The Fastest Gun in the West

Some insights into the fine art of triggernometry. 

There comes a moment in every low-rent western when the hero says to the brash young kid who is chafing to begin a career as a gunslinger, “Son, no mat­ter how fast you are, there’s always somebody faster.” Right now that some­body is Joe Bowman of Houston, Texas.

Joe’s interest in things western began back in the Thirties when he was just a lad. He started hanging out in a boot shop down the street from where he lived. He still makes his own boots, beautiful boots, too, of exotic leathers dyed bright colors and cut into dramatic swirling patterns. He also makes his own elaborately tooled and specially designed holsters, and modifies and decorates the Ruger .357 Magnums he uses in his shooting exhibitions. His craftsmanship has earned the praise of some of the finest gunsmiths in the land, and his favor­ite six-shooters are worth $600 each.

Joe is not only fast, but deadly ac­curate. Well, not too deadly—he often uses wax bullets when demonstrating his shooting skill. He’s never been in a real gunfight, either, and never hopes to be; World War II was enough, he says. Like the old gunslingers, he makes his living with his gun—but by performing at conventions and by giving shooting lessons, rather than on the streets of Dodge City. Part of his exhibition is splitting a bullet on a knife blade so that the two pieces put out candles on either side of the knife. He also does a wide variety of fancy spins and draws, throw­ing his two guns over his shoulder, catching them in mid-air, then tossing them casually so they spin and land in his holster, ready to be drawn. He taught himself to throw a gun and catch it behind his back, getting the idea from a group of high school twirlers he saw doing this maneuver. This merger of two long-standing

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