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The Beginnings

This is the Letter that Started it All
written by John Taffin in the Summer of 1985

To: Paco Kelly, Jim Taylor, Bud McDonald, Jim Riggs, John Linebaugh, Allen Taylor, Kermit Deason, Hal Swiggett, Robert Smythe, Lew Schafer, Charles Able

I am planning on writing an article concerning a fictionalized account of the above named sixgunners gathering together for a Shootists' Holiday. If you could attend and bring only two sixguns, what would you bring? You would not know what events would be held, you would just come prepared with two sixguns. (We will allow autoloaders in .45 ACP., .38 Super and 9mm, reluctantly). You also may want to describe what kind of grips, ornamentation, leather, etc. you would bring. My setting will be Robert Smythe's Heart Bar Ranch. Perhaps someday we can make this a reality and have a gathering of Shootists for a little shooting and a whole lot of fun.

Yours, John Taffin (Summer 1985)


The Story

by John Taffin

This story appeared in the October 1985 Issue of THE SIXGUNNER and created quite a stir in the sixgunning world.

The idea had been gathering dust in the back of my head for a long time. A gathering of sixgunners for a time of shooting informally, showing off their favorite handguns, and a whole lot of visiting. What kind of response would I get? Would other sixgunners be as interested as I was in getting together for such a time? Would they expect it to be as much fun and a great time of learning from each other as I expected it to be? With these thoughts in mind, I selected eleven other Shootists with two criteria in mind. They had to love, really love sixguns, and they had to be the type of man that I knew, as the old saying goes, "would do to ride the river with."

Making the list of who to invite was pure pleasure. Six states were represented: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming. Those who relayed word that they would attend read like a Who's Who in the circle of sixgunners. Our host would be Robert Smythe who opened his Heart Bar Ranch in Saguache, Colorado for our get-together. Robert is one of those shooters who has ridden a long trail and has probably forgotten more about shooting than most of us will ever know. I correspond with him regularly and his letters are cherished, not only because they come from such a dear friend, but also because they are packed with information about sixgunning.

Others that agreed to attend along with myself were: Charles Able from Carlsbad, New Mexico, a veritable artist when it comes to making SA stocks from either wood or Micarta; Deacon Deason of Bear Hug Grips who makes the world's fanciest and finest DA stocks. Deacon hails from Colorado Springs. Paco Kelly, a former Federal Agent from Tucson, writer extraordinaire and also a maker of excellent handgun stocks and many other goodies for the sixgunner, Bud McDonald of Lakewood, Colorado who is an all around good guy who has contributed some great writings to THE SIXGUNNER and who I was particularly anxious to meet along with Charles and Deacon as they were the only three of those invited that I had not met personally. We had shared a lot of letters and phone calls, but I was anxious to meet these pistoleros first hand.

Idaho would be represented by Brian Pearce, a young cattle rancher from Enunett, and Lew Schafer, long time sixgun experimenter from Boise. Texas would be more than amply represented by Hal Swiggett, Editor of Harris Publications and pistol packin' preacher from San Antonio. Another pistol packin' preacher, Jim Taylor and his Peace Officer father, Allen would represent Arizona, and from way up on the Wyoming/ Montana border would come friend and sixgunsmith, John Linebaugh. One dozen shooters who could sit down together and write an Encyclopedia of Sixgunning. What a joint effort that would be!

The same invitation was sent out to each shooter with the same restrictions: "You are invited to THE FIRST ANNUAL SHOOTISTS' HOLIDAY. You may bring only two sixguns of your choice. You will not know what the shooting events will be, so be prepared for anything." The tears really started to flow!

"Can't I also bring my .22 Kit Gun, or my .357 belly gun, or my little hideout .38 or my ...... or my .... or ......" and on an on 'til they broke my heart. Almost. I was sure a good hand with the metal detector would have a field day as these sixgunners checked in with "only two" sixguns. No matter, the purpose was a great time together. After the shooting matches, there would be time to haul out the rest of the sixguns for some sharin' and more shootin'. Of course I too realized how hard it was to limit myself to only two sixguns.

Before the get together, each shooter was asked to supply me with his choice of sixguns, plus any other information as to grips, leather, ammo, etc., that they cared to share. It was my intention to see how well I knew the other eleven shooters by guessing before hand what they would bring. I found that I knew them pretty well as I guessed 15 of 22 choices, getting two out of two on five shooters. Here then are the responses I received from each shooter:

CHARLES ABLE: I would use .44 Magnum all the way. First choice would be the Ruger Redhawk 5 1/2" with ivory grips, and the gold bead front sight with the V-notch rear. This gun lets go at 2 lbs. with an action that I did myself and it is like glass all the way. My load would be 20 grs. of No. 2400 and Lyman's No. 429421 which will stay inside 2" at 25 yds. and 3 1/2" at 50 yds. all day. This is the gun I use for all around shooting and it goes without saying that I like it very much. As for a holster, I use a shoulder rig that I made myself most of the time and it has never let me down. My second choice would be Ruger's 10 1/2" Stainless Steel Bull Barrel .44 Super Blackhawk. I sent this to JD and he put a full length SSK T 'SOB rib on it and I then equipped it with a Weaver Stainless P2-S. The grip is Herrett's. I sent Steve a very nice piece of walnut some years back and he made two very nice pair of grips, fancy grade with fine line checkering. This grip works very well on this gun and it goes without saying that it shoots good. But it is very big and I use it only for hunting. The load used is 22 grs. of No. 2400 with the 240 gr. Sierra BP. The trigger pull is 3 lbs. and it has swivels on the grip and barrel and a soft leather sling that I made so I can wear it over my head. No holster is needed and I use this sixgun from 50 to 200 yds.

DEACON DEASON: I'm getting ready for the fun of the Holiday Shootist get together. As I'm only allowed to bring two of my pets along, I'm having a heck of a time deciding which ones they will be. No fair, John! Not knowing the rules or what I will be shooting doesn't make it any easier. My first thoughts are, maybe a little power. So, of course, there is need for the Ruger Redhawk .44 Mag. Then maybe a need for speed, like he might set up a combat course, so the S&W Model 25,.45 COLT. So that is settled, at least I hope so. So here they are: No.1 is a Ruger Redhawk 5 1/2" .44 Magnum. Handloads of 240 gr. Sierra JSP over 22 grs. of No. 2400. Moderate loads of 230 gr. hard cast in front of 12.3 grs. No 800X. Grips by Bear Hug, Skelton Style, Holster by Taffin, shoulder rig, lined, safety strap in case of rough terrain. Grips and holster are fancy in case the opportunity to show them off should present itself. No. 2 is a S&W Model 25 4" .45 Colt. Engraved by T&T Engravers of Colorado Springs. Handloads of 250 gr. Keith style cast bullet in front of 9.5 grs. of No. 800X. Also loads of same bullet over 8.2 grs. of same powder for fast shooting. Grips will be of the Skelton style by Bear Hug and it has a Robert A. McGrew action job with a 3 lb. trigger pull and Millett sights. Leather will be a shoulder rig by Taffin. I will also have a belt rig, by the same maker, for any chance to show off my rapid draw. I feel that I would be well armed for any situation short of Grizzly Bears or a Russian invasion.

PACO KELLY: Well ....... not knowing the kind of needs one would have to have as far as handguns go and the power levels that would be needed, a fella' would be prudent if he covered as much of the power scale from squirrels to moose as he could with two guns allowed. So for the low end of the scale I would bring a very nice minty Colt SA Magnum from the late 1960's. This gun has the 4 3/4" barrel and has been customized so it can't be seen. First the trigger job was done by a master, now gone to the great hunting fields in the sky. All of the internal parts were given a coat of ultra hard nickel and then polished to a brilliant and fantastic slippery sheen.

The main spring has been shaved carefully, and the old trick of a piece of leather between it and the frame revived, but polyurethane is used instead of leather. When you pull the hammer back, you think the gun is broken, that it couldn't pop even the lightest of primers. But it will and every time. The barrel has been set to a gap of .001, with the barrel and cylinder faced off to zero flat.

This Colt has ivory grips in the one-piece design and my own engraving of my brand in the face side grip, and name in the off side. The holster would be yours, John; have to show it off some time, might just as well be in front of our friends. The next handgun will be the powerhouse. If there was a sudden elk, big mule deer or other type big game hunt, I would want to be comfortably outfitted.

With the ability to go from standard .45 Colt loads up through heavy .454 loads that are 80% more powerful than the hot 240 grain.44 magnum loads, the.454 Casull would be my next choice. As nice as the 7 1/2" tubed, adjustable sighted Casull is, I like the fixed sighted short barrel. I have a friend that lives in Tucson and he is one of the top engravers.

I would have him engrave the Casull with brands from the Southwest, mostly old brands, King Ranch XIT, and so on. Some little changes on the Casull hammer and trigger would be widening both and shortening the hammer spur. My grips with a zebra carved on the prime panel and my name on the off side. My signature in the backstrap, and it is ready to shoot. As for loads, two for each sixgun.

For the Colt.357: 160 gr. SWC over 7.6 grs. of 4756 for 1100 fps, and my main load for this gun is 17 grs. of  No. 2400 under the same bullet. The velocity runs to 1500 fps and the Colt handles it easily. Both loads shoot to the same point of aim. For the .454's: a light load of Lyman's old No. 454190 at 1000 fps, and the heavy load would be the NEI cast Giles 300 gr. blunt round nose over 33 grs. of WW296 in Colt cases for 1650 fps and 1800 pounds plus of punch. It shoots into 2" at 75 yds., and shoots through 25" telephone poles and 30" trees. So there you have it John, two guns with two loads each, yet covering the scale from mice to moose. Now you tell me where this ranch is and when we SHOOTISTS meet for the big showdown.

BUD MCDONALD: That's an excellent idea, wish I'd have thought of it. Sure got me thinking though. What two sixguns to bring to an informal gathering? Guess that leaves out the TC's and XP's. Suits me! Here lately I've gotten so it don't bother me to miss a few steel pigs or turkeys with a sixgun, I will also keep banging away with the sixgun, at prairie dogs and such, long after my shooting buddies have switched to TCs or XP's.

This leads up to the two hoglegs I'd bring to such an outing, something I enjoy shooting and something I shoot very well. I enjoy my DW.41 Mag. Blue with either the 6" VHB or the 10" VB. I'd use the combat grips or a beautiful set of custom fit Bear Hug grips. This gun can take care of itself no matter what game we are playing. Silhouettes to bowling pins, small game to large. I've got loads for everything from .41 specials to Ramslammer 275 gr. cast SSK'S.

I carry the DW, with either 6" or 10", in Bianchi's HUSH rig for any hunting. It's state of the art as far as I'm concerned. I hunt with the DW.41 10" with the HUSH hanging on my left side. On my right side is a Ruger.41 Mag 4 5/8" in one of your pancake designs, lined with pigskin, in cross draw mode. It's a small, light, powerful backup gun and I only have to carry.41 ammo. However, for this exercise I'm gonna go with my Ruger Blackhawk.45 Colt 4 5/8". It fits in the same pancake as the .41 Blackhawk.

I use this .45 much the same way that most people use a .22, for anything. It's my primary small game pistol. Rabbits, sage hens, grouse or anything else that wanders too close, plus trout! Yes, trout. I don't shoot trout with it of course, but it's right there on my hip and I forget it's there most of the time until it is needed. I walked into a 7-Eleven not long ago with it on, forgot it was there.

Kept wondering why the clerk called me "SIR"! You may have guessed that the .45 Ruger is very, very accurate. The SSK trigger spring, SSK HD strut spring, white outline rear and very black front ramp sights help a lot. I use 9.7 grs of HSS with nearly every bullet I've got. It just works. A favorite is Lee's 200 gr. RN sized to .452. I've made shots with it that only God and me know about. So there you have it. Mark Bud McDonald down for a .41 Magnum DW and a Blackhawk.45 4 5/8" barreled Ruger.

BRIAN PEARCE: John, for the SHOOTISTS HOLIDAY I would take a S&W Model 29 4" .44 Magnum, blue with a standard hannner and trigger. DA pull is 10 lbs., SA goes 3 lbs. Grips are Skeeter Skelton style by Bear Hug, as you well know, and the holster is an El Paso modified Tom Threepersons, lined, with a 12 1/2 rearward rake and a safety strap. The second sixgun would be my "ranch gun," a Ruger Blackhawk .44 Magnum 6 1/2" Flattop with ivory stocks. This sixgun is carried in a Bianchi Lawman holster with a 2 1/4" Bianchi belt with 24 cartridge loops.

I like the 6 1/2" length because it is short enough to still be handy and yet long enough to allow it to be tied down. Not for quick draw, but I use this .44 on horseback and the tie down prevents the gun making a sudden movement even if the horse does. My loads would be two in number: 9.5 grs. of Unique, Federal cases, with the Lyman No. 429421 old style, with the square grease groove. The other load would be 22 grs. of No. 2400 under the same Keith bullets, also in Federal cases, both loads using Federal standard pistol primers. This HOLIDAY is a great idea and should be a lot of fun.

JOHN LINEBAUGH: John, I would take a "little" gun and a "big gun" for the SHOOTISTS HOLIDAY. For my little gun, I would choose the S&W.45 Colt Model 25-5 with a 4" barrel. Two loads would be used in this .45 Colt, the Lyman No. 454424 at 1000 fps, and the NEI 310.451 at 1100 fps. My carrying leather would be an El Paso Tom Threepersons identical to the rig Brian Pearce was wearing when he was here with you. The 2nd sixgun, my big gun, would be a 5 1/2" Seville with one of my cylinders and barrels in .45 Colt, and this also would have two loads: a 310 NEI at 1400 fps, and a 340 NEI at 1400 fps. Both loads are real smooth in this sixgun. It would be carried in a Milt Sparks Holster New Model with the screw tension.

LEW SCHAFER: John, I am flattered that you would include me in the group of SHOOTISTS you have mentioned. As you already know it is very easy for me to pick my two gun portfolio. First would be my long time favorite, a 4" S&W .44 Magnum with Hogue Monogrip and utilizing my 300 gr. bullet at 1200 fps and, of course, the other would be my 6" DW converted to .44 UltraMag. For this second gun, the load would be my 300 gr. bullet at a full 1600 fps. You've shot this gun and load enough to know how accurate it is. It, of course, wears Pachmayr stocks. The recoil is stout but can be handled by any experienced sixgunner. For me, these two sixguns would do the job on anything I ever needed.

ROBERT SMYTHE: As outlined in your letter, the SHOOTISTS HOLIDAY gives much food for thought. Of course, I would think it would all depend upon the type of program you would set up, i.e., the courses of fire, events, etc., as to the type of guns, calibers and loads. Personally, my thinking at this time would call for heavy sixguns in.45 (long) Colt caliber (but, I am sure others would opt for the heavy .44's). My own selection would be one sixgun with 7 1/2" heavy barrel and one with 5 1/2" heavy barrel. Adjustable rear sight with ramp front sight having a colored insert. Grips: I have always preferred good walnut for my sixgun grips but, after hearing from Jim Taylor about Paco's grips, I want to try them. As for ornamentation of grips, I would like the right side to have a "raised" Heart Bar brand to more or less fill the palm and on the left side grip have my initials like you carved in the shoulder holster you made for me. The sixguns have barrels and cylinders "mated" and guns tuned by our good friend, John Linebaugh. I like John's slow twist barrels and his high-tensile strength cylinders. Speaking of the shoulder rig: that just has to be the most comfortable rig I have ever used to pack a hunting gun in. So for the SHOOTISTS HOLIDAY I would like two holsters-the shoulder rig and a holster and belt combined with the shoulder rig. Perhaps a combination of wide and heavy pants belt on which to carry a hip holster and held up by some sort of "saw-buck" suspenders made so as to attach to the pants belt. That would support the heavy gun in place and overcome the sagging pants. Your SHOOTISTS HOLIDAY idea sounds most interesting and I hope it becomes a reality

HAL SWIGGETT: Number one gun poses no problem: It would be a 4 5/8" SBH - one of two I own - either the blue one with a bead front sight and express rear sight or Larry Kelly's "Predator.". Probably the blue one since I am finding that sight system the fastest for field use. Maybe not the tightest groups if paper punching were to be considered - but the deadliest - in my opinion. It wears Herrett's Custom Stocks, walnut, naturally.

The Predator is as issued with Pachmayr's grip. Number two gun is the problem: Not knowing what was to take place I definitely lean towards my High Standard .22 LR autoloader but since you specified sixguns I guess it would be my Charter Amis 3 " .22 LR topped with Hutson's I X scope. I know for sure number two gun would be .22 LR and I wouldn't feel totally naked if it were to be the ONLY gun. In my opinion,.22 LR offers a far wider range of uses than ANY OTBER CALIBER. You can have fun with it; you can eat with it, you can defend yourself with it and yes, even kill some mighty big game with it-if need be. As to how it is carried makes little difference-so long as it is handy which means with you all the time.

ALLEN TAYLOR: My first choice would be my S&W Model 586 .357 Magnum with a 6" barrel. This gun has had the stocks reworked by myself so they are smooth and fit my hand perfectly. I really like this .357 especially for combat shoots and DA shooting with my slip-in bullet in .38 Special cases. My second choice would also be a.357, a Ruger Old Model 6 1/2" SA. Let me warn you I may slip in an extra gun or two. Recently I got quite a kick out of going into a Sheriff's dept. supervisor's home on a visit and asked him to frisk me as I may have a gun. I had on a heavy coat and he checked my arms and on down quite professionally. Then he said I was clean and I popped a 7 1/2" .44 Ruger in his face! You should have seen him. I felt I should make him real cautious as people can be tricky. The idea of a SHOOTISTS HOLIDAY is great!

JIM TAYLOR: First would be my old model Ruger Single-Six. It has been reworked in years past and carries a 6" bull barrel made from a Model 52 Winchester. Dad turned the threads on the barrel and installed it himself. The throat is slick as glass! One chamber is reamed out to take the.22 Mag shell. This little gun has accounted for untold numbers of jacks and cottontails. The hammer spur has been cut, shortened, and remodeled, not only to lighten it, but to help you get up on the grip higher when the hammer is back at full cock.

The ammo would be CCI Stingers and Remington Yellowjackets and Federal shorts. I would also have a few WW.22 Mags in my pocket for the long shots. The gun would be carried in a homemade holster that is just as worn as it is, but they both still do what they are intended to do and that is what counts. The other gun would be my old model Ruger SA.45 COLT. It has a 7 1/ 2" barrel with a remodeled front sight. Years ago I installed the old small grip frame (XR3) that Ruger used originally on their SA's. I prefer them to the later grips, I guess it is my hand size. About 1972, I cleaned the hump off the top strap of this gun to make it a flat-top and since I don't care for adjustable sights on a working gun, I took the guts out of the rear sights and screwed it all the way down. It is dead on at 25 yards with the 300 gr. bullet and back on again at 100. The front sight has a line of silver solder where I added a piece to it and that line is good for a 400 yard hold. This is with the 300 gr. bullet at 1200-1300 fps.

As on all my single actions, the trigger is straightened. I prefer the trigger to be straight instead of curved. On heavy recoiling loads the trigger will not bite your finger, that is pinch it between the trigger guard and the trigger. This gun is also carried in a homemade holster for the most part. It also is worn, like the gun, and that is as it should be. I've carried and used this gun for so many years it is like part of my hand. The loads for the .45: Three loads using the 300 gr. Lyman No. 457191, heat treated, sized to .452. These loads are 18.5 grs. No. 2400, 20.0 grs. No.2400, and 24.0 grs WW296. A fourth load would be Lyman's No. 454424 over 18.5 grs. No. 2400, and the last load would be the Taylor slip-in bullet over 5.0 grs. of Bullseye. Since we are limited to two guns, I won't talk about the custom gun I have hidden in the car. While we're on the subjert of extra guns, John, you'd best frisk all of the men coming in as I'm sure you'll find an extra gun or two tucked in a pocket, or top of a boot, or under the belt. No real shootist would get caught without something at hand!!

JOHN TAFFIN: I did not realize how tough it would be to pick two sixguns until I started the process of elimination. I decided then to wait to make my choices after everyone had theirs in and then try to pick two that no one else had chosen. In looking at the choices of these pistoleros, you will find them equally divided on .44 and .45 caliber with eight of each being chosen. The list is then rounded out with three.357's, two.22's and one .41. As to manufacturers, Ruger is way out front with nine, followed by Smith with five, Seville with three, DW with two, and Freedom Arms and Charter Arms with one each.

Action types are almost evenly divided with 12 SA's and 10 DA's. Since I knew what the courses of fire would be, I had an advantage over the other shooters, one that I would be sure to need if I was to compete with men of their caliber. No pun intended. Since I knew I would not need a great deal of power and also since my .22 handgun is an autoloader, this also helped narrow my choice considerably.

So here goes JT's choices: For a DA sixgun I would pick my S&W.357 Magnum Model 27 with 8 3/8" barrel. This deadly accurate sixgun wears beautiful ebony grips of the Skeeter Skelton pattern expertly crafted by BearHug Cnips. The trigger and hammer are target style now but will be changed to standard soon. My load would be the Lyman #357156 Thompson GC over 15 grs. of No. 2400 for 1400 plus fps. I once hit a gallon paint can 5  for 5 with this load and sixgun at 200 yds. A second load would be my silhouette/defense load of the Lyman 200 gr. SWC GC over 12.5 to 13.0 grs. of WW296.

It goes 1100 fps but is also extremely accurate. This would be my first choice as a silhouette sixgun IF I could either feel or hear the clicks in the rear sight. I can't, and I lose count in a match. This is the number one sixgun for varmints from coyotes on down. As to carrying leather, I prefer the DeSantis swivel shoulder rig with one refinement as to an extra piece of leather to hook it to the pants belt.

My SA sixgun would be the Colt New Frontier.44 Special 7.5". I've always been parfial to the Special since I learned about sixguns mostly from Elmer Keith. This is one of the most beautiful revolvers ever produced, with its case colored frame and blue finish. To top it off, I commissioned a pair of ivories from Charles Able for this pet.

It's high front sight gives a lot of height for long range shooting and its rear sight will be improved eventually by changing it to the excellent Colt Elliason. This gun is carried in a carved holster of the Threepersons style, with a safety strap, and carried on a 2 1/2" soft belt made by folding over a piece of suede leather, 5 1/2" in width and sewing on both ends and across the top.

It is topped off with 12 cartridge loops on the left side. This sixgun is also deadly accurate and loads for it will be the NEI 260.429 Keith over 17.0 grs. of No.2400, CCI Mag. pistol primers, WW cases for 1200 fps, and Lyman's No. 429421 over 8.5 grs. of Unique for 1000 fps. Both bullets are sized to.428. As Jim says, other sixgun would be carried someplace on or about my person. A Colt SA in either.45 Colt or.44 Special, probably both, and both with the 43/4" barrel. And even though I wouldn't need the power, it would be hard to leave my Jim Riggs engraved 4" .44 S&W at home.

Well everyone has chosen their own particular sixguns, so it was time to announce the get together. Robert Smythe was generous enough to open his Heart Bar Ranch to us the second week of June for what we hope will be henceforth known as the FIRST ANNUAL SHOOTISTS' HOLIDAY. My wife and I arrived early so we could visit with Robert and his good wife Esther. They are the kind of people that it is such a real pleasure to visit with plus Robert has one of the finest libraries of anyone I know.

As other shooters began to arrive, it was not long before the subject was sixguns and sixgunners. It was such a great pleasure to sit around the campfire the first evening everyone was there, sharing both elk and antelope steaks, and reliving so many memorable shooting experiences. It wasn't long before the conversation got around to Elmer Keith, of course, and many shared the impact he had on their shooting interests. Late into the night we discussed the relative merits of both sixguns and calibers, loads were shared as each shootist touted his particular favorite caliber. Just about everyone had a special feeling for the Colt SA, and for a sixgun that is now 112 years old, we all agreed, that for either hunting or defense, the fine old Colt would still do the job.

A long discussion ensued on the relative merits of how to carry a favorite sixgun and some of the names of leathermakers like Chic Gaylord, Tio Sam Myers, Cap Hardy, Andy Anderson, Arvo Ojala, and H.H. Heiser, along with their contributions to sixgunning were discussed at length. Most agreed that it was still difficult to improve on the old Tom Threepersons design as created by the Southwestern lawman and brought to life by Sam Myers. It is still the epitome of simplicity when it comes to carrying a big bore sixgun, whether it be double actions or single action. Those who favored the 4" S&W or 4 3/4" Colt SA especially liked the Tom Threepersons rig. As we went to bed, the topic of discussion was how blessed we were to live in the greatest country on earth, even with all her faults, the Good Old U.S. of A. is still way above second best. As sixgunners, we all agreed that we must fight to keep our freedoms intact so the great sport of shooting could be passed on to future generations.

The following morning began the 'fun' shoot. Everyone had fun, of course, but everyone was also under pressure to do his best in front of the other shooters. The first event was to be a jackrabbit/ varmint shoot with each pair of shooters going out at a drawn time. When Robert and Hal drew each other as partners, we knew we were in trouble. They brought in the most and also took the biggest jack plus a coyote who made the mistake of wandering into the range of Robert's big .45. Hal was absolutely deadly on jacks with his little .22, and when the event was over, no one else even came close to these experienced pistoleros.

With the hunting taken care of, the shooting events began in earnest. It was decided to set up the long range targets first. A steel pig was set at 150 yards and a steel ram was placed way out at 250 yards. Each shooter was given one sighting shot, plus 15 count shots at each targel When the smoke and dust cleared, Brian had taken the pig trophy with 15 hits using his Ruger Flattop, and Charles astounded everyone by getting 15 solid hits on the ram with his scope sighted.44 Ruger. His method was to simply hold on the back and squeeze.

The next two events consisted of targets at 25 yds. Ten three inch metal 'eggs' were set up for each shooter, who then was timed as well as counted for accuracy. Bud McDonald, simply screwed on the extra 6" barrel for his .41 DW and not only took all ten, but did it faster than anyone else. The second target event consisted of setting up a target with six 3" bulls at 25 yds. Sounds easy, right? Except the target was turned backwards, so the bulls could not be seen. Even among the groans, a number of Shootists took five bulls, but only Lew Schafer shooting his Model 29 .44, connected on all six bulls. At ten yards, bowling pins look pretty large, but six of them were set up on a table to count. Most shooters were able to hit the pins all right. But John Linebaugh shooting his little gun, his S&W 4" .45 Colt with 300 gr. bullets cleaned house on this event.

The next event was also at 25 yds. and was quite simple-- whoever put six shots into the smallest group would be the winner. The only catch was that it had to be done with the off hand! I knew who would win this event and I was right. Allen shot a 2 1/2" group off-hand. I knew he could do it as after he won the fast three combat shoots among peace officers in his area, the rest complained so he shot the next match left-handed and dropped all the way to second place!

The most spectacular events were saved for last, those being the hip shoot, the combat standoff, and the aerial targets. For the hip shoot, a reduced combat silhouette target was set up at 50 yards and contestants had to fire at it with the gun hand actually resting on the hip. The Taylors have practiced this often and sure enough Jim put all of his shots on the target. The combat standoff consisted of two water filled balloons hanging on a crossbar at a distance of 7 yards. Contestants were in until they missed. Firing in pairs it was easy to pick the winner if each shooter hit his balloon, simply by watching how the bar fell. Deacon Deason hung in longer than anyone else using his favorite DA, his S&W.45.

One event left, that being aerial shooting. Four inch 2X4 blocks were thrown up, with each shooter being given six tries. Paco slipped in front of all the rest with their 'fancy', newfangled DXs and out shot them all with his Colt SA. Skeeter always says the Colt is one of the best for aerial targets and Paco proved him right.

It took two days for all of the events. There were a lot of good shots made, a whole lot of misses, but we all had a great time and all got to know each other just a little bit better. As we all gathered together for the final evening, we presented our host a special gift of appreciation. Earlier we had Charles make up a pair of real ivory grips for one of Robert's favorite .45's, and the Paco engraved one side with the initials R.S. and the other side with the Heart Bar Brand. Robert, for the first time since I've known him was speechless. It was sad to say good-bye the next morning and head back home, with each of us making a pact to be back next year. Many friendly "I'll get you next year" were heard as sixgunners hesitatingly said good-byes. We all felt we had started something special and looked forward eagerly to THE SECOND ANNUAL SHOOTISTS' HOLIDAY.

The foregoing event was fictionalized, but not for long. I did send invitations out, and I did get the responses recorded here. The response was so great that we will gather together next June, with most of the shooters already committed to attending. At that time we will get organized, and begin to open the event up to other sixgunners. I'll keep you posted.


The Results

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The First Annual Shootists Holiday
June 1986




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