LAS VEGAS — Later this month, two guys plan to walk into a North Las Vegas bar and shoot each other.
The combatants will be wearing ballistics-grade head and body armor, carrying dinner plate-sized forearm shields and modified police-issue 9 mm Glocks.
They will be standing at opposite ends of a 30-by-8-foot steel cage — fully enclosed, UFC-style — in the middle of what used to be a couple of stage-side tabletops at Whiskey Dick’s.
That’s where a new sport, known to its North Las Vegas-based creators as tactical fast draw, is set to make its Jan. 31 debut.
“You’ll get two points for a head shot and one point for anything to the (body) vest,” fast draw inventor and former bounty hunter Nephi Oliva said. “You can score a maximum of 12 points, but there’s no time limit, so it’s almost like a boxing match with bullets.”
Oliva has been kicking around the idea of starting a fast draw league for years but had to wait until this month to get a firearms instruction certificate needed to handle “Simunition,” the plastic-tipped, paint-filled training ammunition to be used by fast draw’s gunslingers.
Simunition rounds aren’t as loud as a standard 9 mm round — and can’t be fired out of a regular gun barrel — but they’re built around a regular 9 mm casing and travel at a velocity much higher than paintball guns.
A round hitting an unarmored fast draw gunslinger might not break the skin but is sure to leave a nasty bruise. The Simunition website says that wearing head, throat and groin protection is mandatory and calls the cartridges “nonlethal.” It “strongly recommends” that shooters stay anywhere from 1 foot to 6 feet away from each other, depending on the type of ammunition used.
Oliva recently invested $6,000 for a dozen Simunition-modified Glocks to help get fast draw off the ground.
He and three business partners at the American Gunfighter Association, the fledgling sport’s sanctioning body, expect to earn that seed money back quickly, explaining they are already in talks to install fast draw cages at several bars around the Las Vegas valley.
Fast draw’s appeal, according to its founders, lies in its accessibility.
To Oliva, the sport isn’t a barroom gimmick or a claustrophobic take on indoor paintball. It is a complete entertainment experience, a gender-neutral mix between mixed martial arts and video gaming, featuring disc jockeys, ring announcers, nicknamed gunfighters and just about everything else short of a fog machine.
But beneath it all, he said, fast draw is just an especially flashy way to teach people how to use a gun properly.
“Training for firearms is relatively boring,” Oliva said. “Ultimately, we are a firearms instruction company, and we offer training through sports to make it more appealing.
“People will ask, ‘Aren’t you promoting violence?’ My answer is that people like George Zimmerman existed because something like (fast draw) didn’t,” he said.
Zimmerman’s trial on charges of fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 sparked protests around the nation with discussions of “stand your ground” laws. He was acquitted in July.
For Whiskey Dick’s owner Rich Tyson, fast draw is good business.
Tyson, who helped found the bar in 2010, said at first he was a little wary about taking on the sport.
Then he started to imagine all the bar’s booths and stools filled with fast draw spectators, its most prominent gunslingers donning a Whiskey Dick’s-sponsored protective vest.
From there, he was just about sold.
“Our biggest concern was obviously safety,” Tyson said. “But they’re going to be in this cage that’s lined with Plexiglas, and I know (Oliva) has been working with the cops to make sure everything is safe.
“I’m not really a big gun guy, but I think the idea is pretty neat. I’d wanna come over and watch it if I didn’t own the place.”
North Las Vegas Police Department spokeswoman Chrissie Coon said police are “looking into the (sport’s) legality.”
“We’ve always taken the stance that guns and alcohol don’t mix, but there’s still a lot to review with the city attorney before we take an official position,” she said.