Passersby in Tombstone are drawn to the streets to watch one drunken cowboy shoot another. The wounded cowboy stumbles to his death, and that’s that.
But at Big Iron Shooting Gallery, you can cowboy and cowgirl up as you aim a gun that looks like it came from the late 1800s and watch blood splatter.
Well, it’s not really blood. It’s a simulated round filled with paint. But once the trigger is pulled, BAM! The blank-faced target 12 feet away becomes decorated in whatever color of paint is inside the 6 mm bullet. The paint can be wiped away with a wet rag.
Nearly eight years ago, Randy Davis retired from Los Angeles Police Department and decided to open his own shooting gallery. Prior to opening his business, he searched the Internet and found that Tombstone, with nearly 400,000 tourists visiting every year, was the perfect place.
“I’ve always been into cowboy guns,” Davis said.
What’s unique about Big Iron Shooting Gallery is that you are shooting bullets that Davis designed and patented. The shootouts are conducted inside the building that once housed Bank of America.
“They’re not loud enough to hurt your ears. I built them that way,” Davis said. “Usually these types of rounds are restricted to military or law enforcement. It’s a cross between the old Hollywood 5 mm in one blank and the military sim rounds.”
The guns are partly Hollywood with some throwbacks to the Wild West period, Davis said.
“Externally, they’re the same size as an 1875 Colt piece. Internally, they’re modern guns and they’re more durable,” he said. “But for the tourists, they look just like the guns straight out of the movie ‘Tombstone.’”
Anyone using the gallery must first undergo a safety course. Three dollars gets you six rounds and there is no age requirement for shooters.
“We get an entire age range from 2 and 3 years old where the parents want them to shoot, all the way up to 70 and 80-year-olds,” Davis said.
He added, “We’re the only thing you can physically do in Tombstone, instead of watching someone else do it.’
Shooters fire from 12 feet away, the distance that gunfighters used when they called one another out in the street once upon a time ago.
“These guns are accurate by an inch. Like real bullets (these) don’t go in a straight line, they arch,” Davis said.
The bullets are refilled and reused and the gallery, where they also are licensed to sell live ammunition. Davis said the gallery’s “45 Colt ammo carries the Tombstone head stamp, instead of Winchester or Remington, and it’s the only place in the world you can buy it.”