Bob Munden's legacy as a fast draw artist lives on.
In the world of shooting sports, some people become legends. Such is the case with Bob Munden, who was later given the title of "The fastest gun who ever lived."
Munden died in 2012, but his legacy and legendary speed on the range as a fast draw specialist lives on.
Here is his story.
Who is Bob Munden?
If you've never heard of Munden before, he was probably one of the most famous quick-draw and exhibition shooters who has ever lived. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, his family moved to California when he was young so his father could receive treatments for horrific injuries sustained in World War II.
Munden's love of firearms was first fostered through a BB gun under the Christmas tree when he was six. He really enjoyed western movies and TV shows, which inspired an interest in practicing his draws with a toy cap gun and holster as a child. At age 11, he first competed in a fast-draw competition in California.
His interest in firearms and hunting continued into high school, and at one point he ended up competing and placing second in legendary marine Jeff Cooper's "Leatherslaps" competition in Big Bear Lake, California. This was in 1958.
He then got involved in fast draw competitions using blanks, and quickly began to dominate these contests.
Around this same time, Munden decided he didn't like the way his factory-built revolvers were handling. So, he learned gunsmithing and started making subtle modifications to the stock works of his guns to make them shoot faster and handle smoother.
He referred to the process as "Munden's Six-gun magic." It worked, and it didn't take long before he was setting world records and winning prize money.
The Six-Gun Show takes shape
It was while attending a fast draw tournament that he met and later married his wife Becky, also a fast draw competitor, in 1964. After the birth of their two daughters, the couple realized they could probably monetize Bob's shooting career and hit the road with a show they developed themselves.
These shows took them across the country as they demonstrated their fast shooting abilities and trick shooting talents either indoors (with blanks) or outdoors for crowds at fairs, car dealerships, high schools and amusement parks across the United States. The shows were known for not only showing off Munden's shooting skills, but also for educating the public on what the west was really like.
He noted many times that the dueling standoffs in the street in the movies were more fiction than fact.
They continued these performances, as well as an occasional TV appearance on shows like "Ripley's Believe it or Not!" well into the 80s and 90s. Most people came to know Munden when he started making regular appearances on the TV show "American Shooter." He also appeared on TV shows on the Outdoor Channel and History Channel.
Munden's appearances on this show and Shooting USA's Impossible Shots often showcased trick shots that are easy to find on the internet now. But many of these shots were new and quite innovative at the time. Shots like splitting playing cards or hitting an aspirin pill put him on the map. He also found a way to monetize his gunsmith skills, as many gun owners paid to have Munden fine-tune their handguns, and paid well.
As time went on, Munden became known not just for being an accomplished, fast shooter, but for also shooting with incredible accuracy.
What gun did Bob Munden use?
While the fastest gunslinger owned and used many different firearms in his outrageous shooting displays over the years, his signature piece was a Colt single-action revolver. His ammo of choice was .45 caliber.
This cowboy action-style gun is the one he used to set 18 world records and win countless competitions. He claimed to have won over 3,500 trophies over the course of his competitive shooting career.
He always compared his modifications of these Colts to upgrading a stock car for a serious competition. "It's like saying, 'Let's go down to the Ford Motor Company, buy a car and race it tomorrow. You'd tear it right up. It's not made for racing,'" Munden said, according to a quote on his website.
Munden's modifications to these firearms affected nearly every part. He often dropped the trigger weight down significantly. He would often replace the factory spring and re-cut parts of the cylinder and hammer to make them function smoother.
The Famous Bob Munden Quick Draw
Munden's draw was so fast that one almost couldn't make it out with the naked eye. He'd draw the firearm from the holster while simultaneously fanning the hammer back and firing the gun just as the front of the barrel cleared the holster.
If this style of shooting sounds dangerous, that's because it is. In fact, Munden often discouraged others from trying it.
In fact, quotes from Munden on his website note he sometimes got burned. Literally. The barrel was much closer to his body than most people would be comfortable shooting.
"I have scars from burns I got when I was shooting competition a lot and I wised up and bought some fire resistant material to put there," Munden once said. "An important way you achieve real speed when you shoot fast draw is to eliminate motion, and fire the gun right over the top of the holster, which I do. Unfortunately that means you have to fire the gun close at your side."
Munden said he believed fanning the hammer was the fastest way to shoot a revolver, but he was equally fast thumbing the hammer too. But when most people think of the Munden quick draw, they're likely thinking of his incredible fanning technique.
When you watch videos of it, his hands are moving so quick, you really have to slow them down before you can see the intricate motions he so seamlessly made. We must admit, the guy made it look easy!
Was Bob Munden really the fastest shooter?
You don't earn the nickname "The fastest man with a gun who ever lived" without being quick to the draw. There are plenty of other fast shooters out there. Jerry Miculek immediately comes to mind and he has often compared with Munden. But Munden's name keeps coming up again and again.
There is some controversy to his world records. They were officially counted by Guinness Book of World Records up until the publication removed gun records from the book. However, some people claim his records weren't documented well enough to be counted.
To be fair, Munden may have been a little ahead of his time. In the prime of his competition career, there weren't sophisticated digital timers and computer technology that could accurately record the ridiculous times today's competition shooters put up.
For instance, his Guinness World Record for standing reaction balloon event is recorded as .16 seconds. As in, sixteen hundredths of a second!
His record for five shots standing reaction balloons is 1.06 seconds. I don't think I could shoot one shot with my Glock 19 that fast if I tried!
Just the fact that most television shows had to break out the high-speed cameras to record Munden's feats should tell you all you really need to know. The guy was fast! One of his favorite tricks seems to be shooting two balloons in the fraction of a second. He shoots them so fast that the two shots sound like one.
Munden's speed was recorded a few times with modern technology before he died. In 2010, he appeared on the television show "Stan Lee's Superhumans" and did the two-balloon trick shot again for the cameras. They recorded his time as being under a tenth of a second. Pretty darn impressive considering he was 68 years old at the time!
After watching numerous videos of the man, we have to say, if Munden wasn't the fastest, he had to at least be near the top!
His legacy lives on
Munden died in 2012 after fighting a slew of health issues. But he still has a devoted fan following to this day who marvel at the speed he displayed. The good news is, with the internet, it's now easier than ever to find videos of his incredible feats.
Bob Munden's family and friends held a fitting memorial service to the man at the Butte Gun Club in Butte, Montana to honor his life by shooting one shot for every year of Munden's life. Becky Munden fired the first five and friends and family shot the rest.
The legacy of Munden's Six-Gun Magic also still lives. Before he died, Munden taught gunsmith Jeff Ault his style of gunsmithing. Now, Ault continues Munden's work and by all accounts, he does quite well at it.
In the wake of the news of his passing, many famous YouTube firearms personalities posted their own trick shot tributes to the legend.
Last year, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum in Cody, Wyoming added an extensive display on Munden featuring several firearms owned by Bob and Becky, as well as several other pieces spanning his professional and exhibition shooting career.
It's safe to say no one will forget Bob Munden and his incredible quick draw anytime soon!
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