The green metal chiles didn’t know what hit ’em. Chaps on and hands steady, the competition at Founders Ranch shooting bay 12 – like the other bays – is based on speed and accuracy.
A cowboy in deep concentration steps across the threshold with his first gun.
“We deal in lead, friends,” shouts the timer. Bang, bang, bang, bang bang – the race starts hitting four green chile targets and then a red chile target. The shooter repeats, then drops his rifle on a table, running forward toward his shotgun.
He shoots each gray metal “knockdown” twice and skids toward his handguns. Released from their holsters, he shoots five bullets from each weapon.
“It’s really fast, movie-type stuff, but they don’t have to speed up the camera for them – they are fast!” said Hideout Chaplin.
Whatever their score, the cowboys walk away, while targets smoke in the distance.
Straight out of a John Wayne movie – the 35th annual World Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting, End of Trail event took place recently at Founders Ranch in Edgewood.
Aside from the modern golf carts and vehicles in the dirt parking lot, nobody would notice they weren’t a Westerner living in the 1800s. Advertised as the “closest thing to the Old West, short of a time machine,” the weeklong event offered a glimpse and escape into another world.
More than 600 shooters and 700 spectators participated in the End of Trail festivities providing entertainment, food, vendors, family fun and live music. People from all around the world attend the event, which was open to the public.
Founders Ranch is seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and you might assume you had taken a wrong turn before ever expecting to encounter the premier Cowboy Action Shooting location in the world. Cowboy Action is the fastest growing outdoor shooting sport in the country, based on accuracy and the celebration of the Old West cowboy lifestyle.
Owned by the Single Action Shooting Society, the ranch is a rustic 480-acre nugget of the old Wild West, decked out to entertain thousands of shooters and spectators.
From state-of-the-art shooting ranges and camping pads, an equestrian center and roaming herds of bison and longhorn cattle, to a Western Town replica – the ranch is every rootin’ tootin’ shootin’ cowboy’s dream.
The old Western streets are packed with folks wearing badges, waxed mustaches, shotgun belts, broomstick skirts, garters, suspenders, long spurs and leather bags. The proud flags bearing the SASS logo stand tall in the breeze.
Names like “Dutch Bullwhip,” “Smokestack,” “Nine Toe Joe,” “White Lightning Jack,” “Reno Mustang,” “Dodge City Dixie,” “Gypsy Rider,” “Dead Eye Maverick” and “Morguns Ann Ammo,” are announced across the 12 sponsor-themed shooting bays.
In this territory, your identity is your chosen alias. There are more than 97,000 members in the SASS, each required to adopt a unique shooting alias based on a character, profession, Hollywood Western star or fictional character from the late 19th century.
“You’ll see just about every walk of life here – a side of people you wouldn’t get to see anywhere else,” said Colorado Cupcake, a gun enthusiast whose alias is a pioneer cart driver.
In addition to seeing every “walk of life,” you’ll also see every trot and canter of life, too, in the SASS Mounted Shooting events on horseback.
The Mounted Shooting Arena housed the World Championship for this sport in six stages of competition, with more than 35 riding participants. The second day’s challenge was pairing the weekend’s fastest and slowest times together, adding another side to the competition.
Riders shoot two .45 caliber single action revolvers, loaded with five rounds each of crimped outlaw bullet blanks, containing black-powder that will pop at 10 yards, but cannot travel past 20 yards. The limited range protects the audience.
The competitor crosses the start beam at a full gallop and will shoot five balloons with one revolver, then shoot the next five balloons with the other.
This sport becomes an addiction. For riders to have this much fun, they must become a SASS member and can also participate in local clubs, practicing monthly at Founders Ranch with several competitions per year.