Chuck and Anita Burnham of Crawford, along with their children and grandchildren, are Delta County’s “First Family of Fast Draw.”
Chuck and Anita and their family compete in Ol’ West style fast draw events that are held around the state and region, sanctioned by the World Fast Draw Association (WFDA).
The Burnham family’s love for the lightning quick action of fast draw competition and for the camaraderie of fellow shooters from across the U.S. has spun off a family fast draw business enterprise.
And, one of Chuck and Anita’s daughters, Cheryl Short, a resident of Orchard City, recently won the 2010 world champion in the sport.
Cheryl’s brother, Del Burnham of Lochbuie, who is Chuck and Anita’s oldest son, has founded a niche business enterprise in the family’s fast draw affection. His business, Widowmaker, manufactures custom holsters for the sport.
The holsters are true works of art, made from exotic hides like shark skin and sting ray imported from southeast Asia. One of the fast draw masterpieces can easily fetch $500 from a proud owner.
Cheryl won the 2010 WFDA world championship by scoring high in a series of sanctioned events over the past year. She was challenged hard all season by another, very good Canadian shooter in the top-ranked AA womens’ division. But Cheryl began to pull ahead in the points standing for good by taking first place in a sanctioned event held in Durango last summer.
And, ultimate victory for Cheryl was sweet. She entered the final points event of the year, a competition held at Delta’s Confluence Park in September, with an almost insurmountable lead in the standings. In fact, Cheryl had accumulated such an unbeatable points tally leading to the September Delta Shoot that her Canadian rival didn’t bother to attend.
To have lost the championship title at the home town shoot, Cheryl said, “I would have had to finish last. I’d have gone home feeling really bad if that happened.” Actually, the chances of Cheryl finishing last were just about zero, and she won the local event along with the world title right here at home in Delta County.
At the Delta finalé, eight Burnham family members, including Chuck and Anita, went head to head with 20 other competitive shooters. They came from Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, California and Arizona.
Contestants included a Wyoming county sheriff and a California chief of police. They compete for prize money, and of course bragging rights. Del Burnham awarded custom holsters valued at $500 each to the men’s and women’s champions at Delta.
Chuck and Anita were joined in competition at the Delta shoot by daughter Cheryl, daughter Terri Thase of Hotchkiss, son Del Burnham and his wife Debbie and by grandson Tristen Burnham and Brooke Acker
Parings of various shoot-outs during the two days of competition frequently featured sister competing with sister, father competing with son, mother competing with daughter or daughter-in-law, and granddad competing with grandson on the firing line, each one trying to out-draw the other.
There’s sure to be plenty of lively conversation when the Burnham family gathers around the Thanksgiving dinner table this year.
Cheryl says that she was first attracted to the sport out of admiration for her dad.
Chuck explains that he and Anita first got into competitive fast draw in 1964. But when they found that raising their six children was a full time-plus job, they dropped out for a time.
Then, about 15 years ago, some of the kids began to get interested in the activity and it has become a virtual family franchise ever since.
The equipment that fast draw competitors use is every bit as refined and specialized as the blazing fast, thousands-of-a-second action would suggest.
The guns that fast draw competitors use are standard single-action six shooters. For example, Cheryl’s is a popular Ruger .357 magnum that has an enlarged bore to handle .45 caliber cartridges. The .357 frame is smaller and lighter than a .45 would be, and sometimes the steel barrel is replaced with an aluminum one. The larger cartridges allow larger prime charges to be loaded in the shells, which decreases the time it takes for the harmless wax bullets to reach the target and register a time.
Cheryl regularly logs times in the .032- to .034-second range.
Another modification routinely performed on fast draw guns is turning the hammer spur upwards, making it easier to “fan” the hammer. The hammer modification is not performed if the shooter uses the “thumbing” method to cock the hammer on the single-action gun.
The shooters at the Delta event were shooting wax waddings, which scored by hitting a torso-sized metal placard at a distance of eight feet. Times were recorded electronically at the scorer’s table, and some of the fastest men scored regularly in the sub-.030 second range – that’s less than 30 one-thousandth of a second to draw, shoot and hit the target.
There is no aiming involved. The sport is one of developing lightning quick reflexes to draw the gun and fire a shot. The competitors also use specially designed holsters to help increase the speed of getting a shot off even just one-thousandth of a second quicker than the competition.
The WFDA bills its competitions as the fastest timed competitive events in the world.
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