In the early days I met a lot of people that put me on this career path, from my dad to Kenny Reece, Billie & Dick Green, Hal White, Roger Hodges, Jackie Ames, Bob & Roger Delong, Vic Bando, Fred Hoover, Pete Kuhn, Charlie Baker, Charlie Schnitzler Jerry Miller and Howard Montgomery. All of these people played a part in my development in this game. My early years in the game were mostly local shoots, shooting Federal paper 9's those early Crawford days we always a great time. There was the fella named Muleskinner, I believe he was out of West Virginia, he was as you'd say the bad guy. Looked the part at least, tobacco chewin' grizzly Addams fella. I remember him the most due to him always being the mark. Dad would intentionally shoot right next to him even if the rest of the line was open. It was my initiation into intimidation factor where the overall appearance of equipment can without firing a shot rattle the opponent. This was one of the lessons I'd utilize to my benefit over a decade later. Over that first year I'd attend shoots roughly 1-3 times a month shortly after getting into the game.
Dad purchased a few guns off Kenny as well as some guns off his other customers. We owned, a 36" 2" 31 and 2 48" 31's as well as a 1.25" at that time. My first gun started off as a 48" 2"bbl however we would chop it down to a 36" as that was the direction the market was going in. I did extremely well with it. It was one of Kenny's liner barrel systems where we could change out the bore as well as use the drop in chokes. Something at that time was few and far between as most guns had fixed chokes. These were the days prior to bipod's and rear elevation so everyone shot off boards. While in school I built my own out of some red oak.
The first technological advancement in control for the guns was the development and use of the carpet box & crossbar. A true Denny Tubbs invention. This was the first solid yet adjustable method of maneuvering and controlling the rear of the gun. Prior to that it was only sandbags. This system would bring us a lot of wins over a short time span due to the increased control. So much so that we began traveling out of state more than shooting instate. Within the first 12-18 months we started to make a name for ourselves across state lines, within this same time due to racking up wins.
The Savage 210 made its appearance around 2000-01 Many builders started using them, at that point the advancements we had made on the control of the 31's we had no desire to switch away from a winning platform. In this same time frame dad began shooting some of Howard's barrels and chokes and doing very well with them, little did any of us know at the time we were in the end days in what was very soon to be a slow dying game. Over the course of 2002-2003 Federal ultimately changed the wad in the shells and the 9's that were the staple of the sport this change almost killed it entirely.
Overall through this time frame Crawford had changed hands, a lot of controversy over money, and ultimately it ruined the reputation of the club. Most of the problems came from within the club itself, as the shoots were bringing in a tremendous amount of income, members/staff became greedy. One of the best clubs around managed to become uninhabitable. Meanwhile Dick & Whitey had opened up a new place that was doing moderately well. At this point I already had my license and I'd travel up to shoot on my own at 16 & 17.
BRING ON THE 10'S & THE RISE OF GUNWORKS