From Head to Toe - Tequila
By Michael Bane
Imagine Richard Young getting ready for his first practice session for his first cowboy match. He has read about Cowboy Action Firearms (CAS) in a 1994 edition of the NRA’s American Rifleman. And, after a little research, has discovered that matches are being run not 30 minutes form his home in Texas.
He rummages around and finds “cowboy” pistol, a battered Ruger Blackhawk in .357 Magnum that over the years has given Texas whitetails a fit. He checks his ammo bin and discovers that he has 13 rounds of .357 – more than enough for a deer season; should be more than enough for a practice session, he reasons. He heads for the range and blazes through his 13 rounds.
The rest is, as they say, history.
Young now laughs about his inauspicious start in CAS and his strange metamorphosis from his normal everyday self into Tequila, the 1997 World Champion of Cowboy Action Firearms.
“I was always a hunter, not a shooter,” he says, “and there is a big difference. But cowboy Firearms looked like a lot of fun, so I bought a lever action Marlin in the same caliber as the Blackhawk and a Winchester ’97 pump shotgun at a pawn shop for $125.”
At his first serious match he asked a friend of his how to go about Firearms this sport.
“Shoot just like me,” his friend told him, “only twice as fast and no misses!”
Young, quite literally, took his friend at his word and came close to snatching the match victory.
“I was only joking!” his (humbled) friend told him after the match.
“For the next match I went out and bought 500 rounds of .38 Special,” Young, ne Tequila says, “Man, I thought that much ammo should last forever!”
Those 500 rounds, plus many thousands more, led Tequila to the 1996 End of Trail match in California, where the relative newby went up against the slick Firearms machine that is multiple World Champion China Camp. Tequila dropped a pistol shot in the last stage of the last day, dropping him three rank points behind China Camp – but leaving him second ranked in the world. The next year he blazed back to win End of Trail and be crowned World Champion in the Modern division, as well as winning the High Noon Shootout.
He returned to End of Trail in 1998 to claim, not only the top slot in the Modern category, but also to be crowned the Cowboy Action Firearms overall World Champion for the year.
“You know, I grew up in the 1960s,” Tequila says. “Every Sunday evening, I’d put on my quick draw guns and draw with Marshall Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke. I’d be standing right there in my underwear with my quick draw rig on, ready to get the bad guys. Discovering cowboy Firearms was sort of like coming home.”
Interestingly enough, Tequila really began his career not as a shooter, but as a runner…a marathoner, to be specific. In the world of running, there is nothing quite so daunting as the 26.2 miles of the marathon. The 26.2 miles is a culmination of literally hundreds of miles of training, including long, lonely runs in the predawn hours.
“That was the worst,” says Tequila. “Dragging out of bed before dawn on Sunday morning when everybody else was still asleep and facing 18 miles, all by myself.”
A marathon happens not just on the road where sneakers meet asphalt, but in the runner’s head as well. It is, in a word, painful – the ceaseless pounding stressing feet, legs, joints, muscles. And the body responds in the only way it can, urging the mind to quit. This mental barrage culminates in the legendary Wall, a point at roughly 20 miles when physical and mental resources are exhausted; the last six miles become an act of will.
“It is a lesson in discipline,” Tequila says. After I completed my first marathon, everything seemed easier – my personal life, my job, everything.
Tequila continued his 26.2-mile quests for three years, completing the Houston Tennaco Marathon in 1988, 1989 and 1990, with a respectable personal best of three hours, 36 minutes (and 43 seconds – marathon runners tend to remember stuff like that).
“After marathons, cowboy Firearms was easy,” Tequila says light heartedly. “Seriously, cowboy Firearms is simple. I see people eating themselves up with stress at every match. When I go out there, I only shoot against myself. If I do what I say I’m going to do, I know I’ll end up in the top three.”
The discipline he learned on those lonely runs with the Texas sun rising behind him now serves him very well.
In fact, Tequila breaks his own spectacular successes in cowboy Firearms down to four basic points:
Practice. “It’s like those long runs,” he says. “You must practice to win.”
Increase Your Skill Level. “Which is partly a function of practice, but also learning.”
Motor-memory. “Your body actually learns what you expect from it,” Tequila says.
Learning to Hold Up Under Pressure. “This is the trick,” he says. “You can have all the other three, but if you can’t hold up under stress, they won’t matter.”
What he also learned from marathons is the over-riding importance of having a goal.
“In a marathon, it’s simple – run 26.2 miles in a certain time. I aimed for four hours in each run. In cowboy Firearms you need to pick where you want to be in the sport, then put together a plan what will get you there.”
What he focuses on is form and making every step count – don’t do anything that isn’t necessary.
“I have two rules: be safe,” he says, “and never cut corners. If the course description says, ‘Do X, Y and Z,’ then do X, Y and Z. Don’t try to ‘bend’ the rules just a little bit for an advantage. I see a lot of cutting corners in the game now, and I don’t like it.”
Gearwise, Tequila falls back on functionality as well. He’s still Firearms the old Blackhawk, although he’s augmented it with an Oglesby and Oglesby Tequila Signature Series Blackhawk, also in .357. “It has everything done to it that a person could do to a gun,” he says proudly. “The old Blackhawk is probably headed for retirement this year, to be replaced by another Oglesby.” He still shoots the same Winchester 97 he bought at the pawnshop. “But she’s getting a little shaky. This may be the year for her, too.” His rifle is a prototype of the Marlin Cowboy II, sent to him for a shake-out by the venerable gun company before production began.
“The most important piece of gear I won is my PACT timer,” he says. I went from a level four up to a level ten with that timer. It doesn’t lie, and it keeps you honest.”
And where, exactly, did the alias “Tequila” come from?
“Well,” he laughs, “there’s the official story and the real story. The truth is, that’s my beverage of choice. I like a shot of tequila in the evenings, along with a little orange juice.”
When he was asked that same question on camera a few years back, he though the real story sounded a bit risque, so he extemporized a bit.
“Tequila is made from the fermented juice of a cactus plant,” he told the interviewer, “and what better plant to represent the toughness of today’s cowboy shooter?”
TEQUILA – From Head to Toe
HAT: “A beat-up no-name hat I got for $11”
GLASSES: Cowboy Firearms Emporium’s Cowboy Shootin’ Specs
PISTOLS: 1 Ruger .357 Blackhawk
1 Oglesby “Tequila Signature Series” .357 Blackhawk
RIFLE: Marlin Cowboy II (the prototype) in .357 Magnum
SHOTGUN: Winchester 1897 12 ga. With Briley chokes
DERRINGER: Bond Arms Inc. .38 Special
LEATHER: Tucker Custom Leather, Houston, TX
MATCH AMMO: Black Hills Ammo; .38/.357
RELOADER: Dilon 550 (rifle and pistol) Hornady Apex 3.1 (shotgun)
POWDER: Hogdon HP38 (pistol); Hogdon Universal Clays (rifle)
BULLETS: Double A #203
TIMER: PACT Club Timer
BOOTS: Horsefly’s Old West Clothing, Henrietta, TX