An Introduction to Cowboy Fast-Draw Shooting Sports

Relive the excitement of the Old West through one of its most romanticized events

By Kevin Reese

From 19th century dime novels through Marty Robbins’ classic 1959 song Big Iron, to our continued fascination with the gritty Old West lifestyle, millions of Americans continue to idealize the culture and lore of the Western frontier. Steeped in historical facts and fiction, the most iconic example of both law and lawlessness is a good old fashioned gun fight where speed and accuracy either left a man respected or in a pine box.

Today thousands of shooting enthusiasts around the United States, and beyond, have discovered a family friendly way to connect with the quick-draw heritage of the 1800s. With its humble beginning as a friendly contest among stuntmen working at a Western-themed amusement park in southern California, fast-draw shooting has become one of the most popular forms of Western action shooting available today. Since the founding of both the Western Fast Draw Association and Mid-Western Fast Draw Association and subsequent 1976 merger of the two into the World Fast Draw Association (WFDA), memberships have increased and decreased, seemingly dependent upon cultural swings; however, over the past 10 years, and with founding of the Cowboy Fast Draw Association (CFDA) in 2001, fast-draw numbers have been on a steady upswing. Currently, WFDA and CFDA shooting clubs are spread throughout U.S., Japan, Korea and several European countries, offering scores of registered shooting matches year round.

WFDA and CFDA, the two largest fast-draw organizations, ask shooters to dress in Western attire representative of the 19th century and employ .45-caliber period replica revolvers with blanks and wax bullets. The use of wax bullets has made fast-draw shooting exponentially safer while opening match shooting to year-round events whether indoors or outside in the elements. Often, ammunition is provided and paid for by entry fees. According to both WFDA and CFDA the most popular hand gun used by their members is the Ruger Vaquero in .45-caliber Long Colt.

A fast draw in the Old West may have come down to two men fighting to the death, but today, it is a safe, fun, family activity.

According to David Livingston, chairman of WFDA, beyond the allure of Old West culture, fast-draw shooting includes another factor responsible for the continued growth of the sport.

“It’s a family sport,” Livingston said. “We make good friends with other shooters who become extensions of our own families. And, it’s something we can do well into our 70s and beyond.”

Complementing Livingston’s remarks, Bonnie Bollock, a member of CFDA’s first club, the Powder Horn Ranch Regulators, in Mitchell, S.D., added, “Our motto is safety first, fun second and competition third. More than that, genuine camaraderie, mentorship for new shooters, safe gun handling and having fun are the cornerstones of CFDA’s success in growing ranks.”

Though matches may differ in stages, divisions and classes, depending on participation, the events are usually governed by WFDA or CFDA rules and guidelines and generally consist of either individual timed contests, where shooters compete individually for the fastest time, or elimination rounds that pit shooters against each other until only one competitor remains.

Your computer is a worldwide portal to learning more about this growing shooting sport. Conducting simple internet searches turns up dozens of shooting clubs, articles, lessons, videos, tips and photos related to fast-draw shooting. The WFDA and CFDA official websites offer comprehensive information including registered matches, Western culture, fast-draw tips, fast-draw history and contacts. Both organizations also offer a great database of shooting clubs. Shooting club websites offer great tips, videos, photos and local contacts. Attending a shooting match is also a great way to learn about the sport. According to Bollock, “A lot of shooters make themselves available before and after matches to talk to spectators about fast-draw shooting and share tips. It’s about getting people who are interested in our sport into the family.”

No matter how you put your spurs on, fast-draw shooting offers exciting activities sure to quench your thirst for the Old West. Divisions for youth through senior citizens ensures everyone in the family plays a role in reliving days of old while chasing down the title of fastest gun around.


More on Fast-Draw Shooting

More information about fast-draw shooting, including events and resources near you, are available by visiting the World Fast Draw Association and Cowboy Fast Draw Association websites. If you are interested in joining a shooting club, creating a new one or hosting a registered shooting match, call or email the following:.

World Fast Draw Association
David Livingston, Chairman

Cowboy Fast Draw Association

Powder Horn Ranch Regulators
CFDA Shooting Club, Mitchell, SD
Bonnie Bollock

WireShots Staff

WireShots is a news service provided by H&H Shooting Sports in Oklahoma City. We cover all news related to the Shooting Sports including Firearms, Archery, Outdoors, as well as events at our range and retail store. You can reach us via email at . Shoot On!