So You’ve Played Red Dead Redemption 2 and Loved it: Be a gunslinger in real life, join the Cowboy Fast Draw Association

As much as I talk about other things, I am not completely lost like a lot of people my age might otherwise be on the magical world of video games and their relatively new impact on global entertainment. But let me just say to my usual readers, its big business. I finally finished the story mode of Red Dead Redemption 2 after around 100 hours of game play, taking my time when I could and I have to say that I was absolutely amazed by the result. The game is such an astonishing technical achievement and it is by far the best thing that could have ever happened to the entertainment format of the American Western. As a story and experience it really is like taking a real-life cowboy experience like the movie City Slickers and placing them into a 1960s spaghetti western with all the high drama of something like Game of Thrones. It is big, bold and beautiful in so many ways. And I knew that as I completed the game and all the epilogue missions that there was going to be a Red Dead online coming at the end of November. I planned to revisit the game at that time but wasn’t expecting much. But let me say that I have been pleasantly surprised. It looks like as massive as Red Dead Redemption 2 is as a game with sales well over a billion dollars already and something like 20 million copies sold before the Holiday season, that the purposed of the online play is to use the game as a kind of training experience for the online world that they have created. It is just vast and ultimately never-ending in what it allows players to do and interact with one another.

I couldn’t help but think as I was playing missions with other people the other day, most of them much younger than I am, that this game is really their only experience with a real American western and for many they are very touched by it. The game itself is a very moral story about good and bad and the many quandaries of the critical decisions that went into exploding life across the American frontier. But at its core it’s about gunfighting and is clearly one of the best arguments for the real-life problems of the Second Amendment. A lot of young people may not be paying attention to the real political problems going on in the outside world, but they sure care a lot about earning enough money in the game to purchase upgrades for their guns and dress in the coolest gunfighting outfits. But I couldn’t help notice that many of them probably didn’t know that they could do all the things they are doing in Read Dead Redemption in real life with Cowboy Fast Draw as seen at the following link:

Belonging to the Cowboy Fast Draw Association is one of the groups I am most proud to affiliate with, they are really a good group of people who meet all over the United States to compete in real life fast draw competitions using real guns. It’s what I think of as one of the coolest sports in the world right now as other countries are trying to participate but have too strict of gun laws to actually do it. But in the good ol’ United States it is much easier to participate in. Yet I have noticed that most of the members are well over 40, largely because guns and holster rigs are expensive so it takes a little upfront investment to get involved. But once you do, it is infinitely rewarding. I enjoyed the original Red Dead Redemption enormously and getting my own fast draw rig was always something I had planned to do. But raising a family every last dollar that I made went into family needs, a car was always breaking down, a kid always needed a school fee or band instrument. Someone needed braces of a family member across the country wanted us to visit them, so there was always something for like twenty years that kept me from getting my own fast draw gun rig.

I ran across a substantial amount of money for a big job I had been working on so I treated myself to my gun rig and have been practicing at Cowboy Fast Draw for several years now, and am getting pretty good at it. After probably 30,000 to 35,000 shots at a fast draw target, I am starting to feel good about my speed and accuracy. It did take a while. It was something that had been on my mind well before I ever played the first Red Dead going way back into my twenties when I was going through a really tough time. Westerns and western music really kept the zest for life alive in me. On their most basic foundations westerns are about the meaning of life so they always had great appeal to me so when I grew up I wanted to be as much of a gunfighter as society could endure. Ironically, I had acquired my gun rig and some advanced fast draw skill before Red Dead Redemption 2 came out which had even more meaning for me because of the new hobby I had.

Traveling around the online world it has become very obvious that many young people are deeply touched by Red Dead Redemption 2 and likely would like to have a similar experience as I have. So let me put this little invite out there. If you are unsure of how to get involved in Cowboy Fast Draw because you are enjoying playing Red Dead Redemption but would like to take everything up a notch, don’t hesitate to ask me. I can help you get started on something that would be infinitely rewarding. While my regular audience here is much older than the people playing Red Dead Redemption 2 I would personally love to see more young people getting involved in Cowboy Fast Draw. It really isn’t any different from what you do in the game, but that it never ends. While the content of Red Dead Redemption does eventually run out, the challenges in real life never do.

In the Cowboy Fast Draw Association, you get to dress up as a gunslinger for real, and have a reason to do it. You have a reason to buy fancy guns for real and learn to take care of them. And the scoring format is safe and fun. Its one of the most satisfying things I’ve done in my life and I would recommend it to anybody. I had been thinking that membership in the cowboy sports may just flicker away because new generations just do not have many positive western entertainment venues that are cool enough to hold their attention, that is until Red Dead Redemption 2 came along and inspired millions of people to live in that world quite authentically. And for those who just want to climb into the world of Red Dead Redemption for real and live it in real life I’d point you to the Cowboy Fast Draw Association at the link shown here. If you have any questions, just ask. I’d love to help as many new people get involved in the sport as possible. While I personally love the world of Red Dead Redemption, it is no match for having a real fast draw rig on your hip which is an experience I have every day. And wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Rich Hoffman

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Shooting Out a Candle with a .45 Single Action: The craft of making ammunition from your home work bench

Most of my recreation activities, much like the nature of this blog site are for my own personal interests. And occasionally I put up a video, largely so I can watch it and work things out. I’m not really thinking of a greater audience that might see it, but I share things in case anybody might be interested. If I put a little more effort into the popularity of things it would indicate that I cared what people thought about what I was doing which I don’t. But as many have been telling me, it wouldn’t take much to polish things up to a mass audience and that might be something I do in the future. But for now I am having fun with a relatively new hobby of mine, Cowboy Fast Draw. Over the last several years I have been working on a very intense project that has a lot of moving pieces and international value so to balance out the stress of it I have turned to single action shooting with a little private range in my garage that is kind of rustic and disorderly—which counters all the order that is required in the task I mentioned. That makes this little range of mine a very valuable element to my life that has provided great joy. And to that effect I have learned a lot more about shooting and ballistics than I ever would have if I had not joined the Cowboy Fast Draw Association. With them I have learned so many neat little tricks about shooting ammunition other than lead bullets. And it has been in these adventures that I have experimented a great deal and learned to shoot out a candle with a single action .45. One of these little experiments can be seen in the video below.


On the Cowboy Fast Draw shooting at that little range I practice at ranges from 10’ to 21’ and since I have a history with working bullwhips in a competitive way and putting out candles with the accuracy required it has been on my mind to try to do such a stunt with a gun. But to do that I had to learn to play around with ammunition to make such a thing viable. And this is what a good hobby can do for anybody. I just can’t emphasize enough what a blessing all this has been in my life. I have always enjoyed many things. I have more hobbies than there is time in a day to do them all. But for me practicing this particular set of skills which is involved in Cowboy Fast Draw shooting it was just the right thing to settle my mind down for the vast challenges that are involved in business. I would say similar people in my position might manage the stress with golf, or something equivalent. But for me that wasn’t enough. I needed something that worked with me at a foundational level, and a unique aspect to shooting sports was just the thing.

Part of that journey has been in building my own reloads, which is really the first skill you have to learn in Cowboy Fast Draw. We use wax bullets in that sport so you have to learn to prep cases, load primers and bullets to participate in the sport. It’s all pretty easy once you learn the components, and it is a very satisfying thing to do at the end of a hard day of work to stand at a workbench and reload a bunch of Cowboy Fast Draw ammunition. But to do what I needed to do with the candle trick is to take that reloading to a different level and use actual large pistol primers seated in the casing instead of just inserting a large 209 shotgun primer in letting the tight tolerances hold everything in place. The reason is that with shooting the wax bullets in Cowboy Fast Draw the 209 primer does all the propelling of the bullet. It sounds like a loud cap gun but it moves the bullet along at over 600 ft per second which is significant. But with the bullet charge I used for the candle trick I had to properly install a primer with a modified flash hole to get everything to work.

So I went out and bought an ingenious little device called a Harvey Deprimer. That is a little tool that pushes out the primer of a .45 pistol casing. I already had the large Hornady hot tub cleaner so that I could clean up a bunch of .45 casings and then prepare them for reloading the way you would if you were reloading stock ammunition for the gun range. Only with this type of thing there is an extra step, you have to modify that flash hole from the primer pocket to the inside of the casing where the powder charge will be. I spent some time drilling out that flash hole with a 1/8 drill bit on around 50 casings then I went to Cabela’s and picked up a Lyman E-Zee hand primer tool which installed the large pistol primers into the primer recess and I loaded my special cases for shooting out candles with a .45 single action. Of course, it worked which you can see in the video.

However, the most beneficial part of the whole exercise was the process of doing the work, of going to Cabela’s and picking up all the things I needed then crafting up the ammunition for the task. On the day I did it was raining ever so softly outside, and I was at my bench doing the work of combining tight machining tolerances and gunpowder in ways that defined the essence of the Second Amendment in really wonderful ways. It was nice to make ammunition without the polish of a professional manufacturer, just like it is nice to build a fire as opposed to turning on an electric fireplace. It was nice to just apply the craft of a new skill to a task worth trying.

As I was doing all these things I couldn’t help but think of some Japanese people whom I know who are really into samurai culture. In Japan they do not run from their heritage the way we have been encouraged to in the United States. That valor for which the samurai represented to the Japanese people is alive in nearly everything they do and I couldn’t help but draw comparisons. Guns in America and in business are synonymous with quality and accuracy and while the power that comes from the gun is quite explosive, the ability to hit tight targets very fast is something I find special. And as far as hitting a tight target I can’t think of anything tighter or more sensitive than a candle.

So it turned out to be a pretty rewarding exercise that was worth sharing. We all do things in life that can be unique, and the more things that generate happiness, the better. For me this new aspect to a long-time interest that I’ve had in gunfighters and single action guns is just wonderful. I remember when that West Chester Cabela’s opened and I covered it here with great enthusiasm. I look for excuses to go there all the time, and this new hobby gives me a reason to go often. It wasn’t something I missed to realize that some of these very unique shooting supplies were things that Cabela’s carries on the shelf. A few years ago before these big outdoor supplier stores opened, this type of reloading was really obscure, and hard to get parts for. But not anymore. And no matter how bad the world may look on the outside, the process of going to Cabela’s and getting reloading equipment to make actual ammunition is a reminder that all is good with the world as long as people can do such things. It has certainly been one of the more satisfying things that I’ve done in a while—and with the results of this little test, I’ll be doing it a lot more often.

Rich Hoffman

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Annie Oakely Western Showcase 2018: Adjusting to the heat in the kitchen

As I do every year I look forward to the Annie Oakley Western Showcase in Greenville, Ohio which took place over this past weekend. Most of the footage from this Gery Deer segment on Living Dayton came from me, which gives context to what a cool event it is.

The event was moved back to the Darke County fairgrounds this year and was set up a bit differently than it had been in the past, which was an improvement over previous years. As my time is usually very short due to a very full schedule I usually show up for the bullwhip competitions at 1 PM on Saturday afternoon and stay for a few hours than get back to my regular life. But most of the performers there stay for the entire weekend and it’s always good to see everyone even if it’s just for a little while. Gery Deer puts on this event every year and he’s about as busy as I am much of the time, but these kinds of things are his business so he’s usually there through the entire weekend. Whenever I arrive in Greenville I can’t help but think of it as the gateway to the west as history remembers it, the Treaty of Greenville after the Battle of Fallen Timbers and the efforts of western expansion that took place immediately after. It’s big sky country in that part of the world and its one of the few times I can walk around and eat funnel cakes with bullwhips and guns strapped to my hip and nobody thinks anything of it.

I felt very fast this year in the competitions which was good. Professionally I had just come off a really tough week. I had been thinking that even the biggest high stakes poker games broadcast on television did not have the pressure I was under. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, I like it in the kitchen with the heat turned up. The more pressure, the better I do. But to manage all that professional stress I rely on the Annie Oakley Western Showcase every year to recalibrate myself. The Ohio Fast Draw Association had their shooting range set up right across from our Showcase area and I spent time with them as well which has been my new thing of late, shooting Cowboy Fast draw which I practice nearly every day. Because of that everything was faster for me and I felt it in the bullwhip competitions.

We mostly do the competitions for the crowd because it gives a good narrative to the greater show that Gery Deer puts on each year. We keep things pretty loose and fun. But for me it’s a step out of a very intense business and political world that I normally live in where I get to wear my cowboy hat and be around genuinely good people who do things for all the right reasons. That for me is very refreshing and that one event satisfies me for the entire upcoming year. If I could make a good career living life in the manner that we do during that western showcase, I would. However, for me the drawback is that it would require being on the road all the time and with the size of my family, that just wouldn’t work.

Gery and I always talk about ideas for the future and how to expand on our experience, but with both of us being so busy the next year usually comes faster than we can call each other to make arrangements, but all that freezes for just a few hours on the last Saturday of the month of July when Darke County celebrates the life of Annie Oakley’s birthday in her home town. As Gery reported to me, every hotel and motel room was booked for the weekend, and under the new location, there was a very large crowd attending to watch us have a little fun with our bullwhips. As I’ve said, I use those competitions every year as a kind of gauge for myself to manage stress. I practice a lot in private but its good to get out in front of people and to perform because the added pressure provides context to all the hours of practicing.

One of the reasons I joined up with the Cowboy Fast Draw Association is to have more of these kinds of weekends in the future. The more intense my private life gets professionally the more I seek these Annie Oakley type of events to balance out all that pressure. I always like to strip things away to the most essential ingredients and nothing does it quite as well as eating a funnel cake under a clear blue sky after sweating profusely performing in front of a crowd with a gun strapped to your hip. I solve more problems under those conditions than I could under any other circumstance. When everything is going well in my head it shows in my performance which is why I enjoy the event so much. Among my bullwhip friends they really can be broken down into two categories, performers and competitors. Performers do the same show over and over again making minor changes, and they travel all over the country making their money off that raw talent. I am of the competitor orientation, because that’s the life I live. There is always someone competitive and pushing, so the pressure to always be the best is a daily thing, and to apply that to a unique skill such as bullwhip work, gives me a chance to work through the process of refining basic skills that carry over into everything.

This past year I had practiced cowboy fast draw nearly every day and that had improved my reaction times with the bullwhips. When your body and intellect is working well, it feels good, especially when you get up over 50 like I am now. You tend to take those things for granted when you’re younger, but life has a way of chipping away at you, so knocking off all that buildup so that your body and mind is functioning efficiently and in an optimal fashion is very satisfying. In that way I think it would be good if everyone found something like that to do, where they pushed themselves to perform better and carried over the results into their private and business life. What’s encouraging to me is that even after all this time, I’ve been going to the Annie Oakley Western Showcase for the past 15 years, there is still room to get better, faster, and to learn new things. Learning the cowboy fast draw had improved everything for me, and it felt good. And that’s why we do those events, to push ourselves and spend time with people who are doing their best to live the best life possible within the framework of traditional western arts. I am proud to know knife throwers, bullwhip artists, and gunslingers as some of my closest confidants. That was the way it was in the early days of Ohio as a state which was the gateway to western expansion and it still is. Sure technology and modernization add layers of complication to the modern life of business, but if you strip it all way to the basic essentials, those elements are always present at the Annie Oakley Western Showcase and I always leave there feeling recharged for more heat in the hot kitchen.

Rich Hoffman

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