The violent, shoot-em-up “wild west” we have come to know about in the US actually had more to do with Hollywood than reality. It bears even less of a connection to Canadian western history.
That however, hasn’t stopped a large number of firearms enthusiasts from re-creating some of that “history” in fun events they call “cowboy action” shooting.
It involves rapid fire target shooting of single action revolvers and lever action carbines, and shotgun at targets set at various distances. Scores are determined by the most targets hit (fewest misses) and in the shortest time.
Chuck McCann is one of the founders of the Saskatchewan Association of Wild West Shooters which just held the Western Canadian Regional Championships. Cowboy action shooting involves rapid fire target shooting of revolvers and carbinesListen
The various loud bangs, cracks, and booms of different firearms could be heard a long way from the specially designed shooting range near Saskatoon Saskatchewan last weekend.
In addition to the shooting skills, (with modern replicas of the old style guns for the most part), competitors dress up in period-like costume and assume particular characters.
Chuck McCann for his part is known as “Grey Beard”, while his wife Gerry is known as Granny Oakley, or Granny One-Shot..
Other members have adopted interesting costumes and names such as “Short-fingered Bill”, “Shotgun Shane”, “Quickspin Kid”, “Woobly Threebeer”, “Wes Tern”, “Anita Gun”, and so on.
Since the association was created in 2007 with six people, it’s grown to over 130, with a half dozen similar clubs elsewhere in the prairie province which have sprung up since then. Chuck McCann feels there might hundreds of such clubs throughout North America.
Besides the competitive target shooting for the title of “Top Gun”, the aspect of dressing in period costume is also very much enjoyed. Awards are given for best dressed male, best dressed female, and best dressed couple.
Chuck McCann said he was originally leary of dressing up, but now admits he has several different costumes he wears.
The competition involves target shooting with pistols, rifle, and shotgun. Speed and accuracy is the winning combination.
The pistols are reproductions of old-style single action six-shooters. Single-action means you have to physically pull back the hammer until it’s cocked, and then pulling the trigger releases he hammer and fires the gun.
In spite of the extra movement required for each shot, good shooters can fire off ten shots from two pistols in a matter of seconds, and do so with accuracy.
The rifles are lever action style, similar to the Winchester model so often shown in old cowboy TV shows, and films.
Doug Binkley of Edmonton, aka “Too Dusty” says he’s living out his childhood love of cowboy heroes like Roy Rogers saying he took up the sport because, “ it looked like fun, I mean, who doesn’t like cowboys?” he said.
Chuck McCann notes that now more women are getting involved and there are several husband and wife teams, with their children getting involved too. He says it really is a family sport, and teaches respect, skill, and self- confidence, along with the fun.