men and women that practice regularly and attend most of the competitions. They have been extremely helpful in getting me going in the sport. Coaching, camaraderie, and support are the biggest parts of our group. And from other people I've met, this seems to be the way it is across the U.S.A, Canada and Japan (sorry, there are currently no Fast Draw groups in Singapore). Men, Women and even Kids shoot Fast Draw but, chimpanzees are still barred from competition.

The folks in my 'gang' helped me get the parts I needed for my gun as well as getting me a used Fast Draw rig. Now that I had the 'stuff' I figured I may as well head to Tombstone Arizona for my first competition (A very cool place to be, I must say).

It just so happened (much to my surprise) that this particular competition was the last of the season... and considered to be the most intense of the year. I suppose I should have known by the name of the event...

"Tombstone National Fast Draw Championship"

I thought I was ready...I mean heck... I got my gun a full week before the shoot, and I practiced for about an hour the two days before the competition. What else did I need?... what else indeed.

Since I had so much experience (ha) I didn't want to shoot as a Novice so I opted to shoot in the Main event. This decision has given me cause to check my testosterone level for some type of imbalance, as I most definitely AM A NOVICE.

Believe it or not, I was not at all nervous about shooting... Along side the best in the world... With camera's from the Discovery Channel and Reporters from GunGames Magazine there for the event. Well, I didn't think I was nervous but when it was my turn at the line for the first time I noticed I had come down with a sudden case of Parkinson's Disease. I had virtually no control of my outer extremities. Though I didn't actually drop any primers or shells, I had a difficult time getting the components together with any sort of ease. Needless to say the target which seemed so large as to blot out my view of the sun must have been, in actuality, quite small... as I missed 3 out of my first 5 shots! (I know the optimist would say "I hit 2 out of 5" but the optimist doesn't know I went on to miss 4 of my next 5 and then in my 3rd round I missed a perfect 5).

As you can guess, I felt pretty pathetic. But, as it turns out I am actually the optimistic sort and have managed to convince myself that though I didn't do as well as I had hoped, the fact remains that, I Did It! I experienced the jitters, I gave an honest effort that I'm proud of, and all in all I did have fun. I met some great people, and look forward to seeing them again. I learned a new respect for the sport that to my novice eye's seemed so easy to master.

When I joined the (WFDA) I received a membership card that, among other things, refers to the named card holder as a 'Professional Fast Draw Artist'. And after some moral reservation on how easily I had acquired the status of 'Professional', I gave in to the title once I had actually competed in a National event and the fact that I do know how to shoot, which makes me at least more experienced than most people in my home town of Novato. So now I can say with confidence that...

"I am the fastest gun in Novato, CA"

As I improve I may be able to expand my territory, to perhaps include all of Marin County, but there's bound to be another person in an area that large who also shoots Fast Draw and if so I'm going to keep a low profile until I get better.

...Hmmm, I thought I was just joking with that "Fastest Gun in Novato" thing... but, if I really think about it, It's probably true! The nearest shooters I know of live in Petaluma (all 3 of them are way faster than me)... But, they're not in Novato...Ha Ha, Notify the media!

How Do I Learn More About Fast Draw?

I started by sending an e-mail to Howard Darby (the publisher of this web site) and told him I was interested in learning more about the sport. He asked where I lived, and told me how to contact the groups that shoot near me.

I see that my "brief" intro has gotten somewhat wordy... The long and the short of it is, Fast Draw is fun, and competitive, but to really know what it's all about, you should get together with someone who knows the sport, learn what you can, and try it out!

Check the Fast Draw Contact List to see if there is a shooter listed in your area. If not, send an email to Howard and he will be delighted to help with your inquiries.

If you're like me, as soon as you hit your first target, you'll be hooked.

Craig Robinson
"The Fastest Gun In Novato CA...Probably"

To learn more about Fast Draw you can visit the Getting Started page for more information on how to get going in the sport.

You can read about Craig's experiences travelling to the B.C. championships.

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