SILVERHAMMERSThe dual life of Ron Shubin
A thunderous boom announced the arrival of Silverhammer’s shotgun. The teeth-rattling noise from the gun drowned out every other noise in the area.
The legendary Arizona sun beat relentlessly on the crowd. Their cowboy hats offered minor protection from the blistering heat, but they didn’t mind the discomfort. They had come to these dusty streets to watch their favorite gunfighter, Silverhammers.
The excited buzz of the crowd hushed as Silverhammers loaded his twin Rueger pistols. He loaded his rounds effortlessly with the ease of a veteran gunslinger. The last bullet was pushed securely into its chamber with a satisfying click, and the crowd held its collective breath.
His boots grated against gravel as he sidled up to the makeshift wooden fence.
His fingers anxiously tapped the tops of his nickel-plated Rueger pistols. The gunfighter’s eyes narrowed as his targets came into view.
If anyone in the crowd blinked, they missed Silverhammer’s lightning-fast draw. His twin pistols shot hot fire and molten lead into the plywood building. Spent brass fell like a macabre rain shower on the dusty dirt floor. The melodic tinkling sound of bullets finding their targets rang out clearly in the air as young boys hurried to claim the spent bullet casings that had fallen to the ground.
Photo by Adam GonzalesRon Shubin and his comrades live by an old-fashioned code of ethics called the Cowboy Way. Shubin is noted as one of the best all-around cowboys.
A thunderous boom announced the arrival of Silverhammers’ shotgun. The teeth-rattling noise from the gun drowned out every other noise in the area. The crowd gasped as they watched Silverhammers methodically unleash round after round into his targets.
Silverhammers dropped his shotgun and picked up his rifle. He fired round after round into his targets. Silverhammers had managed to unload dozens of rounds with the deadly precision of a striking cobra.
Handshakes and warm smiles met Ron “Silverhammers” Shubin as the crowd gathered to congratulate him on a nice shoot.
This wasn’t a Wild West gun fight. This was the Arizona Cowboy Shooters Association at play.
This wasn’t an actor. This was Ron “Silverhammers” Shubin, a sergeant in the Phoenix Police Department by day and the president of the Arizona Cowboy Shooters Association by night. He is man who has found a way to live the “Cowboy Way” in more than one way.
* * *
Photo by Adam GonzalesShubin has been shooting in the monthly competitions for more than five years.
A sign near the roof read Lovejoy’s Bar-B-Q. A red neon WELCOME sign matched the red trim of the building.
Inside, a framed Top-Gun poster hung next to a black and white jazz photo. Loud jazz music was piped in over the restaurant’s speakers. The shelves near every table held an odd assortment of knickknacks: toy cars, a wooden Indian head, a miniature red wagon, and a football trophy from 1987. The tablecloths, made of leather strips, gave the diner that authentic barbeque feel.
There was no mistaking Silverhammers when he walked through the door. His white mustache arrived a full second before the rest. He was a bear of a man, much larger than he appeared in the pictures on his website. [WHOEVER HAS THIS: FIND OUT WEBSITE] He was at least 6 feet 3 inches, 250 pounds. He had an aura of quiet confidence about him.
Silverhammers sat down at the table and politely asked the waitress for the Beef KC Special. He gave a short laugh and smiled as he explained what cowboy shooting is all about.
“The Arizona Cowboy Shooters Association is a nonprofit company with the intent to bring people who enjoy the fantasy sport of cowboy shooting together,” he replied quickly, as if he has answered that question a million times.
* * *
Photo by Adam GonzalesCowboy hats shade the shooters from the relentless Arizona sun.
Silverhammers said that cowboy shooting isn’t just a fantasy sport; it’s also a philosophy. He doesn’t just dress up like a cowboy, shoot his guns, and then leave it all on the range. He has come to live by a code of conduct dubbed the “Cowboy Way.”
“You mean what you say and say what you mean,” Silverhammers explained. “It’s a firm handshake and looking out for each other.”
Another cowboy shooter, John “Shorty Matters” Betzing, said it is simply “expecting someone to do the right thing. To be decent; you know, the Roy Rogers or Gene Autry type thing to do.”
“I’m drawn to my profession because it aligns with my core values,” Silverhammers said. “I’m drawn to participate in cowboy shooting for the same reason. The Cowboy Way is the way I think we should treat each other.”
Detectives at the Phoenix Police Department smile and tell anecdotes about their sergeant, Silverhammers. And while you can tell that they think of Shubin as one of the guys, he holds his men’s respect in a way that would make a general proud.
Silverhammers said he likes to think that cowboy shooting has made him a better man and a better police officer.
“Not only have I become a better shooter, [but] cowboy shooting gives me balance,” he said.
* * *
Photo by Adam GonzalesA modern-day Annie Oakley takes aim.
Silverhammers has been cowboy shooting for more than five years. He went to his first match in 1999, when a friend invited him to check out his new hobby. Shubin went to the match on a Saturday morning and was hooked by Saturday night.
The next night, the cowboy shooters were holding a banquet honoring the year’s best shooters. The highlight was the raffle of two rare and coveted grand prizes. The first was a stainless steel, fully engraved colt revolver. The other grand prize was a matching handmade stainless steel fully engraved knife.
Silverhammers paid $20 for two tickets. When the winning raffle tickets were called, he had won both of the grand prizes.
“People came over to me and said congratulations—who the hell are you,” Silverhammers said with a grin. “Some people have never forgot that.”
* * *
The Cowboy Way
Everyone shooting on the day of a match must be dressed in authentic style cowboy wardrobe. All participants are also required to create a Wild West alias, such as Evil Roy, Lead Dispenser, or Holy Terror. Ron Shubin chose the name “Silverhammers” because of the nickel-plated hammers on his two revolvers.
Shooters then choose which category in which they want to compete. Silverhammers competes in the gunfighter category. “I chose gunfighter because it’s the only category you can fire both your pistols at once,” Silverhammers said.
Cowboy shooter Bruce “Missouri Bob” Greenberg said Silverhammers is “a good shooter, especially with two hands.”
“If nothing else, he looks good when he’s shooting, and that’s all that really matters,” said Shorty Matters with a grin.
At the events, shooters are broken up into posses. These small groups of shooters travel around the range shooting targets together. They walk up to wooden fences and fire upon small steel neon green and orange targets. The targets are positioned to give the safest ricochet angles possible.
The shooters are judged on both speed and accuracy. “Some people make their own bullets lighter so they get less kickback,” Silverhammers said. “It really improves their speed.”
Photo by Adam GonzalesSpent bullet casings, or “brass,” litter the ground.
Shooters load their guns at the targets. The spent bullet casings are called “brass.” Many cowboy shooters will shoot reloads, or shells that have been fired multiple times and repacked with powder, primer, and bullet. At the monthly matches the cowboy shooters will go through over 12,000 rounds of ammunition.
Silverhammers’ favorite matches are the night shoots. “The guns shoot out fire from the barrel and you can see the flame almost all the way to the target,” he said.
Shorty Matters also loves the night shoots. Because of all the black powder guns firing at night, a layer of smoke forms on the ground. “I’ll taste black powder for a week,” he said, smiling.
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Silverhammers had an excited gleam in his eyes as he described his goals for the Arizona Cowboy Shooters Association. He wants to link the association up with all the others in the surround area. He wants to increase membership and make sure that when he leaves office, the next president will be ready for the job.
It’s interesting to watch Ron “Silverhammers” Shubin, a man whose double lives have melded so perfectly it’s hard to distinguish them. He is a man who truly lives the Cowboy Way.
The Devil’s Tale showcases the coursework of individual students at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication.
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