Cowboys ready for action

WINGETT RUN – There was a little bit of the old west at the Fort Harmar Rifle Club’s outdoor range near Wingett Run Sunday as several local cowboys and cowgirls- dressed in period garb-gathered for a Cowboy Action Shoot.

“This is basically a shooting competition for fun, and everyone dresses in 1800s outfits,” said Lester Doyle, 71, of Wingett Run who’s particpated in the cowboy shoots for 18 years.

He noted that the local Cowboy Action Shoots are also part of an effort by the international Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) which does sanction more serious old west-style shooting competitions across the country.

“In fact, the women’s world champion cowboy action shooter is from Mt. Vernon, Ohio, and she’s been shooting since she was 8 years old,” Doyle said.

Part of the Cowboy Action Shoot fun is taking on an alternate cowboy name that’s used instead of real names during the shooting events.

“Everyone has a shooting alias,” Doyle said. “I know very few shooters by their real names.”

On Sunday he was joined by “Thaddeus Jones,” a.ka. Mark Wunderlich, “Cheyenne Shorty” Ken Robart, “Whipper-Snapper” Catherine Robart, “Pawnee Jay” P.J. Brockmeier, “Maspeth Drifter” Paul Kobe, “Ink Slinger” Cheryl Kobe, and “Poke Along” Paul Stacy.

Various scenarios, called “stages” are developed for the contestants to follow during the monthly Cowboy Action Shoots.

The stages are made up beforehand by Wunderlich or Dale Wilson who are the club’s cowboy match directors.

“Usually I’ll sit down and watch westerns on television and try to work out some stages from the movie scenes,” Wunderlich, 53, said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

He said the club would like to see more people become involved in the Cowboy Action Shoots.

“The more who participate the better, and anyone can join in-just come out to one of the cowboy shoots,” Wunderlich said. “If they don’t have a gun we’ll loan them one to use at the shoot.”

Live rounds are used during the cowboy shoots, but Wunderlich said safety is the number one priority on the firing range.

“We start every match with a safety briefing,” he said. “The guns are not loaded until each individual is ready to start his or her shoot. And the guns are unloaded immediately after each shoot.”

Wunderlich said anyone who participates will learn a lot about firearms and how to safely handle them.

“We’re all for safe gun handling,” Doyle added. “If people receive the correct training on firearms, the’ll be less likely to hurt themselves or someone else.”

Paul Kobe, 58, from Murraysville, W.Va., said his wife, Cheryl, 56, got him interested in the cowboy shoots.

“We like to do a lot of things together, and this was a nice, slow-paced competition we could enjoy,” he said. “She was never interested in more modern firearms. But she does like shooting with these older models.”

Paul said the cowboy shoots also give him the perfect excuse to buy cowboy clothes.

“I’d never just buy a pair of cowboy boots or a vest or my bowler derby, but this gives us a chance to be a little theatrical,” he said.

Some Cowboy Action Shoots go all out with the theatrics, Paul added.

“The Kanawha Valley Regulators group in Charleston, W.Va., have an entire old west town set up at their shooting range,” he said.

Doyle hopes to encourage more people to get involved with the local cowboy shoots-especially more young people.

“It’s truly a family-oriented event, and everyone can participate,” he said, noting the local club also has a “Buckaroo” group for younger shooters, with current members between the ages of 6 and 17, who must be accompanied by a parent during the monthly cowboy shoots.