“The Fastest Gun Who Ever Lived”
Bob Munden 1942-2012.
The challenge seems simple enough, requiring only we see his hand move. He stands with his gun hand poised slightly above the smooth 1-piece grips of his holstered .45 Colt Single Action. His gloved hand is ready to slap the hammer back as the .45 is drawn, that is to say fan the hammer of a heavily modified Colt.
Having accepted the challenge, we seem almost as tense. Then it happens. We hear it. But we don’t see it. All we see is the muzzle flash as the gun is fired. We never even saw his hand move. Once again, “The Fastest Gun Who Ever Lived” has proven the hand is definitely quicker than the eye. Why didn’t we see the draw? It takes 15/100 of a second to blink and Bob Munden has just drawn and fired a 4.75-inch-barreled gunfighter’s favorite sixgun, a Colt Single Action .45 in even less time.
Now he readies to shoot not one, but two shots and all we have to do is count them. He is going to hit two balloons placed 6 feet apart. This will be easy for us. We certainly can count two shots. We see there are really two rounds in the Colt Single Action and we are ready. We will not be fooled. The hand blurs, the gun fires once and two balloons break. “But, you only fired one shot!” He opens the loading gate, rotates the cylinder and there we see not one, but two fired primers—two shots have been fired. It happened so fast it was possible for our human mind to detect separate shots. Only by looking at a slowed down videotape is it possible to see the hammer fanned first by the thumb and then the little finger of the left hand. “The Fastest Gun Who Ever Lived” has done it again.
It really doesn’t make any difference how many shots are selected. It is impossible to count them. For the skeptics still left among us, he loads the Colt with 6 rounds. As the .45 comes out of the holster it is thumb cocked in the leather for the first shot, fired by the trigger, which is then held back as the thumb and little finger slap the hammer for shots two and three, then the Colt is thumb cocked again for shot number four, and the thumb and little finger then fan the last two shots. It all happened so fast no one is willing to swear there were indeed 6 shots fired until the loading gate is opened and 6 empties are removed.
Bob Munden spent most of his life as a hired gun, an exhibition shooter, entertainer and showman. He earned his living putting on fast draw demonstrations for several decades and our paths first crossed in 1969 as he and his wife Becky did a non-politically-correct shooting demonstration at our local junior high school. All of the above mentioned fast draw demonstrations were done with blanks. However, in the proper safe setting he performed the same feats with live ammunition but always with the warning this is for experts only. Fast drawing a Colt Single Action, or any replica thereof, with live ammunition is extremely dangerous. A slip of a hand or fingers and the gun fires in the holster and a .45 caliber bullet down the leg is a very serious matter.
Bob had unbelievable reaction time. Normal reaction, and he was certainly far from normal, is about 4/10 of a second. Bob could react, draw his .45 and fire in less than half this time. He was not only the master of fast draw but also fanning the sixgun, hip shooting, or as he called it, “instinctive shooting.” Munden was much more than “The Fastest Gun Who Ever Lived.”
In addition to fast draw using live ammunition, Munden also performed such feats as splitting a playing card lengthwise with a bullet—first as the card is placed in a holder and then as a card is thrown and hit in the air. Bob was also a master of aerial shooting and thrown silver dollars, 50¢ pieces, even dimes were not safe from Munden’s bullets.
Taffin fanning the Munden-ized .45 drawn from the Munden
Speed Rig—just not even close to Bob’s speed!
Munden built this special fast draw .45 Colt for Taffin.
Shooting upside down, sideways and with mirrors were all part of Bob’s exhibition. For many years Bob appeared on Impossible Shots doing the truly impossible. Such things as lighting matches, hitting an aspirin tablet sitting on top of a golf tee, opening a safety pin, opening a lock, splitting coins by hitting them on the side and shooting erasers off pencils were just some of the impossible shots performed.
All of these things were performed with his favorite .45 Colt Single Actions, however he also used double-action sixguns and the .45 ACP 1911 to do many of the same impossible shots. And he didn’t stop with handguns also doing difficult shots with a levergun and shotgun.
In addition to his shooting of very small targets he also had mastered long-range shooting. He used both his Freedom Arms .454 and Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum shooting out to 600 yards, however he also used handguns most people would think are simply for close range only. This included a Freedom Arms .22 Mini-Gun to break balloons at 100 yards and a 2-inch .38 Special S&W Model 60 to break balloons at an incredible 200 yards. As he said: “That is why we call it ‘Impossible Shots’!” I have not only experienced Bob shooting firsthand, I even shot with him on his shooting area outside of Butte, Montana. It should not surprise anyone to learn I had finished second, a very distant second, behind him.
In addition to being a master of all forms of shooting, Bob was also a sixgunsmith. “Believe me John, you will never be satisfied with any other single action sixgun once I have worked one over for you.” So off to Butte, Mont., went two of my single actions along with an S&W double action just for good measure. The first single action was a 5.5-inch 3rd Generation Colt .44 Special I had purchased used. Munden not only totally reworked the action, he also re-blued everything except the case-colored frame.
For one who appreciates fine single actions as much as I do—and that is what Munden read into my articles and why he contacted me—the Munden-ized .44 Special literally took my breath away the first time I cocked the hammer. It was so incredibly smooth one would think there were no springs in it at all, but it is, in actuality, a fully functioning sixgun capable of fast draw, plinking, defensive shooting, point-shooting practice or hunting. There is no way to adequately describe the way the action of this gun feels. That was 20+ years ago and this .44 Special is still in service.
The second single action was a Colt .45 of sorts with Colt parts used on a frame from the now defunct US Frame Service. Munden turned this into a true speed gun with a special fast draw/fanning hammer. This sixgun was matched up with one of Bob’s fast draw rigs. The double-action sixgun was a .44 Magnum Elmer Keith Commemorative, which he totally tuned and smoothed, slimmed and rounded the trigger and also shaped the hammer the way Keith preferred it to be. Both of these sixguns are also still in service.
Bob and I have visited each other’s homes and when I traveled up to Butte, I took along three Colt Single Actions, a matched pair of ivory-gripped 7.5-inch .45’s and a 12-inch Buntline Special. On the way to his place, Diamond Dot and I stopped in Jackson Hole and I picked up a 7.5-inch Colt New Frontier .44 Special. I am normally an early riser, however when I woke up the first morning at his place I could not find him in the house. He was already in the shop working on my Colts. Bob had a saying when he worked on a single action, which was, “You will believe in magic.” He also suggested letting someone who had never experienced one of his total action jobs to be allowed to cock the hammer and work the action and watch the expression on their faces. It worked every time.
“The Fastest Gun Who Ever Lived” was Bob Munden, 1942-2012.
When Bob and his wife Becky were in town they stayed at our place and each evening would work on one of my sixguns as I invited a couple friends in and we all talked shooting single actions. While he was here a new Colt Single Action .45 arrived and we also went through some of the Colts in my safe. As Bob handled my sixguns he said: “John, I just have to work on this Colt. I cannot leave town with it in this condition.”
In addition to being a top shooter and gunsmith, Bob was also a dedicated family man. Bob and Becky married in 1964 and they did everything together. Becky not only traveled with him, she was also a top shooter in her own right and also took part in his shooting expeditions. From the very early years their young daughters traveled with them in a station wagon. Bob was awaiting a kidney transplant when his heart gave out in December of 2012. “The Fastest Gun Who Ever Lived” had been called Home.
Just before his passing a final DVD entitled Outrageous Shooting was put together. This 2-hour presentation features some early fast draw home movies, as well as later fast draw shooting, accuracy shooting at small targets such as he performed on Impossible Shots, and long-range shooting. It can be found at Stoney Wolf Productions.
By John Taffin
Bob Munden DVD
Stoney Wolf Productions
130 Columbia Court West
Chaska, MN 55318