SI Vault
Douglas S. Looney
December 18, 1989
Which is faster: Bob Munden's hand of his mouth?
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December 18, 1989

Just Call This A Draw

Which is faster: Bob Munden's hand of his mouth?

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It was incongruous. There, sitting on an overturned 10-foot boat in the deepest wilds of Alaska, was Bob Munden, who swears he is the fastest man ever to draw a gun. Fast draw, he says, "is the only sport in the world that functions at under one second at all times." But at the that moment, fast counted for nothing and slow counted for everything. Munden was waiting for a bear. Waiting. The seconds slowly turned into minutes, the minutes turned glacially into hours, and the hours simply refused to pass. People who don't believe that time can stand still should come bear hunting in Alaska. Only a loon on the lake put an occasional sound into the silence. It doesn't get much slower—or quieter—than this.

Which made it the perfect counterpoint to the normal racket that surrounds Munden, created in part by the repeated high-speed crack of guns—especially his single-action Colt .45—but principally by his mouth.

At exhibitions in Wasilla, 30 miles from Anchorage, Munden's wife, Becky, had repeatedly introduced him as "holder of all world records in fast draw since 1960." Well, no. He holds no official world records. One man who does is world traditional fast-draw champ Bob Arganbright of Wood River, Ill. Says Arganbright, "There is no man alive as good or as fast as Bob Munden tells you he is. Anyway, at no time did he ever hold all the world records."

Says Munden, "Yes, I did."

Another doubter, Ernie Hill, 33, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., is in fact the world-record holder for fast draw, with a time of .208 of a second, squeezed off in 1982 in Fort Worth. He is apoplectic in his criticism of Munden: "None of his claims are true. He was never the world champ at anything."

The problem is exacerbated because fast-draw records are at best spotty. Dick Plum, chairman of the World Fast-Draw Association, in Tiston, Calif. says that Munden never held all the records—likely, not any of them—and certainly holds none now.

Still, Munden tells people that documentation for his fast-draw feats is in the Guinness Book of World Records. They are...if you can find the 1980 edition. And at that, Guinness hedges its bets on page 625: "Bob Munden, well-known claimant to the title of 'World's Fastest Gun'...." Guinness omits the entry in subsequent editions. Bill Jordan, a magazine writer on the sport, says of Munden, "He does recommend himself highly. But I am not impressed."

Munden, 47, who lives in Butte, Mont., was asked how many shows he did in the past year. "About 40," he says. When even Becky raised her eyebrows at that, Munden reduced the number to 36. In fact, he did 24 last year, 21 the year before. "Basically, I'm doing shows every weekend," he says. Basically, he's not. During a three-day appearance at Nye Frontier Ford in Wasilla, Munden boasted, "Nye sold more cars on Friday when I was there than they did in the previous four months." No. In fact, Nye sold 16 vehicles on that particular Friday; over the previous four months, general manager Rocky Spear says, Nye sold about 500 vehicles—but 16 still is about four times the daily average, and you will not hear Spear complaining. Munden claims to have won 3,500 fast-draw trophies, 2,200 of them first-prize awards; nobody in the sport believes that one, and Munden says he doesn't know where all those trophies are now. To his credit, however, Munden frequently says, "Bull makes the world go around."

But above all there is the suspicion surrounding The Shot that Munden says—trust the source—makes him the World's Fastest Gun. It occurred in Arcadia, Calif., at Huntington Ford on June 4, 1972. Right off the bat, that ought to be suspect: Who believes anything heard at a car dealership? Anyway, Munden says that he touched off The Shot in the walk-and-draw-level competition, in .15 of a second—"the fastest shot ever," he swears. Hill says flatly, "It never happened. Period." Hill says it takes .16 simply to react to the timer before any drawing, aiming and shooting. In Munden's home there's a trophy that commemorates The Shot. The engraving reads: ALL TIME WORLD RECORD INTERNATIONAL FAST GUN LEAGUE. Arganbright says, "The sport does not recognize the International Fast Gun League. It was organized by Bob [Munden], run by him, and he holds all the records. It is not kosher." So whom do you believe, Munden's report on what happened out amidst the Mustangs and Fairlanes or virtually everyone else in the sport?

So messed up is the sport that no one is sure exactly when—sometime in the early '60s—all its records were lost. Yes, lost. Just like car keys. And so the decision was made to start establishing world records all over again. It's Munden's assertion that he was holder of the lost records: "Just because we don't have written proof does not mean that they did not happen." However, no source is willing to verify Munden's claims. In the late '60s and early '70s, the records subsequently set after the loss were "retired" because of the switch from using mechanical timers, which recorded in hundredths of a second, to digital timers, which can time a draw in thousandths of a second. Times were substantially faster and far more erratic under the mechanical timing method—which is how The Shot was recorded.

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