By Heather Killen
Lovers of the Wild West are likely to find cowboy action shooting a blast.
Cowboy action shooting, or single action shooting, is a fast growing sport that started about 30 years ago in the U.S.
Anyone who hankers to dress up like a famous outlaw or hero and test their shooting talents on an array metal targets should mosey on over to the Bridgetown rifle range and shoot the breeze with Zeke and the gang.
David Lewis (a.k.a. Zeke) and Chris Howe (a.k.a. Swabbie), both of Bear River; along with Ken Eyre (a.k.a. Ken Blue), Annapolis Royal; Alan DeWolfe (a.k.a. Charlie Bowdre), Berwick, and Brian McAdoo (a.k.a. Doc Adoo), Windsor, are a few of the Valley-area members of the Nova Scotia Cowboy Action Shooting Club.
They belong to the Single Action Shooting Society, an international organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the sport of cowboy action shooting. They use old school, single action guns where the hammer must be manually cocked before the shot can be fired.
Their matches usually involve fast drawing and firing in a predetermined scenario at metal targets using four guns: two period-style revolvers, a rifle and a shotgun. Shooters must be fast, accurate and versatile.
“This all is set circa 1897 or so and we shoot real guns in a very safe and controlled manner in friendly competition,” Lewis said. The timed events are monitored closely by range officers and done with attention to safety.
Lewis, who is among the fastest draws in the region, said that, while cowboy action shooting is extremely popular in the U.S. and in Western Canada, the sport is just catching on in the Maritimes.
The Annapolis Valley Shooting Sports Club in Canaan, Kings County hosts the official SASS matches, but informal matches take place locally at various gun clubs about once a month. There are approximately five invitational and one large regional competition each year and opportunities to compete at national and international matches.
“It’s a chance to shoot something different,” Lewis added. “People of all ages and all shooting levels can get involved.”
Each member creates a unique shooter alias - often based on famous personalities like Doc Holiday or Annie Oakley - and then dresses appropriately in period costume and use old West-style firearms, such as single action revolvers, pistol caliber lever action rifles and old time shotguns.
Fans of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and all those B movies can also join the fun. Ken Eyre has built his persona around Ken Blue - a gentleman cowboy of the silver screen. His famous blue velvet suits and dazzling rhinestone shirts make him a standout on the range.
Eyre said he joined up about eight years ago and keeping up his movie star image gives him a whole new reason to shop at Frenchys. While he is an able shooter in all three categories, he has an edge with the rifles.
Everyone’s alias is unique and once an alias is registered with the international organization it can’t be duplicated.
This all is set circa 1897 or so and we shoot real guns in a very safe and controlled manner in friendly competition. - Zeke, a.k.a. David Lewis
Each scenario features a situation, sometimes based on a famous incident or movie scene, where the shooters fire on the sequence of steel targets. Accuracy is important, so misses are penalized with time added to the score. The quickest draw doesn’t always trump the sharpest shooter.
The scenario usually involves a series of rounds using two quick-drawn revolvers, switching over to several rounds with a rifle. The series ends with a big bang of the shotgun.
Brian McAdoo said the competitions offer a variety of levels and categories so that shooters of all skill and ages can compete with their peers on the same performance level.
“Anyone from buckaroo (ages 12-14 years old) through silver shooters (for seniors) can get involved,” he said. “So it’s a multi-generational activity.”
For him, McAdoo added, the social component of the competitions is more important than the prizes offered. A vital part of the sport’s appeal is the cowboy camaraderie at each of the events, as people from all over the country enjoy the opportunity to get together.