Breathing hard and walking slowly to a dinette set, Ron Paul Duning clutched the end of a chair and then carefully eased his gaunt frame into the support piece of furniture.
With a weak cough, Ron Paul - as virtually everyone uses that handle for him - began his oral personal history.
Ron Paul is working against the clock. He has terminal cancer and every moment has become a struggle to resist the disease.
Ron Paul also wants his friends to remember who he is and the trail he’s hiked over the past 61 years.
What a remarkable journey it’s been, too.
While just about everyone who knows Ron Paul is aware that he’s a master gunsmith, a world-record-holding fast-draw champion, a Marine Corps veteran, and the founder of a local defensive shooting program, likely few are aware of his other life experiences, let alone how he got to this trail head.
Born in 1951 in Richmond, Ind., Ron Paul led an ordinary, quiet life like most every other rural kid.
He will tell you with happy recollection that he grew up on a farm. That’s where his shooting skills were hatched, he says also.
“I started shooting when I was five or six at summer camp,” Ron Paul said during a recent interview at his Willowick residence.
“No one in my family except my cousin was even remotely interested in firearms. I started shooting with him and I found that I liked it.”
Somewhere along his youthful route Ron Paul also became a salesman for an Indiana sporting goods store, the job helping to keep his firearms spark alive.
Following his stint with the Marine Corps during the late 1960s, Ron Paul was hired on - of all things - as a guide for the owners of a privately owned cave in Kentucky.
“I did that for 12 years,” Ron Paul said.
By 1982 Ron Paul felt the itch again and moved east, setting down his property stakes in southwest Ohio.
There, Ron Paul shifted gears from being a cave guide to a police officer, first with the Madison Township police department (near Dayton, not the one in Lake County), and then with the Greenville police department.
Taking something of a roundabout course in his journeys, Ron Paul also was a supervisor for nine years with a private security firm.
All of which came before his involvement with the-then fledgling cable television business. He started out working as a cable TV technician and ultimately being asked by his superiors to start up the cable company’s local access channel.
“That’s when I moved to Lake County,” said Ron Paul, stopping to catch his breath.
During all of this time of being a vagabond Ron Paul never lost his interest in firearms. If anything, it only grew.
Considering himself to be a life-long “gun tinkerer,” Ron Paul would also spend time dismantling, repairing and then reassembling firearms.
“I’ve always been mechanically inclined,” he said.
Earlier still, Ron Paul discovered his true calling for fast-draw competition shooting.
“Back in 1978 one of my partners in the police force was into fast-draw shooting and he was the one who led me to the sport," Ron Paul said. "Fast-draw is one of the least-expensive shooting sports to get into, but I also found that it’s one of the most challenging, enough to keep my interest.”
Fast-draw competition proved to be one of Ron Paul’s most-treasured calling cards, too. Over the years he’s held a minimum of 100 fast-draw titles and more than 80 fast-draw records; really, he says, more than he can remember.
“I am proud of all of them,” Ron Paul, said now beginning to tire from the interview. “That’s because they are so difficult to achieve.”
Maybe difficult for others, but not really for Ron Paul. His speed at withdrawing a Western-style six-shooter revolver and letting a wax bullet splat against an electronic-record steel target to a is done faster than an eye blink: 22/100s of a second fast.
“That’s the official fastest time for me,” Ron Paul said. “I have a couple of faster times but they weren’t backed up, being only single times.”
So involved had Ron Paul become in the quickly rising sport of fast-draw competition that he was a driving force behind the creation of the local Buckeye Rangers Club.
This club is comprised of dedicated fast-draw artists who not only hold matches like the annual nationally known North Coast Challenge that is held each September at Gunny’s Hall in Mentor, but also delights in doing public performances.
“The group we have now is pretty much the third generation for the club,” Ron Paul said. “We started the North Coast Championships back in 1993.”
However, being a fast-draw artist with national titles and records under his gun belt didn’t pay the bills. So Ron Paul took up commercial photography, owning a business in Cleveland for several years.
And from that stop-over Ron Paul took another detour, the off-ramp pointing from being a gun tinkerer to a full-fledged gunsmith, this after apprenticing with others employed full-time in the craft.
By 2001 Ron Paul had become the popular and well-know solo gunsmith at Gander Mountain’s Mentor store.
He remained in that position until a few years ago when Gander Mountain closed all of its local store gunsmithing services in exchange for a regional-based operation.
“I was there when the store opened,” Ron Paul said.
It was at that point when Ron Paul undertook a change of venue and added independent firearms businessman to his life list of accomplishments. He set up his work bench and power tools in an industrial building off Lost Nation Road in Willoughby.
Yet Ron Paul never fell out of love with helping other shooters develop their talents or hone their skills.
Even before his services at Gander Mountain were no longer required, Ron Paul made sure that Joe-average shooter properly and safely knew which end of a pistol is up. In 2007 Ron Paul was creating a twice-weekly defensive shooting program.
Meeting at the indoor shooting range owned by Atwell’s Police and Fire Equipment Co. in Painesville, the program’s participants would take aim at targets and conduct real-life defensive shooting drills cooked up by Ron Paul.
On more than a few occasions these drills tested the mettle of the shooters. Employing targets that raced toward the shooter, dimly lit scenarios, or shooting with one’s weak hand, Ron Paul wanted his students to become acclimated to what they potentially might find some dark night at home.
“I was seeing how a lot of people were getting their concealed carry permits but lacked experience in how to use their weapons,” Ron Paul said.
“So I came up with this program as a means to help people become more familiar and comfortable with their handguns, especially in situations where they might have to use them to save their lives.”
And now life-saving for Ron Paul involves trying to lick the terminal cancer that is eating away his body, though not his spirit nor his life-long interest in both shooting and helping others flesh out their own marksmanship skills.
“It’s always a challenge working to become a better shooter,” said Ron Paul as the interview was tucked back into its holster.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn