December 26, 2012

Wild Bunch Holster Brings Practical Shooting Full Circle

The sport of Practical Shooting is basically a make believe game of good guys versus bad guys.

Each individual contest within a match, whether you call it a scenario or a course of fire, is based on engaging a set of targets that upon start signal “threaten” the shooter demanding that they engage the targets as rapidly as possible without missing.

Within this last sentence are terms that are used in a variety of different organizations that interpret the application of practical shooting from their own points of view. The United States Practical Shooting Association, (USPSA), and the International Practical Shooting Confederation, (IPSC), challenge their contestants with courses of fire that increasingly demand athleticism.

IDPA, the International Defensive Pistol Association, demands a written scenario or script that describes the bad guys and their bad intentions. The Single Action Shooting Society, or SASS, cowboy action shooting demands the participants dress the part and the targets often resemble outlaws. IPSC, on the other hand uses a headless target in an attempt to defer criticism from anti-gun groups.

There is plenty to argue about among practitioners who staunchly defend their organizations. The funny thing is that all of the above share a common link in terms of the sport’s origin. I’d bet that many seasoned competitors don’t realize how big a part Cowboy style quick draw or “leather slap” competition played in the history of organized Practical Shooting.

Before Col. Jeff Cooper and his looseknit association of tactical think-tankers developed a game of speed, power and accuracy, shooters paired off like drag racers to see who could draw from a holster and hit the target first. These were showdown games based on shootouts just like those found in the American Wild West. Or, at least that’s how early television would have it told.

The Single Action Shooting Society, (SASS), recently added the Wild Bunch division to include the 45 ACP 1911 Government model. The Springfield Armory Milspec 1911A1 is SASS legal right out of the box. Pack it in a Wild Bunch holster from Bob Mernickle and the shooter can compete in SASS, IDPA, and USPSA competition without making a single change.

Today’s practical shooting games range from a pure sporting event to recreating the old west or playing cops and robbers. But the divide is shrinking all the time. The USPSA, the American based arm of the international body, (IPSC), now presides over a Single Stack division that closely mirrors the rules of the IDPA Custom Defensive Pistol, (CDP) entries.

But, a recent development in SASS cowboy action has brought all three organizations even closer together. The organization was built on a three-gun format of lever-action rifle, slide action or double barrel shotgun, and single action six shooter. But, the format has now been expanded to include the single action Browning 1911 45.

The new Wild Bunch division designates a basic steel framed government model 1911. That’s a five-inch-long barrel. No extended magazine wells or fiber optic sights are allowed, but you can modify the gun internally. Holsters and magazine pouches must have a military or traditional appearance.

But, that doesn’t mean they can’t be fast or “practical.” This is where the SASS Wild Bunch meets the USPSA Single Stack Division and IDPA’s CDP.

Enter one Bob Mernickle and a leather holster of his own design. ( The Wild Bunch holster and rig were designed for a quick draw from a low slung position. It is pure old west gunfighter fit for old slab sides instead of a hog leg. But, take it off the cowboy style belt and put it on a modern gun belt and it specs out as a player for your IDPA or USPSA Single Stack Division rig.

The typical holster found at today’s Practical Shooting matches are made from kydex. To the layman that’s nothing more than a “nickname” for a modern plastic. These holsters vary in quality but surprisingly little in design. People like them because they are fast and inexpensive.

But for the shooter who grew up watching western dramas on early TV with gunslingers rigged with fancy leather holsters they have no aesthetic appeal whatsoever. And yet the holster is as much a symbol of practical shooting as the guns themselves. You might try explaining this to today’s young shooter with no such frame of reference by comparing it to playing little league with a plastic glove.

The Wild Bunch holster was designed to be fast as well as traditional in appearance. But, it is modern in construction. It attaches to the belt with a rigid contour channel through which the belt is threaded. Position is secured by brash fittings. The Wild Bunch holds the gun with shell-like precision.

The holster will not collapse and pull back on the gun allowing for a consistent fast draw. Matching pouches that hold only the bottom quarter of the magazines provide fast access without sacrificing security. Pouches hold two magazines each and can be strung consecutively on the belt for extra capacity.

Whether you enjoy competing as an athlete in IPSC, a SASS cowboy, or an IDPA tactician, the versatility of the Mernickle Wild Bunch holster can serve your needs. And if anyone asks about your rig, you can tell them about the good old days of slapping leather when a quick draw was the only game in town.