Metaphysics of Quality in Guns: Unexpected wonder in Cowboy Fast Draw Association products

With me it’s always about quality—as in the Metaphysics of Quality defined by the philosopher Robert Pirsig. As I get excited about something, like I often do when I take the time to write about things it is because whatever it is shows obvious signs of the Metaphysics of Quality. To me, that MOQ is very important. More important than most everything else, so when I see it, I get very excited and I gush about how wonderful it is. That is why I love architectural achievements like the Liberty Center shopping complex near my home—because it has obvious elements of MOQ within its construction, vision and implementation. I enjoy fine restaurants for the same reason even if I might stand against the social placement of those economic devices—if I see that there is a positive MOQ involved I get excited about whatever it is. I see MOQ as being more important than legal concerns or personal rights because not all people are of a “high quality.” That can be a dangerous road to travel down, but my criteria for judgment is contained with the Metaphysics of Quality as defined by the fine book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s a very important concept to behold.

So I was rather stunned to open up the box from my new group, the Cowboy Fast Draw Association containing my membership information and my targeting equipment. I’ll have to admit, I know a lot of these cowboy types and over the years, most of them barely scrape by. As good of people as they are, they often don’t have much money and do live from paycheck to paycheck. Their idea of quality is usually something very tacky from a flea market. When I placed a very expensive order with the Cowboy Fast Draw Association, I’ll have to admit that I didn’t have very high expectations. I anticipated that what they’d send me I’d have to spend hours at Radio Shack trying to piece together additional parts. I had ordered a Cowboy Fast Draw shooting lane, which consists of a metal target, a light, sensor, a switch to start the timer and a clock that breaks down the time to thousands of a second. A lot of the equipment is fairly advanced stuff—so my expectations where that there would be issues with assembly.

The way the system works is that you buy a fast draw gun, for me it was a Vaquero, a speed draw custom holster, wax bullets for ammunition, special .45 Colt ammunition cases specially designed to hold a shotgun primer. Then you set all that up to the Fast Draw Target System.   A light comes on the target, you draw and shoot the metal plate and the time it takes to hit the target is recorded. There are a couple of different modes, there is competition mode and practice mode. Under practice the timer will randomly run through different start times so that the shooter can’t anticipate the light. That helps the shooter develop properly their reaction time to the start light. It is pretty sophisticated for a shooting range, but once built, makes shooting relatively cheap—about six cents per shot. The wax bullets are about $44 for a thousand and the primers can be obtained for a similar cost. Once it’s all set up, it’s easy to use and efficient.

Putting together the target assembly was simple; the wires were color coded, the sensors screwed to the target plate and the start light attached with a magnet behind the target that shines through a Plexiglas hole in the face. Within about 15 minutes I had the whole thing together—which surprised me greatly. I had budgeted about 3 hours for the effort, and it took a lot less time. Even more remarkable was that everything worked. That shouldn’t have shocked me, but it did. Even on all the little timers were label indicators for Cowboy Fast Draw very professionally done. If I didn’t know better I would have thought I bought the whole setup from Cabela’s for several thousand dollars. It was good enough to sell as a mass market item—not what I would have expected for an organization with not yet 5000 members.

That’s when it hit me that these people running the Cowboy Fast Draw Association were people functioning naturally from the MOQ philosophy by their very nature. I doubt it’s something they are consciously aware of, but they had taken the time to do all the little things very right—including the packaging of the equipment within the box they shipped it to me in. Everything was very carefully wrapped and complete—someone who really cared about the contents put the whole thing together. But even slicker was that somebody had figured out how to make all these things work together to make one of the best secrets of modern shooting possible. And they didn’t skimp on anything; all the components were good quality items built to stand the rigor of shooting at them with firearms.

That’s where I really started increasing my respect for the Cowboy Fast Draw Association. Part of what killed the Wild West Arts Club which I had been a part of for quite some time was that they over expensed themselves. They charged way too much money for items to cover areas of their operational costs that they had gone into the red on. The result is all that’s left of them is what consists of my little Annie Oakley group that meet each year in Greenville, Ohio during the last weekend of July. One of the reasons for me picking bullwhips to work with as opposed to firearms was because nobody had figured out how to make such a thing work in a neighborhood setting—a place that didn’t require 100 acres of land to go shooting—so there was no way to practice or get good. With this targeting system that the Cowboy Fast Draw Association had come up with, a typical gun range could be set up in a garage. The shotgun primers are not much louder than a cap gun and the bullets fly out about the same rate as a juiced up pellet gun. It really isn’t much harder than the projectiles used in paintball—which is perfect for practicing the western arts of fast draw and gun spinning. These guys had figured out a lot of very neat concepts and they weren’t trying to make a killing off it—they just want to expand the sport, so everything was very reasonably priced. It was priced for expansion—not grotesque profit. There is no way the Cowboy Fast Draw Association has large margins on their sales. Yet they still put all the effort into the job as if they were making millions of dollars. That was impressive.

It doesn’t happen very often. But when it does, I write about it. Cowboy Fast Draw is one of those associations that have their roots in the Metaphysics of Quality. Not only was the sport of Fast Draw something that is good for all American shooters, the association itself was filled with quality people who took the extra steps to exceed expectations. I find that same attention to detail with Brownells, they are always very conscious about what and how they ship items. For that matter gun companies in general are so pleasant to work with. They really put an emphasis on quality and customer service. Even down to an association like Cowboy Fast Draw, the emphasis on American ingenuity and quality is assumed as an afterthought. If I liked firearms a lot before I assembled my target lane from CFDA I really respected them after—because even a very specific field of endeavor such as fast draw brings out the best of what is left in America.

When people wonder what I expect from others it is best embodied by CFDA. I expected a group of people barely hanging on to throw some things in a box and toss it my way for the exchange of some easy money. What I received as a lot of love and care for firearms and tradition that was obvious by the way the box was taped up. The products were reasonably priced and still the people cared about what they were doing. America used to be filled with those types of people. Now it’s a rarity—so much so that I’m very happy when I meet people or organizations that possess a level of Metaphysics of Quality that are respectable. Especially when it is unexpected—if I pay $70 dollars for a steak dinner, I expect quality—if I’m buying wax bullets and fast draw targets, I expect the kind of service that you might find at a casino or flee market. And in the case of CFDA, I was extremely surprised to find a very quality organization equal to a fine steak dinner.

Rich “Cliffhanger” Hoffman


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