Fastest gunslingers in three states gather in Craig

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If you blink you'll miss the whole thing.

That's because the art of quick draw takes only one-half a second to be initiated, and draw to a close.

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Judy Lawton of Sioux Falls S.D. draws her six shooter and fires away during Sunday's quick draw competition

"It takes around three to four seconds to take your foot off the gas, and put it on the break when you see a traffic light turn red," said Tom Wentz, one of the co-coordinator of the Grand Olde West Days quick draw contest.

The professional section of the fastest shooting sport in the world, quick draw, was Saturday and Sunday. The pros tried to give the event more of an amateur feel, only holding one World Fast Draw Association sanctioned event, a men's and women's elimination shoot.

Terry Evans of Hotchkiss Colo., took top honors in the women's section of the elimination, while Brad Hemnah of Deadwood S.D., placed first in the men's.

In all, the group of pistoleers competed in three events other than the elimination shoot. They shot in a horse event, card table, and a 10-, 12-, and 15- foot quick draw. Awards were only handed out for the elimination and distance shoots.

Participants walked away with a trophy and a bag of gold dollars for being part of the shoot.

In the horse event, a competitor is timed on how long took to mount a horse, shoot four targets and then shoot the pressure plate to stop the clock.

The card table section of the competition placed the shooter at a table, with cards in hand and gun on the table in front. When the start light goes off, the shooter is timed on how long it takes to drop the cards and shoot two targets.

The 10-, 12- and 15-foot quick draws are exactly what they sound like, speed shooting events from different distances. Each competitor gets five shots at the target and the times are averaged.

"It's all about who can draw the fastest, and shoot the straightest," Wentz said. "Whoever can keep their concentration in that five-second time period, without tensing up will win."

In the men's section of the distance events, Hamnah took first in the 10-foot shoot,Chuck Burnhan of Crawford, Colo., placed first in the 12-foot shoot, and Wentz took it in the 15.

In the women's section, the times of the three shoots were averaged for total score. Evans walked away with first place, out-shooting both men and women in the 12-foot section, drawing a .3374-second average from her five shots.

Quick draw is timed with an electric target, which has a light in the center to cue the shooter. The light cues the shooter after two seconds, but not after five seconds, leaving a three-second window for it to go off.

The clock times the shooter to a thousandth of a second, making the margin of error minute.

Along with special timing equipment, the shooters also sling custom guns.

The guns are all .45-caliber, mainly Colt and Rugers, but all are a fraction of the original gun weight. Most are made of an aluminum-steel composite, which allow for a featherweights gun and a quick draw.

The quick draw events of Grand Olde West days lured shooter in from Colorado, Utah and South Dakota. Four local pistoleers also competed. Jason Correin, Howdy Davis, Larry Bendict and Chris Mercer participated.

Most quick-draw participants make up their own practice schedule, hitting the shooting range when it's most convenient to them.

"I only strapped my holster on a week before this shoot," Mercer said. "Before that, I probably hadn't shot for at least nine months."

The lack of practice didn't hinder Mercer, who placed second in the elimination.

Mercer was not the only local to receive an award at Saturday's shoot. Davis was awarded the Two Gun Smitty Sportsmanship award. The award, named after quick-draw legend Harlen Smith, was given to Davis because of the generosity and helpfulness he has shown to those entering the sport.

"I can't think of anyone more deserving of an sportsmanship award than Howdy," Wentz said. "He'll help anyone, not only get into shooting, but with anything. You don't meet someone like him but once in your life."

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