When people who aren’t from Texas think about our state, they often have images of gun slinging cowboys in western wear. Of course, most of us don’t exactly fit that image. But some do – at least on the weekends.
It’s 8 o’clock on an overcast Saturday morning at a ranch in Blanco. Fifty or so men, and a few women, are donning 19th-century western wear – think chaps, cowboy hats, spurs and suspenders. They’re also taking on aliases.
Kirk Chappelear goes by Kickshot. Glenn Jordan is known as Far Ranger. Jared Anderson calls himself Bust a Cap.
They’re not period actors, impersonators or historical reenactors. They’re competitors.
The men and women – most middle-aged, a few younger and one close to 90 years old – are participating in a Cowboy Action Shooting match. They break into small groups or ‘posses,’ and compete to shoot different sets of metal targets as quickly as possible.
Cowboy Action Shooting got its start in the mid-1980s in the not-so-wild west of Southern California. The sport has grown into an international community. Authenticity is key. After suiting up in their cowboy regalia and taking on their aliases, the shooters load guns that are replicas of firearms that were actually used in the old west.
“A lot of them are new reproductions, so a lot of them are actually made in Italy, but the quality is extremely good nowadays,” says Kirk Chappelear, aka Kickshot.
He explains that the competition takes place across several ‘stages,’ designed to look like scenes from an old western. There’s a saloon, complete with swinging doors, an old bank and a livery. There’s even a mine shaft where competitors must shoot at targets while riding down a track in a rolling cart. The row of targets at every stage is split into three sections, each of which the competitors must shoot at with a different firearm.
There’s the pistol, the rifle and the shotgun.
As they go through the stages, competitors are assigned points for both speed and accuracy. Three counters follow them through each stage to verify the number of shots made, and the order they were made in. A timer also follows along. The fastest and most accurate shooter will receive the most points.