There's a lot of chatter on the back of the flatbed that serves as Munden's stage. In fact, a Munden show consists of a lot more yammering than shooting. Bob fires 12 to 15 rounds in a show. Becky shoots one. But the act gives the crowd something to titter about as well as to marvel at. There are a lot of old jokes: Becky says, "Bob likes to speed things up. I found that out on our first date"; Bob hoots at the idea of a cowboy jumping off a hotel balcony onto a horse, saying that if that horse moves, well, "any cowboy that has had that happen talks really funny and don't walk too good either." Even when things go awry, Munden has a patter to please the crowd. In the climax of the show, he draws, cocks, fires, then cocks and fires again—it all sounds like a single shot. At one show, he messed up but laughed it off: "I didn't tell you I was perfect. Just the best there is."
Life has been a hardscrabble existence for Munden. To hear him tell it, Job had a comparative walk in the park. To wit, he was born in Kansas City, Mo.; spent some 3½ years in Colorado Springs, where his father was hospitalized after being wounded by machine gun fire in World War II; then moved along to California. At age five, he got his first gun, a .22 rifle. He was hooked. By sixth grade, he was the California State Marbles Champion, winning, he says, 8,000 marbles. About the same time, he says, he won a kite-flying contest. For that, he got a nine month's supply of ice cream. When he was 11, he entered his first fast-draw tournament. "I didn't win," says Munden in a stunning confession.
Munden attended Mount San Antonio College, in Walnut, Calif., briefly, then wandered around, shooting at tournaments every weekend and picking up pocket money doing dry wall installation, welding, carpet laying, house framing, and machine-shop and gun-shop work. He married Becky in 1964, when he had nothing, which he parlayed into less.
In 1965, they moved to San Luis Obispo, Calif., where they spent $50 to rent a motel room for a month, $9 to fill the car's gas tank, and were left with nothing in this world but $3.75. "I had to feed my family, so I spent that money on a slingshot and marbles," he says. So armed, he killed quail and rabbits to feed his pregnant wife and baby daughter. The hardest thing was finding the marbles to use again, because he couldn't afford to buy any new ones. At least things couldn't get worse.
They did. He got a job in a tallow factory, which was indescribably awful, and then, moving to the other end of the spectrum, he worked with the SPCA. He later got a job as a janitor but was fired. Things couldn't get worse.
They did. The Mundens moved to a turkey ranch, where they lived in coops with the turkeys—and mice. Things couldn't get worse.
They did. They sold their meager possessions, including a guinea pig, for $500, and went to Las Vegas—"We figured that was where the money was"—where he worked as a security guard. Then to Big Bear Lake, Calif., where Munden was hired—and soon fired—as a cable-TV installer. Then on to Bishop, Calif. where he made $200 a week hauling trash. Things couldn't get worse.
And lo and behold, they didn't.
Munden learned about the National School Assemblies program, and he joined it, from 1969 to '71, doing fast-draw shows for gawking students for $300 a week. He soon discovered he could book himself at car dealerships for $500—and a career was born.
He estimates he has done hundreds of thousands of fast-draw shows. Along the way, as you no doubt suspect, there have been more setbacks, including an ill-fated Bob Munden Firearms Academy. But in 1978, after more disappointments in New Jersey, the Mundens decided to put everything they owned in a U-Haul and move to Montana. Friends advanced money to get them a house, and over the years, hard feelings have ensued over the repayment of the debt. But Bob still has his house.