Ridin' the range once more,
Totin' my old .44 . . .
-- Back in the Saddle Again (Autry/Whitley)
You shouldn't be surprised to learn that out here in The West there's an organization devoted to target shooting with old-style pistols and rifles: the Single Action Shooting Society. (Sounds like the title of a Western that might have starred Jimmy Stewart, doesn't it?)
Every summer they hold a world championship competition attended by over 600 people from around the world -- all using single-action firearms and all dressed in 19th century Western attire.
The competition is held at Founders Ranch, south of Edgewood, NM (just east of Albuquerque), where shooting ranges and vintage-looking buildings have been constructed for shooting events like this one.
When we drove up, we were greeted by a couple in full costume:
The main entrance to the grounds consists of a faux-front mission church:
And once inside, it's Frontierland for adults, complete with longhorn cattle . . .
stagecoach . . .
live entertainment . . .
and streets with old-time store fronts and contemporary vendor tents selling everything from clothing to firearms.
There was even an old-time photographer's tent:
The main street is anchored by the Copper Queen Hotel (not a real hotel, of course) . . .
where all sorts of characters hang out . . .
Across the street from the hotel are the shooting ranges, each with a different theme (cantina, jail, etc.).
The participants compete on accuracy and speed by shooting at close-range targets with pistols and rifles loaded with blanks, not live ammunition. Safety glasses are required; earplugs are highly recommended.
Participants travel from station to station wheeling golf bag carts (or homemade versions of them) with their personal firearms and gear:
The most dramatic element of the competition is the mounted shooting, which takes place at an arena 100 yards long and 50 yards wide:
Riders race up and down a course shooting blanks at balloons -- again, competing on accuracy and speed.
The balloons can be anywhere from 9 feet to 36 feet apart, depending on the course layout. (There are 62 different course arrangements.) The only standard length is the final dash home from the furthest barrel to the finish line: 174 feet.
As I mentioned earlier, the shooters use black powder blanks which are tested and certified to extinguish at no more than 20 feet. The wadding from the blanks travels far enough and fast enough to burst the balloons if the aim is true . . . and occasionally a clever shooter can get two balloons in one shot:
At the start of a run, the riders circle their horses at one end of the arena, getting up to speed before they cross the starting line:
Then they run the length of the arena a couple of times (again, depending on the layout of the course), shooting right and left . . .
(Hope the horse has ear plugs!)
Riders make the turn at the far end of the arena:
Then gallop to the finish line . . .
Top competitors complete the course in less than 30 seconds!
And throughout the weekend, participants check their results:
Finally, in addition to all the action shots, I got an image that might work for my "Solitary Journeys" portfolio:
(The hawk was a gift!)
If you would like to see these images in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.