Had he lived in the days of the Old West, Robert G. Bussinger believes he would have been an impressive gunslinger.
What's more, he contends that none of the so-called fast-draw cowboys in the movies would have stood much of a chance against him.
"The Colt Fire Arms Co. once sponsored a national fast-draw championship and a lot of TV and movie cowboy stars entered, including Clint Eastwood," said Bussinger, currently ranked by the World Fast Draw Assn. as the fourth fastest gun in the world. "They didn't stand a chance against us."
In fact, only a handful of the estimated 1,000 gunslingers today stands a chance against Bussinger, who has been a competitive fast-draw shooter for 21 years.
He also claims to be as fast now, at age 52, as he was at 25, believing that fast drawing is 99% mental. "We have some guys who are 70 years old and still shooting well," he said.
His wife, Jean Bussinger, has been ranked the top female gunslinger in the United States. She retired from competition 18 years ago.
"There are about four of us in the world who are top ranked and any of us can beat each other on any given day," said the El Toro carpet layer who is currently the California fast-draw champion.
Bussinger admits he can't understand his quickness with his Western, fast-draw single-action pistol, let alone explain it.
"Back when I started, I decided I would be one of the fastest shooters in the world," he said. "The ones that are the fastest are the ones that practice."
But sometimes that doesn't work.
"I missed winning World Championships to a guy in Phoenix by a 7,000th of a second." said Bussinger, a one-time rodeo competitor and former long-distance runner at Cerritos Community College. "One of these days I'll win it."
He and an estimated 50 other fast-draw artists will compete Sept. 29 in the Western States Fast Draw Elimination Championship in Hanford, Calif.
But it will not be gunslinger against gunslinger as shown in the movies. The competition pits the gunslingers against balloons.
Each competitor, usually wearing a Western shirt, cowboy boots and hat, shoots a blank at a four-inch balloon at a distance of eight feet. The shot is electronically timed.
Bussinger claims that ego drives the fast-draw artist.
"The most important thing going is to whip the pants off of everyone and beat each other badly," said the one-time member of the Restless Guns Club of Orange County.
Bussinger has a strong yearning for early Western life and if he had his druthers, he would live as a cowboy on a ranch.
"Those people had a hard road to go and had to be strong to survive," said the Army veteran, who admits he wasn't very good with a rifle. "I don't know what kind of a person I would have been. Maybe I would have been a bandit or maybe even a lawman like a Texas Ranger."
Whatever his choosing, "I could have lived then and got along very well."