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Central City’s Wild Bunch Gang – Behind the Scenes

By Tommie Johnston

At the risk of stripping each gang member of his or her badassery image, it’s important to know that the Central City Wild Bunch Gang (WBG) preaches ‘safety first.’ It’s not unheard of for a movie star to be injured or even killed during filming by what should have been a harmless blank fired out of a gun. For example, Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, “died of a fatal gunshot wound on March 31, 1993 after an accidental shooting on the set of The Crow. During filming, a blank cartridge was fired from a gun barrel in which a bullet of a real cartridge was lodged.” (

Four components comprise a live round, or cartridge:  shell, primer, powder and bullet. The blanks used in their shows are comprised of authentic ammunition manufacturing materials with the exception of the lead – the bullet projectile; it is omitted from the reloading process. Finding blanks for sale in the commercial market is difficult and costly. After a good amount of internet research, it was determined that purchasing the materials to make the blanks was much more cost effective… and fun!

Many city folk come up to our mountains for target practice on the weekends. They arrive on ATVs, thinking they are roughing it with no cable TV or A/C for the weekend. However, only about half of them pick up their empty shell casings? Why is this fortunate? Because the shells they litter the ground with in our mountain neighborhood are reclaimed by gunslinger Chuck Roberts and yours truly. Provided the shells are brass, they are repurposed; some of them repurposed as blanks for use by the WBG. Other new brass shells used by the Gang are procured by the Central City Business Improvement District.

The process of creating a live blank ammo round from an empty brass shell is simple, yet time consuming.

Step 1:  Come home from a target site with a backpack full of brass casings; sort said casings.

Step 2:  The casings are cleaned by placing them in a polishing tumbler filled with crushed walnut shells.

Step 3:  A new primer is inserted, after removing the old one – this will be the ignition source.

Step 4:  Black gun powder is measured and funneled into each casing. (e.g. 31 grains for a .45 colt round)

Step 5:  Floral foam is pressed on top of the powder in the casing. (Yes, the same thing used in vases!)

Step 6:  White glue is applied to the top of the foam, sealing all contents upon drying.

The black power ammo blanks are ready for action!

The burning black powder creates a loud noise and heavy smoke upon firing, with it, and with the floral foam vaporizing in the air, there is no projectile of wadding. However, even properly functioning blanks at close range can present somewhat of a danger, so before every show, the WBG conducts a safety briefing with each of their gunslingers. This briefing consists of cleaning everyone’s barrel with a rod to ensure there are no foreign objects in anyone’s barrel that could accidentally project upon firing. In addition, the WBG discusses crowd safety and control, and emphasizes the importance of firing the guns at the ground or straight up into the air… just in case. There must be a 10-15 ft distance between the shooter and ‘victim.’ According to member Anne Leudders, “The gang does not condone accidental killin’ of bystanders.”

Many of the WBG members use a Colt Pacemaker (Colt 45). In a lawless territory most often filled with unsavory characters, the 1873 Colt is said to have won the west. Samuel Colt introduced a tool that put every person on a level playing field. No longer was a frail, petite woman prey to a 250 lb. outlaw. Every honest citizen now had a means to protect themselves, their families, possessions and land from ruthless outlaws.

Other fun facts and trivia:

The WBG goes through about a half-pound of black gun powder per Saturday doing gunfights each hour.

The WBG has re-enactors insurance. There’s insurance for everything these days, isn’t there?

No WBG member brings live ammunition to any of the shows.

No “High Noon OK Corral” type of gun fight ever took place on the streets of Central City.

If you haven’t yet, come support your local gunslingers by visiting Central City’s Main Street any Saturday between noon and 4 p.m. through August 17th!

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