Whanganui is home to sharpshooter Bradley McDowell, the world's top junior cowboy.

McDowell had the drop on his rivals to claim the World Junior Champion Cowboy Action Shooting title in New Mexico.

The 16-year-old gunslinger also finished seventh in the open division, just 10 seconds off the overall winner.

"I missed a shot and fumbled the shotgun shells, that was the difference really," McDowell said.

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"I know I can take him (the overall winner), maybe next year."

Last month was his second attempt at world glory after finishing seventh in the junior division of the End of the Trail World Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting in New Mexico last year.

While the sport has romantic connotations and in times gone by it was every child's dream to be judged a cowboy sharpshooter, it is far from beating rival gunmen to the draw.

Cowboy action shooting involves shooting a series of metal plate targets with three types of guns; a rifle, a pistol and a shotgun, in a memorised sequence. The goal is to complete the sequence as quickly possible. Missed targets incur costly time penalties.

"Yeah, I suppose it does have a romantic connotation, but in reality it's far from that. I don't even ride horses, for a start. It's more about speed and mental agility. In fact, mental agility is what gives you the edge and I was far more focused than I was in last year's world championship.

"Some people find it difficult to believe that I can draw, aim, fire and hit a target with a lever-action rifle in under two seconds - it's that fast and way quicker than guys with automatics who have tried to beat me."

McDowell was certainly better prepared after winning both the junior and overall titles at the New Zealand cowboy action shooting nationals in November. In the lead-up to the 2017 world championship, McDowell only had the New Zealand junior scalp.

McDowell had planned to compete at two North American state championships while on tour, but only made it to the Wyoming State championship, where he won the junior section and was runner-up overall.

While many of his age group sit comfortably in front of a screen or with devices in hand playing make-believe shooting games, McDowell is outdoors drawing down with live ammunition.

"Most nights I head to the shed and practice my transitions with dummy bullets - transitions are key and you can lose valuable seconds with poor transitions."

The Whanganui High School student has a room loaded with trophies won at various levels and is understood to be the youngest winner of the overall New Zealand title. He was always rated a serious contender for a world title.

The cowboy action has become a family sport with father Sean and younger brother Mitchell also making it to New Mexico.

Sean McDowell finished in the top 150 shooters, while 12-year-old Mitchell finished well down the track. Mother Raewyn does not compete, but travels in support.

Bradley McDowell is uncertain whether he will return stateside to defend his title and make his pitch for overall world glory next year. "It's an expensive sport. I probably shot close to $3000 of bullets during the world championship. Thanks to my parents and major sponsors Pistol New Zealand and Marton Wholesale Liquor, I got to America this year."