What you have to do to win a Cowboy Fast Draw shooting competition
BY MIKE MARSH CORRESPONDENT
SEPTEMBER 20, 2017 01:30 PM
In SASS Fast Draw competition at Buccaneer Gun Club, the object is to draw a single action pistol from its holster to shoot a target faster than your opponent. Speeds are so fast that shots are timed electronically. Hit your target first and the target’s light goes out.
Two gunslingers squared off. Hands on the grips of their holstered pistols, trigger fingers itching, they waited for the signal to draw. Myron Bryant drew first, hitting his target and sliding his revolver back into its holster as smoothly as an oiled snake.
Instead of the ear splitting explosion of a black powder .45 cartridge belching smoke, it was an electronic beep that spurred them into action. Since they were shooting wax bullets propelled only by shotgun shell primers, the sound of their guns going off was more like a pop.
One thing that was for real was that for the loser, Steve Gregory, it was “lights out!”
“I always liked shooting in the club’s Cowboy Action matches,” said Myron Bryant, aka Outkast, a 61-year-old driver for Waste Industries who lives in Leland. “I started shooting Cowboy Fast Draw after I came to one of the Cowboy Action matches at Buccaneer Gun Club about six years ago. I watched “The Lone Ranger” on TV when I was a kid and always loved shooting single-action revolvers.”
Gregory, aka Bull, is a 73-year-old retiree who worked for Caterpillar and lives in Leland. Like Bryant, his revolver was a Ruger Vaquero single action. Competitors must use authentic or replica firearms from the country’s “Wild West” period.
“I have been shooting cowboy matches for 25 years,” Gregory said. “I shoot SASS Cowboy Action, Fast Draw and Wild Bunch competitions. I love having a gun on my hip. Drawing it, shooting it is always a thrilling experience. I never get tired of it.”
Instead of facing each other, the combatants shoot at 24-inch steel disks painted white so their bullets’ impacts are visible. In the center of each target is a light. The first shooter to hit the target knocks out the light to win the match. The shots are recorded with an electronic timing device with the time beginning the instant the beeper goes off. A good score to hear the beeper, draw the pistol, cock the hammer, take aim, fire and for the bullet to hit the target is 0.7 seconds – or, in cowboy parlance, a 7 – and anything below that time usually wins a two-man duel.
The competitors shoot twice against each other then rotate until they have shot it out with everyone else. The shooter with the best total time, meaning the lowest total number of seconds, wins the overall competition.
Cowboy Fast Draw is a sanctioned event under rules established by the Single Action Shooting Society or SASS. Each cowboy must have a nickname or “handle” and must dress like a cowboy in an old western movie. This particular match was one of Buccaneer Gun Club’s monthly fast-draw matches, which are held at the club’s OK Corral and open to the public. The OK Corral is a covered pavilion built specifically for the fast-draw events. The roof protects shooters from the sun and rain. During matches, a white fabric barrier is set up as a bullet stop.
“The bullet is moving at about 700 feet per second,” said Jeff Holland, aka Jefro, a custom homebuilder from Sneads Ferry and Buccaneer Gun Club’s Cowboy Action match director. “I have seen matches shot in a Walmart parking lot. It doesn’t take much to stop a wax bullet, so it is very safe downrange. The course of fire is two matches at 15 feet, two at 18 feet and two at 21 feet. Whoever has the fastest time is the overall winner. But the winner doesn’t get you much except bragging rights – until the next match. Missing can be a humbling experience.”
The emphasis is on fun but not at the expense of safety. Every time two shooters are toeing the firing line, a hand judge watches to make sure their hands are in the correct position.
Holsters must be aligned so that the trigger finger poking through the trigger guard is no farther forward than the seam of the pants, but the bottom of the holster can be tilted. Once they are ready to draw and fire their pistols, the competitors can put their hands on the butt stock, but their index fingers must be outside the trigger guard to prevent premature cocking and accidental firing. Even a wax bullet can inflict serious injury at such close range if it hits a cowboy’s leg as he is drawing his pistol.
A competitor has to win twice to beat his opponent. If both competitors miss the target, they can keep shooting until one of their lights goes out.
“It is a challenge of accuracy and speed,” Holland said. “You can be the fastest on the draw, but if you don’t hit the target, you lose.”