THE SIXGUNS OF BOB MUNDEN
He stands with his gun hand poised slightly above the smooth one piece ivory grips of his holstered .45 Colt Single Action. His gloved left hand is ready to slap the hammer back as the .45 is drawn, that is to say fan the hammer of the heavily modified Colt. You, having accepted the challenge to see the draw as it is made, are almost as tense as he is. Then it happens. You don't see it. All you see is the muzzle flash as the gun is fired.
Why didn't you see the draw? Certainly your eye can move faster than the human hand! Not so. It takes fifteen one hundredth's of a second to blink and Bob Munden, the Fastest Man Who Ever Lived, has just drawn and fired a Colt Single Action .45 four and three-quarter inch barreled gunfighter's favorite sixgun in less than two one hundredths of a second, .0175 seconds to be exact. You no longer doubt that this truly is the fastest man who ever lived!
Now he readies to shoot not one but two shots and hit two balloons placed six feet apart. This time all you have to do is count two distinct shots. You see that there are indeed two rounds, and only two rounds, in the Colt Single Action and you are ready. You will not be fooled. The hand blurs, the gun fires once and two balloons break. "But he only fired once!" you protest. The loading gate is opened the cylinder is rotated and there you see, not one, but two fired primers and two shots have been fired. It happened so fast it was impossible for the human mind to detect two 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 of Bob Munden, the Fastest Man Who Ever Lived!
It doesn't make any difference how many shots are selected. It is impossible to count them. For the skeptics, the sixgun is loaded with six rounds. The Colt 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, the Colt is then thumb cocked again for shot number four and the thumb and little finger then fan the last two shots and it all happens so fast no one is willing to swear there were indeed six shots fired until the loading gate is opened and six empties are removed.
Bob Munden is a hired gun. He earns his living putting on fast draw demonstrations and has been doing it a long time as our paths first crossed in 1969 as he and his beautiful wife Becky did a non-politically correct shooting demonstration at our local junior high school. Munden is the winner of 3,500 plus trophies and 800 major championships. He is proud of the fact that he is the only one to ever win the Northern California, Southern California and Colorado State Championships all in the same year and he has done it seven times.
Lest you think Munden is simply a blank popper, meet him on yonder range and watch him perform many of the same demonstrations with live ammunition and others such as splitting a playing card lengthwise with a bullet first as the card is placed in a holder and then as the card is thrown and hit in the air and split. Thrown silver dollars, fifty cent pieces, even dimes are not safe from Munden's bullets. Shooting upside down, sideways, with mirrors are all part of Munden's repertoire. Let me interject here as Munden would also that fast draw with a single action should never ever be attempted with live ammunition. A slip of the hand or fingers and the gun fires in the holster and a .45 caliber bullet down the leg is a very serious matter. DON'T TRY IT! A more serious condition could be the one in which the front of the cocked sixgun catches on the front of the holster in a maximum speed draw and the gun is torn from the hand. Place the picture in your mind of a cocked single action spinning through the air landing who knows where and firing as it hits. DON'T TRY IT!
More importantly to me personally than his fast handlin' skills with a sixgun is Munden's single action 'smithing skills. And I must admit I was quite skeptical when he suggested that I send him a couple of single actions to be Munden-ized. "Believe me John, you will never be satisfied with any other single action sixgun once I have worked one over for you." Sure that's what every gunsmith thinks but how many can actually deliver?
So off to Butte Montana went a five and one-half inch barreled Third Generation Colt Single Action .44 Special and a four and three-quarter inch Colt Single Action .45 Colt. And just to be a little different I also sent along a double action of my favorite persuasion, a four-inch N-frame, in this particular case a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Elmer Keith Commemorative.
We agreed that Munden could change anything on the interior of the .44 Special but the outside was only to be re-blued with the frame left in the case-hardened state. The .44 Magnum was to have an action job and the hammer and trigger made to fit the human hand, at least this human hand, by slimming and smoothing the huge trigger and making it user-friendly, and also re-contouring the hammer so it was more of a small oval shape rather than a large square configuration.
When it came to the third sixgun submitted, Munden was given carte blanche to do with the .45 Colt as he saw fit with the only stipulation being that all sixguns were going to be used for live ammunition not just blanks. These were to be real everyday working sixguns.
All the arrangements were made and the guns shipped off just prior to the SHOT Show. Since good guns especially deserve fine leather, Munden put me in touch with Rick Gallagher of GALCO (2019 W. Quail Ave., Phoenix Arizona 85027) as they were in the process of putting the Bob Munden Speed Rig into production. Arrangements were made to send me one of the first rigs for the Colt Single Action .45.
While talking with Gallagher at the SHOT Show and looking over the Bob Munden Rig and admiring the excellent workmanship, design, and material, I spied a beautiful 1880's style belt and holster that also stirred my spirit. This was the Trail Boss, a semi-enclosed trigger guard Mexican loop style holster mated with a money belt with full cartridge loops. The money belt was made by folding over one piece of wide leather and sewing it along one edge and the ends. The holster was fully lined and all but the lining of the holster was finished in a beautiful dark mahogany color. Arrangements were made with Gallagher to make one of these for the .44 Special Colt Single Action.
The Bob Munden Signature Speed Rig is the Epitome of all fast draw holsters offered since Arvo Ojala and Andy Anderson first offered rigs back in the 1950's. The belt is fully lined with six cartridge loops on the off-side. The holster is double thickness leather with strategically placed metal inserts. The holster is fully metal lined and will not lose its shape and the back flap is also metal lined and bent to contour to the roundness of the hip. The front of the low cut holster is reinforced with extra leather to minimize wear from black powder blank poppin' right over the holster itself. Two leg tie-down straps are used so the holster is absolutely rigid and cannot move during a maximum speed draw.
My personal rig is a reddish oil tanned color and is set off to perfection by the hardware. No cheap shortcuts here. All of the buckles and keepers are especially cast by GALCO for the Munden Rig. Of special meaning to me is the fact that I had my Speed Rig personally autographed by both Bob and Becky Munden while they were in town doing Fast Draw shows. I've met a lot of great people in this business and I add Bob and Becky to that list.
Now to my personal sixguns worked over by Bob Munden. Remember Munden promised that I would never be satisfied with any other Colt Single Action again. Could he really deliver on this? I've been shooting Colt Single Actions since 1957 when I purchased an 1890's .38-40 four and three quarter-inch barreled Colt Model P. I was there when the Second Generation Colts began and had one of the first seven and one-half inch .45 Colts.
Fast Draw was a passion of mine in the 1950's and I spent most of my spare time practicing with a pair of seven and one-half inch Colt Single Action .45's. If Matt Dillon could do it with one long-barreled sixgun, I was determined to do it with two. I also remember how hard it was to keep those Colts operating as Fast Draw is death on a Colt Single Action. We are not talking quick defensive shooting here; we are talking the gut wrenching that maximum speed Fast Draw does to the innards of a Colt Single Action. My Fast Draw sixguns were always breaking hand and bolt springs. Munden has a Colt that he has worked over that has been in operation for two decades without a stoppage!
The first sixgun is the double action .44 Magnum that started life as a standard four-inch N-frame Smith & Wesson but with the Elmer Keith Commemorative embellishments. These consisted of special markings on the barrel of "ELMER KEITH COMMEMORATIVE .44 MAGNUM 1899-1984" and "SMITH & WESSON 44 MAGNUM" on the sides of the barrel, and "SIXGUNS", "HELL I WAS THERE", "SALMON IDAHO", and "FIRST OUTSTANDING HANDGUNNER" on the cylinder. The right side of the frame has portrait of Keith and his signature duplicated and the left side says "1 OF 2500". Altogether a quite attractive big bore double action sixgun but hampered by a action that cried for help and was never intended to be shot and the normal wide hammer and trigger that both Keith and I did not/do not like.
Munden performed a complete action job smoothing up everything and removing the hot spots. The hammer has been re-shaped to my specifications and the wide grooved trigger is now slim, smooth, and rounded with no sharp edges and a built-in trigger stop. The Elmer Keith Commemorative, designed as a sixgun to be put away and gazed upon once in awhile, is now a fully functional and exceptional defensive and packin' sixgun. Loaded with .44 Specials for defensive and point shooting and full house Keith loads for hunting and woods bumming, the Smith & Wesson/Keith/Munden sixgun is an instant classic.
A great sixgun deserves both great leather and great grips so this one now sports a replica of Keith's carved ivory grips by Bob Leskovec and a Milt Sparks basket weave pants belt and holster that was designed by Hank Sloan and improved by Elmer Keith and is available from Milt Sparks Holsters (605 East 44th #2, Boise Idaho 83714. Phone 208-377-5577).
SMITH & WESSON 4" .44 MAGNUM ELMER KEITH COMMEMORATIVE MODEL 29
|LOAD||MV/FPS||FIVE SHOTS/25 YDS|
|BLACK HILLS 240 LEAD SWC||752||2 1/4"|
|FEDERAL 200 LEAD SWC HP||828||1 1/4"|
|OKLAHOMA AMMUNITION 215 LEAD SWC||806||2 1/8"|
|WINCHESTER 246 LEAD RN||673||1 3/4"|
|BULL-X 240 SWC/7.5 GR. UNIQUE||869||1 7/8"|
|WINCHESTER 240 LEAD MEDIUM VELOCITY||886||1 7/8"|
|WINCHESTER 210 SILVERTIP||1278||1 3/4"|
|BULL-X 240 SWC/8.5 GR. UNIQUE||985||2 1/2"|
The first Colt Single Action back from Bob Munden was the five and one-half inch barreled .44 Special. This was a standard Third Generation Colt that I picked up out of the Firearms For Sale section of the classified section of the Idaho Statesman. I had already sent it to be fitted with mouth-watering, perfectly fitted stag grips by Charles Able Opening the package and unzipping the padded case with great anticipation, I was greeted by a Colt Single Action that was now a combination of perfectly worked stag grips, Colt case-hardened frame and a high bright blue, reminiscent of the old Colt Royal Blue, over the entire rest of this beautiful .44 sixgun including the sides of the hammer. I sent a standard Colt to Montana and got back a work of art. And that was only the beginning.
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 worked .44 Special literally took my breath away the first time I cocked the hammer. It was so smooooooth one would think there were no springs in it at all, but it is in actuality a fully functioning sixgun capable of popping blanks in Fast Draw exhibitions or firing live ammunition for plinking, defensive shooting, point shooting practice, or hunting.
There is no way to adequately describe the way the action of this gun feels. Everything works together with no rough spots. The Colt hand and bolt springs have been replaced by Munden designed coil springs. The mainspring is still flat but a specially designed mainspring to afford a much lighter hammer and still be fully functional with either blanks or live ammunition.
The real key to Munden's 'smithin' of the Colt Single Action is not the springs but his work with a file and a stone. Decades ago sixguns were assembled by the major factories by men with a lifetime of experience with a file and a stone. No more. Munden is a throwback and is a genius with his hands and these simple tools.
I do not intend to give away any secrets here but I will say this. The Colt cylinder notches and bolt start life as a rocky marriage to say the least. Munden mates them perfectly. The bolt is contoured to fit the notches perfectly and at exactly the precise moment. This requires a lot of filing and trying and filing and trying again. No assembly line here. The results are unbelievable. One final touch that Munden gives the bolt is an example of the genius of the man. I won't reveal it. You will have to see it yourself! Munden was right. I will never be satisfied with any other Colt Single Action again.
COLT SINGLE ACTION ARMY .44 SPECIAL X 5 1/2"
|BLACK HILLS 240 LEAD SWC||904||2"|
|FEDERAL 200 LEAD SWC HP||948||1 1/2"|
|WINCHESTER 246 LEAD RN||729||2 7/8"|
|BULL-X 240 SWC/7.5 GR. UNIQUE||908||2 1/2"|
The best has been saved for last. The .45 Colt sent to Munden was a parts gun made up of a USFS frame and Colt Single Action parts. The finish was a dull blue and it had already been fitted with ivory micarta grips by Charles Able. "Bob you have a free hand with this one" was the instructions I gave and when you turn an artist lose he normally produces a work of art. I did and he did.
The inside of the .45 Colt has been totally transformed as was the .44 Special Single Action. The action is the same soul stirring precision work and literally makes a grown man weep for joy. If I had this sixgun thirty years ago I could have been National Champion. Well, at least I can dream!
The outside is anything but stock. I feel fast just looking at it! Four major changes are readily apparent. The dull blue finish is now a bright nickel. The standard hammer is now a radically upswept `fanning' hammer as that is how the fastest times have been recorded in Fast Draw since 1961. A closer look reveals the changes in the trigger and trigger guard area. The right side of the front of the trigger guard has been relieved about halfway to allow a quicker access to the trigger in a maximum speed draw. The trigger itself has been doubled in width to allow quick access to it in the same maximum speed draw.
Mated with the Galco Munden Speed Rig the .45 Colt Single Action by Munden becomes the fastest possible combination for maximum speed Fast Draw. The fastest time I ever recorded without reaction time in Fast Draw was .07 of a second with a seven and one-half inch stock Colt Single Action .45 out of a standard Arvo Ojala rig before the days of the high riding, front slanted speed holsters. Again I dream of what I could have down with the Munden/Galco combination. It will have to remain a dream as my wrist and hand have been so pounded upon by full house loads from big bore sixguns over the years that they no longer function as a precise team and the wrist no longer responds to commands very quickly.
What I do intend to do with these sixguns, both the .45 Colt and the .44 Special is to use them with a lot of live ammunition and also with a lot of fannin' work. Many say it is impossible to hit anything by fanning. Ed McGivern proved them wrong over sixty years ago and he did not have sixguns anywhere near as good as these. Munden guarantees me that these sixguns as worked over by him will not break under the tremendous stress afforded by fanning and I intend to put them to the test.
COLT SINGLE ACTION ARMY .45 COLT X 4 3/4"
|LOAD||MV/FPS||FIVE SHOTS/25 YDS|
|CCI BLAZER 255 LEAD||667||2 1/2"|
|FEDERAL 225 LEAD||772||1 7/8"|
|OKLAHOMA AMMUNITION 250 RN||825||2 1/2"|
|WINCHESTER 255 LEAD||738||2 5/8"|
|BULL-X 255 SWC/7.5 GR. WW452AA||887||2 1/4"|
Shortly after receiving my sixguns back and both leather rigs from Galco, I received word from Bob that he and Becky would be in town for a weekend of Fast Draw. This was an excellent chance for us to get together and talk sixguns. We spent the evenings together and while I normally conk out by 10PM, I did not get a whole lot of sleep while the Mundens were here. The wives hit it off together and found they had many of the same interests including husbands that were totally nuts about Colt Single Actions.
As Bob looked over some of my Colt Single Actions he almost cried. Not from joy but because a 1957 .44 Special fitted with a wide King hammer was so far out of time. The cylinder notches were literally eaten by the bolt. "John I just have to work on this Colt. I cannot leave town with it in this condition." A couple of my shooting friends dropped in and we sat around the workbench and all talked as Bob performed his magic on that old Colt. The bolt and mainsprings were replaced, the bolt was shaped to fit a like new Second Generation cylinder that I had in my parts box, a new bushing was fitted and all of this with some very precise file strokes resulted in a perfectly timed .44 Special that has been transformed from its main duty as a collector's piece and wall hanger into a perfect packin' pistol.
Munden did not stop there. While he was in town I received a beautiful .45 Colt five and one-half inch nickel plated Colt Single Action from the Colt Custom Shop. "John are you going to keep this sixgun?" "Even if I have to plastic money it!" "Let's fix it!" And it was given the same treatment as the old .44 Special. A lot of talk around the work bench and a few hours of work and the rough-as-a-cob innards of the Colt Single Action were totally transformed. Colt needs this man to come back to Hartford and teach others how to do the same work and they will truly have a Custom Shop like never before. The next day both of these Colts were packed up and sent to Charles Able for fitting of stag grips. If they are going to work right they need to look right.
The last night in town Munden offered to work over an Old Model Three Screw Ruger Single Action. So out came my very first .44 Special Ruger conversion and Munden once again performed his magic replacing both the mainspring and bolt spring and generally smoothing up all the moving parts. The results as with the Colt Single Action is a perfectly functioning big bore sixgun.
Bob and Becky will be coming through town this week and we will be getting together for one evening. "Say Bob, I have this new .44-40 five and one-half inch barreled nickel plated Colt Single Action....." Munden said I would never ever again be satisfied with any Colt Single Action that had not been worked over by him. He was right. All Colt Single Actions, Great Western Single Actions, EMF Hartfords, and Cimarron Single Actions that I have now and in the future will be Mundenized.
To contact Bob Munden for either gunsmithing work or Fast Draw exhibitions call 1-406-494-2833 or he can be reached at Munden Enterprises, 1621 Sampson, Butte Montana 59701. He has a seventy minute tape available for $39.95 that is well worth the price as it is packed with both Fast Draw and live ammunition shooting.
In addition to his gunsmithing Munden is offering a special Munden Limited Edition sixgun built on a Colt or replica. This offering consists of a wooden Wells Fargo type chest with `gold' nuggets in the top and when the top shelf is removed one finds a nickel and fire-blued fully customized Munden Single Action. Contact him for details.