Making Waco Men Better Since 1852

Leo Bradshaw

Leo Bradshaw


Business Owner, Civic Leader, and Outdoorsman
Bradshaw Jr in London, 1953

Leo was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on September 12, 1934. He attended Dean Highland Elementary, North Junior High, and Waco High School. His finished high school at New Mexico Military Institute, earning dual diplomas from New Mexico Military Institute and Waco High School. After graduation, Leo attended Baylor University, earning a BBA in 1956.

From an early age Leo loved guns. Much to his mother’s surprise, he ordered and received his first gun through the mail when he was nine years old – what would become a lifelong passion had begun. While a student at Baylor, he worked part-time at the family appliance and furniture business of Cogdell’s on Valley Mills Drive in Waco. In June, 1954, Leo suggested to his father that space from a recent expansion of Cogdell’s be used for a gun shop. Leo Sr. agreed, provided Leo Jr. would stay and run it. By September that year, the gun shop was up and running with Leo at the helm. The foundation for his life’s work was in place. He continued to operate the gun shop at the Valley Mills location for 49 years. In 2003, he moved the gun shop to the Wooded Acres location, where he operated until his death, bringing his total years in the gun business to 3 months shy of 65 years. In a 2011 Waco Tribune article, Leo estimated that he sold 225,000 firearms during his career and that helping young people select their first shotgun was one of the most rewarding aspects of being in the gun business.

Leo Bradshaw Sr, father of this article’s subject, was Waco Mayor in 1952 and also a member of our lodge

Over the years, Leo became recognized both locally and nationally as a premiere gun dealer, appraiser, and consultant. He generously volunteered his time with local, state, and national organizations for more than 60 years to share his vast experience and knowledge.

Nationally, Leo was a Benefactor Member of the National Rifle Association, a member of the National Rifle Association Whittington Center Founders’ Club, and a Ducks Unlimited Diamond Life Sponsor.

On the state level, he was a Benefactor Member of the Texas State Rifle Association and a life and charter member of the Texas Gun Collectors Association that he served as president for three terms.

Bradshaw Jr, Gun Show, 1985

Combining his love of Texas history and guns, Leo was very active over the years with events commemorating the Texas Rangers. In 1973, he served on the Texas Ranger Advisory Commission and the Commemorative Commission celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Texas Rangers. 25 years later in 1998, he again chaired the Commemorative Commission celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Texas Rangers. Since 1990, Leo has been an active member of the Fort Fisher Advisory Committee to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame where he served as chairperson for multiple terms.

Locally, he was a life member of the Waco Skeet and Trap Club and the Central Texas Rifle and Pistol Club. Leo was active throughout his life with the Waco Chapter of Ducks Unlimited and was named Sportsman of the Year by the organization in 1980. He came by gun enthusiasm naturally as his father had also been an avid sportsman.

Bradshaw with a grizzly bear he shot in Alaska, 1961

Leo Herman Bradshaw Jr. was initiated as an entered apprentice on December 17, 1955, passed to the degree of fellowcraft on January 21, 1956, and raised as a Master Mason on February 21, 1956. His masonic memberships also included Karem Shrine, Waco Scottish Rite, and The Royal Order of Jesters. He was a member and past president of the Northwest Optimist Club of Waco.

Leo was the last surviving charter member of Cogdell Memorial United Methodist Church. The Cogdell family, Leo’s maternal relatives, for whom the church was named, donated the land on which the first church was built and supported the church through the years.

For 47 years, Leo served on the Board of Directors of Community Bank and Trust in Waco.

Bradshaw holding a Finnbear bolt action rifle