From holster to hand in less than a second
DAYTON -- Some of the fastest guns in the West – and the East, North and South – will compete Friday through Sunday, Aug. 22 to 24, in the Oregon Fast Draw Championship in Dayton.
One of only two championship matches being held anywhere this year, it will draw competitors from all over North America, Romania, Armenia, Scotland and England.
Spectators can watch them shoot with wax bullets or black powder rounds. But viewers have to watch closely – shots usually take 1/4 to 1/2 a second to complete.
Events will include a warm-up Friday afternoon and evening in Dayton’s Blockhouse Park. It will feature local celebrities as well as members of the World Fast Draw Association. The practice round is called a “pot shoot,” with the winner taking the “pot” of money.
On Saturday, the black powder round will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the park. Sunday’s event, also 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the park, will feature wax bullets fired at a metal target.
During both competitive rounds, shooters will be vying for prize money, titles and points to be added to their season totals. Some also will be going for world record times, “trying to hit one shot faster than anyone else can,” said Scott Bateman of Dayton, one of the organizers of the event.
Fast draw competitions take place all over the U.S. and Canada. Venues usually are in small towns.
This is Dayton’s first competition. Bateman and his daughter, Juliana, father and daughter fast-draw competitors, are hosting the event along with Greg Townsley, founder of the only fast-draw club in Oregon.
The Batemans and Townsley organized the Oregon event as a way to attract shooters from all over the continent and to interest new members in their organization.
“Oregon is a young state for this. We have just one club,” said Scott Bateman, who drives to St. Helens for the club meetings. “We’re trying to grow it to four clubs or more.”
Bateman said he’s pleased his town not only agreed to host the event, but also to participate. Many Dayton residents will help with the fast-draw competition.
Local stores and merchants are planning a wild West theme for the weekend, and many people will be dressed or decorated to fit the theme. A mechanical bull ride is even planned for the park.
Bateman said he’s expecting shooters ranging in age from 6 to 84. “This sport is kind of ageless and genderless. An 84-year-old can beat a young person; boys beat their dads,” he said.
While clubs are widespread, the total number of people involved in fast-draw shooting these days is fairly small. That helps to create a family atmosphere and strong friendships amongst competitors, Bateman said.
“We take the sport seriously, but everybody is a friend,” he said.
At the Dayton event, targets will be set up against a protective wooden wall built on the park’s basketball court. Balloons are used for the black powder round. The wax bullets are fired at a 30x18-inch target.
“That sounds big, doesn’t it? It sounds easy in theory, but it’s not,” said Juliana Bateman, a sophomore at Dayton High School.
Spectators can watch from the sidelines. They should bring earplugs if they plan to stand fairly close, she said, because the guns are loud.
Participants are required to use ear protection. They use leather gun belts, too, often augmenting the holster with a metal base in case they fire before the gun barrel is fully horizontal.
For fun, many also wear Western gear -- cowboy boots and hats. “You have to have a hat,” she said.
As they await their shot, competitors stand with one hand on their gun, careful to keep their finger off the trigger. Only after the starting light flashes can they cock the gun, pull it from the holster and fire.
Shooters use one of two different techniques: Thumbing, in which one hand lifts the fun, pulls the hammer back and fires; or fanning, in which the trigger hand lifts and pulls while the other hand reaches across the body to “fan” back the hammer.
With either technique, fast-draw shooters practice making that one quick, smooth motion. Some use a “twister holster,” specially designed to facilitate pulling the gun out sideways as it’s fired, Scott Bateman said.
“Some guys even fire from behind their body,” he said, demonstrating how quickly the entire motion takes place. “They wear leather to protect their backside, just in case.”
Competitors start 5 feet from the target, then move backward for subsequent shots. In some rounds, called doubles, there are two targets, which a competitor must hit one after the other.
Times are added up to determine the winner, with the lowest total representing the fastest shooter.
Both speed and accuracy are important. Missing the target automatically registers as a 1 second shot. With the difference between first and 10th place clocked in fractions of seconds, a second can be an eternity.
More information is available from Bateman, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or from the website, www.oregonfastdraw.com.
If you go:
What: Oregon Fast Draw Championships
Who: World Fast Draw Association members from the U.S., Canada, the British Isles and Eastern Europe
Where: Dayton's city park
When: 3 p.m. through the evening Friday, Aug. 22; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 23-24
How much: Free
You should know: The shooting competition is loud, especially Saturday's black powder round, so bring ear plugs if you can.
For more information: Dayton Fastdrawclub on Facebook; www.oregonfastdraw.com; or Scott Bateman at email@example.com