On Sept 21-22, 2019, many of the key figures in the early days of Practical Shooting reunited for a weekend of shooting and socializing. The event was hosted by Bill and Joyce Wilson at the Circle WC Ranch. Part one of this blog post series has more details about the event and who attended.
At the NRA show in Dallas last year I purchased a copy of Bill Wilson’s biography “Gun Guy” and got it signed by Bill and by his co-author Michael Bane. Since then it sat in my giant pile of “gun books to read and review”. After I got the invitation to attend the event, I moved the book to the top of the stack and read it.
During the lecture part of my Historical Handgun class, I identify important trainers and innovators in each decade. Wilson made significant contributions in training and equipment in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s, and his company continues to develop new products more than 40 years after it began. The book is really an overview of Bill’s life and all of his shooting interests – not just defensive pistol but also big game hunting, handloading, gun collecting and gunsmithing, with chapters titled “Bill’s Favorite Guns”, “A Passion for Hunting”, and “Bill’s Buds”.
From a historical perspective, it provides firsthand descriptions of Bill’s involvement in the early days of the International Practical Shooting Confederation, the guns he built for champion shooters, the development of the “gold standard” 1911 magazine, the creation of the International Defensive Pistol Association, and the growth of his business from a one man gunsmithing shop to a manufacturing business with more than 160 employees today.
From the training perspective, the chapter on “Bill’s Favorite Handgun Training Drills” includes a brief history of the “Bill Drill” and its variations. As I observed at the Practical Pistol Reunion, Wilson is still an excellent pistol shot who continues to keep his skills sharp.
The book is full of beautiful color pictures of custom guns, many personal details about Bill and his family, stories and photos from Bill’s safaris and hunts, and much more. In the early days of the gun culture, many of the key influencers, writers and trainers wrote autobiographies, like Elmer Keith and Charles Askins. In the past few decades, fewer books of that type have been written. Wilson was responsible for, or involved with many key moments in handgun history of the past 50 years, and it’s great that he was able to tell his own story and preserve it in print for future shooters.